Are substance dualism and evolutionary theory compatible?

(T J Runyon) #1

One thing I’ve always been pretty unsure about is my position when it comes to the mind. I’ve explored many approaches and through the years I’ve leaned towards property dualism. But now I would like turn my attention to substance dualism. Though I’m having some trouble understanding it in an evolutionary context. Such as do chimps, Dolphins, elephants and other highly intelligent, conscious animals have this distinct substance? Or just us? If just us then it looks like consciousness can be explained by neural processes in other animals. It’s hard to put my thoughts into words because I’m in a where do I even begin situation. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #2

Stepping back to frame the question a bit, I’m curious what’s driving these considerations. Do you feel it’s necessary to hold to some sort of dualism in order to align with traditional Christian views?

Personally, I’m not sure what to make of the mind, but at any rate I’m not convinced dualism is a necessary entailment of Christian theology. When God creates the new heavens and new earth, we will be embodied with Him. This will be absolutely miraculous whether you believe in dualism or not. Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think a non-corporeal intermediate state is mentioned in Scripture, unless you count certain books of the Apocrypha as canonical. Yes, we are all resurrected, righteous and unrighteous, etc., but does this require us to have immortal souls? I’m not so sure.

Sorry, not really an answer to your question, I suppose, just my thoughts.

(T J Runyon) #3

I have no idea. I’m a new Christian. I know there are lots of Christian non-dualists. I’m just curious how a substance dualist would fit it with evolutionary theory. Like Swinburne, accepts evolutionary theory and argued for substance dualism. Just would like to know how to reconcile the two. But from what I’ve read I don’t see any reason to think Christianity entails substance dualism

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #4

Fair enough.

I wish I could help you more, but because I haven’t found it necessary to do so, I haven’t put much thought into reconciling evolutionary theory with any particular kind of dualism.

I hope others can chime in with some helpful thoughts for you!


A miracle?

But from what I’ve read I don’t see any reason to think Christianity entails substance dualism

Especially because Christianity doesn’t require philosophers. It can work just fine without their OK. Philosophers can gum up practically everything and ultimately tend not to solve things. :grin:

(T J Runyon) #6 This paper seems to Echo your point. Christianity doesnt seem to have many philosophical commitments

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #7

Christianity does require philosophy and philosophers. The problem is that Christianity needs a new philosophy and good philosophers. Christianity brought together Jewish faith and Greek philosophy. Now that philosophy has become outmoded. Some want us to throw out both the faith and the philosophy, but we can’t. We have to basically change the philosophy so we can reconcile philosophy, science, and theology.

Dawkins does not believe in mind/body dualism. He would probably say that Christians who believe in mind/body dualism cannot accept evolution, certainly not the way be accepts evolution.

The mind and the body are clearly different, but both are natural. Dawkins has no way in his version of evolution that the mind/brain can evolve. He claims that genes or DNA control human behavior, not the brain/mind.

In Christians really want to understand the evolution of human nature, they need to develop an understanding of the evolution of the mind/brain that does not exist in Darwinian evolution. I do not know if that is possible when using the philosophy of methodological naturalism.

(Albert Leo) #8

You are most welcome to join the fray, T.J. I was introduced to the controversy over Dualism by reading some works of Rene Descartes, but neither his original works nor any of the commentaries on his concepts have helped me comprehend even the basics of the problem. Personally I felt most comfortable with the approach taken by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which melded theology with a modern view of evolution. It replaced Original Sin with Original Blessing and marked the phenomenon of human dualism with the onset of the Noosphere–the realm of transmissible ideas. Since Teilhard’s death, his approach has gained more credibility with the evidence supporting the origin of modern humans as taking place as a Great Leap Forward. (See Diamond, Tattersall and Dawkins) As a Jesuit priest he had to worry that his published ideas would end up on the Vatican’s Index of Forbidden Books, and so his early works are written in a somewhat ambiguous fashion–especially as translated from the French. For a clearer picture of his philosophy, I highly recommend the book, “From Teilhard to Omega”, by Ilia Delio, available on Amazon.

I hope your efforts at understanding are blessed with success. It is a difficult undertaking, considering modern science still is unable to clearly explain the phenomenon of consciousness.
Al Leo