Wilson’s Critique of Religion

This is the 4th blog in this series which is reflecting on E.O. Wilson’s book The Social Conquest of Earth.  The first blog in the series is  “What Does It Mean to be Human?” and the previous blog is A Very Quick Tour of Evolutionary History .

At one time it was thought that “Theology is the mother of all sciences” since all sciences were in search of truth and thus flowed from theology, the study of the revelation of truth.  But then in the 18th Century Age of Enlightenment science divorced itself from religion and sought truth not in divine revelation but in the empirical world alone.  Science came to believe that the only truth worth seeking and the only real knowledge was empirical truth.  All truth was thought to be in the material world.  Even the truths of philosophy and the humanities was pushed aside.  There was no meaning to being human since there was nothing beyond the empirical world.

Obviously the thinking of atheistic science was in direct conflict with the notion of religion that there is more to the universe than the empirical world.    Today, there is debate not only between science and religion but within science as to whether consciousness and free will are just illusions created by biochemistry or whether they exist and cannot be fully accounted for by pure materialism.  Even some atheists and scientist now acknowledge there are “forces” at work in the universe and within humans that may not be merely chemical reactions.  The arts too and the humanities also raise questions and doubts as to whether atheistic empiricism can in fact answer all the questions we can raise in the universe.  [See for example my blog series that began with The Brainless Bible and the Mindless Illusion of Self in which Michael S. Gazzaniga’s  WHO’S IN CHARGE?:  FREE WILL AND THE SCIENCE OF THE BRAIN and Raymond Tallis’ APING MANKIND:NEUROMANIA, DARWINITIS AND THE MISREPRESENTATION OF HUMANITY challenge the assumption that humans do not have free will.  Both authors are scientists who accept evolution and Darwinian claims but admit conscience and free will are real forces at work in the empirical world.]

While E.O. Wilson is negative toward religion and philosophy, he does in his book throw a bone to art.

Picasso expressed the same idea summarily: “Art is the lie that helps us to see the truth.”  (Kindle Loc. 4484-85)

Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

The successful scientist,” waxes Wilson, adding a little charm to what some might say is an otherwise inhuman way of conceiving truth, “thinks like a poet but works like a bookkeeper” (Kindle 4452).  But in the end for all the intelligence, cleverness and inventiveness of the human mind,  Wilson sees humanity as basically not in any meaningful way different from the flow of lava, the fluttering of a leave in the wind, or the weight of a rock.  There is no free will, and even consciousness may be an illusion of biochemistry.

But Wilson wants to be clear he does embrace the notion that the only truth worth knowing or that can be known is empirical truth.

“Science is not just another enterprise like medicine or engineering or theology. It is the wellspring of all the knowledge we have of the real world that can be tested and fitted to preexisting knowledge. It is the arsenal of technologies and inferential mathematics needed to distinguish the true from the false. It formulates the principles and formulas that tie all this knowledge together. Science belongs to everybody. Its constituent parts can be challenged by anybody in the world who has sufficient information to do so. It is not just “another way of knowing” as often claimed, making it coequal with religious faith.”  (Kindle Loc. 4742-46)

Interestingly though in Wilson’s writing he allows plenty of room for uncertainty – within the evolutionary worldview there is a lot that is currently not known or which can and will be changed by future discoveries.  But for all that uncertainty, Wilson has no doubt that religion has nothing to offer in terms of knowledge.  However, of science and scientists, he recognizes there is a very human element which exerts great force on how science is done.

“Science grows in a manner not well appreciated by nonscientists: it is guided as much by peer approval as by the truth of its technical claims. Reputation is the silver and gold of scientific careers. Scientists could say, as did James Cagney upon receiving an Academy Award for lifetime achievement, ‘In this business you’re only as good as the other fellow thinks you are.’”  (Kindle Loc. 4453-56)

Returning to literary thinking (and Wilson is a good writer), he notes:

“What counts in science is the importance of the discovery. What matters in literature is the originality and power of the metaphor”  (Kindle Loc. 4467-68).

So we do have non-materialistic forces at work in science: peer approval, reputation, significance.  These are not forces easily measured in a scientific way, and yet according to Wilson they are important to the scientific enterprise.

Theoretical Physicist Carlo Rovelli says:

“Science is not about certainty.  Science is about finding the most reliable way of thinking, at the present level of knowledge…. It’s the lack of certainty that grounds it.  Scientific ideas are credible not because they are sure, but because they are the ones that have survived all the possible past critiques.”

It is a different way of knowing then theology or revelation.

Next:  Wilson’s Critique of Religion (II)

Bishop Matthias on Administrative Leave

Our Diocesan Bishop, His Grace, Matthias, has announced that he has been placed on administrative Leave of Absence due to clergy misconduct allegations made against him on August 24.   The Leave of Absence is required by OCA policy and procedure in the case of such allegations being made against a clergyman.  This is standard policy and does not assume or presume the guilt of the accused.   Bishop Matthias denied the allegations in his letter to the Diocese of the Midwest which was posted sometime during last night.  Diocesan Chancellor, Fr. John Zdinak, has been appointed temporary administrator of the Diocese of the Midwest while our bishop is on Leave of Absence.

Bishop Matthias’ letter was the first official notice that the Diocese as a whole received about the allegations.  Diocesan Deans had been informed a few days earlier but seem to have been instructed not to say much about the allegations.  Rumors and news of the allegations, however, quickly began circulating on the Internet.  Some of those rumors though reported with great authority proved to be false.

At the moment, we all have to await the outcome of the OCA’s investigation into the allegations, trusting that the OCA will follow its own Policies, Standards and Procedures covering clergy sexual misconduct.   Those PSPs require that all allegations be taken seriously and fully investigated which it appears the OCA is doing diligently.  It does appear that the OCA quickly put its PSPs into action in this case.  For the rest of us in the Diocese, better than following the gossip and rumors, we can pray for all involved and for the Diocese as a whole.

Bishop Matthias’ letter which was posted on the Diocesan web page reads as follows:

Dear Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the Midwest,

Christ is in our midst!

It is with regret that I inform you that a formal complaint was made against me last Friday, August 24, 2012. The allegations are that I made unwelcome written and spoken comments to a woman that she regarded as an inappropriate crossing of personal boundaries and an abuse of my pastoral authority. I deny these allegations and I plan to respond in due course.

According to the OCA’s policies, I am on paid administrative leave until the investigation is completed. Fr. John Zdinak, the Chancellor of the Diocese, will be the temporary administrator in my absence.

Please pray for all of us who are involved in this matter.

Your Shepherd in Christ,

Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest

Prayer as Relationship with God (II)

This is the 37th blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.”  The first blog is “Why Pray?” and the previous blog is Prayer as Relationship with God.

St. Silouan the Anthonite (d. 1938AD) exclaims:

“O ye peoples of the earth, fashioned by God, know your Creator and His love for us!  Know the love of Christ, and live in peace and thereby rejoice the Lord, Who in His mercy waits for all men to come to Him.

Turn to Him, all ye peoples of the earth, and lift up your prayers to God; and the prayers of the whole earth shall rise to heaven like a soft and lovely cloud lit by the sun, and all the heavens will rejoice, and sing praises to the Lord for His sufferings whereby He saved us.

Know, all ye peoples, that we are created for the glory of God in the heavens.  Cleave not to the earth, for God is our Father and He loves us like dear children.”  (ST SILOUAN THE ATHONITE, p 358-359)

Eternal life is to know God and to know His Christ (John 17:3).  Prayer does not give us knowledge about God, but rather enables us to know God.  Prayer lifts us up to eternity and fulfills our highest aspirations.  It is in prayer that we realize that as humans we are not limited by our biology or our genes or by our mortal condition.

“Prayer is always possible for everyone, rich or poor, noble or simple, strong and weak, healthy and suffering, righteous and sinful. Great is the power of prayer; most of all does it bring the Spirit of God and easiest of all is it to exercise.”  (St. Seraphim of Sarov,  Prayer Book – In Accordance with the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church , kindle 3867-70)

Saints of the 20th Century

The Holy Spirit prays in us and teaches us how to pray (Romans 8:26-27). The same Spirit comprehends the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:11).  Thus when we pray in the Spirit we become united to our God. As St. Seraphim said above, this prayer is possible for everyone because we all can humble ourselves and repent of our sins, thus opening our hearts to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

“Our prayer reflects our attitude towards God. He who is careless of salvation has a different attitude toward God from him who has abandoned sin and is zealous for virtue but has not yet entered within himself and works for the LORD only outwardly. Finally, he who has entered within and carries the LORD within himself, standing before him, has yet another attitude. The first man is negligent in prayer, just as he is negligent in life, and he prays in church and at home merely according to the established custom, without attention or feeling. The second man reads many prayers and goes often to church, trying at the same time to keep his attention from wandering and to experience feelings in accordance with the prayers which are read, although he is seldom successful. The third man, wholly concentrated within, stands with his mind before God, and prays to him in his heart without distraction, without long verbal prayers, even when standing for a long time at prayer in his home or in church…. Every prayer must come from the heart and any other prayer is no prayer at all. Prayer-book prayers, your own prayers and very short prayers, all must issue forth from the heart to God, seen before you.”  (Bp. Theophan the Recluse, Prayer Book – In Accordance with the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church , kindle Loc. 3921-30)

When we turn to God in prayer we realize our own sinfulness and simultaneously realize we do not need to fear the Holy God because He loves us and accepts our repentance.  Acknowledging our sins, admitting our faults is not an impediment to being loved by God, but rather opens the door to that love.  In prayer we thus learn that the shame we feel for our misdeeds is not an obstacle to God’s love for us, but rather because it humbles us it makes us all the more attractive to God’s love.   God’s grace is that despite our sins and failures, He loves us anyway and invites us to admit our sins so that we can enter into His holiness.

Re Next:  Prayer as Relationship with God (III)

A Very Quick Tour of Evolutionary History

This is the 3rd blog in this series which is reflecting on E.O. Wilson’s book The Social Conquest of Earth.  The first blog in the series is  “What Does It Mean to be Human?” and the previous blog is A Few Unique Traits of Humans.

Wilson is an effective story teller and he does offer a potential history of how evolutionary history unfolded leading to the appearance of modern humans.  That is the heart of his book, and I recommend you read his book because the history is fascinating.  Even if you have doubts about evolution, you can still see how evolutionary theorist piece together and interpret the evidence they have before them.  Certainly as Wilson describes the evidence and the history there are lots of uncertainties, possibilities and probabilities that make up the story, and while it may be the best construct of the existing evidence, one realizes some of this history is guesswork and some parts of the history no doubt are going  to be overturned as new evidence is discovered.  That certainly is the nature of science and the meaning of “truth” in the evolutionary context.   While Wilson is committed to evolutionary theory, it does seem to me in the book he expresses in various ways that the story he is telling is possibly the story based on current evidence but some of the story is interpretation and educated guesses to fill in gaps in knowledge.

That evolutionary theory is constantly undergoing change based on new discoveries and evidence is made obvious in such news reports as as found in England’s  THE INDEPENDENT, Fossil Discovery Rewrites the Story of Human Evolution.   Some will argue the sensational headline’s claim that the discovery “rewrites” the story of human evolution is an exaggeration, nevertheless my read of Wilson is that he would be totally comfortable with rewriting chapters in his book if new evidence led to new theories or a new storyline.  We will get back to debates between science and religion in this series in the near future.

Wilson offers an overview of what his book is about:

“LIKE ALL GREAT PROBLEMS in science, the evolutionary origin of humanity first presented itself as a tangle of partly seen and partly imagined entities and processes. Some of these elements occurred well back in geological time, and may never be understood with certainty. I have nevertheless pieced together those parts of the epic on which I believe researchers agree, and filled in the remainder with informed opinion. The sequence, given in broad strokes, is the consensus I believe to be correct, or at least most consistent with existing evidence.”  (Kindle Loc. 762-67)

Before getting to the controversies between science and religion, below are a few facts from Wilson’s evolutionary timeline which I found interesting.  Keep in mind Wilson’s term “eusociality” which means multiple generations of a species living together with “an altruistic division of labor.”  Humans have eusociality as do some bees and ants.  Very few species have actually developed this trait despite its apparent evolutionary advantage.

“The eusocial insects are almost unimaginably older than human beings. Ants, along with their wood-eating equivalents the termites, originated near the middle of the Age of Reptiles, more than 120 million years ago.”  (Kindle Loc 725-26)

“The oldest known stone tools, knapped crudely to serve some function or other, date to 6–2 million years before the present.”  (Kindle Loc. 677-78)

“The first hominins, with organized societies and altruistic division of labor among collateral relatives and allies, appeared at best 3 million years ago.”  (Kindle Loc 7207-28)

“By two million years before the present, the favored australopithecine line had begun the transition to the still-larger-brained Homo erectus. This species had a brain smaller than that of present-day Homo sapiens, but it was able to shape crude stone tools and use controlled fire at campsites. Its populations spread out of Africa, blanketing the land up into northeastern Asia and pushing south all the way to Indonesia.”   (Kindle Loc. 1378-82)

“By 200,000 years before the present, the African ancestors had come anatomically closer to contemporary humans. The populations also used more advanced stone tools and may have engaged in some form of burial practice. But their skulls were still relatively heavy in construction.”  (Kindle Loc. 1426-27)

“Burials began at least 95,000 years ago, as evidenced by thirty individuals excavated at Qafzeh Cave in Israel. One of the dead, a nine-year-old child, was positioned with its legs bent and a deer antler in its arms. That arrangement alone suggests not just an abstract awareness of death but also some form of existential anxiety.”  (Kindle Loc. 4502-4)

“Only around 60,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens broke out of Africa and began to spread around the world, did people acquire the complete skeletal dimensions of contemporary humanity.”  (Kindle Loc. 1428-29)

The “’creative explosion’ that began approximately 35,000 years ago in Europe. From this time on until the Late Paleolithic period over 20,000 years later, cave art flourished. Thousands of figures, mostly of large game animals, have been found in more than two hundred caves distributed through southwestern France and northeastern Spain…”  (Kindle Loc. 4507-9)

“’Flutes,’ technically better classified as pipes, fashioned from bird bones, have been found that date to 30,000 years or more before the present.”  (Kindle 4551-2)

“In a very early time, from the Late Paleolithic period through the Mesolithic period, the cultural evolution of humanity ground forward slowly. At the beginning of the Neolithic period, 10,000 years before the present, with the invention of agriculture and villages and food surpluses, cultural evolution accelerated steeply. Then, thanks to the expansion of trade and by force of arms, cultural innovations not only increased faster but also spread much farther.”  (Kindle 1619-23)

There were so many other aspects of the story that I found fascinating, but the above are a few “highlights” of the human evolutionary story according to Wilson.  I value the comments for what they contribute to an understanding of what it means to be human.  To be human is not simply to be the passive victim of biological determinism.  To be human is to create, is to feel, is to worship and is to believe in something greater than one’s self.   We’ll turn now to a more controversial aspect of Wilson’s writings:  his criticism of religion.

Next: Wilson’s Critique of Religion

The Beheading of St. John the Forerunner

Fr. Alexander Men says:

“Later John the Baptist appeared, about whom you all know.  He summoned the people to perform a holy ablution- mikme, or baptizma – in the River Jordan.  It wasn’t heathen that he required this of, but true-believing Israelites, because he emphasized that the coming of a new era of the Spirit, when the Lord himself would come to earth demanding from the people, even those who had been brought up in the true faith, a turning point in their inner life – repentance, renewal, and consciousness of themselves as so unworthy that they had to go through the holy ablution just as the heathen did.”   (Michael Plekon, TRADITION ALIVE, p 164)

Prayer as Relationship with God

This is the 36th blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.”  The first blog is “Why Pray?” and the previous blog is Prayer: Conversing with God (II).

In the previous couple of blogs we considered the notion that prayer is conversation with God.  St Theodoros the Great Ascetic states that prayer, which is conversing with God, “enables us to become akin to God.”   This is one of the great blessings of prayer: not that we receive things from God but that we come into a relationship with Him.

“Whatever a man loves, he desires at all costs to be near to continuously and uninterruptedly, and he turns himself away from everything that hinders him from being in contact and dwelling with the object of his love. It is clear therefore that he who loves God also desires always to be with Him and to converse with Him. This comes to pass in us through pure prayer. Accordingly, let us apply ourselves to prayer with all our power; for it enables us to become akin to God.”   (The Philokalia, Kindle Loc. 11429-32)

The notion that in prayer we seek not the gifts but the Giver, comes from the earliest days of Christianity.  Origen who died a martyr’s death in 254 was one of the most original and creative thinkers in Christian history.  Fr. Stylianopoulos writes:

“The first to reflect theologically on prayer as communion was Origen, perhaps the greatest Christian thinker of all time.  In his work On Prayer Origen conceived of the highest purpose of prayer as participation in the life of God.  Prayer was neither to inform God about our material needs nor to change His providential purposes in our lives, but rather to lift up our hearts and minds to heaven in order to gaze at the divine glory and be illuminated with the radiance of God.  In prayer the believer is ‘mingled’ … with the Spirit of the Lord whose glory fills heaven and earth.  The praying believer is purified and changed into a new creation and the whole of life becomes ‘a single great prayer.’  … The element of communion shows that prayer is not merely a means to an end but an end in itself.  Through prayer we seek not merely the gifts of God but God Himself, that is, to be with Him, live in Him, and delight in His presence.  Saint Isaac the Syrian (d. 550AD) says that the primary purpose of prayer is to attain divine love.”  (Theodore Stylianopoulos, THE WAY OF CHRIST, p 103)

We delight in God’s presence.  This is also true wisdom.  It is the way in which prayer brings us peace.

“True wisdom is gazing at God. Gazing at God is silence of the thoughts. Stillness of mind is tranquility which comes from discernment.”   (St. Isaac the Syrian, Prayer Book – In Accordance with the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church ,  kindle Loc. 3696-98)

Prayer is a window to the spiritual world.

“The fathers and mothers of the desert perceived God through prayer…” (Nonna Verna Harrison, GOD’S MANY-SPLENDORED IMAGE, p 58)

Prayer opens the eyes of heart to see God.  Since Christ says it is the pure in heart who see God, prayer has a purifying effect.  In the presence of the Holy God we are moved to repent of our sins.  Repentance is one fruit of the prayer life.

Next:  Prayer as Relationship with God (II)

Christ Died for our Sins

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 St. Paul writes:

“I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…”

New Testament scholar Morna D. Hooker comments:

“‘Christ died for us’. What does Paul mean by this” Some commentators assume that Paul is thinking of Christ’s death as substitutionary: they assume, that is, that Christ dies in our place. This does not seem to be an appropriate description of his teaching, however, for Christ’s death does not mean that Christians do not face physical death. ‘Christ died’, he wrote, ‘in order that we might live with him.’ He sees Christians as sharing the life of Christ. This is the idea that we find him spelling out in Romans 6: ‘Christ died for us’ does not mean that we escape death, but that he dies as our representative – the representative of humanity – and those who in turn share his death (to sin) will also share his resurrection. Living with Christ, therefore, implies also dying with him. The same ideas reappear in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, where Paul writes ‘One has died for all’. Once again, this sounds at first like substitution, Christ dying instead of all, but as we read on, we find he explains that what he means is that Christ died as our representative.” (Paul: A Beginners Guider, pgs. 106-109)

St. Paul’s Received Tradition

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, St. Paul speaks about “tradition” – in his words “I delivered” that which “I received.”  The sense of tradition in Orthodoxy is that we receive from the previous generation the revelation which God has given in Jesus Christ, and then we hand on this exact same tradition to the next generation.  This is how Orthodox can claim an unbroken tradition of receiving the Gospel and passing it along to the next generation.  Tradition is preserved in the Scriptures, in the apostolic succession of bishops, in the Liturgy of the Church, as well as in our doctrines and dogmas.  In St. Paul’s words:

“I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…”

The great 20th Century Russian Orthodox theologian Fr.  Georges Florovsky says:

“That is why loyalty to tradition means not only concord with the past, but, in a certain sense, freedom from the past, as from some outward formal criterion. Tradition is not only a protective, conservative principle; it is, primarily, the principal of growth and regeneration. Tradition is not a principle striving to restore the past, using the past as a criterion for the present. Such a conception of Tradition is rejected by history itself, and by the consciousness of the church. Tradition is authority to teach, potestas magisterii, authority to bear witness to the truth. The church bears witness to the truth not by reminiscence of from the words of others, but from its own living, unceasing experience, from its catholic fullness.” (in The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture, pg. 98)

How do I get to Heaven?

In the Gospel According to St. Matthew (vs. 19:16), a man approaches Jesus with a question that many Christians in the modern age have asked in one form or another:

At that time someone came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

The modern equivalent is something like, “What do I need to do to be saved?”

St. Maria Skobtsova

The modern answer vary but include ideas like believe, or have a conversion experience, or be baptized, or obey God’s laws, or be good, or evangelize, or repent, or take up your cross, or … well the list goes on.  Poet and author Scott Cairns offers us this further thought:

“Salvation is a continuing process of being redeemed; it is our recovery from our chronic separation from God, both now and ever, and it includes our becoming increasingly aware of Who our God is. Our miraculous salvation has very little to do with the popular notion of ‘dying and going to heaven,’ and has far more to do with finally living, and with entering the kingdom of God, here and now.” (The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain, pg. 73)

It might be convenient for each of us if we only had to do one thing and then salvation was guaranteed.  And certainly if we had to do only one thing that would make attaining eternal life as simple as buying a ticket.  The Christian life however is discipleship – it is not buying a ticket but venturing forth on a lifetime sojourn.

In the charming yet profound Japanese movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Jiro makes it clear there is no plateau called perfection.  One strives to do better today what one did yesterday.  If we follow that philosophy – today I will follow Christ and love others better than I did yesterday – then we come to understand what true discipleship is.  Discipleship is discipline, and we are following a discipline to move from one degree of glory to another, not to stay the same as we were yesterday.  We are to grow in Christ, grow in love, to be perfect as the Father in Heaven is perfect.

St. Herman of Alaska

Christ did speak to us as His disciples about our taking up our cross daily in order to follow Him.  To be His disciple means not to experience a one time conversion event, but to be willing to live for, to suffer for, and even to die for Him each day of our lives.

We have to live for Him and for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for the salvation of the world.  We don’t become Christian to abandon the world or to proclaim it evil.  God so loved the world that He send His Son into the world.   We are here to bring salvation to the world and to transfigure it.

And daily we have to repent of our sins, love one another as Christ loved us, be born again of the Spirit, be renewed in our minds, and strive to move ever toward the Kingdom of God.  We renew our discipleship when we prepare ourselves for the sacraments of Confession and Communion.  This is part of our daily striving for Christ.

Salvation is not a one time event but uniting our lives to Christ both now and unto the ages of ages.

A Few Unique Traits of Humans

This is the 2nd blog in this series which began with “What Does It Mean to be Human?”   In this series I am looking at the recent book by evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth.  Wilson presents in well written manner a storyline with plot of how the anthropological and evolutionary evidence can be read to give us an idea of how possibly humanity emerged on earth.  Wilson dismisses religious interpretation of human being, which will be part of what I react to in this blog series.  Wilson offers his materialistic answer to the question, “What does it mean to be human?”:

“The biological human mind is our province. With all its quirks, irrationality, and risky productions, and all its conflict and inefficiency, the biological mind is the essence and the very meaning of the human.”  (Kindle Loc. 1706-8)

The “biological mind” is the interesting phrase.  As an atheist committed to materialism, there can be no mind beyond the biological, and yet the exact relationship of mind to brain is not perfectly clear.  Wilson will be in the camp of those who dismiss free will and for whom consciousness presents a particular challenge because there can for him be nothing that is not biologically based. We will come back to these issues in a future blog, for now we will continue to look at what Wilson sees as unique to the human species:

“Besides the bulging forehead, oversize brain, and long, tapering fingers, our species bears other striking biological features of the kind biological taxonomists call ‘diagnostic.’ This means that in combination, some of our traits are unique among all animals:

• A productive language based on infinite permutations of arbitrarily invented words and symbols.

• Music, comprising a wide array of sounds, also in infinite permutations and played in individually chosen mood-creating patterns; but, most definitively, with a beat.

• Prolonged childhood, allowing extended learning periods under the guidance of adults.

• Anatomical concealment of female genitalia and the abandonment of advertisement of ovulation, both combined with continuous sexual activity. The latter promotes female-male bonding and biparental care, which are needed through the long period of helplessness in early childhood.

• Uniquely fast and substantial growth in the brain size during early development, increasing 3.3 times from birth to maturity.

• Relatively slender body form, small teeth, and weakened jaw muscles, indicative of an omnivorous diet.

• A digestive system specialized to eat foods that have been tenderized by cooking.”  (Kindle Loc. 1404-21)

It is interesting that some of the very things Wilson sees as unique to humanity would also be noted by Theists who accept the claim of Genesis 1 that we humans are created in the image and likeness of God.  And it was vigorously discussed throughout Christian history what exactly about us is in God’s image?  Many Church Fathers agreed that it is not a physical trait and they like Wilson looked to such things as language, symbolic and abstract thinking, creativity – using things which exist in nature to further create such things as art and music AND inventing and manufacturing things which don’t exist in nature for art and science, modesty and virtue, controlling sexual activity and the formation of moral thinking, creativeness in using foods even in symb0lic and sacramental ways.

Though some evolutionary biologists downplay the difference between human intelligence and that of other species, many admit that human intelligence is so different from the intelligence of any other species that evolution cannot really account for this difference.

“Michael Tomasello and his co-workers in biological anthropology, developed during the past three decades. These researchers point out that the primary and crucial difference between human cognition and that of other animal species, including our closest genetic relatives, the chimpanzees, is the ability to collaborate for the purpose of achieving shared goals and intentions. The human specialty is intentionality, fashioned from an extremely large working memory. We have become the experts at mind reading, and the world champions at inventing culture. We not only interact intensely with one another, as do other animals with advanced social organizations, but to a unique degree we have added the urge to collaborate.”   (Kindle Loc. 3621-27)

Memory and culture and intentional collaboration would also be noted by theologians as ways in which humans are different from all the rest of creation.

“The creative arts became possible as an evolutionary advance when humans developed the capacity for abstract thought. The human mind could then form a template of a shape, or a kind of object, or an action, and pass a concrete representation of the conception to another mind. Thus was first born true, productive language, constructed from arbitrary words and symbols.”  (Kindle  Loc. 4486-88)

What was also born along with “true, productivity language” is the notion of truth.   There is no such thing as truth or fact or science without the conscious observer.   This is a new truth that has been revealed through quantum physics.  There is no truth without a conscious observer.  We humans in fact exist to discover truth.  We have a purpose in nature and Wilson though he doesn’t seem to recognize it, uses the gift of conscious observation to seek out truth.  Truth doesn’t just come to him, he has to consciously choose to seek it, to uncover it hidden in the natural world.  Evolution has in fact brought into existence the very beings needed to consciously observe the universe.

For theists at least, that humanity has a purpose comes as no surprise.  That evolutionary biologists don’t recognize conscious observation as a product of the evolutionary process speaks more about their ideological commitment to determinism then it does of their commitment to revealing truth.

Before getting to issues which atheists and theists disagree on, the next blog will take a very quick tour through 120 million years of history that were the needed prerequisite to our current situation on planet earth.

Next: A Very Quick Tour of Evolutionary History