Evolutionists and creationists have spent a long time arguing about how humans came to be. There are two basic ideas: (1) we are the result of a very, very long chain of fortuities which produced our existence, or (2) we are the creation of an infinite Creator. The arguments have mostly been about our physical existence which we share with all the rest of the universe. However, there is another side to our existence which may be unique in all the universe.
In his book, God’s Planet, Owen Gingerich quotes with approval (according to a review done by Stephen Barr for First Things) the following statement of Pope John Paul II:
With man, we find ourselves facing a different ontological order—an ontological leap we could say. . . . The moment of passage into the spiritual realm is not something that can be observed with research in the fields of physics and chemistry—although we can nevertheless discern, through experimental research, a series of very valuable signs of what is specifically human life. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of self-consciousness and self-awareness, of moral conscience, of liberty, or of aesthetic and religious experience—these must be analyzed through philosophical reflection, while theology seeks to clarify the ultimate meaning of the Creator’s designs.
I think creationists would have done better to argue with the social scientists over the ideas the Pope expresses. The “soft” sciences are notably weak in their understanding of the aspects of our humanity resulting from our spiritual nature. This is evidenced by the large number of variant opinions and the lack of assured predictions of human actions. It might not be too much to say that they are more suited to satire and parody than to guiding public policy or as instructions on how to live a human life.
There are many reasons for the lack of unity within the social sciences. One reason that Gingerich rightly points out is that, “the transition to a spiritual being . . . does not fossilize.” This would not be necessarily an impossible obstacle to the scientific understanding of the spiritual nature of humans. After all, physicists study many particles that can only be observed by their impact on other particles. So the need for indirect knowledge of spiritual reality cannot be the total reason for the neglect of its study in the social sciences.
As most people realize, the secular rejection of spiritual understandings of human existence and behavior are based on various ideologies. Materialism, naturalism, scientism, atheism all hold that there is nothing outside the physical realm to be studied. Since proponents of these ideologies are generally proud of their intellectual capacity it is surprising they do not realize the gigantic defect in their exclusionary logic. Namely, that nothing is found unless it is looked for.
People who, in many cases, are willing to go to the ends of the earth or even to search the stars to find the entire extent of life should be willing to look into themselves to see there is a unique form of life within them—one with the potential to live forever. Unfortunately most of them have a great resistance to doing so.