I feel the need to follow my last post with this one, because – in my mind – they are inextricably linked to each other. So, here’s a little more philosophy for you to chew on over the weekend.
Let’s start with the assumption that the secular humanists are correct: nothing exist but this universe and the set laws of physics which govern all matter within it. Now, answer me this question:
How is it you can understand my words?
That is not a trivial question. In fact, it is a profoundly complicated question, and the implications of the answer undermine the humanist position – which is probably why those with enough wisdom to understand it usually avoid it. Those who understand it and embrace it usually end up in the pages of history…as figures the majority of us consider to be monsters.
You see, the implication of this question and its answer implies that man – or some aspect of what it is to be human – is outside of, above the nature of this universe. For those who believe in God, this is self-evident and, usually, it doesn’t present much of a problem. Quite the contrary: it usually humbles us and keeps us in our rightful place in relation to each other and society. However, for the humanist, those who believe that there is nothing but matter, the four dimensions and the laws governing them, this question is either an affront to their sensibilities, or an open license to declare themselves a god (small g). Those who believe they are god(s) and can “perfect” humanity are the ones who inevitably become the monsters of history. But, either way, I understand that the question and its answer are reality: there is some aspect of mankind that is set outside of and above this physical universe, and the fact that you can understand these words is proof of it.
Let’s see if I can explain this to you. Pretend that you are the number 4 and that you represent the answer to 2+2=. Now, you have no control over what you are: you are a number. Nor do you have control over the equation. You are the answer because you must be the answer. There is no other rational possibility. But do you know that you are a number, or that you are the necessary answer to the equation? How could you? You don’t even know that the equation is an equation, or that it is governed by rules that it cannot know, understand or control – the rules of mathematics. Are you still with me? Well, it is the same way for the planets. They do what the physical forces governing their solar system mandate that they must do and they have no understanding of what they are, why they do what they do or of the forces governing the whole mechanism. But there is a crucial difference. If the universe were to suddenly disappear, and there was nothing again – no matter, no energy, not even space – then the laws governing the planets would be gone too, but not the laws governing mathematics. Those are eternal: they exist everywhere, for all time, no matter what — yet you not only can understand them, you can manipulate them. Why? Language is the same way: the laws governing the English language are eternal, and because I can manipulate them, I can use them to convey a message that you will be able to decipher because you understand those same laws. Why can you do that?
Humanists have tried to find a material explanation for this for as long as “science” has existed, and they have yet to figure it out. There are many theories, but they are just that: theories. But neurosurgeon have done work that conclusively demonstrated that thought, memories and decision making are independent of the body. In other words, they are not connected to anything material. In fact, their discoveries astonished them so much that they concluded the only plausible explanation was that there is some aspect to being human that is best described as a soul. But I would take their findings one step further and concluded that this aspect of humanity they called a soul must also be eternal. You see, it is a philosophical maxim that the finite cannot understand the infinite. So the number cannot understand the rules of mathematics, nor can your pet understand the laws of logic that govern the English language – but you can. And that, not the many theories of “consciousness” or what it means to be “sentient,” is the explanation for why humans are unique in their ability to use language.
Now, there are those who would argue that animals cannot reason, but they can. Anyone who has ever had a pet understands that there are animals that can figure out simple problems on their own. The difference between them and you is that they are reasoning based solely on experience. They must rely on observation or chance to solve those problems whereas you can reason through complex problems for which you have no previous knowledge or experience simply because you understand basic logic. This is also why animals cannot learn to use language. And no, signing gorillas are not using language in the same context as you and I do, they are just expanding on experience. This is also why animals are not self aware but we are. That understanding demands knowledge of the infinite – as do questions of morality. All of these attributes have one common denominator. They rest upon eternal principles: principles that would exist even if the universe did not.
So here is what the answer to my question implies:
Yes, man can manipulate the laws of this universe for his purposes, and this implies that there is some aspect of his being that is outside of and above those laws. And if we are outside of and above finite laws (the laws governing this universe will end with the universe, therefore, they are finite), then that aspect must also be eternal.
I’ll leave you with one last thought that the monsters of history never bother to consider (or reject). Just because there is an aspect of our nature that is eternal and above the confines of this universe, that does not mean we are omnipotent. In order for that to be true, we would have to also have control over the eternal; an ability to bend, alter or abolish those eternal laws according to our will. But we don’t have that ability, and, therefore, we can deduce that there exists a higher power than ourselves.
[Note: none of this is original. It can all be derived from the book of Job. This is also the foundation of the “constrained” and “unconstrained” views of human nature, and of natural law.]