Judeo-Chrislamic Theology, Stategy For Psycho-Social Survival
"A man can surely do what he wants to do. But he cannot determine what he wants." Schopenhauer
How we view self and others is best reflected in our adopted theory of social conviviality, whether based on pure (rational), practical (theological) or uncommitted reason (agnostic). Such an understanding of reality brings controversies about what each persuasion regards as the basic requirements for justifying ethical / moral judgments of accepted human behavior. Is it the capacity to act rationally and mold one’s character independent of any causal influences other than perhaps those reducible to a natural, Kelsenian law of order? After all, rationalists argue, why should anyone be held accountable for his actions if he is inevitably driven by natural processes, physical to the core and beyond his effective control? But isn’t self-control just another facet of having the right neural connectivities, something some people may have it and others not? What does free will have anything to do with that? Isn’t it rather a matter of one's personal history recorded in the ecological niche as irrevocably driven by genetic makeup? This way most naturalist parishioners will be assured a more or less well-tuned, culturally-approved sense of right and wrong. To the unlucky believers growing up in bad environments they have no control over, or with the wrong genetic predispositions, random reservoirs of defective motives and character that naturalism guarantees will get embodied in their brains, well..., bad luck! We are a nation of justice not charity, they argue! To avoid being suspect of unconscious genocidal traits, they conclude: since they are not chosen by a freely willing agent no moral opprobrium can attach to such neural instantiated defects arising out of a complex set of determining conditions. Under such conditions one may ask: how can any citizens be praised or punished if they can not be the "first cause" of their actions or character? It takes little imagination to conceive of the ensuing social chaos such a naturalistic rational approach would bring.
No doubt that the argument for causation is the leading north pole in the natural sciences investigation. But, what if human beings can be at least considered, within the imponderable constraints of their niche, as proximate efficient causes of their actions, a la Schopenhauer? That is, practical reason in action, satisfying the natural urge for freedom, and perfectly consistent with having and defending a robust sense of right and wrong, a legally required condition for assuming responsibility for one's acts. And this is not a convenient, self-serving assumption, like logically accommodating several non-physical entities inside a dimensionless point in hyperspace!
We will briefly comment below on the practical reasoning behind these assertions. It should put into a broader perspective the fact that the determinants of human behavior in society constitute a unique set of internal and external physical and ontologically unknown and highly complex, multi-factorial functional circumstances and not simply triggered exclusively by an internal, robotic marionette neural network. The latter is ultimately deemed as being programmed by random natural events conceived of as unfolding on their own according to physical laws.
Now that the high priests of the ‘supernaturalism’ faith have declared ‘jihad’ against theists, it is appropriate to bring the opposing arguments into focus. We can advance that this is essentially a controversy on the sociological merits of a naturalism-inspired cosmogony as opposed to a theological-inspired view of existential reality, a brief and incomplete Kantian revisiting of the arguments for and against the merits of practical reason vis a vis naturalism’s pure reason approach.
Traditionally the idea of a God has been associated with an entity possessing creative powers and constituting an appropriate object of supreme love and devotion. Naturalism’s high priests hold that the exclusive and reliable method to study objective reality are those of the natural sciences and / or the extensions continuous with it. The constituents of that reality are exclusively physical and / or causally dependent on physical things and their modifications. Traditionally the ‘super-naturalist’ movement had upheld the spiritual nature of God and its independence of physical things, a clear dualistic approach (Dewey, Weiman). The ‘new’ breed (going back to Comte and Feurbach) now affirms that dualism is irrational and untenable. Before grounding our response on historical accounts later on let us briefly examine their narrow view of objective reality.
The metaphysical realism of the new breed views objective reality as sense-phenomenal objects / events in space-time existing independently of our experience or knowledge of them. These enter into reciprocal relationships independently of the conceptual models we invented to understand them or the symbolic language we use to describe them. Anything differing from this view is termed ‘idealism’ and thus ‘poetry’. No doubt this is the way common sense brings objective reality to our senses but, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Scientists commitment to their methodology bars them from searching and discovering what’s underneath the observable skin. But that won’t stop them from claiming an exclusive voice under the aegis of science. It will be only when the practitioner removes his lab coat and opens a book that he may then discover all that is outside his arm’s reach. After all, the conceptualization effort or a curiosity about the ontology of real objects was never their concern. Combinatorial logic requires that such conception must rest on prior concepts we have already formed linguistically and on our relevant experience, none of which can be guaranteed as part of a standard science training thus far. Under such optics they are understandably in denial when tacitly rejecting the notion that an epistemological conceptualization of their ontologically real objects ‘in themselves’ is plainly impossible, that the ‘truth’ of their scientific findings has NO correspondence with such objects! It must be very deceiving for the cock-sure materialist to realize that if we can not even form ‘real’ concepts about the reality of those sense objects, how can we then affirm the truth of all those elaborate conclusions derived therefrom? Among them their properties, relations or attributes, are the very meat of the natural sciences? Perhaps it is too embarrassing to share the podium with the coat-less philosopher to help others understand (him included) what we should mean by reality and truth, concept and sense experience as opposed to representational experience, to name a few. It is not that the philosopher wants to reduce his curiosity about phenomenal reality to the tautology "we can only get to know what we can know" and the rest is poetry. The truth is the exact opposite, he is trying to convince the ‘not so hard’ scientists to accept any lead, absurd as it may sound today, in his search for an elusive but practical, operational truth. After all, what else was Maxwell’s electro-magnetic or quantum mechanical theories before they began yielding some of their secrets? If they can accept zero gravity and virtual or negative matter, is that less far-fetched than e.g., the ‘duality’ of brain function? Or would they rather pander than ponder? As it turns out, and this is a prediction, in between the infinities of universals and nominalism, we will have no choice but to accommodate yet another working concept and welcome ‘information’ as a bonafide mental entity. It will classify nominal data as universals did and give meaning to them linguistically. That day, the nature, constitution and structure of reality will be entrusted to metaphysicians; is this what the supernaturalist ‘Jihad’ is all about? J To admit to the existence of non-physical entities, e.g., God, is more than they bargained for! To be cognitively meaningful reality need not be empirically verifiable, even the logical positivism of naturalists like Quine, essentially implies a metaphysical approach, already recognized by Bergman (see "The Metaphysics of Logical Positivism").
Historical accounts from time immemorial can demonstrate the importance of practical reason, long before Kant developed that concept in his famous ‘Critique on Practical Reason’. It was not until the 13 th. Century when Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics were re-translated into Latin, that his theories of rational ethics (the structure of social behavior) reached and influenced St. Augustine’s moral theology, a prescription for human behavior in preparation for the survival of the soul after death, obviously predicated on an ethical code for earthly conduct thus providing an understanding of the nature of moral goodness, the anlage of our modern view of the will as practical reason. Therein St. Augustine re-discovered the human natural predisposition to search and discover the underlying order in any field of inquiry by applying the logic principle of non-contradiction to metaphysical knowledge. He elaborates on how practical reason leads you into the conclusion that all human acts are directed to an end where ethical behavior flows from the precepts of natural law (do good and avoid evil) and plays a fundamental role in social conviviality. In modern language this means that ethical / moral behavior has a personal psychological and a collective social survival value. The precepts of natural law were the result of a deductive process of theoretical reasoning, the ‘ratio practica’. The most important conclusion, in this context, was the fundamental distinction between pure (theoretical) and applied (practical) reason, the former speculates in search of general principles, that absolute truth which is necessary and cannot be otherwise, whereas the latter operates in the domain of human acts and consequently its conclusions are necessarily contingent and to that extent understandably defective when removed from their proper context of efficacy. In speculative reasoning the absolute truth is invariant in all cases, both in principles and in conclusions. In practical reasoning the invariance is predicated on the commonality of the underlying principles guiding social acts. All contextual things being considered, the contingent truth attained by the deductive intellectual process must conform to right ethical behavior. It is thus anticipated that moral principles guiding our behavior cannot therefore provide the certitude expected in speculative reasoning. We are suggesting that once biological, psychological and social (bps) contingencies are factored into the existential equation, moral principles approximate the category of universals. Meanwhile, the truth value underlying a moral principle will be determined more by the ethical content of particular needs / desires instead of universal principles. Since human needs can be pruned down under the category of biological, psychological and sociological (bps), desires need not differ so greatly nor moral arguments be imperfectly formulated. The important message is to recognize their supreme position in the hierarchy of survival priorities. This is specially true if we admit, with Kant, that even theoretical speculation cannot give us knowledge of being, the unarticulated object of natural science speculation. Moral theology, as we find it in the ‘judeo-chrislamic’ traditions is solidly grounded on societal norms, traditions and human actions crystallized into natural law (ethics / morality) precepts. The 'biopsychosocial' (BPS) model tentatively considers ‘free will’ as a mixed unconscious expression of underlying rational appetites -their ends as goodness in happiness- and their relation to that other aspect of the intellect, its yearning for rational speculation.
As we have pointed out
elsewhere, this balancing act is not without problems for both the
individual and society. The ‘talking brain’ rational module
ultimately may move the will by presenting the object to be desired
as a survival necessity to be obtained even at the expense of
producing dislocation in the bps equilibria. Clinical experience has
shown us that the will itself has a natural inclination toward the
ultimate good of species survival and reproductive viability. Any
abnormal disruption of this equilibrium may trigger ‘compensatory
restorations’ resulting in aberration pathologies in the form of
brain ‘confabulations’ (see "SPONTANEOUS
CONFABULATION AND THE ADAPTATION OF THOUGHT TO ONGOING REALITY",
Armin Schnider Nature Reviews Neuroscience 4, 662 -671 (2003)
What the supernaturalist persuasion may not have clear is that any science, moral science included, validates its conclusions based on the first principles that give meaning to its goals. Both practical and speculative reason ultimately produce their conclusions from nondemonstrable principles naturally known because human reason proceeds necessarily to those activities to which it unavoidably must be particularly disposed, bps survival. That, undeniably demonstrated, is the fact that there is in a human being, as in all other types of living beings, a primary inclination to self-preservation. Reason, ultimately charged with survival as argued, may, accordingly, err in the application of an universal principle to a particular adaptive response to a life-threatening stimulus. Moral wrong would then be the result of a false deduction from the principle. So, within the context of bps priorities, error may not attach to universal principles (synderesis), but rather to conscience which may incorrectly apply a universal judgment based on hierarchical survival priorities. How can we be sure, as naturalists do, that the cosmogony built on rational speculation is not over ridden by higher non-physical survival priorities? Is that not a valid justification to encourage its formal investigation?
To illustrate, prudence may guide an individual inside a ghetto to apply correctly the principles of practical reason to specific acts in particular circumstances as they emerge on the turf. The ‘dude’ was able to deliberate, decide and correctly execute a practical reason strategy into action. However, prudence can only act on the choices available and there may be, in principle, an ingrained impediment to direct free will infallibly to right conclusions! Since the dude can’t freely will or otherwise determine his choices, is he always free when he acts rationally? What about when, guided by ineffable non-physical forces experienced by a father or a hero, he acts ‘irrationally’, even against his own survival interests? Could there then be a ‘rational’ basis to explain altruistic acts of sacrifice against self interest that defy rationality? The only problem is that the underlying act of rationality falls under the category of ‘practical reason’, something outside the domain of concern of the supernaturalist! It is even tragic to realize ‘rationally’ that there may be no ‘rational’ basis for judging the dude’s action right or wrong if the will were not free to choose against the ‘rational’ dictates of the intellect! As it turns out, if the dude had acted differently, in accordance with an exclusively rational, intellectual deduction, then he can only be praised for his intellectual prowess, and not for his moral goodness, as argued.
It may be appropriate to ask, at this juncture, whether rational, Kelsenian justice is always closer to the truth than theological charity? Fortunately, free will, even if it should act ‘within reason’ still may be able to choose between opposing alternatives that lie within its power, for good or for bad. It should be clear that the simplistic theory of supernaturalists, a theory of practical reason where judgments about actions are restricted to the singular type of reasoning characteristic of speculation, not only restricts freedom, but also removes any basis for merit or blame. Practical knowledge is, or should be, speculative truth in agreement with the survival prerogatives of right desire. BPS model lays the foundation to better understand this need.
There is still another related problem that has alienated North America from the rest of the world, our self perception as rugged individuals with no allegiance to anybody except self, as if perpetually responding reflexly to the challenge of a gold rush out in the west Pacific coast. When can a willed act be considered morally good, is it when it freely chooses in accordance with right reason in behalf of self or the common good? Should self preservation antecede common good? Is the will conditioned by rational, self-centered or common good social prerogatives? At this point the Aristotelian relationship between the will and the intellect becomes blurred. Scotus' view of natural law (like the supernaturalism view) as comprised of self-evident a priori principles, whose validity the intellect immediately recognizes from the coherence of terms becomes questionable when applied to real life specifics. Like Ortega y Gasset’s definition of man as "him and his circumstances". In his (Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, II, 37) Kant hinted at a synthesis (which we adopt by reference and modify in the BPS model) bringing together both aspects of existence. The argument is that if nature obeys physical laws then adaptive survival implies the acquisition of a rational human mind (by evolution or intelligent design) enabling him to act (derive actions) in harmony with same natural laws, according to its principles. Consequently, it is up to moral philosophy more than the natural sciences to generate ideas and principles that would constitute as pure a concept of free will as possible with the contingency caveats noted above. The executive aspect of this task, i.e., the determination of the effective adaptive actions and suitable conditions propitiating the exercise of a free will belong elsewhere, science, technology, medicine, law, etc. Shoemaker, to your shoes! Leader's task is to help fashion a moral scenario where the unavoidable human weaknesses and frailties can perform in harmony with the also unavoidable choreography of universal principles, a big order indeed! Man can be free to pursue the natural inclination to satisfy his subjective appetites, for they may produce the right results as often as the wrong ones, but neither can he be deprived of his freedom to choose whatever non-physical, ‘irrational judeo-chrislamic’ belief to alleviate the non-physical needs of his circumstances. Everybody benefits from the trade-off, him individually and society as a whole.
Considering the category of a non-physical ‘being’ in existence assigned to the God of the ‘judeo-chrislamic’ traditions, it should not matter much whether the point of convergence epistemologically conceived is a holy human-like minded being able to experience intentional states and make decisions or the pantheistic all-inclusive divine Unity model approach denying all of the above; how the subject experiences the numinous theistic God or the Pantheistic Unity event does not detract from the fundamental importance ascribed to its practice as described, they both have an intellectual and affective drive to satisfy.
There is a current movement among believer scientists and philosophers alike (Dembsky, etc.) to argue the epistemological point of convergence along the theistic line of reasoning based on mathematical statistical probabilities. The ‘Intelligent Design’ (ID) movement has recently been the target of a most passionate inquisition by the ‘supernaturalist’s’ high priests trying to keep it from being included in school curricula to share the podium with ‘evolutionists’, as a more palatable pinch-hitter for the traditional ‘creationism’. This practice, presuming naturalism as the exclusive philosophical starting point in science curricula is myopic, anti-intellectual and is in open violation of the U.S. constitutional prohibition on government establishing or favoring a particular religious or philosophical viewpoint. (Establishment Clause).1
The methodology of scientific inquiry tends, by its very nature (monistic naturalism), to dissociate instead of unifying our understanding of the existential world. The basic characteristics of scientific explanations 2 are biased in favor of any conceptual model that yields easily to the rigor of a logical framework as if everything outside perceptual phenomenal intuitions and resisting being apprehended inside such framework, is not there, does not exist! The insistence on the exclusivity of empirically grounded fundamental laws, constants, and particles (whether conceived as matter or energy) as "the only and universal building blocks from which all other phenomena in its purview are constructed" is shortsighted and incomplete. Scientific empiricism is only an important part of a wider human enterprise to understand, predict, and control the ecological niche in a collective effort to ultimately survive as a viable species. We have argued above how such exclusive monistic view may have negative on-line implications in detriment to our notions of self, human purpose, meaning, morality, freedom, merit, responsibility, punishment, and other existential parameters.
When pushed for an answer to explain why evolution has failed to convincingly explain "irreducible complexity" attending the phenomena of life and consciousness the standard answer is the invocation of one of their favorite icons, the DNA molecule, along with a recitation of the psalm narrating the molecular theory of life origins, an article of materialistic faith. Everybody knows, themselves included, that the Watson-Crick theory has NOT explained the emergence of life at the molecular or any level, instead it remains a very useful, operational concept that solves many practical problems, that is all! The intelligence design hypothesis explanation of irreducible complexity is a mathematical model. ID is, to that extent unfalsifiable because no experiment could prove or disprove it but so is quantum mechanical theory and its ontologically inflationary claims. The field is replete with inferred proof of both their existences, unless the high priests, unscientifically, give more credence to some inferences than others.
In our opinion, from a psycho-sociological point of view, the most important practical issue raised by the supernaturalist ‘Jihad’ is the problem of moral and legal responsibility for our wrongful acts in a future scenario. We return now to this point to fine tune these arguments.
If we view ourselves as free and morally responsible beings, how can we be at the same time sure that heredity and environment exclusively take part in shaping our characters? Either we are not free and thus can’t be accountable for our moral transgressions or there is a third factor taking part in molding our moral character since we can’t effectively control either heredity or environment. The BPS model tries to reconcile both opposing views of our experience.
Both S.Pinker and M.Minsky reluctantly admit to a functional dualism of sorts where a real physical object –a brain- may coexist with an equally real but idealized concept of ourselves, i.e., a construct where men are cast as uncaused creatures with divinely inspired morality (as opposed to secular man-made ethical codes) and free will. Both materialist scientists have been chastised as deviants or revisionists by T.Clark, et al, extremist high priests in the new breed. To us, it means an attempt to reckon with the realities about human experience, the palm of the hand can’t keep the sun’s glare away from shining on the rest of our bodies. In his "How the Mind Works." S.Pinker concedes that science and moral theology constitute two separate realms (duality). Arguing along our same line Pinker says that if Euclidean geometry can market as true the unverifiable possibility of infinite straight lines and perfect circles, why can’t theology conceptualize a free, sentient, rational agent whose behavior is uncaused? See also M. Minsky’s "Society of Mind". Even a hard-boiled evolutionist like Stephen Gould recognized that science and religion cannot be in conflict, since they deal with separate domains and don't share any aims, methods, or domains of discourse to provide a rational basis for disagreement.
A naturalistic understanding of objective reality based, as it must be, on the limited sense data we can empirically verify, may only connect the human organism to the larger physical world in very limited respects, via genetics and environmental influences. We can argue that we can also exist as independent, immaterial agents directing our behavior from a causally disconnected vantage point (introspective consciousness). This can not be construed, ipso facto, as not having a free will in the traditional absolute sense. We can, and have, performed acts different from previous ones under exactly similar circumstances. This can only mean that persons are proximate first causes in the sense that there exist contradicting alternatives of choice available at the decisive moment. One may conceive humans both as links in the natural unfolding of niche and cosmos, in space and time, while controlled by the rational servo-controls subserving BPS survival, and ALSO as respondents to the un-natural event of un-explained pathology or to an undefined call for an altruistic response. As much as we experience ourselves as separate egos, deliberating our fates one decision at a time, our very deliberations are entirely included in this unfolding. This insight should not be disturbing, since we might suppose we are more than passive puppets of the categorical imperative of life and its viability, moved at the whim of BPS survival forces mostly beyond our reasoned control as just noted. This way we are not under an irreversible compulsion when responding to rational insanity or a ‘higher call’, outside the familiar contingencies comprising the person-environment complex of existential reality. We are, so to speak, harmoniously inter-connected parts of niche and cosmos, fully identifiable as protagonists to be sure, causal masters of our immediate abode yet instruments for the execution of what seems like an intelligent design.
We don’t have to make choices about adaptive biological survival better left to continuously adjusting servo-controls blending the certainties of the genetically inherited with the uncertainty of the environmentally encountered. In this respect we need not march to the drum beats of a causally autonomous ego. Freed from the important burden of being our own creators and staying alive, we come to realize that we are fully embedded creatures in the circumstantial environmental scenario we had no choice in being an actor, that our actions do indeed have proximate causal effects which at times carry transcendental consequences individually or collectively. Thus conceived, we can dismiss the rather arrogant, misconceived and ultimately disabling, counter-intuitive presumption that we can explain all of creation within the exclusionary perspective of empirical observable perceptual data as embellished by appropriate inferences. The tragic sense implied in the naturalistic guidelines that we are part of nature which unfolds on its own, in a grand experiment to no point or purpose negates the historical negentropy of our institutional and yes, our technological development. It may, at the BPS survival level, involve pain and pleasure, trial and error, these being aspects of nature geared to liberate us from the survival effort and liberating us for more appropriately human endeavors as semi-autonomous, sentient beings. The rational and visceral brain modules are specially committed to unconscious individualized BPS survival and consequently may not effectively anticipate socially contrived unexpected tragic events but within very broad limits, we can be proximate causes of creative art, science and technology, a new un-natural dimension outside the constraints of empirically verified methodology. Metaphysical inferential modeling of reality with the help of mathematical language has nothing ‘natural’ about it yet it provides the most important scaffolding outside of direct observation of the sense phenomena.
Another important conclusion derived from the physicalist credo is that self consciousness and qualic experiences or feelings are strictly physical states. We have devoted hundreds of pages of argumentation to question the truth content of the assertion that the mental and physical are one, that perceptions, feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc. all consist of suitably organized matter. The brain notwithstanding, we all share the self-evident intuition that our mental lives may constitute a separate realm. Science methodology has contributed damn little factual, experimental evidence to show that there is nothing over and above the brain, or any similarly organized AI system that needs to be invoked to explain self-consciousness. There is no doubt that a monistic conceptual model of consciousness has given us new powerful insights into a domain admittedly outside the present reach of science methodology. To preach that our mental life is nothing more than the material brain activity that evokes "a representation of itself that takes on a rich set of qualitative characteristics determined by a massively complex functional architecture" sans any insubstantial essence behind or inherent in such qualities, as they arise mutually as a system of relations and differences that the brain uses to track the world, is pure wishful thinking never experimentally documented. Indeed not above the letany of winged angels, purgatories or infernos of sand box theology they relish criticizing. The main difference being what they arrogantly dare promote as the exclusive facts (the ‘Astonishing Hypothesis’) among scientists and philosophers of all persuasions. The ‘judeochrislamic’ scholars are amused at the pedestrian catechism level at which these new faith believers handle their complex theological abstractions. Their conviction that every nuance of feeling and every twitch of thought is the brain goo at play, that it can alone spark a profound experience of wonder, and provide a satisfying, unified conception of oneself, is more than any now known brain technology can measure. How these new parishioners amalgamate the non-physical mental and the physical brain as a natural phenomenon is indeed a ‘miracle’!! See: Function and Phenomenology.
When the new Naturalistic religion disallows the existence of the soul what they are saying is that they have chosen to ignore the conceptual difference between an ontological ‘essence’ and an epistemological, cognitive ‘existence’ of a soul. The term soul posits a representation of an unknown ontology, like the representation of the physical lightning as the ‘God of lightning’ by the ancient Greeks. One has to assume they know the difference and are deliberate in their intentional mockery by trying to convince at such pedestrian level of catechisal instruction.
There is a standard saying in bonafide empirical science methodology, "the best explanation is the one that works, better than a sophisticated, elaborate, elegant, coherent abstraction." When the new believers proclaim that "There is nothing about a person that survives death, so we cannot hope for a better world in the hereafter, or for reincarnation in this world." we wonder if they consider the assertion as adequate for the psycho-social solution among the down-trodden early Christians or even if that would be a wise solution for their misbehaving pre-kinders now in the 21st. century global economic society? Wouldn’t it be better to explain to both groups Newtonian gravity, the law of inverse squares, etc. Not surprisingly, the psycho-social underpinnings behind epistemological conceptual models is outside the metric of the new believers. It is embarrassing to point out the short-sightedness of my blinders-wearing colleagues. In their defense of the monistic position the materialists deliberately ignore, de facto, the most important fact that science is an essentially subjective enterprise, that you become an inextricable part of your observation of objective reality, you cannot step outside the system to observe it. While they preach that from the pulpit how else can they be so cock-sure about their conclusions based on their own ‘objective’ observation of their brains? If their view of the objective reality hinges on a particular evolution-controlled perspective, then are divergence and differences in human design at the mercy of local climactic idiosyncrasies? Why is then their world view and philosophy claiming such privileged position?
One can ask whether a successful naturalistic philosophy can properly substitute for religion in satisfying human needs for coherence and meaning? For instance, it can be argued that there is no demonstrable immortality gene selected by a Mendelian evolutionary mechanism. Even Teilhard de Chardin’s theological scheme of trans-personal immortality does not fare well in the modern materialistic market of ideas and the same goes for logic based models of teleological evolution like that of Chris Langans’ CTML . On the contrary the brain, that wondrous physical object sustaining our ability to form many such abstract concepts was indeed selected. And we ask, why would any such evolving physical structure be endowed with that capacity if not for the survival advantage it provides to the sensory-challenged human in dealing with the concrete problem of handling contingencies involving existential realities outside the resolving powers of his sensorium? Especially when its manifestations seems to exceed in complexity the combinatorial powers he also inherited to deduce the ontological delineation of that whose existential presence is felt and of those ‘non-sensed’? The real ‘astonishing hypothesis’ is the fact that the neural connectivity potential we inherited through the exigencies of natural selection allows, as a required and necessary ability for psycho-social survival, that wondrous ability to elaborate all the intricacies of metaphysics, philosophy and theology, all dealing with that most pervasive, intriguing and ever-present issue about our origins and destiny after death. In man’s historic progressive evolution, and perhaps as an unintended spin off by-product, he was given the ability to fashion in the process the most sophisticated abstract institutions that provide that most needed coherence and meaning to our brief sojourn on earth. This was called progressive by Teilhard de Chardin, creative evolution by Henri Bergson. Many outstanding preachers of the new faith have themselves invoked parables like geological events and chance mutations to explain the undeniable self-evident fact that humans are progressively and creatively more complex and better adapted, in all respects an improvement over our earlier putative descendant creatures whose significant shifts in organic design seem to be following a teleological necessity scripture attached to our being the species we are now. Neither is there any indication in sight of a slowing down of the sophistication and complexity of the adaptive strategies. It is no surprise to hear Gould's contention, his undeniable high priest credentials notwithstanding, that science and religion represent separate domains, that they are basically incommensurable. But we find fanatics in all religious persuasions and we hear them stick to their monistic dogma that there is only one physical domain where religion and science inhabit but only one can survive, the same exclusive material, single world in which there is no room for incompatible propositions. Since their respective claims cannot both co-exist as truths, they are in conflict, and we declare a ‘jihad’ even against dualistic deviants such as the Intelligent Design (ID) following. Opponents can not even share a domain of discourse! Such a materialist believer insists on the necessity for factual, experimental evidence, like, if you can’t measure the dimension of love, anger, pain, etc. and establish their tempo-spatial coordinates and describe their velocity vectors, they do not exist! Well, like hell they !! But a substantive debate over what exists cannot be joined until there is agreement on the prior issue of what really counts as legitimate grounds for belief, an ontological sense viewing or an epistemological abstraction of that which undeniably exists? This is a no brainer, why insist on an ontological characterization when an epistemological representation will suffice until some wishful mutation may in the future increase the resolution capacities of scientific methodology, ranging from Planck to cosmic dimensions! Is it not precisely that which is happening with that most beautiful quantum poetry, describing virtual matter, zero gravity, hyperspace, etc? Spanish play writer Calderon insisted that "Life is a dream" and dreams are just that, dreams!
Man remains the measure of ALL things, physical or non physical, whether they are or not. Why not recognize that beliefs, whether supported by myopic sense-phenomenal evidence or a rapture of faith, and quite apart from their ultimate truth, serve a pragmatic function in dealing with basic human needs in the psycho-social domain. The scientific effort is too limited to tell us the how of even a very restricted portion of existential reality, that which lies within the limited resolution of our perceptual abilities., and never the why; it can offer means, but not ends; it can peremptorily address any number of practical contingencies but must remain silent about the all important, practical or spiritual cravings that lie at the heart of the human condition. Science needs the assistance of non-science disciplines (e.g., math, metaphysical logic) to better understand its assigned role in the basic survival effort. Theology operates independently from science methodology because religion and science seem to address very different human needs, making it very difficult to compare them on the basis of the pragmatic value of their respective ideologies. Science wishes to reach beyond the objective reality framework that describes its role, theology, on the other hand, refuses to adopt the severely limited methodology of the physical sciences. It should be considered as an intellectual bad habit to defend such a world view that considers as primary and exclusive the evidence of the senses, especially when coetanously heralding the importance of inter-disciplinary agreement when in search of the global unity of sense phenomena. The latter can be primary but not exclusive because it remains a naturalistic duty to help other disciplines to connect the most disparate realms of existence, qualic or measurable, into a BPS coherent whole. To assume that scientific theories are exclusively charged with the historical responsibility of transforming their limited perceptual objective reality view into coherent, lawful, and all inclusive universal wholes whose further limited measurements, it is hoped, will confirm (tentatively) or disconfirm is preposterous and wishful thinking. For example, qualia, since it cannot play an explanatory or predictive role in any scientific hypothesis thus far, there should be no grounds for granting it a place in a theoretical ontology according to scientists. As if science has anything substantial to do with the elaboration of theoretical ontologies to begin with? Most of scientific poetry is born outside the science laboratory, it changes and evolves as raw, undigested data keeps coming from the science labs. As a matter of fact the physicalist’s allegiance to science is ordinarily determined by a previous, subjacent philosophical inquiry. Theoretical ontologies hope to achieve the transition from the how à why and require considerations totally outside the domain of the observable manifold. They are essentially guided by reflexive abstract introspections to arrive at a successful conceptual model guiding future scientific research, very much in the way serious theologians arrive at their own conclusions. Only the lay or misinformed would believe that theological ontologies have anything at all to do with heavens behind the clouds, infernos in the center of the earth, winged angels, devils, etc. This is the classical gossip of the misinformed or the barbarian ‘scientist’. The broad-minded scientist need not compartmentalize his beliefs or feel discomfort about these features of his professional cognitive life because there is no inconsistency to redress, just two aspects or states of the same reality.
The allegations about many recent "conversions" from religious to more naturalistic world views is a reflection of an unbalanced educational system which has placed more emphasis on the rentability of ‘hard science’ diplomas in the technological market, leaving the egressed with no time to make up for an unbalanced non-humanistic education that teaches you how to follow instructions, not to think about them, self or others or about doctrines which attempt to satisfy deep felt human needs of existential security, meaning, and identity or with ultimate concerns of identity, death, and the source of good and evil. All of which has everything to do with the alleviation of human morbidity.
It is really difficult to visualize how may naturalism substitute for religious faith in grounding a spiritual experience of unity, awe, joy, acceptance, and consolation in affectively addressing our ultimate concerns about things like death, loss, or disappointment. How may it address beliefs about oneself and the world or ideas about what ultimately exists, who we fundamentally are or our place in the greater scheme of things. What status would art and other such irrational activities such as dance, singing, chant, meditation, mass, mournings and other various rituals and ceremonies have under such regime? Supernaturalism activists are essentially vying for an exclusive supernatural realm containing causally privileged entities.
An existentially centered approach to reality is by no means to be construed as an adoption of Sartrian strategies, for whom the discovery of the ultimate intrinsic meaningless purpose in life lead to his conception of the universe as absurd. Just the opposite. The only religious practices we witness outside the supernatural pulpit that can arguably be labeled as absurd are meditations or hallucinogenic drug fests which allegedly help attain transcendental mental states generating feelings of acceptance and unity in their personal and collective lives, depriving themselves of the sensory and emotional richness naturally found kneeling at the church, synagogue or mosque.
Summary and Conclusions.
Believe it or not, metaphysics is all about physical reality...and beyond. Its social function is vital for the human condition unless we choose to live at the mercy of the chaotic phenomenal world like sub-human species do to a greater or lesser degree, for they are not concerned with knowledge, values or valid logical reasoning, the very thing we find necessary, albeit insufficient, for psycho-social survival. Perhaps if the lab-coated community take stock and inventory of their extremely limited repertoire of tools to manage the complex contingencies of existential reality as these press-on daily, moment to moment, they would understand its relevance in their lives. As long as our point of reference turns to society, there must be mental entities as part of the human scenario, because they are real even if invisible to our senses. The camera will never take a picture of itself, except as a virtual representation reflected back from a mirror, virtual representations are real and so are their brain functional isomorph equivalents, e.g., brain ‘engrams’ bringing back to present space-time reality a past segment of real life, -revelations or hallucinations- when stimulated electrically. We can’t say these do not exist because they won’t submit to measurements, photography or audio recordings of their actual presence; they ARE present and may well play a life-death importance to a real bone, flesh and skin, breathing human being! Metaphysics will deal with all entities, whether universals or particulars, in any of their ontological, relational or functional dimension. It may have a form (observed or inferred) or a property (measured or calculated) instantiated or exemplified in an object (real or presumed) necessarily connected or related to a causal agent, identified or logically posited. It is amusing to witness a scientist readily conceiving the unquestionable reality of an invisible quanton situated at a given set of coordinates in space or hyperspace at a given moment in time, moving along a particular vector line at a given speed and, at the same time finding it impossible (not just improbable) that transubstantiation may be a bonafide sense phenomenal reality in representation of the flesh and blood of a virtual entity, sensed as real as the photon is? Is there an essential difference? Somehow, the photon is a fact of life and the ‘Holy Ghost’ is the fanciful invention of a febrile mind! The invisible particle can be higher or lower in the euclidian or non-euclidian geodesic, its presence may be prior or after another invisible event, but the ‘Holy Ghost’ can be carried in the heart of a real grieving father or spouse to alleviate his angst for understanding, just like the wavicle transitions of the photon alleviate the thirst for understandings that lie beyond my possible sense perception? Why should one event be more real than another, are they not both survival strategies, one for the elusive pride and professional recognition, the other for non-ellusive psico-social survival? On any evaluation of knowledge, humility calls for an honest admission that our knowledge of objective reality in our ecological niche is severely limited in ascertaining its unitary spatio-temporal dimension or inner constitution and we must allow for any pondered, high-brow conceptual model on how cosmos was, is and will be, including the possibility of other worlds (see modal logic accounts). Lets briefly compare both concepts.
Is God or a photon in the category of ‘beings’? In a test for ‘entities’, are they either a property or a present and enduring essence in objective things in the Platonic sense? In a test for their ‘existence’, can their presence be adjudicated by the senses or only when they become otherwise intelligible to us (Heidegger)? A being may just exist under an ontologically undefined essence where the distinction between essential or accidental, particular or universal properties may not apply to either of the non-physical photon or God objects. But the reality of their beings is that both can be instantiated or exemplified in accordance to their properties or relations. The energy of a photon (or God) can be captured by a silver atom (or a believer) resulting in a photoelectric effect (or a new born Christian). The difficulty in ascertaining the ontology of both entities may be due to their changing states of organization; when a being can exist in a state different to its known properties or relations, it may not even be intelligible. We have given this example to show how pure and applied reason can co-exist as criteria to assign the category of ‘being’ to entities outside our sensory perception but equally useful in the solution of human contingencies at any level of organization. The systematic removal of those symbols representing our ingrained beliefs in metaphysical entities are, in a real way, ultimately short-sighted assaults ‘contra natura’ itself. An unwarranted disruption of a life-time effort to bring equilibrium into our spiritual, ecological value system, our psycho-social survival strategy.
End of Chapter 20