And when I say "inevitable," that is not a God-of-the-gaps dodge. Rather, it is true in principle, because man is something utterly sui generis, or unique, in all of creation. Although some antecedents can help account for man in retrospect, absolutely nothing could have predicted him. For how can one predict the radically novel? If one could, it wouldn't be novel.
To back up a bit, the same principle applies to existence-as-such (Existence) and to life-as-such (Life), in that both are necessarily presumed by science, not explained by it. Again, this is not a dodge: to ask why there is something instead of nothing is not a scientific question.
Although a more controversial assertion, it is also not (ultimately) a scientific question to ask about the origins of Life. Even if we could pinpoint the time and circumstances coinciding with its emergence, this still wouldn't account for the nature of Life, which is again entirely novel.
Indeed, one might say it is novelty itself. With Life we now have sensation, awareness, perception, interiority, presence, subject, each beyond the reach of even the most subtle materialism. A "science of the interior?" Yes, there is one, but it has nothing to do with science as we know it, but rather, with metaphysics.
Whitehead was all over this, so he was a big help. He thought about these ultimate issues in the Correct way, more or less. He suggests that Life "is an offensive directed against the repetitious mechanism of the Universe."
Life, you might say, is the life of the cosmic party. Instead of just going around in circles, it always aims beyond itself and thus has a circular pattern: "the aim is always beyond the attained fact. The goal is some type of perfected things," whereas "inorganic nature is characterized by its acceptance of matter of fact." Borr-rring.
Do you see the revolution? With Life, there is now a wedge between fact-as-fact and fact-as-aim, or process. All of a sudden Time takes on primary importance. By which I do not mean mere chronological duration, i.e., One Damn Thing After Another, but events tied together by an inner coherence from present --> future. For a living system is an anticipatory system, and what is that?! In other words, the now is now oriented toward the great not-yet. Here is where that thing called Hope first elbows its way into creation.
"In nature, the soil rests, while the root of the plant pursues the sources of its refreshment" (Whitehead). That is a typical example of Whitehead's epigramatical pithiness, but it makes me think of how the same image applies to the mind or spirit. Obviously, the mind does not seek its refreshment in matter, unless you are seriously autistic. Rather, it grows upward and inward, ultimately seeking its refreshment in... you geist it!
We'll come back to that later.
What I really want to say is right here in a marvelous marginalia I must have written over 30 years ago, possibly a direct quote of AWN: the creativity of the world is the throbbing emotion of the past hurtling itself into a new transcendent fact.
Whitehead goes on to say that higher animals seem to be "personal," in the sense that they are organized around a kind of inner center: "Thus in one sense a dog is a 'person,' and in another sense he is a non-personal society." Conversely, lower animals "seem to lack the dominance of [a] personal society," such that a tree, for example, "is a democracy."
I don't know about that. A tree must nevertheless cohere around some nonlocal essence, or it would dissolve into its constituents, as it does upon death. What really sets man apart from the trees -- some men, anyway -- is a conscious hierarchy, or better, hierarchy-become-conscious. Each of us is the king of his own castle, master of his domain.
Or ought to be, anyway. A sick person -- say, Dirty Harvey -- is indeed a democracy, in which the lowest impulse has the same rights as the noblest ideal. (If he has any ideals left -- in other words, if the bottom-up revolution hasn't been complete.)
By the way, you will have noticed how the Founders applied this same principle to politics, such that our system is neither a top-down aristocracy nor a bottom-up democracy. If it were the latter, we could vote for slavery, or for socialized medicine, or for limits on free speech.
We're getting awfully far afield this morning, for which I apologize. But this is the New Regime, and you might even say that it is more democratic than the old one, in that I'm simply allowing all the voices in my head a chance to speak. So there won't be as much coherence, or at least posts may not wrap themselves up as tidily as before.
Let me just get back to what started this post to begin with, which is a passage in White about the origins of man. He speaks of how "there is a kind of historical continuity between non-living things and living things, but also a differentiation and progression from one kind of reality to another, up the scale of perfection." (Recall the continuous/discontinuous chapters within the bʘʘk, and indeed of the b↻↺k itself.)
Once Life appears, there is a kind of "foundation for the emergence in human beings of specifically rational, spiritual activities of language and complex technology." Again, this emergence of human personhood cannot be reduced to antecedents, but is a Novel Thing that is "inserted," so to speak, in this new space:
At a given time, then, we can postulate that due to a new initiative of God, animals were elevated to a higher level. God began to create spiritual souls in human animals, and so the human adventure begins. There was a passage from the "merely animal" world of homo sapiens to the specifically spiritual world of the human person.
This is the passage where God initiated the new project of humanity, by creating the spiritual soul, and infusing it as the "form of the body" in what constituted the first human beings. (We might hypothesize that this took place around 50,000 years ago, given the evidence of human culture provided by paleontology.)
Agreed! What could go wrong? A note in the margin says Fall situated here. If I know myself, it must mean that if man appears at around noon, 50,000 years ago, then the fall occurs at around 12:01 PM.