Re: consilience
Wed, 14 Apr 1999 08:27:29 -0500

Paul Arveson writes:

"But EO Wilson, in "Consilience", does not leave out
a naturalistic conception of religion. This too comes
under the embrace of naturalism. Since his early
works, Wilson (among others) has sought to bring
biology, sociology, and every other aspect of human existence
under a comprehensive, atheistic, materialistic world view.
And Wilson is only the latest in a long line of 'Enlightenment'
writers with the same motive.

"Of course Christian philosophers strive to do the same thing,
e.g. to embrace the stars and fossils within a 'theistic' world view.
We are both engaged in this 'wrestling match', each
trying to enclose and subdue the other.

"At this postmodern point what intrigues me is not the continued
construction of my own world view, but the yin and yang of their
interaction on the wrestling mat.


I agree that the resolution of the issue of
philosophical naturalism appears as a sort of wrestling
match in a post-modern context. E.O. Wilson (your
example) thinks that philosophical naturalism will
predominate through consilience. In contrast, I think
that philosophical naturalism has been an impediment
to consilience - especially in regards to putting
humans under the lens of natural inquiry.

Philosophical naturalism, by precluding the divine,
attenuates our recognition of the religious impulse
as an important natural phenomenon. It cannot allow
religion the essential emotional and cognitive roles
and evolutionary import that are currently ascribed
to the other ultra-social trait - language. I think
that the religious impulse is as natural and as
relevant in the realization of human potential as

In that conviction, we come to the question of
what the 'nature' of nature is. I don't think that
Christians hold such a view without the
deep appreciation of the formative capabilities of
God's creation that is reflected in Van Till's

To me, Van Till's concept of a 'fully gifted creation'
allows us to appreciate, as participants, what we will
soon learn about ourselves as objects of natural
inquiry. FGC encourages the multi-level consilience
that Wilson intuitively seeks.

How are we to conjecture the adaptive features of
the religious impulse - as an 'instinct to learn' and
as 'a principle of organizing our emotion and cognition'
- if we are ideologically divorced from the yearnings
and feelings that we are supposed to naturally
experience? Philosophical naturalism means that
- as consilience progresses in the natural realm -
we become more alienated from ourselves.

The concept of a FCG allows us to aesthetically
exprience our nature as we learn more about it
scientifically. To me, this is the irony and the
beauty of this postmodern wrestling match. Research
programs inspired by FGC may provide the 'natural
explanations' about ourselves that bring us deeper
into consilience than those inspired by philosophical
naturalism. As E.O. Wilson's consilience wins,
his philosophy loses.