What is Man that the Genome is Mindful of Him?
In Wolfgang Smith's The Wisdom of Ancient Cosmology, he discusses the distinction between the corporeal world -- i.e., the real human world that we can see, touch, hear, and taste -- vs. the merely physical world that is abstracted from the former.
The corporeal universe is "the world to which human sense perception gives access. And this is indeed our world; the world in which we find ourselves. This corporeal universe, moreover, is in fact the only objective world which our human faculties -- sensory and mental -- allow us to know."
In contrast, the physical universe is the "described universe," as seen through the lenses of our abstract descriptions. It is at least once removed from the corporeal world, and is irreducibly subjective.
Take, for example, the subatomic world: is it composed of waves or particles? It all depends upon how we look at it, or the questions we ask. Science is a systematic way to interrogate nature, so nature, like any good witness, will give its answers in conformity to the question.
Or, you could say that a scientific theory is like a net that we cast out over the ocean of being. It will catch certain facts, while others will either slip through the net or tear it to shreds. And others facts are swimming so deep below the surface, that the net can't extend that far (to say nothing of the winged facts that soar and glide in the atmansphere above).
Smith says what amounts to the same thing: "The physicist, it turns out, is not simply an observer, but a creator of secondary realities: he observes by creating, one could almost say."
However, this is not creation ex nihilo; it doesn't mean, as many new agers suggest, that the world is somehow entirely subjective, and that we "create reality" through perception. Rather, it is a much more subtle process, which I believe is most adequately described by Michael Polanyi, in particular, by his theory of tacit knowing and the distinction between subsidiary and focal knowledge.
Timelessness doesn't permit me a full evasion this morning, but Polanyi beautifully explains how scientific progress is only possible because of the human ability to simultaneously discover and create the world.
It sounds paradoxical, but it really isn't. Our scientific abstractions are analogous to the cane of a blind man, which he uses to "probe the dark" and construct a model of his surroundings. In so doing, where is the reality: in the solid matter touched by the cane, or the model he tacitly constructs in his head? Obviously it's a kind of dialectic, an ongoing interaction between the two. But the blind man obviously doesn't pay conscious attention the bare sensation of the cane against his hand. Rather, those sensations become (subsidiary) support for the (focal) interior map he creates.
Does this mean there are two worlds, or that our corporeal world is somehow an "effect" of the physical world? Think about it. Physicists describe a subatomic world that is shockingly different than the corporeal world, so much so that it is difficult, if not impossible, to see how they relate. To cite one obvious example, the simple act of willing my hand to make a fist has causes all the subatomic particles that supposedly constitute my hand to alter their courses, in such a way that the relatively crude model of physics is powerless to account for how it happens.
But the problem is only a result of a reductionism that inverts the cosmos and conflates the physical and corporeal worlds -- as if the quantum world is corporeal and not simply an abstraction. But "all knowledge of the external world begins in the perceptible realm: deny the perceptible object, and nothing external remains.... Contrary to what we have been taught in schools and universities, real tables are not 'made of molecules'" (Smith). No one can actually surf on a wave function, any more than you can feel the intentions of a selfish gene.
Now, what goes for physics goes for biology. Obviously, Darwinism does not explain man; rather, I think we can all agree that man explains Darwinism. That much is self-evident, except perhaps to metaphysical Darwinians, who put the genetic cart before the organismic horse, i.e., the physical before the corporeal. Humans are no more "made of genes" than this table is "made of atoms" or my consciousness is "made of neurons." Ironically, consciousness is not just "part" of the corporeal world, but its very essence, for what could be more concrete than awareness of your own being? You are fundamentally aware of being, not electrons or genes.
Once we invert the cosmos and reinstate our proper orientation, we understand its Reason. As DeKoninck writes, "The being in which resides the end of the cosmos must be both immobile and cosmic; both spirit and matter must be found in it, its essence must be composed of a spiritual principle which integrates the cosmos."
Thus, "Man is manifestly the raison d'être of the whole of nature," the "end of all possible natural forms." Indeed, "every natural form tends toward man." Furthermore, "nature could not be ordered to God except through man. God being the end of the universe, it is necessary that the universe be capable of a return to its Universal Principle. But only an intellectual creature is capable of such a return.... In other words, only a creature capable of making a tour of being can return to the source of being" (emphasis mine). So,
Life is the meaning of matter, that to which matter points and converges upon. Similarly, Mind is the meaning of Life, that to which it points. And now we realize the meaning of our very existence, that to which it has always been pointing and converging upon: the Unity of Reality. Once again, by turning the cosmos upside down, ultimate meaning is found not at its material base but its immaterial summit.... Only then do we find out what we are made of -- a Divine substance that has returned to itSelf, even though it never really left in the first place. --The Book of Toots