Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Consciousness and evolution

We live in a time when many "evangelical" Christians are desperate to harmonize evolution with as much traditional theology as they can salvage. Of course, this isn't a new development. It's been going on ever since Darwin published his landmark book. In addition, the popularity of the evolution in church circles tends to wax and wane. Some periods are more accepting while other periods are more resistant. But at the moment we're living in a time when the pace of acceptance is accelerating. 

Although the theory of evolution raises many theologically significant questions about creation, providence, divine revelation, and Biblical hermeneutics, the flashpoint has always been human evolution. 

According to evolutionary theory, human intelligence evolved because the brain evolved. Human intelligence tracks brain development. As the brain became bigger and more complex, hominids became smarter.

However, one of the most ironic and interesting developments in late 20C philosophy has been the "hard problem of consciousness." On that view, consciousness has properties that are not reducible to a physical state.

There are several different arguments feeding into this position. And it's been developed by secular philosophers. These are default physicalists. They dearly wish there was no hard problem of consciousness.

If one or more of the arguments for the hard problem of consciousness are sound, then advances in neuroscience are impotent to solve the problem. 

Now, the hard problem of consciousness blows a huge hole right through the center of human evolution. For if the hard problem of consciousness is insoluble, then evolutionary psychology is false. But how can human evolution be true if evolutionary psychology is false? There's a clash of two essentially different paradigms. 

In addition, the hard problem of consciousness dovetails seamlessly with traditional Christian dualism, where man is a composite of a physical body and an incorporeal soul. The soul is the source of consciousness (mind, personality).

Although many Christians feel harried by the "evidence" for evolution, there's a sense in which the hard problem of consciousness is a gift to beleaguered Christians. This is a bulwark against human evolution. An impregnable bulwark, if it's soundly argued.

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