I think, therefore I am - not? - 2
- Evolutionary biology shows the transition from animal to human to be too gradual to make sense of the idea that we humans have souls while animals do not, wrote Dr. Murphy, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. All the human capacities once attributed to the mind or soul are now being fruitfully studied as brain processes or, more accurately, I should say, processes involving the brain, the rest of the nervous system and other bodily systems, all interacting with the socio-cultural world.Therefore, she writes, it is faulty reasoning to want to distinguish people from the rest of creation. She and Dr. Haught cite the ideas of Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century philosopher and theologian who, Dr. Haught said, spoke of a vegetative and animal soul along with the human soul.Dr. Haught, who testified for the American Civil Liberties Union when it successfully challenged the teaching of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism, in the science classrooms of Dover, Pa., said, The way I look at it, instead of eliminating the notion of a human soul in order to make us humans fit seamlessly into the rest of nature, its wiser to recognize that there is something analogous to soul in all living beings.Does this mean, say, that Australopithecus afarensis, the proto-human famously exemplified by the fossil skeleton known as Lucy, had a soul? He paused and then said: I think so, yes. I think all of our hominid ancestors were ensouled in some way, but that does not rule out the possibility that as evolution continues, the shape of the soul can vary just as it does from individual to individual.Will this idea catch on? Its not something you hear in the suburban pulpit, said Dr. Haught, a Roman Catholic whose book God After Darwin (Westview Press, 2000) is being reissued this year. This is out of vogue in the modern world because the philosopher Descartes made such a distinction between mind and matter. He placed the whole animal world on the side of matter, which is essentially mindless.Dr. Haught said it could be difficult to discuss the soul and evolution because it was one of many issues in which philosophical thinking was not keeping up with fast-moving science. The theology itself is still in process, he said.For scientists who are people of faith, like Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, asking about the science of the soul is pointless, in a way, because it is not a subject science can address. It is not physical and investigateable in the world of science, he said.Everything we know about the biological sciences says that life is a phenomenon of physics and chemistry, and therefore the notion of some sort of spirit to animate it and give the flesh a life really doesnt fit with modern science, said Dr. Miller, a Roman Catholic whose book, Finding Darwins God (Harper, 1999) explains his reconciliation of the theory of evolution with religious faith. However, if you regard the soul as something else, as you might, say, the spiritual reflection of your individuality as a human being, then the theology of the soul it seems to me is on firm ground.Dr. Miller, who also testified in the Dover case, said he spoke often at college campuses and elsewhere and was regularly asked, What do you say as a scientist about the soul? His answer, he said, is always the same: As a scientist, I have nothing to say about the soul. Its not a scientific idea.
Frank Thomas Smith
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