Much of what I wrote in the previous post can be likewise directed toward the two positions called ‘theistic evolution’ (TE) and ‘evolutionary creation’ (EC). These two similar views are particularly popular among monotheists of the Abrahamic faiths who have little problem with the natural-physical science of evolutionary biology and at the same time who reject ‘young earth’ (YE) arguments based on a literal reading of the first two chapters in the Book of Genesis. As Robert J. Russell says, “evolution is God’s way of creating life.” (2003: 336) This ‘camp’ of thinkers called TE or EC is more openly religious than ‘intelligent design’ (ID) proponents due to the fact that they include ‘theism’ or ‘creation’ in their respective labels.
TE and EC as positions or labels basically constitute those people who believe that the Creator guides or directs the processes of change-over-time that we observe ‘in nature,’ even if we cannot scientifically prove the guidance or direction (cf. Teleology). They represent the vast majority of religious persons today who see no conflict between evolutionary biology and religious belief or spirituality, between accepting an ‘old Earth,’ studying theology and/or being a person of faith. Where the discussion becomes most complicated and full of tension is when evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, ethology and cognitive studies (e.g. origins of consciousness) are involved and when (neo-)Darwinian evolution is turned into an atheistic and oftentimes anti-theistic ideology called ‘(neo-)Darwinism.’
The strongest challenge to TEs and ECs is for them to openly identify ‘limitations’ of evolution as a natural-physical scientific theory that should not dictate to their theology. There are, after all, no Theistic Gravitationists or Uncertainty Creationists; people don’t often feel a need to share the stage of their theology’s validity or lack thereof with most other natural scientific principles or laws. Why then do certain Abrahamic monotheists feel a need to partner their religious faith with a naturalistic scientific theory such as evolutionary biology? Why do they elevate evolution from cosmology, geology and biology to technology, ethics, economics and religion? It is because ‘evolution’ is a special theory, unique for what it claims that does indeed challenge traditional or classical theology.
The need for an alternative to TE and EC is based responsibly upon rejecting the extremism that takes place under the name of evolutionistic ideology or ‘universal evolutionism.’ Those who subscribe to TE and EC, just as with universal Darwinists (e.g. R. Dawkins. S. Blackmore, D. Dennett), tend to exaggerate the number of fields in which ‘evolution’ should be considered as valid, based on an outdated or primitive (read: Anglo-American analytic) philosophical approach to ‘science.’ They accept almost the same views of the elevated status of natural-physical sciences as do atheists and agnostics in regard to ‘evolution.’ They tie evolutionary theory tightly together with their theology, committing the error of embracing evolutionistic ideology as part and whole along with naturalistic science. Their theology is thus highly biased (i.e. towards process thought) and oftentimes evasive with respect to possible ‘interventions’ or actual ‘guidance’ by the Creator ‘in nature.’ It often discounts the common and specific human belief in supernatural or extra-natural ‘miracles.’
The pure naturalist, neo-Darwinist camp commits a similar error in not giving pride of place to human interventions into our biology, above the level of natural-physical change-over-time. They deem the ‘artificial’ as simply ‘natural.’ They elevate the term ‘evolution’ into culture, values, beliefs and ethics, adding a triumphalist tone to the assumption that evolutionary biology (or genomics) is the king or queen of the sciences. This exaggeration of ‘evolution’ into fields that involve human beings is a classic case of academic transferability fraud, easily seen in the examples of socio-biology and ‘memetics.’ The neo-Darwinist allegiance to science is often fueled by anti-theism, denying the possibility of studying or exploring anything not ‘natural’ according to their definition. The arrival of Human Extension is meant to curb the excesses of evolutionism and naturalism by offering an alternative language of expression and a new method for social sciences, centred on human choices and their consequences in nature and society.
Human Extension as a neo-id approach points out that materialism, naturalism, and scientism, lack coherent meaning as ideologies once human beings are reflexively, personally involved. One can use scientific methods to study nature and material objects without necessarily extrapolating science into a disenchanting worldview. Muslims, Christians, Jews and Baha’is may accept ‘natural evolution’ as a suitable category to use ‘in biology’ and in some other natural-physical sciences. But they may also conclude it is an unacceptable category to apply to meaning in human life, as studied in social ‘sciences,’ which requires an ‘enchanted’ world of purpose, choice and plan.
Human Extension thus cuts across the divide between TEists, ECists and IDers, the latter who believe that science can be said to prove that ‘design/Design’ is not just imaginary, but actually real ‘in nature.’ Non-theists, agnostics and atheists are also welcome to consider the meaning of Human Extension in their lives and in the human societies, cultures, communities and families in which they live. There is no reason to call Human Extension an example of neo-Theistic Evolution or neo-Evolutionary Creation because once evolutionary theory is seen as a limited natural-physical scientific approach, the reasons for tightly coupling it into a label for one’s self-identity fall away.
For this author, the purpose of constructing a ‘neo-id’ theory has been not to seek ‘cultural renewal’ (primarily in the United States), but rather to indicate a clear, coherent and responsible scholarly view of reality that maintains the integrity of a fruitful, cooperative dialogue between three major realms: science (including both human-social and natural-physical), philosophy and theology (also welcoming religion and/or worldview). What is thus sought is a fresh start, with new terms, instead of banging one’s head against a polemical dialogue wall, based on ‘culture warring’ mentalities.
‘Design’ is real; it exists and is ‘scientifically’ detectable in some spheres, if not in others. Human Extension, however, is a more powerful term than ‘design,’ worthy to be considered as an alternative to evolution that inherently involves teleology, choice and action. Without extension, none of us is moving or going anywhere!
Human Extension says ‘No More,’ to the USA’s evolution-creation-design Culture War; this is something for which appeasement-oriented TEs and ECs who seek meaningful truths in science and scripture can get on-board.
Miller, Keith ed. Perspectives of an Evolving Creation. Eerdmans, 2003.