Beyond Science and Nature? Reflections on Scientific Reductionism and Mental and Religious Experience

  • Jeff Astley Glyndwr University, UK and Durham University, UK
Keywords: Manifesto, materialism, mind, reductionism, transcendence

Abstract

This paper responds to the critique of scientific reductionism in the Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science (2014). Reflections on the language of transcendence, notions of creation and Ian Ramsey’s epistemology lead into a discussion of the concept of mind. The interpretation of mind in terms of emergent properties, widely welcomed as ‘nonreductive physicalism’, is questioned and the alternative of a qualified substance dualism presented. The Manifesto’s encouragement of the scientific study of spiritual experiences is related to Alister Hardy’s original appeal. Differences between sense and religious experience are explored; the distinction between methodological and ontological types of reductionism discussed; and an apologia for an open approach to experience developed, as an alternative to a more radical post-materialist scientific method. Concluding remarks include a plea for more epistemological humility vis-à-vis experiential claims, the avoidance of ‘spiritual reductionism’ and an acknowledgement of the significance of the material for human nature and dignity.

 

Author Biography

Jeff Astley, Glyndwr University, UK and Durham University, UK
Alister Hardy Professor of Religious and Spiritual Experience, Glyndwr University, Wales, UK

Honorary Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion, and Professorial Fellow of St Chad's College, Durham University, UK

References

Alexander, D. 2008. Creation or Evolution? Do We Have to Choose? Oxford: Monarch.

Alston, W. P. 1991. Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious experience. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Alston, W. P. 2005. ‘Mystical and Perceptual Awareness of God’. In W. E. Mann. ed. The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 198-219.

Astley, J. 1994. The Philosophy of Christian Religious Education. Birmingham, ALA: Religious Education Press.

Astley, J. 2002. Ordinary Theology: Looking, Listening and Learning in Theology. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Astley, J. 2009. ‘Evolution and Evil: The Difference Darwinism Makes in Theology and Spirituality’. In S. C. Barton and D. Wilkinson. eds. Reading Genesis after Darwin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 163-180.

Astley, J. 2010. SCM Studyguide to Christian Doctrine. London: SCM Press.

Astley, J. 2012. ‘A Theological Reflection on the Nature of Religious Truth’. In J. Astley, L. J. Francis, M. Robbins and M. Selçuk. eds. Teaching Religion, Teaching Truth: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives. Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 241-262.

Ayala, F. J. 2006. Darwin and Intelligent Design. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress.

Badham, P. 1976. Christian Beliefs about Life after Death. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Badham, P. and Badham, L. 1984. Immortality or Extinction? London: SPCK.

Barbour, I. 2002. Nature, Human Nature, and God. London: SPCK.

Brown, W. S., Murphy, N. and Maloney, H. N. eds. 1998. Whatever Happened to the Soul? Minneapolis, MN: Fortress.

Chalmers, D. J. 1996. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Chalmers, D. J. ed. 2002. Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clark, S. R. L. 1983. ‘Nature, Theology and’. In A. Richardson and J. Bowden. eds. A New Dictionary of Christian Theology. London: SCM Press, pp. 394-395.

Clayton, P. and Simpson, Z. eds. 2006. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Crick, F. 1995. The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul. London: Touchstone.

D’Aquili, E. and Newberg, A. 1999. The Mystical Mind. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress.

Dembski, W. A. and Ruse, M. eds. 2004. Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eccles, J. C. 1989. Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self. London: Routledge.

Eccles, J. and Robinson, D. N. 1985. The Wonder of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications.

Fenwick, P. and Fenwick, E. 2008. The Art of Dying: A Journey to Elsewhere. London: Continuum.

Flanagan, O. 1992. Consciousness Reconsidered. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Fox, M. 2014. The Fifth Love: Exploring Accounts of the Extraordinary. Spirit and Sage (Kindle edition).

Franks Davis, C. 1989. The Evidential Force of Religious Experience. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hardy, A. 1965. The Living Stream: A Restatement of Evolution Theory and its Relation to the Spirit of Man. London: Collins.

Hardy, A. 1979. The Spiritual Nature of Man: A Study of Contemporary Religious Experience. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hardy, A. 1984. Darwin and the Spirit of Man. London: Collins.

Haught, J. F. 2006. Is Nature Enough? Meaning and Truth in the Age of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Holmer, P. L. 1978. The Grammar of Faith. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Hick, J. 1976. Death and Eternal Life. London: Collins.

Hick, J. 2002. John Hick: An Autobiography. Oxford: Oneworld.

Hick, J. 2006. The New Frontier of Religion and Science: Religious Experience, Neuroscience and the Transcendent. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jeeves, M. ed. 2004. From Cells to Souls – and Beyond: Changing Portraits of Human Nature. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.

Jeeves, M. and Brown, W. S. 2009. Neuroscience, Psychology and Religion: Illusions, Delusions and Realities about Human Nature. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press.

Kim, J. 2011. Philosophy of Mind. Philadelphia, PA: Westview Press.

Lewis, H. D. 1969. The Elusive Mind. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Lewis, H. D. 1973. The Self and Immortality. London: Macmillan.

MacKay, D. M. 1988. The Open Mind and Other Essays, ed. Melvin Tinker. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

Macquarrie, J. 1977. Principles of Christian Theology. London: SCM Press.

Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science. 2014. Published as Beauregard, M., Schwartz, G. E., Miller, L., Dossey, L., Moreira-Almeida, A., Schlitz, M., Sheldrake, R. and Tart, C. Guest Editorial. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 10(5): 272–274. http://www.explorejournal.com/article/S1550-8307%2814%2900116-5/fulltext (Accessed 28/07/15).

McGrath, A. E. 2001. A Scientific Theology: Volume 1 Nature. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.

McGrath, A. E. 2004. The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology. London: T & T Clark International.

McGuckin, J. A. 2005. The SCM Press A-Z of Patristic Theology. London: SCM Press.

Midgley, M. 1983. Heart and Mind: The Varieties of Moral Experience. London: Methuen.

Nagel, T. 1979. Mortal Questions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Peacocke, A. 2001. Paths from Science towards God: The End of All our Exploring. Oxford: Oneworld.

Peacocke, A. et al. 2007. All That Is: A Naturalistic Faith for the Twenty-First Century, ed. P. Clayton. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress.

Penrose, R. et al. 1997. The Large, the Small and the Human Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Polkinghorne, J. 1998. Belief in God in an Age of Science. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Popper, K. R. and Eccles, J. C. 1977. The Self and its Brain. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Price, H. H. 1965. ‘Survival and the Idea of “Another Worldâ€â€™. In J. R. Smythies. ed. Brain and Mind. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 1-33.

Rahner, K. 1975. ‘Angels’. In K. Rahner. ed. Encyclopedia of Theology: A Concise Sacramentum Mundi. London: Burns & Oates, pp. 4-13.

Ramachandran, V. S. and Blakeslee, S. 1998. Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind. London: Fourth Estate.

Ramsey, I. T. 1959. Paradox in Religion. The Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, XXXIII, 195-218.

Ramsey, I. T. 1963. On Being Sure in Religion. London: Athlone Press.

Ramsey, I. T. 1964. Models and Mystery. London: Oxford University Press.

Ramsey, I. T. 1965. Christian Discourse: Some Logical Explorations. London: Oxford University Press

Ramsey, I. T. 1972. Facts and Disclosures. The Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, LXXII, 115-133.

Ruse, M. 2003. Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Russell, R. J., Murphy, N., Meyering, T. C. and Arbib, M. A. eds. 1999. Neuroscience and the Person: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. Vatican State City: Vatican Observatory; Berkeley, CA: Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.

Russell, R. J., Murphy, N. and Peacocke, A. R. eds. 2000. Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. Vatican State City: Vatican Observatory; Berkeley, CA: Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.

Sarkar, S. 2007. Doubting Darwin? Creationist Designs on Evolution. Oxford: Blackwell.

Searle, J. 1984. Minds, Brains and Science: The 1984 Reith Lectures. London: Penguin.

Searle, J. R. 1992. The Rediscovery of the Mind. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Searle, J. R. 2004. Mind: A Brief Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shanks, N. 2004. God, the Devil and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sherrington, C. 1951. Man on his Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Swinburne, R. 1977, 1993. The Coherence of Theism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Swinburne, R. 1979, 2004. The Existence of God. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Swinburne, R. 1986. The Evolution of the Soul. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Tallis, R. 1999. The Explicit Animal: A Defence of Human Consciousness. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Ward, K. 2008. The Big Questions in Science and Religion. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press.

Wright, T. 2007. Surprised by Hope. London: SPCK.

Published
2015-12-11
Section
Articles