Physical bravery is an animal instinct; moral
bravery is a much higher and truer courage. - Wendell Phillips
Spiritual versus Material
In our discussion about origins of life, perhaps some careful, critical thinking will help us sort
out the meaningful issues. I have come to understand that in philosophy,
asking the wrong questions will not lead to reasonable answers. Please bear
with me while I lay "some" groundwork.
Are there not two general types or aspects of reality that are different, yet inseparable? We
generally refer to these two as tangible and intangible, or material and
non-material, or physical and spiritual (the first two sets of terms are an
indication of our entrenched materialism in that we contrast the spiritual
with the physical, not the other way around). We think of the brain as an
aspect of physical reality and the mind as a spiritual aspect. Likewise
with the body and psyche (soul). Purpose, values, character, freedom,
happiness, morality, romance, etc. are spiritual realities that can't be
measured by laboratory equipment, but can be apprehended and addressed by
the mind. It is the spiritual realities that are meaningful to the human
being, with the physical realities only becoming meaningful when they
impinge upon our psyche, comfort and safety.
One of the fundamental insights (to my mind, there are three) to building a productive philosophy
is to realize that you can't start with nothing. There is no such thing as
nothing except as a mental concept with which to contrast our reality of
something. If there was nothing, there never could be anything, because
even the possibility of something is not nothing—and I am something.
So, as to the issue of origins, starting with something referred to in the most neutral terms, it
seems to me that there are these three possibilities:
1. We start with
spiritual realities—sentience, consciousness, intelligence—that designed and
produced our material reality
2. We start with spiritual realities AND our material reality.
3. We start with a
non-sentient, non-conscious, non-intelligent material and other aspects (chance, force,
possibility, etc.) that somehow produced sentience, consciousness
Without going into a discussion of their differences, let me say that to my mind, there are also
two different (again inseparable, you can't totally have one without the
other) realms of intellectual conviction, the realm of the knowable and the
realm of the believable— knowledge and belief. The above issue with
the three possibilities is not in the realm of the knowable but is clearly
in the realm of the believable. There is something out of the deepest part
of my psyche that impels me to have the courage to take full, personal
responsibility for what I believe; and therefore, I actively, knowingly,
consciously, carefully and willfully choose to believe option number one. I
like and am committed to my choice, because it gives me so much more
elegant, meaningful possibilities and answers. Option number three violates
my knowledge, logic and reason on the most basic level.
I can discuss number two, but if you carefully, consciously and willfully choose to believe
number three, then I am going to think that you are either in denial or
ignorance of what is in your own soul, or that we are truly alien on a very
fundamental level and that we probably shouldn't even try to talk about
anything very meaningful. That way we won't be tempted to denigrate each
other's intelligence and be disrespectful. The issue of mechanism,
implementation of design (creation), is another issue and I can discuss that
in the context of options one or two.
Once you choose to believe option one or two, wouldn't it be ridiculous to postulate a
non-sentient mechanism for the development of and change in the plethora of
life forms we find on our planet? Option one specifically has the original
intelligence designing and producing the aspects of material reality,
including life forms. For option two, are we going to postulate that the
original intelligence is not involved? By its very nature intelligence would be involved.
Unless the argument that is going on is just primarily semantic and the term "evolution" just
means change and movement, the essential element of the term "evolution" is
that of some process where sentience is not involved, and that of the term
"creation" is that of involved sentience.