Twenty years ago I completed a dissertation on human freedom, arguing for a bound will. I used Friedrich Schleiermacher and Jonathan Edwards as theological models and I reinterpreted freedom in a more corporate sense, as the freedom and binding and loosing available to the corporate body of the Church. I finished uneasy about the effect of scientific models on my sources and myself. Were we too influenced by the machine model of the world? Surely human freedom cannot be reduced to responsibility alone. The proposed project will extend this inquiry, integrating theology with scientific exploration. I will begin with theological sources, but will continue the conversation in light of the biology/evolutionary theory of the last few decades, as well as on going reflection on evolutionary and neurological epistemology. Reinforcing a position of limited freedom is our more detailed neurological knowledge, genetics, the effects of nutrition on behavior, the close similarities between animals and humans, and the understanding that pre-human life on earth was aggressive, and the gap between brain ‘decision’ and conscious deciding. Resisting and opposing a bound will, and consistent with freedom indirectly is all that resists mechanism and reductionism in science, the literature of emergence, the ability of the mind to reflect on itself, the emergence of axial emotions and a sense of responsibility and the differences in function between left and right brain understandings an processes.
Nicola teaches systematic theology at Laidlaw College, Auckland, New Zealand, and is Dean of the Graduate School. She has long standing interests in the interface between systematic theology and evolutionary theory. She chairs a Local Society Initiative, TANSA (Theology and the Natural Sciences in Aotearoa) and contributes a column on Science and Theology to the New Zealand Theological Journal Stimulus. She has a book, Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil which is due out with Oxford University Press in 2012.