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