This is really good, well worth anyone taking the time to read it. Jim has done a masterful job outlining the state of the issue regarding how to give an accounting for the unique type of consciousness we possess. In doing so, he covers the scientific literature and, once again, shows its limitations in speaking to philosophical and religious issues.
We have seen two fundamentally different ways to evaluate the facts of the beginning of the universe, evolution, and the emergence of the first humans. In the first, we are told that the universe came from nothing, or had no beginning, unfolds without direction or purpose, and we, ourselves, as conscious and intelligent beings, are just another accidental twig on the bush of life. This attitude is not the result of science which, itself, cannot answer ultimate questions of origin, meaning and purpose, but of individual scientists and others who make science the only way we can know, and have definite opinions about the value of philosophy and religion.
In the second fundamental way the universe appears and develops against the luminous background of the field of existence, and we, ourselves, are both the flowering of the tree of life and the direct creation of God. It is as if the same movie is being played with two very different backgrounds. It is not the actual science that is at stake here. It is precisely the background against which it is placed. We are faced with a choice between ultimate meaning and the lack thereof.
- - -
I especially liked his reflections on the evolution of hominids and the threshold crossed into spirituality.
We finally arrive at the advent of true humans. This terminology is deliberate because of the philosophical exigencies of the question. No matter how developed the hominids became, they remained animals. At some point, however, they reached a peak of anatomical and animal perfection. "There appeared an animal which was almost a man, the kind from which man could be born." 16
The evolutionary process is capable of accounting for this, to some extent, but not for what comes next:
But what precisely was needed to cross the threshold? It is a human soul, or form, a spiritual soul. This could not come from hominid parents since they did not possess it. It could not even have come from the kind of super-elevating motion that transformed one species into another in the world of plants and animals. Rather, it demands a new and special motion, for the human soul is a spiritual substance without parts and without matter which can only be created directly by God. What is needed is an "exceptional and absolutely unique" kind of super-elevating motion. The generative action of these hominids who were the closest to being human cannot give rise to a true human unless this super-elevating motion elevates this activity.
I.e., the intervention of God.
Earlier in this essay, Jim notes some of the basic differences between human consciousness and that of higher animals.
Human intelligence and consciousness are, indeed, qualitatively different from that of animals. This is not to deny that animals have intelligence and a certain kind of consciousness, and it is likely that hominids, as we shall see shortly, had an intelligence that far exceeded that of the animals we are acquainted with today. But if this qualitative difference which appears to be a well-established fact that we continually verify by our own experience and which is demonstrated in the archaeological records by the rich culture of the Cro-Magnons in comparison with their hominid ancestors, what is the root of this consciousness and intelligence? It finds its prime expression in spoken language and in other symbolic activities like written language, mathematics, and so forth, all skills that no animal exhibits, and all of these things show a certain kind of transcendence of the concrete situation. We could call this kind of intelligence a power to abstract from particular concrete details, and to work at another level, and it is intimately connected with our own distinctive kind of consciousness that grasps itself in a true self-awareness and a sense of choice. It is through the analysis of these basic human experiences, that is, self-awareness, choice, language and so forth, that we could reason to a qualitatively different principle that gives rise to these abilities. Letís call it the human spirit, or soul, a spiritual soul that must in some way transcend matter if we are going to be able to transcend the limits of our material circumstances and think and speak and act in the way we do.
All good stuff: meat and potatoes for a thinking mind!
[ April 24, 2003, 10:25 AM: Message edited by: Phil ]
-------------------- "The Light shines on in darkness . . ." - John 1: 3 - Posts: 7539 | From: Wichita, KS | Registered: Aug 2001
| IP: Logged |
I just finished Retelling the Story of Science which was recommended on another thread (by JB I'm pretty sure) and which I recommend to all. I haven't finished Evolution yet (part 2 in this series I believe) but may just jump to this third part since I'm already highly evolved. This stuff requires a lot of concentration and thought. Sometimes I just leave this stuff open in a tab of the browser waiting for the right moment. Sometimes it takes weeks for that moment to come but it's almost always worth the wait.
I must say that this is the kind of stuff that (I presume) you just can't get in college but should. I'm so glad I never paid for four years at the University of Washington. It would have taken much much longer to absorb this stuff as I would have had so much more to unlearn.
Posts: 5365 | From: Washington State | Registered: Sep 2001
| IP: Logged |