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Open Theology

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Cultural Influences on the Brain

Science and Theology on Human Specificity

Ivan Colagè / Lluis Oviedo
Published Online: 2015-10-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2015-0019


This paper addresses the timely issue of human specificity in a multidisciplinary perspective. It starts with a brief description of the relationships between science and theology during the last few decades, and notes how the situation has been changing since the beginning of the 21st century. We then suggest how recent scientific developments open up fresh and concrete approaches to human specificity in science and theology, especially when the real import of human cultural complexion is taken into account. In a following section, two fundamental topics are addressed - neural learning and gene-culture co-evolution. We will then discuss the importance of these topics for human uniqueness and culture (as well as their potential limits in supporting the specificity of the human being). Furthermore, we will propose a novel approach, based on the notion of cultural neural reuse (i.e., cultural processes affecting brain anatomy). This approach acknowledges an irreducible role of cultural dynamics in human overall constitution. Cultural neural reuse suggests that one way in which humans are unique is that they are able to shape and transcend themselves. Finally, the implications of this approach will be drawn for theological topics such as the imago Dei doctrine, the notion of self-transcendence, and the integral view of the human being emerging from Biblical and early Christian anthropology.

Keywords: cultural neural reuse; gene-culture co-evolution; human specificity; imago Dei; neural learning; self-transcendence


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About the article

Received: 2015-07-21

Accepted: 2015-09-23

Published Online: 2015-10-27

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 1, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2015-0019.

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©2015 Ivan Colagè, Lluis Oviedo. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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