Hi you guys,
You keep wanting me to think intuitively, as though ‘thinking’ is more than ‘facting’. Surely the things we think are no more than the products of neurons and background an genes and memes (I heard that somewhere) and the food we had for breakfast?
This one is going to fry your brain.
ZONE 3: CONSCIOUSNESS – the Non Material World of the Mind
A third zone of evidence is the non-material world. We started on this when we talked about wonder, in the zone of the physical cosmos. This zone has become more significant in recent philosophy , especially since the change of mind of the atheist Anthony Flew. Put too simply, the basic fact here is that we are aware that we are human, and we are not rocks.
I have grouped this into three kinds of evidence: Qualia, Conscience, Beauty,;
Firstly, we can say “I am alive”. This is a remarkable statement. We have a (fifth) life-force that is different from the other four forces. Life is more than material. We know on the one hand that brain chemistry affects our thoughts and moods, we see that in clinical depression for instance. But our brain chemicals do not determine what we think. We also know that we can decide consciously what to think, and our brain chemicals obey this directive. The conscious Mind shapes the chemical matter. Mind is not simply the surface appearance of the underlying, deterministic machinery of chemistry. The Self is not simply the product role of genes. Genes create a limited set of potentials, but it is we – a self, a consciousness, a thinking identity – who make much of our life to happen. This is another force. Where did it come from? A great and personal life force.
Secondly, in human consciousness we are shaped by the importance of right and wrong. Francis Collins , the former head of the Human Genome project and Nobel Prize winner in science, argues this point. He demonstrates that our human consciousness is ethical and not neutral. As persons we wrestle with the right and wrong of decisions, irrespective of what we consider to be the actual right. As communities we pursue social justice and fair relationships. A sense of ‘Rightness’ is endemic. Values matter more than matter. All religions and all persons do this. Where does moral consciousness arise from? Dawkins’ attempt to define a “Selfish Gene” made for good book-sales but that gene simply cannot be found. And if it were, as one gene among a billion others, it would only describe potential selfishness. Usually it is answered that morality adds to our survival-capacity, that is, to cooperate within a hunting pack. It also has ‘survival value’ to care for our young. But ‘care and cooperation’ is well short of the altruism, sacrifice, forgiveness and generosity upon which our human community depends. Human social institutions are shaped around deciding rightly, or doing better. Where does this strong moral sense arise from? We say a Holy God.
Thirdly, why are our heads turned by beauty. There is something self evidently satisfying about making or seeing or hearing a beautiful object. Beauty doesn’t have to be useful, sensible or normal. Again, to comprehend the significance of this zone have to we face the false distinction in some disciplines between facts and values. The values of morality and beauty are facts.Why have all homo sapiens practised the arts of drawing, music, dance, story and so on. Rock art from ancient times is all over the world (most conspicuously at Burrup in Western Australia). The earliest grave unearthed in Australia is at Lake Mungo NSW, about fifty thousand years old. The burial was apparently ceremonial, the body arranged, and decorated with ochre. These earliest humans were enacting some beauty beyond death. Aristotle used to day that the three eternal qualities are beauty, moral goodness and truth. Late modernity has lost the meaning of all three.
This holds a major critique of much talk about evolutionary theory. It is not just survival that makes nature adapt but also sources of satisfaction, like fun and pleasureandbeauty. Who would want to live longer in a grey life? The concentration camps gave up many stories of those who could not survive like that. Why are we humans so inspired by and so needy for beauty? How do you explain that? Because of a Creator being of Glory who has made us in his Image.
In gathering this evidence from the non-material world, please NOTE that I am not asserting a God who is a projection of my needs or an ‘opiate of the masses’ or a ‘crutch if you need one’. You have all heard it said: “If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.” It makes a valid point – we humans hurry to make God what we want him/her/them to be. However, what I am asserting here is evidence from the latest in the philosophy of human consciousness. We pursue a faith that is true. Christians agree that any projection of my own needs onto a god-figure is one of the problems in genuine faith. These ten kinds of evidence (so far) are here interpreted as a God who is , who acts and connects with humans made in His image, beautiful, personal, moral, free, alive, reflective, responsible.
NOTE also that I am describing a faith that is NOT a “leap in the dark”, as in the famous misquoted phrase. Christian faith arises from a reasonable conviction based upon multiple data sources and not just the left-brain, four-dimensional ones, that Christianity is true. This dialogue leads to a faith in the daylight that is more like “a launch out to sea in the morning” than a leap in the dark.