Fwd: Seminar: Nature in Belief, Calvin College, June 21 - July16, 2004

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Wed Apr 28 2004 - 12:38:00 EDT

attached mail follows:


Nature in Belief:
Evolutionary Explanation, Biological Function, and Religious Purpose

Calvin College Seminar in Christian Scholarship
June 21 - July 16 2004

Alvin Plantinga, University of Notre Dame
Jeffrey Schloss, Westmont College

Seminar Description

One of the most provocative and crucially important domains of historic
interaction between science and religion has been the elucidation by science of
mechanistic causes for phenomena previously understood by religion as entailing
supernatural agency. In recent years, this area of dialogue has become both more
promising and more challenging by virtue of renewed scientific interest,
particularly by biological disciplines, in going beyond mechanistic descriptions
to functional or teleonomic explanation: inferring biological purpose at the
level of organismal function and evolutionary directionality. This opens up new
opportunities for conciliance in religious and scientific understandings of
design or natural function. But it also harbors new challenges when attributions
of natural and divine purpose appear unrelated to, or even incommensurable with,
each other.

No single issue embodies this tension more dramatically than the quest for
biological explanations of religious belief, behavior, and experience. Unlike
earlier Freudian or Marxist deconstructions of religion, mechanistic accounts
from the perspective of neuroscience and functional accounts from the
perspective of evolutionary theory have successfully generated predictive and
conciliatory hypotheses about observed patterns in belief and behavior. The
implications of these accounts for religion are ambiguous. On the one hand,
western religious traditions view belief in God as facilitated by and fulfilling
of human nature. So uncovering natural inclinations, and possibly benefits, to
religious faith is both welcome and anticipated. On the other hand, religious
faith and experience entail the conviction that God has acted to engage humanity
through divine revelation and often through supernatural initiative. Reductively
functionalist accounts of religion appear problematic. Thus, as science attempts
to uncover neurophysiological mechanisms and evolved cognitive functions that
mediate religious experience, these endeavors may constitute both a challenge to
and resource for theology - not only by raising new questions about causation,
and perhaps new options for natural theology, but also by illuminating
longstanding tensions about grace and nature, intrinsic to understandings of
religious belief within theology itself.

In spite of an explosion of recent scientific work in biological teleology and
religious functionality, there has been no rigorous interdisciplinary analysis
of the issues from the perspectives of epistemology, philosophy of religion, or
theology. This seminar will survey the leading, and often highly contrasting,
evolutionary theories of biological purpose and religious function, and assess
these notions both philosophically and theologically. We will engage four
related areas, with the help of internationally recognized workers (see next
section) in each field.

(1) We will examine the philosophical warrant for inferring purpose and proper
function, and discuss the relationship of such inferences to naturalistic and
supernatural understandings.

(2) We will evaluate the widening range of contemporary proposals for the role
of purpose in biological explanations, emphasizing controversies over the
relationship between teleology, functionality, and evolutionary processes.

(3) We will survey contemporary evolutionary studies of religion, with special
attention to recent functionalist accounts that view it as a group-selected
adaptation and byproduct accounts that view it as an evolutionary spandrel or
cognitive byproduct.

(4) We will assess the implications of the above for science religion dialogue,
simultaneously asking a) whether fully naturalistic accounts constitute
defeaters for religious belief, b) whether some naturalistic accounts constitute
resources for either natural theology or theological anthropology, and c)
whether theological understanding can constitute a resource of reservoir of
fruitful hypotheses for empirical scientific investigations in this area.

Guest Lecturers

David Sloan Wilson
Professor, Departments of Biology and Anthropology
State University of New York, Binghamton
Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society. Chicago. 2003.
Unto Others: The Biology & Psychology of Unselfish Behavior. Harvard. 1997.

Keith Ward
Regius Professor of Divinity
Oxford University
Religion and Human Nature. Oxford. 1998.
God, Chance, and Necessity. 1996. Oneworld.
Religion and Creation. 1996. Oxford.

Michael Ruse
Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy
Florida State University
Debating Design. (with William Dembski) Cambridge. 2004.
Can a Darwinian be a Christian? Relationship between Science & Religion.
Cambridge. 2004.
Darwin & Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? Harvard. 2003.
Evolution Wars: A Guide to the Debates. (with E.O. Wilson) Rutgers. 2001.
Biology & the Foundations of Ethics (with Jane Maienschein). Cambridge. 1999.

Marc Bekoff
Professor of Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Colorado
The Cognitive Animal: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives on Animal
Cognition. 2002. MIT
Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and Heart. (with Jane Goodall). 2002.
Harvard.
Species of Mind: the Philosophy & Biology of Cognitive Ethology. 1999. MIT Press.
Nature's Purposes: Analysis of Function & Design in Biology. 1998. MIT Press.

Schedule

Mon 6/21 Smith; Plantinga & Schloss Introduction & Overview
Tue 6/22 Jeff Schloss Evolution of Religion
Wed 6/23 Alvin Plantinga Wilson's Functionalism
Thu 6/24 David Sloan Wilson Evolutionary Approaches to Religion
Fri 6/25 David Sloan Wilson Religion as an Adaptation

Mon 6/28 Keith Ward Theological Anthropology
Tue 6/29 Keith Ward Evolutionary Naturalism
Wed 6/30 Michael Ruse Naturalism & Religion
Thu 7/1 Alvin Plantinga Casebeer & Proper Function
Thu 7/1 Jeff Schloss (afternoon) Altruism & Human Telos
Fri 7/2 Jeff Schloss Purpose & Function in Biology

Mon 7/5 ------ 4th of July Break
Tue 7/6 Alvin Plantinga Methodological Naturalism
Wed 7/7 Jeff Schloss Game Theory, Signalling, & Religion
Thu 7/8 Alvin Plantinga Games Scientists Play
Fri 7/9 Alvin Plantinga Naturalism vs. Science

Mon 7/12 Marc Bekoff Morality in Humans/Animals
Tue 7/13 Marc Bekoff Function in Biology
Wed 7/14 Seminar Participants Project Presentations
Thu 7/15 Seminar Participants Project Presentations
Fri 7/16 Seminar Participants Project Presentations

Readings

Each applicant will receive a binder of selected references to inform discussion
and research projects, in addition to a comprehensive annotated bibliography of
sources pertinent to the seminar focus. In addition to these, the following
readings should be completed prior to the Seminar. The Atran, Casebeer, Fodor,
and Wilson books should be purchased; the rest will be mailed to participants or
emailed in digital form.

Atran, Scott. 2002. In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion.
  (Chapters 1,8,10). Oxford University Press.

Bulbulia, Joseph. "Religious Costs as Adaptations that Signal Altruistic
Intention." MS in Rvw. (MS Word File)

Casebeer, William. 2003, Natural Ethical Facts MIT Press, Chapters 1-3, 7

Fodor, Jerry. 2000. In Critical Condition. MIT Press, Chapters 8, 14, 15, 17

Johnson, Dominic & Krueger, O. (In press) "Supernatural punishment and the
evolution of cooperation." Political Theology. (PDF File)

Johnson, Dominic, Stopka, P & Knights, S 2003. "The puzzle of human cooperation:
Communication arising." Nature 421: 911-912. (PDF File)

Michael Ruse "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics: are they in conflict?"
Zygon, vol 29 (1) 5-24

Pinker, Stephen. 1997. How the Mind Works, Norton, pp.554-559

Plantinga, Alvin. 1999. "An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism" in
Warranted Christian Belief, Oxford University Press 227-240.

Plantinga, Alvin. 1994. Warrant and Proper Function. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 12.

Plantinga, Alvin, "Methodological Naturalism?", in Facets of Faith and Science,
vol. 1, ed. J. van der Meer (Lanham, MA: University Press of America, 1996), pp.
177-221. A shortened version of this paper appears in Perspectives on Science
and Christian Faith, Vol. 49, No. 3 (Sept., 1997), pp. 143-154.

Plantinga, Alvin. The Twin Pillars of Christian Scholarship. Stob Lectures
(book will be provided during summer)

Plantinga, Alvin. Games Scientists Play. Unpublished (Word doc)

Schloss, J. P. 2000. "Wisdom Traditions as Mechanisms of Homeostatic
Integration: Evolutionary Perspectives on Organismal 'Laws of Life'." In The
Science of Wisdom and the Laws of Life. Warren Brown, editor. Templeton
Foundation Press. 153-191.

Schloss, J.P. 2002. " 'Love Creation's Final Law?': Emerging Evolutionary
Accounts of Altruism." In, Post, S., Underwood, L., Schloss, J., and Hurlbut,
W. eds. Altruism and Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, and Religion in
Dialogue. Oxford University Press. 212-243.

Schloss, J.P. 2002. "From Evolution to Eschatology." In Resurrection:
Theological and Scientific Assessments. Ted Peters, Robert J. Russell, and
Michael Welker, editors. Wm Eerdmans. 56-85.

Simon, Herbert. 1990. "A Mechanism for Social Selection and Successful
Altruism" Science Dec. 21, 1990 vol. 250 n 4988 p 1665 (4)

Smith, Christian. 2003. Moral Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture.
  Chapters 2,5. Oxford University Press.

Ward, Keith. 1998. Religion & Human Nature. (Chapter 6: Evolutionary
Naturalism). Oxford University Press.

Wilson, David Sloan. 2002. Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and The
Nature of Society. University of Chicago Press. (read in entirety)

Wilson, David Sloan. 1990. "Species of Thought: a Comment on Evolutionary
Epistemology , Biology and Philosophy 5: 37-62

Wilson, David Sloan. Review of Smith's Moral Believing Animals. (Unpublished
document; MS Word file)

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