Saturday, September 26, 2020

If You Can Read This Sentence, You Have a Soul

We have to distinguish between two types of atheism, negative and positive. The former type of atheist is simply apathetic: he doesn't pretend to know and pretends not to care. It is a fundamentally unserious view of life, and not worthy of Homo sapiens sapiens, AKA the doublewise homo. We won't spend any more time on him. He's not even clever enough to be wrong.

Positive atheism makes the bolder and more grandiose claim that God definitely does not exist. Of course, it depends upon what the atheist means by "God." Generally speaking, nor do we believe in the atheist's conception of God, but we'll leave that to the side.

What? Have you been listening to the Bob's story? You have no frame of reference, do you?

I'll say it one more time: we are immersed in the unpleasant and thankless task of reconciling the pure Darwinism -- or evolutionary psychology, to be precise -- of The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous, with the pure Thomism of Introduction to the Science of Mental Health. Both of these cannot possibly be true, at least not in the same way.

By the way, which book is the more difficult? Which requires more brainpower, both to read and write? No contest: anyone with a room temperature IQ can comprehend the mechanism of natural selection. After all it has only three moving parts: genetic variation, differential reproduction, and survival. According to this view, every human trait is a consequence of this trinity.

Well, not exactly, for any number of traits slip through the net of natural selection. In other words, just because a trait survives and persists, we can't necessarily say it was adaptive to a particular environment. Noses weren't selected to hold up eyeglasses, and all that.

Anyway, the big black book of Thomism is much more challenging. The WEIRD book is just tedious and predictable. It very much brings to mind a number of apt observations by the Aphorist:

Science easily degrades into fools’ mythology.

To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

The natural sciences can be adequately cultivated by slaves; the cultivation of the social sciences requires free men.

Scientific ideas allow themselves to be easily depraved by coarse minds.

In this context, Henrich is like a child who wanders in in the middle of a movie and wants to know what it's about. He's out of his element!

Really, he wants to have it both ways; he wants to have his crock and eat it too. What I mean is that he acknowledges the centrality of Christianity in laying the groundwork for our WEIRDness -- our Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic civilization -- but wants to pretend it's all just a random genetic aberration. As Professor Backflap puts it,

Henrich reveals how the Roman Catholic Church unintentionally shifted people's psychology, and the trajectory of Western civilization, by transforming the most fundamental off human institutions: those related to marriage and kinship. It was these social and psychological changes in Europe that... [laid] the foundation for the modern world (emphasis mine).

Unintentionally? The Church was trying to make the world a worse place?

Bear in mind that biology cannot evaluate whether or not the changes wrought by the Church were Good Things. Rather, they're only Things. Biology is descriptive, not prescriptive. It describes what is, not what ought to be. Ought Henrich avoid such breathtakingly simplistic and anti-intellectual generalizations? Biology can't say.

A few years ago we wrote a series of posts on an excellent book called Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. As I recall, it tills much of the same ground as does The WEIRDest, only without the fanciful attempt to squeeze it all into a scientistic bed of genetic reductionism.

What I want to ask is: who is the anti-intellectual here? Henrich? Or St. Thomas? Who is the more generous, the more curious, the more open-minded, the more humanistic? The less dogmatic, narrow-minded, and doctrinaire? The questions answer themselves.

Although Christianity is responsible for our progress from premodern anonymity to modern individuality, from tyranny to democracy, and from subsistence to abundance, here is the sum-total of what Henrich knows about religion and God (for if this is all he knows, this is all he can know, i.e., it is a frank confession of total ignorance):

Just to be clear, I'm not praising either world religions or big gods. To me, they are simply another interesting class of cultural phenomena that demands explanation.... These beliefs evolved not because they are accurate representations of reality but because they help communities, organizations, and societies beat their competitors.

Oh. I was wondering why sociobiology evolved. Henrich's ideas are so adaptive, he must have like a dozen children!

Back to one of our main points: which is the more capacious metaphysic? Which has more explanatory power? Well, by definition the theistic view does, since there can be nothing more capacious than God. My God is always larger than your godlessness.

I'm going to briefly switch gears to overdrive and see what Fr. Spitzer has to say about the subject:

At first glance there appears to be a conflict between the Bible and evolutionary theory. The Bible suggests that human beings are a special creation of God independent of other biological species....

However, the theory of evolution suggests that human beings did come from an evolutionary progression. Can the two be reconciled?

Not only can they be reconciled, they must be reconciled. It is only for us to understand how. In other words, the reconciliation already exists. It not only precedes us, but is a necessary condition for the very possibility of science. You are free to drain the world of transcendence, but doing so necessarily drains it of both immaterial knowledge and the transphysical knower. Spitzer:

The Bible is making the theological point in Genesis that human beings were created as distinct from the animals and “made in the image and likeness of God.” Can these two theological truths be consistent with the truth of evolution?

Yes -- so long as we hold that human beings are not only biological organisms (subject to an evolutionary process), but have a unique transphysical soul individually created by God.

Is the existence of the soul in any way inconsistent with natural selection? Of course not, any more than is the existence of music, poetry, painting, and science. Obviously, evolution does not "create" transcendence. And it certainly doesn't prevent it, or I'm not typing this sentence and you're not understanding it. Spitzer:

the soul cannot be reduced to any physical or biological structure or process.... Can Catholics believe that the physical-biological part of human beings evolved from other species? Yes. Can they believe that even the cerebral cortex came from an evolutionary process -- from homo-erectus to Neanderthal to homo-sapien? Yes.

Is there a problem? Not for us. The more truth, the merrier: "Catholics should always seek the truth, for there can be no contradiction between reason and faith. As St. Thomas Aquinas implied -- how can there be a contradiction?" There can only be a contradiction if we get things out of order. Beginning with our own minds.

To be continued....

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I noticed that the Cream of Wheat people are gonna be removing that famous black chef mascot we all got to grow up with. Prime candidates for a new Cream of Wheat mascot replacement includes Bruce Jenner wearing stylish women's chefs outfits, and a friendly looking robot.

I wrote in suggesting Isaac Hayes playing "Chef", but received an angry rebuke telling me that not only was Isaac Hayes black, he was a scientologist as well.

The Blackup Singers said...

Shut yo' mouth!

Gagdad Bob said...

I would like to nominate this for the most ridiculously pretentious and overblown writing of the year:

Is It Strange to Say I Miss the Bodies of Strangers?

I can say in five words what she says in 5,000: I really, really like bathhouses.

She should write the for J. Peterman catalogue.

Gagdad Bob said...

Or even for the catalogue.

julie said...

Christianity is responsible for our progress from premodern anonymity to modern individuality, from tyranny to democracy, and from subsistence to abundance

Studying a bit about renaissance Italy this term, I was surprised to learn that in some of the Italian states, they essentially were ruled by a democratic republic of sorts instead of the standard inherited nobility. Venice was ruled over by the doges, elected leaders, and noble families generally ran their own businesses instead of just taxing the peasants to raise money; probably explains why Venice was so successful in its day.

Anonymous said...

If only the Bible could’ve started out explaining that living as an omniscient omnipotent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Knowing everything, everywhere, all the time, always leads to a hellishly empty boredom, to where such a being seriously considers ending it all. The only possible means of escape from such awfulness is the creation and immersion of oneself into free will universes, full of contradiction and danger. And so here we are.

If the Bible had started out that way, things might be different. We'd have fewer atheists telling us that until there’s some tangible evidence for God, that they just aren’t gonna believe. Those same people repeatedly state that as soon as the evidence is there, that they’ll be among the strongest of believers. Yet believers are compelled to call that thinking a fallacious religion.

When read honestly, the Bible tells of a loving/sociopathic god, constantly moving his creations around like little toys, who then suddenly disappears, and can now only be seen in images fried onto tortillas. I try to tell disbelievers that that’s all part of God’s free will game, that if he doesn’t keep things interesting for himself that we’re all gonna die.

But they aren’t buying it. Occam's Razor they say. They'd rather go along with the sociologists who claim that the number one factor in "influencing” human civilizations was the geographic conditions of the land in which they found themselves living in. Jealousy of another's resources leads to war, and war leads to modern technology.

Their kind used to be rare. But not so much anymore. I think Christians need to up their game in response, because God is telling me so.

Nicolás said...

The fool finds any noble place into which he enters deserted.

Daisy said...

Ha - I can attest to the truth of that.

Where’s everybody gone?

julie said...

Re. The bodies of strangers link.... shudder. That has to be one of the big differences between city dwellers and everyone else.

Speaking of weird, isn’t personal space one of those American traits that we don’t notice until traveling in a foreign country where everybody is all up in each other’s grill?

Anonymous said...

You're going to hell Daisy. This isn't a place for empty nobility.

Didn't Jesus once say that he'd rather fill his house with fools than with a single nobleman? We must find these fools. And we must fill our house with them.

Jesus said...

Never said it. Fake news.

Anonymous said...

Okay. So I guess it's fun times ahead for all these growing numbers of fools I guess. For like, an eternity. Thanks Jesus.

Nicolás said...

He who wishes to avoid grotesque collapses should look for nothing in space or in time that will fulfill him.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the post.

Christian doctrine had discerned that the human soul is not the same as the body; a human being is a dual entity. The immortal soul is what makes Christianity work. There must be salvation.

The Vedanta discerned the soul and body dichotomy as well and further reasoned there was a dual evolution, one of the human soul and the other the human body, on two separate, simultaneous paths.

God polishes the individual soul via having the soul live in a body (some say many times). The vehicle of life (body) has been built up over eons via natural selection, primordial microbes on up to homo sapiens. Nature produces ever more advanced bodies slowly over time.

The current human genome allows a complex vehicle which spurs a rich life, which polishes and evolves the soul.

Soul evolution is always individual, never collective. Physical evolution is always collective, never individual.

So this is what the score is.

Europeans came roaring back after the Black Death, around 1400 AD, and exploded out of Europe in the greatest drama of human expansion and achievement of all time. Europeans have shaped the world more than any other group. Intelligent, driven, curious, and methodical, the European mind brought forth cars, computers, air travel, automation, medical savvy, space rockets, and space travel. No one can seriously downplay the stupendous achievements of European culture; and mostly of European male culture. Now, about 600 years in to this global revolution, the rest of world is kind of sitting back to see what happens next.

Europeans, pat yourselves on the back. You've done well.

But, to some it is getting old, and want to see the European male give another group the helm for awhile, some brown females perhaps. There is a sense the whole Eurocentric thing is winding down.

Bob believes the stellar European track record is due to Christianity, and doubtless it had a major effect.

I also give snaps to the aboriginal Americans for high achievement in plant husbandry; careful breeding brought forth potatoes, maize, coca, cacao, tomatoes, sugar, and tobacco. These commodities have greatly aided the world to thrive and prosper and few cultural blocs have done as well to develop botanical resources.

Much of the labor to bring forth the modern world was provided by Africans and they paid dearly in sweat and blood to develop the new world and deserve snaps for this.

Asians pretty much assimilate what they want to assimilate and reject that which doesn't feel right to them. They are intelligent, organized, successful, and very, very numerous. Asians are everywhere. They are an adaptable and work cooperatively in groups better than most cultural blocs.

The Arabs gave us algebra; this gift cannot be underestimated.

Here we are actually living in the fabled Early Information Age, poised to take command of nearby planets and satellites. Homo sapiens sapiens, the double wise being. 'tis grand, is it not?

The cetaceans talk of us in their squeaks and whistles, shocked and awed by what they have seen and heard.

But the microbes have taken our measure. They are not that impressed.

Blessings from Great Urukandji

Nicolás said...

The deluded are prolix.

Anonymous said...

No one can convince a person to surrender to Jesus. This is a decision that must be made and acted upon from a free inner conviction.

The evangelist spreads the good news but does not force or coerce the conversion.

The evangelist is the rough equivalent of the leftist "Social Justice Warrior."

Using a military analogy, these types are the propaganda officers in their respective armies.

Arise all ye godlings! Blessings from the Great Irukandji.

Anonymous said...

I think of China, which has been missionaried a lot. Higher I.Q.s according to Bob. Yet still less than 4% Christian. It's a puzzle no doubts.

Nicolás said...

Jesus Christ would not attract listeners today by preaching as the son of God, but as the son of a carpenter.

Nicolás said...

Christianity would scandalize the Christian if it stopped scandalizing the world.

Anonymous said...

If Jesus flung lightening from his fingertips and thunder from his superman flying over the crowd I bet he'd attract a lot of listeners. But doing so as a humble carpenter, while superspeed-building large homes for the poor in mere seconds would probably be more attractive.

I get silly.

It's probably best for Christians to do and be close to the Bible, lest you know, anything scandalous be possible.

Nicolás said...

When he died, Christ did not leave behind documents, but disciples.

Anonymous said...

As the Russians closed in on Berlin in 1945, Hitler remarked to his companions in the Reichstag bunker "If the German people cannot defeat the Russians, then the German people should not exist."

On the face of it, this remark might seem like an unreasonable tantrum from a disappointed despot. Who wishes annihilation upon their own people?

But no, this was a straight-faced assertion because Hitler was the consummate Darwinian.

If the Aryans lost the war, it followed they were not fit to exist. Survival of the fittest. Hitler had thought the Slav an inferior untermensch. But the Red Army manifested a very fit tendency to win battles. So be it. Hitler was prepared to let his nation perish; this was in accordance with his beliefs. He was very sincere in his beliefs.

Berlin '45 is a cautionary tale of the dark places the doctrine of natural selection can take us if we place it first and foremost.

Not that natural selection is wrong. Natural selection explains a great many things and explains them well. But it cannot be in the foreground.

The human soul. This is what Hitler could not seem to discern clearly.

Do you know your soul?

XXXearlypubertyXXX

Nicolás said...

The human has the insignificance of a swarm of insects when it is merely human.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, XXXearlypubertyXXX.

Hitler inadvertently proved the superiority of Marxism. But Reagan singlehandedly killed the USSR, proving the superiority of Reaganism. But China is proving the superiority of Marxism once again by kicking American economic ass. So we respond with more Reaganism turned up to eleven, but with a Trumpian twist. If things keep going that way, then we could be right back to Hitler.

Gagdad Bob said...

There are a lot of stupid things in The WEIRDest People in the World, but so far this takes the prize:

"And from a scientific perspective, no 'rights' have yet been detected hiding in our DNA or elsewhere. This idea sells because it appeals to a particular psychology."

Reminds me of the Soviet cosmonaut who purportedly said "I don't see any God up here."

Oracle of Vidanatru said...

The only genetic right is kicking weaker genetic ass. But we have that whole "social responsibility" thing always trying to muddy things.

julie said...

@ Bob, Wow. That's a whole 'nother level of category error right there.

If you dissected Herman Melville's brain, you also wouldn't find the text of Moby Dick inscribed in the cell walls. By this IYI's logic, doesn't that mean he didn't write it?

Anonymous said...

Julie, technically speaking, with the right device you could extract the text of Moby Dick not from Herman Melville's brain, but from the Akashic Record (AKR), which serves the equivalent of the cloud data storage area for computer data. T

he AKR has a staggering capacity; everything is uploaded to the AKR automatically and filed there. All data from every human mind gets stored in the AKR. Every historical incident is also photographically and cinematically stored. You can retrieve any event from a smorgasbord of perspectives. You can relive an entire life, from soup to nuts, on the AKR. It stores not just the life events but all emotions and thoughts which were had during that life.

The life of Socrates is there in full technicolor, his whole life and death, including his last words "Crito, we a cock to Asclepius." Yep, it happened just as Plato said it did.

Access is limited to a need to know basis. Shamans are the typical technical types who can get in. It isn't easy.

Well, that being said, I was to say more, but time is limited. Adieu.

Napolean's Bony Parts

Nicolás said...

What some call religion hardly astonishes us more than what others call science.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:04 wrote: "Knowing everything, everywhere, all the time, always leads to a hellishly empty boredom, to where such a being seriously considers ending it all. The only possible means of escape from such awfulness is the creation and immersion of oneself into free will universes, full of contradiction and danger. And so here we are."

Right you are. Therefore the law of Earth is "Sh*t Must Happen." There is no sitting around on the beach nursing a margarita. No matter how pleasant that may sound, by day 3 it becomes a hell.

Verily I tell you, you could dreamily pick up a beautiful seashell on a tropical beach...and boom, you're screwed. The shell housed a live cone snail and it harpooned you. Verily on that day the conotoxins made a true believer out of you.

Nicolás said...

Nothing that satisfies our expectations fulfills our hopes.

julie said...

Apparently, the secret service has a raccoon branch tasked with harassing reporters on the White House lawn.