“Shared Intentionality” and its Implications

The ‘developmental and comparative psychologist’ Michael Tomasello, an American who now works at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, has come up with a concept called “shared intentionality” as a mark that separates humans from chimpanzees and bonobos [asserted in many circles to be our closest blood relatives].  Where I first read of this, in Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, it was illustrated by the statement, “You never see two chimpanzees carrying a log together.”  In other words, only among humans do two beings ever form a common purpose and act together to achieve it.

This means, to me, that Shared Intentionality is one of the significant marks of the Imago Dei, the image of God in human beings that sets them off from chimpanzees and bonobos and the other animals.  If you don’t believe in the blood relationship between us and chimpanzees and bonobos, information about our differences from them is still useful in defining humankind’s uniqueness and in getting an idea of what the Image of God is.

And, if Shared Intentionality turns out to be an important piece of the character of God, the implications are even more striking.  The character of God does not and cannot need a created universe to be what it is.  So, how can God have as part of His character shared intentionality, if He is not already multipersonal in His own nature?  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, or something like it, turns out to be a necessity if God is to have Shared Intentionality in His character.  Note that Islam, which denies the multi-personality of God, also denies that humankind bears God’s image.  Judaism, however, has a bit of a problem here, because it denies that God is multipersonal, while at the same time affirming that humankind does bear the image of God.  Anyhow, I thought this was an interesting fact, and shows us that science can be useful.

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