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Human Emergence as Cosmic Metaxy

Human Emergence As Cosmic Metaxy

Michael Ruse, who has written extensively on evolution and philosophical issues, noted a few years ago that “Unfortunately, there is simply nothing in the literature by philosophers on human origins.”(1) (2) There is enormous data, both on pre-human and archaic human materials, with the capacity for expanding our understanding of human emergence, but philosophy hasn’t kept up. Certainly, Voegelin was concerned with this issue, devoting several pages of notes in the late ’60s to “The Phylogenetic Field,” reflecting both on evolution and on the hominid sequence leading up to human emergence.(3) In his “Nachwort” to the German edition of the Ecumenic Age, Manfred Henningsen quotes Tilo Schabert’s recollection of Voegelin, after his encounter with Marie König’s paleolithic studies, remarking that he would need to write a Volume “0” to his Order and History which would take into account the latest studies in the earliest human symbolizations of order.(4)

Perhaps we can take as a starting point towards a philosophy of human origins Voegelin’s remark in his Foreword to Anamnesis:

“Consciousness is the luminous center radiating the concrete order of human existence into society and history. A philosophy of politics is empirical—in the precise sense of an inquiry into the experiences which penetrate the whole area of reality that we express by the symbol “man.” The work of this philosophy requires, as we said, the constant exchange between studies on concrete cases of order and analyses of consciousness which make the human order in society and history intelligible.”(5)

Some of what we’ll be recording here are simply the data required to indicate the emergence of concrete cases of order which can then be analyzed in terms of human consciousness, but without that preliminary work, the later analysis can be so hindered by methodological confusions that it’s hardly carried out at all. Nonetheless, in recent years I’ve been struck by the overall consensus among the most prominent British and American anthropologists that an adequate understanding of the emergence of Homo sapiens requires a radical shift in intellectual perspective, without themselves dealing with the philosophical implications of that shift.

Drawing particularly on Eric Voegelin’s philosophical anthropology and Bernard Lonergan’s philosophy of science, what I’ll attempt here is simply a preliminary mapping of the terrain required for a philosophy of human origins. I’d like to begin with what seems to me a magisterial statement of Voegelin’s at the end of The Ecumenic Age:

“The divine-human In-Between of historically differentiating experience is founded in the consciousness of concrete human beings in concrete bodies on the concrete earth in the concrete universe…The various strata of reality with their specific time-dimensions…are not autonomous entities but form, through the relations of foundation and organization, the hierarchy of being which extends from the inorganic stratum, through the vegetative and animal realms, to the existence of man in his tension toward the divine ground of being . . .”

“There is no flux of presence in the Metaxy without its foundation in the biophysical existence of man on earth in the universe. By virtue of their founding character, the lower strata reach into the stratum of human consciousness not as its cause but as its condition. Only because the strata of reality participate in one another, through the relations of foundation and organization, in the order of the cosmos, can and must the time-dimensions of the strata be related to one another, with the time-dimension of the universe furnishing the ultimately founding measure . . .”

“The physical universe as the ultimate foundation for the higher strata in the hierarchy of being cannot be identified as the ultimate reality of the Whole, because in the stratum of consciousness we experience the presence of divine reality as the constituent of humanity. In man’s consciousness, the foundational movement within reality from the physical depth becomes luminous for the creative constitution of all reality from the height of the divine ground. . .”

“Once the fallacies are removed, the hierarchy of being comes into view, not as a number of strata one piled on top of the other, but as [the] movement of reality from the apeirontic depth up to man, through as many levels of the hierarchy as can be discerned empirically, and as the countermovement of creative organization from the divine height down, with the Metaxy of man’s consciousness as the site where the movement of the Whole becomes luminous for its eschatological direction…The Mystery of the historical process is inseparable from the Mystery of the reality which brings forth the universe and the earth, plant and animal life on earth, and ultimately man and his consciousness.”(6)

There are two levels discernible here: 1) the intramundane sequence culminating in a human consciousness that articulates the sequence’s transfinite thrust; and 2) the reinterpretation of that sequence in the light of our experience of ourselves as occurring within the divine-human In-Between. However, before coming to the Mystery both of the historical process and of its engendering reality, it will be helpful to articulate a philosophical framework for the intramundane sequence of strata. That sequence can be understood in terms of Aristotle’s own hylemorphic context, where each “step” represents a new formal organization of the material provided by the previously highest step. So we can diagram the hierarchy of being and its upward movement:

6th STEP: First human life — Homo Sapiens skeletal remains in Africa, Europe, c.45,000 yrs ago: Asia & Australia + explosion of symbolization of experienced attunement with transfinite reality.


4½m yrs: First hominids


5th STEP: First multicellular animal life — Burgess Shale (Canada), Ediacara (Australia), 530m yr: Tommotian (Russia) fauna


4th STEP: First complex botanical life
600-550m yrs


1½b yrs: Complex eukaryotic (nuclear) cells — algae


3rd STEP: First biological life — prokaryotes (non-nuclear) bacterial cells + archeabacteria + eukaryotic cells.
3½b yrs


4½b yrs: Formation of Solar System


10b yrs: Formation of Galaxies

13b yrs: Formation of quasars, stars, proto-galaxies

2nd STEP: First chemical elements — hydrogen, helium 15 byrs+10-¹³secs

up to10²secs: First subatomic particles

1st STEP: First physical existence: Big Bang
c. 15b yrs

Lonergan and the Cosmos

Then, drawing on Lonergan, we can try to articulate the intramundane sequence. One of Lonergan’s criticisms of Darwin is that his notion of scientific explanation depends on a perceptual rather than an intellectual epistemology. So, Darwin’s notion of the basic unit as the species (even if changing all the time), rather than the species in interaction with the environment, and his focusing on a gradual accretion of minor changes as an insight into macroevolutionary development, depend on a notion of scientific knowledge as taking a good look at what’s happening rather than employing a notion of explanation in terms of correlations between the data. It’s not a question of looking for visible, gradual changes, rather of understanding the relations between various species over time.

In Insight, Lonergan has formulated an open framework for dealing with the sequence of levels of being in terms of what he calls “emergent probability.” He sees emergent probability as accounting for world process in terms of six generic notions: 1) spatial distribution; 2) large numbers; 3) long intervals of time; 4) selection; 5) stability; and 6) development. Its openness is due to its radically non-deductive nature, accepting as a matter of fact that lower aggregates of existence make materially possible the emergence of the next level, but neither explain it nor necessitate it. As a heuristic framework, it is not a hypothesis to be verified or falsified within any of the natural sciences, but an intellectual context within which the various findings of the natural sciences can be drawn together. Its theoretical clarity is philosophical, its greater or less relevance to the concrete universe depends on its being in touch with the range of empirical natural sciences.

The basic building block of emergent probability is what Lonergan calls a “scheme of recurrence”: If A occurs, B will occur; if B occurs, C will occur; if C occurs . . . A will recur. Building on that notion, there can be envisaged a conditioned sequence of schemes of recurrence. So, we can say that P, Q, R . . . form a conditioned series, if all the prior members of the series must be actually functioning for any later member to become a concrete possibility. Then P (say, the physical and chemical levels of existence) can function without Q (say, the biological level of existence) or R (say, the zoological level of existence); Q can function without R; but Q can’t function without P, nor can R function without P and Q.

To tie down intellectually these essentially different steps or levels or strata, we can use Lonergan’s notion of the thing, which is a concrete reformulation of Aristotle’s notion of substance. For Lonergan, it is an intelligible, concrete unity, differentiated by explanatory parts, implying the possibility of different kinds of things. Since explanatory parts are defined by their relations to one another, there is the possibility of distinct sets of such parts—we’ve already suggested physical, chemical, biological, botanical, zoological and intellectual sets. There follows the notion of the explanatory genus, where genus here refers in the ontological sense to generically different levels or kinds of being.

Lonergan’s example of the set of explanatory genera or kinds is provided by the sciences: where the laws of physics hold for subatomic elements, those of physics and chemistry hold for elements and compounds; those of physics, chemistry, biology and botany hold for plants, and so on: “As one moves from one genus to the next, there is added a new set of laws which defines its own basic terms by its own empirically established correlations.”

Lonergan links the main departments of science with his understanding of successive higher viewpoints, and notes that “it is because new insights intervene” that the higher science is essentially, or, generically different from the lower. So that correlative to the sequence of strata of things will be the series of autonomous sciences as higher viewpoints, physics, chemistry, biology, botany, zoology (at the explanatory level of sensory-perceptual psychology), philosophical anthropology (at the explanatory level of intellectual or rational psychology).

Since the problem of reductionism bedevils discussion of human emergence, it will be useful here to indicate Lonergan’s criterion for the relative autonomy of higher from lower sciences: If the laws of a science at a lower level have to regard ranges of occurrences “as mere patterns of happy coincidences” there develops an autonomous higher science:

“Nor does the introduction of the higher autonomous science interfere with the autonomy of the lower; for the higher enters into the field of the lower only in so far as it makes systematic on the lower level what otherwise would be merely coincidental.”(7)

The contention that things are all of one kind has rested, not on concrete evidence, but on mechanist assumption. (8) Lonergan has a useful discussion of the reductionist fallacy of “things within things”:

“The fact that the laws of the lower orders are verified in the higher genus proves that [correlations] of the lower order exist in things of the higher genus. But it is one thing to prove that [correlations] of the lower order survive within the higher genus; it is quite another to prove that things defined solely by the lower [correlations] also survive. To arrive at [correlations], abstractive procedures are normal; one considers events under some aspects and disregards other aspects of the same events. But to arrive at a thing, one must consider all data within a totality, and one must take into account all their aspects.”

So one can’t conclude from an aggregate of events, which can be understood in terms of the lower order laws, to the existence of things of the lower order:

“For this would be to abstract from the aspect of the aggregate that cannot be accounted for on the lower viewpoint and that justifies the introduction of the higher viewpoint and the higher genus. Accordingly, if there is evidence for the existence of the higher genus, there cannot be evidence for things of lower genera in the same data.”(9)

A simple example would be a field of buttercups, showing slight species variation depending on their position in wetter or drier parts of the field. However exhaustively the biochemical changes in the buttercups were registered, no such account would yield the specifically botanical insight into the kind of things buttercups are. (10) Nor are the millions of cells in each buttercup separate “things,” since intrinsic to the constitution of each cell is that they are buttercup cells. Voegelin puts it very concretely:

“A plant is a plant. You see it. You don’t see its physical-chemical processes, and nothing about the plant changes if you know that physical-chemical processes are going on inside. How these processes will result in what you experience immediately as a plant (a rose or an oak tree), you don’t know anyway. So if you know these substructures in the lower levels of the ontic hierarchy (beyond the plant which is organism) and go into the physical, chemical, molecular and atomic structures, ever farther down, the greater becomes the miracle how all that thing is a plant. Nothing is explained. If you try to explain it in terms of some mechanism, you have committed the fallacy of reduction.”(11)

1) Following from Lonergan’s notion of a thing, he formulates the logical postulate that if there exist correlations of a higher order, there will exist things of the same higher order.

2) This is followed by the probability postulate that if there exist things differentiated by explanatory correlations and functioning in schemes of recurrence, there exists the possibility, and some probability of a non-systematic occurrence of another aggregate of events that would occur regularly only if things of a higher order existed.

3) A third, evolutionary postulate will be that if non-systematically there occur suitable aggregates of events, then there will emerge correlations of a higher order to make the recurrence of the aggregates systematic. By the first, logical postulate, there will follow the existence of things of the higher order. By emergent probability there will arise schemes of recurrence that depend upon the classical laws that define the new correlations. This evolutionary postulate is equivalent to the old axiom, Materiae dispositae advenit forma, form accrues to rightly-arranged matter. Both the postulate and the axiom have the same components, of “a lower order of things, the occurrence of a suitable disposition in the lower order, and the emergence of a component that pertains to a higher order.” (Stephen Jay Gould’s and others’ discussion of what’s called below “exaption,” or “co-option,” can be seen to belong here.)

4) A fourth, sequential postulate, “would effect the extension of emergent probability to things. It affirms the possibility of a conditioned series of both things and schemes of recurrence realized cumulatively in accord with successive schedules of probabilities. Thus the sequential postulate presupposes the other three; it adds an affirmation of the possibility of applying the other three postulates over and over so that one could begin from the simplest things and proceed to the most complex.” (12) This is not unlike Dennett’s notion of evolutionary algorithms, though without his determinist context. (13) Lonergan notes that the sequential postulate is neither a hypothesis of empirical science, nor a scientific theory that can be verified or refuted, but a heuristic assumption that can only be empirically tested through specific determinations and applications.

I’ll be suggesting that a similar philosophical context will be needed for understanding the hominid sequence, including Neanderthals and the emergence of humans.

[Bernard] Lonergan gives examples first, of two levels of things in chemistry, both 1. the chemical elements — so each of the 92+ chemical elements may be seen as roughly equivalent at the chemical level to a biological species) — and 2. their compounds.  Second, similarly in biology, where the things are the series of biological species, both 1. at the cellular level — the 3 major types of bacteria — and 2. as multicellular living things:

“The things are the series of biological species. They are the higher systems that make systematic the coincidental aggregates at the chemical level. Thus the biological species are a series of solutions to the problem of systematizing coincidental aggregates of chemical processes.”

Such multicellular organisms would represent plant life, from the simplest algae to the most complex angiosperms. The third application of the key notion takes the biological organism as its lower level and animal sensitivity as its higher system. The higher correlations now are defined by the laws of psychic stimulus and psychic response, and these correlations make systematic otherwise merely coincidental aggregates of neural events. However, these neural events occur within an already constituted nervous system which, in great part, would have no function if the higher psychic system did not exist to inform it.

He notes the increasing significance of “immanent intelligibility or constitutive design” as one moves from subatomic entities to animals. So, subatomic limitations decrease in the vast diversity of chemical compounds; the multicellular plant exploits that increasing degree of freedom since “not only is it an aggregate of cells” but it is “determined by its own laws of development and growth. A third degree of freedom appears in the animal, in which the second degree is exploited to provide the materials for the higher system of biological consciousness.” (14)

In each case, there is the evidence that is necessary and sufficient to affirm the existence of a higher set of correlations defining another level or genus of things. And this possibility is recurrent. There can be a series of genera, and within each genus there can be different species, for the things are defined by their correlations or what Aristotle would call their accidental forms, and these differ inasmuch as they systematize differently their different underlying manifolds of lower order activities.  As we’ve seen, in things of any higher genus, there survive lower correlations, but there do not survive lower things. The lower conjugates survive, for without them there would be nothing for the higher system of correlations to systematize. On the other hand, lower things do not survive within higher things. Almost as a reductio ad absurdum of the notion of things within things, there is Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene , where he accurately summarizes his argument: “Our genes made us. We animals exist for their preservation and are nothing more than their throwaway survival machines.” (15)

Corresponding to the successive genera, there will be distinct and autonomous empirical sciences. And the successive, distinct autonomous sciences will be related as successive higher viewpoints. Lonergan notes that “if metaphysics [let’s say here, a philosophical anthropology] aims at integrating the empirical sciences and common sense to yield a single view of the universe of proportionate being, then it has to deal with facts.”

In this non-deductivist philosophical formulation of a cosmological-anthropological view of the world, each level, as it were, makes a gift of itself to be used by the next highest level and, when human existence is arrived at, the entire sequence may be understood as a hylemorphic sequence dynamically oriented beyond itself. Voegelin’s notion of a movement of foundational and organizational levels is surely equivalent to Lonergan’s, even though Lonergan does not yet make the shift to external causation. Lonergan notes that his evolutionary postulate is to be understood within the limits of empirical science: “As empirical science it prescinds from efficient, instrumental, and final causes, which refer to distinct types of intelligibility and lie beyond the qualifications of empirical method either to affirm or to deny.”

With regard to understanding the intelligibility immanent in the universe of data, which considers things no less than events and schemes of recurrence, Lonergan writes, “for things are to be grasped in data; their numbers and differentiation, their distribution and concentrations, their emergence and survival, give rise to questions that require an answer. One does not escape that requirement by appealing to divine wisdom and divine providence, for that appeal reinforces the rejection of obscurantism and provides another argument for affirming an intelligible order immanent in the visible universe.” (16)

Since we’ll need a philosophical context to handle the notion of human emergence, I’ll further draw here on Lonergan’s expansion of the Aristotelian heuristic Voegelin uses when he speaks of the orders of foundation and of organization, which I believe is equivalent to Lonergan’s notion of emergent probability:

“As we move from the consciousness of existential tension to the corporeal foundation, we encounter, in the realm of man’s being, the synthetic nature of man as defined by Aristotle, with its levels of human-psychic, animal, vegetative, and inanimate being. These levels of the hierarchy of being are related to one another in (a) the grounding of the higher on the lower ones and (b) in the organization of the lower by the higher ones. These relations are not reversible. On the one hand there is no eu zen , no good life in Aristotle’s sense, without the foundation of zen; on the other hand, the order of the good life does not emerge from the corporeal foundation but comes into being only when the entire existence is ordered by the centre of the existential tension.” (17)

Lonergan speaks first of the principle of emergence, equivalent to Voegelin’s order of foundation: “Otherwise coincidental manifolds of lower conjugate acts invite the higher integration effected by higher conjugate forms.”

Second, equivalent to Voegelin’s order of organization, is the principle of correspondence: “Significantly different underlying manifolds require different higher integrations.” For example, chemical elements differ by atomic numbers and atomic weights, “and these differences are grounded in the underlying manifold.” Third, there is the principle of finality, which I’d suggest is equivalent to what Berg and Grove will call below “nomogenesis.” The underlying manifold is an upwardly but indeterminately directed dynamism towards ever fuller realization of being. Any actual realization will pertain to some determinate genus and species, but this very indeterminacy is limitation, and every limitation is to finality a barrier to be transcended.

Fourth, there is the principle of development itself. It is the linked sequence of dynamic higher integrations. Fifth, the course of development is marked by an increasing explanatory differentiation.  Sixth, the course of development is capable of minor flexibility inasmuch as it can pursue the same goal along different routes. Seventh, the course of development is capable of a major flexibility that consists in a shift or modification of the ultimate objective. In biology this is the familiar fact of adaptation. In the light of the foregoing considerations, a development may be defined as a flexible linked sequence of dynamic and increasing differentiated higher integrations that meet the tension of successively transformed underlying manifolds through successive applications of the principles of correspondence and emergence. (18)

Voegelin and the Cosmos

Voegelin spoke in his Foreword to Anamnesis about the constant interchange between the study of concrete cases of order (here represented by a philosophical heuristic for cosmology) and analyses of consciousness. So, before going any further in exploring the emergence of the human, it will be helpful to see how the sequence of pre-human levels are in fact implicitly connected to the metaxic issue. In “The Moving Soul,” Voegelin noted that:

“Constructs concerning the structure of the physical universe as a whole cannot be empirically validated. Why, then, do physicists engage again and again in their construction? The only possible answer to this question seems to be that physicists are men who as human beings feel obliged to develop an image of the universe. They feel obliged to engage in the creation of a mytho-speculative symbol that will satisfy our desire to know the structure of the universe in which we live.” (19)

I think it was David Walsh who introduced the notion of “boundary questions,” that is, questions that arise within the domain of the natural sciences but cannot be answered by them. Those questions, as Voegelin has noted, are raised by the scientist as human being, even though he may elsewhere, as scientist, appear to sternly deny his own humanity. In fact such boundary questions can easily be tracked as arising at at least four levels: 1. those of astrophysics, 2. of biology, 3. of zoology, and 4. of anthropology.

1) Although he has later become notorious for wishing to deny the relevance of the boundary question of astrophysics, (20)  Stephen Hawking in an earlier collaboration with George Ellis did admit the key boundary question posed by Big Bang theory.

The creation of the Universe has been argued, indecisively, from early times. The results we have obtained support the idea that the universe began a finite time ago. However the actual point of creation, the singularity, is outside the scope of presently known laws of physics. (21)

2) It’s beyond my competence to say that the emergence of the biological level of existence poses a boundary question in biology equivalent to the question the Big Bang poses to astrophysics. Still, some biologists come close to saying something like this. For example, in 1953, the same year as Stanley Miller and Harold Urey tried to produce life experimentally, James Watson and Francis Crick’s discovery of the role of the DNA molecule in all living things indicated an extraordinary complexity in living cells, making their chance emergence from chemicals appear less likely. Nobel prizewinning biologist Jacques Monod remarked that:

“the simplest cells available to us for study have nothing ‘primitive’ about them . . . the major problem is the origin of the genetic code and of its transitional mechanism. Indeed it is not so much a ‘problem’ as a veritable enigma. The code is meaningless unless translated. The modern cell’s translating machinery consists of at least fifty macro-molecular components which are themselves coded in DNA: the code cannot be translated except by products of translation. It is the modern expression of omne vivum ex ovo.  When and how did this circle become closed? It is exceedlingly difficult to imagine.” (22)

Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, noted that:

“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” (23)

3) The emergence of sentient-perceptual or zoological life has become a hot issue because of the recently discovered common body plan for all animals from around 550 million years ago. What is relevant here, of course, is the psychic life for which that body plan is the foundation. As Lonergan notes of that psychic activity, “elementary knowing vindicates its validity by the survival, not to mention the evolution, of animal species.”  And he goes on to make the Aristotelian point that:

“An explanatory account of animal species will differentiate animals not by their organic but by their psychic differences . . . the animal pertains to an explanatory genus beyond that of the plant; that explanatory genus turns on sensibility; its specific differences are differences of sensibility; and it is in differences of sensibility that are to be found the basis for differences of organic structure, since that structure, as we have seen, possesses a degree of freedom that is limited but not controlled by underlying materials and outer circumstances.” (24)

The fact that sentient animal life more or less suddenly appears would seem to underline the issue of the appearance of another, animal-psychological level of being, as a boundary question. While it’s not possible here to go into the dramatic shift from non-perceptual life to life which is perceptually organized, it’s no secret that the gaps in the fossil record Darwin presumed would soon be filled have remained. As a result, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Gould in 1972 proposed what they saw was an important modification to gradualist Darwinian evolution, in their ground-breaking article, “Punctuated Equilibria: An alternative to Phyletic Gradualism.” (25)  Succinctly, Eldredge explains:

“[I]f evolutionary change doesn’t simply accumulate over the course of time, the question becomes, when and under what conditions does evolutionary change occur?…new species…tend to show up abruptly in the fossil record as the overwhelming rule…Punctuated equilibria is a combination of empirical pattern (stasis interrupted by brief bursts of evolutionary change) coupled with preexisting biological theory.” (26)

The more recent breakthrough in the early 1990s, called “evolutionary-developmental” or “evo-devo,” seems in many ways to correspond at the molecular level to Eldredge and Gould’s punctuated equilibrium hypothesis, which in turn is supplemented by Berg and Groves’s insight into nomogenesis as underlying the macro-evolutionary shifts Eldredge and Gould were trying to deal with. (27)  Gould’s last great work, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory , is a massive attempt to marry both his revisionary Darwinism with evo-devo. (28)

The basic discovery, made in the early 1990s, was that the sudden emergence of the 35 phyla or major zoological groups (chordates, crustaceans, mollusks, etc.) around 550 million years ago showed a common deep genetic structure. Each phylum had the same genetic instructions for its top/bottom axis, front/back polarity, head, and sensory organs. Wallace Arthur gives his opinion that:

“there was no multicellular animal life prior to 600 my ago [million years ago]; there was an explosion of body plans in Ediacaran times, with many becoming extinct, and a second body-plan explosion in the early Cambrian; evolution in Vendian and Cambrian times was much more “experimental” than it is now; and internal factors such as developmental constraint (or early lack of it) are important in evolution as well as considerations about niche space and external adaptation.” (29)

What’s amazing are the jellyfish, or cnidarians, belonging to a 36th phylum which may have originated with the first Ediacaran fauna originating 50m years earlier without the body-plans of the other 35 phyla: they still seem to have the same genetic plan for eyes that they share with the other phyla. (30)

To get some of the flavor of what evo-devo involves, I’ll quote from [Rudolf A.] Raff’s The Shape of Life: Genes, Development, and the Evolution of Animal Form:

“Higher taxonomic groups, most notably phyla, possess suites of anatomical features that distinguish them from other groups. Such an underlying anatomical arrangement is called a body plan . . . no new phyla appear to have originated since the Cambrian . . .”

“[B]ecause all bilaterian [= two-sided] animals share a common ancestor, they arose from a common bilaterian body plan. The interesting question then becomes whether there is a set of genetic rules that bilaterian animals share. If there is, the diverse body plans of bilaterian phyla have been built upon shared developmental genetic themes, which might constitute a conserved genetic body plan. Slack and co-workers have called this hypothetical Hox gene-centered genetic body plan for most animal phyla the ‘zootype’. . . .”

“If each new species required the reinvention of control elements, there would not be time enough for much evolution at all, let alone the spectacularly rapid evolution of novel features observed in the phylogenetic record. There is a kind of tinkering at work, in which the same regulatory elements are recombined into new developmental machines . . . Internal rules should not be expected to supersede Darwinian selection, but rather, to complement it in predicting the behavior of evolving ontogenies.” (31)

Eric Davidson calls the taking over by a higher level of activity of a lower form, “cooption” and notes that “cooptive processes . . . have been responsible for the evolution of new body parts during the divergence of the Bilateria.” (32)

Not only the sudden emergence of sentient-perceptual animal life — focused on by Gould in his Wonderful Life study (33) — but the equivalently sudden emergence of the sequence of species within the various zoological genera, seems to make “boundary questions” relating to the emergence of each species inescapable. It’s no harm to remind ourselves of Voegelin’s warning regarding all “emergences” at every level: “. . . the epiphany of structures in reality — be they atoms, molecules, genes, biological species, races, human consciousness, or language — is a mystery inaccessible to explanation.” (34)

Since Gould has been fiercely attacked by those he would be driven to call “Darwinian Fundamentalists,” (35) the reason why a gradualist as opposed to a saltatory approach — where boundary questions become more insistent—to evolution was adapted is perhaps, as Thomas Nagel seems to think, due to a ressentiment against not only God, but against philosophy, that ill serves biology as a natural science: ”

My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning and design as fundamental features of the world. Instead they became epiphenomena, generated incidentally by a process that can be entirely explained by the operation of nonteleological laws of physics on the material of which we and our environments are all composed. There might still be thought to be a religious threat in the existence of the laws of physics themselves, and indeed the existence of anything at all—but it seems to be less alarming to most atheists.” (36)

As we know, Voegelin too, in his Hitler and the Germans lectures, commented on the non-observational core of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. (37)  What he has called “the epiphany of structures in reality,” accompanied by a pneumopathological fear of the underlying mystery, is at least one of the factors making any debate on biological or zoological emergence such a heated one in our culture. (38)  Because the great claim of Darwinism as an ideology is that it answers the question of existence regarding all living reality. But since there’s nothing in biological methodology that can deal with the question of existence as such, a screening device had to be developed to prevent the emergence at the biological and zoological levels of being of Aristotle’s-Aquinas’s-Leibniz’s-Schelling’s-Heidegger’s question: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are the things that are the way they are? (39)

Stephen Jay Gould and the Cosmos

In recent books like Stephen Jay Gould’s Rocks of Ages and Michael Ruse’s Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? there seems to be a new openness to accepting types of investigation which are different rather than opposed. (40)  Typically these types of investigation are natural-scientific and religious — surprisingly, philosophic investigation never seems to be given the same attention. Still, however limited this breakthrough is, I feel it is of some cultural importance.

Brooklyn-born Stephen Jay Gould grew up in a secular Jewish, even Marxist, background. But his recent writings have shown him open to religion, even if he considers himself an agnostic. The central idea in his Rocks of Ages is that:

“Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world. Religion operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings and values. I propose that we encapsulate this central principle of respectful non-interference — accompanied by intense dialogue between the two distinct subjects — by enunciating the principle of NOMA, or Non-Overlapping Magisteria.”

Later, Gould justifies NOMA as:

“a simple, humane, rational, and altogether conventional argument for mutual respect, based on non-overlapping subject matter, between two components of wisdom in a full human life: our drive to understand the factual character of nature (the magisterium of science), and our need to define meaning in our lives and a moral basis for our actions (the magisterium of religion).” (41)

By contrast, Ruse, who comes from a Quaker background, deals with how the content of the theory of evolution should not prevent a Darwinian from being a Christian: “Natural selection is the only significant cause of permanent organic change . . . I am an enthusiastic reductionist . . . .” Yet he doesn’t accept that a Darwinian cannot be a Christian, and writes that “Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas would be appalled at such a presumption.”

Ruse criticizes writers such as Dawkins and Wilson for an atheism which is “smuggled in [to Darwinian theory] and then given an evolutionary gloss,” and his rejection of an intrinsic opposition between science and religion indicates a new tone in this whole debate, and a new readiness by Darwinians of reasonably strict observance like himself, or the explicitly revisionary Gould to reflect carefully on the religious questions in this area. For a philosopher, that is probably as near as they get to a recognition of the mystery of the epiphany of zoological structures in reality.

He agrees with Ernan McMullin’s view that “God is not simply forecasting on the basis of what will happen. There is an act of creation which unfurls through time for us, but which is outside time for God and hence for which beginning, middle and end are all as one.” And, hence, quoting McMullin, that “the contingency or otherwise of the evolutionary sequence does not bear on whether the created universe embodies purpose or not. Asserting the reality of cosmic purpose in this context takes for granted that the universe depends for its existence on an omniscient Creator.” (42)  To paraphrase Voegelin, the zoologist who constructs the structure of the universe is not satisfied with his role as an observer of zoological reality but exerts his prerogative as man to create symbols expressive of existential tension. (43)

4) One way of examining the boundary question posed by human emergence is to see whether the Neanderthals, (44) the hominids closest (at least in Europe) to humans in the hominid sequence, require us to move to a level of inquiry generically different from zoology or animal psychology. In his unpublished Ms on The Phylogenetic Field, Voegelin has jotted down the cheerful note: “History of Mankind v. History of Monkeykind,” but could there be a History of Neanderthalkind? (45)

I’ll limit myself to the issue of symbolization, on the presupposition that without a capacity for symbolization, it’s highly unlikely that Neanderthals are able to think, ask questions, or reach out beyond themselves either intentionally or experience what Voegelin calls luminosity. One area where symbolization has been claimed is that of ritual at Neanderthal burials. In his study, “Grave Shortcomings: The Evidence for Neanderthal Burial,” Gargett examines all the sites at which it is claimed Neanderthal burials took place. At Teshik-Tash he finds no evidence of a deliberate grave, and that so-called “ritual” assemblage of goat horns could be the result of predator activity: “Goat remains make up roughly 85% of the faunal assemblage at Teshik-Tash, and, since horn is the most likely skeletal part to survive, the probability of six horns being preserved in this area of the site by chance is high.”

At Shanidar, perhaps the most quoted site, he notes that it was only seven years after the original investigation of the site that the conclusion was drawn that Neanderthal remains at Shanidar 4 were buried with flowers, indicating ceremonial — where earlier, the investigator had considered Shanidar 4, 6, 8, and 93 had been killed by rockfalls: “No clear evidence for purposeful burial exists in the Shanidar deposits. There are no grave pits, no non-naturally occurring protective strata.” Gargett considers that because the investigators were inclined to believe that purposeful burial was a possibility, they thought the presence of an unusually high number of pollen grains indicated that flowers had been buried with the dead.

He suggests, rather, that they were blown by the wind. And there seems doubt as to which level the pollen were found. He concludes that “the removal of mortuary ritual from the behavioral repertoire of Neandertal may make the observed discontinuity in material culture at the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic boundary a little easier to understand.” (46) In the “Discussion and Criticism” of the Gargett study, L. P. Kooijmans et al. agree with Gargett and note that “. . . archaeologists must first rule out natural causes for the sediments they recover before concluding that hominids produced them.” (47)

Paul Mellars broadly accepts Gargett’s demolition of many claimed Neanderthal “burials,” but where there are large numbers, 7 at La Ferrassie, 9 at Shanidar, including the very delicate bones of young children, he still argues that “the case for deliberate interment of most of these skeletons appears virtually beyond dispute.” Yet for Mellars too, the arguments for deliberate grave offerings are much weaker. He concludes, “In the absence of either clear ritual or unambiguous grave offerings associated with the documented range of Neanderthal burials in Europe, it must be concluded that the case for a symbolic component in burial practices remains at best unproven.”

With regard to claimed symbolism and style in tool manufacture, Mellars finds that the key contrast between Neanderthal versus specifically human Upper Paleolithic tools lies in the notion of deliberately “imposed form.” Even more telling than the stone tools of Upper Paleolithic, are its bone and antler tools, occurring in highly structured living sites, with the recognizable regularity and standardization of Upper Paleolithic art and decorative motifs. Mellars concludes:

“It is this dramatic and well defined shift in tool production patterns that suggests that there was indeed a major change in the symbolic and cognitive properties of tool manufacture between the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic periods, which may have equally significant implications for the general mental and cognitive dimensions of the populations involved.”

Regarding claimed Neanderthal symbolization in, for example, rock art, Mellars notes that: ”

these specimens are very rare. The fact that alleged Mousterian symbolic objects tend to be unique casts further doubt on their actual symbolic content, for they provide no evidence for a shared system of meaning . . . . Although the persistence of Middle Palaeolithic artefact forms is striking, it is not without precedent: relative technological stasis has been the rule in human evolution for 2 million years or more.”

On the question of Neanderthal language, Mellars notes the dichotomy between evolutionary and catastrophic views of the emergence of language. For those who argue for a punctuated form of language emergence, such “a relatively abrupt shift [. . .] might help to explain some of the radical transformations in human behavioural patterns over this period, documented in the archaeological records.” (48)

We’ve already discussed Lonergan’s view on the need to move to a higher level of explanation when there’s a pile-up of meaningful data that’s random in terms of a lower level of explanation, a need that doesn’t arise with the Neanderthal data but does with regard to these “radical transformations in human behavioral patterns.”

Mellars agrees with Philip Lieberman on Neanderthal incapacity for language. Lieberman writes:

“The problem arises because the length of the Neanderthal mouth is outside the range of modern human beings . . . . Neanderthal speech anatomy was more advanced than that of Homo erectus or human newborns but still incapable of producing the full range of human speech sounds with the stability and formant frequency structure of sounds like the “supervowel.”

Lieberman notes that Neanderthal retention of a primitive face prominently extended about the mouth, typical of earlier hominids where the lower face is positioned in front of the brain, clearly indicates less efficient speech communication. They represent an intermediate stage in the evolution of human speech. Although their brain was as large as our own, the neural substrate that regulates speech production may also have been less developed . . . . Neanderthals were inherently unable to produce human speech. (49)

As we’ve already discussed, Mellars points out that at the archaeological level, there’s “the virtual lack of convincing evidence for symbolic behaviour or expression in Neanderthal contexts.” Whatever is made of this, no one would question “that elaborate symbolic thought and expression is one of the defining hallmarks of all fully developed languages.” For Mellars, the lack of convincing evidence for symbolism in Neanderthal contexts is at least consistent with the lack of a highly developed Neanderthal language, even if not concrete proof of this.

Mellars holds the view “that a radical restructuring of language patterns would not only be consistent with the available archaeological records of behavioural changes over the period of the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition but might provide the most economical single explanation.” He is inclined to agree with linguists such as Noam Chomsky, Stephen Pinker and Derek Bickerton that the emergence of language must have been a catastrophic rather than a gradual process of mental and linguistic evolution.

If so, we should expect to find “a fairly dramatic reflection of this transition in the available behavioural records of human development” across whole spectrum from technology through subsistence and social patterns to the more overtly symbolic patterns of the human group. Mellars concludes, “The question is where, in the available archaeological records of Europe, might we identify such a watershed, if not over the period to the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition?” (50)

Walker Percy’s pungent reflection on the implications of human linguistic (what he calls “triadic” or reflective) activity (as opposed to non-self-conscious “dyadic” activity) brings out the need to explore what grounds the human difference at that ‘transition’ point—where precisely that issue of “transition” comes up:

“Thus, there is a sense in which it can be said that, given two mammals extraordinarily similar in organic structure and genetic code, and given that one species has made the breakthrough into triadic behavior and the other has not, there is, semiotically speaking, more difference between the two than there is between the dyadic animal and the planet Saturn.” (51)

Bearing in mind the recent profound, if not fatal, revision of the standard Darwinian evolutionary paradigm, it seems at least likely that a combination of genomic regulatory systems with environmental interaction and adaptation will provide the best heuristic for understanding the hominid sequence. That sequence provides a uniquely well-documented series of body plans culminating in our own. (52) And any argument for the kind of anti-human racism that Voegelin opposed in his two Race books has been scuttled at the biochemical level over the last twenty years or so.

When Rebecca Cann and her associates at the Department of Human Biology at Berkeley studied the mitochondrial DNA variation in different species, they discovered a 5% variation between the two slightly different orangutan species in Borneo and Sumatra, a 0.6% variation among gorillas, and an astonishingly low 0.3% variation among humans of all races. Stringer and McKie remark that:

“It is not the gorilla, nor the chimpanzee, nor the orang-utan, that is unusual . . . . Each enjoys a normal spectrum of biological variability. It is the human race that is odd. We display remarkable geographical diversity, and yet astonishing genetic unity . . . . The realisation that humans are biologically highly homogeneous has one straightforward implication: that mankind has only recently evolved from one tight little group of ancestors . . . . We are all members of a very young species, and our genes betray this secret.” (53)

And Tattersall and Schwartz have noted that, parallel to the maternal mitochondrial DNA sequence is the more recently discovered paternal Y chromosome sequence, with the origin of both now being dated to c. 50,000 BP:

“Recent comparative studies of the human Y chromosome (uniquely passed along by men, presumably from an ‘African Adam’) suggest a pattern similar to that suggested by the maternally derived mtDNA. Even more interesting is that in China, once a hotbed of multiregional thinking, a recent study of microsatellites (repeats of short nuclear DNA segments) has suggested a derivation of the Han Chinese from an ultimately African ancestry.” (54) [“BP” means “before present” which is a term that was coined by a meteorologist in 1954 to mean before 1950, the year in which radio carbon dating was first calculated.]

However, Voegelin’s warning of the boundary question posed by human emergence, when he said that the epiphany of structures in reality was a mystery inaccessible to explanation becomes acute when the “structures” we’re dealing with are those of human consciousness and its expression in language. While Lonergan’s approach comes at the issue from a different direction to Voegelin’s, it seems in substantial agreement with it.

Lonergan sees inquiry and insight, reflection and judgment, deliberation and choice as:

“a higher system of sensitive process. But, inquiry and insight are not so much a higher system as a perennial source of higher systems. There can be in man a perennial source of higher systems because the materials of such systematization are not built into his constitution . . . An animal species is a solution to the problem of living, so that a new solution would be a new species; for an animal to begin to live in a new fashion, there would be required not only a modification of its sensibility but also a modification of the organism that the sensibility systematizes.”

“New developments in humans are based not in a new sensibility, with its corresponding neural basis, but inquiring and understanding have their basis, not in a neural structure, but in an [intellectual] structure of psychic contents . . . Intelligence is the source of a sequence of systems that unify and relate otherwise coincidental aggregates of sensible contents . . .  Man, then, is at once explanatory genus and explanatory species. He is explanatory genus, for he represents a higher system beyond sensibility. But that genus is coincident with species, for it is not just a higher system but a source of higher systems. In man there occurs the transition from the intelligible to the intelligent.” (55)

Voegelin’s Philosophical Anthropology

We may say that the entire thrust of Voegelin’s exploration in philosophical anthropology, where he technically correlates what Lonergan, in terminology that would certainly set Voegelin’s teeth on edge, calls the “higher systems” of Myth, Philosophy, Revelation, and Ideology, are in fact systematizations or orderings of ranges of our experience of human, social-historic, cosmic, and divine existence. (56) It is these overarching orders of human experience that express the human specific differences that are grounded in the human generic difference of reason.

However, what we receive from anthropologists is at best a recognition of the singularity of the human. As Tattersall and Schwartz put it:

“. . . our pattern has essentially been one of business as usual for the natural world: a story of repeated evolutionary experimentation, diversification, and, ultimately, extinction. And it was clearly in the context of such experimentation rather than out of constant fine tuning by natural selection over the eons, that our own amazing species appeared on Earth. Albeit, in the end, with a difference: for unlike even our closest relations, homo sapiens is not simply an extrapolation or improvement of what went before it. For reasons we will explore, our species is an entirely unprecedented entity in the living world, however mundanely we may have come by our unusual attributes.” (57)

As a result of this valuable but still merely descriptive awareness, we must turn to philosophy for the anthropological articulation that will adequately convey the generic difference of the human. At the material level, Aristotle was aware that human parents could not adequately account for the coming into existence of human children:

“That is why it is a very great puzzle to answer another question, concerning Reason. At what moment, and in what manner, do those creatures which have this principle of Reason acquire their share in it, and where does it come from? This is a very difficult problem which we must endeavor to solve, so far as it may be solved, to the best of our power.” (58)

Voegelin has brought out what Aristotle meant by reason, as the basis of mankind, in Aristotle’s Metaphysics , Book A. (59) As we all know too well, Aristotle opens his Metaphysics with the programmatic: “All men by nature reach out for knowledge,” conventionally translated more blandly as “All men by nature desire to know.”

Voegelin first looks at the second part of this statement, regarding what all men do: tou eidemi oregontai , which seems to deserve the more active “reach out for knowledge” than the more usual “desire to know.” He refers to 982a32, where Aristotle uses “pursue” or “seize” with regard to knowledge. In 981a13-982a20 the knowledge turns out to be questioning, from minor matters to the ground of the cosmos. In 982b12f, we’re told that philosophy begins in wonder, and in 983a14f, he speaks of “a wondering why things should be as they are.” So, thaumazein , wondering, implies the quest for the ground, a quest undertaken because of his consciousness of ignorance, agnoein, 982b18. Consequently, Voegelin suggests paraphrasing the first line of the Metaphysics as: “All men are by nature in quest of the ground.”

Now Voegelin turns to that first part of the opening sentence, “All men are by nature . . .” Aristotle identifies two styles of truth, philosophy and myth. He characterizes what both styles have in common: wonder about the ground of being. So he can write, in 982b18f, the philomythos (lover of myth) is in a sense a philosophos (lover of wisdom), for myth is composed of wonders. And we know that he could identify with the lover of myth from a letter written in his old age “the more solitary and isolated I am, the more of a lover of myth ( philomythoteros ) I am becoming.”

What is relevant for us is that Aristotle had come to a grasp of what was in common to the two cultural forms he was acquainted with, myth and philosophy, which was that both were symbolizations of the quest for the ground, which remains an impenetrable mystery. Voegelin could thus see that Aristotle had grasped the key principle of equivalence, that is to say, “the recognizable identity of the reality experienced and symbolized on the various levels of differentiation.” (60)

Equivalence refers to this awareness, that in historical reality, each person and each society’s quest for the ground is their exegesis of their experience of participation in that ground. However compactly and incompletely they may articulate that experience, and however much in need of further revision their experience and symbolization of reality may be, it has its dignity as a real person’s or society’s image of the mystery of reality surrounding and embracing them. And it is because of this dignity, that the fundamental hermeneutic principle for Voegelin could be stated like this: “the reality of experience is self-interpretive. The men who have the experiences express themselves through symbols; and the symbols are the key to understanding the experience expressed.” (61)

It’s at this level, characterized by the reflective quest for truth expanded in his magnificent Chapter 7, “Universal Humanity” in The Ecumenic Age, that Voegelin has developed the core of a philosophical anthropology that will enable our generation to carry out what he himself called “a search of the search” not only of human origins but of the whole of human history.(62)



(1) Originally titled: “The Great Mystery: Human Emergence as Cosmic Metaxy,” this was excerpted with permission from Philosophy, Literature and Politics: Essays Honoring Ellis Sandoz, edited by Charles R. Embry and Barry Cooper, published by the University of Missouri Press in 2005.

(2) See Michael Ruse, “Philosophy and Paleoanthropology: Some Shared Interests?” in: Conceptual Issues in Modern Human Origins Research, Eds. G. A. Clark and C. M. Willermet (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1997), 423–35, at 426f.

(3) Cf. his undated 6-page typescript, Das Phylogenetische Feld—Daten, in Box 88, File 1, Eric Voegelin Papers, Hoover Institution Archives. There is also his correspondence with Marie König, a specialist in archaic symbolizations, in Box 21, File 15, in the same archive, along with his answers to questions on human origins and early symbolizations in Conversations with Eric Voegelin, ed. Eric O’Connor (Montreal: Thomas More Institute Papers, 1980), 75–89.

(4) Tilo Schabert, “Die Werkstatt Eric Voegelins,” in Zeitschrift für Politik, 49, (2002), 92.

(5) Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis: On the Theory of History and Politics, ed. David Walsh, tr. M. J. Hanak (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002), 34.

(6) Eric Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974), 333–35.

(7) Bernard Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (London: Longmans, 1961), 122–23, 118–19, 255, 257, 256.

(8) Lonergan, Insight, 257. Cf. Voegelin’s comment that “the popular assumption that mathematical natural science is the model of science par excellence, and that an operation not using its methods cannot be characterized as scientific, is neither a proposition of natural science, nor of any science whatsoever, but merely an ideological dogma thriving in the sphere of scientism.” (Anamnesis, 376)

(9) Lonergan, Insight, 258.

(10) I owe this example to Philip McShane’s discussion in his Randomness, Statistics and EmergencePlants and Pianos: Two Essays in Advanced Methodology (Dublin: Milltown Institute, 1971).

(11) Voegelin, Conversations with Eric Voegelin, 93.

(12) Lonergan, Insight, 260.

(13) Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (London: Allen Lane, 1995), passim. (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1970), 71–76.

(14) Lonergan, Insight , 261, 263–64.

(15) Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 19–20.

(16) Lonergan, Insight , 438–39, 441, 260, 261.

(17) Voegelin, Anamnesis , 407.

(18) Lonergan, Insight , 451–54.

(19) Eric Voegelin, “The Moving Soul,” in: What is History? and Other Late Unpublished Writings , eds. Thomas A. Hollweck and Paul Caringella (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 168.

(20) In his most popular book, Stephen Hawking proposed a view of the universe as having no boundary or edge, no beginning or end (on analogy with a sphere), and remarked of such a world: “It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE.” A Brief History of Time (London: Bantam Press, 1988), 136.

21) Stephen Hawkins and George Ellis, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 364.

(22) Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (London: Collins, 1979), 134f. [Author’s emphasis].

(23) Quoted in: Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (London: Burnett Books, 1985), 268.

(24) Lonergan, Insight , 252, 265–66.

(25) Reprinted in Niles Eldredge, Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria (London, Heinemann, 1986), 193–223.

(26) Niles Eldredge, Reinventing Darwin: The Great Evolutionary Debate (London: Phoenix, 1995), 94, 104.

(27) Cf. L. Berg Nomogenesis or Evolution Determined by Law , tr. J. N. Rostovson, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969); Colin P. Groves, A Theory of Human and Primate Evolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989).

(28) Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002).

(29) Wallace Arthur, The Origin of Animal Body Plans: A Study in Evolutionary Developmental Biology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 81.

(30) Rudolf A. Raff, The Shape of Life: Genes, Development, and the Evolution of Animal Form (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 376f.

(31) Ibid., xiv, 26, 27, 324.

(32) Eric H. Davidson, Genomic Regulatory Systems: Development and Evolution (San Diego: Academic Press, 2001), 158.

(33) Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (London: HutchinsonRadius,1990).

(34) Eric Voegelin, In Search of Order (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 17.

(35) Stephen Jay Gould, “Darwinian Fundamentalism” (NYRB, June 12, 1997, XLIV, 10), 34–37.

(36) Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 131.

(37) Eric Voegelin, Hitler and the Germans , eds. & trs. Detlev Clemens & Brendan Purcell (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 144f.

(38) However, Neal C. Gillespie in his Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) amply discusses the anti-intellectualism Darwin had to deal with in certain religious circles, along with his own internal religious struggle — a struggle perhaps more cultural than religious in fact. The whole issue of closure to scientific inquiry by a school of apologists in the name of a literalizing reading of Scripture makes one on principle sympathetic to the exasperated desire to fend them off, however polemically, by writers like Dennett and Dawkins.

(39) Cf. Voegelin’s critical discussion of Leibniz’ formulation of these questions in In Search of Order , 79–84.

(40) Stephen Jay Gould, Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (London: Jonathan Cape, 2001); Michael Ruse, Can a Darwinian be a Christian? The Relationship Between Science and Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

(41) Gould, Rocks of Ages , 4–5, 175.

(42) Ruse, Can a Darwinian be a Christian? , ix; 128; 87–88.

(43) Voegelin, What is History? , 169.

(44) Recent surveys include: Paul Mellars, The Neanderthal Legacy: An Archaeological Perspective from Western Europe (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996); Ian Tattersall, The Last Neanderthal: The Rise, Success, and Mysterious Extinction of Our Closest Human Relatives (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999); Ian Tattersall & Geoffrey H. Schwartz, Extinct Humans (New York: Westview Press, 2000).

(45) He expands on a similar comment in The Ecumenic Age : “Without universality, there would be no mankind other than the aggregate of members of a biological species; there would be no more a history of mankind than there is a history of catkind or horsekind. If mankind is to have history, its members must be able to respond to the movement of divine presence in there souls. But if that is the condition, then the mankind who has history is constituted by the God to whom man responds.” (305)

(46) Robert H. Gargett, “Grave Shortcomings: The Evidence for Neanderthal Burial,” Current Anthropology , 30 (1989), 157–90. Here at: 169, 175, 176, 177.

(47) L. P. Kooijmans et al., “On the evidence for Neanderthal burial,” Current Anthropology , 30 (1989) 326–29, at 329.

(48) Mellars, The Neanderthal Legacy , 379, 381–82; 383; 146, 151; 388.

(49) Philip Lieberman, Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution (New York: Norton, 1998), 92–97.

(50) The Neanderthal Legacy , 388–89; 391.

(51) Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book (New York: Washington Square Press, 1984), 97.

(52) An excellent recent survey can be found in Roger Lewin, Principles of Human Evolution: A Core Textbook (Oxford: Blackwells, 1998).

(53) Chris Stringer and Robin McKie, African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity (London: Pimlico, 1997), 113.

(54) Tattersall and Schwartz, Extinct Humans , 230.

(55) Lonergan, Insight , 266–67.

(56) Having noted that “mankind,” as a universal idea, does not exist, Voegelin suggests that the subject of history “can only be Being in the most general sense, Being itself.” He compares the situation of a universal history of mankind to contemporary theoretical physics, where “we have all sorts of relational discoveries, which are so thoroughgoing that the subject matter, the terms of the relations, disappears…. We have found a similar problem in the theory of history: the subject to which all these things happen is disappearing, and we have thus come back practically to a cosmology, a philosophy of the cosmos.” See Eric Voegelin, Published Essays 1966–1985 , ed. Ellis Sandoz (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 113, 114.

(57) Tattersall and Schwartz, Extinct Humans , 9.

(58) Aristotle, The Generation of Animals , 736b5. Tr. A. L. Peck (Loeb Classical Library, 1990), 167.

(59) Voegelin, What is History? , 99–110.

(60) Eric Voegelin, Autobiographical Reflections , ed. Ellis Sandoz (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 108.

(61) Voegelin, Autobiographical Reflections , 81.

(62) Voegelin, Published Essays 1966–1985, 116.


Also see How to Think About Human Origins,” “From Big Bang to Big Mystery,”  “Narrative, Neanderthals, and Art,” and “The First Mystics: Part One and Part Two.”

Brendan Purcell

Brendan Purcell is a Board Member of VoegelinView and an Adjunct Professor in Philosophy at Notre Dame University in Sydney. He is author of several books, including From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution (New City, 2012).

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