by Willem B. Drees, current Zygon Editor
Since its beginning, in 1966, Zygon has published four issues each year. Issues currently are about 250 pages, for a total of over 1000 pages annually. The editorial in September 2015, “Publishing in a Changing World”, gave some facts and figures. The following is based on the report about 2016.
In terms of distribution, the most important category is institutional access (online) via a license (often as part of a package of Wiley journals) that is provided to a university or cluster of universities. This is currently at 4,063 licenses. We still have 152 institutions that carry a more traditional subscription, for a total of 4,215 institutions. Of these, 1,491 are in Europe (UK included), 849 in the USA and Canada, 167 in Australia and New Zealand, 129 in China, 80 in Japan, and 1,499 in the rest of the world (including Brazil, South Korea, and India). Besides this, there is also open access via EBSCO (one year delay) and 6,943 developing world institutions have access via a philanthropic initiative of Wiley.
The print run for December 2016 was just below 400 copies. Print clearly is losing its significance. Nonetheless, I think having the journal also in print is still relevant, as it gives ‘reality’ to the journal, also for those who access online, like the gold in the bank used to do.
The number of downloads in 2016, via the Wiley Online Library, grew in 2016 by 8%, to just under 40,000 annually. 43% USA and 5% Canada; 30% Europe, including UK; 9% Australia and New Zealand; 2% China, and 11% the rest of the world. The number of downloads in previous reports was at about 100,000 articles, but that included downloads from EBSCO and other options provided by others. However, the comparison makes me think that the real number of downloads is much higher than the number visible via Wiley Online Library alone. The two articles that were downloaded the most were from the first issue of 2016, on Shinto and on Confucianism. Papers on Islam and science have also done well.
Authors of articles published in 2016 came from the USA and Canada (27), Europe (23), Asia (18) and Australia (2).
The journal appreciates the sciences as a major source of knowledge of reality. As editor, I consider the relevant community of scientists as the appropriate forum to evaluate whether certain ideas are worthy of our consideration. If a submission is arguing primarily for a ‘different science’, it would be referred to a journal of that scholarly community, and not primarily material for a journal on ‘religion and science’. We are not a journal for a religious variety of science.
This does not mean, of course, that we do not publish contributions on new developments in science and on interpretations not necessarily shared by the whole community. A recent example is a section on “The New Biology” (June 2017), with seven articles on current discussions.
Disciplinarily, on the side of the sciences, Zygon has given priority to the natural sciences, but also included substantial works in the social and behavioral sciences, especially those related to evolutionary theories and cognitive neurosciences.
Furthermore, even ideas that are clearly not accepted by the relevant scientific community may be worth consideration, because of the human dimension: What do people in a particular subcultures argue? What is the social role of ‘alternative’ science?
Religions and naturalism
With respect to religions, the journal has always been broad – though its original sources were mainly representatives of the liberal wing of American Unitarianism and Protestantism and morally and socially concerned scientists.
A particular religion can be the point of departure, its theological resources being drawn upon for the perspective it offers on scientific understandings of the world, or in moral issues of medicine and technology. We have, in recent years, published various articles on Islamic bioethics (e.g., a set of 8 articles in September 2013). A tradition can be also the object of study, as ideas and practices have been shaped by science and technology as well as by other historical circumstances. And ideas from a tradition (or a particular line within a tradition) can be criticized (e.g., Bigliardi in March 2017).
The journal has, from the very beginning, also published contributions that offered a naturalistic alternative or interpretation. The journal has contributed to the development of ‘religious naturalism’. This has been mostly in a constructive mode, rather than the confrontational debates on religion and naturalism that may be associated with authors such as Richard Dawkins, Alvin Plantinga, and others. That constructive mode reflects the original ambition of ‘yoking’ religion and science (see Statement of Perspective). The ‘yoking’ need not imply that all authors seek to integrate religion and science intellectually; their co-existence in human culture implies the potential for interactions, even if they are considered categorically distinct.
Humanities: history, cultural studies, and philosophy
The journal also publishes historical contributions, e.g. in June 2017 a contribution on ideas about diphtheria (Johnson) and one on Henry Nelson Wieman and Reinhold Niebuhr (Rice), in June 2017. The main interest is in historical studies that provide insight into current processes and concepts. Other contributions could be considered cultural or literary studies, as well as religious studies and cultural anthropology.
Aside from articles with a moral focus (e.g., in March 2017 articles on whether empathy is moral or immoral), the journal also receives substantial numbers of papers that are primarily philosophical in kind. If relevant to the scope of the journal, and sufficiently original and developed, these might be published. Some ‘pure’ philosophy papers are referred to other journals.
Academic standing and global orientation
For me, the highest priority has been the standing of Zygon as a scholarly journal, with a focus on religion and the sciences (broadly understood). I have referred to the space opened by the last sentence of the Statement of Perspective:
“Zygon also publishes manuscripts that are critical of this perspective, as long as such papers contribute to a constructive reflection on scientific knowledge, human values, and existential meaning.”
Selection did not regard the position advanced by the submitting author – whether ‘yoking’ or a different program.
Zygon serves as a platform for different orientations on religion and science. Quality and focus has been central; of unsolicited submissions, more than half have been rejected, either because the topic or orientation was not one befitting Zygon, or because the level of treatment was not up to our standards. Of those published, most have been invited to revise, after the initial reviews.
For me, as editor, it has been important to engage religion in a wide range of varieties, from ‘naturalism’ to traditional positions, not merely theology or metaphysics, but also lived religion. I have endeavored to make the range of topics and of contributing authors more genuinely global. One example is through partnership in a conference on East Asian voices, resulting in a thematic issue (March 2016).