Re: [asa] Evolution of the Soul

From: Chris Barden <>
Date: Thu Sep 28 2006 - 12:55:32 EDT


I'm sure you didn't mean to be provocative, but in a cowardly attempt
to defend my position I must point out that it is fairly typical of
TEs. I believe it to be congruent, for example, with that of the
authors in "Whatever happened to the soul?" who hold to a nonreductive
physicalism of body-soul unity. Not being able to point to a specific
intervention of God in the development of moral beings does not mean
that there is no such thing as a soul, or that soulishness is "nothing
but" reductive physical processes.

Whether such a position is respectable is beyond my ken. I am, of
course, open to the charge that such an argument reduces the soul to a
mere epiphenomenon. But I'm not sure the Bible ever says otherwise:
we are contingent beings, created by the Creator for his pleasure and


On 9/28/06, Gregory Arago <> wrote:
> Please forgive the delay in responding to this thread, which was started
> after reflecting upon the words of Russian philosopher N. Berdyaev. It is
> sometimes difficult to keep continuity in conversation when the topic
> starter doesn't elaborate on the motivations for asking/writing, but it
> could not be otherwise at this particular time. The thought expressed in the
> OP has been with me for several years already, but the opportunity to ask it
> to you, natural scientists, theologians and some philosophers at ASA seemed
> timely.
> Only two questions come to me regarding the comments: first in David
> Campbell's post, I wonder what is (a) 'spiritual nature' and why those words
> are combined together. This causes me, as a social scientist, to react in a
> similar way to when sociologists write about 'the nature of' society, since
> it is clear that discourse grows around each concept/percept separately and
> respectively. Perhaps it is David's notion that the two signifiers can and
> must be kept together, or integrated, that is, nature and spirit? In such a
> case, would evolution (a purely naturalistic process philosophy) of the soul
> be considered a (purely) 'natural' thing? Is there thus *no* intervention or
> moment of direct spiritual contact from God to his creation, from an ET, TE,
> or CE viewpoint? Perhaps it is not as cut-and-dry as I make it out to be
> either.
> Second, it was pondered by Dave S. about "whether contemporary animists,
> whom we acknowledge as truly human, lost knowledge of God or never
> progressed to it." This made me wonder about whether 'progress' is an
> inevitable component of evolutionary thought, and whether the en-souling of
> humankind is considered 'progress.' Likewise, my post was really about
> learning answers to the "question whether some power or a personal deity is
> the requisite element in humanity." This seems to link with Jim's comment
> about "a different aspect of reality which is harder to conceptualize and
> describe in consensus." Chris gives a direct answer: "No, I don't believe it
> is necessary to hypothesize a particular, intrinsic 'soulishness' that was
> implanted miraculously." Is this a typical or responsible position on the
> supposed evolution of the soul?
> Third, it is necessary to comment on what seems sloppy or perhaps
> disrespectful thinking. It was said, "The people in the Bible go through a
> social evolution. Society has continued this evolution." Then later in the
> same post, "I am not a sociologist - just an observer…I don't know if this
> sociological evolution is the evolution of the soul." Could it be imagined
> saying to a cosmologist or immunologist something about their discipline as
> if it's true, without really *knowing* about cosmology or immunology? Social
> scientists must and should protect the sovereignty of their academic field
> as much as natural scientists and humanitarian scholars should. I can say to
> Debbie (though in fact many social scientists would agree with her general
> reasoning), the times are a changing'! (Neo)-Evolutionary sociology is
> illiterate, in the sense that it doesn't account for (one of) the very
> thing(s) that defines social science apart from natural science; the
> presence of human choice, decision-making, i.e. the human factor.
> 'Sociological evolution' and 'evolution of the soul' are not the same thing
> (just don't trust E.O. Wilson's, K. Wilber's, or for that matter, R.
> Steiner's words for it! E.g. a German in 1997 called Wilber "the foremost
> thinker in the field of the evolution of consciousness.").
> When people speak of 'consciousness,' 'language,' 'mind,' 'rationality,'
> 'intentionality,' 'teleology,' etc. these non-material things cannot be
> subject to analysis in the same way that physical things are analyzed,
> experimented with and tested. Where the soul came from and when it came or
> where our spiritual lives 'emerged' or possessed us or filled us is not
> acceptable/accessible to physical science, including embryology and
> comparative anatomy. Is this a consensus view? There are those who wish to
> go down the path of comparing human beings with other animals at this point,
> but I'd rather stick to a conversation strictly about humans, since we are
> said to be made in God's image and given the Holy Spirit in baptism, and we
> who are speaking here on this list are ourselves human beings.
> But *why* use the concept/percept of 'evolution' to describe how God
> breathed life into human existence?? Are people not somehow tying God's
> hands by saying 'He evolved us' in a similar way to what they do when they
> say 'God (or an unidentified 'intelligent designer') designed us'? The
> choice of language is fundamental to such discussions. When people say 'God
> evolves' are they not just subjecting God to the particular language of the
> epoch (i.e. post-modern), perhaps to justify a certain viewpoint that they
> have as a (situated, perspectival) scientist/scholar about the (necessary)
> relationship between science and religion, spirituality or theology? It may
> be, also, that Berdyaev is more content to rest his views on a mystical
> foundation, than on a rationalist foundation where the appearance of God's
> rainbow is reasonable, where God's miracles are reasonable and the origin(s)
> of our soul is something that can be reasonably explained or described using
> natural scientific terminology. Frankly speaking, I am glad the answers
> given on this list to this topic have been somewhat mysterious. :-)
> Berdyaev, it seems to me from my reading (interpretation) of him, would
> prefer to keep the mystery of God's creation on a higher or different level
> than reductive rationalism or scientism. God certainly cannot be explained
> using biological science (alone)!! Though certainly no one would want to
> charge Charles Darwin of Down, England with such a thing as that! ;->
> Gregory A.
> P.s. this week a conference is being held in Moscow by St. Andrew's College
> that is dedicated the faith and works of Nikolai Berdyaev. I know a couple
> of people who are there and may have a report to give when they return. The
> website you can view here:
> p.p.s. I don't imagine there's a G. Santayana, W. James, J. Dewey or R.W.
> Emerson conference happening somewhere in America this week, where Orthodox
> faith and works is being discussed…?
> p.p.p.s It seems to me that David Campbell is one of the bravest persons at
> ASA in attempting answers and contributions on such difficult topics, always
> with gracefulness and patience of understanding…bravo and thanks!!!
> David Campbell <> wrote:
> Among those who accept both evolutionary origins of humans and the existence
> of human spiritual nature, some have suggested a fairly direct infusion of
> this spiritual nature into a non-spiritual, biologically evolved body.
> Others have suggested a gradual evolution of spirituality, paralleling
> biological evolution. Yet another possibility is that God designed
> organisms such that, when a particular threshold of intellectual capacity
> was reached via evolution, the organism would become spiritually aware as
> well.
> I don't know any good way to test these ideas. If we could establish
> agreement as to what physical evidence consistutes evidence of a spiritual
> nature, then we could look for traces of them in the archeological record.
> Although several people have proposed such criteria, there isn't general
> agreement. Furthermore, inability to find such traces associated with early
> hominids could merely mean that the traces are not preserved or that we're
> not looking for the right thing, so it would be hard to get a clear answer
> even with agreement on what to look for.
> Accepting evolution more or less entails accepting that the Bible is not
> especially concerned with telling us about the methods of creation. Knowing
> that God did it doesn't distinguish among the options above (not to mention
> other possibilities that I didn't think of).
> This is somewhat related to the question of when and how babies get souls,
> to the historically debated question of whether newly discovered peoples
> were fully human and in need of evangelism, to speculation on the spiritual
> status of extraterrestrials, etc. Arguments on those topics might provide
> some ideas, but probably would not provide many answers, except insofar as
> taking a particular stance on one of these might have implications for the
> others.
> --
> Dr. David Campbell
> 425 Scientific Collections
> University of Alabama
> "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
> ________________________________
> All new Yahoo! Mail - ________________________________
> Get a sneak peak at messages with a handy reading pane.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu Sep 28 12:56:16 2006

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Sep 28 2006 - 12:56:16 EDT