Being Human and Christian in a Darwinian World: An Appreciation of Józef Zycinski

  • Article
  • 29 pages
  • Level: university

This article,by Phillip R. Sloan was published in Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture in 2012. Sloan (who is professor emeritus in the program of liberal studies and in the graduate program in history and philosophy of science at the University of Notre Dame and whose research specializes on the history and philosophy of life science from the early modern period to contemporary molecular biology) writes:

This article is not intended to question the general validity of the Darwinian theory of species transformism by natural selection which I consider to be the best available scientific explanation of the origins and diversity of the organic forms we see around us. I am also concerned to engage with what John Haught has termed “unedited” Darwinian theory—Darwinian theory as accepted and discussed generally within the scientific community—rather than pursuing discarded alternative neo-Lamarckian, orthogenetic, and strong teleological evolutionary theories. I also do not minimize the detailed debates that surround certain points of evolutionary theory at present, such as those surrounding the long-standing debate over the competence of natural selection alone to explain macro as well as micro evolution, or the disputes currently dividing traditional population-genetics interpretations of Darwinism and those emphasizing the importance of developmental genetics, morphological constraints, and organismic considerations in evolution, commonly now termed “evo-devo.” But it is not essential to my purpose that these intratheory disputes be adjudicated. My concern is to generate some new lines of reflection on the important question that makes the issue of evolution interesting—what does it really have to do with human beings as we now find them? And particularly, what bearing does this have on the faith of Christians who ground their belief on the historical incarnation of the Son of God, and who accept some final historical destiny of humankind in relation to Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection?…

In this article, my intention is to go directly to the theological, anthropological, and philosophical question that is at the center of Darwinism and human existence—what does it mean to be human and Christian in the post-Darwinian world? The urgency of this question is forced upon us by the widespread revival of variants of sociobiology as a reigning paradigm within professional anthropology departments under such names as “biological anthropology” and “evolutionary psychology,” and by the intersection of this broad paradigm with the reigning Anglo-American philosophy of biology, and with molecular biology. The combination presents us with reductive evolutionary explanations of virtually all aspects of human existence.

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