0001 Is the current scientific consensus on human origins at odds with core theological doctrines at the heart of the evangelical faith?
You bet it is.
0002 Well, is this a blessing in disguise?
It may well be.
0003 When science clashes with key theological doctrines, such as Augustine’s doctrine of original sin, Christians may need to strive for better theological essentials.
0004 Does the same apply to science?
Can I say, “When the theological doctrine of original sin pushes back against our current consensus on the evolutionary sciences, researchers may need to search for better scientific essentials.”?
0005 On December 11, 2019, Jeff Hardin, member of the Department of Integrative Biology at UW-Madison, publishes his essay, Biology and Theological Anthropology: Friend or Foe?, on the Biologos website.
In the introduction, he joins British neuroscientist, Donald McKay, in asking (more or less), “Does God give us Darwin, Mendel and Rawlinson in order to achieve a less improper interpretation of His Word?”
0006 At the same time, one cannot ignore a reflection.
Does God give us the Bible in order to achieve a less improper interpretation of human natural history, genetics and Near Eastern Literature?
0007 Jeff Hardin, unlike most writers on this confounding topic, does not hide the question in the mirror.
0008 In order to appreciate how science and metaphysics mirror one another, I turn to Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) Natural Philosophy (available at the smashwords website under the Empirio-schematic series).
Science is successfully born at the start of the modern age, with the formulation of the Positivist’s judgment.
What is a judgment?
A judgment is a relation between ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’. When the elements are assigned to Peirce’s categories, the judgment becomes actionable. Actionable judgments unfold into category-based nested forms.
0009 Here is a diagram of the Positivist’s judgment.
0010 The positivist intellect, the relation, insists on a rule: No metaphysics. Surely, this is one reason why scientific inquiry into human evolution grates against theological anthropology.
What ought to be is an empirio-schematic judgment.
Disciplinary language (relation) brings observations and measurements (what is) into relation with mathematical and mechanical models (what ought to be).
0011 What is what is?
What is has the structure of Peirce’s secondness. The category of secondness is the realm of actuality. Secondness consists of two contiguous real elements.
Here, the two real elements, a noumenon and its phenomena, belong to firstness, the realm of potential. The noumenon, the thing itself, has the potential of capturing the attention of the positivist intellect. Itsphenomena, observable and measurable facets of the thing, have the potential of activating an empirio-schematic judgment.
The contiguity is most curious. I place the contiguity in brackets. A noumenon [cannot be objectified as] its phenomena.
0012 Centuries ago, the scholastic hylomorphe, matter [substantiates] form, occupies the slot of what is for a rational intellect.
The positivist rule dissolves this hylomorphe and precipitates another dyad, a noumenon [cannot be objectified as] its phenomena.
The noumenon is the thing itself.
Phenomena are observable and measurable facets of the noumenon.
The original hylomorphe gets shuffled into the noumenon.
The positivist intellect has a rule.
0013 Here is a picture.
0014 I ask, “What is it to be a human being?”
Obviously, the relevant answer points to the noumenon.
So, I should look to metaphysics.
0015 But, the positivist intellect says, “No metaphysics is allowed.”
Scientists are only interested in the observable and measurable facets of matter [substantiates] form, as well as of body [substantiates] soul. They are not concerned about the noumenon. Their observations may be mechanically modeled. Their measurements may be mathematically construed. Their models rely on the lingo of specialized disciplines.
Scientists engage in empirio-schematic judgments, the what ought to be of the Positivist’s judgment.
0016 Okay, if this makes sense, then the dyad, expressing what is for the Positivist judgment, provides a way to appreciate the mirroring of the question raised by Jeff Hardin.
0017 The distinction between a noumenon and its phenomena is valuable because it allows scientists to study phenomena, while ignoring the metaphysics associated with their noumenon.
So, while many inquirers ask noumenal questions, “Where did we humans come from? What went wrong? What is the cure?”, the scientific answers are based on clues concerning what would be the observable and measurable facets of hominin evolution as witnessed by a disinterested observer.
0018 Here is an association between modern versions of theological & biological anthropology and what is for the Positivist’s judgment.
0019 What do scientists look for?
Evolutionary scientists look for clues. Then, they analyze those clues with specific models built by empirical scientists and geneticists. The clues turn into observable and measurable features of the evolutionary record that may be then analyzed according to models proposed by biologists and natural historians. The result is a narrative of hominin evolution.
The evolutionary record is a product of scientific inquiry. It is expressed as a narrative.
0020 This conclusion is implicit in Hardin’s treatment of human natural history. He presents a narrative.
What does this imply?
Human evolutionary sciences are forensic sciences. They rely on theories by the empirical and natural sciences. They are devoted to producing a narrative describingwhat happened, in accordance with the positivist rule.
0021 The empirical sciences have it easy. They assume that the subject of inquiry is real, because they encounter the things themselves.
Empiricists know that the thing itself cannot be reduced to its observable and measurable facets.
0022 The forensic scientists have a more difficult time. They assume that the subject of inquiry ought to be real, but the thing itself is no longer present. They must construct a narrative about what the subject of inquirymust have been, as if it could be observed by a disinterested observer. Clues are studied in order to ascertain the phenomena that would have been observed. Then, these forensic-built phenomena are subject to an empirio-schematic judgment.
Hardin addresses this construction in a section on science and human origins.
0023 The rational mind must wonder, “Is human evolution nothing more than a narrative that scientists build from phenomena rigorously constructed from various clues?”
If that is true, then the noumenon of human evolution can be objectified by its phenomena, violating the structure of the Positivist’s what is.
0024 Is this rather disorienting?
Obviously, we cannot appreciate human evolution as a noumenon, because the thing itself is no longer present for direct examination.
So, the evolutionary sciences formulate what the phenomena of human evolution must be.
They end up providing a narrative.
Yet, this scientific narrative cannot give us an appreciation of what it is to be an evolved human, even though our sense of what is it to be human evolved.
0025 Even worse, what if humans evolved to pay attention to noumena?
Such a proposal explains why classicists and believers come up with hylomorphic descriptions of things and people in the first place.
Such a proposal accounts for why a narrative is relevant.
0026 The unsettling end to the prior blog shows where Jeff Hardin’s discussion can go.
Hardin poses one question. A second question mirrors the first. The transit from one question to the other turns everything backwards. One question reflects phenomena onto their noumenon. The other reflects a noumenon onto its phenomena.
Scientists study phenomena. Their data makes sleepiness great.
Humans pay attention to noumena. Our attentiveness is likely innate.
0027 We want to hear a narrative about the thing itself. Forget about the empirio-schematic judgments about its phenomena.
Evolution, as a forensic science, offers a data-driven narrative. But, it’s really a projection of models onto the thing itself. So, the story from phenomena inherently violates the dyad of what is in the Positivist’s judgment.
So, it will never satisfy. It will never offer me a way to appreciate who I am.
0028 I am a tarnished image of God.
The Bible offers a narrative, which many call “special revelation”. Special revelation captures our attention. Reading the words bring us into awareness of the thing itself.
0029 Hardin offers the following picture.
Hardin argues that the narratives of the evolutionary sciences provide constraints on interpretations of what it is to be human from Genesis.
0030 The following is a particularly important application.
0031 In the next blog, I will look at the same argument in the mirror within the heart of Hardin’s essay.
0032 Here is a mirror picture of Hardin’s argument.
0033 Ah, the current narrative of human evolution cannot account for a twist. All written origin stories of the ancient Near East depict a recent creation of humanity.
What does that imply?
Our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.
Surely, the phenomena of the Developed Neolithic tell us as much. Once the towns of the Uruk period arise in the Tigris and Euphrates River delta, there is no looking back. Civilization begins.
0034 So, we can pose a question to the origin stories of the Ancient Near East.
What makes civilization possible?
They tell us that humans are recent creations by the gods.
0035 What does this imply?
The manufacture of humans by newly differentiated gods indicates that the ancient scribes and storytellers could not see beyond a certain point in the past. They could not see into the Lebenswelt that we evolved in. I call this time horizon: the first singularity.
The evolutionary sciences do not see what is right in front of them.
0037 First, there are two origins depicted in Genesis. The Creation Story covers Genesis 1:1-2.3. The stories of Adam and Eve start at Genesis 2.4.
Both comport with the style and content of ancient Near East texts.
0038 Second, those in Abraham’s tradition treat both origin stories as real.
The Creation Story justifies the Sabbath as a day of rest, as codified by Moses.
The stories of Adam and Eve, in contrast, suddenly come into the limelight when St. Paul connects the Jewish revelation, fulfilled in Christ, to all humanity, all the way back to Adam. Adam is where Jews and Gentiles converge.
0039 What does this imply?
The Bible conveys the noumenon of a recent prehistoric change, the first singularity, that alters the course of human evolution.
0040 There are two origin stories in the Bible.
Perhaps, to evolutionary scientists, the leisurely day-to-day development in Genesis One is a better analogy to the origin of our world and ourselves, than the bizarre abrupt manufacturing scenes in the stories of Adam and Eve.
At the same time, the surprising fairy-tale construction of Adam and Eve testifies that the evolutionary scientists miss a crucial turn of events. All the written origin myths of the ancient Near East concur with the stories of Adam and Eve. Humans are recent creations by the divine.
0041 Does Jeff Hardin call for new models of human evolution in light of both science and the Bible?
I suspect he does.
He does not go so far as to call for a new empirio-schematic judgment.
0042 Jeff Hardin suggests that Biblical interpretation and scientific interpretation should move in tandem.
There are three postmodern lines that bind them.
They appear in the following diagram.
0043 The three strands are the Lebenswelt that we evolved in,our current Lebenswelt, and the transition between the two.
Amazingly, this binding is already on display in three masterworks by Razie Mah… er… this commentator.
I start with the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.
0044 Here is an interpretation of the Bible.
The Creation Story is a sign of the evolutionary record. Just as various Genesis days unfold and build on one another, the evolution of our planet evolves through ages. The construction of the tent of the heavens and the earth is like a stained glass window looking out onto the evolution of our world.
What does the Creation Story tell me about what it is to be human?
Only with the appearance of the intention of man does the spirit find a home in the material world. The human soul informs the human body. The human body substantiates the human soul. Our lineage comes into existence as images of God.
0045 This describes a noumenon. What about its phenomena?
This noumenon calls for a new approach to evolutionary science.
The fish have an ultimate niche: the potential of water. The birds have an ultimate niche: the potential of air. Water and air are material actualities independent of the adapting species.
0046 What about our ancestors?
Hominins have an ultimate niche: the potential of triadic relations. Triadic relations are real, yet immaterial. They are independent of the adapting species. Triadic relations cannot be reduced to material and instrumental causalities. Yet, they entangle them.
Humans adapt into the niche of triadic relations.
0047 This claim stands at the center of A Course on the Human Niche, which is available at smashwords.
The course begins with A Primer on Natural Signs, proceeds to four commentaries on recent publications on human evolution, then concludes with the masterwork, The Human Niche.
This course is a comprehensive alternative to current Positivist constructions of the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.
Theological anthropology [cannot be objectified as] biological anthropology, but the two can move together.
0048 What about the transition toour current Lebenswelt?
Is there a way that theological anthropology and the anthropology of civilized folk move together?
0049 Here is an interpretation of the Bible.
The fact that all written origin stories of the ancient Near East point to a recent creation of humans implies that the scribes and storytellers cannot see beyond a certain point in time, say 7821 years ago. Adam and Eve are fairy tale figures standing at the portal of our current Lebenswelt.
0050 Here is a corresponding novel approach to evolutionary science.
Our current Lebenswelt is not the Lebenswelt that we evolved in. The transition is called the first singularity. The first singularity begins with the appearance of the first speech-alone talking culture, the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia. At this time, all other cultures practice hand-speech talk.
Speech is added to hand talk at the start of our own species, Homo sapiens.
By the time the first singularity initiates, hand-speech talk has been practiced for 200,000 years.
The transition from hand-speech talk to speech-alone talk is simple. Drop the hand-component. But no-one ever thinks of doing so, since hand talk grounds words in the natural sign qualities of icons and indexes. Plus, humans have been enjoying hand-speech talk for countless generations.
0051 So how does the Ubaid culture do it?
By accident. At the start of our current interglacial, the Persian Gulf is dry land, settled by two two unrelated hand-speech talking cultures, one land-loving Neolithic and one coast and river-loving Mesolithic. A significant and rapid rise of the sea marks the start of our current interglacial. The Persian Gulf fills with water, pushing the two cultures together.
The cultures join into one. They develop a pidgin from the two very different languages. After a few generations, the pidgin turns into a fully linguistic creole. The hand-component of hand-speech talk is lost. Sumerian is the first speech-alone language.
Sumerian is a linguistic isolate. It is unrelated to any family of spoken languages.
0052 The semiotic qualities of speech-alone talk are very different from hand-speech talk. Hand-speech talk facilitates constrained social complexity. Speech-alone talk fosters unconstrained complexity.
That is the science in a nutshell.
0053 Three series are devoted to the first singularity at the smashwords website.
The most direct is Crystallizations of the Fall, containing two articles: The First Singularity and Its Fairy Tale Trace, plus Comments on Original Death and Original Sin: Romans 5:12-19. Skeptical science types should start here.
The most accessible is A Course on An Archaeology of the Fall, containing the namesake masterwork and an instructor’s guide. Accompanying literature includes the early chapters of Genesis, chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to the Romans and Sura 5. This is the best path for students and teachers. This course is designed as a seminar. Read and discuss.
Implications and further commentaries are located in the series Reverberations of the Fall. Theologians should consider this series first. Original sin is relevant, again. But, here, I am getting ahead of myself.
0054 So far, The Human Niche covers the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.
An Archaeology of the Fall covers the first singularity.
In both these exercises, theological and biological anthropology move together, without violating the Positivist’s construction of what is.
What about our current Lebenswelt?
The first singularity initiates our current Lebenswelt.
Speech-alone talk spreads, through mimesis, to adjacent hand-speech talking cultures, on the basis of marginal differences of wealth and power.
0055 Why is the Ubaid wealthier and more powerful than surrounding hand-speech talking cultures?
Speech-alone talk works on symbols, while hand-speech relies on icons and indexes (even though language itself consists in two related systems of differences, that is, symbolic orders). Speech-alone talk can name parts, irrespective of wholes. In hand-speech talk, a part may name the whole. Consequently, speech-alone talk facilitates specialized languages, which supports labor and social specialization.
The Ubaid has more wealth and power because it is further along a path of labor and social specialization.
0056 But, isn’t there a problem with speech-alone words that is not present in hand-speech talk?
Yes, in hand-speech talk, the gesture-word pictures or points to its referent. So, of course, the word and referent go together.
In speech-alone talk, we innately anticipate that a spoken word pictures or points to its referent. But, a speech act does not picture or point to anything.
What happens next?
We project meaning, presence and message into a spoken word. Then, we construct an artifact that serves as a referent and validates the projected meaning, presence and message. As long as the projection-validation works, the artifact is salient, and serves as a referent.
0057 Perhaps, the reader sees a problem with this arrangement.
Indeed, Augustine’s depiction of original sin only scratches the surface of the fallen character of our current Lebenswelt. Some Reformed traditions have a more precise term: total depravity.
If a person is able to construct an artifact that validates the meaning, presence and message that “he” projects onto a spoken word, then what is to stop “him” from um… creating and taking advantage of a situation?
Welcome to our current Lebenswelt, where our own spoken words allow us to name our own “realities”.
0058 Here is another pairing of Biblical interpretations and a new approach to the human sciences.