The Boyle Lecture 2006

The Emergence of Spirit: From Complexity to Anthropology to Theology
Professor Philip Clayton Claremont School of Theology California

Given at the Parish Church of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, London With a Response by Niels Gregersen Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Copenhagen
Wednesday 22nd February 2006

The frontpiece shows the Boyle Medal which is presented to each lecturer in the new Boyle Lecture series. Commissioned by the Rt Hon The Earl of Cork and Orrery and designed, cast and produced by Robert Elderton, the medal shows Robert Boyle with (in the background) the air-pump which he used in many of his experiments.


The Reverend George R. Bush Rector of St Mary-le-Bow 5

Introduction: Intelligent Design and intelligent design
Dr Michael Byrne Convenor of The Boyle Lecture 7

The Boyle Lecture 2006:

The Emergence of Spirit: From Complexity to Anthropology to Theology
Philip Clayton Ingraham Professor at the Claremont School of Theology California


Response: Emergence – From Chemistry to Theology
Niels Gregersen Professor of Systematic Theology University of Copenhagen


Arrangements for next year’s Boyle Lecture (2007)
Biography of Professor John D. Barrow 41



George R. Bush

The Reverend George R. Bush has been Rector of St Mary-le-Bow since 2002. Before coming to St Mary’s he was Vicar of St Anne’s, Hoxton, having held earlier appointments as a curate in inner-city Leeds and a chaplain at Cambridge. He has studied history, history of art, canon law and theology and has published on certain developments in canon law involving a previous Bishop of London, Edmund Gibson (1669–1748). He is currently President of Sion College.

The diary of one John Machyn relates how on Lady Day, 1556, Bow church was “hanged with cloth of gold, and with rich arras and cushions for the coming of my lord Cardinal Pole; there did the Bishop of Worcester, sing the high mass mitred”. During the liturgy, four days after the burning of Cranmer, and only three days after Pole’s ordination as a bishop, the Cardinal was presented with the pallium, the sign of participation in the Pope’s authority. This occasion, in the principal peculiar, or private jurisdiction, of Canterbury, marked Pole’s taking possession of that See for Roman Catholic faith. The use of St Mary-le-Bow for this remarkable display of the old religion restored may have been dictated as much by the topographical as by the historical significance of the church, given its prominent location on the main processional route through the City; but recent research commissioned here suggests that its selection may also have been prompted by its position as a leading evangelical parish under the lately-deceased King Edward, and its connection with the underground Protestant congregation before that. John Joseph, the very Protestant rector here from 1546 until his deprivation, wisely seems not to have returned from the Continent; two neighbouring rectors were burned at the stake under Queen Mary. Arguably something of the questioning spirit of the 1530s was still alive here in the 1690s – admittedly in a brand new church building – when St Mary-le-Bow was the host to both the Society for the Reformation of Manners and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which latter society, having acquired its charter in 1701, was concerned especially with the spiritual welfare of colonists in America. These societies had something more than conventionally pious objectives in a notoriously impious age – one would not have wanted to fall into the hands of the Society for the Reformation of Manners and their informants. Such societies conceived of twin threats apparently posed by infidelity to the tradition and immorality in the nation. Their work was mirrored in that of local parochial societies, here and elsewhere, which fostered a lay spirituality – liturgical, studious and charitable.


Intriguingly for us we find St Mary-le-Bow mentioned as a model of governance in the charter granted by William 111 to the new parish of Trinity in New York City in 1697. Current research is seeking to establish whether St Mary-le-Bow is mentioned in other charters or just in the charter of Trinity. This is not, as my recent predecessors have with understandable fondness imagined, the founding of Trinity, Wall Street from Cheapside; but it might suggest that some things were happening at St Mary-le-Bow which might be taken to recommend themselves to the often radical leanings and wanderings of colonists. It is in this context that the Boyle Lectures were first given in the 1690s; a project which sought to defend Christianity and uphold its reasonableness in the face of much which sought to dilute or destroy its claims. If the Boyle Lecturers were enjoined to prove the Christian religion, but not to descend into controversies between Christians, one can perhaps see some common purpose with other projects which found - and indeed still find - support here. It is my singular pleasure to thank the Trustees of the Lecture together with the Worshipful Companies of Mercers and Grocers whose support has been both munificent and imaginative and to introduce to you the Lecture’s convenor, Dr Michael Byrne.


Introduction: Intelligent Design and intelligent design
Michael Byrne

Michael Byrne convenes the Boyle Lectures at St Mary-le-Bow. He studied genetics at Trinity College Dublin and also holds post-graduate degrees in history and theology from Birkbeck College and King’s College London. He is currently a graduate student in divinity at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and has been a member of Birkbeck’s governing body since 2000. He works as chief operating officer of a head-hunting company based in the City.

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to the third in the new series of Boyle Lectures here at St Mary-le-Bow this evening. This year we are honoured to have the distinguished philosopher and theologian Professor Philip Clayton from Claremont University in California to speak on “The Emergence of Spirit: From Complexity to Anthropology to Theology”. We are also pleased to welcome Professor Niels Gregersen, who is professor of systematic theology at the University of Copenhagen, to respond to Professor Clayton’s lecture. Our first two Boyle Lecturers, Professor Jack Haught from Georgetown University in Washington DC and Professor Simon Conway Morris from the University of Cambridge, both spoke about Darwinian evolution and the challenges and opportunities which a deeper engagement with evolutionary theory presents for Christianity. Professor Clayton continues that conversation this year. One topic which he promises to allude to is ‘Intelligent Design’, which has been much in the news in the last 12 months. May I draw your attention to three developments of interest on that front since last year’s lecture? First, the 2004 Boyle Lecturer, Jack Haught, engaged in a spirited exchange with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, in the pages of the New York Times last July. The cardinal had written an article which seemed to speak warmly of Intelligent Design, the idea that there is a great deal of design evident in nature precisely because nature is indeed consciously and deliberately designed by God. Cardinal Schönborn affirmed “the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature … An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist … Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of 7

“chance and necessity” are not scientific at all, but, as [Pope] John Paul [II] put it, an abdication of human intelligence”. Jack Haught – himself a distinguished Roman Catholic theologian - reacted to Cardinal Schönborn’s comments with polite but nonetheless fairly undisguised dismay, lamenting Cardinal Schönborn’s apparent resistance to the spirit and intention of Pope John Paul II’s decisive public endorsement of scientific research relating to evolution…… [In fact] John Paul’s statement was a clear signal to the intellectual and theological worlds that scientific truth must be pursued and embraced without fear. Cardinal Schönborn’s op-ed, on the contrary, is fearful and defensive. As such, it is a setback in the dialogue of religion and science. Professor Haught noted that Cardinal Schönborn’s piece in the New York Times had been solicited by the Discovery Institute, a group which advocates the teaching of alternatives to evolution in US public schools and colleges. This carries us to a second important development in the last 12 months, the ruling by Pennsylvania federal judge John E Jones in the case of th Kitzmiller – v – Dover Area School District, delivered on 20 December 2005. The Dover Area School District had insisted that its teachers should read a statement to the ninth grade biology class at Dover High explaining that Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence … Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view The teachers at Dover High refused to read this statement to their students and took action against the school board for insisting that they should. In his ruling in the case Judge Jones held for the teachers and referred to the “breathtaking inanity” of the board’s decision, saying: In making this determination [in favour of the teachers], we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID [Intelligent Design] is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents. Both Defendents and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presumption is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial [however] … scientific experts [have] testified that the theory of evolution represents good 8

science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator…. A third development of interest to the Boyle community at St Mary-le-Bow is the article which Professor Keith Ward wrote about the Dover judgment for the Church Times earlier this month. Professor Ward spoke at last year’s Boyle Lecture, responding to Professor Simon Conway Morris. Professor Ward’s article did not dispute that Intelligent Design has often been ‘hi-jacked’ by creationists and used as “a disguised way of getting Creationism onto the scientific curriculum”. To the extent that this was what was going on at Dover High, Judge Jones was undoubtedly right to rule as he did. But Professor Ward points out that the matters are rarely as simple as they seem when – as happened in this case – an idea is hijacked in an attempt to make it serve an altogether different purpose. It is important to note that Intelligent Design, unlike Creationism, does not repudiate Darwinian evolution. As such it would be quite wrong to equate those who advocate Intelligent Design with those who advocate Creationism. They are not the same. The former at least allow that evolution might have been a mechanism through which the process of ‘designing’ operated; the latter repudiate evolution entirely. Furthermore, there must also be some sense in which theists who believe in the providential action of God in the world must accept both that the God who acts is intelligent and, to the extent that we think of his activity as purposive, must be working to some kind of design as well. For shorthand purposes we might refer to this as “small-i-small-d” intelligent design, rather than the kind of “big-I-big-D” Intelligent Design which, despite its formal acceptance of Darwinian evolution, does run a real risk of tipping into Creationism, or at least of being dragged into the Creationist culture wars by those who want to use public institutions to advance partisan (and often obscurantist) agendas. The God who acts in a “small-i-small-d” way has always had an important role in Christian theology, particularly the kind of theology which emphasises God’s immanence in creation rather than his more austerely transcendent nature. In exploring such themes, both Philip Clayton and Niels Gregersen have made important contributions to a renaissance of immanentist Christian theology in recent years and we are delighted and honoured to have them with us here this evening. I am very pleased to introduce Professor Philip Clayton to you now and ask him to deliver this year’s Boyle Lecture.



The Boyle Lecture 2005 The Emergence of Spirit: From Complexity to Anthropology to Theology
Philip Clayton

Philip Clayton holds a PhD in both philosophy and religious studies from Yale University. He has taught at Haverford College, Williams College, and the California State University, and he currently holds the Ingraham Chair at the Claremont School of Theology. He has been guest professor at Harvard University’s Divinity School, Humboldt Professor at the University of Munich, and Senior Fulbright Professor, also at the University of Munich. He is a past winner of the Templeton Book Prize for best monograph in the field of science and religion and a winner of the first annual Templeton Research Prize. Professor Clayton is the author of The Problem of God in Modern Thought (2000), God and Contemporary Science (1997), and Explanation from Physics to Theology: An Essay in Rationality and Religion (1989). He has edited and translated several other volumes and published some 40 articles in the philosophy of science, ethics, and the world’s religious traditions. His current research interest lies in developing a theology of emergence. His most recent book (Mind and Emergence: From Quantum to Consciousness (2004)) considers evidence for the emergence of new causal entities in the natural world, arguing that recent developments in science amount to a replacement of the reductionist paradigm by a new paradigm of emergence.

I. Introduction The difficulties of natural theology: Boyle the naturalist and Boyle the apologist Tonight’s Boyle Lecture interweaves a complex quintet of fields: science, philosophy of science, anthropology, metaphysics, and theology. Lest your attention wander as we proceed, I shall state my thesis right at the start: the contemporary naturalist should be pulled in two directions by the growth of science. On the one hand, the sciences suggest nature’s self-sufficiency as a closed and coherent system; on the other, they hint at what we may credibly view as a transcendent source for nature. The idea of a transcendent source does not negate science, but it does undercut claims on behalf of science’s self-sufficiency.


Clearly some of the arguments of Robert Boyle, the early modern apologist, will simply not serve us in today’s context. In particular one thinks of the various proofs from design, the repeated and detailed attempts to move from complex natural systems to divine Providence, which we post-Darwinians can no longer endorse. Boyle believed that ‘a virtuoso, or modern naturalist, who is versed in a way of philosophizing, will discern himself, and discover to others, a great many signatures and impreffes of the divine attributes, not taken note of, or not reflected on by the ancient, nor by merely book learned spectators, even of this age’.1 And he claimed, more boldly, that ‘the Christian virtuoso, to whom God has vouchsafed more than ordinary degrees of knowledge by the help of anatomy, astronomy, chemistry, hydrostaticks, dioptricks, etc. will be able to discover many wonderful things about the fabric and uses of many creatures, that by unskillful, or inattentive, or lazy pursuers, are altogether either unperceived, or unheeded’ (715). But these over-ambitious claims may have obscured a more enduring side of Boyle’s natural theology, which I now wish to recommend to your attention. Rose-Mary Sargent rightly calls Boyle ‘the diffident naturalist’ in her eponymous book on his ‘philosophy of experiment’.2 Professor Michael Hunter of Birkbeck College notes in his General Introduction that all but one of Boyle’s theological works were printed in London, whereas natural philosophical works were printed in both cities,3 leading one to wonder whether Boyle despaired of convincing the cultured despisers in Oxford but was more optimistic of reaching the masses in London. Remember also Boyle’s insistence that ‘natural religion’ is necessary but not sufficient for faith: ‘Natural Religion, is the first that is embraced by the mind, so it is the foundation, upon which revealed religion ought to be superstructe... as it were the stock, upon which Christianity might be ingrafted. For I readily acknowledge natural religion to be insufficient, yet I think it very necessary’ (685-6). My task tonight is to place an apologetic argument before you. But apologetics will only be taken seriously if it in turn takes scientific naturalism seriously; and on this point Boyle can still be our teacher. As a naturalist and exemplary experimentalist, Boyle retained the highest respect for natural order: ‘it more sets off the wisdom of God in the fabric of the universe, that he can make so vast a machine perform all those many things, which he designed it should, by the mere contrivance of brute matter managed by certain laws of local motion and upheld by his ordinary and general concourse, than if he employed from time to time an intelligent overseer, such as

1. Robert Boyle, The Christian Virtuoso (1690-91), Second Part, 714. 2. Rose-Mary Sargent, The Diffident Naturalist: Robert Boyle and the Philosophy of Experiment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). 3. Michael Hunter and Edward B. Davis, eds., The Works of Robert Boyle, vols. 1-7 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 1999); vol. 1., ‘General Introduction’. 12

nature is fancied to be, to regulate, assist, and control the motions of the parts’.4 If studying the natural order meant dispensing with physical miracles, Boyle concluded, so be it: ‘I ascribe to the wisdom of God in the first fabric of the universe, which he so admirably contrived, that, if he but continue his ordinary and general concourse, there will be no necessity of extraordinary interpositions, which may reduce him to seem, as it were, to play after-games’ (151). God brings about whatever be the divine intentions ‘without... acting otherwise than according to the catholic laws of motion’ (ibid.). Never compromise on the quality of your science, Boyle insists; and I offer his words as a standard for what follows: ‘a naturalist, who would deserve that name, must not let the search or knowledge of final causes make him neglect the industrious indagation of efficients’ (154). Boyle’s unrelenting naturalism, however, left his theology untouched, whereas the more radical naturalism of our day ascends even to lofty pulpits such as the present one — for better or worse. How shall we proceed with this conundrum? First of all, the ‘Intelligent Design’ movement notwithstanding, there is no place within science for purely empirical proofs of the existence of God or God’s purposes within evolutionary history. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to reflect philosophically and theologically on the biological data and what they might portend. Here I undertake that speculative task, controlling the results as much as possible through scientific insights without claiming scientific warrant for all the conclusions. I take my lead from emergence theory, the study of emergent complexity in natural history.

4. Marie Hall, ed., Robert Boyle on Natural Philosophy: An Essay with Selections from His Writings (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1966), 151. Cf. the comment by Jan Wojcik: ‘Clearly, Boyle believed that there are mysteries in the realm of knowledge of the natural world, just as there are mysteries in the spiritual realm, and his views concerning the proper goals of the new natural philosophy were influenced by this belief. Although the phenomena themselves might be incomprehensible, inexplicable, or even at times apparently contradictory, the goal of the natural philosopher, as Boyle saw it, was to provide intelligible and consistent explications of the phenomena of nature. In other words, Boyle thought that it was the task of the natural philosopher to devise hypotheses by means of which the phenomena could be understood in terms of natural processes’ (Robert Boyle and the Limits of Reason [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997], 161-2). 13

II. Emergence in Nature Overview There are numerous reasons for biologists to be cautious about talk of purpose in evolution. Unfortunately, these reasons have sometimes produced a reticence to acknowledge the significance of teleological systems within the biosphere. Recent years have brought renewed study of purposive systems and behaviours, however, and it is now not uncommon to find treatments detailing macroevolutionary patterns. Many biologists now speak of a ‘directionality’ to evolution, frequently correlating it with the increase in biological complexity. The natural theology to be defended here proceeds in three steps. First, analogies between various cases of emergent complexity are strong enough to support emergence over reduction as the more adequate philosophy of science and as a fundamental characteristic of natural history to date. Second, the development of symbolic language in homo sapiens sets in motion a new level of evolution, cultural evolution, which requires forms of explanation that are different from and not reducible to biological explanation. As a species that creates its own open-ended social and cultural worlds, homo sapiens is essentially self-transcending. Finally, I will argue that this emergentist understanding of humanity is fully consistent with a theistic world view and, as I shall argue, may even be better explained by theism than by its competitors. A working definition of emergence and the case for emergent complexity Let me first state the thesis for step one of the argument. It is that analogies between various cases of emergent complexity are strong enough to support emergence over reduction as the more adequate philosophy of science and as a fundamental characteristic of natural history. Emergence is linked to complexity, that is, to the principles of self-organization and the formation of complex systems. Complexity theory asks, ‘what are the steps and the processes that lead from the elementary particle to the thinking organism, the (present!) entity of highest complexity?’5 Complexity is inherently a systemic function; it involves the interaction between many components of various kinds and the principles that affect their correlation, coupling, and feedback relationships. The goal of the sciences of complexity, writes Jean-Marie Lehn, is ‘to progressively discover, understand, and implement the rules that govern [matter’s] evolution 5.. See the introduction to the collection in Jean-Marie Lehn, ‘Toward Complex Matter: Supramolecular Chemistry and Self-Organization’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99/8 (16 April 2002), 4763-68. 14

from inanimate to animate and beyond, to ultimately acquire the ability to create new forms of complex matter’ (4768). Emergent complexity spans the entire spectrum of cosmic history, ‘from divided to condensed matter then to organized and adaptive matter, on to living matter and thinking matter, up the ladder of complexity’ (ibid.). So what, in the simplest possible terms, is emergence? It is the hypothesis that reduction, or ‘reductionism’, is false. An emergentist theory of human thought and action, for example, argues that the reduction of the human sciences to biology or physics is false. A non-reductive theory of religious belief argues that the reduction of religious belief to its psycho-social functions is false. (Of course, one of these emergent accounts might be successful and the other unsuccessful.) That’s the negative pole of emergence theory; what are its positive assertions? Three general claims undergird emergence theory in the philosophy of science. First, empirical reality divides naturally into multiple levels (W. Wimsatt). Over the course of natural history, new emergent levels evolve. Second, emergent wholes that are more than the sum of their parts require new types of explanation adequate to each new level of phenomena. Third, such emergent wholes manifest new types of causal interaction. Biological systems are not ‘nothing more than’ microphysical interactions; they include irreducibly biological interactions and must be explained in biological terms. Nor are the mental experiences that you are having right now (which may or may not be related to this Lecture) ‘nothing but’ complicated brain states. In a real and important sense, one mental state can indeed cause another. An entire lecture could be devoted to the recent evidence on behalf of these emergentist claims. The emergence of living organisms, and the emergence of mental experience, are often listed as the standard intuitive examples of such phenomena. But emergence is not manifested only at the level of life or mind; it is evident even at the very earliest stages of cosmic evolution. Classical physics has been described as emergent out of quantum physics.6 Even quantum phenomena may themselves be emergent.7 In an influential book, physics Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin has recently argued that scientific reduction is a dogma and that many of the key features of his field, condensed matter physics, can be explained only within the paradigm of 6.. Wojciech Zurek, ‘Decoherence and the Transition from Quantum to Classical Revisited’, Los Alamos Science 27 (2002): 14; cf. Zurek, ‘Decoherence and the Transition from Quantum to Classical’, Physics Today 44 (1991). 7.. See Stephen Adler, Quantum Theory as an Emergent Phenomenon: The Statistical Dynamics of Global Unitary Invariant Matrix Models as the Precursor of Quantum Field Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). If string theory is correct, for example, quantum mechanics would be an emergent property of strings. 15

emergence.8 Among Laughlin’s examples of emergent phenomena are superconductivity, the quantum Hall effect, phase transitions, crystallization, collective instabilities, and hydrodynamics. In defense of strong emergence One finds in the literature an ongoing battle between weaker and stronger versions of emergence theory. The more robust version, which I have labeled ‘strong emergence’ and defended in my work, makes two claims. First, new things emerge in natural history, not just new properties of some fundamental things or stuff; and, second, these emergent things exercise their own types of causal power. Such ‘downward causation’ occurs at many different levels in nature. Strong emergence is a thesis about the nature of natural evolution. As you know, interpretations of evolution are fraught with controversy. If evolution is really ‘all about the genes’, as Richard Dawkins seeks to convince us, then all evolved structures are nothing more than expressions of this same fundamental dynamic. However rich and staggeringly diverse are these manifestations, they should be understood in fundamentally the same conceptual terms. If on the other hand the dualists are right, then at some point one encounters a radical break. In this sense dualists remain at heart Cartesians: one can study the entire physical world from atoms to chimpanzees with the same set of mechanistic explanatory tools; but as soon as one turns to man and woman, who alone possess res cogitans, a new explanatory tool box is required, one that turns instead on the nature of souls and the eternal Laws of Thought. In contrast to both views, emergence claims that the story of evolution is one of continuity and discontinuity. Continuity first: everything in the natural world is composed of the same ‘stuff’ of matter and energy, and no new substances are added along the way. This means no souls and no personal substances — a painful conclusion for many Christians. When one pursues the scientific project, one seeks to develop a continuity of understanding to the greatest possible extent. But sharing the scientist’s ‘natural piety’ for the world as it actually expresses itself empirically also means that one works with whatever explanatory framework best explains the data at present — as long as it is testable and can demonstrate its explanatory superiority over its rivals.

8.. Numerous examples are offered by Laughlin in his recent book, A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down (New York: Basic Books, 2005). See also the review by Philip Anderson, ‘Emerging Physics: A Fresh Approach to Viewing the Complexity of the Universe’, Nature 434 (7 April 2005): 701-02. 16

Practicing this natural piety — this commitment to study the world in whatever ways it presents itself to us — means that we are not merely biologists simplicatur, much less geneticists only. We are cytologists, systems biologists, botanists, zoologists, primatologists. We are not only molecular biologists and geneticists, but also population biologists and ecosystem theorists. We are interested in the large and complex as much as in the small, in emergent phenomena as well as reducible phenomena. This, I suggest, was the mind set that lay behind Charles Darwin’s great breakthroughs. Recall his famous description of the river bank in the Origin of Species: It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. . . . There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone on cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.9 III. Anthropology What does this commitment to the data as they present themselves say about the animal in whom we are most interested, homo sapiens? The emergentist pursues every bit of common ground that he can discover between humans and other animals — from the common chemical composition and structure of DNA through the mechanisms of cell communication and regeneration to the development of a central nervous system and brain to behavioural similarities to physiological responses. Nerve cell similarities, for example, allow us to learn from electrochemical responses in electric eels; brain plasticity is similar in frogs and humans; we learn about our own social nature from mirror cells and from the rudimentary theory of other minds in chimpanzees. Reconciling behaviours among the great apes, and mutual caretaking among bonobos, help us understand our own interdependencies more fully. All these continuities are for the good from a scientific perspective. Yet humans are also discontinuous with our animal cousins. The significantly larger frontal cortex and more complex anatomy of our brains has produced a mental life and corresponding behaviours that are qualitatively different from our closest animal relatives. We are, as Terrence

9. Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, last paragraph. 17

Deacon so beautifully describes it, ‘the symbolic species’.10 One difference gives rise to another, in a beautiful cascading effect of exponentially increasing complexity. Our disproportionately large brains give rise to more varied language use and linguistic play; and more complex language use in turn produces anatomical changes, such as larger language areas, greater brain plasticity, and more complex interrelationships among the brain regions. This is the famous thesis of the ‘coevolution’ of human brains and human culture.11 Quantitative increases in complexity eventually lead to qualitative differences, the emergence of new types of systems with correspondingly new types of causation. The evolution of human culture is startlingly different from any evolutionary dynamics that preceded it. To put the differences simplistically, this new form of evolution is not only Darwinian but also Lamarckian, that is, it allows for the heritability of acquired traits. When you learn to use email — or shall we say, when you become enslaved to your email accounts — you can pass this knowledge on to your children (poor things). Most of what is important to us — our language, our knowledge of proper ways to behave, our beliefs about the existence or non-existence of God — is transmitted across generations in this fashion. So far we have spoken of empirical facts, but now things become somewhat more speculative. For we must ask: what is the nature of human persons, who emerge through the complex interaction of (Darwinian) biological evolution and (Lamarckian) cultural evolution. A word of caution from Boyle’s The Christian Virtuoso frames the discussion: ‘the very notion we have of spirits in general, is, to me, no small argument how little we really and particularly know of them’.12 In the social world, events without significance are rare; virtually everything we do either has, or fails to have, an underlying valence of meaning. We do not merely grow older; we pass through a series of rites of passage. We do not merely use words and encounter objects; we fashion signs in our language and transform objects into symbols of deep judgments about the world (the cross, the flag, even the colour of our scarves). The famous sociologist of religion Peter Berger writes, ‘Man, biologically denied the ordering mechanisms with which other animals are endowed, is compelled to impose his own order on experience. Man’s sociality

10. See Terrence Deacon, The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997); Melvin J. Konner, The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit (New York: Times Books, 2002). 11. William Durham, Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991). 12. Boyle, The Christian Virtuoso, Second Part (1690-91), 707. 18

presupposes the collective character of this ordering of reality’.13 If this quest for meaning fails, ‘not only will the individual … begin to lose his moral bearings, with disastrous psychological consequences, but he will become uncertain about is cognitive bearings as well’ (22). Yet building worlds of meaning is not just an individual task. ‘Society’, Berger notes, ‘is the guardian of social order and meaning, not only objectively, in its institutional structures, but subjectively as well, in its structuring of individual consciousness’ (21). The importance of this quest for meaning for anthropology cannot be overstated: The construction of meaning is ubiquitous; it plays a role in all that humans do and think. Nor is it limited to human contexts; one must also find one’s sense of self within the natural world as well. As you know, this is no easy task. Friedrich Nietzsche has most clearly expressed the tension faced by individuals in a dark universe: Once upon a time, in a distant corner of this universe with its countless flickering solar systems, there was a planet, and on this planet some intelligent animals discovered knowledge. It was the most noble and most mendacious minute in the history of the universe — but only a minute. After Nature had breathed a few times their star burned out, and the intelligent animals had to die.14 Nietzsche’s nihilism reveals the urgency of this highest and broadest human task: to make sense of our existence as a whole. Somehow what we know about the physical universe, with its apparently unbending laws and hostile conditions for life, must be integrated into our sense of who we are. The trouble is, conclusions from the physical sciences — whether it’s the Big Bang or the emergence of complexity — do not directly prove the existence of God or an ‘intelligent designer’ or any other metaphysical conclusions about ultimate reality. Yet the quest for meaning does unavoidably confront us with the question: can one defend an account of this physical world in irreducibly religious or spiritual terms? Can one develop a rational theology of nature? Can the term ‘God’ still do real work, or should we conclude with Pierre-Simon Laplace, ‘I have no need of that hypothesis’? Religion is the attempt to conceive the entire universe as being humanly significant.15 Religion strives for ‘the establishment … of an all-embracing sacred order… a sacred cosmos that will be capable of maintaining itself in the ever-present face of chaos’. Berger continues: ‘Every society is, in the last resort, [persons] banded together in the face of death. The power of 13. Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967), 19. 14. Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Ueber Wahrheit und Lüge im aussermoralischen Sinne’, Nietzsche Werke, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1973), Pt. 3, vol. 2., 369. 15. Paraphrasing Berger, The Sacred Canopy, 28. 19

religion depends, in the last resort, upon the credibility of the banners it puts in the hands of [men and women] as they stand before death, or more accurately, as they walk, inevitably, toward it’ (51). The object of religion is the sacred. The sacred is what stands out from normal life. It is, in Rudolf Otto’s famous works, mysterium tremendum et fascinans, a mystery that arouses both fear and fascination. The cosmos posited by religion is one that transcends humanity as well as including us. ‘The sacred cosmos is confronted by [humanity] as an immensely powerful reality other than [ourselves]. Yet’, Berger adds, ‘this reality addresses itself to [us] and locates [our] life in an ultimately meaningful order’ (26). What then of the ideas and beliefs that arise out of this process? Are social communities, for example, merely fictional constructions of this process, since what really exists are the individuals, the atoms of the whole process? That seems clearly false. Are the ideals that humans strive for — love, justice, compassion — all fictions? Or are some metaphysical beliefs actually true of the world? Do the sciences prove that we are alone in a hostile universe, as Nietzsche thought? Or do they offer clues about another possibility: that humans are pervasively preoccupied with religious symbols and practices because we live in a universe that is open toward transcendence, a universe that is the product of a cosmic order or designer — one who is not less intelligent and conscious than we are, one whose existence is hinted at in the physical world, in cosmic history, and in the inner life of the subjects studied by psychologists, sociologists, artists, and novelists?16 Could not something of the divine be revealed by studying that animal that struggles with the question of God: ourselves? IV. Theology The emergentist view of human nature and existence that we have come to is certainly religiously significant. It shows that human religiosity is not an absurd reaction to our existence or a sign of infantile irrationality, as some have claimed. Instead, the religious response is intrinsic to human existence to the world. But now the question arises, Can we know whether any of these religious responses are true? For obviously, humans do not just have emotional and aesthetical responses to the universe and the question of its ultimate meaning. Our attempts to construct meaning often come in the form of rather specific beliefs about the universe, about its ultimate origins and final destiny. Are all such beliefs mere projections onto a cold universe, bereft of meaning, by an animal all too hungry for some sense of cosmic purpose? Or are we justified in our hope and belief that some ultimate significance may underlie the process of emergence of which we ourselves are a part? 16. See Berger, ‘Relativising the Relativisers’, in A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural (Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1969).


Agnosticism, atheism, and intelligent design Of course, one response to this question is agnosticism. We are inevitably and unavoidably driven to formulate hypotheses about the ‘Before’ and the ‘After’, as David Hume puts it. Yet, according to the agnostic, no beliefs of this type have any ‘traction’ in the real world. And if none are testable, he continues, none are rational. Psychologically interesting, perhaps, but of no interest to seekers after Truth. This tragic view of our human fate is widespread and popular, especially in the age of science. It became increasingly attractive in the modern period, perhaps because of its Byronic tone. Just think of the oft-repeated mantras of the modern prophets of agnosticism. Steven Weinberg writes famously, ‘The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless’. Jacques Monod’s view is even more bleak: Chance alone is the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution. The central concept of biology... is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one compatible with observed and tested fact. All forms of life are the product of chance... John Polkinghorne provides a trenchant summary of this world view (which of course is not the one he holds): ‘All culture, including science, will be no more than a transient episode, but while human society lasts it represents a small island of self-created meaning, around which laps the ocean of cosmic meaninglessness’. One can’t help but admire the existentialist’s courage. But courage does not, of course, make a position true. From another standpoint, the agnostic’s pessimistic rejection of all metaphysical reflection also represents a form of betting against oneself. How will we ever know whether it’s possible to evaluate hypotheses that go beyond the strictly scientific, unless we engage in rigorous and critical debate on these topics? Unfortunately the cultural prejudice of our day militates against even the attempt to debate the issues critically. On a recent BBC programme an Oxford professor of the public understanding of science argued that all religious belief is superficial and anti-intellectual. Yet scholarly theologians were noticeably absent from the broadcast, and no serious philosophical debate of the topics took place. Of course, debate-blocking measures occur from the other side as well. The American ‘Intelligent Design’ theorist Michael Behe argues that the functions of hemoglobin could never be biologically explained. ‘Each of the steps of the [blood] clotting cascade’, he asserts, ‘is irreducibly complex.... [T]he clotting cascade was not produced by natural selection.... That is


why I conclude that the cascade is a product of design’.17 Some American members of the socalled ‘ID’ movement go even further: ‘Every fact of creation drips with evidence of God as the creator’, writes Terry Gray, and ‘Every time we think or speak about a fact of creation it is either acknowledging God as the creator or denying him’.18 But surely there must be a region between the cavalier dismissal of religious reflection and direct inferences from what science does not know to God. In between these two responses is a third realm of discourse, one in which religious truth claims can be calmly and rationally assessed. How will we know whether testing of metaphysical hypotheses is possible unless we try? Until we actually engage in the process of examining our ultimate beliefs as carefully as possible — including their consistency with science — a priori claims about what can and cannot be rationally decided are otiose. Is it not better to wager for the human quest for knowledge, in the broadest sense of this term, than against our own desire to know? So what happens when one tries? I shall argue in the final minutes that the emergentist understanding of nature and humanity supports the idea of a metaphysical reality that is not less than personal, a ground of our existence to which agency may also be ascribed. The case proceeds in three steps.19 1. Emergent spiritual properties I have argued that emergence is a broad pattern shared across the sciences and a genuine macropattern manifested in natural history. If each stage of the evolutionary process produces new levels of emergent phenomena, then is it not likely that the level of human culture will produce (or has produced) yet another level? Let’s call this the level of spirituality, the emergence of spiritual predicates. Is this argument sufficient for a doctrine of God? Some theorists have attempted to understand the divine directly in terms of the arrow of emergence. According to what I have called radically emergentist theism20, the divine itself becomes yet another emergent property in natural history — and indeed, presumably, the final one. This is the route taken, most famously, 17. Michael J. Behe, ‘Letter to the Boston Review’, <>, visited January 29, 2006. Cf. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Boston: Free Press, 1996) , chapter 4. 18. Quoted by Bob DeHaanin a debate with Terry Gray; see <>, visited January 29, 2006. 19. Each of these steps relies on a different field or type of argument. The three dimensions of the argument turn out to be complementary and mutually reinforcing in an interesting and unexpected way, despite (or perhaps precisely because of) their diversity. 20. See Philip Clayton, Mind and Emergence: From Quantum to Consciousness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), chapter 4.


by Samuel Alexander in his famous Gifford Lectures of 1918-19, published as Space, Time, and Deity: As actual, God does not possess the quality of deity but is the universe as tending to that quality.... Thus there is no actual infinite being with the quality of deity; but there is an actual infinite, the whole universe, with a nisus toward deity; and this is the God of the religious consciousness, though that consciousness habitually forecasts the divinity of its object as actually realised in an individual form.... The actual reality which has deity is the world of empiricals filling up all Space-Time and tending towards a higher quality. Deity is a nisus and not an accomplishment.21 What humans call ‘God’ is just the emergent property of spirituality in the universe. And ‘God’ is simply the universe becoming aware of itself. Note that Alexander’s argument does not produce theism in any traditional sense. In fact, contemporary scientists with a more ‘Buddhist’ orientation, such as Terry Deacon and Ursula Goodenough22, are happy to speak of the emergence of spiritual significance without God. But, I suggest, this sort of immediate connection between emergent patterns in nature and metaphysics is too direct. Alexander obviously assumes that emergence is both necessary and sufficient for doing metaphysics and theology. But there are reasons to be skeptical of such straight-line extrapolations from science to metaphysics. Here I follow Boyle over Alexander. Recall the Boyle text quoted a few minutes ago: scientific results may be necessary for theological conclusions, but they are not sufficient. When one introduces the level of metaphysics — that is, questions of the ultimate source or origin — other conceptual resources are required. One thing we can learn from Alexander: once one has granted the ongoing advent of new emergent patterns, it is arbitrary to stop the progression with mental predicates. There may well be further levels of emergence — either qualities that we humans have some inkling of, or qualities utterly unknown to us. The Alexander argument for viewing emergence as open-ended thus represents an important ally against reductionism, that is, against the limitation of emergence to the level of human mentality. We should embrace this argument, which effectively undercuts attempts to limit reality to the (better understood) earlier stages of natural history. This is step one of my apologetic.

21. Samuel Alexander, Space, Time, and Deity, the Gifford Lectures for 1916-18, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1920), ii, 361-2, 364. 22. See Ursula Goodenough, The Sacred Depths of Nature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).


2. The divine is not less than personal If we are to reach the next level of reflection, we must pause to consider for a moment what it means for some of these higher-order properties, such as personhood, to emerge. Science — and here I mean to include the social sciences — does not warrant the introduction of souls or other non-natural entities in the world; nor are the sciences as such capable of detecting and explaining divine action, if it does indeed occur. But even if soullanguage is problematic, it is surely justified to move from the emergence of mental predicates and personal qualities to language of persons acting in the world. Indeed, would it not be arbitrary to acknowledge the emergence of the sort of psychological and intentional predicates that characterize the human person whilst refusing to acknowledge that form of agency that we all know as the activities of persons? I well remember a major international scientific congress, the AAAS, a few years ago, at which a panel of neuroscientists was chiding philosophers of mind for their doubts about whether humans are really conscious and whether consciousness does anything in the world. ‘Ascribing consciousness to persons is basic to the practice of neurology in medicine’, one neurologist argued. ‘When a patient shows rapidly decreasing awareness and cognitive functioning, that’s a key sign for us that medical intervention is justified.’ Of course, the physicians insisted, medicine cannot resolve the question of whether their patients have, or are, spiritual souls. But, they argued, to be experts in neuroscience in no way undercuts the belief that one’s patients are persons; to the contrary! How then shall we view persons, if they are more than Humean bundles of mental and psychological predicates on the one hand, yet less than substantial souls or hylomorphic entities on the other? I suggest that language of personhood or ‘whole persons’ serves an indispensable function in comprehending human actions and interactions. When we examine the neural correlates of consciousness, we can research only isolated mental attributes such as the state of arousal or fear or uncertainty. Electrode stimulation of a particular cortical region (as in the classic experiments by Benjamin Libet) may correlate each time only with specific behaviours or memories. But surely any adequate social scientific account will have to include theories about the agent — her wishes, her goals and her intentions conscious and unconscious. At the very least, one would be forced to interpret person language as a sort of Kantian regulative ideal — an unavoidable way of speaking if one is to conceptualize the persons and their attributes that we encounter in the world. But a bit more reflection on our own experience as agents in the world is enough to justify a rather more robust account of the existence of human agents and their causal powers. Now combine this conclusion with the previous one and notice what results. In step one of the argument I defended the emergent level of mental properties — the properties of persons in the world — as well as an emergent level of spiritual properties. Here’s the question: why should we now deny of the spiritual level what we are willing to affirm of humans? If humans


can be conceived as persons, why are we so certain that the divine can be no more than a series or bundle of spiritual properties — no more than the world as a whole ‘deising’ itself, as Samuel Alexander put it? Is it not much more natural and reasonable to postulate such spiritual properties as being unified in a being or agent? Some caution is called for here. We cannot be flat-footed literalists; there is no reason to limit this conception to an agency identical to the finite human and animal agents we encounter in the world. A wide variety of metaphysical models is available, and they are significantly different. Patristic beliefs about the Trinitarian God, with their reliance on the Greek notion of substance, are not identical to theologies of emanation or to perennial philosophies or to ‘Ground of Being’ theologies. Classical philosophical theism is not identical to panentheism, the belief that the world is located within the divine although God is also more than the world. (In fact, I have argued in various places that panentheism, or ‘the world in God’, is more adequate way to conceive the divine than traditional theism.) But what all of these models share in common is conceiving the religious object as more than merely a bundle of emergent properties; and surely they are right to do so. So, if emergence leads us to speak of a higher kind of agency than our own, what kind of agency might it be? In some traditions the spiritual level is conceived as less than personal. Think for example of the metaphysics of karma, which is understood as a force that works more like a natural law rather than as personal agent. (Of course, actual Hindu religious practice is deeply influenced by bhakti, the practice of devotion to a personal god or gods.) But surely, once we have granted that natural history has produced personal agency of the sort we know in our own actions, we should not expect that the next higher level, the level of spiritual properties, would be characterised by a lower form of causality, a causality analogous to natural law. Is it not more reasonable to conceive the religious object, the divine, as everything that human persons are — and presumably much more? In short, the irreducibility of person language, combined with the open-ended nature of the emergence hierarchy, induces us to use language for the divine that is not-less-than personal. It suggests a deity who is not less agent than humans are, yet also infinitely more — a creative God, hence a God of intentions and plans, and hence, perhaps, a providential God as well. 3. Religious experience, revelation, and the established religions Boyle was right: science is not sufficient for metaphysics or theology. One should resist a straight-line extrapolation from scientific emergence to a metaphysical theory of deity as the sum of all emergent spiritual properties. Yet, he insisted, some inferences can be drawn. We have so far discovered two. First, if there are emergent mental properties, it makes sense to speak of the persons who have these properties and of the personality or character that produces the patterns that we detect in their actions. Second, as we saw, if there are emergent spiritual properties it


also makes sense to speak of the nature or character of the reality or being that produces the patterns that we detect. Since it is incoherent to imagine that the ultimate ground or spiritual reality is less than what it has produced, and it clearly isn’t merely a human person, we are justified in conceiving it as supra-personal. In short, we have discovered reasons to make the transition from finite agency to transcendent agency, at least in this carefully circumscribed sense. In the argument’s third and final step, I shall argue for an analogous transition from metaphysics to theology. Imagine that you are now inclined to conceive the metaphysical ultimate as not-less-thanpersonal. Like Boyle, I am skeptical of divine incursions into the physical order, and hence of physical miracles as traditionally conceived. Recall Boyle’s argument: ‘if [God] but continue his ordinary and general concourse, there will be no necessity of extraordinary interpositions, which may reduce him to seem, as it were, to play after-games;... mere matter, so ordered, shall... do all... [without...] acting otherwise than according to the catholic laws of motion’.23 Yet a world that is ‘upwardly open’, in the way that emergence theory describes it to be, might at its most complex levels manifest something of the influence of the divine. If any sign of more-thanpersonal divine activity exists, where might it be recognizable as such? Two possibilities come immediately to mind: individual religious experience, and the putative revelations of the divine recorded in the sacred scriptures of the great world religious traditions. In the experience of mystics through the ages lie shared observations and insights that, as Wordsworth put it, ‘disturb [us] with the joy/ Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime/ Of something far more deeply interfused...’ Given the vagaries of human experience, and the fallibility of subjective reports of which we are only too aware, the philosophical force of these ‘intimations of transcendence’ may be limited. Still, if a self-revealing divine agent exists, it is hard to dismiss the possibility that something of this being may be manifest in the inner life. What of the second route — the scriptures after which so many have molded their lives, and the traditions of reflection to which they have given rise? Of course, the hypothesis of a not-lessthan-personal divine can be explored conceptually; we can enquire whether it is consistent, coherent, and better justified than its rivals. But it can also be explored historically; we can study the documents that claim to be the histories of divine self-revelation, the records of the putative interaction of God and humanity.24 Here other sorts of terms become relevant to our enquiry, terms more reminiscent of theological debate and religious practice — terms such as Spirit, pre-existence, self-revelation, creation, providence; terms such as grace, sin, and salvation; but also terms such as Atman and Brahman, moksha, sunyata, and co-dependent origination.

23. Hall, ed., Robert Boyle on Natural Philosophy, 151. 24. The core concepts of and arguments for this approach are developed in the opening chapters of Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991ff.).


I do not share the optimism of my Oxford colleague, Richard Swinburne, whose many books attempt to construct a ladder of reasoning step by unbroken step from purely philosophical considerations to Christian theological conclusions. Instead, I have argued that asking about the locus, or loci, of divine self-revelation is a rational question, and that it is therefore reasonable to look to the putative histories of divine revelation to see what patterns may emerge there. If the conceptual arguments of the metaphysicians regarding the divine nature are to be taken seriously, as I have sought to show, then the records that claim to record the self-revelation of God may serve as important sources of material as well. Especially where patterns of belief and value emerge across these traditions, they merit our close attention. But here Reason falters. It is a tall mountain that we have ascended, and I must sound a note of caution. At about this point, it seems to me, unaided reflection starts to lose its bearings, and the ascending path of speculation begins to disappear into the clouds. (Which is not to deny that many have climbed confidently onward, armed only with the ropes of purely a priori arguments.) Just consider the difficulties that now arise: the claims of the various religious traditions conflict; the primary sources are heavily redacted by later communities; even within the various traditions more specific beliefs are contested; cultural and historical differences threaten incommensurability; and subjective factors increasingly colour one’s own assessment of the data. Rationality begins to lose its footing, and even metaphysicians must proceed with caution, if at all. One may have strong reasons to locate oneself within a particular tradition of religious practice, as I locate myself within the Christian tradition. But the obscurity of the claims and the depths of the disagreements between religious traditions call for a certain humility. Boldness, a quality needed when we left the relatively safe fields of accepted science and began the ascent of metaphysical reflection, can now become a liability. And when it comes to beliefs contested between Jews, Christians and Muslims, even more caution is required. Christians in particular — the boldness of whose truth claims in the past has produced crusades, inquisitions, and pogroms — would do well to emphasize the present limitations on knowledge. ‘For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.’ We hope for a culmination of humanity’s quest for knowledge of God, rather than a sort of sacred agnosticism; we hope for confirmation of our sense that we are not alone in the universe. Yet the hope for future confirmation cannot become the battering ram of religious apologetics, knocking down the walls of opposing religious traditions. ‘Now we know only in part; then we will know fully, even as we have been fully known’.25

25. 1 Cor. 13:12, NRSV (adapted). 27

V. Conclusion Tonight I have sketched a major movement in contemporary science and the philosophy of science. Emergence theory not only sheds new light on natural history and the relationships between different levels of phenomena in the world; it also encourages us to think the uniqueness of human beings without denying our closeness to our animal cousins. The ladder of natural emergence first led us to speculate about the emergence of spiritual properties and then, taking the metaphysical leap (or salto mortales?), to postulate a not-less-than-personal spiritual reality or ground. Following in Boyle’s footsteps, I argued that the results are fully consistent with a theistic world view and may even be better explained by theism than by its competitors. Science therefore does not undercut the belief that this rich and diverse natural order may reflect an intentional act of creation. Science certainly constrains our beliefs about divine action, but it does not eliminate the possibility that a Creator is engaged at least with humanity, and perhaps elsewhere in the universe as well. Thus, it turns out, it is dogmatism not science to claim that personal agency and meaningfulness are foreign to this universe. If tonight’s argument is successful, one is fully justified in looking to the resources of the existing religious traditions as one seeks to understand the upwardly open process of emergence as manifested both in the natural world and in the cultural realms of art, literature, and philosophy. Perhaps we are, after all, at home in the universe.26

26. I am grateful to Michael Byrne and Russell Manning for criticisms of earlier drafts. Important portions of the argument also reflect the influence of my long-time collaborator, Professor Steven Knapp of Johns Hopkins University.


Response to Professor Clayton: Emergence: From Chemistry to Theology
Niels Gregersen

Niels Gregersen gained his Ph.D. from the University of Copenhagen in 1987. He was Research Professor in Theology and Science at Aarhus University from 2000 to 2003 before being appointed Professor of Systematic Theology at Copenhagen. Professor Gregersen has edited or co-edited The Concept of Nature in Science and Theology I-II (Geneva: Labor & Fides 1997-98), Rethinking Theology and Science. Six Models for the Current Dialogue (Eerdmans 1998), Scientific and Theological Worldviews I-II (Labor & Fides 1999) , The Human Person in Science and Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark/Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), Design and Disorder: Perspectives from Science & Theology (T & T Clark 2002), From Complexity to Life: On the Emergence of Life and Meaning (Oxford University Press 2003), and The Future of Lutheran Theology (Fortress 2004). He was general editor of Studies in Science and Theology and Issues in Science and Theology 1996-2002 , associate editor of Encyclopaedia of Science and Religion vols. I-II (MacMillan Reference, 2003), and he has served as systematic-theological editor of Dansk teologisk Tidsskrift since 1993.

“For we must consider each body, not barely as it is in itself, an intire and distinct portion of matter, but as it is a part of the universe, and consequently placed among a great number and variety of other bodies, upon which it may act and by which it may be acted on in 27 many ways…” It seems highly apposite that Professor Clayton has chosen the topic of emergence for his Boyle Lecture 2006. For even though the great chemist Robert Boyle (1627-91) was a firm proponent of a mechanical world-picture, 20th century scholarship has shown to what extent Robert Boyle’s atomic theory of matter was dynamical in nature. Boyle is repeatedly attentive to the appearance of novel qualities of matter. It is no coincidence that the Oxford English Dictionary of English counts Boyle as one of the very first to use the term ‘emergence’.28

Robert Boyle, The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle, ed. T. Birch (London: Millar, 1744), vol II, 464. 28 Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), vol. 5, 175-76.



From the Clockwork to the Network No less a figure than the historian of science Thomas Kuhn has pointed out how Boyle’s “dynamical atomism” allowed him to understand the universe as self-transformative so that the universe eventually is, or rather becomes, what Boyle himself called a “self-moving machine”.29 Chemistry, for Boyle, was the study of mixed bodies above the level of the minimal corpuscles (the minima). Boyle here observed that even the mixta prima (like gold) were not stable, since primary compounds could also take part of new reaction cycles in other contexts. What matters, after all, are not only the components but also the constellations of matter. And here it is that both the term and the subject-matter of emergence enters into the picture: in clusters of particles, says Boyle, when the corpuscles lose their shape, size or motion, “each of them really ceases to be a corpuscle of the same denomination it was before; and from the coalition of these there may emerge a new body, as really one, as either of the corpuscles was before they were mingled, or if 30 you please, confounded”. There might eventually be a shorter way from the clock-work picture of the universe that Boyle favoured to the network view of the world of nature that 20th emergentism has suggested to us. But it should not be overlooked either, as rightly observed by Professor Clayton, that the style of theological reasoning has changed significantly since the time of the original Boyle Lectures between 1692 and 1732, initiated by Richard Bentley’s famous Confutation of Atheism. After all, it is not atheism but the feasibility of an out-and-out reductionism that is refuted by the emergentist paradigm. It is indeed possible to fully accept the reality of qualitatively new and causally effective structures in the world of nature (i.e., to adopt strong emergence), without thereby embracing a broadly theistic account of our emergent universe. There is not, as perhaps hoped for by Robert Boyle, a clear inference from the world of nature to God, from the field of chemistry to the reality of a wise and caring creator. There are no shortcuts from nature to God. What one could say, however, is that the emergentist view of nature is highly congenial to the a priori expectations that a believer in a creative and benevolent God would have of the structure of the world of nature. It can even be argued that the general thrust of evolution towards ever more complex forms of creatures – adaptive, sensitive and communicative creatures – can best be accounted for from a theistic perspective, as suggested by Philip Clayton, especially if one is interested in a comprehensive explanation of reality rather than confining oneself to more narrow causal explanations of particulars. So what I would like to do here is to discuss, in sympathetic agreement with Professor Clayton’s lecture, the importance of an emergentist worldview for religious reflection, in particular for Christian theology. Crudely said, is there a connection between the world of emergence and the emergence of Jesus Christ? Robert Boyle, The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle, vol II, 474 (Italics Boyle’s). See Thomas Kuhn, “Robert Boyle and Structural Chemistry of the Seventeenth Century”, Isis, 43:1 (April 1952), 12-36 (17). 30 Boyle, Robert Boyle, The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle, vol. III, 88 (Italics mine). Quoted from Kuhn, op. cit , 26.


Put more modestly, and more to the point, what are the potential bearings of emergentism for a religious understanding of divine grace or generosity? The Natural Abode of Emergent Phenomena Let me nonetheless begin with short reflection on the limits of the idea of emergence. Most concepts have a certain of range of applicability, and I believe that this also applies to the idea of emergence. Emergent phenomena are ubiquitous in an evolving world, as rightly shown by Clayton, but emergent processes do not happen out of the blue. Prior to the interesting cases of emergence there is a physical universe that both affords and supports the appearance of qualitative novelty. Emergent processes, almost by definition, means emerging from, or growing out of, something which is already established. It is not possible to imagine emergent processes arising without a physical basis from which they take off and without an appropriate milieu to sustain their development and flourishing. The fluidity of water does not happen without the prior existence of oxygen and hydrogen molecules, without the chemical bonding laws (which indeed can be reduced to physical properties) and without the appropriate temperature. Similarly birds do not flock without individual birds having the capacity to orient themselves in relation to one another, and in relation to the earth, and without specific environmental factors such as temperature, aerodynamics, and other factors yet unknown to us. These simple examples suffice to show that emergent properties do not rule out reductionist explanation, since emergent processes build on persistent physical and chemical structures that often have a nice and simple reductionist explanation. Accordingly, the paradigm of emergentism cannot, and should not, be used to weaken the quest for a reductionist causal analysis within physics, chemistry, and biology, wherever applicable. What the paradigm of emergence falsifies, if it is successful, is the claims of a thorough reductionism. Professor Clayton rightly insists on the necessity of explanations that take into account holistic features of evolving systems, such as in the case of bird flocking. He also points to the importance of coevolution as a prime facilitator of new emergent phenomena, such as the co-evolution of brain and language. Emergentist explanations here always rest upon reductionist explanations, but the emergentist paradigm is able to explain more, in so far as it addresses the specific configurations or patterns in which new properties emerge and new processes are propagated, often with startling causal effects. Emergentist explanations here explain more than could be explained from the perspective of microphysical determination, or from the perspective of a genes-alone 31 perspective within biology.

See, e.g., Jason C. Jenson, ”Innateness, Developmental Systems and Explanation” (December 2002), available at (accessed February 14, 2006).



Designed for Emergence? These observations also have some relevance for theology. For if emergent processes are always arising on the basis of certain persistent background conditions of a physical-chemical sort, and if emergent processes are always conditioned by complex boundary conditions, theology should refrain from contrasting self-organization and emergence on the one hand and the possibility of design arguments on the other hand. It would be both a possible and a plausible theological position to argue that the world of nature is exactly designed for self-organization. At the very least, what we observe from our own vantage point is that the physical world is a particularly fertile milieu for emergent phenomena.32 Note, however, that this theological design argument only relates to the basic constituents of matter, and to laws of nature reigning at the constituent level of physics. The socalled Anthropic Principle asks what the relations are between fundamental physics and the emergence of life on planet Earth (and perhaps elsewhere in the universe). One here wonders: “Why is it that we have the kind of matter we have (with a propensity for life), and why is it that we have laws of physics which seem fine-tuned for the emergence and propagation of life”. And to this meta-scientific question we can, as argued by the South African cosmologist George Ellis, explore a correlative set of scientific questions: “How much could the initial conditions of the universe differ from what they actually are, and how much could the fundamental laws of physics be different, and we would still have the emergence of life?”. Since all life that we know about is carbon-based, and the route to the formation of carbon is highly contingent on the size of the universe (since carbon is formed in second-generation stars with the rare triple-alpha reactions), the design hypothesis is a strong candidate for truth. We don’t have a clear inference from laws of nature to design perhaps; but we do have a plausible truth-candidate which is fully as rational as competing explanations in terms of ultimate chance (the Lady Luck-hypothesis) or 33 the metaphysical hypothesis of multiverses. Moreover, a higher-order hypothesis of a divine design would be at least compatible with a notion of radical contingency, or with the putative existence of multiverses, even though the design hypothesis would then lose its rational superiority over against its rival explanations.34

Niels Henrik Gregersen, ”From Anthropic Design to Self-Organized Complexity”, ed. N.H. Gregersen., From Complexity to Life: On the Emergence of Life and Meaning (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 206-234. 33 George F.R. Ellis, ”The Theology of the Anthropic Principle”, in Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, eds. Robert J. Russell, Nancey Murphy, and C.J. Isham (Vatican City: Vatican Observatory Publications/Berkeley: CTNS, 1993), 367-406. 34 Robert John Russell, “Cosmology, Creation, and Contingency”, Cosmos as Creation: Theology and Science in Consonance, ed. Ted Peters (Nashville: Abington Press, 1989), 177-210 (196-204).



Against this background, I would therefore argue that self-organization no less than emergence can replace the explanatory function of the design argument concerning the world’s basic framework. At this level, we might still follow Robert Boyle’s intellectual confession, “I ascribe to the wisdom of God…the first fabrick of the universe…”.35 Far from being a formal argument of design, Boyle here makes a practical inference, sitting on the stool of wonder while observing the high degree of coordination within the physical cosmos. Where Emergence Comes In, and Design Fails Now, as Professor Clayton reminds us, design arguments concerning specific biological systems have indeed become obsolete after Darwin’s theory of evolution. In today’s science, selforganization and natural selection do the job that earlier could only be explained by appeals to 36 special divine designs. The American Intelligent Design Movement is therefore bound to fail, first because it speaks as if it were possible to “detect design” from the appearance of “irreducible complexity” (a move which most design theorists find unconvincing)37, secondly because it uses gaps of current science to fill in God (or other designers), and thirdly because it fails to acknowledge the extent to which the processes of evolution use pre-adapted structures for building up new structures for other adaptive purposes.38 I would also argue that the IDmovement is theologically flawed, because it presupposes a fundamental contrast between the workings of nature, and God’s work as creator. I will therefore leave ID as it is and instead follow up upon Professor Clayton’s important point that emergence is closely linked to evolution and co-evolution. As is wellknown, the idea of emergence came up in the safe climate of evolutionary thinking, as epitomized in the British biologist C. Lloyd Morgan’s Emergent Evolution (1923).39 What still needs to be clarified in theoretical biology, however, is the relation between the many cases of self-organization and emergence on the one hand, and natural selection on the other hand. Is emergence the well-spring of a host of new hopeful evolutionary candidates, which drive evolution, though always constrained by natural selection which determines which organisms have a future, and which not? Or is it the other way around: that natural selection drives the course of evolution, though always constrained by what is physically feasible? As argued by Robert Boyle, The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle, vol V, 163. A helpful historical overview is offered by Michael Ruse, Darwin and Design: Does Evolution have a Purpose?, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003). 37 Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantinga, just to mention two prominent design theorists, who have not been convinced that ID-proponents have redeemed their high promises. 38 A very concise critique of Michael Behe’s claims is presented by the biologist Kenneth R. Miller, “The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of ‘Irreducible Complexity’”, in Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA, ed. William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 81-97. Concerning the wider perspectives relating to emergence and self-organization, see Bruce H. Weber and David J. Depew, “Darwinism, Design and Complex Systems Dynamics”, Debating Design, 173-190. 39 C. Lloyd Morgan, Emergent Evolution (London: Williams and Northgate 1923).
36 35


David J Depew and Bruce H. Weber in Darwinism Evolving these issues remain controversial within biology.40 I find it most likely that one could find empirical cases of both alternatives.41 If so, this is a further plank in the argument for strong emergence, as laid out by Clayton and others. For whether emergent processes are mainly creative by feeding the game of selection with new hopeful creatures, or by constraining the process of selection, emergent processes must be accorded a strong status of being “real”, since they have long-range causal effects in evolution. Admittedly in some cases of emergence, such as in the case of snowflakes, one could argue that such constellations of matter, rich and diverse as they, they have no bearing for the future. But this would not be the case where emergent processes are coupled with evolutionary stable structures that have a capacity not only to replicate themselves but also to store information for later use. As soon as memory comes into the play in evolution, learning also comes into the picture, and a new level of emergence has been reached.42 In particular this is the case for self-productive or autopoietic systems that, once they have emerged, develop by utilizing their own stored information systems. We find this new level perhaps at the level of cells but at least at the level of immune systems that are self-selective in the process of producing anti-bodies. Even more so do brains with associated consciousness and human languages develop by autopoiesis. From Emergent Properties to Emergent Persons Up to this I have sometimes spoken about emergent properties, sometimes about emergent processes. The difference may indeed be crucial, for mere emergent properties do not necessarily have causal effects, unless they are part of emergent processes of a physical nature. One example is the emergent qualia of consciousness such as our perception of colours. It is in principle a thinkable hypothesis, laid out some years ago by David Chalmers in The Conscious Mind (1996), that human consciousness may be accorded a kind of reality status, since the first-person perspective is a novel feature of the universe in addition to physical descriptions of the universe, including ourselves, from a third-person perspective. According to Chalmers, however, consciousness does not necessarily play any causal role; there may just be a flow of consciousness running in us alongside our physiological brain states. Consciousness and brain states are correlated ad hoc, but according to Chalmers the current state of neuroscience cannot deal with the “hard problem” of consciousness: “Why is it that we at all have states of David J. Depew and Bruce H. Weber, Darwinism Evolving: Systems Dynamics and the Genealogy of Natural Selection (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995), 479-490. 41 Niels Henrik Gregersen, ”The Complexification of Nature: Supplementing the NeoDarwinian Paradigm?”, Theology and Science 4:1 (April 2006), 5-31 (16-19) 42 See Bruce H. Weber and David J. Depew eds., Evolution and Learning: The Baldwin Effect Reconsidered (Cambridge: Mass.: MIT Press, 2003), especially Terrence W. Deacon, “The Hierarchical Logic of Emergence: Untangling the Interdependence of Evolution and SelfOrganization”, 273-308.


consciousness?” Chalmers’ proposal is then, first, that we should face the hard problem of consciousness (and not believe that we can solve the problem of consciousness by ad hoccorrelations). Secondly that human consciousness plays no causal role in our behaviour; psychology has no explanatory role to play. And thirdly, that we should look forward to a future science that will uncover the fundamental psycho-physical laws that may really explain consciousness.43 The fundamental problem with Chalmers’ intelligent thought experiment, as I see it, is not only that he denies that brains actually cause consciousness, but he also understands consciousness to make up a separate world of its own, a secluded world of consciousness. Rephrased in Clayton’s terms, Chalmers fails to realize that emergent properties (or “naturally supervenient” states) are part of biological organisms, which surely are real-world physical organisms. In short, the emergent properties of consciousness are not free-floating, but reside in emergent processes of a physiological nature. The question is here, “What is it emerges”? If it is only properties that emerge, we may have only weak emergence, that is, emergence without particularly novel causal powers. Water and snowflakes may be of this sort, as consciousness is, on Chalmer’s account. However, if it is processes that emerge, the emergent structures are part of the causal nexus that channels and selects between physical options, such as in the case of digestive systems, where the structure of the stomach decides the sorts of nutrition to absorb or expel. Finally, if is biological organisms or self-reflexive agents that emerge during evolution, it is (Chalmers’ thought experiment notwithstanding) hardly possible to deny that emergent organisms exert a specific causal influence on their future.44 Even if could be shown that a sudden flickering brain state in a goose triggers the migration of geese, neither the leading role of the male goose, nor the flocking behaviour, nor the goal-oriented behaviour of migration, say from Denmark to Greenland, could be explained apart from the social pattern of learning and behaviour which has evolved over centuries in such specific geese populations. We do not call it a “migration pattern” merely as a nice shorthand for properties “in reality” governed by physical processes. If we disregard the emergent level of learning behaviour at the level of bird populations we simply cannot give a causal account of so many kilos of physical stuff moving from Denmark to Svalbard, and to Greenland. David J. Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). It should be noted that Chalmers resists being labelled a standard epiphenomenalist, but he still argues that “experience (is) explanatorily irrelevant. We can give explanations of behaviour in purely physical or computational terms, terms that neither involve nor imply phenomenology” (156). Furthermore, Chalmers argues that processes of natural selection “cannot distinguish between the effects of my consciousness and an hypothetical zombie twin placed in the same physical situation” (120). This is the conclusion that I’m going to question, following the emergentist argument. – A forceful criticism of Chalmers’ theory is presented by John R. Searle, “Consciousness & the Philosophers”, The New York Review, March 6, 1997, 43-49. 44 I have discussed the status of the emergents in more detail in ”Emergence and Complexity”, to be published in The Oxford Handbook in Science and Religion, ed. Philip Clayton (New York: Oxford University Press 2007).


And much more so with human beings. We are indeed, as noted by Clayton, continuous both with our biological past and our contemporary mammalian cousins. Yet we are also discontinuous. For human cultures presuppose the co-evolution of type-different systems, such as language (a cultural system) and brains (a physiological system). As bio-cultural creatures, human beings are able to produce new domains of creativity, such as complex human societies, in which agents are able to deliberate and make informed choices about what to do, how to do it, with whom to do it, and where to go. Human beings live not only in their constrained natural habitats but also in an open horizon of developmental possibilities to be explored. The kind of language utilized by human beings is therefore unique in relation to our mammalian peers. For as argued by Terrence Deacon, our language is symbolic in nature, in principle distinct from the signal language that we find among other mammals.45 What we refer to in our languages are not only specific particulars, like warning signals referring to specific sorts of predators; we refer also to abstract realities such as “animals”, “country”, “money” or “love”, where only in the process of communication do we specify what we are referring to, while retaining an open horizon of meaning. The expression “my love” can thus refer to my wife, my child, my dog, my own love, or to divine love, all dependent on the particular context. By using universals, we are also able to anticipate and respond to potential states that are not yet made into reality. This we do routinely in planning activities, and we do it religiously when we attune ourselves to spiritual realities which are yet in the process of coming. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom has come near, repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:14). This saying of Jesus, the first saying reported in Gospel of Mark, addresses human beings as whole persons, as agents in their own lives, as responsible for their community, and as persons that are to attune themselves to the reality of the kingdom of God, which does not yet exist, or only exists as a spiritual possibility. Human beings not only live in a fixed physical environment, but in a symbolic world that comprises both that which is seen and that which is yet unseen. Emergence and God-Talk But how far can the idea of emergence be used in our language about God? It seems to me that here again we come to a limit in the use of the concept of emergence in theology. I concur with Clayton that one should not expect too direct a connection between emergent patterns in nature and our concept of God. If we were to follow Samuel Alexander’s understanding of the world process as a “deisising” process, God would be the product, even a victim, of the cosmic process. The distinctive character of God, as also expressed by Alexander, would then be “lodged in only 46 a portion of the Universe”, since the “distinctive character of deity is not creative, but created”.

Terence W. Deacon, The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), 69-101. 46 Samuel Alexander, Space, Time, and Deity (New York: The Humanitarian Press, 1920), vol I, 357 and 397.



Put in grammatical terms: in the theistic traditions, both in India and in the Abrahamic traditions, God always takes the position of the logical subject, that is, the position of firstness, while a radical emergentist view of God places God in the position of the predicate, that is, as the secondary one, while the material universe would take the logical place of the subject. God would not be a reality ontologically prior to the world, but the subsequent result of the world process, in so far as the predicates of goodness and beauty are realized (what they are not everywhere). One could then speak of “the divine” (the predicate), but not about God (the subject). This was also the position that Ludwig Feuerbach took in his atheist critique of Christianity in The Essence of Christianity (1844). Here Feuerback famously asked, “Who is actually our redeemer and reconciler? Is it God, or is it Love? It is Love, for it is not God that has redeemed us but Love, which so loftily transcends the difference between divine and human personality”.47 By contrast, theistic traditions understand God as the eternal and everlasting Source of emergence. This fits with my earlier view that the world may be explained as an fertile abode created by God for the purpose of self-organization and emergence. In this view, God’s firstness is retained. But then one might wonder: does this mean that God the Creator stays aloof from the world, without any connection to the world of creation other than that of being its designer and initiator? In fact, this view can be found in Christian tradition, especially in the tradition of natural theology (also as embraced by Robert Boyle). Here I would like to suggest -- in fundamental agreement with Philip Clayton, I believe -- that the idea of emergence may prompt us to take leave of fabricator model of the creator that has been part of standard philosophical theism. Rather we should assume a more artistic model of God being the artist, while the world of nature expresses God’s eternal Light, Love, and Beauty. In this picture, there is no divide -and hence no competition -- between God’s creative activity and natural creativity, for the latter is exactly the expression of the former. This is the view of creation that has been especially emphasized in Lutheran and Anglican traditions, since both Anglicans and Lutheran affirm the 48 ubiquity (“everywhereness”) of God in creation. What needs to be added to this classic formulation of God’s ubiquity, however, is a new emphasis of God playing not only the role of the active agent, but also that of the receiver.49 Ludwig Feuerbach, Das Wesen des Christentums (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1984), 106-7. Translation mine 48 For the Anglican tradition, see Arthur Peacocke, ”Nature as Sacrament”, Vision or Revision: Seeing through the Sacraments, ed. Jeremy Morris (London: Affirming Catholicism, 2000), 16-31; for the Lutheran tradition, see Niels Henrik Gregersen, “Unio Creatoris et Creaturae: Martin Luther’s Trinitarian View of Creation”, Cracks in the Wall: Essays on Spirituality, Ecumenicity and Ethics, eds. Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen and Johannes Nissen (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2005), 43-58. 49 In discussion with five theological models I have argued so in “Emergence: What Is at


This is what is affirmed in what may be called a “temporal theism”, that is, an understanding of God as having both an eternal nature – as the everlasting Light, Love, and Beauty – and a relation to time. For a God who loves the world also needs to understand the world and to feel the world from the inside, from the first-person perspective. In order for God’s Love to be accomplished, God must be empathetic and compassionate, yet without being dragged down of suffering. The point of departure for such a temporal theism is in Christianity the central idea of incarnation. However, if a temporal God is not to be a victim of the world’s suffering, the principle of divine firstness must be retained. Thus Christian orthodoxy states that it is from the inner nature of God’s triune life that the divine will to be part of creation arises. This is expressed in the notion of divine kenosis, by which I here mean God’s self-determination to be part of creation, and to take on the role of the creature (the classic expression of kenosis is Phil 2:5-11). But in order not to be dragged down by the world’s suffering, classic Christianity affirms that only the eternal Son or Logos of God “became flesh” (John 1: 14). By contrast God, the heavenly Father, stands for the everlastingly active pole in God, while the Holy Spirit in God’s triune life stands for the constant communication between Father and Son. Jesus as an Emergent Reality This view of the God-world relation finds a correlation in the Christian understanding of Jesus as Christ, as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15). But the New Testament sources are complex. We both find passages that describe Jesus as a fully human being, “born by a woman, born under the law” (Gal 4:4); Jesus is even depicted as a child of the history of the religions; as a child he went to the temple and was found “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). Yet on the other hand, we hear the well-known stories of his wonderful birth: Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High overshadowed Mary, his mother (Luke 1:34-35); likewise we hear about the extraordinary authority of Jesus, and that he could say to his followers: “These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the father who sent me” (John 14: 24). Theologians have sometimes been divided on this issue: should we choose the more human formulations (as liberals prefer), or should we choose the more emphatic divine explanations of who Jesus really was (as conservatives prefer)? As is well-known, the old Church decided at the Council of Chalcedon 451 to stay with the conundrum: Jesus is “truly God and truly human”. Furthermore it was said that Jesus “is to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation”.

Stake for Religious Reflection”, in The Re-Emergence of Emergence, eds. Philip Clayton and Paul Davies (New York: Oxford University Press 2006).


This so-called two-natures doctrine may not be very helpful as a clear-cut description of “two natures” in the one person of Jesus. 50 But the fundamental view that the genuine human form of Christ is indistinguishable from the genuine divine expression in Jesus seems to me extremely important. What emerged in the teaching of Jesus, and in his behaviour towards his neighbours, was, as perceived from Christian belief, exactly the expression of the mind of God from the beginning. A religious novelty, which emerged out of history and was lived out in the midst of creation, was God’s Logos (“Mind”), Sophia (“Wisdom”), or “Image” from old. Jesus not only spoke about God, but he was the realization of God’s Word to humankind; Jesus not only referred to divine wisdom, but he was God’s Wisdom in person; Jesus not only spoke about the Kingdom of God as a new emerging reality, but he initiated the Kingdom around him and included human beings in the reign of God. In all these strands of scripture there is here no hint of a competition between Jesus the Son of Man on earth and his heavenly Father. For the conviction of the first Christian was, as Christians believe today, that Jesus at once was the re-enactment of a divine purpose from old, and an evolutionary novelty that broke with tradition (while still using the reservoirs of religious wisdom, wherever fitful for his purpose). The life-history of Jesus was both seen as a new emergent reality, and as an expression of the Mind of God from the beginning. Conclusion What I have proposed this evening is that the idea of emergence loses its meaning if it is applied in a roundabout way. In the world of nature, emergent processes take place in a physical and chemical milieu, which is a friendly and supportive abode for emergent processes to arise. There must be an orderly and regular world in order for novelty to take place, and there must exist highly fine-tuned laws of nature in order for biological evolution to take place. In theology, similarly, emergence should not be used as the key to all sorts of theological questions. Following the cues of Professor Clayton I have attempted to show that a Christian theology of creation and incarnation is particularly pre-adapted for absorbing important elements of the emergentist paradigm. In a temporal theism, there are temporally emerging aspects even within God’s everlasting nature, and in the doctrine of incarnation the humanity of Jesus is affirmed as an emergent reality who was tapping both from the reservoir of religious traditions and from the until then untapped resources of the emerging reality of the reign of God. The common denominator between the doctrine of creation and Christology, as proposed in this lecture, lies in the complex unity of creator and creature, of the truly human and the truly divine. Just as the divine and the human cannot be separated, nor should be confused, according to the Chalcedonian faith, so the naturalness of creation should be affirmed as the prime expression of the beauty and benevolence of God. The blind alleys of the two-natures doctrine have been analyzed sharply by Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968), # 8, yet without giving up the basic motivation behind the vere deus, vere homo.


The Trustees are pleased to announce that next year’s Boyle Lecture will be held on Wednesday 14th February 2007 The 2007 Boyle Lecturer will be

Professor John D Barrow
John Barrow was born in London in 1952 and attended Ealing Grammar School. He graduated in Mathematics from Durham University in 1974, received his doctorate in astrophysics from Oxford University in 1977, and held positions at the Universities of Oxford and California at Berkeley before joining the Astronomy Centre, University of Sussex in 1981. He was professor of astronomy and Director of the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex until 1999. He is the author of 370 scientific articles in cosmology and astrophysics, and is a recipient of the Locker Prize for Astronomy and the 1999 Kelvin Medal of the Royal Glasgow Philosophical Society. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Hertfordshire in 1999. He held a Senior 5-year Research Fellowship from the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council of the UK in 1994-9. He holds the Gresham Professorship of Astronomy for the period 2003-6. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2003. In July 1999 Professor Barrow took up a new appointment as Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Cambridge University and Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project, a new initiative to improve the understanding and appreciation of mathematics and its applications amongst young people and the general public. He is also a Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge. Professor Barrow is the author of more than 370 scientific articles and 16 books, translated into 28 languages, which explore many of the wider historical, philosophical and cultural ramifications of developments in astronomy, physics and mathematics: these include, The Left Hand of Creation (with Joseph Silk), The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (with Frank Tipler), L'Homme et le Cosmos (with Frank Tipler), The World Within the World, Theories of Everything, and Pi in the Sky.



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