Intelligent Design Psychology and Evolutionary Psychology on Consciousness: Turning Water into Wine

By Grace, Christopher R.; Moreland, J. P. | Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Intelligent Design Psychology and Evolutionary Psychology on Consciousness: Turning Water into Wine


Grace, Christopher R., Moreland, J. P., Journal of Psychology and Theology


From the titles of some recent evolutionary psychology publications on the mind, one could get the impression that the mystery of consciousness has been solved, but serious questions and doubts persist. Many scientists have deep reservations about Darwinian theory. Some of these scientists promote the Intelligent Design movement, which has received recent attention from scholars in biology, biochemistry, mathematics, philosophy, and theology. Intelligent Design theory both challenges the naturalistic evolutionary account of life and proposes an alternative scientific research program. Its aim is to investigate the natural world for evidence of divine causes and to detect the patterns or fingerprints of an intelligent designer. The implications of this theory for the field of psychology are examined, and a new field, a Christian version of Intelligent Design Psychology ([IDP.sub.c]) is proposed. The article then briefly compares the psychological implications of [IDP.sub.c] with its chief rival, a naturalistic version of evolutionary psychology ([EP.sub.N]), in relation to consciousness and self-consciousness, including why these phenomena provide serious difficulties for [EP.sub.N], while at the same time providing positive support for [IDP.sub.c]. Both approaches are examined for their comparative abilities to describe, explain, and predict various facets of human persons that center on consciousness and self-conscious emotions.

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According to a naturalistic evolutionary account all things, from single cell organisms to human beings to the physical universe, evolved via natural processes. What we see in nature can be explained adequately and fully without appealing to anything nonphysical or supernatural. This account, widely held in academia, has provided the guiding paradigm for numerous fields of scientific study over many decades. If some phenomenon is unexplained or mysterious, like apparent design in biology or human consciousness, it is simply deemed: currently unexplained, but nonetheless naturalistic in origin. Although evidence for a naturalistic account of life has been proffered in fields such as biology and biochemistry for years, only recently have psychologists begun to explain seriously human behavior strictly on the basis of evolutionary principles. Known as evolutionary psychology (EP), this field has seen tremendous growth over the last decade, with numerous books, journals, and articles being published. Seeking to explain all aspects of human behavior from a Darwinian perspective, EP proponents have been successful at getting their views acknowledged (see Grace, 2001; Rose, 2000). Many believe EP will revolutionize the way we currently study human behavior, and a few even believe that a major paradigm shift for all of the social sciences has already begun (Buss, 1995; Cosmides & Tooby, 1992).

Perhaps the greatest test for this new field of EP will be how it responds to one of psychology's oldest mysteries: the phenomenon of human consciousness. EP has initiated a full frontal attack on the study of the human mind using a Darwinian adaptionist approach, and a computational perspective prominently advocated by Fodor (1983). Although critics question the utility of these approaches, proponents point to the progress and success that comes from utilizing their methodology. In fact, from the titles of some recent EP publications on the mind, one could get the impression that the mystery of consciousness has been solved. For example, Pinker (1997) titled his book How the Mind Works; Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby's (1992) influential text is called The Adapted Mind, and Dennett (1991) called his book Consciousness Explained.

But serious questions and doubts persist. Consciousness remains tantalizingly elusive, and no one (not even Pinker himself) seems convinced that EP has come anywhere close to solving this enigma.

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