Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Feeling Humans and Social Animals: Theological Considerations for an Evolutionary Account of Human Emotion

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Feeling Humans and Social Animals: Theological Considerations for an Evolutionary Account of Human Emotion

Article excerpt

In an overview of God and evolutionary theory in recent thought, Barbour (2000) categorizes various proponents as representing either a conflict, independence, dialogue, or integration approach. Using an evolutionary psychological (EP) model of the social function of human emotions, these approaches are considered in terms of how one could include EP within a theological ontology. The partnership of EP with dramatic scientific advances in cognitive neuroscience, the Human Genome Project, and proteonomics represent a powerful scientific hegemony in ultimately defining the human condition. The author's Hebraic model of integration proposes a robust framework for accommodating this hegemony within a theological ontology and eschatology, but without appealing to an apologetic of "intelligent design" or an "inner-agent" superseding the natural order. It is a holistic approach based on the core assumptions of physicalism and the power of an empirical epistemology in understanding and treating emotional brokenness. It also sees redemptive emotional healing as portent of the eschatological hope of the physical resurrection, deep social renewal, and the human place in ecological restoration in the Kingdom of God.

Barbour (2000, 2001) notes four major categories of engagement with God and evolutionary theory in recent thought: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration. Theorists, who Barbour classified in the "conflict" category, tended to take a more adversarial tone towards the need for a notion of God in understanding the origin and development of life in the world. Dawkins (1988) for example, in advocating evolutionary materialism, concluded that all forms of life, including humankind, are the result of physical forces and genetic replication as contained within evolutionary law, without the need to resort to creation, design (intelligent or otherwise), purpose, evil, or good. Likewise, Dennett (1995) viewed humankind as having emerged through a blend of chance and necessity within an impersonal process of genes exploring a "design space" by random mutation.

When framed within the cosmological boundaries of the origin and composition of the physical universe as we know it, the natural laws of chance, necessity, contingency, and deep time are sufficient to account for life and the eventual emergence of human life (Conway Morris, 1998; Dawkins, 1996; De Duve, 1996, 1998). In considering the origin of humankind, some proponents see life, including humankind, as having resulted from a cosmic imperative determined by natural laws according to the boundary conditions occurring at the "big bang," and not necessarily the result of an intervention by a supernatural God at any subsequent point in the process (Conway Morris, 1998; De Duve, 1996, 1998).

In opposition to this view stood such scientists as Michael Behe (1996), who pointed to the "irreducible complexity" of the biomolecular composition of organic life, and saw the necessity of "an intervention of information" at some point, perhaps many points, in order for the complexity in evolution to have fully emerged. In fact, the principles of "information" and "energy" are being increasingly viewed by such theorists as foundational to the "design" that most sensibly describes the emergence of life, and necessitating the notion of an intelligent designer (Dembski, 1998, 2001).

In considering the notion of intelligent design and other theological perspectives in the context of the neo-Darwinist movement of evolutionary psychology, I will explore the approaches used by representative theorists in the remaining categories of Barbour's "God and evolution in recent thought" (2001) overview, which are the categories of independence, dialogue, and integration. My focus throughout will be on the psychology of human emotion, especially as applied to the social and interpersonal dimensions of the human experience.

Emotion is a critical case study in considering evolutionary psychology and intelligent design because it is a vital dimension in making us more than information processing machines and it extends into every component of our lives as sentient beings (Damasio, 1999; Dennett, 1992). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.