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1. Reformulation of ‘Body and Soul’

One approach is to preserve the terminology, but reformulate the meaning, of body and soul in light of evolution. In his 1950 encyclical, Humani generis, Pope Pius XII combined the evolution of the physical body, as discovered by science, with the special creation of the soul, as revealed by Scripture. In 1996, Pope John Paul II affirmed the theory of evolution as “no longer a mere hypothesis.” Unlike Pius XII, though, he precinded from the earlier body/soul dualism, referring instead to the “spiritual” in humanity, including self-awareness, moral conscience and freedom. Moreover, the transition in humanity to the spiritual does not conflict with evolutionary science since the spiritual is not observable using scientific methods. It is thus the role of philosophy and theology to discover humanity’s ultimate meaning.John Paul II, "Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences," in Evolutionary and Molecular Biology: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. Robert John Russell, William R. Stoeger and... George Coyne views the Pope’s argument as an important shift from the ontological dualism assumed by Pius XII. Coyne in turn proposes we think in terms of God’s continuous creation through the process of evolution. Rather than intervening, God gives the world freedom to evolve and participates in the process through love. Perhaps this approach can preserve what is special about the emergence of spirit without resort to interventionism.George Coyne, "Evolution and the Human Person: The Pope in Dialogue," in Evolutionary and Molecular Biology: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. Robert John Russell, William R. Stoeger...

Karl Rahner systematically developed the concept of spirit in light of evolution in a similar way. Evolution is a development of matter towards spirit through God’s continuous, immanent and creative impulse until, in humanity, nature becomes conscious of itself . Here spirit, the distinctively human feature, is both self-consciousness and consciousness of God as the absolute mystery of being. Rahner sets this idea a theological context reminiscent of Teilhard de Chardin’s writings, and draws from it crucial eschatological implications (see Part 2, E, 3, c below).Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, trans. William V. Dych (New York: Crossroad, 1978), 181-83, 188; Karl Rahner, "Christology Within an Evolutionary View of the World," trans. Karl-H....Reflecting on Rahner’s work, Denis EdwardsDenis Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos (New York: Paulist Press, 1991), 27-31.points out that a number of scientists have also suggested that ‘evolution is the universe’s way of becoming conscious of itself’, including Teilhard de Chardin, Carl Sagan, Arthur Peacocke, Paul Davies, and Thomas Berry.

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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