Evolutionary Psychology and Christian Views on Human Thriving
May 2013—August 2015
- Pam King, Principal Investigator
- Justin Barrett, Principal Investigator
- James Furrow, Principal Investigator
- Tyler Greenway, Student Researcher
- Sarah Schnitker, Consultant
- Oliver Crisp, Consultant
- William Whitney, Consultant
In this project, we demonstrated the fruitfulness of placing evolutionary psychology and Christian theological anthropology in direct conversation by considering the question: What is human thriving? Even for Christians open to evolutionary creation, evolutionary psychology is still regarded with anything from suspicion to outright hostility. Evolutionary psychology need not be practiced in a way hostile to theism or Christianity. It holds intellectual and methodological resources that may invigorate Christian psychology around some of humanity’s biggest questions. We proposed to diffuse the enmity between Christians and evolutionary sciences by taking one topic of great importance to Christianity (human thriving) and examining how Christian theology and evolutionary psychology working together can be more productive and fruitful than either working independently, or worse, working against each other. The result will be progress (or increased understanding) toward human thriving—and also an example for other Christianity-evolutionary psychology engagements.
As part of the “Evolutionary Psychology and Christian Views on Human Thriving” project, our team hosted three forums to receive feedback from experts in different fields. These valuable suggestions have helpfully shaped this project into what we hope we will be a useful guide for both better understanding human thriving, but also for understanding how evolutionary psychology and Christianity may work together to produce richer resources.
Our first forum was held in September, 2013 and was focused on thriving from a theological perspective. Our team prepared a position paper presenting the contributions that a variety of doctrines have made to understanding what it means for humans to thrive. Forum participants brought with them their comments and critiques helping us shape our theological stance on thriving and focusing us more intently on topics such as pneumatology, ecclesiology, eschatology, sin, suffering, and non-Christian thriving.
Evolutionary Psychology Forum
Our second forum was held in June, 2014 and was focused on thriving from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Our team prepared another position paper presenting our thoughts on how evolutionary psychology can guide notions of thriving and create a framework for understanding why a thriving life is often difficult to obtain. Experts in various fields of psychology brought their unique expertise with them and helpfully critiqued this paper. These critiques further drew our attention to the importance of the strengths of the human species and how these strengths contribute to our evolutionary fitness.
Our third forum was held in November, 2014 and was focused on the application of thriving research in ministry contexts. Some members of our team prepared a manuscript describing our previous work and how this work might apply to Christians. Forum participants again responded with helpful critiques detailing what they believed would be a useful resource for the Christians in their parishes. Their comments highlighted the importance of applying research on thriving to ministry contexts.
- King, P. E., Barrett, J., Greenway, T., Schnitker, S. A. & Furrow, J. L. (2017). Mind the gap: Evolutionary psychological perspectives on human thriving. Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(4), 1-10. doi:10.1080/17439760.2017.1291855
- King, P.E. & Whitney, W. (2015). “What’s the ‘positive’ in positive psychology: Teleological considerations based on creation and imago doctrines,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, 43(1), 47-59. doi.org/10.1177/009164711504300105
- Evolution and Image Bearers by Tyler Greenway and Pam King
- Mind the Gap: Evolutionary Psychological Perspectives on Thriving by Tyler Greenway and Justin Barrett
This study was made possible by the BioLogos Foundation.