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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences

 

Head and Heart: A Personal Exploration of Science and the Sacred by Victor Mansfield (Quest Books) Every now and again a book appears that not only treats topics to which this reviewer has great sympathy but seems to invoke the uncanny in that several chapters and experiences seem to starkly mirror my own. In a general summary, Mansfield takes a stab at finding intersections between science (he is an astrophysicist) and the spiritual, discovering that where these both most live is in the personal. The study is remarkable in it autobiographical weaving of drives toward emotional integration and seeking significance in one self and the world. Mansfield offers one such journey that will not convert the skeptic nor give great solace to spiritually forlorn but does provide echoes of the spiritual awakening that took place with baby-boomers in the 60s and is now reaping a harvest of lived reflection in maturity. This correspondence of subjects is why Head and Heart is calling up such a personal response in me. It begins with the first chapter where Mansfield introduces into the extraordinary story of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell, a story with deep symbolic resonance, long formative in me since my own adolescence. Mansfield odyssey also makes available a glimpse of the extraordinary, self-tutored mystical philosopher of Ithaca, Anthony Damiani, whose perceptive readings of Plotinus were included in the Larson edition of McKennas Plotinus. I have been impressed by the writings of Damiani and now to learn more of his context and life were especially fortuitous. Mansfields relationship with this philosopher reminds me of several elders I met in San Francisco in the late 60s. The relation of synchronicity and astrology, and the integration of Jungian orientations generally to the significance of physical properties, offers some unique angles about the juncture of science and religion, reinvigorating some often-mute arguments lost in the din of the new. Other aspects of correspondence were showing a fine admiration of the great neo-Vedantic philosopher, Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya, the world-wandering chronicler of the occult, Paul Brunton, an appreciation of the deep interreligious insights of the Roman Catholic priest and scholar, Raimon Panikkar. For this reviewer reading Head and Heart was not only edifying about intersections between the physics and metaphysics, of world and self, but I met a fellow traveler whose taste corresponds to my own. I think you might find Head and Heart a start on discovering out how to integrate a scientific worldview with a sacred one. Try it.

Excerpt: Over the years I have learned that reality, divinity, unity, or the absolute‑whatever term you choose to describe the sacred mystery‑cannot be limited either to the rationality and objectivity of science nor to the unity and subjectivity of spiritual seekers. This book tries to show that reality is both intrinsically rational and objective and, simultaneously, a superrational and subjective unity underlying diversity. In other words, reality cannot be reduced to the objective world of science nor to the subjective unity of the mystics. It intrinsically has both these seemingly incompatible aspects. Failure to embrace them both places artificial limits on reality and diminishes both our experience of reality and our sense of what it means to be human. Such lopsided views lead to extremism, despair, and moral paralysis.

Through the interplay of elegant theory and powerful instruments, our knowledge of the natural world has exploded in the last century. In the last decade, scientists have even made progress in unifying all the forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces) into a grand unification, a "theory of everything." Such a theory would provide an explanation of all natural phenomena through a set of equations that could be written on one standard‑sized piece of paper. Because of both the great success and future prospects of science, many believe that one great scientific truth, one theory of everything, encompasses all of reality.

Well before the advent of modern science, various religions offered their version of the one great truth that supports and explains all things in heaven and on earth. Unfortunately, the truths offered by the great religions are not in harmony with each other. For example, many speak of God, whether the God of the Judeo‑Christian tradition, Allah of Islam, or Brahman of Hinduism. Yet, Buddhism denies the existence of any creator god, while the grand unification sought in physics encourages many to question even the need for a god.

Who then has the absolute truth? Is there one absolute truth? These are not merely academic questions. History clearly shows that when one group firmly believes that they have the one truth, all other groups are, by definition, in error and must be eliminated. Monotheism, or more properly "monotruthism," is always hostile to those not espousing the one great truth. Thus, clinging to the belief in one great truth, whether a "theory of everything" or the one true God, sets the stage for conflict, which modern technology makes more barbaric every year. As I will show, understanding the relationship between science and the sacred, between the head and the heart, sheds light on this issue of competing truths, whether among religions or between science and spirituality.

In elementary calculus, we must learn to differentiate before we can integrate. In a similar way, we must clearly differentiate scientific knowledge from sacred knowledge. Only then can we intelligently approach the problem of bringing some harmony between mathematically based sciences that provide only one clear answer to a problem and philosophical mysticism, astrology, depth psychology, and meditation. In other words, careful differentiation between the head and the heart must precede any possible harmony between them. However, harmony emphatically does not mean reducing one type of knowledge to the other.

Many of us seek a worldview that can accommodate both the latest vision of modern science and the many forms of traditional wisdom, a worldview solidly based upon reason that embraces the reality of quarks and the big bang alongside the sacred inner world. However, such a comprehensive postmodern view has not yet emerged, and its absence leaves us two alternatives, both unacceptable. We cannot revert to a premodern view that neglects the vast explosion of science and its handmaiden, technology. Nor can we stay on our present course, where modern science and technology make possible the savagery of modern warfare, unsustainable economic growth, ecological destruction, and life devoid of meaning.

My previous book, Synchronicity, Science, and Soul‑Making, addressed some of these issues via the psychological, scientific, and philosophical consequences of the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung's concept of synchronicity. Here my effort to understand modern science and its relationship to the sacred is both more personal and more general. It is more personal because I draw directly upon my own experiences of both science and the sacred. Greater generality comes from making use of many traditions, from depth psychology to Neoplatonism and philosophical Hinduism, yet relying exclusively on none of them. Instead, I build the discussion from first principles and analysis of personal experience.

I write about my experiences, such as the one that begins this chapter, with much trepidation. Speaking openly about our most intimate inner experiences can be a gross form of ego aggrandizement. Although spiritual effort should not seek to destroy the ego, that being neither possible nor desirable, the ego must become a servant of the higher self or soul. This shift is impossible if I boast about spiritual experiences. Nevertheless, I admit my ego's involvement and take the risk for four reasons. First, it allows me to embody abstract ideas in concrete experiences. Second, it makes the analysis more engaging and compelling. Third, I believe Ralph Waldo Emerson when he writes in his essay "The American Scholar":

He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has descended into the secrets of all minds .... The deeper he dives into his privatest, secretest presentiment; to his wonder he finds this is the most acceptable, most public, and universally true.

Although this passage was written nearly a century before Jung's major works, in Jungian language we would say that in going deep enough into our personal material we reach a universal, archetypal level.

Fourth and finally, there is a philosophical reason for paying homage to the personal. There is a tradition, widely represented in both Eastern and Western thought, that exalts the impersonal over the personal. For example, many traditions encourage us to abandon, even destroy, the psychologically unique individual or ego in favor of the undivided, unitary soul or self. One of my heroes, Albert Einstein, expresses one variant of this approach. He tells us how his religious devotion to science allowed him to transcend the "merely personal," an existence "dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings. I too have had some limited experience of the liberation that impersonal science affords from the merely personal. Nevertheless, I will argue that denying the personal turns the majestic unity of soul into a sham. How could soul be a true unity, an undivided whole, if it excludes me, an individual expression of both human folly and excellence? How does this lopsided emphasis on the impersonal fully express the unique miracle of Einstein as both a person and a scientist? For an example of how limited a view such impersonality gives, consider Einstein's autobiography, written at age sixty‑seven. There we find no mention of his two wives and two sons, let alone his illegitimate daughter.

Rather than remove or denigrate the personal, I will argue for embracing both our timeless unity and the unique expression of that unity in daily life‑you and me as transitory individuals in space and time. I am not elevating the ephemeral ego at the expense of the transcendent unity. Instead, I believe that our task is to experience the unity and simultaneously to appreciate plurality; that is, to appreciate soul as simultaneously an eternal, undivided unity and as a temporal, divided plurality. This approach allows us to cultivate life's intrinsic sacredness, including our personal expression of it in the empirical personality.

My approach to harmonizing science and the sacred involves a parallel appreciation that unity expresses itself in a plurality of religious, philosophical, and scientific views. Appreciating how unity expresses itself as plurality, both personally at the level of our own souls and universally through the diversity of religions, is my path to harmony between science and the sacred. Showing this path requires me to oscillate between intellectual analysis and personal narration, between the world of science and philosophy on one hand and that of psychological and spiritual experience on the other. Only by encompassing both experiences of the head and the heart can we get a glimpse of the fullness of reality and what it means to be human.

New Maps for Old: Explorations in Science and Religion by Mary Gerhart and Allan Melvin Russell (Continuum) Some see the world through the single eye of theology; others through the single eye of science. All these persons experience a flat world of two dimensions. However, when theology and science relinquish the primacy of their individual views and combine their understandings to the point of fusion, their new worlds can reveal a world of meanings that has a full dimensionality, the depth and perspective of stereoscopic visual experience." - from New Maps for Old.

Mary Gerhart and Allan Russell have been writing together on science and religion for twenty-five years. Their collaboration developed out of the conviction that both science and religion are today such highly developed and complicated fields that their interaction is best studied by two persons---one from each field-working together. In their efforts to map science and religion, these are some of the questions they address:

Do a theologian and a scientist see the same thing when they look at the world?

Does myth play a role in science as it does in religion? How do metaphors function in science and religion? Why don't religious understandings change in a rational way-the way understandings in science do?

If we think of science as having "texts," can we apply to them the hermeneutical methods of religion?

Can the "weirdness" found in quantum physics provide an insight into the way God acts in the world?

How are the design and construction of anthropomorphic robots like the creation of Adam and Eve?

Excerpt:

The essays included in this volume were written after 1984, the year Metaphoric Process: The Creation of Scientific and Religious Understanding was published. They represent fifteen years of using metaphoric process to survey issues of change in the way human beings understand their world.

Since a map is an abstract description of space human beings can move through and explore, the idea of a map can serve also as an analog for the thinking space available for human investigation. The idea of a map has fascinated not only explorers and treasure hunters but philosophers as well. As an analog for knowledge and understanding, a map can distinguish areas that are well known from those that are only partially known and those that are presumed to exist but are, at the moment, completely unknown. A map also displays relationships (e.g., distances and directions, sizes of regions, cities) between places or, analogously, relationships (e.g., relative proximities, interspersions) between ideas or concepts, along with emphasizing the central idea that learning something new means connecting that something to something else already known.

A map can also help characterize different questions. Familiar territory encompasses those questions we can ask and answer; unfamiliar territory constitutes a realm about which we can ask questions that we cannot answer. And unknown territory engulfs those questions we cannot even begin to ask. Such a concrete representation of horizons plays right into processes used for the study of religious belief. With this analogy between maps and conceptual space in hand we are able to explore the dynamics of cognitive processing-the activity that revises our maps, that gives us new maps for old.

First, we can ask what it means to understand as distinct from merely to know. On a recent trip to Morocco one of us had an excellent guide who could not read maps. The guide was excellent because he always and unerringly knew where he was. It turned out that he had an unsurpassed ability to recognize landmarks along his route indeed to the point of being able to supply details of relevant historical events going back centuries. And yet he could not read a map. He always knew where he was, but in a larger sense he did not understand where he was, that is, where he was in relation to places he had only heard of, and, of course, to those he did not even know existed. To read a map is to understand a territory.

But more than mapping a territory we attempt to map two territories, science and religion, onto one map, a single map that permits the development of an understanding of the relations between science with the concerns that permeate it-and religion along with its issues.

We wish to call attention to two important references to metaphor and cognition that predated the publication of Metaphoric Process. One of them, Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By is well known and perhaps the most widely used basis for the interpretation of metaphoric language at the present time. We recommend it as an approach in contrast to our own. The other, less widely known, was called to our attention by David Edge in his review of Metaphoric Process published in Isis (1985). Edge pointed out that we had neglected Donald Schon's pioneering Displacement of Concepts (1963) and we are grateful to him for an important precursor to our work that hadn't turned up in our research.

Schon, who acknowledges Ernst Cassirer's influence, is interested in the process he sees in the generation of language. He understands metaphors to be related to the evolution of language as the fossil record is related to the evolution of life: "The metaphors in language are to be explained as signs of concepts at various stages of displacement, just as fossils are to be explained as signs of living things in various stages of evolution". For him metaphors are what are left over from the process of creating new language. Our use of metaphoric process shares the dynamical aspect of process with Schon but ours is a different process and yields a different outcome. Schon's process yields new concepts whereas our primary concern is the creation of higher viewpoints when two concepts firmly embedded in two fields of meaning are equated and understood-said to be the same. Rather than creating new language and new concepts, what we call metaphoric process at its grandest constitutes a revolution, a tectonic reformation-of an entire field of meanings that results in a higher viewpoint, a new understanding of the world or Weltanschauung.

The first section of this book begins with an introductory essay, "The Role of Metaphoric Process in the Development of Cognitive Complexity," that addresses the ways metaphoric process both complicates and simplifies our world-and foregrounds the achievement of Nicholas Copernicus in divorcing our world view from the limitations of naive experience.

We continue with "Modeling Metaphoric Process," turning our attention to metaphoric process itself and showing how a process (rather than a metaphor) is at the root of "The Reformation of Worlds of Meaning" that leads to the tectonic change that alters maps so drastically. The last essay in this group analyzes the "Sublimation of the Goddess" one of the most profound changes in Judaism, as just such a tectonic change-a change that removed the goddess from the religion of the Hebrews.

The second section contains three essays that address the genre established by two persons from different academic fields in conversation. "The Genre Bidisciplinary Dialogue" describes our understanding of this genre and ends with a special dialogue-the Turing Test of computer intelligence (along with a suggestion for improving the test). The genre BD dialogue is then illustrated first with an actual dialogue as "A Scientist and a Theologian See the World," and then with "A Generalized Conception of Text Applied to Both Scientific and Religious Objects"-a more formal discussion of the way the idea of text can serve as a point of unification between science and religion.

The final section of the book contains four essays that illustrate the new relations that exist when science and religion are mapped together. "Mathematics, Empirical Science and Theology" illustrates how the relations between mathematics and the empirical sciences parallel the relations between the empirical sciences and theology. "The Limits of Quantum Mechanics and Cosmology as a Resource for a Contemporary Theological Metaphysics" suggests how quantum physics can and cannot help us to understand some religions questions. "Cog Is to Us As We Are to God" is a critique of an article on robotic technology, a critique that purports to hear an echo of the creative activity of the God in the text of Genesis.

The final essay, "Myth and Public Science," contrasts the results of applying the idea of myth to science with the use of myth in religion and argues for a mythic dimension of public science-the science we find in the scientific journals-as distinct from the science (private science in Gerald Holton's terminology) that takes place in the laboratory or in acts of solitary theorizing.

The private moments of the scientist in thought can be as deep and profound and law-transcending, it would seem as the private moments of the theologian.

The Vanquished Gods: Science, Religion, and the Nature of Belief by Richard H. Schlagel (Prometheus Lecture Series: Prometheus Books) The 20th century brought about a dramatic shift in our conception of reality. Advances in the natural sciences radically altered our understanding of human existence and the universe; biblical scholarship demystified the Bible; and scientific inquiry has superseded biblical and church authority. Despite these dramatic developments, the public still seems largely unaware of the radical conceptual implications of scientific discoveries and explanations.

The aim of this clearly written and engaging work by philosopher Richard H. Schlagel is to provide the openminded reader with the necessary historical, biblical, and scientific background for understanding and evaluating this crucial development. Reviewing both the history of science and the history of Judaism and Christianity as uncovered by modern scholarship, Schlagel comes to the conclusion that the religious viewpoint has been rendered obsolete by scientific advances. Following Socrates' dictum that "the unexamined life is not worth living," Schlagel exhorts us to leave outmoded tradition behind and accept the rationally compelling evidence of the scientific worldview.

Science and Theology: The New Consonance edited by Ted Peters (Westview) introduces some of the key developments in scientific thinking that is enabling a more fruitful exchange of ideas between faith and experience. How can we think about God's action in a quantum world of indeterminacy? in a world that began with a Big Bang? in a world in which life evolved and is continually evolving? in a world governed by entropy and heading toward its eventual heat death? These are some of the most perplexing questions that have arisen from the rapid scientific and technological advances of the twentieth century.

Science and Theology grapples with these seeming conundrums by asking both scientists and religious thinkers to reflect upon possible solutions. In this exciting new edited volume, physicists think about the connection between physics and faith and biologists discuss evolution, ethics, and the future. Complementing these viewpoints, theologians address these same issues from a religious standpoint.

Chapter authors include Nobel Prize‑winning physicist and inventor of the laser, Charles Townes, along with Pope John Paul 11. The resulting interplay between science and theology presses toward consonance, encouraging comparisons, crossovers, and complementarity.

Ted Peters is professor of systematic theology at Pacific Lutheran Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and research scholar at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.

The Limits of a Limitless Science and Other Essays by Stanley L. Jaki (ISI Books) contains 15 essays written by Templeton Prize winning author of numerous works on the relationship between science and religion, who also is Benedictine priest. The essays concern a number of topics familiar to Jaki's readers such as artificial intelligence, SETI, evolution, cosmology, and others. In addition to the title essay, "Limits of a Limitless Science," the reader will find fourteen original, stimulating, and timely chapters, including: Extraterrestrials, or Better Be Moonstruck? Computers: Lovable but Unloving; The Biblical Basis of Western Science; The Inspiration and Counter‑inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena; Words: Blocks, Amoebas, or Patches of Fog? Beyond Science; The Reality of the Universe; A Telltale Meteor m Cosmology: An Empirical Science? To Awaken from a Dream, Finally! Science and Religion in Identity Crisis m Science, Culture, and Cult; The Paradox of Change; Cosmic Rays and Water Spiders

I benefited from the essays where the author discussed the concepts of reason, causality, and design. Differing from some postmodernist claims, he vigorously argued that these ideas are chiefly philosophical and theological, rather than scientific. This leads to a number of important conclusions; such as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle should not be generalized to claim that causality could not actually exist because the principles application is measurement. Also, scientific practice cannot demonstrate the eternity of the universe. "That the universe owes its ultimate origin to a creation out of nothing is a philosophical inference based on its metaphysical contingency and not a conclusion from empirical observation." Jaki's position represents traditional clarifications of thought though as usual it has implications for some current lines of think such as the intelligent design movement such as William A. Dembski s The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge Studies in Probability, Induction and Decision Theory: Cambridge University Press). This study attempts to infer the probability of creation through measurement. (See full review)

OLD WINE, NEW FLASKS: Reflections on Science and
Jewish Tradition by Roald Hoffmann and Shira Leibowitz
Schmidt ($28.95, hardcover, 362 pages, glossary, index,
illustrated, some color inserts, W. H. Freeman ISBN:
0-7167-2899-0) OLD WINE, NEW FLASKS is a unique and provocative look at how science and religion— too often considered at odds with one another—are actually parallel ways of trying to make sense of the same material world, each a voice intertwining with the other to help shape true human understanding.

With great humor and wit, the authors— one a Nobel
laureate and the other an Israeli-American writer and
student of religion— show how daily experience and
seemingly innocuous questions such as "What is this
mixture?" "How do I tell right from left?" and "How can one
make the bitter sweet?" can lead to deeper philosophical
issues concerning religion, art, and science. OLD WINE, NEW FLASKS discusses how authority is conferred and
contested, what it means to be impure, whether humans
have a right to dominate the environment, and the
difference between the natural and the unnatural.
Exploring these and other topics, the authors reveal how
science and Jewish religious tradition, although different in many ways, nevertheless share the conviction that the
world is a very real place, that the actions of beings matter, and that there is an underlying order to the universe.

Full of striking illustrations, OLD WINE, NEW FLASKS is a
fascinating introduction to both modern science,
particularly chemistry, and to Jewish tradition, providing
readers with a better understanding of the counterpoint
between the two, as well as a deeper respect and
appreciation for the underlying unity of all knowledge

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1981, Roald
Hoffmann is the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane
Letters and Professor of Chemistry at Cornell University. He is also an acclaimed poet and the author of Chemistry
Imagined
and The Same and Not the Same.

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt is a lapsed engineer, a mother of
six, a translator, a teacher, and an essayist. Since moving
to Israel she has published widely, exploring the interface
of science and religion. She currently teaches at Netanya
Academic College in Israel.

THE RELIGION OF TECHNOLOGY: The Divinity of Man and
the Spirit of Invention by David F. Noble ($26.95,
hardcover, 273 pages, notes, index, Knopf, ISBN:
0-679-42564-0) PAPERBACK

Arguing against the widely held belief that technology and
religion are at war with each other, David F. Noble’s
innovative book reveals the religious roots of Western
technology. It links the technological enthusiasms of the
present day with the ancient and enduring Christian
expectation of recovering humankind’s lost divinity.

Covering a period of a thousand years, Noble traces the
evolution of the Western idea of technological development from the ninth century, when the useful arts became connected to the concept of redemption, up to the
twentieth, when humans began to exercise God-like
knowledge and powers.

Noble describes how technological advance accelerated at
the very point when it was invested with spiritual
significance. By examining the imaginings of monks,
explorers, magi, scientists, Freemasons, and engineers, this historical account brings to light an other-worldly
inspiration behind the apparently worldly endeavors by
which we habitually define Western civilization. Thus we
see that Isaac Newton devoted his lifetime to the
interpretation of prophecy. Joseph Priestley was the
discoverer of oxygen and a founder of Unitarianism.
Freemasons were early advocates of industrialization and
the fathers of the engineering profession. Wernher van
Braun saw spaceflight as a millenarian new beginning for
humankind.

The narrative moves into our own time through the
technological enterprises of the last half of the twentieth
century: nuclear weapons, manned space exploration,
Artificial Intelligence, and genetic engineering. Here the
book suggests that the convergence of technology and
religion has outlived its usefulness, that though it once
contributed to human well-being, it has now become a
threat to our survival. Viewed at the dawn of the new
millennium, the technological means upon which we have
come to rely for the preservation and enlargement of our
lives betray an increasing impatience with life and a
disdainful disregard for mortal needs. David F. Noble thus
contends that we must collectively strive to disabuse
ourselves of the inherited religion of technology and begin
rigorously to re-examine our enchantment with
unregulated technological advance.

DAVID F. NOBLE is Professor of History at York University
in Toronto. Currently the Hixon/Riggs Visiting Professor at
Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, he has also
taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and
Drexel University, and was a curator of modern technology at the Smithsonian Institution. His previous books include America by Design: Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism and Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation.

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