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The Wisdom of the Liminal. Evolution and Other Animals in Human Becoming.
Grand Rapids u. a.: Wm. B. Eerdmans 2014. 358 S. Kart. US$ 35,00. ISBN 978-0-8028-6867-1.
Why to deal with gradual differences between humans and other animals? The catholic author Deane-Drummond focuses on two subjects: First she has the epistemic interest to combine theological anthropology with evolutionary knowledge (15). In the result she develops a gradual anthropology which puts human development in coevolution with animal’s (52). Second, D.-D. reveals an ethical emphasis to establish a coextensive relationship between humans and animals. Her investigation leads directly to ethical issues like freedom, justice and love. Actually this volume is not itself an ethical approach (188.8.131.520), and D.-D. rejects claims of animal rights movements (301.316 f.). On the other hand she points out that a theological anthropology entails ethical implications (303), and in combination with a mere gradual difference between humans and animals a theological anthropology affords moral respect to other animals (267) and their flourish. Therefore D.-D. discovers manlike capacities of animals like freedom (chapter 3), moral sensitiveness (184.108.40.2066), fairness (243), language (156) and intelligibility (171). D.-D. would like to replace the traditional understanding of the imago Dei which is connected with superior-ity over and domination of animals (116).
The central idea of the investigation is the transformation of differences between humans and animals into grades by evolutionary thoughts. Although D.-D. refuses Neo-Darwinism as an ideological »grand narrative« (284), she exploits the heuristics of evolutionary theories for reconstructing ambiguities between the species (279. 291). An essentialistic thinking of fixed species is not valid (17). Despite this, D.-D. does not use the key word »liminal« for fluid developments as such. It is not the uncertainty of happening like in process philosophy which makes different species familiar. Rather the continuum (55.61.79) of life and even of all matter (110) makes different species comparable. D.-D. deals with gradually different but nevertheless distinct species which differences are based on levels, of significant »transition« (110) rather than on pure happening whose significant patterns only become clear retrospectively – like in process philosophy. So her evolutionary model is more essentialistic than she might think.
This is why D.-D. can adopt Thomas Aquinas into her programme. Although she interprets his work eclectically and rejects some of his main claims (55.258.305 f.), she searches for resources in his writings in order to develop a theological basis for inter-species-cooperation and -coexistence. Therefore she concedes his hierarchical thinking according to an analogia entis (146.150.306 f.). The point of D.-D.’s thomistic relecture is the inclusion of animals in God’s concept of grace (220.127.116.11.87.151.274.314): If even the highest human capacities are dependent on God’s grace, then also animals share this possibility to become dignified by his charity: »The orientation of charity will also redirect what justice requires in relation to other creatures« (275). But while the thomistic concept of grace is closely interconnected with his natural theology (274), D.-D. repeats his essentialistic framework she actually wants to escape (13 f.235): »Pneumatological account […] depends on a prior consideration of the creaturely context« (15). D.-D. might have got better witnesses for her purpose, especially in Protestant theology, like Jürgen Moltmann. Her general objection, that grace looses ecological reference without a link of pneumatology to nature (151), could be solved by her thinking of a passionate God (295), already Moltmann has pointed out without analogical thinking. The main problem of interpreting the similarities of different species as theological ana-logies consists in its supralapsarianism – at least of animals: Then the capacities of animals become valuable in themselves whereas human capacities often lead to »humanly induced niche destruction« (292).
This book refers precisely to investigations of social commu-nities of other animals whose capacities arise from there (45.133). Mostly, the detailed passages aim to deconstruct prejudices about human superiority. Only in some cases these passages prove manlike animal skills. Rather they lead to sceptical assumptions about anthropocentric frames like communication, freedom (»human freedom does not make sense purely as an individual activity, but rather in the context of a community«, 100), creativity (»We shift to a more organic view of human creativity«, 235), justice (»interjus-tice relationships«, 277) etc. – As a theological interpretation of evolution D.-D. uses the term »Theo-Drama« taken from Hans Urs von Balthasar despite his ethical insufficiency (18.104.22.168). In her transformation Theo-Drama »means an exclusive universalizing category« (216) of describing a history of God intertwining with his creatures in which all participants are involved actors (50 f.219). Thus, »Theo-Drama« is a theological »analogy« (50) to evolutionary models, such as the »Niche-Construction«, which means »the building and destroying of niches by organisms and the synergistic interactions between organisms and environments« (221). The theological aspect of this intertwining history consists in Christology, »that the particular life of one Jew in human history bears on the lives of all other life« (51) and Pneumatology (30.119.309). The Holy Ghost leads to eschatological inclusion of all creatures (316 f.). But already the »presence« (309) of the Holy Ghost in creation presupposes this inclusion: »There is no real reason why [nonhuman animals] cannot be included in the participation in the divine life that is enabled by the grace of the Holy Spirit« (119). In creation the interconnection between the species is historically and contextually ambiguous, but nonetheless spiritually and teleologically present. D.-D. calls this presence God’s »Wisdom« (314).
It seems to me that the role of the human being in D.-D.’s description of the Theo-Drama remains overestimated. On the one hand, God’s grace incarnates in all creatures. On the other hand, as spiritual presence works in a natural network of a hierarchical order, only humans reach the »final contemplation« (314). If they fulfil their particular task, they »are distinctive in their capacity« (303). Again, D.-D. follows Aquinas that human reason is connected with moral virtue – and not emotions humans share with animals (270.276). But when Aquina’s concept of grace changes the active role of reasoning to a mere passive role of »caused in us by God« (271), is not there a similarity between emotions, which befall animals, and infused virtues, which befall humans so that »the intellect ceases to be active« (314)? D.-D. concedes the role of emotions in decision making (60.85), but only the natural capacity of reasoning makes infused intentions understandable (274). If »theo-drama has a direction« because of »divine providence« (50), then mankind gets an inevitably cosmic relevance for the ecological frame (51). D.-D. tries to weaken this claim, because it is not the »specific capacities« but the »specific mission« (308) which makes humans relevant. However, this mission can only be fulfilled by a species which has such capacities. And this leads to human superiority and excludes animals as active parts from the mission.