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
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
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
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.
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
T¥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 http://www.ESSSAT.org/,
or contact Eva-Lotta Grantn at Eva-Lotta.Granten@teol.lu.se.
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
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
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: Eva-Lotta.Granten@teol.lu.se,
or visit http://www.ESSSAT.org/.
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:
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
- Why the quantum?
- It from bit?
- A participatory universe?
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
The four facets of food are:
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.
- Social: dining with others in a pleasant atmosphere affects
- 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.
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
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 http://www.deborahkesten.com/.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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.)
Executive editor, Alternative Therapies in Health
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
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.
Professor of sociology, and associate director, Center
for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Duke University
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.
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.