Monday, August 03, 2015

Is Man a Thing?

If you're going to reject Darwin's theory of how evolution came about, then you're going to have to come up with a better idea.

And you can't just say "God," because that's not an intellectually -- or even spiritually -- satisfying theory. After all, you could say the same of anything: "Why did you eat the last cookie?" "Er, God!"

Yes, in an ultimate sense God is at the "beginning" of all causation -- he is the uncaused cause -- but this hardly means we should ignore all the many intermediate causes that go into a phenomenon. Science is the science of intermediate causes, not of the first and last, AKA alphOmega.

Obviously, there was a time -- or timeless -- that this cosmos did not exist. Likewise, there was a time that no life existed in this cosmos. And there was a time that man wasn't here. From the view of cosmology, it is as if man arose fully baked just yeasterday.

Being that man is now here, what we really want to know is how he got here. Neither believer nor unbeliever dispute the fact that man once wasn't here, so our present presence is in need of explanation.

That man once wasn't here is a fact. Likewise our current existence. Natural selection is simply one way to bridge those two stark Facts. Some people say Genesis is another way, but this is not necessarily so.

For example, Genesis 3 is more a lesson in why things are so fouled up than how we got here per se. And I have heard it said that even Genesis 1-2 are there more to impart important moral lessons -- for example, the importance of the sabbath -- than to provide a comprehensive explanation of how we got here. Not, as the gag goes, how the heavens go, but how to go to heaven.

Although I do not accept the Darwinian narrative of anthropogenesis, I could never get completely on board with the alternative either, at least in every vague detail. But this book on Thinking Beyond Darwin has given me a way to wrap my mind around the traditionalist view of How We Got Here.

If man is in the image of God, then this is a way of saying that he is not contingent, or at least not wholly so.

Rather, there must be some part of him that is made of "absoluteness," so to speak -- which cannot not be -- in contrast to the evolutionist view, which would say that man of course could have not been or could have been unrecognizably different (and everything in between).

In the traditionalist view, if God wants you to be, then it will take a great deal of effort to deny him. But that's what the left is for.

The traditionalist view holds that man is a very specific thingy, and that if he is not this thingy, why then he is literally no-thing, just an ephemeral accumulation of random genetic booboos.

For Schuon, "To say that man, and thus the human body, is 'made in the image of God' means a priori that the body manifests something absolute and therefore something unlimited and perfect.... The human form cannot be transcended for its sufficient reason is to express the Absolute, hence the unsurpassable..."

I'm trying to find the Traditionalist explanation of how we got here, but can't track down the exact one I'm looking for...

Schuon writes that "One must not tire of affirming this: the origin of a creature is not a material substance, it is a perfect and non-material archetype....

"Assuredly, there is a trajectory; but this starts not from an inert and unconscious substance, it proceeds from the Spirit -- the womb of all possibilities -- to the earthly result, the creature..."

For Lings, "the universe and its contents were created in order to make known the Creator, and to make known the good and to praise it....

The things of earth are "sent down in finite measure from the Stores or Treasures of the Infinite." While this or that animal incarnates an aspect of God, only man has the potential to manifest them all, for which reason the Perfected Man would be the most adequate image of God.

I can't find the exact passage I'm looking for, but it has something to do with animal forms, including man, being coagulations of divine archetypes. But the real point is that either man has an archetypal form, or he is truly nothing, just a bundle of accidents.

So, the deeper metaphysical question is, Is man something? Is he a thing? Or no-thing?

The first thing one wants to say to the Darwinist is, "okay, we get it. You're nothing. But how does an accidental nothing know an absolute anything?"

I apologize for the rambling, but I'm feeling a bit fuzzy this morning, like my archetype hasn't fully coagulated or something.

Let me get back to what is close at hand, Thinking Beyond Darwin. First, I would suggest that to think beyond Darwin is not necessarily to think against Darwin. Furthermore, there is a way of thinking with Darwin that is ultimately to think against him.

For if it were true that we couldn't think beyond Darwin, this would represent a weird backdoor way of codifying man's absoluteness, i.e., that man knows the absolute truth about himself, a truth which renders him absolutely relative. This is literal nonsense. And not the good kind.

I'll take a fresh stab at this thing tomorrow morning.

7 Comments:

Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"The first thing one wants to say to the Darwinist is, "okay, we get it. You're nothing. But how does an accidental nothing know an absolute anything?""

Absolutely, that's a good question. I mean sure, accidents happen but that doesn't mean that everything that happens is an accident.

8/03/2015 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Yes, in an ultimate sense God is at the "beginning" of all causation -- he is the uncaused cause -- but this hardly means we should ignore all the many intermediate causes that go into a phenomenon. Science is the science of intermediate causes, not of the first and last, AKA alphOmega."

You know what they say about intermediary causes: like excuses everyone has one. But there's only one alphOmega (excellent word BTW).

8/03/2015 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

For example, Genesis 3 is more a lesson in why things are so fouled up than how we got here per se. And I have heard it said that even Genesis 1-2 are there more to impart important moral lessons ...

Right. The Bible is not a science textbook. It's purpose is to reveal God to us and in us, to tell us ultimately who we are and where we are going. I'd say one thing that takes us beyond Darwin is our purpose.

8/03/2015 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

For Lings, "the universe and its contents were created in order to make known the Creator, and to make known the good and to praise it....

I should have just read further.

8/03/2015 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the Bible has something to do with temporal relocation. I mean, there is that linear part, all the begats.
And also, stuff that is not exactly from here. Or, to more exact, was has not happened showing up where least expected.

That is really something from nothing. I know, that whole six thousand years narrative seems to involve a whole lot of distance, and there is this Person just being there. Always alive.

Causality in fits and starts. And repairs. Almost like digging up sandal prints and dinosaur prints in the same strata.

Hell of a job, but Someone has to do it.

8/03/2015 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzan-mazur/maewan-ho-no-boundary-bet_b_6944450.html

Your Beyond Darwin book reference led me to various things, including that article, which I think you might find interesting--in spite of the source.

8/03/2015 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Being that man is now here, what we really want to know is how he got here. Neither believer nor unbeliever dispute the fact that man once wasn't here, so our present presence is in need of explanation.

It occurred to me, reading this earlier today, that the development of life is just a larger iteration of the same fractal pattern that determines the course of, say, a mustard seed as it develops into a tree. Looking at the seed in isolation would give no hint of the sprawling tree it is destined to become; it hardly warrants any notice at all. Even at its younger stages it might not give much of a sense of its ultimate fullness. And yet over the course of time, after many changes, it finally becomes what it was always meant to be: a tree that can move mountains.

Assuming the Creator had an archetypal image in mind when he caused the first cause, the progress of life toward a someone in particular seems more like a seed as it goes through various stages of development until it becomes, well, someone in particular. Or in a sense, "evolution" is perfectly true, inasmuch as all of life prior to anyone noticing was a striving toward the appearance of Man as such.

8/03/2015 04:02:00 PM  

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