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Professor explores creation and evolution theories

| Thursday, March 20, 2014

Notre Dame theology professor Celia Deane-Drummond concluded the two-day Templeton Colloquium with a discussion of creation ex nihilo and Darwinian evolution Wednesday afternoon.

The Notre Dame Institute of Advanced Study (NDIAS) and visiting Templeton fellow Dr. Douglas Hedley of Cambridge University sponsored the colloquium. Featured speakers from multiple disciplines discussed Plato’s notion of participation in the divine, used in a Christian sense to explain the relation between creature and Creator. Deane-Drummond began her talk by posing a question about the current predicament of science and faith.

“How, in a secular world dominated by an evolutionary paradigm, is it still reasonable to think about creation, Christ and spirit?” Deane-Drummond said.

Within this frame, Deane-Drummond explored possible answers to this question through secular and religious outlets that engage with the biological sciences.

“Evolutionary theory has, ever since Darwin, resisted the idea of non-material forces operative in the emergent beings,” she said. “But, more recently, secular writers are beginning to open up alternatives that biologists are prepared to take seriously. ”

Deane-Drummond cited New York University philosopher Thomas Nagel as one such writer who is willing to accept the presence of a non-material transcendent force in the universe but does not credit creation to a god.

Deane-Drummond made use of Aquinas’ understanding of creation to bring Platonic notions and the theory of evolutiony into agreement.

“Aquinas develops a hierarchy in the ordering of being, from rocks through to intelligent lif, and, ultimately, humanity,” Deane-Drummond said. “Aquinas marries this hierarchal view with Platonic concept of an absolute Being that is the ultimate source of all such being.”

Deane-Drummond proceeded totdiscuss evolutionary theory as an enduring hypothesis based in speculation through a biological viewpoint..She said a model of analogy would make best sense of possible relations between the philosophical concept of participation and evolutionary theory.

She said suggested analogies included the symbiosis of creatures contributing to the life of each other while ultimately dependine on God. The process of cooperation of organisms through niche-construction theory was also posited as an analogy of how creatures participate in God’s immanence.

“I suggest the language of analogy edges towards the meaningful in what might seem incomprehensible difference,” she said. “It is only by experimenting and speaking a language that resonates with those we are in dialogue with that a faint glimmering of insight can come to the surface.

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About Charlie Ducey

Charlie Ducey is a senior who studies English at Notre Dame. He is currently a big fan of alternative German rock music.

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