Biology, Relatedness, and Full-Orbed Love

by Thomas Jay Oord

Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multi-disciplinary studies. He is a best-selling and award-winning author, having written or edited more than twenty-five books. A twelve-time Faculty Award-winning professor, Oord teaches at institutions around the globe, and is the director of the Center for Open and Relational Theology. To find out more about him or view more of his works, visit his website or the Center for Open and Relational Theology.


Oord argues that Whitehead’s speculation on relationality provides a preferable philosophy for love-and-science exchange as it considers love and organismic relatedness.

A relatively unexplored field of scholarly interest is emerging, and I call it the “love-and-science symbiosis.” While in one sense from antiquity many have at least implicitly affirmed a relationship between science and love, the contemporary discussion addresses various issues arising in this exchange overtly and methodologically.[1] Many are finding that the association of love and science generates abundant possibilities for creative transformation.[2] If love resides at the core of humanity’s moral and religious concerns and if science continues to sculpt humanity’s ways of living and its worldviews, those engaged in the love-and-science exchange will likely find themselves engaged in matters of enormous consequence.

It is my belief that process and relational thought can provide constructive resources for forming theories of science and love adequate for this budding field. Process and relational thought provides a philosophical vision that corresponds with general hypotheses and presuppositions of science while also opposing metaphysical schemes that have undermined coherent conceptions of love. Hypotheses pertaining to interrelatedness, freedom, values, and deity comprise the heart of what I contend are vital elements for a coherent and adequate theory for the love-and-science exchange. Perhaps Schubert Ogden’s words best express the importance of process and relational thought for an adequate notion of religious love:

At worst, faith’s testimony to God’s love has been all but completely obscured by an idolatrous exaltation of absolute and unchanging Being, while, even at best, it has been given only [a] kind of broken or inconstant conceptual expression . . .. Consequently, the deep reason for a theological rejection of classical metaphysics is not that such an outlook no longer commends itself to reasonable men, important as it is that we should recognize that fact and face up to its implications. No, the more profound reason is that such a metaphysics never has allowed, and, in principle, never could allow, an appropriate theological explication of the central theme of [John] Wesley’s evangelical witness, that God is love.[3]

The remainder of this essay explores one aspect – organismic relatedness – of a theory of love that I believe is most adequate for the science-of-love exchange.[4]


To date, most work in the love-and-science field has involved accounting for what scientists typically call “altruism” and many religious leaders influenced by Christianity have called “agape.”[5] The issues are complex and the language often confuses.

The philosophy of biology has presented the raw materials for various theories of love and their implications as they pertain to altruism and egoism. Most engaged in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology accept as empirically justified the claim that organisms must act selfishly if they are to survive and thrive.[6] In this context, accounting for what seems to be altruistic behavior is at issue. Dominant evolutionary theory suggests that organisms inevitably act egoistically when securing their own existence at the expense of others.[7] Whenever organisms seem to act altruistically, they are actually motivated by or survive because of selfish reasons. For instance, the reciprocal (or tit-for-tat) altruism explanation suggests that organisms act self-sacrificially only when expecting a beneficial response.[8] Kin-selection altruism suggests that organisms act in ways that undermine their own survival in order to propagate their genetic lineage. The selfish inclination to insure the proliferation of one’s genes motivates these altruistic actions toward kin.[9] The group-selection explanation for altruism suggests that altruists gather so that as a group they can thrive in competition with groups inhabited by predominately selfish individuals. While group-selection theory accounts for how altruism might emerge and succeed, it also suggests that “niceness” can predominate within a group while “nastiness” prevails between groups.[10]

An examination of the literature pertaining to agape reveals that scholars of ethics, culture, and religion propose widely divergent definitions of this love word. Some merely adopt agape as a way to distinguish their love theories from romantic or popular theories.[11] Others, following Anders Nygren’s lead, employ agape to distinguish it from other love-types, particularly eros and philia.[12] Ethicist Gene Outka uses it to refer to an ethics of impartiality or equal-regard.[13] Some draw upon agape to specify what they call variously “unconditional,” “pure,” or “unlimited” love, with the latter designation entailing universal acceptance of others.[14] Sometimes agape is defined as the mutuality of God-others-self relations.[15] A few equate it with altruism.[16] Agape has been equated with self-sacrifice, gift-love,[17] and bestowal.[18] Some theists believe that agape, unlike other love types, is derived from or inspired by deity.[19] Elsewhere, I have defined agape love as action that promotes well-being when responding to activity that has generated ill-being, which is another way of saying that agape repays evil with good. These definitions obviously generate or reflect widely divergent agendas, expectations, religious orientations, and philosophical presuppositions. The words of Robert Adams apply well to the love-and-science exchange: “‘Agape’ is a blank canvas on which one can paint whatever ideal of . . . love one favors.”[20]

One of my own responses/contributions to the love-and-science exchange has been to argue for what I call “full-orbed love.” I believe that those in the exchange should consider full-orbed love as a potentially more adequate conception of love.[21] By “love,” I mean intentional actions done in sympathetic response to others and motivated to increase the common good. To say it another way, love acts are influenced by previous actions and executed in the hope of attaining a high degree of overall well-being. The “full-orbed” element indicates that diverse types of love are required for the enhancement of overall well-being. For instance, any one of the three love archetypes, agape, eros, and philia, may need to be expressed in a particular situation; furthermore, no one archetype is privileged in full-orbed love. In terms of altruism and egoism, full-orbed love contends that overall well-being requires both motivations. This contention dulls the edge of a charge often raised in debates of evolutionary psychology that discounts the legitimacy of altruism by claiming that every altruistic act incorporates an egoistic element.[22] In short, I contend that greater progress can be made in the love-and-science exchange if the concept and principles of full-orbed love were employed, rather the exclusive employment of agape, altruism, or other single love types.

Organismic Relatedess

Love requires relations.[23] While this may seem as obvious as saying “snow is cold,” what is meant by “relations” is typically not clearly delineated. In the remainder of this essay, I address implications of the experiential truth that love requires relatedness. In doing so, I turn first to presuppositions of science and then to a philosophical vision inspired by process philosophy. These two general realms provide vital resources for conceptualizing one element – organismic relatedness – essential for a coherent and adequate theory of love that corresponds with the emphasis upon love arising from Wesleyanism.

The general principles of science and the practices of scientists presuppose that existing things relate to other existing things. Unfortunately, this presupposition is rarely made explicit in scientific writing. From theories of relativity and the interaction in micro-world explored by physicists to social theories related to global politics and economics proposed by social scientists, the often unstated assumption is that cause and effect occurs because existing things relate one with another.

The relatedness of existence is perhaps most effectively assumed in evolutionary theory. Although a great deal of debate occurs about which mechanisms drive evolution, the majority of those engaged in research and debate agree that biological life emerges through a process of random variations, natural selection, and adaptation in an environment. Evolutionary theory assumes that nature is a network of interacting organisms, and various forms of organismic life arise through interaction and, at least to some degree, chance.

Mendelian-inspired genetic theory points to the variations of genes as a crucial factor in the evolution of life. The thesis that evolution implies relatedness is evident in the Mendelian claim that genetic variations are passed on through reproduction. Although few today would argue that the organism purposefully acts in ways to change its own genetic structure (as LaMarck more than a century ago), many do assume that mutations occur among genes because of relations within an environment. Often tragic occurrences, like the effects of radiation on humans by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, illustrate the profound influence of a gene’s environmental relations. Furthermore, because some organisms select the environment in which they relate – at least to some extent – these organisms indirectly affect the mutation of their own genes. For example, some people choose to remain in homes in which high levels of radon have been detected, and this choice results in these individuals being exposed to genetic altering radiation. Furthermore, some scientists, such as Stuart Kaufman, make the controversial argument that proteins affect genes, and this relationship in turn affects the mutation or recombination of the genetic structure.[24] Ford Doolittle argues even more strongly for what amounts to inter-genetic acquisition and exchange, and this relational activity “may be the dominant force over the evolutionary long run.”[25] Often those outside the field of biology remind biological theorists that sub-genetic interaction at the quantum level influences DNA.[26] A full explanation of the variety of genetic relations, however, has not been successfully advanced: “Causation is not thought about very deeply in genomics,” admits biologist Adam Arkin of the University of California at Berkeley. “We have not derived the dynamical laws for the genomes. We are simply hitting the cell and hearing what the ring sounds like.”[27]

Darwin’s classic evolutionary position is that the particular environment in which an individual organism emerges largely shapes whether that organism will survive and/or thrive. In other words, relations in an environment play a large role in determining how an organism gains an advantage over other organisms competing for the same resources. In fact, the negative effects of environmental damage on individual organisms have been documented and often raised to public awareness by those acutely concerned with the practices that destroy ecosystems in which these individuals live. This individual selection approach remains a powerful explanatory force in contemporary biology, although some suggest that a multi-level selection approach accounts for more of the data.

While for several decades individual selection has played an almost exclusive explanatory role in evolutionary theory and the role of genetic mutation has come to play a dominant role today in evolutionary theory, recent years witness a shift to the explanatory power of the group-selection theory. Group-selection theory powerfully illustrates my thesis that evolutionary theory presupposes organismic relatedness. Some survive or thrive and others do not, says the group-selection hypothesis, because of intra-group cooperation and intra-species interaction. Biologist David Sloan Wilson and philosopher Elliott Sober document growing evidence that groups serve as adaptive units, and the selection factors related to how one group fares compared to other groups function as a key evolution operant.[28] In his research published as Cooperation Among Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective, biologist Lee Alan Dugatkin chronicles the fitness advantage of intra-group cooperative relatedness. In fact, Dugatkin devotes individual chapters to disclosing scientific research on cooperation through relations among fish, birds, nonprimate mammals, nonhuman primate mammals, and insects.[29]

Perhaps biologists detect examples of relational interaction more readily among complex nonhuman creatures, because the behavior of these creatures more closely corresponds with human behavior than behavior among entities at the molecular level. In fact, one might argue that these examples of relations and interaction by nonhuman entities are nothing more than anthropomorphic projections by scientific observers. This debate hinges on an epistemological question: How can we know about the experience and behavior of those beyond ourselves?

An essential aspect of an adequate epistemology is the contention that what we know best – our own experience – should greatly inform our theories of knowledge. An epistemology based upon introspection and extrapolation from personal experience is a necessary element in speculating about how we know the experiences and behaviors of those beyond ourselves. This epistemological principle also applies to what might be said about our knowledge of nonhuman relations.[30] This does not mean that we take all elements we detect in our experience, including, for instance, self-consciousness, and read these into the behavior of all organisms. But to begin with what we know least, including, for instance, the activity of genes, and then impose this meager data upon what we know best also cannot suffice. This practice led to the many unlivable scientific philosophies proposed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[31] The speculative work to be done comes in formulating the ways and degrees to which nonhuman experiences, including relatedness, are analogous to our own experience, including our own awareness of relatedness. In terms of love, this involves analyzing the structures of human experience while also accounting for what can be perceived of nonhuman experience as outside observers. The love humans express is likely not different in kind from the love of nonhumans; while observers will likely find that human love differs from nonhuman love in degree and complexity.[32]

That humans relate one with another via cause and effect can only be denied at the peril of committing a performative self-contradiction. Our knowledge of this is as definite as almost anything we claim to know. That is, someone may deny verbally the notion that humans are influenced through relations with others, but each of us inevitably exhibits in practice cause-and-effect relations. Whitehead formulated this performative principle as “the metaphysical rule of evidence: that we must bow to those presumptions, which, in despite of criticism, we still employ for the regulation of our lives.”[33]

Drawing upon Whitehead’s scattered statements about this matter, David Ray Griffin calls these presumptions “hard-core commonsense notions,” by which he means those beliefs that everyone affirms in practice although some may deny verbally. “We can be confident that particular ideas belong to our set of hard-core commonsense beliefs,” argues Griffin, “insofar as we see that they are inevitably presupposed by all human beings, regardless of cultural-linguistic shaping.”[34] This means that, “any scientific, philosophical, or theological theory is irrational,” contends Griffin, “to the extent that it contradicts whatever notions we inevitably presuppose in practice.”[35]

Relatedness through causal influence is one hard-core commonsense notion that everyone assumes in practice. Scientists assume causal influence through relatedness each time they engage in scientific experimentation. The actions of scientists toward and observation of data beyond themselves reveal their implicit acknowledgement that they experience cause and effect relations with what they study. Ironically, any scientist who attempts to convince others that cause-and-effect relations do not exist would be affirming such relations in that very attempt.

I conclude this segment with one further suggestion. If love requires relations, if humans inevitably relate in cause-and-effect interaction, and if nonhuman organisms down to the smallest of entities also express interactive relations, then one appears justified in claiming that relations as a requirement for love is a natural expression of what it means to be. To say it another way, organismic relatedness is not an emergent property requiring unnatural forces for its appearance. The ability to love – at least as far as relatedness is concerned – is also available to nonhumans. In future chapters, I will argue that the other love requisites – freedom, values, and relations with God – are also available to nonhumans and need not be imposed by unnatural forces.

A Theory of Relations Adequate for Love

Previous paragraphs briefly indicate that scientific theory and the actual practice of scientists presuppose that existing things relate to other existing things. Organismic relatedness resides at the heart of how we understand the world and act in it. General science not only refrains from creating obstacles to the speculation that organismic relatedness is a love requisite, but one who attempts to construct a theory of love adequate for the love-and-science exchange can turn to science for an ally.

To acknowledge that (1) love requires relations and (2) scientific theory and practice presuppose organismic relatedness does not, in itself, supply a conceptual framework for comprehending love relations.[36] For such a framework, I turn to the process philosophy of Whitehead. Those in the science-and-religion dialogue have often acknowledged that their conversation actually involves a triad of speakers, with philosophy entering as the third party. Whitehead himself believed this triad to be necessary, arguing that we “cannot shelter theology from science, or science from theology; nor can [we] shelter either one from metaphysics, or metaphysics from either one of them. There is no shortcut to the truth.”[37] In recent decades, many in the science and religion dialogue have turned to process thought as a philosophical resource.[38] I believe that the love-and-science exchange would do well to turn to Whitehead, in specific, and process thought, in general, for the philosophical element of its conversational triad.

The ultimacy of relations in Whitehead’s metaphysical scheme leads many to consider him a “relational” philosopher and the theology that has emerged from his influence has been referred to as “relational theology.” Because all organisms are influenced through their relations with others, Whitehead speculates that existence consists of the “essential relatedness of all things.”[39] This emphasis upon relations and its implications for what might be said about organismic relations as a requisite for love is one reason why Whitehead’s thought is helpful for the love-and-science exchange.

At the heart of Whitehead’s philosophical proposals is his speculation that all existing things are experiential. Moments of experience are, as he put it, “the final real things of which the world is made up.”[40] Although the specific constitutions of each experiential entity differ radically, “in the principles which actuality exemplifies, all are on the same level.”[41] Whitehead contrasts existing things as experiential with that which he believed to be fictional: nonexperiencing substances he called “vacuous actualities.”[42] David Ray Griffin employs the word “panexperientialism” to capture the claim that all existing entities, from complex creatures like humans to less complex organisms, are experiential. The value that the panexperientialist hypothesis might contribute for science, culture, religion, and philosophy is, as Griffin has recently pointed out, enormous.[43]

The vast majority of experiential entities studied by scientists are what Whitehead called enduring individuals. To be more technical, Whitehead said that such organisms are personally ordered society of occasions of experience. A “society” is a set of entities whose members share a defining characteristic due mainly to the environment provided by the society itself.[44] “Personal order” means that the society inherits the form of the whole from its predecessor and then hands that form on to its successor.[45] A living person is an enduring individual that inherits its basic structure from its personal past but whose immediate self-determination is unique.[46] This accounts for the continuous self-identity creatures typically experience without making self-identity absolute, in the sense of absence of any personal change.[47] Enduring individuals are experiential organisms that relate to others.

The hypothesis that all existing organisms are fundamentally experiential provides a crucial basis for constructing various elements of an adequate and coherent theory of love. With regard to its value for understanding organismic relatedness as a love requisite, it provides a basis for conceptualizing how it is that organisms are both internally and externally related to others. While it may be obvious to many that love requires relations, distinguishing relatedness into these two types of relations allows one to clarify more precisely what it means to say that all organisms relate and that love requires relations.

By “internal relations,” I mean that each experiential organism becomes what it is by its partial inclusion of prior experiences. Whitehead calls the activity of past organisms upon an organism presently in the throes of becoming “prehension.”[48] Through an organism’s internal relations with past others, the “production of novel togetherness” occurs.[49] This means that “every actual entity is what it is and is with its definite status in the universe,” says Whitehead, because “its internal relations to other actual entities” shape it.[50] Each experiential organism begins with an openness to the past, and this open window makes possible the organism’s internal relations. Once the influence from the past has entered in, the window closes. The organism enjoys a moment of what biologists call “autopoesis” as it forms itself in response to past influences. To be constituted by internal relations to those who have come before is the very nature of what it means to arise into existence.[51] To say it another way, every actuality has arisen from the multiplicity its internal relations.

My definition of love includes the phrase, “in sympathetic response,” to account for the internal relations of organisms. I suppose that the actions of lovers do not emerge ex nihilo and that relations with one’s community come prior to individual decision and contribution. Love arises out of sympathetic response to preceding actions; it begins by feeling the feelings of others. This corresponds with the practice of ethicists, philosophers, and religious scholars who speak of love as tendential, compassionate, or affective-centered.[52] It is this sympathetic response possible due to internal relatedness that provides the basis what biologists call an organism’s “plasticity.”

By the phrase “external relations,” I mean that once an organism comes to be, it affects other organisms that will arise in the future and those who come after it cannot change it. Whitehead likes to explain this asymmetrical influence upon future others by saying that “it belongs to the nature of a ‘being’ that it is a potential for every ‘becoming’.”[53] Just as each organism, through its internal relations drew upon its relations with others as it came into existence, each organism subsequently becomes datum for future organisms as they come into being. Or, as Whitehead puts it, “Life is an internal fact for its own sake, before it is an external fact relating itself to others.”[54] Charles Hartshorne refers to the cause-and-effect relationality of existence when he speaks of “the social nature of reality,” in which “to be decided in part by others is essential to being as such.”[55]

My definition of love includes the notion that love entails attaining a high degree of overall well-being. This often, but not always, includes attaining a high degree of well-being for oneself. Here, the interrelatedness of existence is expressed in reciprocity. In a cosmos in which all existing things are interrelated, each one’s own fulfillment is linked with the fulfillment of others. The loving act done to attain a high degree of overall well-being often results in the lover enjoying the benefits secured for all. Jesus expressed this principle of reciprocal altruism when he urged his listeners to “give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk. 6:38). In the theory of love I propose, which is undergirded by the presupposition that organisms are interrelated, altruism and egoism become blurred.[56]

Although, by hypothesis, all creatures are relational organisms, this does not mean that any one creature is affected by or affects absolutely all others via cause-and-effect relations. The influence that an organism has through external relations with others is limited. So too, the influence upon the present individual by those who have come before is also limited. Localized individuals sympathize positively with only some others, and the complexity of an organism’s perceptive capacities partially affects the scope of an organism’s sympathy. Relatively simple organisms will feel, in a positive way, relatively few others. And simple organisms are likely to feel positively only those with whom they are most closely associated, which is a hypothesis that supports the core notion of kin altruism. One reason that creatures do not always act to increase overall well-being (i.e., love) is that their finitude necessarily limits their capacity for sympathy.

The father of the modern love-and-science exchange, Pitirim Sorokin, calls the range of relations an organism possesses its “extensivity.” While he states that the extensivity of humans is inevitably higher than that of an ant, his main argument is that humans themselves act from an extensive range of awareness of the good of others. Sorokin interviewed people and found that many are altruistic only toward friends and family, which means that their altruistic extensivity was low. From his interviews, he concludes that what he calls “the tragedy of tribal altruism” is a major obstacle to the worldwide pursuit of love. Like biologists who speak of kin altruism and group-selection theory, the sociologist Sorokin found that individuals rarely express in-group altruistic behavior alongside out-group altruism.[57]

One element for acting in ways that increase overall well-being, then, is the broadening, to the extent possible, of one’s relational sympathies. In other words, effective expressions of love occur when individuals act out of broad awareness and the interest that accompanies broad awareness. Whitehead puts it this way: “Morality of outlook is inseparably conjoined with generality of outlook.”[58] However, the fact that creatures sympathize more with those nearest and to whom they most often relate (which includes family, friends, and their personal futures) does not mean that acting in the interest of those near and dear precludes acting for the common good. The essential interrelatedness of all existence entails that actions done for the genuine good of those family, friends, and self affect the common good, and how one expresses love to those near and dear must involve awareness, to the extent possible, of how this action might impact the whole. In this way, what seem to be our natural preferences for those we know intimately need not be in conflict with the increase of overall well-being.

The essential relatedness of all existents implies that there is no individual, including God, who is wholly independent or isolated. All existents are relational. The theistic tradition that has emerged from Whitehead’s influence has developed his intuition that God, like creatures, also exhibits internal and external relations. God’s internal relations entail that creatures affect deity and this influence partially constitutes the divine experience. God’s external relations, which have been most emphasized in theistic traditions, entail God’s influence upon creatures as they come into begin as experiential organisms. I believe that Wesleyans would be wise to adopt the process conception of divine relations to undergird their contention that love is God’s primary attribute.[59]

Charles Hartshorne calls the essential relatedness of God and the world “panentheism,” which literally means that all things are in God.[60] Panentheism agrees with classical pantheism in its affirmation that God is essentially related to the finite order, without agreeing that God’s essence requires this particular finite order. It agrees with classical theism by affirming that God is distinct from, and not fully governed by, finite relations, without agreeing that God could have chosen not to be in relation with a world. The implication is that panentheism affirms God’s essential internal and external relations with creation. The love-and-science exchange would make greater progress if divine-creaturely interaction were conceived of in terms panentheistic relatedness.[61]

Part of the explanation for why God steadfastly expresses love perfectly is that deity possesses maximal relational extensivity. In other words, one reason God is perfectly good is that deity sympathizes fully with all others. If creaturely organisms had access to the all-inclusive perspective, the likelihood that they would continuously act to secure overall well-being would increase. As I will argue in my final chapter, organismic relations with one who possesses an all-inclusive perspective provides grounds for an optimism that creatures will express love in whatever ways necessary to secure the common good. The Christian notion of prevenient grace provides a general conceptual scheme for speculating how creatures, including humans, interact and rely upon divine love for their own attempts to love in ways that secure greater well-being.

I conclude having argued that Whitehead’s speculation on relationality provides a preferable philosophy for love-and-science exchange as it considers love and organismic relatedness. This speculation provides a philosophical basis that might be used by those who wish to engage in this exchange while carrying into it various beliefs pertaining to the primacy of love.

For more from the author Thomas Jay Oord, see his website or the Center for Open and Relational Theology

  1. The leader in the overt and methodological approach is The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, directed by Stephen G. Post.

  2. Noteworthy among those whose books explore some relationship between “religious” love and science are Ralph Burhoe, Toward a Scientific Theology (Belfast: Christian Journals Limited, 1981), Ronald Cole-Turner, The New Genesis: Theology and the Genetic Revolution (Louisville: Westminister/ John Knox, 1992), Philip Hefner, The Human Factor: Evolution, Culture and Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon. A General Theory of Love (New York: Random House, 2000); Nancey Murphy, and George F.R. Ellis, On the Moral Nature of the Universe: Theology, Cosmology, and Ethics (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996); Michel Odent, The Scientification of Love, rev. ed. (London: Free Association, 2001); Pearl M. Oliner, Samuel P. Oliner, Lawrence Baron, Lawrence A. Blum, Dennis L. Krebs, M. Zuzanna Smolenska, eds., Embracing the Other: Philosophical, Psychological, and Historical Perspectives on Altruism (New York: New York University Press, 1992); John Polkinghorne, ed., The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001); Stephen J. Pope, The Evolution of Altruism and the Ordering of Love (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1994); Stephen G. Post, Lynn G. Underwood, Jeffrey S. Schloss, and William B. Hurlbutt, eds., Altruism and Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, and Religion in Dialogue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Pitirim Sorokin, The Ways and Power of Love: Types, Factors, and Techniques of Moral Transformation (Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation, [1954] 2002); Anthony Walsh, The Science of Love: Understanding Love and Its Effects on Mind and Body (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1991).

  3. Ogden, referring to John Wesley’s evangelical witness, in “Love Unbounded: The Doctrine of God,” The Perkins School of Theology Journal, vol. 19, no. 3 (Spring 1996): 16.

  4. This chapter is the fourth in a projected six-chapter book I am writing on the love-and-science exchange.

  5. Anders Nygren initiated the contemporary emphasis upon agape in his widely influential tome, Agape and Eros (tr. Philip S. Watson [New York: Harper & Row, 1969]). Although the vast majority of love scholars disagree with aspects of Nygren’s proposals, most still wrestle with issues that Nygren raised.

  6. Some participants in the science and religion dialogue make a distinction between evolutionary altruism and psychological altruism. Evolutionary altruism is defined as the enhancement of other’s well-being in terms of the other’s reproductive success. An organism can be said to be altruistic, in this sense, despite having no mode of mind or mentality. Psychological altruism, on the other hand, is defined more generally as merely the enhancement of the other’s general well-being. Unlike evolutionary altruism, psychological altruism assumes the mentality of the actor.

  7. Those most often quoted as advocating this position are Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) and E.O. Wilson, Sociobiology, On Human Nature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978). Although Dawkins claims that his reference to “selfishness” is metaphorical, the use he makes of selfishness leads one to assume that he means that genes really do exhibit selfish behavior.

  8. See R. L. Trivers, “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism,” Quarterly Review of Biology 46 (1971): 35-57. This idea is also advanced in what is referred to as “game theory.” See R. Axelrod and W. D. Hamilton, “The Evolution of Cooperation,” Science 211 (1981): 1390-1396.

  9. W. D. Hamilton is generally regarded as the father of modern kin selection, although others spoke of the theory prior to his published work. See Hamilton’s essays, “The Evolution of Altruistic Behavior,” American Naturalist 97 (1963): 354-56; “The Genetical Evolution of Social Behavior I,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 7 (1964): 1-16; “The Genetical Evolution of Social Behavior II,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 7 (1964): 17-52.

  10. With regard to group selection theory, see what is becoming a classic text on the subject: Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson, Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).

  11. This is at least how many interpret Denis de Rougemont’s work in Love in the Western World, trans. Montgomery Belgion. rev. ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, [1940] 1983).

  12. Alan Soble, Eros, Agape, and Philia (New York: Paragon, 1989).

  13. Gene Outka, “Agapeistic Ethics,” in A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip L. Quinn and Charles Taliaferro (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1997), 481-488.

  14. Sir John Templeton defines agape as unconditional love and universal acceptance (Agape Love: A Tradition Found in Eight World Religions [Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 1999]). Stephen G. Post uses “unlimited love” in the way I describe here.

  15. Stephen Post regards agape in this way in his book, A Theory of Agape: On the Meaning of Christian Love. Daniel Day William’s understanding of love is similar (The Spirit and the Forms of Love [New York: Harper and Row, 1968]).

  16. Philip Hefner equates agape and altruism (The Human Factor: Evolution, Culture, and Religion [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993],208).

  17. C. S. Lewis equated agape and gift-love in his widely read book, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960).

  18. Irving Singer equates agape with bestowal in his philosophical trilogy, the first and most influential of which is The Nature of Love: Plato to Luther, Vol. 1, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966, 1984).

  19. Among the more influential or more helpful philosophical and theological texts pertaining to agape and its definition are these: John Burnaby, Amor Dei (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1938), Martin C. D’Arcy, The Mind and Heart of Love, Lion and Unicorn: A Study in Eros and Agape (Cleveland: World, 1964), C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960), Douglas N. Morgan, Love: Plato, The Bible, and Freud (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), David L. Norton and Mary F. Kille, Philosophies of Love (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield), 1988, Nygren, Agape and Eros, Osborne, Eros Unveiled, Outka, Agape, Pope, The Evolution of Altruism and the Ordering of Love, Post, A Theory of Agape, Alan Soble, The Structure of Love (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), Paul Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice: Ontological Analyses and Ethical Applications (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), Vacek, Love, Human and Divine, and Williams, The Spirit and the Forms of Love.

  20. Robert Merrihew Adams, Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 136.

  21. See, for instance, Thomas Jay Oord, “Agape, Altruism, and Well-Being: Full-Orbed Love for the Science and Religion Dialogue,” in Contemporary Philosophy: Philosophic Research, Analysis and Resolution, 25 (2002); An Essentially Loving God: An Open and Relational Theology of Love (In search of a publisher); and “Love Archetypes and Moral Virtue,” in Contemporary Philosophy: Philosophic Research, Analysis and Resolution. 22: 1&2 (Jan/Feb & Mar/Apr 2000), 13-17.

  22. For a discussion of this issue, which is sometimes called the psychological paradox, see Sober and Wilson, Unto Others, chs. 8-10.

  23. Someone may object to the notion that love implies relations between individuals on the ground that a solitary individual could love an ideal, possibility, mathematical formula, or other abstract form – none of which are actual individuals that enjoy internal relations. Attraction to these abstractions should be considered love, it might be claimed, because this attraction is an activity that results in the promotion of greater overall well-being among actual individuals. While I would agree that attraction to abstractions might result in the attainment of greater overall well-being, I contend that actual individuals become aware of such ideals only because of prior influence by other actual individuals – be those individuals creaturely or divine. This prior influence, then, amounts to relatedness.

  24. Stuart Kaufman, “Self-Organization, Selective Adaptationism, and Its Limits: A New Pattern of Inference in Evolution and Development,” in Evolution at the Crossroads, eds. David Depew and Bruce Weber (Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press, 1985). See also Kaufman’s work, At Home in the Universe (London: Penguin Books, 1995)/

  25. Quoted in “Grappling with Bioterrorism at AAAS,” by Thomas Jay Oord, in Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology 2:8 (April 2002): 30.

  26. Lothar Shafer makes this argument, and he summarizes his view nicely in “Lothar Shafer’s Quantum View of Evolution,” Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology 2:8 (April 2002): 26, 31.

  27. Quoted in “Grappling with Bioterrorism at AAAS,” by Thomas Jay Oord, in Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology 2:8 (April 2002): 30.

  28. Elliot Sober and David Sloan Wilson, Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998), chs. 1-5.

  29. Lee Alan Dugatkin, Cooperation Among Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), chs. 3-7.

  30. See Whitehead’s discussion of this as a core element in what he calls the “reformed subjectivist principle” (Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, corrected edition, ed. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne [New York: Free Press, 1978; orig. ed., 1929], 157-167).

  31. I have in mind here those philosophies that emerged from the thought of Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and Logical Positivism.

  32. If one begins with human love and extrapolates about what this means for nonhuman loving, the question inevitably arises: At what level of organismic complexity did the capacity for love emerge? While the actions of dolphins, dogs, and even mice can be understood in the sense of low-grade intentionality that affects well-being, what about the activity of microorganism? John Cobb has argued that in a loose sense, we can say that all entities love. But he suggests that it is "better to use the term 'love' for something much more limited" (The Structure of Christian Existence [New York: Seabury Press, 1979], 126). That limited realm, according to Cobb, applies to complex organisms like people and animals; but Cobb never explains why this limited attribution is better. I am currently searching for good reasons to opt for either of these two alternatives: (1) love can only be expressed by complex creatures who act ideally or (2) love can be expressed by any entity whatsoever who acts ideally.

  33. Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 223.

  34. David Ray Griffin, Reenchantment without Supernaturalism: A Process Philosophy of Religion (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), 362.

  35. Ibid., 30.

  36. The necessity of relations with others, it should be noted, does not exclude love of oneself. Even the love of oneself is either (1) action promoting the well-being of the members of one’s own body, or (2) action promoting well-being done in appreciation of one’s past personal interaction with others, or (3) action promoting well-being with one’s future interaction with others in mind. These cases express interrelatedness powerfully. In the first, relations exist between members of one’s own body, in the second, one acknowledges a relationship with others in one’s personal past, and, in the third, one assumes that a future self will someday relate to others and one’s present self. Charles Hartshorne identifies his notion that the second of the great love commands – to love others as ourselves – if the self is understood as exactly identical through time. He writes: “We can love the other as ourselves because even the self as future is also another. . . . On this ground alone I would not give up the even doctrine without the most rigorous proofs of its erroneous” (Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method [LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court, 1970], 198).

  37. Religion in the Making, 79.

  38. Footnote Barbour, Clayton, Cobb, Griffin, Howell, Peacocke, Polkinghorne, Stapp, Stengers, and others.

  39. Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 227-228.

  40. Process and Reality, 18.

  41. Ibid.

  42. Ibid., 29, 167, among many other places in his writing.

  43. Especially see Griffin’s Reenchantment without Supernaturalism, ch. 3.

  44. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 89.

  45. Ibid., 34, 35.

  46. John B. Cobb, Jr. and David Ray Griffin, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), 15. See also Whitehead, Process and Reality, 89-91.

  47. Hartshorne calls this self-identity the “quasi-primordial” feature of every enduring individual, because it points to the “individual quality which a man, say, has had during all his life as a person.” Only God has a literally primordial character, having always existed (“Whitehead’s Idea of God,” 531).

  48. Whitehead distinguishes between positive and negative prehensions. A positive prehension is the definite inclusion of an entity into positive contribution to the subject’s own real internal constitution. A negative prehension is the definite exclusion of an entity from positive contribution to the subject’s own internal constitution (Process and Reality, 41).

  49. Process and Reality, 21.

  50. Ibid., 59.

  51. Whitehead writes: “The how of feeling, though it is germane to the data, is not fully determined by the data. The relevant feeling is not settled, as to its inclusions or exclusions of ‘subjective form,’ by the data about which the feeling is concerned” (Process and Reality, 85).

  52. On this, Robert G. Hazo, (The Idea of Love (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967), 11, passim.; and Stephen Pope, “Love in Contemporary Christian Ethics,” Journal of Religious Ethics 23.1 (Spring 1995): 167.

  53. Ibid., 22, 45, 65, 166.

  54. Alfred North Whitehead, Religion in the Making (New York: Macmillan, 1926; New York: Fordham University Press, 1996), 15-16.

  55. Hartshorne, “Whitehead’s Idea of God,” 527.

  56. There are times, however, when one may love at one’s own personal expense: “We know love by this, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another,” the author of First John said to believers (1 Jn. 3:16). God sometimes calls creatures to sacrifice their own well-being for the good of the whole. This means that, as Vacek states, “because God loves not only us but others and also all of creation, we cannot . . . conclude that what God is doing in the world will always be entirely for our good. Some loss to our own well-being will be necessary” (Love, Human and Divine, 188). Unlike localized creatures, however, the good of the omnipresent individual and the common good coincide. Because creatures are not omnipresent, the common good sometimes requires creatures to sacrifice their own present good.

  57. Pitirim Sorokin, The Ways and Power of Love: Types, Factors, and Techniques of Moral Transformation (Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation, [1954] 2002), 459.

  58. Process and Reality, 15.

  59. I argue this point in my currently unpublished manuscript, An Essentially Loving God: An Open and Relational Theology of Love, chs 8-9.

  60. Hartshorne and Reese, Philosophers Speak of God, 499-514. I have come to prefer the word “theocosmocentrism” to describe the necessary relationship between God and the universe, because “panentheism” does not stress the metaphysical necessity of God’s relations with the world.

  61. This is an argument Philip Clayton makes with regard to the science-and-religion dialogue, although, unlike Hartshorne’s theory of panentheism and my own theocosmocentrism (see note above), Clayton understands panentheism to entail God’s contingent relations with all others.