Science & Theology News Feb 04
Techno Sapiens are Among Us
Princeton Conference Pushes Boundaries
We Are Here To Be Compassionate'
Ancient Food Wisdom Meets Modern Science
William Dembski and John Haught Spar on Intelligent Design
Religion-and-Health Pioneer, David Larson, Remembered in Tributes from Colleagues
Techno Sapiens are Among Us
Ninth annual ESSSAT Meeting held in Nijmegen, Holland

By Stacey Ake

The heroine in two different cultural contexts James Cameron's movie Terminator 2 and Marge Piercy's novel He, She and It decides that the best possible father for her son is a cyborg. And why? Because such a man would never lose patience with a boy or beat him or get drunk or abandon him. Such a man would be a perfect father.
Or would he?
He is, after all, merely a logical extension of our current selves, with our cell phones, pacemakers, laptops, Palm Pilots and lens implants: he is a techno sapien.
The ninth European Conference on Science and Technology, held by the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, last March, may seem an unlikely venue for such topics (it was, after all, an academic conference), and yet it was the perfect place for such discussions. The theme of the conference was Creating Techno Sapiens: Values and Ethical Issues in Theology, Science, and Technology, and it boasted several hundred international attendees, 70 different workshops, five plenary speakers, and three very different local excursions including one with Frans de Waal to the Arnhem Zoo to observe the chimp population that he first studied.
Unlike the United States, where intellectual activity in the academy is often surrounded by an invisible yet palpable force field separating it from religious practice, each conference day began, and the conference itself ended, with a religious service. These services, although ecumenical, were celebrated in a variety of traditions, including Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran. Moreover, for the few days that attendees dined in the Refter, the Nijmegen University dining hall, dessert did not make an appearance at the end of the meal, much to the chagrin of many until it was discovered that a student vote had taken place eliminating dessert at meals as part of the university's Lenten observance!
In this milieu, the conference opened March 20, with remarks from Ulf Gorman, then president of ESSSAT, and a plenary lecture from Margeret Boden on Biotechnology, Artificial Intelligence, Self, and Freedom. Boden addressed the ethical problems that arise in the medical profession, especially those that result from the interaction of those four aspects.
The second and third plenary lectures began with Rene Munnik on ICT (Information Communication Technology) and the Character of Finitude that raised questions of where and when human definition and dependency began. While we can all see, for instance, why a book or a printing press might be considered technology, what about an alphabet? In his lecture on Religion and Biotechnology, Ulf Görman discussed the ramifications of things such as nuclear transfer and stem cells and why combinations of ethical approaches, whether deontological, consequentialist or utilitarian, might perhaps best be used in combination.
Frans de Waal lectured on morality and emotion as found in animals, particularly chimps, apes, monkeys and other primates and simians, in this presentation titled Good Natured: Animal Origins of Human Morality. Nancey Murphy gave the final plenary lecture, Theological Reflections on the Moral Nature of Nature. Murphy spoke from an Anabaptist perspective that intrigued her listeners.
Although the plenary lectures were thought provoking, perhaps the heart of the 2002 ESSSAT meeting lay in its workshops. They presented a number of themes, including: The Created Co-Creator and Cyborg-Theology; Techno Sapiens-The Image of God; Globalisation, Technology, and Ethics; The Created Co-Creator and Playing God; Spirituality and Technology; and sections on Philosophical and Religious Reflections on Values and Technology as well as workshop sections on Value Education in Science, Technology, and Theology.
Whether discussing human cloning, the theological status of cyborgs, the dehumanization and environmental damage from mining in Nigeria, the tension between environmentalists and astronomers over a sky island, or the human aspects of extra-terrestrials, the conversations were always stimulating. This, of course, is precisely the purpose of such a meeting. Whereas science and theology arise in the present to create the future, religion and technology must make the attempt to create the future by accessing the eternal, and in so doing meet the future before it becomes the present.
Stacey Ake, Ph.D., is the associate director of Metanexus.
ESSSAT Prize Winners Announced at Conference

By Hubert Meisinger,

During its ninth European Conference on Science and Theology the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT) had the pleasure of announcing Dirk Evers, Eberhard-Karls-Universitt TÂ¥bingen, Germany, as the recipient of the 2002 ESSSAT Prize (2,000 euro) for an outstanding original contribution in an academic context at postgraduate or doctoral level. In his dissertation Evers forms a well-reflected position of his own on cosmology that shows philosophical competence, theological sensibility and a capacity for independent judgment on the bearings of scientific theories for current religious thought.
Two ESSSAT Awards (1,000 euro each) were given to Taede Smedes, Groningen University, the Netherlands, and Lon Turner, Cambridge University, U.K., for essays of excellent quality at graduate or upper undergraduate level. While Smedes discussed questions at the interface between physics and theology on scientific determinism in relation to models of divine action, Turner explored the interaction between psychology and theology with regard to concepts of the person.
Niels Henrik Gregersen, convener of the jury, expressed his hope to see further promising work done by the recipients in the field of science and theology and formulated his thanks to the Radboud Foundation and the Counterbalance Foundation who again sponsored the prize and the awards. Ulf Görman, previous president of ESSSAT, congratulated the winners for their contributions that exemplify the aims of ESSSAT, to advance open and critical communication between the disciplines of theology and science, to promote their cross-fertilisation and to work on the solutions of interdisciplinary problems. The winners themselves expressed their gratitude and thanked ESSSAT for its encouragement to work on the relationship between theology and the sciences in contemporary culture.
Hubert Meisinger is campus minister at Darmstadt University of Technology and ESSSAT scientific program officer.
For a summary of Dirk Evers' prize-winning dissertation prepared for Nijmegen and for more information on future prizes, please visit the ESSSAT website at, or contact Eva-Lotta Grantn at
Willem B. Drees Elected New President of ESSSAT

By Hubert Meisinger

Willem B. Drees has been elected as the third president of the European Society of the Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT) during the ninth European Conference on Science and Theology in Nijmegen. He follows his predecessors Karl Schmitz-Moormann and Ulf Görman.
Drees had been a member of the council and editor of ESSSAT-News, the quarterly newsletter of ESSSAT. (During the conference in Durham in 1998 Drees published a daily ESSSAT-News at the conference.) Thus, he has already spent a lot of energy for ESSSAT.
The General Assembly at the conference in Nijmegen elected him into the council again, and the new council elected him president. There were no doubts that he is the right person to take over since he is one of the leading figures in the science-and-religion dialogue.
As president he also belongs to the organizing committee for the next European Conference on Science and Theology in Barcelona in 2004.

Hubert Meisinger is campus minister at Darmstadt University of Technology and ESSSAT scientific program officer.

For more information on the next ESSSAT conference in Barcelona in 2004, please contact Eva-Lotta Grantn:, or visit


Princeton Conference Pushes Boundaries
Leading thinkers gather to honor John Archibald Wheeler
By Karl Giberson What happens when you gather the smartest people in the world together and ask them tough questions?
Questions such as: Where are the boundaries of science? How much can we know about the universe? Why is there a universe at all? Why are there laws of nature?
While many people believe that questions like these are what scientists always think about, the reality is much different. The majority of scientists work on small problems that are simply not very interesting to lay people, like heat conduction in small electronics, dyes that do not fade over time, materials that do not crack in cold weather and so forth mainstream scientific problems. However, a few bold scientists enthusiastically run to the edge of science, lean over and peer into the darkness the great cloud of unknowing.
John Archibald Wheeler spent his life peering into the cloud of unknowing, identifying the deepest mysteries of science, posing intelligent questions about those mysteries and mentoring disciples to help in the pursuit. It is fitting then that his life and work would be the central focus of a major conference held in Princeton, N.J., March 15-18. Titled Science and Ultimate Reality: Celebrating the Vision of John Archibald Wheeler and Taking it Forward into a New Century of Discovery, the conference brought 312 scholars and science enthusiasts from more than 15 countries outside the United States to the Merrill Lynch Conference Center for a weekend of heady speculation.
The conference began with a presentation by Anton Zeilinger, professor of physics at the University of Vienna. Zeilinger, who many speculate is in line to win a Nobel Prize, identified three of the many deep questions that Wheeler had raised:
  • Why the quantum?
  • It from bit?
  • A participatory universe?
Wheeler's deep questions seem as if they belong to the realm of science fiction. Yet, they are real questions that have emerged within physics. Most physicists encounter them along the way but tend to shrug them off as unanswerable and thus not worthy of serious consideration. Physicists who do not shrug them off are called cosmologists, and many of them gathered enthusiastically at Princeton to revel in the speculative richness of a weekend where such questions were getting their appropriate due.
Quantum mechanics was on the table for most of the four-day symposium. Saturday morning was devoted to theoretical considerations of quantum ideas, laying out the formal, mathematical structure; the afternoon session dealt with the experimental or observational aspects of quantum theory, including the mysterious process by which observers interact with quantum systems to produce observations.
Freeman Dyson offered some cautions about unduly enlarging the domain of quantum theory, pointing out that it should not be extrapolated from the world of the atom, where it works perfectly, to the universe as a whole, where it may or may not work.
In the bold speculative tradition of Wheeler, Dyson suggested that the mysterious role of the observer in quantum mechanics is solely to make the distinction between the past and the future. Once the observer has measured the system, the value of the measurement is now in the past, and it is no longer appropriate to apply quantum mechanics to the measured aspect of the system. These are truly heady things on which to speculate!
Prior to the conference, speculative questions like these were also discussed on the Meta listserve in a series of lively exchanges moderated by physicist Paul Davies. (Davies, who won the Templeton Prize in 1995, has written many books explaining complex physics to popular readers.)
Saturday evening's conference participants were treated to a celebratory banquet honoring Wheeler. The banquet was moderated by Timothy Ferris, perhaps the preeminent science writer of our time. The intimidating explorations of the day gave way to a relaxed evening of personal reflections by friends and former students of Wheeler. The highlight was a delightful presentation of cartoons by Sidney Harris, well-known science cartoonist. After the banquet, Harris presented Wheeler with a collection of his cartoons, which have appeared in such leading publications as the New Yorker, Discover and National Lampoon.
Sunday morning was devoted to Big Questions in Cosmology. In a tour de force of speculative science, leading cosmologists laid out the current understanding of topics like the direction of time, the anthropic principle, the origin of the universe, the origin and constancy of the laws of nature, and so on. There were few solid answers in this session but many solid questions as John Wheeler looked on approvingly from the front row.
The final presenter of the afternoon, Lee Smolin, outlined a theory of quantum gravity. Smolin's presentation was followed by a spirited exchange with Bryce DeWitt, a veteran of the long search for a theory of quantum gravity. Since Einstein, physicists have been searching for a way to bring gravity and quantum theory into harmony and resolve the contradictions that arise when both are applied to the same system. If Smolin is correct in his claims that he does now have such a unified theory, it is truly a major breakthrough. DeWitt and others seemed unconvinced.
(The heated Smolin-DeWitt exchange illustrates the richness of the symposium as two of the world's leading cosmologists engaged face-to-face on one of the deepest scientific questions of our time.)
Sunday afternoon's session was devoted to 15 rapid-fire presentations by young researchers whose papers were finalists in a competition, created to encourage exploration of Wheeler's Really Big Questions. Of the 64 young research scientists, born after 1969, who submitted applications, a panel of judges selected 15 to participate in the conference. Six of them won $5,000 awards, and two winners shared the grand prize with $7,500 each. The presentations were enthusiastic and articulate, highlighting the degree to which a new generation of scientists will carry Wheeler's speculative vision forward into a new century of discovery.
Sunday evening's program offered another change of pace. Jaroslav Pelikan, one of the world's leading authorities on the origin and development of Christian theology, delivered a plenary address, The Heritage of Heraclitus: John Archibald Wheeler and the Itch to Speculate.
Pelikan placed Wheeler in the august company of the greatest minds in the history of philosophy. A panel discussion included philosopher Philip Clayton, science writers Timothy Ferris and Kitty Ferguson, and Templeton Foundation senior vice president, Chuck Harper, who followed Pelikan's warmly received presentation.
The final session, on Monday morning, was devoted to questions of emergence and life. Robert Laughlin of Stanford offered an interesting analogy that suggested that relativity was an emergent phenomenon that simply did not exist on small scales. Laughlin was also an aggressive defender of the importance of experiments and observations to anchor scientific speculation.
George Ellis, of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, gave a qualitative, philosophical talk. Ellis, a leading cosmologist who has co-authored a major text with Stephen Hawking, developed an argument that ethics was real in the same sense that electrons are real. He began by defining real to be anything that can causally affect other real things. With this deceptively simple starting point he built an argument that ethics must be real, since ethical principles like the belief that you should cross the road to help the injured man can result in the movement of bodies that have electrons in them. How can something that is not real causally affect something that is real?
Ellis' argument was the most comprehensive and far reaching of those in Monday's session. If Ellis is correct, then emergence is a critically important metaphysical dimension of reality.
Ellis was followed by Marcelo Gleiser of Dartmouth College, who addressed what he called the problems of the three origins: Cosmos, Life and Mind. Gleiser specializes in the physics of the early universe and provided additional arguments, some very technical, for the reality of emergence.
Philip Clayton, who pointed out that he was the only philosopher on a program with 37 scientists assumed the appropriate role of a philosopher, clarifying the language and illustrating that there are many kinds of emergence.
The final speaker of Monday's session was Stuart Kauffmann, of the Sante Fe Institute. Kauffmann, one of the few biologists on the program, is well known for his explorations of the mechanisms by which life originates, a theme he continued for the conference. Kauffmann looked at something he called autonomous agents, which are bare-bones, hypothetical entities that exhibit some of the characteristics of living organisms.
Kauffmann and his colleagues at the Santa Fe Institute are looking to complexity theory to provide insight into how complex entities like living organisms can arise from scratch, so to speak.

The conference closed with some words of appreciation from John Archibald Wheeler, for which he received a standing ovation.

Karl Giberson, Ph.D., is the editor of Research News.


‘We Are Here To Be Compassionate’
Bernie Siegel on God, faith, love, car keys and looking for health

Angela Swanson spoke with Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. for Research News. Siegel, no stranger to our readers, is a retired pediatric and general surgeon. In 1978, he originated support groups for cancer patients by forming Exceptional Cancer Patients. He is also the author of several inspirational books on healing.

Research News: Bernie, could you tell us about your religious upbringing and background?
Bernie Seigel: My grandfather came to this country from Russia. He'd been a teacher there, and my grandparents were Orthodox Jews. He was the one who taught me about Judaism. I also grew up with parents who loved me and had very life-enhancing mottoes. My mother said, Whenever you have a decision, ask, What will make you happy?' And in difficult times, God is redirecting you; something good will come of this. I did get into some trouble writing from that perspective.
RN: Why was that?
BS: If you say to someone who gets sick, What has happened in your life? How might that have participated? What might have made you vulnerable?
They say, Oh, it's my fault?!
I remember a column that really bothered me. Somebody wrote to Billy Graham and said to him, Does God want me to have cancer?
Graham's first two words were, Not necessarily.
I thought, What a terrible thing to say to somebody!
Now, he went on to explain that you could come closer to God out of this disaster, and yes, I hear people who say it's a blessing; but my answer to people if they said, Does God want me to have cancer?
I would say, No!
Is it my fault?
Then look and see what may have contributed to the onset of the cancer. Then ask how to become empowered: What good can come from this?
RN: What got you interested in other religions?
BS: Part of why I started to study religion was so that I could talk to people from their perspective. Maimonides said that disease was a loss of health, not a punishment. When I am speaking to a group I will hold up a set of car keys and say, You know, I forgot to announce this a few minutes ago, but I just realized I have a set of car keys that somebody lost in the parking lot. Then I pause and say, But you know what? I'm not going to give them back to you, because I think God wants someone to walk home.
After people laugh, I say, Well, if you think that's funny, then remember this: If you lose your car keys, does that mean God wants you to walk home? No! Most of us go and look for them. If you lose your health, go look for it, too. God does not take your car keys or your health away from you.
RN: Have you ever had a crisis or turning point in your faith?
BS: I think the most difficult time I had was in medical school. I had to watch children suffering, and it seemed like there was no reason for it. I asked, Who or what could create a world like this?
I used to pray in the dark as a medical student over children, hoping for a miracle, that something would happen. But I did not ever have the courage to bring it up as an issue, and nobody ever discussed it in all my years of training. How do people deal with pain and loss?
How can we make some sense of all this?
My life's question became, Why would a creator create a world like this?
Two things helped. First, my own experience through life has taught me that we are here to be compassionate. I have learned much from reading: Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Talmudic, Biblical and Hasidic stories, all these things.
The story that really struck me, however, was The Next Voice you Hear by Edward Albee. The message was, Look, if I'd made a perfect world, it would have been a magic trick. Creation is work, so think of your life as a school and learn.
Second, I began to realize that when someone acts out of compassion, when your car breaks down or when you're sick, or to lend you a few bucks, that means something because they have a choice.
RN: But what about denial doesn't that get people into trouble?
BS: Yes. An example would be the difficulty doctors have in saying somebody is dead. They say: we are gone, pass away, fail, go to heaven, or kick the bucket. It is rare that you'll ever hear a doctor say, The patient died. I have really tried to make sure that I use the word die.
RN: I once heard that psychiatry is the profession in which one is most likely to take one's own life. Do you see a reason for this?
BS: Well, many go into psychiatry to solve and treat their own problems.
I also see the pain of the clergy. Prayer doesn't cure everything; it doesn't make the pain go away. I wish we would sit down in medical school and say, Why are you here? What are the healthy reasons? What are the unhealthy reasons? and analyze the reasons so they would not affect our patients adversely.
I would also bring up the question, What is the opposite of love?
RN: I've been told that it's apathy.
BS: Yes, the indifference.
RN: It's not hatred.
BS: Hatred gets a lot of attention, and that's why some people act the way they do. Laurens Van der Post, who grew up in South Africa, put it very well: (I'm paraphrasing him) We must understand, because with understanding can come forgiveness, and when one can forgive, one does not hate, and when one does not hate, one is capable of loving.
Those are the steps that one must go through, because most of us are not capable of transcending everything and saying, I love you!
But when you understand why somebody behaved the way they did and how they were brought up, you may find forgiveness. And once forgiveness comes, doors open.
One of our group members said, Love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable, and then you're free. She said, When I let love into my prison, it touched every negative item in it and changed them into something beautiful.
The other thing I have found is that when you give pain meaning, it doesn't hurt as much. When there is no meaning, suffering occurs.
RN: Do you think that suicide may be a response to that suffering?
BS: Suicide is many things. It's a whole subject unto itself. You are trying to hurt others, yet you kill yourself. When you don't know how to kill what's killing you, you kill yourself. If the children of today knew how to eliminate what's killing them, they wouldn't kill themselves.
RN: Can meaning occur through meditation, and if so why don't more people tap into this resource?
BS: Because they are afraid. There is this wonderful phrase that says, We'd rather be ruined than changed. W.H. Auden says, We'd rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die.
Society today asks, How can I make you numb? How can I distract you? That's what most of us are doing. We take pills, and don't really pay attention to the most important thing how are you feeling? When I walk down the street, I know the life story of everybody I walk past, because I know that they all have pain, and they all have wounds it is ridiculous to not reveal them and heal each other!
RN: How can people be awakened to the need for this revelation?
BS: I go back to saying true love. It is not an accident that God says, Don't eat from the fruit, yet allows us to eat the fruit of knowledge which allows us to become aware and base our actions on significance. We are supposed to know we are mortal so that we think about how we spend our time. We are supposed to know we are naked, which is easy to cover up, but we should not be covering up our mortality.
RN: And how do we bring that about?
BS: They have to be loved; they have to be re-parented. If each of us acted like a loving grandparent toward each other, we would understand that we are loved. We are here to imitate God. That's what I really feel we are here for; that we are here to be co-creators; that we're here to complete the job. Pick the right role model and rehearse being loving.
RN: And does that bring a sense of power, hope and healing?
BS: It changes your life. That is why many people say my cancer is a blessing because it taught me about love and kindness. It is sad that that is how they have to be blessed, but I've stopped being upset with that. Helen Keller said it very well: Deafness is darker by far than blindness.
What we need to do is listen to each other and to ourselves. Also, look at who your Lord is it is not the dollar or the big car and impressing your neighbors, but how you contribute to the world.


Ancient Food Wisdom Meets Modern Science
Integrative nutrition is more than just a balanced diet

By Deborah Kesten

We have stopped our investigation of healing well short of its potential, writes Larry Dossey in Reinventing Medicine. In the same way, we have limited our investigation of food and nutrition to a singular scientific framework, a reductionist perspective that reduces food to functional fuel and nutrients for our bodies.
Merging ancient food wisdom with modern nutritional science provides the foundation for a broader, integrative approach to food that may ultimately empower the investigation of nutritional science to live up to its potential.
The genesis of Western nutritional science started in France in the 18th century when chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier defined the calorie and continued a century later when German scientist Justus von Leibig isolated proteins, fats, carbohydrates and minerals in food. For thousands of years prior to these discoveries, major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism) and cultural traditions (yogic nutrition, the Japanese Way of Tea, the Vision Quest fast) provided lasting basic beliefs about food that sustained humankind.
A distillation of the nutritional truths from these wisdom traditions reveals that food is more than a mere amalgam of nutrients; it has been used by people for millennia to heal their bodies, calm their minds, connect to the sacred and create community. Viewed from such a vantage point, food holds the power to heal not only our physical health, but also our emotional, spiritual and social well-being. Such an approach is truly integrative.
What is integrative nutrition? It is a holistic approach to food and nutrition that is based on three worldviews about food and diet: Western nutritional science, Eastern healing systems that include nutrition (such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and Tibetan medicine), and timeless lifestyle wisdom about food (gleaned from world religions, yogic nutrition, the Mediterranean diet and so on). Ultimately, integrative nutrition is not only about what to eat, but also about how to eat for optimal health.
Our current food worldview encourages us to look at food with binoculars. One moment we point them at protein, the next at carbohydrates, and then at fat both in food and on our body. Perceived from such a restricted field of vision, we see food solely from a singular, biological perspective of isolated findings. But toss away the binoculars and instead view food through a kaleidoscope of ancient food wisdom, and four facets that reflect our current nutrient-oriented view of food emerge, along with harder-to-measure healing dimensions of food that include its link to emotions, spiritual well-being and community.
The four facets of food are:
  • Social: dining with others in a pleasant atmosphere affects well-being
  • Psychological: food influences mood, and conversely mood, emotions, thoughts and feelings often affect food choice
  • Spiritual: eating with an awareness of the mystery of life in food and connecting with it via mindfulness, appreciation and a loving consciousness may enhance health
  • Biological: the nutrients in optimal foods have the power to heal and balance physical health.
The four facets of food reveal that both what and how we eat contribute to health. What we eat (biological nutrition) has been the singular focus of nutritional science, but how we eat also affects health. Ancient food wisdom about how to eat includes flavoring meals with feelings (psychological nutrition), mindfulness, appreciation, connection/love (spiritual nutrition) and socializing (social nutrition). Today, science is verifying that all four facets do, indeed, impact health.
Using social nutrition, for example, we find that every wisdom and cultural tradition is resplendent with food-related social feasts, festivals and rituals, which is quite a contrast to the isolated eating that is typical for many Americans today. One groundbreaking study by R. M. Nerem suggests that rabbits that ate potentially artery-clogging food while being held with care did not develop plaque-clogged arteries.
Psychological nutrition can be demonstrated by ancient yogis (rishis) who used their own minds/bodies as laboratories to discover which foods kept them calm so they could meditate and practice yoga. The Bhagavad-Gita calls these foods sattvic; in the West, we describe them as vegetarian.
Flash-forward to the 1970s when scientists verified this ancient wisdom: carbohydrate-dense foods (such as potatoes) release a naturally occurring hormone called serotonin, which is calming and relaxing. Conversely, low-fat, high-protein foods, such as nonfat yogurt, release another hormone called norepinephrine, which encourages mental alertness.
The three components of spiritual nutrition are mindfulness, gratitude and love. For instance, eating with mindfulness one path to enlightenment based on Buddhist philosophy and being present in the moment when eating may actually affect the way food is metabolized and ultimately, health and well-being.
Physician Donald Morse of Temple University had female students meditate for five minutes before eating, then do mental arithmetic for five minutes before eating. When the students meditated, they produced 22 percent more of an enzyme in saliva called alpha-amylase, which metabolizes carbohydrates and B vitamins. The implication? Eating in a mindful, present state of mind enhances absorption of nutrients and in this way, may improve health.
Virtually all wisdom traditions recommend biological nutrition through eating fresh, whole foods. By negating that food is a divine gift, fast food, for instance, is the spiritual antithesis of the fresh-food dietary tenets of the Quran.
Today we know that a diet of inverse eating of fresh, whole foods fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and small, occasional or no servings of lean, unprocessed animal-based foods reduces the risk of ailments from heart disease and cancer to hypertension and obesity.
For millennia, theologies turned to food to nourish physical, emotional, spiritual and social well-being. Today Western science is verifying what our ancestors discovered about food and nutrition by instinctively and intuitively using their own bodies and minds as laboratories.
The four facets of food reconnect us with this timeless food wisdom, while at the same time demystify Western nutritional science concepts. The result: a balanced relationship to food that holds the power to heal and nourish multi-dimensionally.

Deborah Kesten, who has a master's degree in public health, is the author of The Healing Secrets of Food.

To learn more about Deborah Kesten's research, visit


William Dembski and John Haught Spar on Intelligent Design
Last July, John Haught and William Dembski sat down at Oxford University with Rebecca Fliestra to talk about evolution and intelligent design for Research News. Haught is professor of theology at Georgetown University and Dembski is the founder of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID). Fliestra teaches biology at Point Loma University.

Research News: Would each of you summarize your position on origins and suggest a book or article that you recommend as a further introduction?
John Haught: My position is that the Darwinian revolution is a great opportunity and a great gift for theology. I did a piece in Commonwealth Magazine on the Darwinian revolution, Evolution and God's Humility [Jan. 28, 2000] that summarizes God After Darwin as well as anything could in five or six pages. I agree with Dembski that Darwinism does not tell us everything, but it has uncovered things about the natural world we did not know about before.
Even though at first sight Darwinism may seem to contradict things we knew theologically, if we look at them carefully from a theological point of view, they actually allow us to come to grips with the radical roots of the Christian tradition. In a way, a depth dimension in the world and in God has been opened that could not be seen before evolutionary science.
William Dembski: I look at a certain type of information that arises in contexts where we know intelligence to be operating. I call this information specified complexity, develop it formally, and then show that is indeed reliably correlated with the effects of intelligence, which is a source of a lot of controversy right now. I would refer people to my book No Free Lunch.
RN: The subject of apologetics often comes up in these discussions. Could you reflect on the way your work is, or is not, apologetic.
WD: My work certainly can be used for apologetics. People who are using it apologetically seem to be operating within a Christian evangelical framework. Intelligent design fits very nicely with this older theological tradition of examining the vestiges of creation where there is evidence of divine handiwork. Yes, that evidence is very limited in what it can tell you about God, but it still makes God's handiwork evident. That is where it is getting apologetic mileage.
There is also resistance to this. There is concern about anthropocentrism in the question, In what sense can the design that we see in a human context be extrapolated? Nevertheless, it is going in that direction.
I would like to further explore the apologetic movement, but that is not my main emphasis. I would prefer to see if the intelligent design movement could be developed as a scientific program. If intelligent design does not pan out as a scientific program, then any apologetic is going to come crashing down. I am sensitive to that.
JH: As a theologian I am interested in apologetics because there has to be an apologetic aspect to all Christian theology. I use apologetics in Paul Tillich's sense of the term as answering theology.
Tillich's point was that we should never make statements theologically that do not respond to actual questions that people are asking. That is the sense in which my theology is apologetic.
I think one question people ask today is an extension of a human question meaning.
As people look into the evolutionary picture, it can be very frightening. People want to ask, What is the meaning of this? What is going on here?
William James once wrote, I've finally concluded that something is going on in this universe, and that novelty is real. I want to emphasize both of those points. The universe may say something significant. Something momentous is happening, and responding to the question of meaning.
More than that, something new is constantly coming about. For me, the Darwinian, or evolutionary, picture of things allows the new creation to appear in a way that the pre-evolutionary universe does not.
RN: You both draw on Polanyi's idea of contingency but come to radically different conclusions. How is this possible?
JH: That is a very good question. I am a fond admirer of Polanyi, and I think we both would agree with Polanyi that Darwin does not give us the whole answer of things. I think, though, that Polanyi was more open to Darwinian biology than Bill thinks.
What I like about Polanyi is his approach to reductionism. It is very, very fertile and has not been drawn upon enough. He has answered the biological reductionism of people like Crick and others quite well. And I agree that he points to something like what Bill calls the fact of specified complexity, of informational sequencing that cannot be accounted for in terms of chemistry and physics as such. Even so, I think Polanyi is more open to an evolutionary view of things than Bill is.
WD: You are probably right that Polanyi would have accepted more of an evolutionary view than I do. However, there is a commonality between us because I am not for a static universe I do want to see the emergence of novelty. The question is how that happens in natural history. I do not think Darwinism is the whole show, though it is part of the show.
I am often called an anti-evolutionist, but I could be comfortable with common descent that can be squared with the Christian tradition. The problem is that common descent, or common ancestry, has been tied to the Darwinian mechanism. That mechanism is supposed to drive the whole of evolution.
If that mechanism is thrown into question, I question it; you [Haught] do not then how do we explain genealogical interrelatedness? Can the genealogical interrelatedness of all organisms instead be thrown into question? The evidence will go where it will on that, but I find the things that you are emphasizing about novelty and Whitehead's notion of beauty very congenial.
The Christian tradition that I am most comfortable with is Eastern Orthodox, which seems to have a commonality with these notions. Perhaps it is only over the adequacy of the Darwinian mechanism, or the extent to which it applies, that we disagree.
JH: Well, this is an interesting clarification! As I have talked to people who are critical of your work, they often say that the biggest problem with intelligent design is that it suppresses the massive amounts of evidence found in the fossil record, biogeographical distribution, radiometric dating, embryology, comparative anatomy and so forth. The thing that causes intelligent design to seem somewhat marginal to the scientific enterprise is that the data which scientists work to gather is not fully taken into account by the movement.
WD: I want to resist that. I recently read a strong case for common ancestry by a geneticist. However, I also see counter-evidence. Still, I do not want to dismiss the findings of scientists, because scientists sweat blood trying to understand nature's workings. I respect the fact that knowledge is hard to get, but the issue is how we put it all together. If intelligent-design researchers are on to something, science is going to require some fundamental rethinking. How far that rethinking is going to go is not clear at this point.
JH: Is there solidarity inside the intelligent design movement? For example, I attended a conference at Calvin College [Design, Self-Organization, and the Integrity of Creation] and listened to Jonathan Wells and his very vehement denial of the possibility of common descent. I wonder how you can get along with people within the movement who are apparently so much more anti-evolutionist than you claim to be.
WD: John Roche describes intelligent design as a big tent with many people under it from young-earth creationists to Michael Behe who accepts common descent. I am not sure that he would go to the mat for it, but he says there is good evidence. So there is a broad spectrum and that is just within the Christian world!
JH: I know that you have mentioned Muslims who have been attracted to intelligent design. I have a friend who is Islamic and a scientist, named Seyyed Hossein Nasr. When he writes about Darwin, he immediately sees materialism.
One of the things the intelligent design movement has been very sensitive to Phillip Johnson especially is the fact that so much evolutionary science is presented to the public wrapped in the blanket of metaphysical materialism. Many Muslim philosophers then, are very sensitive to that. They are attracted to intelligent design because it has really signaled this.
The problem both the intelligent design movement and Nasr have is the refusal to allow, in principle, a disengagement of the Darwinian data of the information that scientists are gathering about the fossil record from the metaphysical-philosophical overlay that is often put on it.
I wonder if we could make more progress in this discussion if the data of evolutionary science could, in principle, be dissociated from materialism and so-called naturalism?
WD: I want to think that through closely. Bruce Gordon has presented lectures stating that there is no problem squaring neo-Darwinism with Christian faith. I need to think about the neo-Darwinian mechanism that is said to be driven by chance mutations.
What metaphysical sense can be given to that? The role of chance? The way it is presented, especially by the materialistic neo-Darwinists, is that there is no direction to the mechanism driving evolution the mechanism is blind. What if there is a place for teleology in this scheme? Can the idea of multiple levels of explanation assist here?
It is evident to me that there are neo-Darwinists who are Christians, who subscribe to the creeds and can confess them with a straight face, but are they doing it coherently? In other words, is the metaphysic of materialism actually enteringthe theory of neo-Darwinism in some substantive way? I suspect it is in how you make sense of the random errors, namely, the chance.
JH: That is where I think good theological sense can be made of contingency of the undirected aspects of evolution in terms of a God who wants the world to become independent of God, so that a dialogical relationship with deity would be possible.
To try to imagine the alternative a universe which is directed in every respect is, logically speaking, simply an extension of God, rather than something over against God, capable of rebelling as I think creation does at times.
RN: This is a strong point of contention. How much freedom does God grant the world? Is it correct to say that intelligent design has a very controlling God, and process theology has an ultra-permissive God? What would you see as a major point of disagreement in each other's positions?
JH: I do not think that either Bill or I go to those extremes. I suspect our religious sense of God is much closer together than that. I think when we sit down and talk to each other that often we find ourselves closer than we might think.
If I could specify a sharp difference, it is a methodological one. When I talk to scientists about evolution, I do not want them to have to talk about intelligence. I expect them to give me what they have found through the old-fashioned scientific method scientific investigation. I do not mind that they also say as far as scientific explanation is concerned, natural selection is a perfectly good explanation.
What I do not want them to say is, That's the exhaustive explanation of this phenomenon of life. I want to make room alongside for theological explanation. The introduction of intelligence at the level of scientific explanation seems, from a point of view of a science-and-religion conversation, to be unwarranted.
WD: From my vantage point, science is calling for intelligence to be introduced! John is right about this being a sticking point, and it is going to make the science-religion dialogue at this point more difficult.
JH: Can I add another wrinkle? Intelligent design is often defended in very, very conservative political and religious journals. I wonder whether one of the reasons that the whole idea of evolution is frightening or distasteful to some people in our country and not just religious people is that the first thing that evolution implies is cumulative change over time. That means that things do not stay the same, whereas the political and religious right often wants things to stay the same. To what extent is this issue a political thing?
WD: That is a tough one. In a past life, I organized an intelligent-design think tank at Baylor. The idea was to do the science and to get away from political concerns. Unfortunately, the whole thing was politicized by people who were opposed to intelligent design (see Research News, December 2000). It is a problem that intelligent design is politicized by all sides. That is why my concern is to try to get a scientific program up and running. It is tough.
RN: Do you have any concluding thoughts?
JH: We are at a point of being inadequate in our understanding of everything especially life. I want to end on that point. There is so much room for further depth of understanding.
WD: One of the things I want to see happen in the intelligent design movement is to have more conversations with people like John Haught. Isolation has been one of my main concerns both personally and for the intellectual movement I represent.
We tend to work in isolated pockets. I remember when I was at Princeton Seminary; the science-religion dialogue was well represented there especially with Wentzel van Huyssteen and James Loder. If we can have more conversations, a lot of misconceptions can be cleared up.


Religion-and-Health Pioneer, David Larson, Remembered in Tributes from Colleagues
David Larson's untimely death on March 5 continues to reverberate through the field of religion and health. This is a relatively new field, and the premature death of one of its pioneers is a great loss. Research News continues to receive reflections on the significance of Larson's passing, some of which are included below. (For an in-depth tribute to Larson see the April issue of Research News.)

Larry Dossey
Executive editor, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine
Like the vacancy left in the skyline of New York City following Sept. 11, there is a Larson-shaped hole in our hearts following David's untimely departure. My profession has lost a leader, and I have lost a friend.
I came into David Larson's orbit quite by accident. I discovered an unusual paper describing the correlation of religious faith with a superior post-surgical clinical course in elderly individuals undergoing hip surgery, and I wrote for a reprint. In addition to the article, I received a personal letter from lead author David Larson. The letter was an extraordinary expression of gratitude so genuine it might have been written by an old friend.
Our paths continued to intertwine through our involvement with the NIH's Office of Alternative Medicine, the Templeton Foundation and various venues around the country that were beginning to explore the health-and-spirituality connections. The culture, it seemed, after ignoring the importance of spirituality in healthcare for more than a century, was finally awakening from its slumber.
David Larson was goading it into wakefulness. He emerged as one of the key figures in the spirituality-and-health field. It was the part he was born to play. But although David took pleasure in his notoriety and the dizzying activity that swirled continually around him, he never took it too seriously.
When we recently met at a conference, he laughingly remarked, Can you believe all this is happening? Maybe we should be doing something else. This is getting too easy! His flip comment concealed what I knew that in addition to his recent accolades, there were also the accumulated scars from painfully toiling in the trenches for more than two decades.
It is not only memories that remain. There are also the tracks David left in science's soft ground his stunning creativity, uncompromising attention to detail and extraordinary courage in going against the grain.
Thanks, Dave, for showing the way.

Linda George
Professor of sociology, and associate director, Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Duke University Medical Center
I knew Dave for about a quarter century. Although we are the same age, Dave was my postdoctoral fellow a research fellowship that he pursued after finishing his psychiatry residency.
We worked closely together for two years, during which he learned and honed his research skills. Many people do not understand that physicians receive little research training in medical school. To pursue academic medicine, as Dave did, they must find a way to obtain research training after or before medical school.
Dave was a man who had firm convictions and was courageous. He was courageous because he pursued scholarship on religion and health long before it was acceptable. He gave up the security, rewards and stature of his NIMH position to establish and lead the National Institute on Healthcare Research. Dave was critically important in the legitimization of research on religion and health. Medical research will be enhanced by his efforts for decades to come.
Many will miss Dave's professional contributions, but I will miss Dave himself. He was upbeat, supportive and had an indomitable sense of gratitude. I think this sense of gratitude kept Dave gentle, warm and caring. Many with his accomplishments would have developed a sense of entitlement, but not Dave. I will miss him greatly. The world has lost a man who was the epitome of courage and kindness.

Dan Blazer,
Dean of medical education and J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry at the Duke University School of Medicine
Dave and I were residents at Duke and probably were the first and second of many Christian psychiatrists who came to Duke to study with Bill Wilson. I knew Dave when he began his psychiatric training and when he married Susan. His energy, enthusiasm and pure heart were contagious to everyone.
He was a pioneer in the study of religion and health, as testified by his selection for the Pfister Award with the APA this year. Not everyone agreed with his approach, but I do not know anyone who did not personally like Dave or respect him for his untiring efforts. In many ways, he was the hub around which exploring the relationship between religion and health have emanated. He will be deeply missed by everyone.

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