RIP Theology, Part 2
Picking up on yesterday’s post about the demise of theology…
Within the past twenty years or so we have seen an explosion of new insights about the origins of homo sapiens. Fields such as evolutionary psychology, cognitive neuroscience, behavioral genetics and paleoanthropology are challenging many long-held assumptions about human nature. For the most part, however, theologians and preachers have been completely absent from the discussion. Almost every week the NY Times’ science page reports important new findings from these fields of study. Yet the preachers I watch on television and follow online never reference the knowledge revolution that is going on around them, despite the fact that there are implications for almost every core doctrine of Christian orthodoxy: creation, the “fall,” redemption, free will—-just to name a few.
- If Jesus died for the sins of humanity, was his atoning death efficacious also for all hominid species? What about Neanderthals, homo erectus, or homo habilis? Did they need saving too? If not, why not?
- If original sin is limited to homo sapiens, why is that so, and when did original sin take root?
- At what point in the evolutionary process was a “soul” inserted into the genus Homo?
It seems like these would be questions religious people might like to ponder, but the conversation has not been happening. Theologians and preachers routinely assert that God endowed us with “free will” so that we can “freely” respond to God’s love, but any discussion of free will that does not also address neurochemical and genetic issues is utterly pointless.
And why aren’t seminaries and other schools of religion offering mandatory courses on the neurology of belief? Michael Shermer’s The Believing Brain would be a good place to start. It seems that people preparing for a career in the belief business might want to know at least a little something about the role neurotransmitters play in religious experience.
It’s not happening because those engaged in theology have largely decided to live in an intellectual isolation of their own choosing.