Mind, Brain, and Personhood:
An Inquiry from Scientific and Theological Perspectives


18, 19, and 20 January 2001
San Diego, California

A Symposium sponsored by the
JOHN TEMPLETON FOUNDATION

 

PURPOSE

 

3D rendering of CT and MRI brain scans

Developments in neuropsychology during the last several decades of the twentieth century were little short of spectacular. The field experienced explosive growth. The Society for Neuroscience, founded in 1970 with some 500 members, has nearly 29,000 today. Fundamental discoveries made at molecular and cellular levels pointed to ever tightening links between the brain, mind, and behavior. Provocative books, such as The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994) by Francis Crick, the winner of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA, and Descartes’ Error (1994) by renowned neurologist Antonio Damasio, challenged us to rethink traditional views of personhood. To consider the broader issues raised by recent neuroscience research, in particular their impact on theological and philosophical concepts of human nature, twelve people from three continents ? scientists, theologians, and philosophers ? gather on Coronado Island across the bridge from San Diego, California, on the southwestern edge of the U.S. mainland. They explore questions related to our sense of divinity, particularly how, in the light of increasing knowledge of psycho-pathology, including its neural substrates, we should evaluate claims made down through the centuries, as well as today, of the recurrence of visions and other mystical experiences. Other matters of inquiry involve the biology of spiritual experience. How should we think about the spiritual dimension of life, which to many is a link with a transcendent reality, but according to others explainable fully in psycho-biological terms? To what extent can genetics account for variations in spirituality? As the human embryo develops, when does it make sense to assert that “someone” is there, and as the brain deteriorates or suffers widespread damage, how meaningful is it to say that “someone” is still present? Drawing on their expertise in disparate domains, the discussants also look at changing views of the essence of persons. In the light of developments in evolutionary psychology, how should we evaluate Biblical portraits of human nature? Can we recover a meaningful concept of soul? From the perspective of neurobiology, how should we think about the uniqueness of humankind? What is the relationship of mind to the structure and operation of the body? To what extent do changes in the brain diminish personhood? What does it means to say that humans are made “in the image and likeness of God”? The probe for answers in the conversation on the rim of the Pacific Ocean takes place under the aegis of the John Templeton Foundation.

CHAIR

Market Church at Evening, 1930
painting by Lyonel Feininger

Malcolm A. Jeeves, an eminent neuropsychologist, is the immediate past president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy of Science and Letters. Currently Honorary Research Professor at St. Andrews University, he was Foundation Professor of Psychology there from 1969 to 1993 and established the university’s acclaimed psychology department. His own research has focused on brain mechanisms and neuroplasticity. Educated at Cambridge University, where he received his Ph.D. in psychology in 1956, he also did graduate work at Harvard University. Before joining the St. Andrews faculty, he was a lecturer at Leeds University and Foundation Professor of Psychology at Adelaide University in South Australia. He served as vice principal of St. Andrews from 1981 to 1985 and as director of the Medical Research Council’s Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group at St. Andrews from 1981 to 1986. A past member of three of Britain’s most active research bodies, the Science and Engineering Research Council, the Neuroscience and Mental Health Board of the Medical Research Council, and the Manpower Sub-Committee of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, Dr. Jeeves was formerly chairman of the International Neuropsychology Symposium and editor-in-chief of uropsychologia. He was made a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992. He has received honorary doctoral degrees from the universities of Edinburgh, St. Andrews, and Stirling. The author of more than 100 scientific papers and eleven books, including six related to science and faith, his most recent studies are Human Nature at the Millennium (Baker, 1997) and (with R.J. Berry) Science, Life and Christian Belief (Apollos, 1998). Dr. Jeeves served as an acting company commander with the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters in Germany following World War II. He is honorary sheriff of Fife and Tayside in Scotland.

PARTICIPANTS

Fiat Lux
painting by Marian Bohusz

Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, Diogenes Allen has produced a highly-acclaimed body of work over the past thirty years that develops the idea that theology is relevant and connected to the experiences of everyday life. He is at once a pastor in the classical Reformed tradition and a philosophical theologian who is well-known as an interpreter of Simone Weil, Søren Kierkegaard, and Ludwig Wittgenstein among other major modern thinkers. The son of Greek refugees who had survived the Turkish deportation and established a tightly-knit Greek Orthodox community in Lexington, Kentucky, he was graduated with high distinction from the University of Kentucky, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and continued his education at Princeton and then at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Dr. Allen earned a bachelor of divinity degree at Yale followed by a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1965. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister who served a church in Windham, New Hampshire for three years. After teaching at York University in Toronto from 1964 to 1967, he joined the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary as an associate professor. Promoted to full professor seven years later, he was named to his present position in 1981. Dr. Allen twice chaired Princeton’s theology department. His numerous awards include a Rockefeller Fellowship, a Canada Council Fellowship, research fellowships given by the Association of Theological Schools and the Center for Theological Inquiry, a Pew Evangelical Scholarship, and two John Templeton Foundation Awards for the Best Courses in Science and Religion. Recipient of an Outstanding American Educator Award in 1974, he is a past member of the executive board of the Society of Christian Philosophers, a co-founder and member of the executive board of the American Weil Society, and a member of the board of directors of the Ecumenical Institute of Canada. Dr. Allen has lectured widely in the United States and Canada. A former member of the editorial board and former acting editor of Theology Today, he has published some fifty journal articles, has contributed more than a dozen chapters to books, and is the editor or co-editor of two books and the author or co-author of twelve others. His latest volume, Spiritual Theology: the Theology of Yesterday for Help Today (Cowley Publications, 1997), presents a compelling argument for pursuing the spiritual life that does justice to both the traditions of Christian reflection and Christian practice.

Warren S. Brown is professor of psychology at the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary where he has taught for the past eighteen years. He is also director of Fuller’s Lee Edward Travis Institute for Biopsychosocial Research and an adjunct professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) School of Medicine. As a member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute, he was a research scientist for eleven years before joining the Fuller faculty. He also has taught at Point Loma Nazarene University from which he graduated magna cum laude. Dr. Brown earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Southern California in 1971. He has been a guest professor in the department of neurology at University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland and a visiting scholar in the department of communications and neuroscience at the University of Keele in England. His research involves studies of neuropsychological and psychosocial deficits associated with the absence of the corpus callosum of the brain, among several other areas. A fellow of Division 40 (Neuropsychology) and Division 6 (Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Brown has won a National Institute of Mental Health Research Career Development Award and a National Science Foundation Exchange of Scientists and Engineers Grant as well as numerous N.I.M.H and U. S. Public Health Service contracts and grants. He is the author of more than seventy articles appearing in scholarly journals and the principle editor of a collaborative volume on the integration of science and Christian faith, Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature (Fortress Press, 1998). It was awarded a prize for Outstanding Books in Theology and the Natural Sciences by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences last year.

Emeritus consultant psychiatrist at King’s College Hospital, The Blethlem Royal Hospital, and The Maudsley Hospital in London, Gaius Davies has been active for forty years in exploring the connections between psychiatry and religion. In addition to maintaining a private practice, he serves as a psychiatric adviser to The Susannah Trust, a charity that facilitates the evaluation of patients referred by churches and other voluntary institutions in London. He was an examiner and supervisor for the General Medical Council and lectured to judges on personal injury under the auspices of the Judicial Studies Commission. Dr. Davies received his preliminary medical training in surgery, general medicine, and obstetrics at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and received baccalaureate degrees in medicine and in science from the University of London in 1953. After service in the Medical Branch of the Royal Air Force and twelve years of general practice, he took up the study of psychiatry and earned a M. Phil. in psychiatry from the University of London in 1972. Four years later, he became a consultant psychiatrist at King’s College Hospital and went on to serve as chair of its Division of Psychological Medicine from 1983 to 1987. Recipient of the Royal College of General Practitioners’ Butterworth Gold Medal and of an Upjohn Traveling Fellowship, he is a Fellow of both The Royal Society of Medicine and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Dr. Davies is the author of numerous papers in learned journals and a contributor to three textbooks as well as to a study of George Fox, the Quaker founding father, and to a dictionary on Christian ethics and pastoral theology. In 1988, he published Stress: The Challenge to Christian Caring, a book now in its fifth printing. A second edition of his more recent Genius and Grace: Sketches from a Psychiatrist’s Notebook (1992) will be published by Christian Focus Publications in May of 2001.

Lindon E. Eaves is Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine where he directs the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics. He is the principal investigator on some of the nation’s largest ongoing studies of twins with major grant support from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Eaves also serves as priest-in-residence at St. James Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. Born in the north of England, he took first-class honors in genetics at the University of Birmingham and subsequently went on to study theology at Cuddeson College. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1969. Returning to Birmingham, he earned a Ph.D. in genetics in 1970. Dr. Eaves remained at the university for the next nine years as a Medical Research Council fellow in behavioral genetics. Named a senior advanced fellow in 1979, he then went to Oxford as a university lecturer in experimental psychology and a fellow and tutor at Lady Margaret Hall. He had spent the previous year as A.D. Williams Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Medical College of Virginia, and in 1981, he joined the Virginia faculty. Dr. Eaves’s many awards include the James Shields Award for contributions to twin research, the Paul Hoch Award of the American Psychological Association, and the Dobzhansky Award for Lifetime Achievement of the Behavior Genetics Association. He has delivered numerous invited lectures and served as president of both the Behavior Genetics Association and the International Society for Twin Studies. He has been awarded the senior degree of D.Sc. from Birmingham, as well as an honorary doctorate from the Free University in Amsterdam and an M.A. from Oxford. A former member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences and Genetic Epidemiology, he is the author of more than 215 research papers and has contributed chapters to a score of books.

New Testament scholar Joel B. Green serves as dean of the School of Theology at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is also a professor of New Testament interpretation and director of the seminary’s Greek studies program. A graduate of Texas Tech University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree with high honors, he received a master of theology degree with honors from the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and, in 1978, a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Aberdeen University in Scotland. Dr. Green was ordained a deacon in the United Methodist Church in 1980 and an elder in 1987. After serving as an associate pastor and pastor of Methodist churches in Texas and then as pastor of a church in Peterhead, Scotland, he joined the faculty of the New College for Advanced Christian Studies in Berkeley, California as an assistant professor of New Testament in 1985. He served as acting dean from 1986 to 1988 when he was promoted to associate professor. From 1989 to 1992, he was academic dean of the New College and also served as associate pastor and then co-pastor of local churches. A visiting fellow at the University of Durham in England in 1992, he joined the core doctoral faculty of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley the same year. In 1993, he was named associate professor of New Testament at the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, a post he held, serving one year as acting dean, until accepting his present faculty position at Asbury in 1997. Dr. Green has held research and teaching fellowships from the Perkins School of Theology, A Foundation for Theological Education, Catholic Biblical Association, and Graduate Theological Union. A trustee of the Foundation for United Methodists, Inc., a member of the board of reference of Union Bible College in Yangon, Union of Myanmar (Burma), and a national faculty advisor to the Religious and Theological Students Fellowship, U.S.A., he previously served as a trustee of the Graduate Theological Union and of the American Baptist Seminary of the West. Dr. Green has been editor of Catalyst, a periodical providing evangelical resources and perspectives to Methodists and Presbyterians, since 1979, and he also serves on the editorial boards of Science and Christian Belief, Wesleyan Studies On-Line Journal, the Princeton Theological Review, and RADIX Magazine. The author or co-author of some fifty journal articles, he has edited four books, including the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (1992). He is currently engaged in shaping a commentary series with Wm. B. Eerdmans, entitled “The Two Horizons Commentary on the New Testament,” that seeks to bridge the longstanding divide between biblical studies and theology and ethics. The most recent of his twelve books, Introduction to the New Testament (with Paul J. Achtemeier and Marianne Meye Thompson), will be published later this year by Eerdmans.

D. Gareth Jones is professor and head of the department of anatomy and structural biology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. An expert on neurobiology, he also has written widely in the field of bioethics. Dr. Jones is a graduate of University College, London, where he earned his undergraduate degrees in science and medicine. It was there that he began his teaching career as a lecturer in anatomy. He then moved to the University of Western Australia (UWA) to accept a position as senior lecturer in anatomy and human biology. He received a doctor of science degree from UWA in 1977. Four years later, he was named associate professor and head of the anatomy and human biology department, a post he held until moving to Otago in 1983. Dr. Jones has been a visiting professor at both the University of Iowa and the New College for Advanced Christian Studies in Berkeley and a visiting research fellow at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia. He was also the acting director of the Bioethics Research Centre at the University of Otago for one year. The author of more than 205 research papers, he has contributed chapters to forty-one books, and is the author of twenty-six others. His most recent book, Speaking for the Dead: Cadavers in Biology and Medicine (Ashgate Publishing/Dartmouth Publishing, 2000), explores clinical, medical, ethical, and legal issues related to the use of human cadavers in scientific research. Dr. Jones has recently completed the third edition of a text entitled Medical Ethics, a volume he wrote with Alastair Campbell and Grant Gillett, which will be published by Oxford University Press. His current book projects include studies of synapses in the central nervous system, anatomy education, and cloning.

A professor of clinical neurology at King’s College Neuroscience School in London, J. David Parkes has written extensively about the human brain and motor system, including the phenomena of sleeping and dreaming. He is at the same time a medical doctor who continues to spend a major part of his time on patient care. A graduate of Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he took first-class honors in natural science and pathology, Dr. Parkes did his clinical medical training at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and completed neurological training at the Centre for Nervous Diseases at The National Hospital Queen Square. He was awarded his M.D. by Cambridge University in 1964. After serving as registrar at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and senior registrar in neurology at King’s College Hospital, London, he accepted appointment as honorary consultant physician and neurologist to King’s College Hospital and to London’s Maudsley Hospital. He began teaching at the Neuroscience School in 1974. Recipient of numerous research grants from industry, university bodies, the British Council, and the European Scientific Community, Dr. Parkes has spearheaded the development of sleep-wake medicine in the United Kingdom. A member of the Royal College of Physicians, he serves as honorary president of the United Kingdom Narcolepsy Association. He is a past chair of the Scientific Committee of the European Sleep Research Society and was recently awarded the Pisa Sleep Prize. Dr. Parkes has held visiting professorships at universities around the world. A former member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Neurology and of Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, he serves as editor of the Journal of Neural Transmission and of the Journal of Sleep Research. Dr. Parkes has published more than 200 scholarly articles. He has contributed to numerous books and is the author of the influential Sleep and Its Disorders (W.B. Saunders, 1985). His current research focuses on human time-clocks.

Alan Torrance holds a chair in systematic theology in the University of St. Andrews. He has worked extensively in the fields of Christian doctrine and philosophical theology and is also engaged in research into the significance of Christian theology for the political and scientific challenges of the contemporary world. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh, where he took a master’s degree with honors in mental philosophy, and of Aberdeen University, where he earned a bachelor of divinity degree with honors, he received a doctorate in theology with highest honors at Germany’s University of Erlangen-Nuernberg in 1994. Dr. Torrance is an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland and a violinist with a performer’s diploma from the Royal College of Music, London, who has played professionally with various Scottish orchestras. He has been a lecturer in historical theology at Aberdeen and served in the chair of systematic theology at Knox Theological Hall in Dunedin, New Zealand, where he also taught as a member of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Otago for six years. Returning to the United Kingdom in 1993 to become director of the Research Institute in Systematic Theology and a lecturer at King’s College, London, he was promoted to senior lecturer in 1996. Dr. Torrance spent 1998-99 as a senior research fellow at the University of Notre Dame’s Erasmus Institute before being appointed to his present chair in the University of St. Andrews. The inaugural Bernhardt Lecturer in Lenoir, North Carolina, he delivered the Hensley Henson Lectures at Oxford University in 1998 and the inaugural Wadsworth Memorial Calvin Lecture at McGill University in Montreal the next year. He is a frequent presenter at international conferences and the author of more than a dozen scholarly articles and book chapters, as well as the co-editor of two books. His major monograph, entitled Persons in Communion: An Essay on Trinitarian Description and Human Participation, was published by T&T Clark in 1996. Dr. Torrance is currently editing two other books for Clark and preparing his Hensley Henson Lectures to be published as a volume entitled “The Christ of History and the Open Society.”

A professor of psychology at Calvin College for the past eighteen years, Glenn David Weaver is a graduate of Wheaton College. He studied at Princeton Theological Seminary on a Rockefeller Brothers Fellowship, earning a master of divinity degree, and went on to take a Ph.D. in experimental personality psychology and social psychology from Princeton University in 1978. Dr. Weaver had joined the Calvin faculty three years earlier and has continued to teach there throughout his career. His research has involved the relationships between progressive dementia and spiritual experience as well as the role of spiritual disciplines in recovery from addiction. He has presented his work frequently at conferences and published a number of articles on psychology and religion.

Michael Welker is a systematic theologian who works through the biblical traditions and through philosophical and sociological theories to address questions of contemporary culture. Warning against a reductionist systematics that can block as well as guide thought, he has focused on the interplay among religious, legal, moral, scientific, and other cultural codes that shape the ethos of the postmodern world. His work is exceptionally wide-ranging, and he has recently considered problems of pluralism in societies, cultures, and canonic traditions, as well as exploring notions of human personhood in pre-modern, modern, and contemporary periods. Professor and chair of systematic theology in the Theological Faculty of the University of Heidelberg, he has been director of the university’s Internationales Wissenschaftsforum since 1996. Dr. Welker is a graduate of the University of Tübingen where he studied with Jürgen Moltmann and earned a doctorate in theology in 1973. Ordained in the Evangelische Kirche der Platz, he received a Ph.D. from Heidelberg in 1978. He was professor of systematic theology in the Theological Faculty of the University of Tübingen from 1983 to 1987 and, for the next four years, professor and chair of Reformed theology in the Theological Faculty of the University of Münster. He has held an honorary research fellowship at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion of the University of Chicago Divinity School and been a visiting professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and the Princeton Theological Seminary. In the coming year, he will be a guest professor at the Harvard Divinity School. A member of the Consultation on Science and Religion of Princeton’s Center for Theological Inquiry since 1993, he is a member of the editorial boards of Dialog: A Journal of Theology, Evangelische Theologie, Jahrbuch für Biblische Theologie, the Journal of Law and Religion, Process Studies, Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Verkündigung und Forschung, and Word and World. Dr. Welker has published some 170 articles in scholarly journals and written or edited more than twenty books, including (with John Polkinghorne), The End of the World and the Ends of God: Science and Theology on Eschatology (Trinity Press, 2000). His most recent books include What Happens in Holy Communion (Eerdmans and SPCK, 2000 ), Kirche im Pluralismus (Kaiser, 2nd edition, 2000), and (with John Polkinghorne) Faith in the Living God: A Dialogue for Troubled Friends and Educated Despisers of Christianity (SPCK and Eerdmans, 2001).

Alzheimer's Disease (left) and
normal brain sections (right)

The author of a groundbreaking work on contemporary vision experiences, Phillip H. Wiebe is a professor of philosophy at Trinity Western University in British Columbia. He also directs Trinity Western’s graduate program in religion, culture, and ethics. Educated at the University of Manitoba, where he obtained both his baccalaurate and master’s degrees, Dr. Wiebe earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Adelaide in Australia in 1973. He taught at Canada’s Brandon University before joining the Trinity Western faculty in 1978. He has been a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia and an academic visitor at Oxford University. The recipient of research grants from Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Trinity Western, Dr. Wiebe has presented his work at national and international academic conferences in Canada, the United States, and Europe. He has published a number of articles in scholarly journals and is the author of two books, including the widely-hailed Visions of Jesus: Direct Encounter from the New Testament to Today (Oxford University Press, 1997). His recently-completed God and Other Spirits: Intimations of Transcendence in Christian Faith will be published by Oxford later this year.

When, as a young man, Father Latour first went down to Old Mexico, to claim his See…he met on his journey priests from the missions of Sonora and Lower California, who related many stories of the blessed experiences of the early Franciscan missionaries. Their way through the wilderness had blossomed with little miracles, it seemed. At one time,…the renowned Father Junípero Serra,…with a single companion, had…arrived at his monastery on foot, without provisions. The Brothers had welcomed the two in astonishment, believing it impossible that men could have crossed so great a stretch of desert in this naked fashion. The Superior…marveled how they could have got through alive. But Father Junípero replied that they had fared well, and had been most agreeably entertained by a poor Mexican family on the way. At this a muleteer, who was bringing wood for the Brothers, began to laugh, and said there was no house for twelve leagues nor anyone at all living in the sandy waste through which they had come; and the Brothers confirmed him in this. Then Father Junípero and his companion related fully their adventure. They had set out with bread and water for one day. But on the second day they had been traveling since dawn across a cactus desert and had begun to lose heart when, near sunset, they had espied in the distance three great cottonwood trees, very tall in the declining light. Toward these they hastened. As they approached the trees, which were large and green and shedding their cotton freely, they observed an ass tied to a dead trunk which stuck up out of the sand. Looking about for the owner of the ass, they came upon a little Mexican house with an open door and strings of red peppers hanging on the wall. When they called aloud, a venerable Mexican, clad in sheepskins, came out and greeted them kindly, asking them to stay the night. Going with him, they observed all was neat and comely, and the wife, a young woman of beautiful countenance, was stirring porridge by the fire. Her child, scarcely more than an infant and with no garment but a little shirt, was on the floor beside her, playing with a pet lamb. They found these people gentle, pious, and well-spoken. The husband said they were shepherds. The priests sat at their table and shared their supper, and afterward read the evening prayers. They had wished to question the host about the country…but they were overcome by a great and sweet weariness, and taking each a sheepskin provided him, they lay down upon the floor and sank into a deep sleep. When they awoke in the morning they found all as before, and food set upon the table, but the family were absent, even to the pet lamb, having gone, the Fathers supposed, to care for their flock. When the Brothers of the monastery heard this account they were amazed, declaring that there were indeed three cottonwood trees growing together in the desert, a well-known landmark; but that if a settler had come, he must have come very lately. So Father Junípero and Father Andrea, his companion, with some of the Brothers, and the scoffing muleteer, went back into the wilderness to prove the matter. The three tall trees they found, shedding their cotton, and the dead trunk to which the ass had been tied. But the ass was not there, nor any house, nor the oven by the door. Then the two Fathers sank down upon their knees in that blessed spot and kissed the earth, for they perceived what Family it was that had entertained them there.

Death Comes for the Archbishop
Willa Cather

 

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