Life as Emergent Agential Systems: Tendencies Without Teleology

 So here is the whole thing. I sent his off  for review last week and had restructured it so completely that posting in the sensible pieces based on what went before was impossible. So this is the whole shebang. When you run across sections you have read before you can just skim and move on. This is very long for a post. Sorry. 

For those who don’t want to read this long, long paper in a nutshell the argument is:

A) Life has evolved in a completely Darwinian fashion. 

B) Even so their are strategies that evolution has stumbled upon over and over like the move to individuality and sociality which produces more individuation at higher levels. Other’s include the emergence of life imbedded in a context, changes the design space upon which it rests through influencing and restructuring that space in a constant back and forth between life and that design space. The result in genuine novelty.

C) Bergson, a French philosopher of the early 20th century, noticed that there were creative tendencies in evolution that life uses again and again despite the non-teleological direction of evolutionary change. 

D) This has implications for theology:

  1. The creation is ongoing.

  2. That the creation is unique, unpredicted, and surprising and worthy of preservation and protection. Life is not a set of predefined necessary forms.

  3. That emergence means that the universe is open ended and that surprises await in what evolves. 


For: What Is Life? Theology, Science, and Philosophy Conference

Krakow, Poland June 2011


Biology has something relevant to say to theology and visa-versa (Cunningham 2010), and as a biologist I would like to hone in on some aspects of life that may gesture to perspectives that cross disciplinary lines. In particular I would like to draw on the work of Henri Bergson, long ignored in biology. However, he is growing in relevance as problems in understanding what life is and how it enfolds in an emergent universe become more pressing and more perplexing. Continue reading Life as Emergent Agential Systems: Tendencies Without Teleology

Mormons and Evolution

Myself, my longtime friend, BYU colleague and mentor, Duane Jeffery, and my buddy the always entertaining James McLachlan, conviene with the amazing Dan Wotherspoon for nearly a couple of hours discussion and commentary on the LDS Church and its historical and contemporary relationship with Evolution.

Click here to go to the Mormon Matters Podcast . . . → Read More: Mormons and Evolution

Mormonism and Evolution, Life as Emergent Agential Systems: My Presentation at the Krakow Theology Conference Part II

My talk at the Science and Religion Conference held in Krakow Poland, “What is Life? Theology, Science, and Philosophy” continued (Part I is found here) . . .

Life’s processes are often mischaracterized as a simple reductive scheme that misses some of life’s most astonishing features. Bergson criticized this as finalism in which the whole was given. This ‘whole’ can be seen in Philosopher Daniel Dennett idea of a design space. He uses it to argue for a deterministic universe, but the idea is that there are only so many possible combinations of DNA that produce viable ‘creatures.’ From a given starting point, the unfolding of different life forms, must wander around on this space, driven by local selection regimes, but the set is finite, and the steps must be small ones. Richard Dawkins uses the same notion in his view of ‘climbing mount improbable’ in which he demonstrates how evolution can completely explain the designed complexity of life on earth. They are right that evolution completely explains complexity, but the question that deserves some consideration is can we ask where the design space comes from? Of course that is in principle unanswerable from a scientific perspective.
Continue reading Mormonism and Evolution, Life as Emergent Agential Systems: My Presentation at the Krakow Theology Conference Part II