chapter  11
15 Pages

Grace in evolution

WithOliver Davies

The ancient, theological term ‘grace’ and the modern, political term ‘freedom’ appear to contrast significantly with one another. And the anxiety to accommodate evolution on the part of the theologian may, in practice, not be matched by the scientist. Such a separation between ‘grace’ and ‘freedom’ then suggests a deep hiatus between religion and non-religion. This chapter seeks to develop a new account of human freedom as foundational to modern human beings, on the basis of recent scientific research which suggests that it is dependent upon the evolution of advanced language and advanced linguistic consciousness. We can read human freedom in the flow of life as including a strong and transformational form of freedom in: a form of freedom which accepts the inescapable limits imposed by the real. Such freedom is unpredictable, however, and spontaneous, as well as inspirational. In a parallel way, the emergence of strong sociality and freedom within advanced linguistic consciousness also appears in the evolution of modern human beings to be spontaneous and unpredictable. Jayne Wilkins has identified the ‘spatially and temporally discontinuous variation in social learning mechanisms and sociality’. Freedom in appears then as a form of creativity which resists enclosure within the same structures of evolutionary progression which are the context of its genesis. If both ‘grace’ and ‘freedom’ (as ‘freedom in’) are spontaneous, or ‘creative’, and yet are also present in the real, then they can both be said to exhibit features which test their separation as religious and non-religious terms. It may be that an evolutionary reading of ‘freedom’ as spontaneous ‘freedom in’, with its grace-like features, allows the emergence of a new depth of understanding which relativizes the separation between the two. If the deepest ground of our shared humanity is coming into view as our participatory belonging in this universe, then, arguably, we can call it ‘freedom’, or we can call it ‘grace’; but neither excludes the other.