[asa] Re: on TE and PT, a response to Gregory

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Thu Jan 31 2008 - 16:59:23 EST

Yes, David, I agree with much of what you say here. As you define 'process theology,' TE/EC does not seem to require it. The idea of PT, however, is still quite complicated, even mysterious to me.
  My point is simpler, it is basic for whether or not the concepts of 'evolution' and 'process' are tied together - they seem to be even more inseparable than 'evolution' and 'change.' Of course, the definition of evolution as merely meaning 'change-over-time' is not necessary for a TE/EC position, but it would seem hard to avoid. I have argued and still persist that such a definition (eVo = c-o-t, as common as it may or may not be) is over-reaching and gives a monopoly to evolution (in C. Rusbult's terms 'total evolution') that it does not merit.
  When you speak of Orthodox (ecumenical) theology recognizing that "God acts through and supervenes on processes in nature, in the spiritual realm, and in human society," certainly this is agreeable, noting that 'supervenience' is a relatively recent addition to dialogue. Why though, I wonder, do people feel the need to call this Action in and through 'processes' using the concept 'evolution'? That is my basic question. There may be no need to do it! Thus, there would seem to be a difference between a 'theist who accepts evolutionary biology' and the particular concept-duo of TE, marrying evolution and (Christian) theism.

  The reductionism question seems to me to be separate or at least tangential to the question of 'processes' and 'origins'. Whether up-down or bottom-up, outside-in or inside-out to the purely physical-natural elements, yes, I think such reductionism as you mention needs to be rejected. Do we reduce the whole to the parts or do we elevate (in my field: 'reify') the parts to the whole?
  Likewise, yes, critical realism and the concept of 'emergence' are relevant and somehow current. But I'd stress that once the focus is placed too much on process, constant change, flux, in such cases something is lost, missed, avoided, escaped from in the converstion. I'm not sure if PT's would go as far as to say that 'God evolves'; if they do, surely they are not speaking of 'biological evolution'. In sociology, the co-founder of the field A. Comte wrote of 'statics' and 'dynamics' (pre-Darwin). In our contemporary landscape, it seems that a counter-position is necessary to account for what an evolutionary-changeological-fluxifying perspective does not dignify or give-voice-to.
  Responsible processes, yes; ideological process philosophy or theology, no.
David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com> wrote:
    When I referred to "process theology" in the original thread, I meant specifically the view that nature is part of God, such that God evolves along with and/or emerges from nature. I would contrast that with the orthodox view that God is ontologically distinct from nature. I don't think TE/EC requires process theology as I've defined it.
  Certainly TE/EC even with an orthodox view of the ontology of God and nature requires acceptance of the fact that God's creative activity in nature involves "process" and not only "fiat." Personally, I don't see that as a philosophical or theological problem. Orthodox theology has long recognized that God acts through and supervenes on processes in nature, in the spiritual realm, and in human society. Nobody argues that redemption history, for example, happened all at once by fiat. In fact, this particular notion of "process" seems to me very consistent with narrative / postmodern theology's emphasis on "story."
  I think the problem you're alluding to, Greg, isn't so much "process theology" as I've defined it, but rather is a sort of reductionism that says any "process" can be reduced to underlying elements that exert upward causation on the process. Thus, the "process" of mind can be reduced to underlying biological causes. I think you are right that we have to reject that kind of reductionism. Critical realism's stratified reality and the notions of emergence and supervening causation are helpful here.

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Received on Thu Jan 31 17:01:01 2008

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