The Natural Evolutionary Origin Plus Supernatural Origin of Humanity

It is logically consistency to accept a complete naturalistic evolutionary origin of homo sapiens or homo sapiens-sapiens and still posit a supernatural origin of humanity. I follow some in using homo sapiens-sapiens to admit the prospect of human intelligence itself needing an evolutionary account. I write of a complete naturalistic origin to emphasize that the supernatural origin is not introduced to fill any gaps in the naturalistic evolutionary account. The supernatural should not be introduced to answer any question which could be answered naturalistically. From here on, I will write simply of evolutionary accounts and not use modifiers such as “naturalistic” or “by natural selection.”

What do I accept by granting that there is a complete evolutionary account of the origin of homo sapiens? I give the answer of a non-scientist who sooner or later faces the question “What do you accept or reject by accepting or rejecting an evolutionary explanation of humanity?”

There are two parts to my answer. The first sketches a model which finds a place for empirical evidence to support theories that species, some still existing, evolved by natural selection. The second part presents an imaginary scenario of what it means for the species we are now to be the same species as one existing thousands of years ago.

Perhaps a million or more years ago one particular breeding population in the genus homo, which I label A, flourished and grew. Some members of A would mate with members of other homo populations, which I label B, C, D. Genetic and environmental factors were not favorable for the flourishing and growth of B, C, D despite interbreeding with A. B, C, & D gradually became extinct.

Of course, my sketch is very “sketchy.” Over the thousands and thousands of years B, C & D have had successor populations which have bred, more or less successfully, with other populations, including successors of A. In the end though, all but the successors of A have become extinct.

Only A still exists in the sense that a path down from the present through a tree structure of branches ending before the present, leads from the present to A. The nodes at base of branches on the tree are species; not individuals. It is a branch which has not yet reached its tip.

The genuine hard scientific work lies in tracing such a pathway in the fossil and archaeological data. It is not always clear when they are on the pathway. For instance, do these tool-like rocks clearly indicate A’s? Most likely there can be no specification of a definite time for the origin of A’s. Individuals but not populations have definite origin times. But there can be a bracket of, perhaps, a few thousand years before which there were no A’s but within which A’s appeared. Perhaps, the beginning point of the bracket was fifty to forty thousand years ago.

It should be emphasized that the scientific program is not for explaining the origin of individual members of a species. If one accepts evolution, as I do, it is tempting to believe that there is a “family tree” tracing me back to a breeding pair of humans at a definite time before which there were no humans. But the scientific program is guided by a model of a “species tree.”

Also, it should be emphasized that evolutionary accounts face all of the mind-body problems of any scientific study of contemporary humans. The relation of human thought and feeling, collective as well as individual, to their physiological correlates in the nervous system of individuals, are unexplained in any study of humans.

There is a sexual or reproductive dimension to believing that a species long ago is the same species as ours. This is the requirement that, in general, individuals can reproduce fertile offspring if and only if they are of the same species. There is no way that such a test can be conducted with individuals thousands of years apart. So, I will indulge in a thought experiment.

Suppose somehow a male and female of ancient A had been frozen or preserved in some fashion so that they can now be revived and be sexually active here and now in the twenty first century. Let’s call them Ancient Man and Ancient Woman. They should be able to have offspring by mating with people of the twenty first century. Suppose Ancient Man mates with a contemporary woman Mary and she gives birth to a daughter Clara. Clara should grow up to have all of the cognitive abilities and technical skills of any other child of our century. This means, amongst many other things, that Clara could learn to speak English. Suppose further, Ancient Woman mates with a contemporary male Dick and Ancient Woman becomes pregnant and bears a son Tom. Just like Clara, Tom would be born with the ability to learn the cognitive and technical skills of the twenty first century. To be sure, there would be physical features which set Clara and Tom apart from typical twenty first century people. Almost certainly, they would have smaller body size. Over the centuries, natural selection changes many features of a species without leading to a new species. However, in this thought experiment the prediction is that if Clara and Tom breed with typical twenty first people and then the offspring of these children mate with typical twenty first people the physical differences will be significantly modified to match human features of our century.

The above is my attempt to specify what I admit when I claim to accept that the scientific community has the correct research program for giving a naturalistic explanation of the origin of the human species, indeed for the origin of any species.

The question of whether or not members of this species have been given a purpose or goal for their lives is not, and ought not be, even raised in the evolutionary account. So, it is consistent with this naturalistic account to claim that humans as beings with a purpose began when God specified that each man and woman has the goal of living to know, love and serve Him while living so that they can be happy with Him after biological death.

Of course, consistency is far from significant, let alone true. So, the further questions concern motivation and justification for supernatural claims.

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The Natural Evolutionary Origin Plus Supernatural Origin of Humanity

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