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Should not intelligent, reasonable men of good will be able to agree on all things that matter?

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to
  one who is striking at the root."
- Henry David Thoreau
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Physical bravery is an animal instinct; moral bravery
is a much higher and truer courage.
- Wendell Phillips

Spiritual versus Material

In our discussion about origins of life, perhaps some careful, critical thinking will help us sort out the meaningful issues.  I have come to understand that in philosophy, asking the wrong questions will not lead to reasonable answers.  Please bear with me while I lay "some" groundwork.

Are there not two general types or aspects of reality that are different, yet inseparable?  We generally refer to these two as tangible and intangible, or material and non-material, or physical and spiritual  (the first two sets of terms are an indication of our entrenched materialism in that we contrast the spiritual with the physical, not the other way around).  We think of the brain as an aspect of physical reality and the mind as a spiritual aspect.  Likewise with the body and psyche (soul).  Purpose, values, character, freedom, happiness, morality, romance, etc. are spiritual realities that can't be measured by laboratory equipment, but can be apprehended and addressed by the mind.  It is the spiritual realities that are meaningful to the human being, with the physical realities only becoming meaningful when they impinge upon our psyche, comfort and safety.

One of the fundamental insights (to my mind, there are three) to building a productive philosophy is to realize that you can't start with nothing.  There is no such thing as nothing except as a mental concept with which to contrast our reality of something.  If there was nothing, there never could be anything, because even the possibility of something is not nothing–and I am something.

So, as to the issue of origins, starting with something referred to in the most neutral terms, it seems to me that there are these three possibilities:

1.  We start with spiritual realities–sentience, consciousness, intelligence–that designed and produced our material reality

2.  We start with spiritual realities AND our material reality.

3.  We start with a non-sentient, non-conscious, non-intelligent material and other aspects (chance, force, possibility, etc.) that somehow produced sentience, consciousness and intelligence.

Without going into a discussion of their differences, let me say that to my mind, there are also two different (again inseparable, you can't totally have one without the other) realms of intellectual conviction, the realm of the knowable and the realm of the believable–knowledge and belief. The above issue with the three possibilities is not in the realm of the knowable but is clearly in the realm of the believable.  There is something out of the deepest part of my psyche that impels me to have the courage to take full, personal responsibility for what I believe; and therefore, I actively, knowingly, consciously, carefully and willfully choose to believe option number one.  I like and am committed to my choice, because it gives me so much more elegant, meaningful possibilities and answers.  Option number three violates my knowledge, logic and reason on the most basic level.

I can discuss number two, but if you carefully, consciously and willfully choose to believe number three, then I am going to think that you are either in denial or ignorance of what is in your own soul, or that we are truly alien on a very fundamental level and that we probably shouldn't even try to talk about anything very meaningful. That way we won't be tempted to denigrate each other's intelligence and be disrespectful. The issue of mechanism, implementation of design (creation), is another issue and I can discuss that in the context of options one or two.

Once you choose to believe option one or two, wouldn't it be ridiculous to postulate a non-sentient mechanism for the development of and change in the plethora of life forms we find on our planet?  Option one specifically has the original intelligence designing and producing the aspects of material reality, including life forms.  For option two, are we going to postulate that the original intelligence is not involved?  By its very nature intelligence would be involved.

Unless the argument that is going on is just primarily semantic and the term "evolution" just means change and movement, the essential element of the term "evolution" is that of some process where sentience is not involved, and that of the term "creation" is that of involved sentience.

The Renaissance and Reformation

Two great historic and historical leaps or reaches–failed–by Western society for salvation are represented in the eras of modern history known as the Renaissance and the Reformation.

Ultimately, the Renaissance stands with the Roman Catholic Church. This should not be surprising since both pursue an earthly perfectionism. Such perfectionism is the ideal of fulfillment on this earth. Catholicism pursues this ideal through the sacraments and institutions of the Catholic Church; the Renaissance seeks this same ideal through the secular wealth and energies of humanism. The Renaissance promised men that through the untrammeled pursuit of science and the humanitarian arts, the race could find answers to all its problems, whether political, social, medical or psychological. It was an age of great promise. It was the great hope held out to mankind. And those hopes and promises of the Renaissance have extended down the centuries even to our own day. Its nascent energies bred the Age of Enlightenment, produced the Industrial Revolution, ushered in the Golden Age of biology and medicine, and unleashed the present technologic and scientific revolution on the world.
     Yet it is one of the paradoxes of history that the scientific, technologic and cultural advances of modern times have been so widely attributed to the ethic of the Protestant Reformation. The facts are rather that the secular perfectionism of the Renaissance invaded Protestant thought... - Jack D. Zwemer, "Birth and Death of the Renaissance"


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