These folks think of our humanness as a sort of inevitable development in an evolutionary chain that extends not only back to the dawn of life, but to the origins of the cosmos itself. It has been most thoroughly explicated by Ken Wilber, probably most comprehensively in his weirdly titled Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. I read it back when it came out in 1995, and it may even have had a hand in inspiraling me to come up with my own "comprehensive paradigm," so to speak.
No, I would say it definitely did, since Wilber was pretty much the only guy, or at least the most famous, who was attempting this sort of total synthesis of science, religion, philosophy, psychology, and everything else. However, once I plunged more deeply into the primary literature, it led me in different directions that are still being worked out, one post at a time, here in blogsville.
The above three paragraphs were provoked by a statement by Berdyaev, to the effect that human consciousness is a revolutionary development "which cannot be arrived at by means of either logic or evolution." This revolution is outside and beyond the boundaries of all science and all philosophy, for it represents a radical discontinuity with all that has come before.
Yes, there are continuities, obviously; but in its essence, human consciousness is absolutely unlike anything else in all of creation. Evolution doesn't really have room for true creative novelty, since its apparent novelty is just an illusory result of random accidents, not any conscious intent.
Furthermore, evolution does not, and cannot, confer meaning on existence. Rather, it is only humans who decipher meaning in an evolutionary process that cannot account for it. Humanly speaking, there can be nothing "higher" than the love of truth. It is not as if we will "evolve" beyond such love; rather, one can only progress backward, as in deconstruction, multiculturalism, leftism, etc.
The only thing we can really compare ourselves to is God, for only God could have such godlike faculties. Certainly animals don't, no matter how hard sociobiologists try to straighten the squeer.
In short, the gap between man and animal is infinite, which is one of the things that gives rise to an intuition of the infinite (no animal contemplates the infinite). Likewise, the distinction between truth and untruth is absolute, which testifies to our conformity to the Absolute.
Wilber posits a kind of implicate cosmic ladder upon which existence ascends on its way back to being. He wouldn't put it that way, but one of his main principles is that evolution is ontologically preceded by involution, so evolution is essentially a recovery of what is implicate in existence.
This is too neat, too linear, too rationalistic for my taste. It especially overlooks the role of freedom and of creativity, each of which is the very essence of nonlinearity, and irreducible to anything else.
In fact, it can be said that discontinuity as such is a function of freedom and creativity, which are after all the opposite of determinism and reductionism. No great work of art can be predicted by its antecedents or reduced to its particulars. Rather, it is an entirely new Cosmic Fact, not any kind of predictable evolutionary advance.
So, "Man's creative act is accomplished on a plane of being over which the competence of science does not extend..." And "only he who is free, creates," just as creativity is one of the highest expressions of freedom lived. For "true creativity is theurgy, God-activity, activity together with God." It is a reflection of the original "creation from nothing" that characterizes God's own creativity:
"Creativity is the supreme mystery of life, the mystery of the appearance of something new, hitherto unknown, derived from nothing, proceeding from nothing, born of nothing other.... Man's creation of something from nothing must be understood as his creativity out of freedom" (Berdyaev) -- again implying that freedom is "nothing" until it meets with the creative response. Thus, in the end, we can truly say that the human world is "made of nothing," otherwise we would be like animals, who essentially have only preprogrammed responses to environmental stimuli.
Man can continue to be "creative" in the absence of God, but this eventually fades with distance from the animating divine principle. Thus, "When natural man creates, not for God but for himself, he creates non-being." This would also be the other kind of "nothingness" of the existentialists, i.e., radical non-determination in the absence of any orienting telos.
At its extreme, this approach attempts to make man into a god, e.g., as in Nietzsche, or Nazism, or certain New Age trends. "But once you have denied God and deified man, man falls to a level lower than the human, since man remains at the height of dignity only as image and likeness of a higher divine being; he is true only when he has sonship with God."
So there is a radical discontinuity with nature, a discontinuity that places us precisely "nowhere" in the absence of the continuity, or lineage, of divine sonship. In other words, either we are a relative of the absolute, or else existential orphans pleading for mercy on the grounds that we have killed God.
We must note the distinction between evolution and progress. Evolution is a naturalistic category, while progress is a spiritual category: it predicates evaluation from a viewpoint of a higher principle than the natural process of change. The idea of progress is of [Judeo-]Christian origin... --Berdyaev