Biology and religion (murphy & schloss 2008)

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Biology and religion (murphy & schloss 2008)

  1. 1. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_545_02-15-08 chapter 23 ................................................................................................................... BIOLOGY AND RELIGION ................................................................................................................... nancey murphy and jeffrey p. schlossThis chapter falls naturally into two main sections, as the primary points at whichbiology and religion meet are (1) the philosophical implications of evolutionary the-ory and their relations to religion, and (2) neurobiology with indirect implicationsfor religion owing to the support it provides for a physicalist (i.e., nondualist) theoryof human nature. A lesser issue is (3) the question of what it would mean forreligious doctrines if it turns out that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. 1. Evolutionary Theory and Religious Belief.................................................................................................................................................The causal explanations and philosophical implications of biology may have ex-erted no more significant intellectual influence than in the interactions betweenevolutionary theory and religious belief. These intereactions are widely representedas entailing debates over specific events in Earth’s history, or natural versus su-pernatural accounts of life’s origin, While culturally prominent, in many respectsthese issues represent straining at gnats while swallowing camels. The more reli-giously profound impacts of the Darwinian revolution involve how nature is ____Àunderstood to work, and how these workings challenge or enrich attribtions of ____0 ____þ
  2. 2. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_546_02-15-08 546 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology God’s character and purposes. There is almost no traditional religious doctrine ostensibly untouched by an evolutionary perspective, including divine providence and natural evil, human nature and imago dei, ethical realism and moral respon- sibility, and divine design. We intend to address these turbid streams of influence. Several caveats are in order. First, although some aspects of evolutionary the- ory have import for commitments shared across a broad range of religious tra- ditions, the Abrahamic faiths have evidenced the greatest propositional overlap and historical tension with evolution, and many of the following topics reflect this fact. Second, since many contemporary discussions of evolution and religion have regrettably but understandably emphasized a single, highly polarized issue— at the expense of acknowledging a rich perspectival breadth across many issues— we are intentionally casting a wide net, seeking to provide an expository and critical survey of a (perhaps imprudently diverse) range of topics. Third, we are not en- gaging a topic that has dramtically changed the stakes in the ‘‘evolution and religion’’ conversation, which involves recent progress in explaning the evolution of religion itself. While the implications of this literature for religion has not been systemtiaclly treated, it is a topic that deserves its own separate analysis (Barrett 2007). 1.1. Life’s history Perhaps the least interesting but most-prominent and vexatious biology-religion issue is the ostensible conflict between evolutionary and biblical accounts of Earth’s history. Though real, the tension is by no means necessary, since the interpretive perspectives within both evolutionary (Ruse 1997, 2000) and theological (Pan- nenberg 1993) accounts of origins vary widely. The latter entails not only a con- tinuum, but a hyperspace with extensive variability along at least three axes, re- presenting differing understandings of scriptural historicity, divine action, and natural theology (Schloss 2006). What is referred to as ‘‘creationism’’ occupies an extreme corner where literalist historical interpretation, interventionist under- standings of divine action, and positivist commitment to the evidential adequacy of nature for theology intersect. ‘‘Intelligent design’’ shares a commitment to the latter two. The hyperspace itself is filled with variations along all axes, and at least a dozen major interpretive traditions are identifiable (Miller 1999; Schloss 2006). Underlying the parochial spats over historical particulars are two issues of more-general import. One is the historiography of science-religion interactions. Although the thesis of innate conflict is widely recognized as an inadequate his- torical model, it is surely not entirely discardable: There has been enduring con- flict, and in the face of evolutionary theory, religion is often seen as retreating to progressively more-obscure and less-interesting assertions about the world and its posited Creator (Dawkins 1995; Hull 1991; Provine 1988). It is interesting to note that, when theology relinquishes cherished notions in the face of new evidence, it is described as ‘‘retreating’’; when science does so, it is advancing (Dennett 2006).1____ Nevertheless, it seems understandable to view the very existence of a theological0 ____ hyperspace as representing religion’s anxious diffusion away from factual concrete-1____
  3. 3. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_547_02-15-08 biology and religion 547ness in response to the heat of biological science. It turns out, though, that this isdemonstrably inaccurate historically. In each of the Abrahamic traditions, theentire range of variation along all three axes existed centuries before Darwin or,indeed, before the rise of modern science. More significant than the history of religious retreat from, is the epistemologyof religious resistance to particularities of evolutionary history. The fascinatingquestion here—crucial not only to relations between evolution and religion butalso to the conducting of science itself—involves distinguishing the reasonableaffirmation of core commitments in the face of anomalous evidence from theirrational denial or dismissal of conflict. For example, while Plantinga (1991) ac-cepts an old Earth, he maintains that, in the context of some religious epistemiccommitments, it would not necessarily be irrational to accept a young Earth. Ruse(2001) asserts that it would be irrational not only to accept such a position, but toadmit the rationality of another’s acceptance. Ruse is clearly correct, at least whenit comes to contemporary creationism’s quest to sustain coherence and corre-spondence by an arranged wedding of literalist exegesis with scientific verification.But the question becomes more complicated where tradeoffs between coherenceand correspondence are more honestly recognized (Krause 1980). In their studyof fundamentalism, Hood et al. (2005) astutely and quite sympathetically char-acterize it in terms of an intratextual epistemology that entails a commitment notto literalistic unwillingness to assess metaphorical or allegorical understandings,much less to seeking verification of literalist interpretations by external sources,but simply to internal coherence of an authoritative text. The challenge for dia-logue with a potentially totalizing system of this kind is not so much irrationality,but a sophisticated though insulated rationality, which may exist for religious orirreligious ‘‘fundamentalisms.’’1.2. AnthropologyThere are three main areas of engagement between evolutionary and religiousanthropology. Perhaps the most important, and certainly the most widely sharedacross religious traditions, involves the question of a transcendent or nonmaterialaspect to human personhood. This issue will be treated in section 2 of this chapter. The second involves the almost universally affirmed but differently articulatedreligious responses to the human ‘‘predicament’’ of suffering, or the experience thatthings are not as they should be (Ward 1998). While the major religious traditionsentail varying diagnoses and prescriptions for this perceived malady, the perceptionitself is not innately religious, and many secular traditions wrestle with the sameissue—from Romanticism’s estrangement, to Marxist alienation and class struggle,to Freudian repression, and even to evolutionary psychology’s gap between presentcognitive structures and the Pleistocene environment of evolutionary adaptation,or EEA (Cosmides and Tooby 1992; Campbell 1975). Indeed, one view of whatconstitutes a fundamental interpretive myth—religious or otherwise—is that it of- ____Àfers an account for the deep sense of human brokenness (Girard 1993). ____0 ____þ
  4. 4. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_548_02-15-08 548 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology The Abrahamic faiths address this through the image of a fall, the varying historical and anthropological interpretations of which pre-date evolutionary theory and currently intersect with it in different ways. On the one hand, the existence of a morally perfect single progenitor to humanity is not easily recon- cilable with evolutionary understandings of hominid origins, though there is also a centuries-old debate about whether it is reconcilable with the biblical text itself. On the other hand, fundamental Hebraic notions of humankind’s materialist composition, phylogenetic unity, and historical transition from innocence to con- scious moral awareness are not at all inconsonant with and are potentially en- richable by evolutionary accounts. One influential interpretation of the fall image is the Augustinian formulation of original sin. A number of recent commentaries have succumbed to the temp- tation of positing congruence between this notion and sociobiological assertions of innate selfishness (Campbell 1975; Hefner 1993). Ironically, this reflects a Gnostic or Manichaean understanding of evil’s material embodiment, which is not a necessary entailment of evolutionary theory and which Augustine himself—and most Abrahamic traditions—rejected. Original sin is less about biotic instantiation than about the heritable continuity of brokenness, and if there are connections between this religious idea and science, they are probably not in evolutionary genetics but in varying mechanisms of the biologically and culturally mediated intergenerational transmission of pathology, e.g., the heritability of viral infection, addiction, genomic imprinting, familial violence, maternal deprivation and at- tachment disorders, sexist or racist cultural values, etc. The third and most-specific area of intersection between evolutionary and religious understandings of human nature involves the biblical notion of imago dei, or human uniqueness. These are not entirely interchangeable: Some interpreta- tions of divine image–bearing emphasize relational context over innate attributes. Moreover, there is a long-standing tradition of affirming the ambiguous tension between uniqueness and continuity, with special importance placed on honoring the latter: ‘‘Man is neither angel nor brute, and the unfortunate thing is, he who would act the angel, acts the brute’’ (Pascal 2002, 57). Of course, evolutionary theory entails no ambivalence at all over human phylogenetic continuity with other organisms. But many accounts also affirm the reasonableness of speaking about an identifiable human nature (Pinker 2002) and attributing to that nature unique evolutionary adaptations (Deacon 1997; Plotkin 1997). Quite ironically, Dawkins’ scientifically controversial assertion of the absolutely unique human capacity for altruism—‘‘something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. . . . We alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators’’ (1976, 210)—ends up positing a degree of discontinuity with nature that is more radically dualistic than many religious understandings have historically been comfortable with. The continuity- discontinuity tension is thus one that animates both scientific and religious ac-1____ counts of humanity.0 ____1____
  5. 5. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_549_02-15-08 biology and religion 5491.3. EthicsEvolutionary proposals for the biological origins of morality and the philosophicaljustification of ethics constitute an enormous literature with profound ramifica-tions for religious understandings of morality (Clayton and Schloss 2004). Al-though this was recognized early on as one of the most important implications ofDarwin’s theory, there has been surprisingly little recent engagement by religiousthinkers with emerging ideas of and attending controversies over evolutionaryethics. We will comment on two of the many issues impinging on religion. We willnot here attempt to assess debates over whether Darwinian theory has any rele-vance for morality at all, but will comment on the religious implications of a rangeof posited evolutionary views of morality. First is the metaethical question of evolution’s impact on religious commit-ment to moral absolutes and ethical realism, which are especially important in theAbrahamic traditions. Many point out evolution’s potentially corrosive impact onthese notions (Rachels 1990; Dennett 1995), asserting that evolution ‘‘implies thatthere are no inherent moral or ethical laws, no absolute guiding principles forhuman society’’ (Provine 1988, 28). Ruse (1994) provides an especially straight-forward account along two lines. One, an evolutionary understanding of the originand function of morality would necessarily entail different ethical standards fordifferent organisms with moral awareness: Dung beetle morality would be heinousfor humans. Thus, evolution ‘‘points to an essential relativism about morality’’ thatappears inconsonant with ‘‘the very core of all Christian thought on moral be-havior’’ (Ruse 1994, 5). Two, even if there were functional moral universals, naturalselection of the moral sense reduces the warrant for accepting a necessary con-nection between its biological instantiation and metaphysical reality. In a worldwhere there were no moral reality, it would still be adaptive to behave as if therewere. Comparable skepticism toward beliefs about empirical reality is not required:In a counterfactual world without tigers, creatures would not be expected tobehave as if jumping out of their way were necessary for survival. These are important issues, and at face value it would seem that ‘‘those who areworried about the clash between science and religion have good reasons for theirworries’’ (Ruse 1994, 5). However, there are responses to these concerns, a numberof which Ruse himself has gone on to develop (2001). Two things can be said aboutthe issue of ethical relativism. First, dung beetles show no evidence of moralawareness, and while there may be protomorality in other creatures (de Waal1996), humans are the only organisms of which we know with morality. Givenevolutionary grounds for a coherence to human nature, there is at least a case to bemade for concomitant universal moral principles (Ruse 2001). Second, unless oneis a radical dualist and rejects the interactive unity of rational, affective, and moralcapacities with the form of material embodiment (see Damasio 1995, 1999), it is notclear there even could be such a thing as moral beetles. It may be the case thatany morally aware creature would need to have something resembling mammalian ____À ____0 ____þ
  6. 6. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_550_02-15-08 550 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology forms of intensive parental investment, a high encephalization index with a pro- tracted period of infant dependency and neural development, and deeply coop- erative social relationships. If there are other morally aware creatures, their biology, their morality, and the connections between the two may not be strikingly diver- gent from our own. The issue of ethical realism is thornier. The fact that morality would ‘‘work’’ even if moral reality were a fiction does seem to undermine the same kind of confidence in the relationship between cognition and morality as in physical re- ality. But two points are in order. First, the need to locate moral ‘‘reality’’ in the existence of a metaphysically transcendent moral domain, utterly uncoupled from functional embodiment in specific moral beings, is more a problem for Gnostic than Abrahamic traditions. From Thomistic notions of natural law all the way back to Old Testament commandments, moral reality has been understood precisely as the normative guidelines for promoting life. Jesus says, ‘‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,’’ i.e., morality is real not because it is reified on the tablets, but it is on the tablets because it is realized in us. Second, what of the relationship to divine purpose? Ruse (2001) points out that the situ- ation is influenced somewhat, if one has a progressionist view of the evolutionary process. Though debated since Darwin, some view evolutionary history as entailing an escalation of capacities to sense, process, and respond to extraorganismal in- formation, along with increased interorganismal awareness and cooperation, giving rise to attachment and protomoral affections and culminating in complex systems of other-regarding moral rules and commitments (Jonas 1982; Rolston 1999). Such a view does not require divine guidance as a cause, but it is consonant with interpreting evolution as a divinely employed means for actualizing the good (Haught 2000) or at least enabling the ambiguously underdetermined capacity for good (Schloss 2007a). The second major issue in evolutionary ethics having religious significance is that of normative ethics. There is a considerable literature exploring various reli- gious moral norms from an evolutionary perspective, e.g., sociobiological inter- pretations of the Ten Commandments or analyses of the manifold versions of the Golden Rule, not as prescriptions for strict reciprocity, but as game theoretic solutions to overcoming barriers to reciprocity (Lahti 2004). Many cases of mo- rality in general can be viewed as adaptations for promoting cooperation and inhibiting defection (Alexander 1987; Ruse 1994, 2001). The evolutionary linking of motivational other-regard and consequential self-benefit is not at all contra- religious, indeed flourishing through giving is itself a widely affirmed religious principle. However, a most interesting unresolved question involves the strong interpretation of the Christian love command as a call to self-relinquishing or a kenotic investment in others, outside the boundaries of direct or indirect com- pensatory benefit. This has the potential to constitute an ‘‘insoluble problem’’ (Ruse 2001, 201) involving a gap between claims of what we are normatively obli-1____ gated to do and Darwinian understandings of what we are naturally able or inclined0 ____ to do (Hare 1996).1____
  7. 7. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_551_02-15-08 biology and religion 551 The issue is not just one of tension between biology and religion, for evenwithin evolutionary theory there are divergent understandings, with at least a halfdozen significantly different but not irreconcilable explanatory approaches at var-ious points along an adaptationist continuum (Schloss 2002, Clayton and Schloss2004). On the one hand, traditional individual selectionist accounts argue thatmorality promotes fitness of the actor through benefits to kin or enhanced accessto cooperatively mediated resources. Recent group-selection proposals emphasizemorality as a mechanism for increasing group function through social control,which facilitates genuine altruism but still benefits altruistic individuals within thegroup relative to those outside the group. Both accounts are adaptationist: Thoughnot consciously self-interested, individuals are biologically inclined to embracemoral commitments that are consequentially self-benefiting. On the other hand,recognizing a greater degree of altruism than strictly adaptationist accounts pro-vide for (Holcomb 1993), pleiotropic or memetic accounts of morality allowgenuine self-relinquishment, but only at the cost of viewing it as a nonadaptive by-product or viral imposition upon recalcitrant human biology, not as an emergentfulfillment of it. Humans, ‘‘as a result of interactions between their meme-infestedbrains, are not at all bound to answer to the interests of their genes alone’’ (Dennett1995, 471). This gives rise to behavior that, in the earlier cited words of Dawkins,‘‘has no place in nature.’’ It also gives rise to virulent criticism by both biologists(Stent 1978; de Waal 1996) and philosophers (Searle 1986; Fodor 2001) as beingvacuous and quasi-magical. There are two evaluative points relative to religion, the moral exhortationsof which have largely, though not exclusively, fueled this quandary. First, thescientific debate over natural selection and ethics goes back as far as (actuallyfurther than) Darwin, Wallace, and Spencer; Huxley himself made analogousclaims about morality’s transcending, even opposing, the natural or ‘‘cosmic pro-cess.’’ But it actually involves an even more-ancient ambiguity. The debate overlove’s morality as an extension or overcoming of nature has animated the entirehistory of Christian theological reflection in, for example, Augustinian, Thomistic,Anabaptist, and Wesleyan traditions. Moreover, it is widely observed in the ten-sions between what is described as the way of affirmation and the way of negationwithin and across nearly all major religions (Ward 1998) and may be seen as anambiguity of continuity-discontinuity, as discussed above (Polkinghorne 2003).In the Christian tradition, the notion of ‘‘grace fulfilling nature’’ has been explo-red as a mediating perspective (Lewis 1960). Of course, this is an interpretive butnot an explanatory proposal; at present, we lack a comparable integrative scientificaccount. Second, and related to the above, aside from the perennial debate over whetherevolutionary theory has anything to say about these issues (which we are notengaging here), the current disputes within evolutionary theory over how to offeran account can be seen at this point as largely representing rival reductionisms.Behaviors and the moral principles underlying them are understood as mediated in ____Àvarious ways by the influence of particulate informational replicators (genes or ____0 ____þ
  8. 8. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_552_02-15-08 552 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology memes). The open question is not whether such explanations are a necessary or constructive part of the picture but whether they are sufficient. We presently lack an account of how the replicators interact with each other and their organisms (e.g., if there are memes, why are some more cognitively transmissible, and what are their organismal effects?). Moreover, top-down effects on the origin, expres- sion, and influence of morally relevant replicators—at the level of neurobiology, culture (including religious communities and institutions), not to mention con- scious deliberations of a moral agent—are largely uninvestigated (Gintis et al. 2005; Juarrero 1999; Murphy and Ellis 1996). Religion will not provide answers to these questions, but the accumulated human experience in religious (and other) affir- mations of the deep fulfillment in other-regard—‘‘[s]elf-renunciation for the sake of the other is humankind’s highest good’’ (Murphy and Ellis 1996)—suggests they are worth asking. With no less scientific plausibility, there may be empirical warrant for changing the heuristic image from one of infection to one of incar- nation. In each case, the language is shamelessly metaphorical, but instead of memetic infestations refusing to answer to genetic interests, it might also be that the word becomes flesh (Deacon 1997): Moral ideas may transform what consti- tutes organismal telos and what fulfills genetic interests. 1.4. Creation and divine purpose Virtually all religions entail some notion of transcendent purpose or sacred meaning (Berger 1967). The Abrahamic traditions understand this purpose as ensuing from the intentions of a wise and loving deity and as reflected in the orderly operation of the creation itself. Perhaps the single most-powerful religious impact of evolutionary theory is its twofold challenge to this traditional notion through assertions of historical disteleology and amplified natural evil. First is the question of disteleology. All scientific accounts of causation are nonteleological: formally godless and purposeless. But evolutionary theory involves not only a causal story but also a historical description that, in addition to making God unnecessary, is held by many to make him untenable. The products of nature don’t require a designer (see below), but the clumsy and haphazard process of nature actually eschews a designer. Forget for a moment the problem of suffering; still, the wandering, squandering, stupid character of the evolutionary process itself suggests to many that there is no God, or if there is one, he is ‘‘not a loving God’’ but is ‘‘wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical’’ (Dawkins 2003; Hull 1991,486; Williams 1993). There is no question that the messiness of history constitutes a problem for theologies of instantaneous and perfect creation, but assertions of ultimate dis- teleology merit scientific and philosophical comment. Scientifically, it is simply not the case that evolutionary history is uniformly understood as nonprogressive or even adirectional. Debates over this have waxed and waned since before the time of1____ Darwin (Ruse 1997) and are currently quite prominent (Gould 1996; Conway0 ____ Morris 2004; Maynard Smith 1988). Moreover, notions of waste and stupidity are1____
  9. 9. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_553_02-15-08 biology and religion 553themselves ascientific, teleological imports, involving an evaluative assessmentof the relationship between means and imputed ends (Schloss 2006). On the basisof the arguments themselves and the autobiographical statements of their propo-nents, there would seem to be little question that the most-virulent neo-Darwinianatheology—like its God-fearing counterpart, intelligent design—represents a me-taphysical commitment looking for a scientific rationale. That does not in itself make God any more credible. There still remains theproblem of evil, the most significant source of religious doubt since long beforeDarwin. But evolutionary theory seems to exacerbate the issue in three ways. First,it expands the scale of natural evil: The striking nature of organismic warfareencountered in the tropical biota, the massive species-level carnage uncovered inthe fossil record, and the primordial, vastly pre-Adamic origin of death revealed inour understanding of deep time—all shake if not a theological, at least a Romanticview of creation’s goodness. Second, and more profoundly, it deepens the role ofnatural evil: Death, competition, and suffering are not just post hoc impositionsupon or incidental by-products of the creative process, but are understood asplaying a crucial role in the evolutionary process itself. Third, most importantand also most controversial, it expands the comprehensiveness of natural evil, orthreatens to eliminate the very possibility of natural goodness. As described above,many (though by no means all) Darwinian accounts foreclose the option of gen-uine beneficence. David Oates (1988) observes that the problem of evil is turned onits head: The question is not why evil has gotten into the world, but how, if at all,goodness could get into the world. The first of the above impacts is indisputable but not specifically Darwinian.The second two are Darwinian but subject to scientific debate, which we will notassess here. We do, however, want to ask two questions about their religioussignificance. First, adequate or inadequate as the manifold major theodicies in Jewish,Christian, and Islamic traditions may be, are any of them subverted in new ways bythe above exacerbations? This does not seem to be the case (Ruse 2001). Withrespect to challenge 3, we should acknowledge that a soul-making theodicy wouldbe fatally compromised if it could be shown that the kinds of ‘‘souls’’ (or persons)that were valuable to make were, on the basis of evolutionary theory, impossible tomake. But swashbuckling assertions notwithstanding, no such arguments haveprevailed or even endured (Holcomb 1993). A more-general and cumulative im-pact of the above is their contribution to the experience of ‘‘horrendous evils,’’which does weaken the plausibility of any theodicy (Adams 2000). Then again, it isnot clear that evolution contributes anything new or even comparable to thechallenge of monstrous evil already constituted, for example, by the massacre ofthe innocents. Second, does evolution offer any new resources for theodicy? Yes and no: Itseems to afford somewhat revised views of a landscape that is ancient and relativelyfrozen. The universal necessity of trial and error in the algorithmic process of ____Ànatural selection may contribute to a theodicy of lawful creation. Evolutionary ____0 ____þ
  10. 10. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_554_02-15-08 554 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology progressionism may confer a phylogenetic perspective onto the ontogenetic per- spective of soul-making theodicies. The origin of new and wondrous organisms is suggested by some to, if not justify, at least redeem the perennial anguish of loss through a process that also fosters ‘‘maximization of beauty’’ (Haught 2000). But all of these, and other, theodicies have enduring inadequacies which, while perhaps not magnified, are not manifestly relieved by evolutionary insights. What evolutionary theory clearly does seem to have accomplished is to cut off retreat into the Romantic sentimentalization of nature. But this constitutes a stimulus not a challenge to orthodoxy for biblical theism since, as doctrines of the fall testify to, this move has never been favored by Abrahamic faiths. What it also appears to have done is to push theological reflection on the natural world away from natural theology to theologies of nature (Pannenberg 1993), particularly those that emphasize the ambiguity of creation’s testimony. While such traditions are ancient, evident in the ideas of Pascal, Anselm, even Augustine, their ascendancy over the last century surely reflects, in part, the influence of Darwin. And this brings us to our next section. 1.5. Arguments from design The issues of divine purpose and intelligent design are often conflated but are not at all the same. The former involves an interpretive explanation of what, if any- thing, the cosmos means or is ‘‘for,’’ and it is explored by a theology of nature in the context of prior commitment to God’s existence. The latter involves a causal explanation of how the world or aspects of the world came to be, and it is used in natural theology as an argument for God’s existence. Of course, these may be and have been inferentially related, but one could find a clearly designed artifact without any idea of its purpose (Dembski 1998) or (as evolution itself points out) discover purposeful or target-regulated entities that are not designed (Dawkins 1986). Theologically, cosmic purpose involves questions of ultimate meaning or di- vine intent; intelligent design involves commitment to a particular understanding of divine action and the adequacy of nature to provide evidence for that action— two end-points on the axes described above. It is universally conceded by both advocates and critics of Darwin that, if his naturalistic theory is adequate, arguments for divine design developed by tradi- tional natural theology are utterly demolished. This is not to say that natural theology entirely evaporates: Long-standing arguments for God, from the existence and elegance of natural law, and more-recent arguments from the fine-tuning of laws or the progressive trajectory of their influence have continued. But all of these emphasize the theological significance of nature’s lawful regularity. The biological arguments of natural theology that were based on divine interruptions of nature have virtually disappeared from science. In the late twentieth century, there was an attempt to rehabilitate these ar-1____ guments by the intelligent design (ID) movement. The essential claims of this ex-0 ____ tensive, and often repetitive, literature can be summarized in three points. First,1____
  11. 11. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_555_02-15-08 biology and religion 555science’s unwavering commitment to methodological naturalism makes ultimateepistemological sense only in the context of metaphysical naturalism (Johnson1993; but see also agreement by Lewontin 1997). Moreover, granted a commitmentto the former, no matter what the data, evolution is not only plausible, but nec-essary. Second, the question of whether or not something has been designed by anintelligent agent is legitimate to ask—of anything—and the criteria for answering itcan be scientifically formalized (Dembski 1998). Third, the demonstrated existenceof irreducibly complex (IC) structures—not a quantitative measure but a quali-tative attribute of systems that lose all function with any subtraction—is inexpli-cable by Darwinian or any naturalistic process and demonstrates intelligent design(Behe 1996). We will not attempt to summarize or representatively assess the voluminousliterature asserting and critiquing these ideas. (For the most, indeed the only, even-handed collection of arguments from multiple perspectives, see Dembski andRuse 2004.) What we do want to do is comment on several points that have notalready been prominently made, or that seem to have been somewhat widelymisunderstood. First, the epistemic warrant for science’s commitment to naturalistic expla-nation is actually an interesting question, but it is not relevant to the cogency ofdesign arguments, only to the taxonomic question of to what discipline they areassigned. Moreover, arguing that acceptance of Darwinism follows from priorcommitment to naturalism is not only biographically falsifiable (e.g., Darwinhimself and both authors of this chapter) but also entails a genetic fallacy. Thissame fallacy, by the way, is routinely employed against ID advocates who ‘‘only’’accept the theory because of their metaphysical beliefs. Second, the ‘‘explanatory filter’’ that Dembski proposes for detecting designinvolves an eliminative rather than attributive inference, triggered if something isnot explainable by law or chance. This has been widely criticized on ontologicaland epistemological grounds, but even if it were valid, what it would detect isnot intelligent design, but supernatural (or immaterial) causation (Ratzsch 2001;Schloss 2007a). The activity of a supernatural frog, pithed by a demon physiologistand without intelligence or designing intent, would set off the filter. Thus, the filteris unsalvageably vulnerable to false positives (no design, but nonnatural causation)and false negatives (design through natural causation). Third, the design agenda should not be designated as science, though not forthe reasons often given. It is widely claimed that ID is unfalsifiable (Bonner 2006),but whether or not this is an adequate demarcation criterion for science, thecriticism itself is manifestly untrue. Because design is an eliminative rather thanattributive inference, it is falsified by any credible law or chance related account.Not only are such inferences falsifiable in principle, but virtually all of the majorattributions of ID—from mousetraps to flagellae—have been falsified in fact. Thereason that ID is not a science is that it has not in any case, and in principle itcannot, generated predictions or unifying causal explanations. This is because, ____Àunlike the explanations of behavioral psychology or cognitive science, ID has no ____0 ____þ
  12. 12. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_556_02-15-08 556 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology access to behavioral dispositions of the imputed designing agent. And if it did, there would be a name for the discipline: theology. Last, ID is often criticized as thinly disguised antievolutionary creationism. Ad hominem aspects of this assertion aside, it is simply untrue in the most straight- forward way, yet it is also quite true in one profound but often obscured way. Though the movement has attracted (and also been criticized by) creationists, the fundamental proposal of ID does not entail any commitment at all to the histo- ricity of Genesis nor to the tenets of Abrahamic faiths—the very core of crea- tionism for almost a century. ID could be asserted by a deist, panspermia advocate, or Gaia theorist. Moreover, at face value, it is not necessarily antievolutionary, if by that one simply means a rejection of common ancestry or the adequacy of natural selection in mediating descent with modification. Behe (1996) claims that he fully accepts evolution, God just got it jump-started (i.e., he does not accept preevolutionary biogenesis). But in a way, he turns out to be more systematically antievolutionary than even some creationists. Behe posits that a designer ‘‘front- loaded’’ the earliest life with the genetic information necessary for dozens of IC structures—flagellae, retinas, blood clotting—which then waited 3þ billion years until natural selection brought about organisms suitable for their expression. This is deeply antievolutionary in two ways. First, while common descent through natural selection is rhetorically affirmed, the mutation/selection hypothesis is not allowed to do the actual work of creation. It is not just the major taxa (old school creationism) but the details of cellular structure that represent miracles. Second, as even fellow ID advocate Stephen Meyer criticizes, ancient front-loading then needs ongoing miracles to mitigate the energetic improbability of replicating and pre- serving information that will be of no use for billions of years. Ironically though, ID exists because its advocates fully accept rather than question the views of many prominent expositors of evolutionary theory. Main- line, noncreationist theism gave rise to ID antievolutionism in response to the assertion that evolution is incompatible with any kind of belief in a Creator. The ID meme is but a slight variant of the evolutionary atheology meme, and the virulence of the latter enhances the transmissivity of the former. 2. Neuroscience and the Soul ................................................................................................................................................. A more-recent development in biology with important implications for religion is the vast increase in knowledge of the workings of the brain along with increasing abilities to explain human cognitive processes. The implications here are indirect: Many (if not all) of the faculties now studied as brain processes have in the past1____ been considered functions of a nonmaterial part of the human being, usually called0 ____ the soul in English. This does not prove the nonexistence of the soul, but it1____
  13. 13. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_557_02-15-08 biology and religion 557certainly suggests that the concept of soul as an explanatory construct has outlivedits usefulness. Rejection of such a concept has implications for most religions. Wesurvey only a few of the major traditions here (unfortunately, having to gloss overimportant variations within each) and again focus largely on Christianity becauseof its influence in English-language cultures.2.1. HinduismThe oldest of the major religious traditions, Hinduism takes many forms. We con-sider two here, chosen because of their prominence and also because of the inter-esting contrast in their ways of accommodating contemporary scientific findings. The Advaita tradition is nondualistic in two senses. The focus of this section isnondualism as it applies to the human being; another sense applies to the whole ofreality. In this latter sense, one may be a nondualist by asserting either that the wholeof reality is material or that it is entirely mental or spiritual. Advaita is nondualist inboth senses: The whole of reality is essentially One, and it is divine. The appearanceof many distinct individuals and of matter itself is illusion. The goal of the spirituallife is to be freed from illusion and to recognize one’s unity with the One. On thisaccount, there may be spiritual progress as the ‘‘subtle body’’ is reincarnated fromone life to another, but no personal immortality; when self-realization occurs, thesubtle body ceases to exist and only the pure consciousness of Brahman remains. It is difficult to say what implications contemporary neuroscience has foradherents of this tradition since the whole of Western science concerns physicalcauses; the two traditions are based on diametrically opposite metaphysical startingpoints. Presumably, the science purporting to call into question the existence of anonmaterial self would be discounted as applying only to the world of illusion. The Vaishnava tradition conceives of selves or souls as individual and eternal;they are separated parts of the Lord Krishna. The goal of the spiritual life is,through a number of reincarnations, to become free of attachments to the world inorder to serve Krishna in love. The world of matter is real and eternal, created as aplace for the development of souls. It might appear that neuroscience has direct negative implications for this tra-dition. However, Vaishnavas distinguish among the body; the subtle body consistingof the mind, intellect, and sense of self; and the soul. The capacities that neuroscienceattributes to the brain are those of the subtle body, which is seen to belong to thematerial order; thus neuroscience says nothing about the soul, so conceived.2.2. BuddhismBuddhism accepts much of the Hindu world view, including the doctrine of re-birth. In contrast to the eternal self of the Vaishnava tradition, Buddhism sees the ____Àself as a temporary aggregate of ever-changing elements: matter (the physical ____0 ____þ
  14. 14. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_558_02-15-08 558 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology body), feeling, sense perception, dispositions, and consciousness or memory. Thus, rebirth is the continuation in another physical form of some of the elements of the earlier self. The goal of this series of lives is to escape from the suffering that comes from worldly attachments, yet, according to Theravada Buddhism, the self ceases to exist when it reaches this state of nirvana. The conflict between this tradition and contemporary science, Keith Ward argues, is due to the fact that Buddhism takes the characteristics of each incar- nation to be the product of karma, the moral principle that results in each person receiving fitting rewards and punishments for deeds in past lives. This is in sharp contrast to scientific understandings of human characteristics as products of ge- netics, culture, and social interactions in this world (Ward 1998, ch. 5). This same critique applies equally to all of the religions in which the principle of karma is used to account for life’s (apparent) injustices. This is a particular instance of a more-basic problem for all dualist accounts of human nature: the problem of how the nonmaterial interacts causally with the material, or at least how nonmaterial sorts of causation can be reconciled with an account in terms of physical causation. 2.3. The Abrahamic traditions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share a common source for their theories of human nature, the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh). The Christian Old Testament includes all of the thirty-nine books of the Hebrew scriptures, with Catholic and Protestant versions adding seven and two books, respectively. Islam pronounced the Hebrew and later Christian texts (the New Testament) as divine yet incom- plete. The Quran, which incorporates much from the older texts, is taken as the definitive revelation. We alluded above to the difficulty in attempting briefly to describe the position of any major tradition. Conflicting accounts of two of these religions will illustrate the problem. For approximately sixteen centuries, the Hebrew scriptures were taken to teach body-soul dualism, yet beginning around the turn of the twentieth century, both Jewish and Christian scholars argued that the original Hebraic view was monist and physicalist, with no well-developed account of life after death. If current scholarship is right, this raises the question of how so many earlier scholars for so many years could have been wrong. Part of the explanation is translation. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures probably dating from around 250 B.C.E. This text translated Hebrew anthropo- logical terminology into Greek, and then it contained the terms that, in the minds of those influenced by Greek philosophy, referred to constituent parts of humans. The clearest instance of this is the Hebrew word nephesh, which was translated as psyche in the Septuagint and later translated into English as ‘‘soul.’’ New Testament scholar James Dunn makes a distinction that is helpful for1____ understanding the difference between the Hebraic uses of these psychological0 ____ terms and later Greek usage. Hebraic thought was ‘‘aspective,’’ while Greek thought1____
  15. 15. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_559_02-15-08 biology and religion 559was ‘‘partitive.’’ So the Greeks were interested in the question: What are the es-sential parts that make up a human being? In contrast, for the early Hebrewauthors, each ‘‘part’’ (in scare quotes) stands for the whole person thought of froma certain angle. For example, nephesh usually refers to the whole person as a vital,living being (Dunn 1998, 54, 76) and is sometimes used of animals in this respect aswell. This complex history of interpretation explains in part why all three religionscan take either a monist or dualist position. A second reason is that all threetraditions borrowed accounts of human nature from the same developments in thephilosophical tradition.2.3.1. JudaismEarly Hebrew scriptures stress that humans are essentially embodied and related tothe material world. There are two creation stories in Genesis, the first book. In thefirst story, the human species is created as the culmination of the Lord’s creation ofthe animals and is made in the Lord’s image in that it was given dominion over theEarth. In the second (older) story, man (’adam) is made from the dust of theground (’adamah). This Hebrew pun can be recaptured in English by saying thatwe are humans made from humus. Here, what distinguishes humans from theother animals is their conscious relationship with the Lord and, as a result of sin,their knowledge of good and evil. Hebraic thought emphasized that humans have an inner life that is the seat ofemotions and the source of action, designated by terms later translated as ‘‘soul,’’‘‘spirit,’’ ‘‘heart,’’ and others. But it was only around the second century B.C.E. thatthis inner aspect was conceived by some as a separate entity capable of survivingthe death of the body. This development was probably due to the influence ofGreek philosophy. In the same book (Daniel), the idea of the resurrection of thebody was introduced, here probably due to borrowing from the Zoroastrian re-ligion and in response to the recognition that the Lord does not adequately rewardthe good and punish the wicked in this life (Gillman 1997). At the beginning of theChristian era, the Pharisees held to body-soul dualism and the immortality of thesoul; others accepted resurrection at the end of time but without a body-souldualism; and still others (the Sadducees) retained the original physicalist view withno account of life after death. In postbiblical Judaism, conceptions of human nature tended to vary ac-cording to the environment and intellectual outlook of individual Jewish thinkers.The Jewish philosopher Philo (first century C.E.) was deeply influenced by theradical dualism of Plato; Maimonides (1135–1204) adopted the modified dualism ofAristotle. In general, though, differences in accounts of human nature have beenless important in Judaism than in Christianity because of the focus on the Jewishpeople as a whole and on the coming messiah rather than on the fate of individuals.Thus, there always have been strands of Jewish thought that are compatible with a ____Àphysicalist account of human nature motivated by current scientific developments. ____0 ____þ
  16. 16. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_560_02-15-08 560 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology 2.3.2. Christianity The New Testament view of human nature is largely continuous with contempo- raneous Jewish views, but with a central emphasis on the resurrection of the body as a consequence of the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead. However, as Christianity spread throughout the Mediterranean world, its theology was developed using the concepts of Greek philosophy. Between approximately 200 C.E. and the time of Augustine (354–430), there were debates about the nature and origin of the soul. Augustine developed a modified Platonic account that prevailed until the Mid- dle Ages: The human being is composed of two different substances, the body gener- ated biologically and the soul created at conception. At death, body and soul separate; at the last judgment, bodies will be raised, transformed, and reunited with souls. In the Middle Ages, Islamic scholars brought translations of the writings of Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) that had been lost to Europeans, along with elaborate accounts of the person developed in light of Aristotle’s philosophy. These accounts were adopted and adapted by Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), the greatest synthesizer of Christian and Aristotelian thought. Aristotle thought of the soul not as an entity but more as a life principle—that aspect of the person that provides the powers and attributes characteristic of human beings. Plants and animals have souls as well. Human souls incorporate the ‘‘nutritive’’ and ‘‘sensitive’’ powers of plant and ani- mal souls, in addition to the distinctly human rational soul. We return to Aquinas’s account below. Two factors displaced the modified dualism of the Middle Ages. One was the Protestant Reformation; the reformers associated Aristotelian philosophy with Catholicism and returned to the more-radical dualism of Augustine. The other was the rejection of Aristotelian science due to modern developments in cosmology ´ and physics. The early modern philosopher Rene Descartes (1596–1650) devised a dualism more radical than Plato’s: mental substance defined over against material substance. Note that in Descartes’s philosophy, ‘‘mind’’ and ‘‘soul’’ were nearly synonyms, but subsequently ‘‘soul’’ has taken on largely religious connotations while ‘‘mind’’ has not. Modern physicalist accounts of human nature date to Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679). Another philosophical option was idealism, a phil- osophical system that takes all of reality to be essentially mental or spiritual. As in Judaism, Christian conceptions of human nature, up to the present, have been in- fluenced by these various philosophical developments. The most important changes in scholarly circles, however, have been the developments in biblical criticism noted above. Yet, lay Christians are largely unaware of these developments point- ing toward a physicalist account, and most hold either body-soul dualism or a tripart conception of body, soul, and spirit. We stated earlier that (nearly) all of the faculties that have been attributed to the mind or soul are now fruitfully investigated by the cognitive neurosciences (or by biology more generally). These include locomotion, the five senses, emo-1____ tion, memory, language and the forms of cognition and reasoning that it enables,0 ____ and even morality and religious experience.1____
  17. 17. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_561_02-15-08 biology and religion 561 Particularly interesting examples of the power of neuroscience to explain ca-pacities that used to be attributed to the soul involve what Aquinas and his Islamicsources, such as Ibn Sina (980–1037), called the ‘‘interior senses.’’ These are ca-pacities shared with the higher animals that go beyond sense perception. One ofthese is called the sensus communis, which is the ability to collate the deliverancesof the five external senses in order to recognize a single object. This sounds re-markably like what the neuroscientists call the ‘‘binding problem.’’ Another iscalled the vis aestimativa, which is the ability to recognize something as useful (e.g.,straw for building nests) or friendly or dangerous. Neuroscientist Joseph LeDouxis well known for his investigations of emotion. What he writes about ‘‘emotionalappraisal’’ is relevant to distinguishing this estimative power from the sensuscommunis: When a certain region of the brain is damaged [namely, the temporal lobe], animals or humans lose the capacity to appraise the emotional significance of certain stimuli [but] without any loss in the capacity to perceive the stimuli as objects. The perceptual representation of an object and the evaluation of the significance of an object are separately processed in the brain. [T]he emo- tional meaning of a stimulus can begin to be appraised before the perceptual systems have fully processed the stimulus. It is, indeed, possible for your brain to know that something is good or bad before it knows exactly what it is. (LeDoux 1996, 69)So in Aquinas’s terms, the vis aestimativa is a separate faculty from the sensuscommunis, and it works faster. Capacities more likely to be attributed to the soul in current thinking aremorality and religious experience. There is now a growing field of ‘‘neuroethics’’that uses brain scans to investigate the regions and systems involved in moralreasoning (Green 2001). Much attention has been given in the media to neuralimaging (fMRI) studies of brain activation during prayer or meditation (e.g.,Vedantam 2001). However, religion scholars are critical of attempts to relate re-ligious experience directly to localizable brain activity, noting that the category of‘‘religious experience’’ is broad and heterogeneous. Thus, numerous brain regionsand systems should be expected to be involved (Watts 1999), and these are likely tobe systems subserving ordinary cognitive and emotional processes (Murphy 1998). The increasing ability of neuroscience to investigate the brain processes thatsubserve capacities traditionally attributed to the soul can never, of course, disprovedualism. That is, one can argue that soul functions are merely closely correlatedwith brain processes. However, such arguments, in the language of the philosophyof science, appear more and more ad hoc. At the same time that developments in neuroscience are making dualism moreproblematic, philosophers have come to a near-consensus on the insolubility of theproblem of explaining how a nonmaterial mind or soul could interact causally witha material body (for a contrary view, see Swinburne 1997). Thus, science, philos-ophy, and Christian scholarship are all pointing toward a physicalist account of ____Àhuman nature. ____0 ____þ
  18. 18. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_562_02-15-08 562 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology 2.3.3. Islam Islam, founded in the seventh century C.E., has inherited much of the ambiguity of both Jewish and Christian accounts of human nature. Popular accounts of Islamic belief, like those of Christianity, tend to involve body-soul dualism. However, the history of Islamic scholarship parallels that of Christianity and Judaism in sig- nificant respects. The Arabic term nafs, like the Hebrew nephesh, has been inter- preted variously. Most early Muslim theologians understood it either as itself material or as a property of the material body; a few understood it as a purely spiritual substance (De Boer 1920, 11:744–47). Scholars in the Middle Ages devel- oped the Aristotelian interpretations described above, while others held substance dualism. These various interpretations, then, raise the same questions about the Quran that modern critical scholars raise about the Hebrew and Christian scriptures: Is body-soul dualism an essential teaching? Fathi Osman provides an interpretation of the Quran that fits Dunn’s aspective account. The human being is a unity, ‘‘a correlated totality’’ (Osman 1997, 79) that can be viewed ‘‘from the psychological- intellectual-spiritual and social angles’’ (65). Like Christianity, Islamic teaching places a great deal of emphasis on bodily resurrection, but more emphasis on judgment and on descriptions of the life to come in paradise. Thus, Islamic teaching provides a precedent for a physicalist account of human nature and is open to scientific investigation of distinctive human capacities. Osman, commenting on the frequent references to the heart as the center of spiritual consciousness, asks: ‘‘Is such repeated reference to the heart meant to be metaphorical, or does it allude to the physical heart? . . . And if the word is used metaphorically does it mean precisely ‘the mind,’ or more or less? . . . All these questions invite more research from physiologists and psychologists, as well as from scholars of Arabic, comparative linguistics and literature’’ (1997, 89). 2.4. Challenges to physicalism Although it is possible to reconcile theological accounts of human nature with all of current biology, including neuroscience, significant intellectual problems con- front physicalists. One problem for physicalists is the question of how to account for religious experience. It certainly involves brain activity, but is it only that, as some would argue? It became common in the Middle Ages to believe that God’s relationship to humans was entirely mediated by their souls, and there is a widespread assump- tion today that God, as Spirit, can only interact with a like substance, a spiritual soul. If one is to make sense of the practice of prayer and the reality of religious experience understood as a consequence of divine action, then the physicalist has to give an account of how God interacts with matter. Traditional accounts of1____ ‘‘salvation history’’ are full of divine action of a physical sort, such as the provi-0 ____ sion of food and the healing of physical illnesses, but these came to be seen as1____
  19. 19. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_563_02-15-08 biology and religion 563problematic in modern thought, largely due to the Newtonian conception of theuniverse as a closed causal order. It was thought that any act of God in the physicalrealm would have to be a violation of the laws of nature (themselves ordained byGod) and, thus, somehow beneath God’s dignity. While it remains an open andserious question how God’s action is to be reconciled with scientific accounts ofcausation, interesting proposals involving current scientific resources have beendeveloped (see, e.g., Russell et al., 1999). The important point here is that divineaction in human experience, mediated by action on the brain, presents no addi-tional problem. An important controversy in the philosophy of biology that has significantimplications for the present topic is that between reductionists and antireduc-tionists. Is it the case that all behavior of organisms, including humans, is a productsolely of their genes or, more plausibly, of their neurobiology? E. O. Wilson states:‘‘The transition from purely phenomenological to fundamental theory in sociologymust await a full neuronal explanation of the human brain . . . . Cognition will betranslated into circuitry . . . . Having cannibalized psychology, the new neurobi-ology will yield an enduring set of first principles for sociology’’ (Wilson 1975,quoted in Rose 1997, 83). Reductionism is represented more starkly in JamesWatson’s view that there is only one science, physics, and everything else is socialwork (personal communication, in Rose 1997, 8). In contrast, many scholars wouldagree with Steven Rose, who argues that organisms organize and direct their ownbehavior; we can only understand genes and cells by looking at the organism as awhole and at its current and historical locations and contexts (Rose 1997). Current scholars in a variety of disciplines have taken up the challenge toexplain how the behavior of a complex system can fail to be a product of thebehavior of its parts. This is necessary to explain human freedom, rationality, andmoral responsibility. It is also relevant to the above question of the nature ofreligious experience: How can it be the case that religious experience is anythingmore than a function of brain processes? The most-promising moves here involve the concept of downward causation.That is, we see the world as organized into a hierarchy of levels of complexity, withlower-level entities providing the constituents of the next higher level: biochemicals,cells, tissues, organisms, societies. The modern assumption has been that all of thecausal work is done at the bottom, at the level of physics. It is now becoming widelyrecognized that, in this hierarchy, complex systems have evolved that have reciprocalinfluences on the behavior of their parts (Juarrero 1999; Murphy and Brown 2007). It is likely that current controversies over cloning, abortion, the use of humanstem cells, and cessation of life support in cases of brain death reflect a morefundamental controversy between dualists and physicalists. All but the first of thesecan be seen as differences between those who believe that all human life involves asoul, which requires the same moral protection as any other, and others who,lacking such a concept, believe that the issues must be settled on more-empiricaland pragmatic grounds. The issue of cloning arises in some cases from the fear that ____Àa cloned ‘‘human’’ would be a physical body without a soul. ____0 ____þ
  20. 20. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_564_02-15-08 564 the oxford handbook of philosophy of biology The concept of soul certainly has played a valuable role in ethics in the West, for example, in arguments against infanticide and slavery. However, it has also been used in arguments for slavery and for other purposes that most today would regard as wrong, such as the wanton exploitation of animals (since they have no souls) and discrimination against women (males are more dominated by their souls, women by their bodies). The Abrahamic faiths (as with all of the other major religious traditions) are rich in alternative resources for the moral protection of the most vulnerable. Provisions in Jewish law for the care of widows, orphans, and strangers (empha- sized in Islam as well) can be taken as paradigmatic for the care of all those who cannot protect or provide for themselves. A major focus of Jesus’ teaching was care for ‘‘the least of the brethren.’’ So, for example, Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas bases his consideration of abortion not on the question of whether an embryo or fetus has a soul, but on the tradition of welcoming the stranger. The question to ask is not whether the fetus is a person but rather why Christians (and others) should want children (Hauerwas 1981). While some slave owners taught their slaves to read so they could read the Bible, others forbade it precisely because they recognized its revolutionary potential. 2.5. Conclusion To varying degrees, the religions of the world have resources for (and interests in) reconciling their accounts of human nature with biology in general and neurobi- ology in particular. In fact, many scholars argue that Judaism and Christianity will return to more-authentic forms in adopting a (nonreductive) physicalist position. In this regard, biology is not only not an enemy of faith but rather a helpful friend. 3. Extraterrestrial Life? ................................................................................................................................................. Experts are divided between those who think that conditions for life’s origin are so specific and so unlikely to be reproduced elsewhere that we are probably alone, and those who argue from the vast number of stars that the probability of life arising elsewhere, even in many places, is quite high. So, what significance would other complex life forms have for religion? One theological issue for all of the Abrahamic faiths is what to make of the teaching of Genesis that the human race is somehow special in God’s eyes. Creation in the first account climaxes with the creation of humans; a disproportionate number of words is dedicated to the creation of humans; it is said that we are1____ created in God’s image. The second creation account again focuses on the human0 ____ pair and also gives them dominion over other life forms. Some might argue that1____
  21. 21. 36702_u23_UNCORR_PRF.3d_565_02-15-08 biology and religion 565intelligent life elsewhere in the universe would challenge this traditional view of thesignificance of the human race and thus challenge biblical teaching. Another point of view is that life in other parts of the universe would notcontradict biblical teaching on this score. One can argue, as did even one of themost-conservative Christian writers of the twentieth century, George McCreadyPrice (see Numbers 1992, 41-2), that Genesis only refers to life on Earth. It wouldencourage reflection on why humans, among Earth’s other life forms, have theo-logical significance. Muslims emphasize intelligence and spirituality. The rest of theBible (both Jewish and Christian) sees the reason in humans’ capacity for a rela-tionship with God: the intelligence to allow for knowledge of God; other attributesallowing for a personal relationship with a ‘‘personal’’ God. If such relationshipsare important to God, it should not be surprising if God’s design of the universewould allow for as many creatures as possible with comparable intellectual andemotional capacities as those of Homo sapiens. A further question is raised specifically for Christians. Since the whole of theChristian story is one of God reaching out to the human race in a variety of waysand finally in Jesus, it would be inconsistent to assume the existence of other lifeforms capable of responding to such overtures and yet to deny any event on otherplanets comparable to God’s actions in Jesus. The question, then, is what thiswould mean for the significance of Jesus. There is a principle in theology that everypossible importance is to be ascribed to Jesus that does not lead to inconsistency.The ways that Christians have found to express the significance of Jesus are varied:from ‘‘the unique son of God’’ in John’s Gospel, and Chalcedonian claims of the‘‘consubstantiality’’ of the Son with the Father, to more-modest claims that Jesus isthe unsurpassable revelation of God to humankind (or merely to Western culture).The hypothesis of other savior/revealer figures in other parts of the universe doesnot refute strong claims for the significance of Jesus, but it will call for reexami-nation of the language in which those claims are stated. REFERENCES.................................................................................................................................................Adams, Marilyn McCord. (2000). Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.Alexander, Richard D. (1987). The Biology of Moral Systems. New York: De Gruyter.Barrett, Justin. (2007). ‘‘Theological Implications of the Cognitive Science of Religion.’’ In Joseph Bubulia, Richard Sosis, Erica Harris, Russell Genet, Cheryl Genet, and Karen Wyman (eds.),The Evolution of Religion: Studies, Theories, and Critiques, 386-96. Santa Margarita, Calif.: Collins Foundation.Behe, Michael. (1996). Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: Free Press.Berger, Peter. (1967). The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. ____À Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. ____0 ____þ
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