This paper is a critical review of Rianne Rop’s 2016 thesis “Searching for the Soul in an Evolutionary World.” Rop’s paper concerns the tensions which have arose both historically—between theologians, philosophers, and scientists—as well as philosophically—ways in which one accounts for the origin of the soul and its relation to the natural world. While the paper is exegetically helpful and contributes to the discussion taking place regarding the ontology of the soul, an analysis of some of the central claims requires that many premises adopted are, it seems, problematic. I will begin, then, by providing a brief exegesis of her paper to provide a context in which her thesis can be situated. Then, I will move onto explain what I take as essentially correct in her proposal. Having done this, I will move onto explain disagreements which I make with Rop’s model, and do this retrospectively by evaluating some of the central premises which Rop accepts as philosophically legitimate, and explain my concern with their adoption. I will conclude the paper by suggesting that what Rop has done has provided a very neat model in which much of the scientific data can be harmonized with the philosophical and theological presuppositions she wishes to maintain; however, if her thesis is to be maintained, more philosophical and theological work need to be done so as to respond to the nuances in the alternative models she critiques.
Rop’s central contention is that the conjunction of evolutionary theory and the ontology of the soul requires a nuanced model of (i) how the soul came into being, (ii) God’s creation of the soul (intervention either directly or indirectly) and (iii) the soul’s relation to all of the natural world. Having begun with a brief exegesis of evolutionary theory and the Catholic Church’s reaction to its findings, she moves onto argue that the classificatory division—extending back to Ancient Greece in Plato, flourishing in the Early Modern era with Descartes—between ‘soul’ and ‘matter’ is subject to formidable objections. While Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) would want to preserve human dignity and uniqueness in the positive ontic status of the soul, Rop would suggest that his worries—alongside the worries of Pius XII—can be plausibly answered without adopting the solutions they propose, namely, by adopting a dualistic model positing ‘materiality’ and ‘immateriality’ as separate, distinct spheres of reality. As she puts it, the basic idea presented initially was whether “we can say that the human body shares its origin with all other creatures” but that “the human soul must come from a divine source whence it receives its unique dignity.” (Rop 8). Rop presents alternative models which she finds untenable for either philosophical, theological or scientific reasons. She critiques the Christian materialist on the grounds that “it cannot fully account for the human experience.” (Rop 8). Following what she takes to be unanimity between some theologians and scientists, Christian materialism, in being reductive, cannot account for (i) human rationality, (ii) “subjectivity or freedom in thought” (Rop 8), (iii) ways in which truth and falsehood can be properly demarcated and (iv) the emergence of the mental at all, since materialism is best situated in a fully deterministic framework. (This is the thesis of Gerard M. Verschuuren). She then moves on to critique ‘Interventionist Theologies,’ arguing that the “over-literal interpretation of Genesis” (Rop 9) notwithstanding, interventionist theologies—requiring special, direct divine action in the world—are intrinsically problematic. Adopting Rahner’s critique of interventionist theologies, she argues that the two problems are that interventionist theologies require God to become an agent similar to other agents in the world (thus reducing God’s transcendence as Ultimate Being), as well as “extraordinary cases” which would make it apparently strange for God to create the human soul i.e., pregnancy through rape.
Rop then argues that there is a more successful way to reconcile the tensions aforementioned, and that is by adopting an emergent soul theory. According to this view, the goal is to “expand our concept of matter in such a way that would allow for an immaterial soul to emerge from matter without losing its inherent, God-given dignity.” (Rop 10). Rop—questionably, as I will explain later—then makes it clear that this view is much more in accord with scientific findings, and that this is a necessary condition of a theological picture of the soul. On her view—motivated by the work of Karl Rahner and John Haught—by suggesting the emergence of the soul from matter, we nuance our contemporary understanding of ‘matter’, and likewise preserve human dignity. Using Kelly Clark’s analogy of the ‘magnet field’, Rop explains that the matter conglomerated into a specifiable biological complexity goes beyond its material constituents when this complexity results in—under God’s immanent presence—the human being comes about, under the “trajectory of God’s one, continual act.” (Rop 10). In this sense, the following can rightly be said: “…we can say that the human soul is an “immediate” creation of God: it has emerged through the ongoing process of self-transcending creation, which God sustains through His immediacy.” (Rop 10). To alleviate the age-old paradox of how ‘immateriality’ arises from ‘materiality’, she uses the ontological backdrop of ‘spiritualized matter’ derivative from Rahner. As such, “God’s immediate presence allows creation to transcend itself continually until this ‘frozen’ matter thaws into spirit…this power to create souls originates from God’s dynamism, which is present and active in the self-transcendence of matter” (Rop 11). Thus, “matter and spirit” are “intrinsically inseparable.” (Rop 11). From this, we can provide an ontological picture of the world according to which biological complexity maps the degree to which something has a soul—the human being, naturally, has the most biological complexity and is therefore the most “intense exemplification” of the soul. Given this model, both living and non-living materiality is in a sense spiritual, that is, immaterial in a certain respect, since all materiality is in a sense immateriality. Since much of the main worldviews held converge on this point—that from the beginning ‘immateriality’ has been present—we should conclude that this model not only resolves the tensions traditionally persistent, but it solves them successfully without a binary opposition between ‘materiality’ and ‘immateriality.’
I will now begin by evaluating the critique Rop made of existent theories of the origin of the soul, beginning with interventionist theories (since I regard her critique of Christian materialism as essentially correct). Her argument is two-fold (both following Rahner): First, special divine action in the world limits God as Primary cause and Ultimate being; secondly, there are complexities in extraordinary cases which would make special divine action relatively uncomfortable. As to the first, I have three critiques. First, God’s causal activity in the finite world is not analogous to the acts of those finite creatures themselves. God is omnipotent, that is, all-powerful, and thus His actions are always as an omnipotent God. I have two comments. First, it is not a priori true that just because a finite human being does x, that when God does x, and it is with the same method, that God is limited. For instance, human beings exercise their will so as to bring about causal effects in the natural world. God does likewise, since He merely wills and brings about causal activity i.e., in creating some finite object. Thus, even if it were true that they are analogous, it is not clear that this undermines God’s transcendence. Secondly, there is a dis-analogy since the nature of God is changeless, while He Himself can change in virtue of some of His actions i.e., in creating the world, God acquires the property of having the property of creating the natural world. Thus, God’s special action in the world does not change His absolute transcendence since it is an essential property of God’s (and thus no act of His can change this, including acting specially in the world). The second critique I would make is along the lines of God’s being Primary cause. Rop assumes that if God acts in an interventionist fashion, that therefore God changes places from being Primary Cause, to mere secondary cause. This, though, is unfounded. If God intervenes in the natural world specially, He does so as Primary Cause, and thus simultaneously acts in the world while maintaining His supremacy as God-over-all. In fact, it would be less than God to not have the capacity to bring about special action in the world while preserving His status as Primary Cause. Thirdly, God, by acting specially in the world, does not make Himself “just another inertial force acting within creation.” (Rop 10). While ‘inertial force’ remains mysteriously vague, if it is meant to mean a natural law i.e., God’s activity is another force similar to a natural law, then this is surely incorrect, since natural laws are acausal, that is, are without causal efficacy—while God does have causal efficacy. If, instead, Rop opts for ‘inertial force’ to mean causal law—like the law of gravitation, for example—then this is still mistaken, since God’s action—even if analogous to some other causal law or force—doesn’t undermine His transcendence. If this did undermine His transcendence, then this God would be closer to the Muslim conception of God, or to a Deistic conception of God, whereby God’s transcendence absolutely precludes any form of ‘undermining’ or ‘lessening’—very different from the self-giving God in Christianity Who does lower Himself to human flesh out of unconditional love. Thus, the first critique of special divine intervention plausibly falls short of its conclusion. However, the second critique still stands.
The second critique involves extraordinary cases in which it is not clear how God acts given the interventionist model. For instance, Rop asks, does God perform special action in the creation of twins to “create an extra soul” (Rop 9)? Or what about a child who results out of the moral atrocity of rape or test tube fertilization? She writes: “As soon as the soul is said to be added to the human body at a particular time, things become complicated.” (Rop 9). I worry that this is a serious problem for the interventionist. I say this for two specific reasons. First, it is not clear how this would be a serious theological problem for the interventionist. Given biological complexity, it is not inconceivable that God would perform different actions in different material situations. If twins resulted in the womb of a mother, God would create unique, individual souls for each of those twins. It is not that there is a theological incoherence present, since God is under no external constraint in His causal interacting with the material world. God would not be, for instance, acting arbitrarily, since He has sufficient reason for giving each of those persons individual souls, namely, because they are two separate persons. In the case of rape, too, it is very mysterious why it would be theologically problematic for God to endow the fetus with a soul; it seems, contrarily, that it would be unloving of God to deprive the developing fetus of a soul in virtue of the circumstances in which he or she was brought into the world. Secondly, it is not required of the interventionist to give a response for all the hard cases which one could offer. The way in which interventionism is rightly interacted with is by denying it on theological grounds—as the first of Rop’s arguments attempted—or show how it would be inconsistent with pre-existent knowledge i.e., if there were no soul to a human person—nor would they need one, hypothetically—then God would not intervene to create one (we are supposing). From the aforementioned critique, I do not see how this objection from extraordinary cases undermines the interventionist position.
Before continuing onward with my analysis, I would like to make two brief comments regarding Rop’s critique of interventionism generally. First, a God too ontologically distant from His natural world—like on Deism—seems to me to be untenable if God is personal. While emergent theories deal with this problem (and rightly so), it is not clear that interventionism is inadequate with respect to how God interacts with the natural world, since it posits that He is causally involved in creation at given moments in time. As I will eventually suggest, it might be possible that God’s general activity throughout the natural world might be as emergentism describes, but that with respect to the creation of the soul it is as the interventionist describes. Secondly, the critique of interventionism that is made is inconsistent with God’s performing miracles, a central teaching of Christianity. While emergentism might deal with this problem by suggesting that “the event of creation was not a one-time event” but “an ongoing process” (Rop 9), the problem is that (i) this requires a model of how God works in this way as well as (ii) a model in which, for example, prayer has direct causal effectiveness. It is not inconceivable that such a model is possible; however, until this is provided, Rop’s favoring of emergentism—in light of her critique of interventionism—cannot be regarded as successful. This being said, I have yet to deal specifically with her model she proposes.
Rop wants to challenge three basic contentions to make the epistemic space for her model:
(i) The strict, ontological and classificatory distinction between ‘materiality’ and ‘immateriality’
(ii) ‘Reduction’ requires (a) epiphenomenalism with respect to persons, (b) a loss of dignity and (c) human beings are no more than their constituent materiality
(iii) ‘Immateriality’ from ‘materiality’ requires that they are intrinsically distinct categories
I will begin by analyzing the success of (i)-(iii). Let us begin with (i). I have three comments to make here. First, it is not clear what ‘immateriality’ and ‘materiality’ amount to. While prima facie definitions present themselves, it is difficult to make sense out of how these terms are used within the domain of Rop’s usage, and therefore hard to test consistency. Secondly, by giving way to the distinction, Rop comes strikingly close to a view in the philosophy of mind called panpsychism, the view that matter has within it mental properties. The problems of panpsychism, then, i.e., the problems from the constitution and unity of consciousness, arise just as much of panpsychism as Rop’s view. Since she does not deal with these, it is an open question whether her view is either identical to—or close enough to have the same problems generated from—panpsychism. Third, by rejecting (i), Rop argues that this is in line with a movement in society which has as its aim to “come to embrace this art of dismantling binaries to better fit our experience of reality…[a] model [more] attractive to those who are intrigued by queer theory…” (Rop 11). I would say two things here. First, this sociological phenomenon is philosophically irrelevant to the truth of (or falsehood of) binaries (which I think Rop recognizes); however, it should be noted that it is not logically valid to falsify a perspective in virtue of its sociological effects i.e., the separation of gender, persons, et cetera. As Nietzsche pointed out, there are ugly truths—by this, though, I do not mean that binaries are ugly truths which we are stuck with in our ontology; rather, I mean that truth—whether ugly or beautiful—is truth nonetheless, and cannot be falsified on any grounds other than its corresponding to the way things are. Secondly, the interventionist model—which she doesn’t consider here—answers this “age-old paradox” very nicely, since it offers a simple model in which God brings about the immateriality into the materiality of the natural world via His causal activity. I will now move onto (ii).
While I in large part agree with her thoughts on (ii), I would only like to make one comment I think significant for consideration. The adoption of an emergentist view to show how human beings are not just their materiality—as Kelly’s magnetic field illustration shows—overlooks the presupposition on which it is based, namely, that biological complexity maps degrees of having a soul. There are deep philosophical worries here, and let me list four with respect to human beings alone (I will leave out the problems associated with holding a view in which non-living materiality is in a sense spiritual). First, this perspective runs close to the view known as ‘functionalism’ in the philosophy of mind. While there are obvious differences i.e., Rop isn’t making claims for/against the constitution of personhood, problems arise. For instance, on Rop’s premises, the more biological complexity the more soul a given thing has. Thus, one human can literally have ‘more’ of a soul than another. If the reason a human being is the best exemplification of a soul is because it maps God’s image and likeness, then it is inexplicable why we are the best exemplification of God’s image and likeness since it is easy to conceive of far more sophisticated (computationally and biologically) creatures who would in that sense be a better exemplification. So, the response from us resembling God’s image and likeness cannot work and thus the degrees of having a ‘soul’ remains paradoxical since it corresponds to biological complexity. Secondly, if my first critique is correct, then it seems that it is a category mistake to speak of souls in this hierarchical fashion. For our adoption of ‘more/less’ to the concept of ‘soul’ seems to be an incorrect usage of terms. Third, it is not clear that biological complexity brings about—factually speaking—such immateriality. The properties of material objects and their material constituents involve interactions described by contemporary quantum physics; if materiality brings about immateriality, though still under the discretion of God, we should expect to see this sort of thing happen at the fundamental level. From the fact that we don’t see this happen, I suggest that it is not that God isn’t active in the creation of the soul, but that it is not through the methodology the emergentist describes. Fourth, a serious problem with this view is that is significantly less simple—simplicity understood as an epistemic virtue of a philosophical theory—than the interactionist theory. While this does not show that the interactionist theory is correct, it shows that the plausibility of interactionism is higher than emergentism in virtue of its having the epistemic virtue of simplicity.
As to (iii), I would like to make two critiques. First, Rop’s argument that the distinction between ‘immateriality’ and ‘materiality’ is not ultimately legitimate since it is predicated on the notion that they are two distinct spheres, is itself predicated on the notion that reality is best understood as both material and immaterial. To be fair, the Christian in this respect should maintain that the world is material and immaterial, and the motivation is very clear i.e., life after death requires immateriality. However, what is required of immateriality is not that it is fundamental to the fabric of reality, but that God is fundamental to the fabric of reality. If God wanted to create a world of only material beings (or only immaterial beings), no theological incoherence arises; but, if God wanted to create a world of both sorts of beings, it is not clear why it would be more acceptable to do so by instilling into the fabric of reality immateriality, rather than bringing it about Himself in certain contexts i.e., the souls of human beings. Secondly, the distinction between ‘materiality’ and ‘immateriality’ should not be given up even if Rop’s model is correct. While Rop herself accepts this, it should be noted that God’s essential nature is immateriality, and thus the way in which we think of ourselves should be in both material and immaterial terms, without reducing ourselves to either of the two completely—for while we cannot be reduced to matter, we cannot be reduced to immateriality either, since our nature is essentially embodied—but this lies beyond the scope of this paper. What I should like to conclude in this paragraph, though, is that the ‘oneness’ of the human person identified by Rop as a worry on interventionism really amounts to pushing towards—on interventionism—a better, more holistic account of the human person despite the distinction between materiality and immateriality. What this all speaks to, I suggest, is the need for a more clear methodology in how we approach the question of the human person’s soul, and this will take the space of my concluding remarks.
What Rop has done is provided a model of the soul in which interventionism and Christian materialism are rejected, and the motivations underlying each are preserved. While there certainly are merits to the model, I have identified both the problems of her critique of interventionism as well as her acceptance of emergentism. However, in this final concluding paragraph, I want to make explicit two tensions I found in her thesis. First, the tension between scientific and theological consistency occupies an interesting role in her paper. Take the following two lines:
“Before diving into theologies of the emergent soul, let us consider the perspective of neuroscience lest these theologies be dismissed as blind, outlandish conjecture.” (Rop 10). (Italics mine).
“Although we have no evidence from scientific research scouring matter for any hint of immateriality (and rightly so, since the immaterial is outside the realm of science), we can see evidence of convergent thought in native spirituality.” (Rop 12). (Italics mine).
The tension in the two lines should be relatively explicit: It is not clear how we are to deal with the questions of science and theology, and their respective relationship with one another. In one sense, science doesn’t have a whole lot to say when it comes to the immateriality of persons; on the other hand, a theological model of the soul cannot be without scientific consideration. While there is no explicit contradiction, my interpretation of this tension is that what is decisive is the theological grounds on which these models are based. Scientific consistency changes with historical context and thus our work in theology needs updating from time to time; however, the truth of the matter—even if science deepens our knowledge of it—does not change. In this way, the theological and philosophical grounds on which these theories are held should be taken up much more significantly than they have. The second tension is regarding the dignity of human beings. Having agreed that even non-living materiality is in a sense immaterial, the dignity of human beings becomes difficult to account for. Put in question form: Why would a human being (amounting to biological complexity resulting in the human soul) have dignity over lesser non-living things? If the answer is biological complexity and therefore the human soul, this would be circular or at least begging the question. If the ‘stuff’ of the world is no different than the ‘stuff’ of human beings, it is not clear that Christian materialism is less preferable than the emergentist model—all that would be needed is a lack of determinism and then emergentism reduces itself uncomfortably close to Christian materialism. Rop’s model should be counted as a contribution to the discussion, but which ultimately requires additional justification for its veracity.
 Rops, Rianne. “Searching for the Human Soul in an Evolutionary World”, King’s Undergraduate Research Journal (2007): 7-13.
 I should like to mention that although this idea taken up by Verschuuren, a highly sophisticated version of it is taken up in the work of Alvin Plantinga titled the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). Similarities should not be underestimated, though the formulation by Verschuuren is more similar to C.S Lewis’ rough and ready formulation in his Miracles.
 While I regard it as correct, I would like to make a few correctives. First, one of the most prominent Christian materialists Peter van Inwagen goes unnoticed in her paper. While it would have no doubt exceeded the bounds of her paper, it should be recognized that his defense of Christian materialism is of the highest quality, albeit its theological difficulties. Secondly, asides pointing out the “over-literal interpretation of Genesis”, Rop does not mention the theological problems—textual and exegetical, ultimately—of Christian materialism made very clear, for example, in J.P Moreland’s The Soul: How we Know Its Real and Why it Matters. Lastly, her analysis would have been strengthened by an incorporation of atheistic philosophers who point out the difficulties of materialism generally, so as to make Christian materialism untenable both from a Christian perspective, and an atheistic perspective (this would support her argument, though it is not, strictly speaking, necessary).
 This is important when we understand the cornucopia of terms used on this score. On the one hand there is soul, ego, immaterial thing, substance, self, et cetera; then there are body, bodily thing, substance, physical object, et cetera.
 As W.L. Craig rightly points out.
 While there is strictly speaking no theological incoherence, it should be noted that God’s creation of the soul as well as the body have independent—and inter-dependent—purposes which should not go unnoticed (regardless of one’s view). For instance, the body is the primal method of communication and knowledge between persons, a great human good (as C.S Lewis pointed out). The soul is the guarantor of the logical possibility of life after death, among many other things. There are many reasons why we would expect God to create a world—in whatever way He desires—that involved both materiality and immateriality (though if it was one or the other only, it is not theologically incoherent).
 The way in which these subjects interact, too, is a deep philosophical question. Moreland and Craig specify many ways. For instance: (Find quote for this).