Are We Still Special? Evolution and Human Dignity

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    It has recently been argued by both lay people, church leaders and academic philosophers that evolutionary theory and especially the theory of common ancestry rules out any adequate notion of human dignity (I). In this paper, this claim is examined and refuted. First of all, when spelled out in a conceptually unambiguous way, it turns out that the evolutionary argument against human dignity hinges on the belief that human uniqueness, as this was traditionally encapsulated in the doctrine of the imago Dei, has been falsified (II). Secondly, therefore, a recent proposal to reinterpret this doctrine in a way which allows us to drop the notion of human uniqueness but to still uphold a robust notion of human dignity is discussed (III). It is concluded, however, that this proposal is problematic for several reasons. Thirdly, therefore, a more fruitful avenue is explored, namely the attempt to reinterpret the notions of human uniqueness and human dignity along theological rather than biological lines (IV). It will turn out that this attempt, which is inspired by both contemporary biblical scholarship and systematic theology, in fact enables us to adhere to notions of human uniqueness and human dignity (and to connect this to the doctrine of the imago Dei) which are not at odds with evolutionary theory. Finally, some conclusions are drawn (V). © 2011 Walter de Gruyter.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)318-332
    Number of pages15
    JournalNeue Zeitschrift fur Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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