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‘The animal nature of spontaneous human laughter’. Evolution and Human Behavior

The Understanding of Human Nature First of all, the greatest impact of cognitive discoveries can be located inside the traditional Christian representation of human nature, as directly created by God, fallen into a state of considerable distortion, and subject to redemption and re-constitution. It seems quite evident that these presuppositions vary considerably when confronted by a scientific understanding of the human mind and how it operates. Topics such as the possible constitution of the ‘soul’ have been already explored, and still remain controversial in the dialogue between science, philosophy, and theology. The same can be said about other characteristics that both theology and humanistic contemporary methodologies have attributed to human nature: freedom, identity, human uniqueness, social abilities, and the meaning of love. The main issue at stake is surely the idea of humans as created in the ‘image’ of God, reflecting a divine plan and project, unique in the whole of creation. Other areas of theological anthropology seem to be less affected by the latest scientific wave, or they simply have not yet been subject to deep revision. For example, the doctrine of ‘original sin’ has known some reformulations in line with sociobiology, but less has been written on the impact upon it of the cognitive sciences (except for some applications of the neurophysiologic thesis). A treatise on ‘grace’ is still awaiting consideration in cognitive terms. Theologians engaged in the dialogue between theology and science are convinced that we cannot resort anymore to a naive theological description of the human being, which ignores the real conditions of his biological and mental constitution. Cognitive disciplines may be very helpful for the theological endeavour, which strives to keep the Christian conception of grace in touch with natural reality, demonstrating how the dynamics of incarnation still work within the conditions revealed by science. Receptiveness to the cognitive approach to the human mind, and a familiarity with the discussions going on inside this field of study, will be fruitful for any attempt to think in theological terms about human behaviour, a relationship with God, and the conditions within which the conception of a personal response to the divine call can be conceived.