Recent developments toward a more holistic biology do not eliminate reductionism and determinism, but they do suggest more complex forms of them, in which there are multiple, interacting influences, as there are in complex or chaotic systems. Though there is a place in biology for both systemic and atomistic modes of explanation, for those with a theological perspective the shift to complex explanations in biology is often welcome. It suggests a more subtle view of divine action in which God's purposes (...) are affected through engagement with the complex systems of creation rather than by discrete interventions. It also invites us to connect the biological interdependence with the interdependence in the nature and purposes of God, and it is consonant with a mystical vision of the unity of all things. (shrink)
It is argued that there are good scientific grounds for accepting that cognition functions in a way that reflects embodiment. This represents a more holistic, systemic way of thinking about human beings, and contributes to the coordination of scientific assumptions about mind and body with those of the faith traditions, moving us beyond sterile debates about reductionism. It has been claimed by Francisco Varela and others that there is an affinity between Buddhism and embodied cognition, though it is argued here (...) that they are less closely aligned than is sometimes assumed. Embodied cognition also accords well with the holistic strand of thinking about human nature in Judeo-Christian thinking. While accepting the persuasiveness of the general case for cognition being embodied it is suggested here that some forms of cognition are more embodied than others, and that it may be one of the distinctive features of humans that they have developed a capacity for relatively nonembodied forms of cognition. (shrink)
Lee Kirkpatrick's approach to the psychology of religion involves two main theoretical positions, attachment theory and evolutionary psychology. It is argued that the former is more fruitful than the latter because it stays closer to empirical data and suggests further hypotheses for investigation. An evolutionary approach to the psychology of religion suffers from the same problem as most evolutionary psychology of not being readily testable; also some common assumptions about the evolution of religion may be less compelling than is often (...) supposed. (shrink)
This chapter, which discusses how the mind sciences can be used in natural theology, identifies two aspects of human mental functioning to consider from a theological point of view. First, there is the theological significance of the general capacity for advanced mental functioning found in humans. Second, there is the theological significance of particular human capacities such as religion.
This paper examines the central theoretical concepts in the work of Rupert Sheldrake. The first section examines Sheldrake's account of morphic fields and questions whether difficulties arise when these concepts are extended upwards from the biological level. The second section reviews Sheldrake's concept of extended mind and considers the criticism that it is reductionist about mentality. In considering both of these criticisms it is argued that Sheldrake's theories can be taken in a reductive direction, but need not be. The third (...) and final section draws on the work of Joseph Bracken and David Ray Griffin to suggest a panpsychist metaphysics of field as one possible way that Sheldrake could sidestep these dangers and strengthen his approach. (shrink)
[opening paragraph]: The first issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies carried an interview with Francis Crick about his recent book, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul. Both the book and the interview are a mixture of science and philosophy. Crick is interested in how visual processing in the brain leads to the experience of consciously `seeing' something. It is a good scientific question, and I agree with him that it is a timely one. The first two (...) parts of the book set the scene. Part one summarizes the psychology of perception, and part two presents comparable background about the physical brain. Crick does all this rather well, but there is nothing novel or remarkable in it. Then in part three comes the central question of what neuronal processes lead to conscious awareness. Here Crick is raising questions at the frontiers of current scientific understanding, and he takes us through what pointers he can find in recent scientific work. As he admits, he comes to no clear conclusions, though he makes a useful contribution to current scientific discussion. However, it is Crick's philosophy rather than his science that has attracted most attention, as I suspect he intended. Unfortunately, the philosophy is less competent than the science, and beset with imprecise and overly broad-brush positions. (shrink)