HTS Theological Studies
On-line version ISSN 2072-8050
Print version ISSN 0259-9422
VAN DEN BROM, Luco J.. Does modern anthropology pose a problem to the Christian faith?. Herv. teol. stud. [online]. 2013, vol.69, n.1, pp.01-10. ISSN 2072-8050.
Contemporary scientific anthropology proposes a naturalistic conception of human personhood because of humankind's place somewhere in the larger evolutionary process of life. Some authors use the theory of biological evolution to explain phenomena in other areas as well, and due to its success suggest it has universal application in cultural and religious studies too, as if it were a theory of everything. Darwin's idea of a common origin of all life undermined a supposed superiority of humankind. It signalled the end of an Aristotelian metaphysical notion of classification and constituted a real blow for classical individualistic anthropology. Dawkins explains religion in terms of empirical immanent biological processes in the human brain. He views religious ideas as 'memes' that act like an infectious virus in mental processes. His hypothesis seems to be a relapse into the old Aristotelian pattern. Michael Persinger interprets religion as an internal physiological state of an individual brain and reduces the language of mental concepts to physiological states of a material brain. Persinger's, and also Dennett's, materialistic view presupposes a God's Eye Point of View as an Archimedian perspective outside the world. If a God exists, the neurologists Newberg and d'Aquili argue that he needs a point of contact within our brain: the God spot. Sociobiologists Edward Wilson and David Wilson consider religion a form of group adaptation, because cooperating individuals show the primary benefits of cooperation and altruistic behaviour, just as social insects. Religion is an evolutionary support of altruistic instincts and creates a social infrastructure to benefit a cooperative society. However, social insects merely act on their instincts whereas human beings can act intentionally even against their primary instincts, because of motives for altruist practices inspired, for example, by the narratives and concepts of a Christian tradition. The communion of saints does not take place merely because of a social instinct, but because of the shared motive of the community as a whole, that is, the body of Christ, which acts altruistically irrespective of persons, including outsiders!