I don't quite follow this. Are you saying that an evolved conscience entails that conscience does not exist, perhaps because it is entirely determined by physical forces? To me this is simply a reformulation of the old theological disputes between Pelagians and Anti-Pelagians, and boils down to the paradox that God created beings with free will, and yet God's providence remains completely sovereign. Rather than insist that evolved sense of morality undermines the very notion of morality, we can simply accept that there is a paradox we are not able to fully understand.
We have always known that our ability to choose freely is subject to all sorts of other forces, otherwise known as our passions. Exercising free will rightly involves struggle, and ultimately we are told that we are in fact unable to win this struggle without supernatural help. To me this implies that without the grace of God we are in fact, as you suggest, the slaves of our biology. Only by divine intervention are we able to free ourselves from this slavery.
If our consciousness (and be proxy, our consciences) evolved then we've moved beyond paradox and into the realm of contradictions. An evolved conscious cannot, by definition, have free will because it was formulated via process of cause and effect. Likewise, via evolution, the conscious must be purely material
and cannot be immaterial. A material conscious cannot be free because it's not only influenced by external forces, it's determined
by external forces. Hence the difficulty of a Christian accepting the evolution of conscious (and conscience) if the Christian desires to remain consistent with Orthodox teachings.
So no, it's not a paradox, but a contradiction. To label it a paradox is simply playing a trump card when one isn't present. I would contend that a paradox only exists when we don't truly understand one aspect, such as the Incarnation. We cannot comprehend the nature of God (should we use such a carnal term to describe God), therefore the Incarnation ends up being a paradox. In the case of conscience, we have a good idea what the conscience is and an even better idea of what evolution is; therefore, we cannot create a paradox between the two and say we have free will when evolution would not allow for free will.
Do the Fathers say that the image of God rests only in the soul or mind? I ask because you are prepared to accept the evolution of the body, but balk at the evolution of the soul. It's probably worth remembering here that some of the Fathers believed we inherited our souls from our parents, i.e. souls were not merely created specially for each individual person. If we can be said to inherit our souls, it would follow that we should be able to accept the evolution of souls as well as bodies.
Which fathers indicate that we inherit our souls in an evolutionary sense? In looking to St. Gregory of Nyssa as well as St. John of Damascus my understanding is that our souls are immaterial, meaning they can't be subject to evolution (as evolution only deals with natural forces). Whether or not we inherit our souls is irrelevant - if our souls are immaterial then they're not subjected to evolution, which is a natural (physical) force.
I think we need to distinguish between morals and conscience. Evolutionary psychologists in effect say that our consciences are evolved, but notwithstanding some of their attempts to use this as an argument against absolute morality, the question of the existence of morality in the abstract is a philosophical one, logically independent of the biological question of the evolution of our conscience. As an analogy, the question of whether or not there is objective truth is logically independent of the idea that our ability to discern the truth in the world around us is part of our evolved psychology.
I think you're avoiding the question
The argument put forth is whether or not morals are a product of evolution. You're bringing up the epistemic aspect whereas I'm talking about the ontological aspect of morality; apples and oranges. If morals are a product of evolution then perhaps we could say there is no ontology to morals, that it's purely epistemic, which would of course make morality subjective to our conscience. But of course, if this is true then we have to ask what God's part in all of this is and how He could command us to do certain things when we've yet to evolve to the point where we can do those things.
Rather, Christians have always had the sense that morals come from God's nature, thus morality is mind-independent. So the issue isn't epistemic, but ontological. In this case, evolution must account for ontological morals without first appealing to our noetic environment, which it can't do. That's well beyond the scope of natural selection.
So we're left with a very simple question - do morals come from God? If so, then they're not a product of evolution. If not, then how is God moral?
In dealing with our understanding of morality, perhaps you would wish to make the argument that while morals come from God, our consciences must evolve to handle such morality (which I think that might be what you're trying to say). But this is inherently problematic because it removes our responsibility for any wrongdoing! Can we get angry at a man with no legs for not running a 10k marathon? Of course not, because he lacks the necessary "equipment" to get the job done, through no fault of his own. Likewise, if our consciences are evolved, then none of us can truly be "immoral" because we're simply following a line of cause and effect; God may want us to do x, but if our minds haven't evolved to accomplish x, then there's no way He can hold that against us and still claim to be just.
This problem has already been raised: how can God be the author of death, which is what some people infer from the idea of our evolving from other species through natural selection? I would say that this falls under the same problem mentioned above, i.e. the fact that God is completely sovereign, and has the power to stop any evil that occurs in the world, and yet chooses not to. But we don't deduce from this that God is evil, because we also hold that rational creatures have free will and are responsible for their own evil deeds. God made us subject to passions, and He also offers us His grace in order to overcome these passions. It is up to us to accept His offer of help.
That sounds incredibly Calvinistic...
The above aside, what you're arguing doesn't work. We can say that God allows evil and death because of our free choices. We choose to go against what is right. But that explanation simply doesn't apply to the question I asked. I asked: 4) How do we deal with the implications of this theory, namely that God becomes the cause of evil (the evolution of morality would require immoral acts to occur, thus if such a tract was sanctioned by God then He directly becomes the cause of evil, which is a heresy)?
The evolution of morality wouldn't be an act of free will, but something God would have to guide pre-humans along through. This would make God the author of irresponsible and evil choices as such creatures wouldn't have free will (remember, if the conscious is a product of evolution then it must be material, meaning it cannot have free will).
Good question. On our evolution thread I raised the possibility that the causal connection between sin and death may not require we believe sin preceded death in real time, and apparently I am not the first one to come up with this idea. I certainly wouldn't insist on this interpretation as the dogmatic truth, but it's a helpful way for me to reconcile the teachings of the Fathers with scientific facts.
How is this related to your question? I would say that the state of grace can be understood as the situation of the innocent rational creature. Wherever and whenever our ancestors first became capable of reason, and thus of accepting supernatural help in overcoming their enslavement to physical forces, they were in a state of grace so long as they accepted this help. Whenever they first denied this supernatural help and tried to rely on themselves alone, they fell from that state of grace. I can't be more specific since we don't know the fine details of how humans first evolved, though science certainly holds that it must have been gradual.
Yeah, Bill Dembski offers up that argument in The End of Christianity
. The book kind of goes off on a tangent, but his original essay was eye-opening for me. And I do accept the premise of his theory that God prepared the world for the Fall, knowing what Adam and Eve would do. I also do think that this grants you a strong avenue in this discussion to proving that our morals could evolve (though I still think you have to explain how a non-physical aspect of humanity is subject to a purely physical law).
The problem with what you're saying, however, is that it's just not tenable. We're assuming that our ancestors killed, destroyed things, and then one day discovered such actions were wrong? At what point did this happen? Furthermore, and more problematic, if evolution brought us to that point, why did we divert from it? Again, natural selection relies on cause and effect, so if we reached a moral apex then there's no way we could have chosen to go against that apex.
In general, I think it's unwise to stake the truth of our dogmas on the truth or falsehood of scientific theories. What will you do if evidence continues to accumulate for evolved psychology, including morality? Are you going to end up like Protestant creationists (or myself at one point) and resort to ever more distorted interpretations of the facts in order to preserve what you think is dogma?
If they can prove that our consciousness is physical and determined then I would abandon Christianity or at least become a Calvinist. If evidence arises against a core aspect of Christianity then we don't, then we have to doubt our faith.
But as it is, I would contend there's absolutely no evidence that our consciousness has evolved. I've read the articles and it's more philosophical than it is scientific. They take evidence and then interpret it through a philosophical lens (as do I), but this merely proves that the evidence isn't conclusive at all, nor is it compelling, nor can it properly be called evidence.
The problem with Protestant creationists is they argue against the actual science. I'm not arguing against the science. I'm arguing against the philosophy of naturalism, which states that everything can be explained via nature. The arguments you're bringing up aren't actually scientific, but come from a naturalist philosophy. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish the two, but never think scientists aren't subject to philosophical biases.