|Path Home: Empathy, Altruism and Agape | Presenters or Itinerary
This paper has two goals: 1) to outline a philosophical framework for productive collaboration between religion and science on discussions about love, and 2) to illustrate this approach by examining some actual issues pertaining to the nature of love. The central question of the paper is in what ways can religion and science cooperate in defining the ideals and conditions of a model of love needed to guide human development?
I advance two theses. First, a fruitful dialogue between science and religion should proceed within what Paul Ricoeur called a critical hermeneutical perspective on both science and religion. Second, when this happens, science will have a clearer picture of some of the ideals of human love that it should serve but cannot itself invent or create. On the other hand, such a dialogue will provide religion with a more critical grasp of its own ideals and a clearer understanding of some, although not all, of the conditions needed to approximate these ideals.
A Philosophy of Science for Collaboration
Love and the Traditions
Various contemporary forces, including the insights of evolutionary psychology, are functioning to shift Christian love away from historic Protestant strong agapic models toward the syntheses of Aristotelian friendship and New Testament love found in a variety of Roman Catholic formulations. I make this report, not as a Roman Catholic, but as a liberal Protestant observer of the contemporary theological discussion. Love as mutuality or equal regard, with self-sacrifice serving as a transitional ethic designed to restore love as equal regard, is an emerging dominant model of love in contemporary theological ethics.
The concepts of kin altruism, inclusive fitness, and reciprocal altruism are beginning to influence theological-ethical views of love. The breakthrough work of William Hamilton, George Williams, and Robert Trivers on these ideas has not gone unnoticed in theological debates about love. The biological evidence that genetic parents will under certain conditions sacrifice for their offspring, that nature has selected for parental care, that other genetically-related family members are more likely to sacrifice for one another than nonkin, has sensitized some theological ethicists to the existence of similar insights assumed by, and sometimes embedded in, Christian concepts of love. Pope and Browning have found naturalistic observations in the thought of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas that understood the role of kin preference in both mammalian relations and human love. Aquinas had his own theories of kin preference, the role of infant dependence in bonding males and females into families, and the role of paternal recognition in developing paternal investment. These insights served to give rise to a theory of love that saw the developmental importance of kin preference, strong parental investment, the dialectical relation between self-regard and other-regard, and how these early formative influences, with the right communal and symbolic reinforcements, can be extended analogically to include nonkin, neighbors, strangers, enemies, and God. Stephen Pope argues, and I concur, for a reconstruction and extension of Catholic naturalism in light of insights from evolutionary psychology.
The paper ends, however, with a few thoughts about the inevitable tensions between science and religion on the nature of love. These tensions need not impede investigations into common models of love that are culturally powerful and that can guide various aspects of education and culture. My last thoughts consist of a meditation on metaphysics. I argue that religion should be open to naturalism and that science should be either open to the transcendent or at least agnostic with regard to metaphysical pronouncements that may exceed its competence.
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