The heart of the Epistemological Problem

Plato-Raphael's

Dear hijas,

It was Schaeffer who said that the Greek philosopher Plato wrestled with it most and had the greatest sensitivity grappling with the problem of knowledge. Plato understood that in the area of epistemology or one’s theory of knowledge, ‘there must be more than particulars if there is to be meaning.’

We’re speaking here of the universal problem all the way back to antiquity of the relationship of the one and the many, or universals and particulars.

Stated another way, in the area of knowledge, “Philosophers see in the world certain particulars as well as a basic underlying unity. For instance, many particular dog breeds exist: dachshunds, Dobermans, terriers, pit bulls, etc. Yet all of these have a basic unity, which we might call ‘dogness.’ They are all members of the one biological family known as Canidae. The many dogs are related by their one dogness” (Gary DeMar, ed., Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen, American Vision, 2007).

Schaeffer states it this way, “In the area of knowledge you have particulars, by which we mean the individual ‘things’ which we see in the world. At any given moment, I am faced with thousands, indeed literally millions of particulars, just in what I see with a glance of my eyes. What are the universals which give these particulars meaning? This is the heart of the problem of epistemology and the problem of knowing” (Francis A. Schaeffer, He is There and He is not Silent, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL, 1984).

The issue boils down simply to this; what is it that ties the universals to the particulars, the one and the many? What overarching unity or unities makes sense of each of the particulars so that we can say we truly know something? Is it human experience? In other words, “I know it because I’ve experienced it?” Is it perhaps science? Is scientific consensus the source of all knowledge? “Science said it, I believe it, therefore it’s true” mentality? Or is it something else?

What we have to remember is that we are trying to find large enough universals to cover the particulars so that we can know we know. We must find a basic unity in order to organize and understand the various particulars that are part of our human experience so that we are sure of being sure. This in essence is the epistemological problem in a nutshell.

Philosophers have struggled with this for eons, with various proposals depending on the philosopher. Plato’s answer was the concept of ‘ideals’. He tried to find his universals in this concept of ‘ideals’; that somewhere there is an ideal dog, for example,  that would cover all the particular dogs that exist. Anything outside of this was not a dog. Today it is ‘science’, or the ‘scientific method’ that enamors man’s heart as an answer to the epistemological problem. Man thinks that ‘science’ has all the answers for truly knowing something; an exalted position from which there is no dissent. Yet, are these enough to explain all there is to know about everything, to tie the universals and and all the particulars together? Many people would say “No, not even science is the complete answer.”

The question before us still remains: how do you know and how do you know you know? If we would but listen, it is the Judeo-Christian system of the infinite-personal God on the high order of trinity that answers the question of the one and the many.

With love, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas!

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Epistemology: How we know what we know

Dear hijas,

Moving on to the third area of philosophical and religious thought, or the third component of a person’s worldview, we come to the area of epistemology (from episteme, knowledge, and logos, word or discourse).

We are attempting to answer the question of ‘how we know that we know’, or ‘how we know what we know’. Epistemology addresses questions of truth, belief, justification, and the origin, nature, methods, and limits of knowledge.

Philosophers since the ancient Greeks and before have attempted to answer this very important question, grappling with this problem of knowledge, trying to discover what we know and how we come to know it.

Epistemological questions can be as follows:

1) What is the nature of truth and of objectivity?

2) What is the nature of belief and of knowledge? What are their relationships? Can we know and yet not believe?

3) What are the standards that justify beliefs? How do we know what we know? What is the proof or evidence that is acceptable?

4) What are the proper procedures for science and discovery? How are they evaluated? What standards do they offer? (Gary Demar, ed., Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen, American Vision, Powder Springs, GA, 2007).

As in the other two areas we’ve discussed of metaphysics and morals, there is both the ‘problem’ and then ‘solutions’. We’ll start with the problem, and then see out of the few solutions, which one fits the world of human experience and the universe we find ourselves in. We’ll discover that each of us as ‘philosophers’ must establish our theory of knowledge on something. What that ‘something’ is, will be the topic of our next posts.

As always, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas!

Made in the Image of God, but man fundamentally changed

heaven and earth

Dear hijas,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1.1).

All things came into being by Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (John 1:3).

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16).

We’ve been speaking to the question of the moral necessity, the second area of philosophical and religious thought. Specifically, in our last post, we found that the question of man’s cruelty to his fellow-man was not answered completely. We said that the personal answer of man being created in the image of God gives meaning and an absolute standard for man in terms of right and wrong because they are based on God’s character. We found that man is still cruel. We discovered though that man wasn’t made this way, but fundamentally changed himself. The question before us now, is how this happened.

The Judeo-Christian answer to the question of the moral necessity and man’s cruelty starts from Gen. 1:1 quoted above. The infinite-personal God of the universe created all else, including man, both male and female. Both man and woman and all of God’s created order was created perfect without sin; cruelty, jealousy, hatred, death, disease, corruption, any and all evil of any sort. At the end of God’s six-day creative work, He pronounced it ‘very good’. It was whole, complete, without flaw, just as the designer wanted it to be. So what happened?

Schaeffer puts it this way:

There was a space-time, historic change in man. There is a discontinuity and not a continuity in man. Man, made in the image of God and not programmed, turned by choice from his proper integration point at a certain time in history. When he did this, man became something that he previously was not, and the dilemma of man becomes a true moral problem rather than a metaphysical one. Man, at a certain point of history, changed himself, and hence stands, in his cruelty, in discontinuity with what he was, and we have a true moral situation: morals suddenly exist. Everything hangs upon the fact that man is abnormal now, in contrast to what he originally was (Francis A. Schaeffer, He is There and He is not Silent, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL, 1984).

This historic, space-time change in man is referred to as the Fall (see Gen. 3). Man fell from his original created perfection and is not what he once was. This abnormality explains man’s cruelty, his jealousy and hatred for others of his kind. It explains why man made in the image of God doesn’t mean that God is a bad God. It explains why man can be both noble and cruel at the same time.

So man is now abnormal from what he once was still means that he is abnormal still yet today, right? Man is not just metaphysically finite, but truly morally guilty. Can man get back to that state from where this turn happened? Is there a solution to take man back to where he once was before he became abnormal?

It is here, as Schaeffer describes, “that the substitutionary, propitiatory death of Christ is needed and fits in…we need a solution for our true moral guilt before the absolutely good God who is there.” That solution is Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

Made in the Image of God? Why cruelty and evil then?

Dear hijas,

We’ve been speaking of the ‘personal’ answer to the philosophical question of moral necessity. That on the ‘personal’ side of the equation in contrast to that which is ‘impersonal’, there is an answer in the infinite-personal God of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures who has made man in His image. It is in this infinite-personal God that morality is rooted and has meaning because God’s character is the standard by which to measure absolute right and wrong, nobility and cruelty.

But this leaves us with a question, doesn’t it? On the noble side of things we can see that man is noble, cares for his fellow-man and the things in the world around him because this is how we envision God to be. We envision God to be a good God, a caring God, a loving God, but on the cruelty side we find we are somewhat perplexed, quite greatly perplexed perhaps, and the question becomes “If man is created in the image of God, and yet is so cruel to his fellow-man, then doesn’t that imply that God Himself is cruel also?” In other words, if this personal-infinite God was the one that brought everything that exists into being, including man, and man is made in God’s image, then because we find man cruel it must follow that God is cruel as well.

How would you answer that question? It’s a very legitimate and logical question from the premise.

To answer this question, we might break it down into a couple of follow-up questions. Has man always been this way, or was there a change in God or man that brought about the current cruelty of man we see today and read in our history books?

The Judeo-Christian answer is that man as he is now, is not what he always was. Man has not always been cruel and evil. There was indeed a change in man, not God. God has never changed, but man in fact changed quite drastically. Who changed man then? Did God change man, or did man change himself? If it was God who changed man, then He must still be a cruel God.

Schaeffer answers it this way, “…man created by God as personal has changed himself–he stands at the point of discontinuity rather than continuity not because God changed him but because he changed himself. Man as he now is by his own choice is not what he intrinsically was. In this case we can understand that man is now cruel, but that God is not a bad God. This is precisely the Judaeo-Christian position”(Francis A. Schaeffer, He is There and He is not Silent, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL, 1984).

As to what that change was, and how it was that man changed himself, we’ll need to wait for our next post.

As always, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas

The Moral Necessity: the ‘Personal’ Answer

Dear hijas,

We’ve seen that in regards to morality, the evolutionary impersonal answer of time plus chance plus the impersonal, or ‘-the force be with you-‘ type answer in a couple of the world’s major religions doesn’t satisfactorily answer the question of man’s dilemma. Starting from the impersonal gives no answer to how objective right and wrong, noble and cruel, finite yet personal, have any meaning whatsoever. It was Sartre who said that ‘no finite point has any meaning unless it has an infinite reference point.’ This is just as true in the area of morals as it is in the area of metaphysics. Finite man has no place to rest any objective or absolute meaning or standard to the words ‘noble’, ‘cruel’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’ without some kind of infinite reference point to give those words substantive, objective content. This is huge, and you should never allow someone in your apologetic endeavors to miss this point and evade the implication. There is ‘no’ answer starting with anything impersonal; it’s just ‘what is’.

If you recall, it was the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), the French philosopher, aristocrat, politician and writer whose cruel and libertine sexuality and lifestyle the term “sadist” comes, living during the French Revolution (1789-1799) who said, “What is, is right.” Can you see that starting with the impersonal, that is what man boils it down to, “Whatever happens to be, is right?” This is the natural outflow starting with the impersonal beginning. The problem though is that the Marquis de Sade could just as easily have said, “What is, is wrong”; for he had no place to rest his definitions of right and wrong, no standard or infinite reference point in which to give those words any meaning. As Schaeffer concludes, “If you begin with the impersonal, the universe is totally silent concerning any such words.”

Yet, we do find on the ‘personal’ side of the equation, a titanic answer! Starting with the personal there ‘is’ an answer. And it is an answer to man as he is and as he aspires to be. It gives justification to man as he finds himself, to his aspirations and moral motions, to his sense of ‘ought’ and ‘ought not’.  Man finds an infinite reference point to rest a definition of objective right and objective wrong when he begins with the ‘personal’.

What we are speaking to here with the ‘personal’ answer is that man has been created by that which is personal rather than merely being part of a total, final, impersonal everything-there-is. That ‘personal’ is the infinite-personal Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. That man, made in the image of this infinite God, was created finite as opposed to God’s infiniteness, and yet with personality in the same way that God is personal. And because God’s character is the moral absolute of the universe, there truly is objective right and objective wrong. Morals do exist because they’re based on the character of God from which all evil is excluded.

As Schaeffer says, “It is not that there is a moral absolute behind God that binds man and God, because that which is farthest back is always finally God. Rather, it is God himself and his character which is the moral absolute of the universe.”

Schaeffer further concludes:

Again, as in the area of metaphysics, we must understand that this is not simply the best answer–it is the only answer in morals for man in his dilemma. The only answer in the area of morals, as true morals, including the problem of social evil, turns upon the fact of God’s being there. If God is not there (not just the word ‘God,’ but God himself being there, the God of the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures), there is no answer at all to the problem of evil and morals. Again, it is not only necessary that he be there, but that he is not silent…He has spoken, in verbalized, propositional form, and he has told us what his character is  (Francis A. Schaeffer, ‘He is There and He is not Silent’, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 1984).

So we have an answer to man being finite, yet personal, and we have an answer for the existence and justification for morality, a standard for right and wrong in God’s character itself, and for man’s moral motions, his sense of ‘ought’ and ‘ought not’, but do we have an answer for man being both noble and cruel?

Yes, we do, but that will have to wait for our next post.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

Still ‘killing them softly’ 40 years later

gestation photo

Dear hijas,

Since today is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision on January 22, 1973 legalizing abortion in the U.S., I thought it was more than appropriate to take a moment out of our series on Philosophy and Christianity to reflect on the staggering numbers this decision has wrought in our land. When one looks at the number of innocent lives that have been murdered in the name of ‘choice’ since 1973, the stench in God’s nostrils must be overwhelming. It is a wonder why He hasn’t sent judgment down on us in the same way Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed circa 2100-1900 B.C. It is only His grace that has stayed His hand to this point.

It is now estimated that more than 55 million Americans have died since this decision was handed down by the United States Supreme Court. The current estimates are about 1.2 million abortions per year in the U.S. alone. The World Health Organization estimates that between 1995 and 2008 there were on average 43.7 million induced abortions worldwide, a period of 14 years. (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html)

If we do the math, that’s 43.7 million x 14 = 611.8 million unborn innocent children forcefully and destructively taken from the womb in those 14 years worldwide. If you extrapolate that rate out for 40 years the result is mind-numbing: 2.4 billion innocent children never to see the light of day worldwide since 1973. The average rate over 40 years may not have been 43.7 million/year, so the 2.4 billion could be on the high side, but whatever the number is, let’s conservatively say over 1 billion, that’s 1/7 of the current world’s population.

What we need to see here, is that abortion is the destructive natural outflow of what we talked about in our last post; the evolutionary impersonal answer to the moral necessity. If humans are nothing more than complex animals kicked up out of the pond scum with no value or meaning higher than the whale, seal cub, redwood tree, or spotted owl, then intrinsically one cannot claim that the unborn child should be protected. Remember, morals disappear. Evolution is amoral. No right and wrong, just what “is”.

Abortion then becomes a ‘fruit’ of this teaching of an impersonal beginning. If evolution is true, and morals are just situational, a statistical average, then we should not be surprised that societal norms would change to think that killing our unborn is okay. It was a momentous shift in this country in 1973, one that is still reverberating today 40 years later.

Dr. Albert Mohler has a great post on his blog and I encourage you to read it at: (http://www.albertmohler.com/2013/01/18/forty-years-after-roe-human-dignity-hangs-in-the-balance/).

My title for this post is really a misnomer, isn’t it? For in reality, we don’t ‘kill them softly’, but brutally, destructively, quickly, and with finality. The end and goal is the cessation of the unborn child’s life. It is done with forethought and the utmost precision, and we’ve been doing it legally for 40 years. Say a prayer today mis hijas, especially today, for God to bring an end to this wicked and inhumane practice, and for all the women and men who have been affected. This is not a sin that God can’t or won’t forgive, one only needs to seek that forgiveness from Him.

With love, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas

The Moral Necessity: the Evolutionary ‘Impersonal’ Answer

Dear hijas,

Dr. Steve Kumar in his book with Dr. Jonathan Sarfati Christianity for Skeptics asks these pertinent questions concerning the dilemma or problem of man and our discussion of the moral necessity:

Are our moral values merely sociological conventions similar to driving on the left rather than the right side of the road, or like the subjective utterances that we produce when we order our meals in a restaurant? If morality is merely social convention then it is neither objective or absolute. In this case the logical question would be, why follow the subjective opinions of society? Why should anyone sacrifice for another’s well-being? What if society approves cannibalism, ritual human sacrifice, or racism? After all, German ‘society’ in the 1930’s and 40’s gave rise to the Holocaust.

Turning to the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre again, we find he had this to say:

If God does not exist, we find no values or commands to turn to which legitimize our conduct. So, in the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us. We are alone, with no excuses. (Quoted in Dr. Steve Kumar and Dr. Jonathan Sarfati ‘Christianity for Skeptics’, Creation Ministries International, Powder Springs, GA, 2012 from Sartre, J-P ‘Existentialism’, translated by Frechtman, B, in ‘Existentialism and Human Emotions’, Philosophical Library, New York, 1957).

So how does all this relate to our last post and man’s dual problem in the area of morals? We are discussing one answer: the ‘impersonal’ answer. And specifically, the evolutionary ‘impersonal’ answer. Since so many of us have been brought up being taught that we are the blind results of an evolutionary process by which time plus chance plus the impersonal produced everything there is, we must analyze from this worldview whether morals could have arisen, how they might have arisen, whether they are justified within the evolutionary system, and whether they answer the dual nature of man’s problem: 1) finite, yet personal, and 2) noble, yet cruel.

Well, when we take a look at evolution, we find that it is not only impersonal, it is amoral as well. In other words, there is no right and wrong with evolution, it’s only what “is”. Evolution postulates no morality, for how could it? Non-life to life, single-cell to multiple-cell, simple organisms to complex organisms, here now finally at man, all plodding along by chance, blindly, with no purpose, only happenstance natural selection acting on mutations and weeding out the unfit through death and disease, the survivors as ones who pass on their genes to the next generation, ad infinitum. It starts with impersonality, so how can you get right and wrong from that? Evolution conveys no meaning to the words “noble” or “cruel”, “right” or “wrong”, everything is finally just one melded “what is”. It’s just finally, and only, ‘what happens to be’.

What you end up with then, is man, with his sense of ‘ought’ and ‘ought not’, this sense of moral motions that he has, completely out of line with what evolution as a belief system has produced. In other words, man is completely out of line with what the universe has always been: impersonal. In Evolution, and anything that starts with the impersonal, morals do not really exist as morals. You can say that they are a societal construct, manufactured by man so that he can live with his brother man in some sort of harmony here on earth, you can talk about what is antisocial or not antisocial, but you cannot say that they are in any way objective, or absolute for every time and place, and you have no standard in the universe which gives final meaning to such words as right and wrong, noble and cruel. Morals become situational, and with situational ethics whatever the situation demands or society demands become the norm. In situational ethics, we have clear examples of what they can produce; the Holocaust is one of many examples.

As Schaeffer says: ‘Finally, with an impersonal beginning, we must understand that to be right is just as meaningless as to be wrong. Morals as morals disappear…’

In our next post we’ll take a look at the opposite answer–the personal answer to the moral necessity.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

The Moral Necessity: the Problem

Dear hijas,

We’ve been talking about the three main areas of philosophical and religious thought, or to say it another way, the three fundamental components of a worldview:

1) metaphysics (the nature of reality, of being and existence)

2) morals and ethics (how we live and conduct our lives)

3) epistemology (how we know what we know).

Remember in an earlier post we said that everyone is a philosopher because everyone has a worldview. For our purposes we’ll define a worldview as a network, a system and package of interconnected thinking governed by basic pre-commitments.  The idea is that each person, whether she realizes it or not, understands the issues of life in a framework context. In this sense each of us has a worldview and thus each of us is a philosopher.

We’ve covered the metaphysical question in earlier posts (although briefly), and I wish to move on to the second area; that of morals and ethics, of what we might call the moral necessity. This is the area of human conduct; the study of right and wrong actions and attitudes. It attempts to answer the question: How shall we live and conduct ourselves?

You see, man has a problem. When he looks at himself he soon understands that he is finite, yet personal. By finite, I mean that man looks at himself and realizes that he doesn’t have ‘all’ knowledge, can never attain to ‘all’ knowledge, and will never know everything there is to know about ‘everything’. Even if he is a specialist in some field, he understands that even in his specialty he doesn’t know all there is to know. Finite implies ‘limit‘, and man, by his very nature, is limited. He can’t love the way he wants to love, help others completely in the way he wishes to completely help them, can’t change others or the world for the better in the way that he wishes to change them. As Schaeffer says in He is There and He is not Silent, ‘because man is finite, he has no sufficient integration point in himself.’

Yet man is also personal; different than non-man in contrast to that which is impersonal. He loves, he cares, he creates, he aspires to beauty, he feels guilt, he is altruistic, he thinks in the abstract, he feels loss, he seeks and demands justice for wrongs, he communicates to others of his kind in complex languages, all the while understanding a significance outside of himself. He understands a spiritual nature to his constitution and to the constitution of others, and that this world and this life can’t be all that there is. He must work very hard to convince himself that ‘you live, you die, that’s it’. Most people intrinsically know that that’s not all there is. All these things and more make man personal.

Man also understands when he looks at himself and others a profound dichotomy. On the one hand he sees the goodness of people, their nobility, if you will, a profound kindness and caring for others of his kind and for the world around him, yet on the other hand he sees the utter cruelty and evil that man can do to his fellow-man. He is altogether perplexed at the history of man’s cruelty to man, and the utter evil that people can do to each other.

So man has a dilemma, a problem. The first dilemma is that man is finite and yet personal with no sufficient integration point in himself and the second dilemma is that man is both noble and cruel, good and evil. Or as Schaeffer likes to say, expressing it this way: ‘the alienation of man from himself and from all other men in the area of morals’.

How does one answer this dilemma, this problem? Following Schaeffer, this can be addressed again in two areas: A.) the impersonal, and B.) the personal.

We’ve already seen that evolution; modern man’s creation myth, starts with the impersonal, so we’ll take a look at this first and attempt to answer the question of moral necessity from an evolutionary impersonal standpoint. The question before us will be: How does evolution justify morality, or can it? How do morals arise, where do they come from in an impersonal beginning?

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

On ‘Being and Existence’: the Rational ‘Personal’ Answer

Dear hijas,

In our last post we looked at the ‘impersonal’ answer to the metaphysical question of ‘being and existence’; to why something is there rather than nothing being there. The first answer we gave was evolution and its impersonal beginning. We must remember that any philosophical or religious system that falls into this ‘impersonal’ beginning ends up with the same set of problems. Can you think of any of the world’s major religions that start with an impersonal beginning? I can think of several: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Starting from the ‘impersonal’ these three major world religions are in the same boat as evolution. In fact, when one looks deeply, in most cases, they use some form of evolutionary–the force be with you– beginning. They have no real answers for where ‘personality’ comes from, nor the form and order and complexity of the universe. A great question for the impersonal-ist is “How can the impersonal produce the personal, or how does personality come from that which is impersonal?” Their typical reply: ‘Ah, umm, uhh, well….’

The problem remains the same with whichever impersonal beginning you want to start with, to wit, no true answers in regard to being and existence with its complexity, or as Schaeffer likes to coin it, no true answers to the personality or “mannishness of man”. Beginning with the impersonal, there is no meaning or significance to the diversity of any of the particulars (you, me, the leaf, the dog, the sun, the cat, the moon, the raindrop, the dustmite).

There is another rational answer however. This answer begins not with the impersonal, but with the ‘personal‘. A personal beginning to all that exists. In other words, that which is personal began everything else, the very opposite of beginning with the impersonal. And it is in this case, that man does have ‘meaning’ and ‘significance’. How?

What we’re speaking to here is the answer of a personal-infinite God who fills the philosophical need of existence and being. An altogether grand Other that is both personal and infinite on the high order of trinity and has brought into existence all that exists. For now we have an answer to ‘personality’, and to why man has meaning and significance. We have an answer to the form and order and complexity of the universe. And it is the Judeo-Christian God of the Old and New Testaments, not just any ‘god’ that fits this answer perfectly. The answer to the  metaphysical question we started with, ‘something there rather than nothing being there’, is that “yes, that ‘something there’ is the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, He is ‘there’, and has created all else”.

Because He is personal, He gives personality to man. Because He is infinite and omnipotent, He can create all else. Because He is trinity, there is personal unity and diversity. There is no other answer. No other explanation or philosophical/religious system of thought answers the existence of the universe in its vast complexity and of man-as-man, as completely and fully as the Judeo-Christian system of thought. It’s a titanic answer, one we never need be ashamed of.

With the apostle Paul, we are ‘not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God…'(Rom. 1:16).

As always, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas

On ‘Being and Existence’: The Rational ‘Impersonal’ Answer

Dear hijas,

When it comes to the metaphysical question: ‘something is there rather than nothing being there’, we find that there is an answer that can be logically and rationally considered. It is an answer that can be communicated to oneself in one’s thought world, and communicated to others externally.

Remember, we are talking about ‘existence’, or ‘metaphysics’, the first of the three main areas of philosophical and religious thought. Any system of thought, whether it be religious or philosophical is trying to give answers in these three main areas: the metaphysical question, the moral question, and the epistemological (the study of how we know) question.

We’re dealing with the metaphysical question here first. Douglas J. Futuyama, an evolutionary biologist, and professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, sums up well the two options that can be rationally discussed here with this question of existence and being:

Creation and evolution, between them, exhaust the possible explanations for the origin of living things. Organisms either appeared on the earth fully developed or they did not. If they did not, they must have developed from preexisting species by some process of modification. If they did appear in a fully developed state, they must indeed have been created by some omnipotent intelligence, for no natural process could possibly form inanimate molecules into an elephant or a redwood tree in one step (Futuyama, ‘Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution’, Pantheon, New York, 1983, p.197).

1) Evolution: this is one answer. How will we define it? Evolution for our purposes is defined as: descent with modification from a common ancestor through mutation and natural selection. It holds that all of life developed from more primitive forms. Starting with single-celled organisms, life supposedly followed a chain of development from marine invertebrates, to chordates (look it up), to fish, to early reptiles and amphibians, to various stages of mammals, and finally to humans. This all happened blindly, by chance, with no help from a supernatural “god”, or “intelligent designer”.

In the above scenario, man is not just descended from apes, or an ape-like ancestor, but that man descended also from insectivores and invertebrates, from fish and starfish. We also have to remember with this answer that we’re not ‘just’ speaking of biological evolution, we’re also speaking of cosmological evolution as well. That before there were single-celled organisms on earth there was a ‘Big Bang’ of inanimate particles out ‘there’ which led to the formation of space and its expansion, stars and galaxies, planets and moons. It’s a complete system, you can’t have life on earth without the Bang that produced the stars and planets first. Yes, mis hijas, in this view, you can say that you, yes you, are star-dust! Don’t laugh, for this is a logical conclusion from the premises of this position.

Philosophically, when one uses evolution as an answer to the metaphysical question, what one is saying is that our existence and everything we see around us started with the impersonal. What evolution proposes is an impersonal beginning: time plus chance plus the impersonal. This impersonality may be mass, motion, or energy, but they are all impersonal, it matters not which one you start with. Remember, no ‘god’ or ‘gods’, no ‘intelligent designer’, no one person or being (no personality, nothing that can be ascribed to personhood).

So, why is beginning with the impersonal, a problem? If you begin with the impersonal, then you don’t find any ‘meaning’ for the particulars in life. You and I are particulars, the sun, moon, and stars are particulars. A leaf is a particular, so is the pet dog and cat; any individual factor or thing is a particular. Beginning with the impersonal gives no answer to any particular in the sense of ‘significance’ and ‘meaning’. Man has no ‘meaning’, or ‘significance’, or ‘purpose’, with this impersonal answer; you’re just left with time plus chance, blindly plodding along to produce the complexity that we see all around us.

In the end, beginning with time plus chance plus the impersonal provides no answer to the ‘personality’ of man; our aspirations, hopes, loves, art, altruism, creations of beauty and technology, and anything and everything else that makes us human, let alone the vast complexity of things outside of ourselves.

We’ll take a look at the rational ‘personal’ answer to the metaphysical question in our next post.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad