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25 April 2011

Pope: Humanity isn't random product of evolution

"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," he said. "But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason."
Given that modern humans began to emerge something like 200,000 years ago, that the universe is roughly 13.7 billion years old, and that the age of the Earth is about 4.5 billion years, it therefore seems obvious that any written material purporting to relate the history and meaning of the visible universe was composed long, long after the events in question; in cosmic terms, until very recently, there were no humans around to witness the ongoing emergence and expansion of the visible universe. It also seems obvious that all the words ever written – including all of mankinds’ sacred texts – are products of human minds and human hands. For example, the Bible was compiled and edited over centuries, by human minds and human hands, and there is no way to know whether all or any of these human minds and human hands were somehow inspired by a supreme entity; divine revelation is not testable: there is nothing we can look at or manipulate in nature to prove that the Bible, or any sacred text, is the word of God. People of course are absolutely entitled to believe whatever they want to believe, but it is most respectfully submitted that to acquire a rational understanding of our place in the cosmos, why we are here and why reality exists, we have nowhere else to look but nature – without appeal to revelation.

Darwinian evolution (evolutionism/mechanism) is bottom-up ateleology; i.e., neo-Darwinism is a Weltanschauung that perceives reality to be the product of ultimately unguided, undirected material processes – but is evolutionism the only viable Weltanschauung? One possible alternative is teleological evolution (≈ vitalism), which is perhaps best understood as cosmic self-organization whereby the visible universe – comprised of nested hierarchies, planes, and dimensions – emerged from a seed-like singularity and appears to be undergoing an unfolding expansion and self-integration, so as to coalesce and become capable of inducing ever more complexity, e.g., life, sentience, and consciousness. Teleological evolution (cosmic self-organization) is a process permeated by, immersed in, and teeming with meaning and purpose. The universe is perhaps best perceived as a living organism (and if there is a multiverse, it is perhaps best perceived as a living super-organism). Arguably, the radiation and subatomic particles engendered by the Big Bang (Big Seed) underwent a cosmic process of what might be termed “evolutionary transubstantiation”; the universe self-organized (though at the expense of an overall increase in the entropy of the universe): matter transformed into ever greater order, until eventually it became self-aware, and it is submitted that this complex, specified transformational ordering might be capable of progressing until consciousness detaches from its material vessels as Spirit/Geist (or less happily until some or all of the material vessels become extinct) to join with whatever entity/force “planted” the Big Seed. It is in this sense that the hypothesized Creator might perhaps best be conceived of as a spiritual gardener. Perhaps consciousness is not an epiphenomenon; instead, matter might be a kind of “way station” that houses awareness as awareness moves along the matter-body-brain-mind-consciousness-Spirit continuum; from this perspective, it is submitted that the raison d'être of the universe is to evolve disembodied/free will Consciousness. Hegel was essentially right side up all along; it was Marx who turned Hegel upside-down.

Any project that attempts to interpret a sacred text (e.g., the Bible), so as to wed it to the nihilistic, reductionist acid of atheist metaphysics (ateleological neo-Darwinian evolutionism-materialism), seems doomed and irrational. Darwinism qua Darwinism is meaninglessness and purposelessness. Christianity as espoused by its adherents purports to represent meaning and purpose. “Evolutionary Christianity” therefore seems to be oxymoronic, akin to claiming to be a carnivorous vegetarian. Darwinism qua Darwinism denies immanency and transcendency: for ateleological evolutionism, reality is but matter in motion – there is nothing but matter and the forces that act on matter; but what is Christianity (or any expression of spirituality) once immanency and transcendency are stripped away? Of Aristotle’s four causes, evolutionism accepts two: the material and the efficient, hence the proposition that there is nothing but matter and the forces that act on matter. But if there is a matter-body-brain-mind-consciousness-Spirit continuum, material causes and efficient causes are incomplete; also required are formal causes (represented perhaps by the specific forms living entities assume over time, e.g., species, subspecies, etc.) and final causes (speculatively, the point at which some sort of “bioelectrical ascension transudation” occurs, i.e., when matter-encapsulated consciousness crosses the threshold to disembodied Spirit, developmentally analogous to the point at which insentient matter transforms to sentient life).