THE ENIGMA OF LIFE AND THE HUMAN CONDITIONS
There are those familiar, age-old questions, to which some of us are still looking for the answers; among those are: what is life, what is its origin, who am I, and what is the meaning of life? We hear these far too often and yet, no one seems to find reliable information about them; as if this fact would suggest a general disinterest in the subject beyond the established viewpoints of modern-day ideas, or perhaps, there may be a general inaccessibility to a deeper understanding of such questions.
One would say, questions about life and human conditions at first appear to belong more to biology than pure physical sciences; and yet, those same questions would belong more to philosophy than biology, because philosophically speaking, by their nature, they are ultimate questions.
In addition to the scarce scientific publications that describe nature of life in general, and the human conditions in particular, there are some publications by Descartes, Kant, Schrödinger and others, but because of their supposedly outdated biological information, many critics do not regard them as representative of the contemporary scientific and philosophical ideas.
Paradoxically, the modern scientific publications, which emphasise only the physical or biological aspects of life, rarely consider the underlying philosophical points of view. Conversely, those publications that over-emphasise only the perceived physical properties of life, seem to end in their physical inexplicability; while others, who concentrate on the pure biological details, appear to miss the essence of life itself. The various modern philosophical theories, on the other hand, widely differ along ideological lines, and for that reason, one cannot expect them to agree on the all-important issues, such as the basic concept of life.
Although this article may not give definitive answers to these age-old questions, nevertheless, in view of the above problems, it can only explore in depth the interdisciplinary aspects of life, and the closely related human conditions, within the scope of modern-day knowledge. In doing so, this article will attempt to bring a certain clarity into some aspects of the subject matter, through using the first principles and definitions of terms and concepts of the Aristotelian philosophy.
This philosophy, which is a logically systematic and intrinsically almost complete work, is also called perennial, because it withstood 2,400 years, without having any comparably alternative system in existence today.
While this author respects very much that, many readers will disagree with some or all of the contents, nevertheless, the primary aim of this article is to introduce some age-old, profound ideas only to those readers, who would be genuinely interested, without having been able to find suitable information within modern-day publications.
The following publications used for general ideas and for specific references in this article:-
- What’s It All About? by: Richard de la Chaumiere.
- The Physical Universe. by: Frank H. Shu.
- Modern Philosophy, by: Roger Scruton.
- Out of Chaos, by: Louis J. Halle.
- What is Life? by: Josef Seifert.
- The Essential Bases of Life.
1) The Philosophical Basis.
2) The Physical Basis.
3) The Biological Basis.
- The Nature of Human Conditions.
1) The Reasoning Faculty and the Rational Will.
2) The Person, the Human Virtues and Values.
3) The Importance of Human Conditions.
Existence: It is the realisation of all acts in an identifiable bodily form of an individual unity, as an animate or inanimate being, in or with itself alone, and not shared with other being whatsoever. To exist therefore is to mean having an identity in the reality.
Essence: The essence of a thing is what constitutes it. Therefore, it is by which we can define and recognise universally what it is. “The quest to define anything through something else is just as irrational as the desire to prove everything, for as each definition requires first undefinable essences of a thing that cannot be further proven without falling into circular argument or begging the question. Therefore, any effort to define irreducible essences through their parts already presupposes preceding notions of other essences that cannot be endlessly defined.” (Philosophy). Life is one of those ultimate concepts of irreducibility, which are undefinable by something else.
Biological Life: The essence of biological life is the capability of an animate being to sustain and maintain by self-repairing its bodily functions as required for its existence and reproduction. Every life is produced by another life. Furthermore, life encompasses both the essential and existential identity of a living being. “Life transcends physics and chemistry, and by this I mean that biology alone cannot explain life in our age by the current workings of physical and chemical laws” (M. Polanyi. Chemical and Engineering News, 45,1967.)
Contingent Being: Whatever had a beginning, will have an end; therefore, every animate and inanimate being that will have an end is a contingent being. A contingent being is the product of an other contingent being. In other words: Nothing that is already a part of a being could have caused its own existence: this axiom applies to every physical being, from the sub-atomic particles to the galaxies. A contingent being is a non-essential being because it depends on extrinsic causes in its survival, which is finite or transient by nature. Alternatively, a contingent being does not have reason for existence in itself, because it is an effect of an extrinsic cause. (Philosophy.)
Ultimately, every contingent animate and inanimate being is subject to the finite laws and forces of nature in that it must conform to them, without being able to react back on them and alter them.
- a) All active living beings have a rudimentary animal consciousness, in that following their instinct: they are motivated by mental states of sensory faculties, desires and memory, but they do not consider or plan consciously, and they do not reason or speak. Animals are not self-conscious.
- b) Human Consciousness in general is the inner aspect of the subjective reality of an adequate mind. The mind is the center of the human consciousness, that is to say: To possess a mental state is to be conscious of it.
- c) Properties of Intellectual Consciousness: It can be described according to its following manifestations:-
- Intelligence: An instant recognition of truth in an abstract and universal way as being self-evident.
- Reason: The thinking out the connected steps of several abstract truths that are not self-evident.
- Intellectual Memory: It is the retention of acquired knowledge.
- Conscience: When the intellect as reason thinks out the moral implications of an act, involving the concepts of right and responsibility to oneself and others.
- Intellectual Consciousness: It is an understanding awareness of one-self (self-consciousness) and of mental and bodily activities, and of the physical and metaphysical realities around itself. (Philosophy.)
Note: This definition of intellectual consciousness is in direct opposition to the so-called computer-generated mechanistic “consciousness”, with which the hypothetical super-human beings will be endowed in their final evolution. (See Frank Tippler’s theories.) The above definitions not only demonstrate the complexity of human nature, but also the demands by the social community in which expected to function as a responsible person.
A. THE ESSENTIAL BASES OF LIFE
1) THE PHILOSOPHICAL BASIS
This section describes three items:
The Transcendental Properties of Life,
The Grades of Life and
The Source of Life.
“Of life that exists in the natural order of reality, we can speak in many senses”; so begins Philosophy about the observations of life in its Metaphysics. This statement alludes to the importance of the critical distinctions we have to make among the many scientific, biological and metaphoric meanings of the word, as well as the popular interpretations of empirical observations about life, if we want to avoid misunderstanding and confusion.
The following comments (paraphrased from J.Seifert) highlight the essential need for a philosophical basis to our understanding the enigmatic nature of life and related concepts:-
No matter how deep we look into the physical properties of a living organism, the startling scientific fact is that there is not one material substance found that could relate by itself as an essential requirement for life. Could this be perhaps because the essence of life may not consist in any particular type of matter?
Alternatively, could the contingent material properties and the extrinsic features of a living organism that provide and maintain the empirical, biological life, constitute in themselves the transcendental essence of life?
The significant life-carrying physical, chemical and biological substances of a living organism found also in dead bodies, even if they do not function properly in them.
One cannot scientifically prove or disprove philosophical concepts, one only can believe or disbelieve them; for ideological reason, therefore philosophical concepts require even more so clear definitions.
Similarly, a complete understanding of all sciences demands also a clear description of all its new and controversial ideas, including the definitions of terms and even abstract ideas and concepts as well.
Therefore, when scientists or biologists attempt to define the abstract nature of life, as they often do, it is desirable for them as well to complement their scientific and biological theories and observations with basic philosophical understanding of such concepts.
- a) The Transcendental Properties of Life.Philosophy makes two principal distinctions of life form, denoted by their Greek terms:-
First, Zoee that refers to all kinds of life, mainly both the universal essence of life, and to the supreme real, including even thinkable forms of it.
Second, bios that refers to the organic life of all biological beings, which life is inseparable from its (living) physical body.
Note: Since abstractions themselves do not live, not even in intentional form, (such as: appear to live), the terms of zoee and bios, with some exceptions, refer to two distinct physical actualities, which only real living beings can possess.
Zoee represents the transcendental aspect of life, that constitutes everything that is pure perfection and, which resides only in living beings.
Philosophy describes the transcendental perfections with their following intrinsic properties:-
- a) They form the essence of living beings; therefore, in their absolute term that is without comparing those properties their possession is highly desirable.
- b) The properties of perfection must be compatible with one another.
- c) The properties of perfection stand alone independently, unaffected by one another, and they do not derive from one another.
Bios is defined as the act (an essential form) of an organic body. (Bios can also refer to a ‘form of life’ with relation to political life. Also in the biological sense, bios stands in contrast to the Platonic immortality of life. J. Seifert.) There are properties of a living body that cannot ‘stand’ in themselves, and without bios, those elements of nature would become properties of the dead; and yet bios defies our attempt to define it.
What is then bios, the universal organic life, is it that irreducible essence and actuality or, could it be defined by its contingent material properties, what science and biology attempt to do?
Philosophy’s answer is that universal organic life is an ultimate and irreducible datum of nature, and therefore undefinable, in conformity with the ultimate simplicity of it being irreducible to physics or chemistry, that characterises all first principles of philosophy.
While science tends to reduce everything about life to the basic principles of physics, biology interprets the overall behaviour of biological life through its higher-level process in nature. On the other hand, there is a philosophical view that attempts to describe the universal organic life by one necessary and intelligible mark that is the essence of life, the irreducible first principles of philosophy, (as shown above), which description transcends the physical properties of biological life.
Paradoxically, however, in order to reach a still more intelligible definition of life, even philosophy must complement its definition from scientific and biological facts, i.e. the properties of biological life.
- b) The Grades of Life.
Philosophy recognises three general grades of life:-
Plants – Vegetative life.
Animals – Sentient life.
Humans – Rational life.
Vegetative life is the self-perfective property of a living and developing organism through its immanent activity, for its preservation and propagation its species or kind. It can display some reaction and limited movement to physical stimuli.
Sentient life is in addition to vegetative life, having some knowing capacity, upon which knowledge capable of acting instinctively or by deliberate physical movement.
Rational life is over and above the sentient life form by having a self-conscious reasoning mind and a deliberate will to act.
The following Five Different Classes add to the complexity of the datum of living beings:-
(i) The partial life-processes in individual cells and cell cultures, which in multi-cellular organisms can continue after the death of the organism.
(ii) The biological life of the organism as a whole, which many defenders of brain-death today believe to continue even after the mental life in the human body disappears.
(iii) The sensitive life of animals, which can feel pleasure and pain, and have instinctive drive.
(iv) The rational life of the mind per se, which many philosophers and others hold to originate in the psyche (soul) and to continue after death, and which we find in every person.
(v) The fifth sense of life, the one most frequently used when we speak of human beings, refers to the union of mind and body. In this last class of concepts of human life, which is distinct from the fourth but depends on it, we regard human death as opposite to life, when death is considered, as does Plato, not as the annihilation of soul and life, but as the separation of the soul from the body. (Philosophy).
As if the above five Classes would not be complex enough for being human, the general, scientific belief is that human beings are more complex than the galaxies. (Sir Martin Rees). This complexity is characterised by their composite nature, in that they have to exist and perform on physical, biological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels at times simultaneously. Here, we emphasise first ourspiritual character, as it permeates and acts immanently of necessity through all other levels of human existence, (using them for quasi-vehicle for self-expression), and yet, it may transcend them paradoxically, all through its metaphysical perfection.
The following extract is an interpretation of the “List for Life” by Madeleine Bunting, from the Magazine: “The Tablet” of 23/Nov./2013:
There are seven fundamental ways through which the Author believes human beings express theirspiritual characteristics:-
First, we experience beauty, love, recognise human virtues, compassion. brutality and injustice; and that we can create life.
Second, we search for logical reason and meaning of everything.
Third, we long for and cherish freedom and peace, and the possession of physical and intellectual joys.
Fourth, we attempt to face life squarely, in both its happiness and tragedies with honesty and courage.
Fifth, we hope to acquire the insight to live wisely.
Sixth, through recognising our shortcomings acknowledge also that we may cause others to suffer.
Seventh, we are conscious of our contingent nature that as we were born, we, as well as our loved ones could die at any moment. This inescapable fact is a consciously painful hallmark of our being quintessentially human. These are befitting pointers to the following detailed explanation of our truly complex nature.
The different properties among life on the dissimilar levels of being, as outlined above, are so great that they far outweigh the commonalities. For this reason, we cannot comprehend life simply on this general analogous level, but have to distinguish it also in terms of human life with the human soul. Many philosophers studied this distinctive enigma from Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas, up to the present time.
“Those same philosophers contemplate that creation would not be complete if there were a ‘disturbing hole’ within the world of living beings, that can only be filled by pure spirits.” (Seifert.)
The reality and the nature of ‘soul‘ (Greek psyche; Latin anima), is one of the most enigmatic concepts of the classical, systematic Philosophy, because within lies our philosophical understanding of the concept of human immortality. The reader please note that this philosophical concept is not considered from any religious pint of view, but purely from the reasoning by eminent philosophers. While pre-historic ‘beliefs’ about the soul were based mainly on cosmological considerations, philosophers concentrated their reasoning initially more on its psychological aspects. Owing to the complexity of philosophical arguments for and against the concept of soul, the limited space allows to present only a few references for those readers interested in further researching into the subject; these are:-
Immortality: Articles pertaining to immortality in ancient philosophy.
Aristotle: On the Soul.
Jacques Maritain: The Human Soul does not Perish with the Body and: Replies to arguments of the same.
Thomas Aquinas: Summa contra Gentiles.
Aquinas: Whether the human soul is incorruptible.
c) The Source of Life.
The source of life is the psyche in a living body, and is called the final cause. Hence, psychology is the philosophical science of life and living bodies in all their forms and manifestations.
Through our physical sciences and experiences, we understand the properties of causality, i.e. the intrinsic tendency through our self-perfecting, towards a certain final cause, which is common in every living organism; (also referred to as the efficient cause). “The natural tendency towards finality manifests itself in all three grades of life so perfectly that we may conclude: “even death is an essential, enigmatic character of biological life”. (Seifert).
Causality: It is not possible here to repeat all the related philosophical ideas; nevertheless, Causality being one of the most controversial concepts in Philosophy, warrants one clarification:- It is known that very few biologists believe in any scientifically unproven abstract laws of life, and even fewer accept the concept of ‘causality’ as such, because of its connotation with the concept of a ‘Creator’. The modern biologists’ idea about the origin of life is that all properties necessary to produce and maintain life are already contained in the physical laws of nature itself; (which appears to say the same thing as the perennial Philosophy, just differently).
The general ‘weakness’ of causality lies mainly in the fact that it is open to various interpretations; it may have different meaning to different people. There are also many different types and functions of physical and biological processes, which require understanding of the specific causality involved.
The primary weakness of causality, however, is the fact that as we observe events in the reality around us, our reasoning rarely goes beyond what we have just observed; and this is the missing link; the law-like necessity of connection between two events that is the true mark of causality. This connection may be a pure physical necessity, as modern objection goes; but philosophy states that it is still an idea of necessity none the less.
The general ‘acceptability’ of causality, however, lies paradoxically in the following:-
First, scientific laws do not as a rule formulate necessities of connection, but only probabilities and statistical laws, such as in Thermodynamics or in Quantum Mechanics.
Second, while observing the necessities of connection in physical events, only few of us know or understand the laws, if there are any, in which those connections are grounded.
Third, by observing necessity of connection within any physical event, we gain an insight into its scientific and biological evidence, which is the principal idea of causality.
(Compiled from: R.Scruton).
Paradoxically, contrary to the common presumption of our self-sustained human existence, deep down we can observe that whatever private possessions and honour in society we may have acquired, it all have been ‘given’ to us by others, even if we earned or worked for them. In other words, we are not the ‘true’ owners of anything. Analogous to this statement, we did not come into existence by ourselves, because life can only come from an other life. The basis for all above observations lies in the philosophical axiom: “No one can give what he hasn’t got”. (Nemo dabet quod non habet.) This is why we leave this world the same way as we entered, with nothing.
When on one hand, a concerned reader acknowledges that there can be no infinite regress in physical nature, and on the other hand, asking about an ultimate ‘Giver’ of all our temporal possessions, including our physical existence, the metaphysical answer he may find in the last three articles on this Website.
2) THE PHYSICAL BASIS
This section will describe three items: The Origin and Development of Life, The Materials of Life and The Chronology of Life.
a) The Origin and Development of Life.
Scientifically speaking, it is an accepted theory that every inanimate material object as well as every life-carrying animate beings are interconnected throughout the Universe; that is to say, we share the common physical building blocks of atoms and molecules all the way from the Sun, the stars and our Galaxy, from the moment of our cosmic beginning, throughout our existence on Earth. It would be therefore an endless scientific or biological speculation to locate the ‘once-off’ physical origin of life; i.e. whether it may have occurred anywhere else within our Universe or only on our Planet, because such a question remains purely a philosophical problem. Philosophers, however, do not have the answer.
Scruton suggests: “We ought to clarify physical ‘reality’ first; as we still do not know what reality is, and as we progress from our observations of the physical reality, it comes to seem more and more peculiar and becoming less and less clear. Even modern physics prefer using the abstract concept of energy that we cannot see nor define, in lieu of matter, with which we seem to be equally unfamiliar. Besides, the pure physical nature of life has as many meanings as the words of nature or reality themselves”.
Apart from this somewhat puzzling scenario, many modern scientists speculate that the emergence of physical life was from a random, yet ‘self-organised’ mixture of lifeless chemical reactions at the molecular level, leading all the way up to a similarly co-operative organisational complexity of human life.
Ilya Prigogine, the Nobel laureate of Chemistry, (who, among others, does not believe in the Big Bang theory), picked up the idea of chaos for a possible cause and described the chaos- related emergence of life as being a: “…cosmic phenomenon, which appears wherever the right conditions are satisfied. The main difficulty with the classical view of its origin was the high improbability of the complex organisation, which we find in living beings. With the discovery of complex structures arising in non-equilibrium linear systems, this objection can be discarded. A recent book gives a balanced view on the role of chaos in living systems”.
Seifert elaborates on this: “A philosophical knowledge of the limits of what chance and laws of chaos can explain is enough to demonstrate the irreducibility of life to chaotic and non-chaotic physical systems. Quite apart from this, the theory of chaos is, philosophically speaking, ambiguous, and often the term is introduced more as expression of an intellectual fad than as a clear notion”.
While on one hand, chaos appears to be a multiplicity of very random events that follow a ‘disordered’ pattern in a complex system, on the other hand: “…since they are physical systems, they must follow certain known physical laws, whose probabilities of producing a specific effect are still higher than produced by a blind chaotic-chance”. (Seifert).
The idea of chaos is implicitly in the Uncertainty Principle of the Quantum Mechanics, from which state of ‘uncertainty’, oddly enough, the ‘certainty’ of a self-organised (and self-conscious) life emerged. Furthermore, if life is of pure matter in its substance, then the assumption of its chaos-related origin appears to be in glaring contradiction with the basic requirement (and absence) of ‘certainty’ of causality, which is the law-like characteristic basis for every change in physical reality.
We can speak of disorganised chaos, such are the raindrops or tea leaves, and organised chaos, such as in biology (e.g. life), and in astronomy, (e.g. Spiral Galaxies). Although the initial states and factors of physical chaotic systems (of either type), not yet fully understood, and yet, it encourages the unpredictable and ‘authoritative’ applications of them, as in the case of Prigogine; without any demonstrable proof for life, such as even a simple virus or a bacterium evolving from a ‘broth of molecules’ (especially with ‘chirality’) have never been produced artificially.
The pure material origin and development of life may be a natural process; nevertheless, the denial of causality in a chaos-related origin of life does not answer the question of what particular physical properties of matter can direct atoms and molecules blindly towards fully developed, self-sustaining and self-perfecting living organisms. This uni-directional natural tendency towards self-perfection of life is in contradiction with Entropy of The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which points towards the diametrically opposite way that is the irreversible and a qualitative degradation of all energies in the Universe.
Despite the absence of any scientific evidence for or against a purely physical origin of life from a random, chaotic arrangement of matter, and yet, nobody can demonstrate either scientifically against a higher, (transcendental) organising principle being at work outside these (disorganised or organised) physically chaotic systems. However, unfortunately, perhaps due to intellectual laziness or due to atheistic ideology, the ‘chaotic origin’ reflects the prevailing view, as well as it forms a perceived strength of science and biology today.
It is conceivable that there could be an apparent disorder in the purely material and chaotic origin of living beings, just like the ‘uncertainty’ in Quantum Mechanics, in which disorder as well as uncertainty may manifest themselves as perfect order only when viewed on a global scale of the whole Universe. Such a global view, however, requires some ‘help’ over and above the pure material essence of things, that is a global view of ‘observation’, and an abstract interpretation from the reasoning mind of a human being. But, as the saying goes, who would be doing the observing?
The laws and forces of nature, which drive towards energy-efficiency in everything, govern the development and movement of every inanimate and animate being in the Universe. These laws and forces arise from basic principles that all systems evolve through minimising imperfections, such as energy waste due to friction and resistances to movement. This fact highlights primarily a universal relationship that exists among all biological beings. Based on this principle, physical scientists, engineers and biologists appear to concur with the following startling conclusion:
“From simple physics, based only on gravity, density and mass, you can explain within an order of magnitude many features of flying, swimming and running… It does not matter whether the animal has eight legs, four legs, two, even if it swims with no legs…..Despite different body mechanics, there is a strong convergence in certain functional characteristics of runners, swimmers and fliers.”
Unified Physics Theory Explains Animals’ Running, Flying And Swimming.
The biologist, Dr. R. Dawkins’ views on the origin of life is epitomised in his recent book: ‘Climbing Mount Improbable’ as follows:
“Most, though not all, of the informed speculation begins in what has been called the primeval soup, a weak broth of simple organic chemicals in the sea. Nobody knows how it happened but, somehow…a molecule that just happened the property of self-copying,, a replicator. This may seem like a big stroke of luck…this kind of luck does happen…. An origin of life, anywhere, consists of the chance arising of a self-replicating entity. Nowadays, the replicator that matters on Earth is the DNA molecule, but the original replicator probably was not DNA. We don’t know what it was” (Page 259.)
“…The original self-duplicating entities must have been simple enough to arise by the spontaneous accidents of chemistry” (Page 262.) He speaks of original self-copying entities but not where the original entities came from that replicate themselves. And it appears that self-copying is synonymous with the spontaneous, yet blind development of the two-gender based reproduction, that is sex. His answer is:
“There are many theories of why sex exists, and none of them is knock-down convincing… But the whole question of sex and why it is there,…a difficult one to tell” (Page 75.)
b) The Materials of Life.
According to many scientists, the physical properties of life are identical with the properties of inanimate matter. Every part of what we call matter, down to the sub-atomic particles that are invisible to the naked eye, has mass. Even what we refer to as energy, according to Einstein, has mass; (E = mc2). The Universe filled with energy, which means that through this energy-matter equivalence, there is an uninterrupted energy-matter continuum in the four-dimensional space.
The development of a mechanism of metabolism would have been the birth of the mysterious first protocell in this physical and hostile environment. This fundamental act of creation against incredible odds, (the construction of a living organism from a purely inanimate being and through an entirely blind process), could have taken place anywhere in the Universe or only on a few planets like Earth, at the earliest time. “Historically, the transition from non-living to living things was probably established one small chemical step at a time: such is the general scientific belief of the day.” (Frank Shu).
According to the general theory, the physical mechanism of early growth believed to be a crude form of photosynthesis, using the simpler form of hydrogen sulphide, H 2 S, instead of water, H 2 O, with sulphates as the waste product. The abundant release of free oxygen into the atmosphere generated the Ozone layer as well as assisted the respiring organisms.
The interacting molecular bonds, which form various chemical species, hold the living beings together.
Our carbon-based organic life exists in a vegetable and animal life, within an environment of oxygen that passes through a complete photosynthesis cycle in every 2,000 years and carbon-dioxide cycle every350 years approximately. Organic life depends on adequate supply of water, atmosphere with cca. 12% oxygen content, with just right air pressure, temperature and relative humidity. Most carbon comes fromType II Supernovae, while iron comes from Type Ia Supernovae. When an organism dies and decays, its atoms released back into the environment and some will recycle as part of other living organisms.
c) The Chronology of Life.
This section assumes, for simplicity sake, that life had a beginning anywhere in the Universe simultaneously, and even if, however, life began only on Earth, presumably the present consideration could still apply.
Note: The subject of the ‘chronology of life’ addressed in detail in the article of “The Anthropocentric Universe”, with the following sub-headings:-
- Development of Our universe.
2. Anthropological Reasoning.
3. Anthropological Numbers and Events.
Reiterating briefly to that article, because of its mis-interpreted, highly controversial nature: That article describes the length of time available within the age of the Universe for fine-tuning (of the Universe) was sufficient for life to develop anywhere within the Universe. In order to satisfy the purported scientific requirement for an ‘infinite’ length of time to be available, an opposing hypothesis of the so called “multiverse” was introduced, which attempts to solve the same problem by introducing the idea of infinite number of imaginary ‘universes’. There is ample reference made in that article to the terms, without endorsing either of the so called ‘fine-tuning’ or the ‘multiverse’, as (correctly) neither theory is scientific in its own right, because they are based on interpretation of observations and hypotheses.
However, the popular media have recently compounded the misunderstandings about the meaning of the term ‘fine-tuning’. This situation came about primarily for the following reported reasons:-
Scientists questioned the universally available ‘length of time’ concept of 13.75 Gy. (i.e. the age of the Univ. as being sufficient for the development of life), and introduced instead a speculative theory of ‘Multiverse’. The reporters then, to make their story sound more sensational, interpreted this ‘multiverse’ concept through the Darwinian origin and development of biological life on Earth; (without acknowledging that one had nothing to do with the other).
To compound the confusion, reporters kept quiet about the fact that, certain scientists high-jacked the concept of ‘sufficient time’ and renamed it to ‘intelligent design’. However, this new term, as they with the aid of willing reporters reasoned erroneously, did apply to all natural malfunctioning in biological beings and events, (including even wars, pestilence, poverty and climate change), here on Earth, as being caused directly by a ‘not-so-intelligent design’. Not surprising then if these misinterpretations created confusion to such an extent that instead of focusing any longer on the sufficiency of the ‘length of time’ that was required originally for life to develop in the Universe, now the public were led astray by suggesting the total ‘absence’ and a complete ‘failure’ of any transcendental plan or purpose of life on Earth.
The above-mentioned article of “The Anthropocentric Universe” describes the original intent and meaning of the Anthropic Principle, which is briefly repeated here again for clarity, but without any endorsement by this author: “The limited time span of 13.75 Gy., (the present age of the Universe) was sufficiently long for life to fully develop anywhere in the Universe, even when applying the scientifically ‘unexplainable’ observations of the so called ‘fine-tuning’ of the physical Universe.” (This statement implies only that life could have developed within the age of the Univ., and that it only requires further scientific research for its verification, which has never been done.)
3) THE BIOLOGICAL BASIS
This section will describe three items:
- The Origin of Biological Life,
- The Nature of Biological Life and
- The Building Blocks of Life.
1) The Origin of Biological Life.
The birthplace of the Universe, where existence of energy with the seeds of life first appeared, is 13.75billion light years (13.75 Gly.) away from Earth, and 13.75Gy. ago. The photons of light herald a message of this arrival of life ever since, through DNA in every living being on Earth.
The destiny of human species through its physical development in ‘uncertainty’ of randomness changed forever by the early direction received in the ‘certainty’ of coded message nature provided from DNA of life. Life had a long and arduous journey ever since from its first light, through a hostile environment in space as well as after its arrival here on Earth, 3.5 Gy. ago, all the way up to the momentous event, when 4 million years ago life became conscious not only of its environment but also it was “aware that it was aware”.
“In its ultimate analysis, we have no scientific evidence where life originally came from”; (Dawkins).; excepting some theories about the origin of terrestrial life, all as described primarily by Wallace and Darwin, and eminent modern biologists, such as Dawkins. There is strong evidence that all life evolved from one common ancestor, which referred to as the proto-cell. Subsequently, the self-multiplying cells believed to be the mechanism of continued reproduction for biological life.
2) The Nature of Biological Life.
Organic life differentiates itself in its endless complexities, from sub-micronic scale to human beings; this life is characterised by constant change. When considering life on a sub-micronic scale, the physical nature of life believed synonymous with that of the biological life.
“All living organisms are astoundingly similar in chemical composition, not only containing atoms of the same elements, but also in similar proportions. All life … depends on water…70 to 90% of all living tissue is water, and all chemical reactions in life processes occur in a water-containing medium… Every living being either is a cell or made up of cells … proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids…. All cellular organisms use DNA to store and transmit information…. What can explain the universality underlying such immense diversity?” (De la Chaumiere).
This universality of life demonstrates itself further in the diversity of cca. 30 million different species that inhabit the Earth. This universal nature of life points to our common primordial ancestors in the history of Earth as well as at the birth of the Universe.
3) The Building Blocks of Biological Life.
According to molecular biology, the information required to produce ordered growth is stored in DNA, which is now known by everyone by its double-helix shape and its four chemical bases of A.T.G. and C., by which the genetic messages are conveyed. Another macro-molecule, called the messenger RNA has the task to carrying out the instructions encoded in DNA. Thus, the full process of mechanism with very few exceptions is from DNA to RNA to protein for structural and other purposes. This protein synthesis based on established chemical principles, i.e. the laws of Quantum Mechanics and Electro-magnetism.
“Proteins can also fold into complex three-dimensional shapes (held by hydrogen bonds, disulphide bridges, etc.), and this property plays a crucial role in the chemical regulation of the cell….Vitalistic notions are thus irrelevant to the process of protein synthesis inside living cells.” (F. Shu).
The human genome project, the “Book of Life” contains four letters in billions of combinations of genetic code. According to biologists, the human body is built out of the following basic components of life:-
(i) The Four Letters of the genetic code: A,T,C and G. They combine into a maximum of 3.5 billion individual base pairs.
(ii) The Double Helix and DNA: Pairs of letters form long sentences in the shape of spiral staircase, producing DNA the code for life. Every cell contains 2 million of DNA sequences, which is the Genome. The total DNA, i.e. genome, comprises 3 billion letters, being cca. 4, 500 km. long typed text.
(iii) The Genes: Hundreds of thousands of base pairs (of four letters), as templates used for protein production. As little as 3% (cca 120 000), of the total genome (of genes) is used. The rest were tentatively labelled as useless. (iv) Chromosomes: All known genes are wrapped into 23 pairs of bundles (into chromosomes), from each parent. Lately, however, scientists have discovered startling properties in those genes as well.
(iv) The Cell: In most cells, there are 46 chromosomes. A body comprises some 100 trillion cells.
(v) The Human Body: Each cell delivers specific instructions, resulting in the production and maintenance of biological parts of the body, such as blood, bones, muscles and organs.
(Compiled from: “The Australian”; S. Brook’s Article. July. 2000.)
“It is just amazing how complicated a cell is. The DNA is turned on and off all of the time. It has loops, it controls itself. It’s like a programming language where genes are being turned on and off all of the time. The cell is constantly doing things, rebuilding itself. Cells are constantly being removed, replaced. The body is constantly rebuilding itself..” (Interview with G. Chaitin by H.U. Orbrist. Oct. 2000.)
According to recent development described in the Scientific American of May, 2008 issue, (pp.38-45), certain “devices” were found within the DNA genetic ‘switches’ that regulate the biological sequence, thus creating the great diversity of animal species including human beings.
(vi) The Mystery of the DNA: Paradoxically, the problem of the origin of life is basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological “information”, which is necessary to build the first living cell; to do so, however, will require determining what meant by the term ‘information’.
Dr. S. C. Meyer‘s book: “Signature in the Cell”, illuminates the mystery that surrounds the origin of DNA. According to his theory, the operating system embedded in the genome includes nested coding, digital processing, and distributive retrieval as well as storage systems. This terminology is recognizable from computer science.
The universe is comprised of information that gives order to matter and energy, thereby bringing physical life into being. In the cell, information is carried by DNA, which functions like a software program. The signature in the cell is that of the master programmer of life. The digital code in DNA first came to light in the 1950s. The cell does what any advanced computer operating system can do but with almost inconceivable ingenuity.
One of the most revealing statements in this book sounds like an Aristotelian principle: “In my research I learned that before historical scientists can evaluate competing explanations of an effect, event, or body of evidence, they usually need to define precisely what it is that needs to be explained….. It is no different for origin-of-life researchers. They need to clearly define what it is they are trying to explain the “origin of.” For this reason, the cell and its contents provide perhaps the most important clues about what happened to cause life to arise.”
Meyer’s book highlights the bestselling atheist writers, like biologist Richard Dawkins, who have insisted that because Darwin, through his evolutionary theories, buried the traditional argument for ‘design’ in nature, religious belief has been shown not only to be redundant, but also irrational in our modern scientific age.
On the contrary, however, as Meyer points out through his newly-found counter arguments, that it is the concerted effort by our new-age scientists, represented largely by cosmologist, the product of the Soviet atheistic materialism, who are now in the process of silencing blindly, (hence unscientifically) , every theories of life’s origin that appears contrary to ‘their’ traditional arguments.
Dr. P. S. Skell at the National Academy of Sciences (USA), remarks on Meyer’s arguments that: “He demonstrates what I as a chemist have long suspected: undirected chemical processes cannot produce the exquisite complexity of the living cell.”
‘Darwin’s theory of evolution did not stop at animals and plants. According to J. David Pleins… at Santa Clara University, California, Darwin came to believe that religion and morality evolve, like everything else in the natural world. The intriguing subject of ‘Evolving God’ is the ‘God Instinct’- the idea the human brain is hard-wired for religious feeling …
‘Pleins presents a Darwin on a steady path to enlightenment, arriving at a place somewhere between the simple certainties of fundamentalist Christians and the hostility to religious belief of Richard Dawkins.’ (The Tablet. 4/Jan./14.)
(vii) A few words about the chirality of living bodies; This is an extract from an internet publication by Jonathan Sarfaty: “Nearly all biological polymers must be homochiral (all its component monomers having the same handedness. Another term used is optically pure or 100 % optically active) to function. All amino acids in proteins are ‘left-handed’, while all sugars in DNA and RNA, and in the metabolic pathways, are ‘right-handed’.
“A well-regarded organic chemistry textbook states a universal chemical rule in bold type:
‘Synthesis of chiral compounds from achiral reagents always yields the racemic modification.’ and ‘Optically inactive reagents yield optically inactive products.’
This is a consequence of the Laws of Thermodynamics. The left and right handed forms have identical free energy (G), so the free energy difference (ΔG) is zero. The equilibrium constant for any reaction (K) is the equilibrium ratio of the concentration of products to reactants. The relationship between these quantities at any Kelvin temperature (T) is given by the standard equation:
K = exp (–ΔG/RT)
where R is the universal gas constant (= Avogadro’s number x Boltzmann’s constant k) = 8.314 J/K.mol. For the reaction of changing left-handed to right-handed amino acids (L → R), or the reverse (R → L), ΔG = 0, so K = 1. That is, the reaction reaches equilibrium when the concentrations of R and L are equal; that is, a racemate is produced. This explains the textbook rule above.”
“However, this does not solve the mystery of where the optical activity in living organisms came from in the first place. A recent world conference on ‘The Origin of Homochirality and Life’ made it clear that the origin of this handedness is a complete mystery to evolutionists. The probability of forming one homochiral polymer of N monomers by chance = 2–N. For a small protein of 100 amino acids, this probability = 2–100 = 10–30. Note, this is the probability of any homochiral polypeptide. The probability of forming a functional homochiral polymer is much lower, since a precise amino acid sequence is required in many places. Of course, many homochiral polymers are required for life, so the probabilities must be compounded. Chance is thus not an option.”
“The textbook cited earlier states:
‘We eat optically active bread & meat, live in houses, wear clothes, and read books made of optically active cellulose. The proteins that make up our muscles, the glycogen in our liver and blood, the enzymes and hormones … are all optically active. Naturally occurring substances are optically active because the enzymes which bring about their formation … are optically active. As to the origin of the optically active enzymes, we can only speculate.”
If we can only ‘speculate’ on the origin of life, why do so many people state that evolution is a ‘fact’? Repeat a rumor often enough and people will swallow it.”
(viii) From the above observations, the following scientific conclusions were reported:-
In a laboratory-produced ‘life’ chirality does not exist; as if its absence would prove the artificial nature of ‘life’.
Despite the great diversity that exists among animals, including human beings, they all share very similar type genes.
Every different animal species, including human beings, have nearly the same number of genes.
“If humans want to understand what distinguishes animals, including ourselves, from one another, we have to look beyond genes”.
B. THE NATURE OF HUMAN CONDITIONS
1) THE REASONING FACULTY AND THE RATIONAL WILL.“How you can survive in the cosmos about which you know more and more while knowing less and less about yourself;…of all the billions of objects in the Cosmos: novas, quasars, pulsars, black holes and galaxies, you are the strangest…”. (W. Percy).
This section describes three items:
- The Human Brain,
- The Human Mind and
- The Rational Will.
1) The Human Brain.
The primary distinction of our own species is its brain, which believed to have developed differently from that of reptiles, amphibians and fish; with which we cannot communicate as we do with birds and mammals. Our ancestors appeared on the Earth cca. 35 000 years ago, after the disappearance of the Neanderthal men. The scientific understanding of the highly complex biological nature and the functions of the human brain has gradually become clearer in the last four decades, in that the principal function of the brain appears to receive and transmit information potentially from any source to any destination via nerve impulses.
The biological functions performed through efficiently encoded growth instructions of the brain cells, these instructions found in the programs of DNA. It is said that the human brain through its massive ‘parallelism’ of neural networks, can easily outdo the abilities of the most sophisticated computers; (excluding chess, perhaps?).
A typical CPU has cca. 5 million transistors; a desktop computer ca. 100 million transistors, while the human brain has One thousand billion (10^11) neurons, each of which is connected to thousands of other neurons, cca 10^14 connections.
The following concerns relate to the power of the human brain:
How can a composite material entity as our brain, the supposedly ultimate agent of all human actions, to think out complex and abstract reasoning process, aware of being self-conscious, and make deliberate choices?
How could a material brain ‘activate or initiate by itself’ any of the above functions, when such ‘self-motivation’ and ‘self-motion’ would appear a physical impossibility?
2) The Human Mind.
The history of human development has reached its greatest paradox, when “…natural selection has produced mind, which is a conscious faculty, for deliberately creating order from disorder. This is to say that what is now blind has, in its blindness, produced what is not blind.” (Halle.)
“The Universe would be utterly meaningless if it could not be intelligible to someone”. Human mind exists, which can ask questions about the universe in order to understand it and through that knowledge able to reflect upon its conscious self. We know that the brain translates physical sensations of the body, like pain or pleasure, into electrochemical impulses among the neurons of the brain.
“The power of the mind must be controlled by reason”. Also known that in certain circumstances the brain can influence healthy mental faculties, especially when the brain is somewhat impaired. Life-scientists, however, reject vitalist and finalist ideas for their explanation of biological phenomena, among them the theories of the origin of life and the superior faculty of mind above the material substance of the brain; Frank Shu confirms this in the following:
A known fact of nature is that organic evolution does not always produce innovation from scratch, like in an engineering process, but instead it adds new components to old ones rather than replace them. Seifert comments: “A typical evolutionary tinkering with the exaggeratedly extended faculty of the brain appears to be something like adding a jet engine to an old horse cart”.
(i) The Evidence of Mind. Philosophy asserts that the meaning of mind and intellect are synonymous; and mind is the knowing faculty in an abstract and universal way.
Mind is said to exist as an abstract faculty, (but not wholly independent from the brain,) because we are able to compare and judge between the reality and its idea in the mind, perform transcendental reasoning and thinking things out through a perceived knowledge of abstract understanding. The specific performance of this faculty therefore lies beyond the reach of physical reality and it is a super-sensory faculty.
‘How do we know we know?’ The answer to this question lies in our understanding awareness of self and of all physical things around us that are knowable in their essence. This awareness becomes evident through the precise, conscious reasoning, which is called the ’ knowledge’ of a healthy mind. “If the mind were so simple we could understand it, but we would be so simple we could not comprehend it”. (Anonymous).
(ii) The Operation of Mind. The mind is reflective, i.e. it knows itself. Knowing thus, it can make itself, its mental states and operations the object of its own observation and consideration. Bodily senses cannot reflect on themselves. (E.g. The eye does not see itself seeing.) The mind can see physical reality in outer trans-subjective world.
The primary function of the mind appears to compare and judge between two dissimilar ideas. (One is abstracted from the reality; the other idea is formed for comparison purpose, from the transcendental ideas, to judge for their truthfulness and recognisability). In the absence of comparison of those ideas, i.e. having insufficient evidence for judgement that originates in the physical reality, the mind can introduce a third idea for comparison and thus judging reality, in the form of a ‘syllogism’, reasoning things out in a pure, speculative manner.
The laws of argument are reasoned rules observed in the syllogism, which is the perfect form of argument. (The syllogism is not a science but is a mental technique for what conclusions must necessarily follow from the comparison of two premises. The general methods of reasoning can be through deduction or induction. These are not opposed methods of reasoning; they are supplementary).
(iii) The Material of Mind. Since all our ideas obtained primarily from the immediate sensory contact with the physical reality, the mind attains those initial ideas through the universal essence abstracted from the material things first, to know them through reflection and judgement. The material of the mind is the transcendental, objective truth about everything understandable and knowable.
“Was this natural tendency of the mind produced by natural selection, which is attracted to order and truth in everything that seeks it or creates it?” (De la Chaumiere).
Although what any given person finds ‘true’, depends greatly on that person’s intelligence, education and temperament, nevertheless truth may be defined principally from the standpoint of the healthy mind, from its perception and interpretation of reality. There are two principal definitions of truth, i.e.: the logical truth and the ontological truth.
A third type of truth is the truth of speech or veracity, which is the agreement between the knowledge and the words of a speaker or writer; veracity is called moral truth.
The two types of truth, the material of the mind, described as follows:-
First, from the standpoint of the mind, called “Logical Truth or Truth of Thought: Inasmuch as the mind can square up to reality by knowing it accurately, the mind can obtain and possess truth. This is truth in the mind, or truth of thought or truth of knowledge”.
Second, from the standpoint of reality, called “Ontological Truth or Truth in Things: Inasmuch as any reality is knowable, and it can be accurately judged by an adequate mind, truth abides in it”.
“There are no degrees of truth. A thing is true of necessity, for it is what it is. A judgement is true or it is false. There are degrees of falsity, for falsity is all in the mind or in speech, whereas truth is based on physical reality.” (Philosophy).
“The mind reasons things out through using logic, which is built up on an absolute conception of truth. The language of logic is designed to capture the role of sentences as bearers of truth-values, and to show how the references of the parts of a sentence determine the reference of the whole.” (Fraassen).
c) The Rational Will.
This section describes three items:
- The Deliberate Will to Act,
- The Notion of Freedom and
- The Price of Freedom.
(i) The Deliberate Will to Act. All sentient beings possess an innate drive towards what is desirable and good. In addition to this drive, human beings have a rational desire to follow what the intellect apprehends as good; called the rational will. As the intellect tends to possess truth about everything that is understandable from the reality, so is the will trying to possess whatever is good for the body and/or for the mind. There is no innate tendency to acquire what is evil on its own account, unless it is falsely presented to the mind as being a greater good or at the behest of the will the deliberation process by the mind is by-passed completely.
While the rational will cannot act without the guiding light of the intellect, it is still the rational will that allows or stops the intellect to reach its ultimate judgement based on the motives to act or not to act. Thus, the will can often ‘move’ the intellect. The choices of a rational being determined by reason; There is an essential interdependence between free will and reason, because without a reasoning mind free will of choice would act blindly. Conversely, without a free will of choice not even the basic ideas could be performed by the reasoning mind. Scruton expressed it this way:
“There is a causality of freedom implied in the very idea of rational choice”. (Scruton). The free act of the will to act is the result of the deliberation of the intellect, which must therefore also be a part of its cause. Our choices dictated ultimately by our desires and moral codes, provided our choices are rational. Weinberg said: “Free-will in human beings does not derive from physical laws and it is more than an accident or chance. It is the crown of being a person. “The Theory of Everything” would have to exclude such concepts as consciousness and
free-will, which is purpose and direction of a person”.
(ii) The Notion of Freedom. There is a paradox in that we live and act in a physical, law-governed Universe; and where everything is determined to happen as directed with high precision by the laws and the four forces of nature. On the other hand, as Scruton argues: “To say that every event has its cause is one thing; to say that every event is determined by its cause is quite another thing.”
He advocates for a milder form of determinism, whereby every human action resides in the conditions of innumerable chains of causalities that may stretch back indefinitely. This entire chain of past and largely forgotten events of human actions would explain the only condition of human freedom, that the quintessential outcome of a human choice of action be unpredictable, i.e. it is the outcome of a ‘free’ decision making.
There appears a strange analogy between the following concepts:
Determinism of nature versus the milder-determinism of free will, and
The law of entropy applies unconditionally to all inanimate things, while a general exemption applies from it to all animate beings.
One may wonder if this very phenomenon of ‘exemption’ could strengthen the perceived, transcendental supremacy of animate beings in the Universe.
(iii) The Price of Freedom. We have freedom to act, freedom of choice, freedom of conscience, freedom for human rights, etc. Freedom is necessary for every human act. A person is not responsible for an act over which he has no control; hence, an actual, deliberate choice enters into every human act. In other words, accountability for our actions, such as rights and responsibilities would be entirely meaningless if without any freedom of choice we would be pre-determined to act.
Down through recorded history we are reminded constantly of man’s inhumanity to man. Often it is hard to understand the causes behind human malice, cruelty, the physical and moral evil perpetrated throughout the world, while these deliberate acts are based in our human nature and the results of an abuse of our rational will. Katherine Hepburn said tartly to Humphrey Bogart: “Nature, Mr. Alnutt, is what we were put in this world to rise above.” (The African Queen).
2) THE PERSON, THE HUMAN VIRTUES AND VALUES
a) The Person.
To be human is to be a person. A person, that is ‘self’, or ‘I’, who reasons and has conscious will, is one undivided identity; philosophy insists on the utter and evident impossibility that a composite entity, such as in matter, the same could exist in a person. It further distinguishes the irreducible simplicity of human personality from any spatial-temporal physical entity or event, such as even that of the analogous simplicity of the mathematical point. All inanimate things are built out of composite, (therefore finite) and divisible material properties that are physically measurable, they can be quantified and qualified. A person, on the other hand, has an identification mark that provides evidence for its indivisible unity that is the ‘ego’, the subject of self-consciousness.
Opposite of identity is distinction that differentiates between aspects of reality and aspects of reason. One photon appears identical with an other photon, and as we go up the physical and biological scale, due to increased diversity, we find more aspects that differentiate individual things from one another. Human beings have largely escaped from the pressures of natural environment, vary considerably in their physical forms and psychological constitutions, so much so that “we cannot describe a standard behaviour of human beings because they do not have standard behaviour”; (Halle);
From these follows that, according to Philosophy: “One may kill a human being, he is still nobler and possesses an incomparably superior, transcendental reality than material things of the whole Universe.” “By knowing and in virtue of our reasoning, our consciously free acts and moral conscience, human beings surpass in reality the entire Cosmos, including the perennial mummified existence of our very own physical body”. (Seifert).
Max Scheler identifies a person: “The core of the human person’s nature is in fact his mental movement, this spiritual act of transcending himself”. Scruton defines the human personality as “…not being identical with the biological nature of a human being, but it is a ‘form’ imposed upon it; we are stamped with it, with all its attributes and capacities, of which the principal characteristics are the self-reflecting reasoning and the conscious will to act….
“….We suppose that in our personality what systematically divides us and other animals is not merely our reasoning in philosophy, mathematics and science, but also in all our thinking, activities and all our emotional life”.
De la Chaumiere’s concluding words: “Mankind is a unique flowering of nature on the planet. Our special significance is defined not by our superior animality but by our humanity. Because of our unparalleled capacities, it has been in humans that a new kind of evolution began, the cultural evolution, with its own set of rules and expressing an astounding range and richness of human pursuits.”
b) The Human Virtues and Values.
(i) The Human Virtues:
According to Socrates, our individual development is part of human evolution. In this development of ‘self’ we find the opportunity to activate our natural and perhaps unique capacities, whereby recognising our own virtues as well as the virtues in others. There are two kinds of virtues:
Intellectual virtue, such as wisdom, which is the queen of all virtues; because only through wisdom we can recognise and exercise of all human virtues, which in other term called ‘moral excellence’. Among the principal virtues, besides wisdom, believed to be justice and fortitude.
The second type is the moral virtue that is the result of learning, and these include: Self-respect, respect of others, kindness, courage, temperance and generosity.
Socrates believed, according to Edith Hamilton, in her book: “The Greek Way”, that “…goodness and truth were the fundamental virtues, and they were attainable. No one should pursue evil except through ignorance. He wanted to awaken in people the realisation of their ignorance regarding the true nature of goodness, which provides a glimpse of the eternal truth beneath life’s confusions and futility. Each one, he was sure, must seek and find it for himself.”
Animals have desires but they do not make conscious choices. “We can choose to do what we do not want and want to do what we do not choose. This is the foundation of morality” (Scruton.) The norm of human act is law applied by conscience; and the basic law is the natural law, which Philosophy calls the ‘Eternal Law’, especially as this is knowable by sound human reason. This free and responsible human conduct is the quintessential basis of morality of the human acts. Therefore, we are the agents of our own destiny by the choices we make.
The practical aspect of the above axiom is epitomised by the writer, John Heard: “The responsibility for mass suffering, for warfare and violence, the secret to the strife humanity has always endured appears to rest within, God help us, the human heart.”
Arthur Eddington remarked: “…moral questions were of utmost importance for human existence, and that humanity must create a moral order for the sake of its survival.”
Conscience is the reasoned judgement of the mind; it is therefore, not an instinct, not a prejudice borne of custom or of mores, nor is it a little voice in the brain. The norm of morality, which is the natural law, applied by human reason to judge the objective right or wrong of an act or situation, and this reasoning process called conscience. Scruton explains the practicality of conscience as ‘knowing how’ to apply wisdom in recognising and the mastery of the means; knowing thus, through an acquired moral competence of what is right and what is wrong and what to accept or reject.
(ii) The Human Values: In general terms, values give satisfactory meaning to our lives. It is an accepted fact that values or meanings have different interpretations to different people. Nevertheless, knowledge with its many varieties allows us to gain education and find ultimately the true meaning of everything. Every kind of theory and belief aims at and driven by a kind of magnetic attraction towards the truth.
“Whatever answers we may or may not discover, the very asking of the basic questions has a value; and whatever questions we ask, the knowing of that value may save us from delusion or confusion and the traps by the trivia of our daily, practical lives”. (De la Chaumiere.)
Aristotle describes some of the commonly known human values and definitions:-
A Right is a moral power of doing, possessing or exacting something.
A Duty is a moral obligation of doing or avoiding something.
Personal Dignity is a special kind of human value; it goes beyond the terms value or worth. as ‘life’, it is an irreducible phenomenon and can only be described as follows:
“It is an inalienable and inviolable right, it is inseparable from personhood, and therefore respect is owed to every human being in a way, which does not allow us ever to use a human person just as a means.”
3) THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN CONDITIONS
Since human beings are an animate part of the Universe, it is proper to consider in this section the following three items:
- The Meaningless Universe,
- The Meaningless Life and
- The End-stage of Human Life.
a) The Meaningless Universe.
Most of the modern scientific opinions support the idea of a meaningless Universe, and keen also to provide numerous arguments for it. Certain natural processes, through observations and ‘reverse reasoning’ appear to indicate that the Universe had a beginning; its development is irreversible, (see: the Law of Entropy, and the ‘arrow of time’), and it is going to have an end. While these observations, etc. prove absolutely nothing about the meaning or purpose of the Universe, there is also some doubt about both, the beginning and the end. This uncertainty gives us an even more confusing picture about any possible meaning of the Universe.
Referring to the above dilemma, Heinz Pagels describes it somewhat differently in “The Cosmic Code”: “The Universe is a re-expression of sheer nothingness…The vacuum randomly fluctuates between being and nothingness….It is ironic how physics turned out in this century….Earlier century was characterised by a materialist outlook…Today that distinction still exists, but its meaning has altered… What does not exist, nothingness or the vacuum, is a kind of joke by the ‘eternal Maker of enigmas’. Theoretical and experimental physicists are now studying nothing at all – the vacuum. But that nothingness contains all of being.”
At this point we can choose between the age-old unscientific hypothesis of a ‘meaningless’ Universe and the modern scientific hypothesis of an ‘empty’ Universe. One wonders, which of these two choices could provide a better meaning or purpose for the Universe, if any? Of course, we have overlooked all along the philosophical axiom that the question of any meaning and purpose are philosophical concepts; therefore, science could never solve these problems.
b) The Meaningless Life.
Any proof for a meaningless nature of the Universe could apply almost equally to a proof for a ‘meaningless’ life in it. And if for some reason, philosophers or scientists could provide a valid argument against the above statement, then we would face Paul Davies’ cautioning: “…’meaning’ sounds perilously close to ‘purpose’, an utterly taboo subject in physics and biology.
“So we are left with the contradiction that we need to apply concepts derived from purposeful human activities to biological processes that certainly appear purposeful, but are in fact not”. And yet, he adds: “Human beings are products of nature, and if humans have purposes, then at some level purposefulness must arise from nature and therefore be inherent in nature.”
Immanuel Kant has not been known to have generally recognised an intrinsic and morally relevant good as the ultimate source of moral imperatives, and yet, he also intimates a higher purpose in the following passage:
“Now, I say, man and, in general, every rational being exists as an end in himself and not merely as means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will. In all his actions, whether they are directed to himself or to other rational beings, he must always be regarded at the same time as an end…rational beings are designated “persons” because their nature indicates that they are ends in themselves, i.e. things which may not be used merely as means.”
On the subject of the ‘meaning of life’, Philosophy’s Ethics and Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Summa’ confirm about the same thing: “An adequate mind seeks the ultimate good of its desire, his bodily existence. Existence, as experienced, is desirable as it is good and therefore all its forms are also desirable. Human nature is unable to will anything other than ‘good’, and human nature has the innate desire to be good. This is the ‘goodness of being’. It is a fact that every one has a different end-purpose in life and has different ways of arriving at those ends. Therefore, there must exist a final end-purpose to every action of ours as well as to our human existence.
“The purpose of all our deliberate actions is directed for the achievement of ‘good’, whereby we find the complete fulfillment of our physical and rational being. Since end can only mean ‘good’, our ultimate end must be the ‘ultimate good’. This is human happiness, which is the true meaning of human life, referred to as the ‘Summum Bonum.”
Notwithstanding the above statement, others say: Although human life, because of its mental faculties, assumed as being on the pinnacle of biological life, still, apart from its endless life cycle of self-propagation through death and rebirth, apparently has no transcendental reason or purpose for its biological existence whatsoever. If, however, we assume human life as the ‘condition’ for the meaning of the Universe, then as if suddenly everything would make sense, without human life and its observing ‘knowledge’ the Universe would have truly no meaning whatsoever.
Although this idea may not sound stranger than many other theories, yet, it attributes reason for the mutual physical existence of the Universe and human life in it; i.e.: “The Universe is made ‘to be known’ by its very own make, the human beings”. (Seifert.) Putting the same idea in another way: “As if the Universe has invented a way to know itself”. (A.Dressler).
c) The Meaningless Human Being.
This section describes three items:
- The Human Conditions,
- The Secret Human Fear and
- The Secret Human Hope.
The following sources used for general ideas pertaining to this section:-
- On Death and Dying; by: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
- Living with Fear; by: Isaac M, Marks, M.D.
- The Hour of Our Death; by: Philippe Aries.
(i) The Human Conditions.
Halle argues that the form of communities of all biological beings, except human beings, including their structure and operation, which we observe today as driven by instinct, recorded over the eons as an immutable, common heritage in their ‘genes’. Human beings on the other hand, though may have retained some of those basic instincts for survival of its species, cultural heritage and the idea of intellect-based organisations and social communities were transmitted by teaching from generation to generation.
a) The Individual Human Being:
Philosophy defines the three levels of human existence:
Biological Level, which is the twin instincts of temporal survival of self and the species.
Intellectual Level that is reasoning out the logical way of how could one achieve in everything the ‘goodness’ for fulfilling and improving its biological existence.
Spiritual Level, which is a quasi-instinct, based on the reason of desire for eternal existence. This type of desire intimates that every human being from the moment of its coming into biological or temporal existence begins simultaneously an existence in eternity by its psyche or soul.
According to psychologist, Carl Jung: “A man’s aspiration is towards harmony in himself, which in fact reveals itself in personal maturity, rather than self-assertion inspired by his inordinate will to control or posses. Hence, the all-absorbing (introvert) ‘self’ is given a prominent role over the selfish (extrovert) ‘I’ , which mental process somehow satisfies the ‘peace-seeking’ fictitious person as if lying in this ‘shadow’ between his ‘I’ (the instinct) and ‘self’ (reason). “This conception of man has a certain grandeur and depth. It acknowledges our basic human need and readiness to accept a halfway balance between man’s instinctive, sentient needs and the highest rational demands of the human spirit.”
b) The Social Human Being:
Philosophy calls the human being ‘Zoon Politicon’, (the Political Animal). A civilisation has its basis in the mind; because of this, we build on our successes and failures, and hope that this constant renewal will ultimately lead to a progress in our communal living. Healthy societies demand that the choices made on behalf of their members are legitimate and collective, majority decisions. Aristotle asserts that the highest human value in a civil society is the freedom of individuals in handing over this very freedom in trust to the state authority to be returned in the form of a constitution. Conversely, there is no higher value that can be lost, when the state betrays this trust laid down in the constitution. Modern civilised societies demand justice and fair deal in human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, animal rights, sexual freedom and universal reason, all perceived indispensable requirements for our civilised way of existence.
(ii) The Secret Human Fear.
We love distractions around us, as T.S. Eliot put it: ‘Distracted by distractions from distractions’. We are preoccupied by pleasurable experiences, whereby attempting to re-assure ourselves and our loved ones about our fitness for a ‘never-ending’ life and success in our physical prosperity. Meanwhile, it never occurs to us that we, and/or our loved ones could die at any moment, because this ‘contingency’ in our existence, together with its painful realisation, is very much a part of our being human.
It seems therefore legitimate to touch briefly on this subject, as death is nature’s grand design for the conclusion of all human life.
a)The Meaning of Death:
Death makes life universally even more intelligible by standing in contrast to it, as death is the culmination point of life, being the ultimate and terrifying demonstration against the presumed irreducibility of human life to pure physical systems. Right through the ages, from vulgar fascination with death to fear of it, from barbarism to enlightened intellectual approach to it, they all point to the same thing that is the mystifying phenomenon of death , (just as birth and life itself), are essential part of a human being. The true meaning of death, as well as its stereotyped images and vague popular expressions, have slowly been demystified; it is not a state of part life and part death any longer, nor is it a peaceful sleep either, because death has no ‘physical duration’.
b) The Perception of Death:
Beyond our external sense perception of the differences between life and death, our reasoning gives partly a better understanding of what specifically sensitive phenomena are involved. Up until the age of ‘enlightenment’, incredibly, human beings have never really known the fear of death. On the contrary, while they treated death as a dramatic and dignified moment in life, and were still afraid to die, people paid attention to death, they translated it into soothing words and channeled into familiar rites. Thus, a general calmness towards death was the traditional attitude.
Lately, in modern times, however, when people started fearing death, the first thing they did, they stopped talking about it; suddenly it became a taboo subject. The sense of dignity of and the traditional ‘intimacy’ with death gradually vanished. Thus, an irrational fear entered in the imaginary and real world of the living.
c) The Fear of Death:
From recent centuries onward, having overcome fear of death as well as the old familiarity with death and the desire for afterlife slowly disappeared; the passionate love of life has taken over in our modern way of living. The passionate desire to make life without death an ‘end’ in itself is nowadays going as far as the denial of all transcendental values, because there is no longer a ‘humanly’ reasoned will to believe in them. The modern media through its distraction also reinforces our collective disillusionment in any purposeful meaning in our human conditions.
We fear death but not necessarily of dying, which fear is based mainly on personal reasons, such as it can be the loss of self or the ego, and loss of loved ones, the end of pleasure, possession or authority. A modern person has a healthy aversion to anything remotely connected with the idea of death, because our healthy instinct for wanting to stay alive causes in us the fear and anxiety about it.
d) The Stages of Dying:
Many of us had experienced personally, what is described here in this Clause, about the reaction of human nature under such a heart-rending conditions. The general tendency is, unfortunately, to hide reality from the dying person, perhaps out of pity or out of fear of upsetting our loved one. Hence, the make-belief and artificial cheerfulness prevail, which has to brake down eventually.The world-wide famous Kubler-Ross’ excellent insight into human nature in such a stress conditions, details these factual stages in the following:-
Defiance: He who resembles the dead is the most reluctant to die. Some regard death as ignominious and shameful, because it betrays the only ‘source’ of our personal existence in the material order of nature in which most people believe and like to control. These are the usual words: ‘No, it cannot be me.’ Or ‘Why does it have to be me, I am still young.’
This situation starts often at the onset of a serious illness.
Anger: It may be justifiable, due often to thoughtless or careless relatives.
Bargaining: This stage is for brief periods only and for the reduction of pain or postponement of the inevitable, such as: ‘Could not I live just a little longer?’
Depression: When one can no longer deny illness or death, one turns towards the wall and feels all alone. Pascal remarked about this stage: ‘one dies alone’.
Acceptance: After the exhaustion of all previous stages, the dying person is no longer angry about fate. ‘I just cannot fight it any longer’. Or, as Tolstoy characterised this in one of his book: “As the old man breathing his last, Tolstoy asked kindly how he feels, he answers:’ Death is here, that’s how b…. well I feel.”
Final Hope: This stage depends on one’s belief, ideology, culture and on the dying person’s intellectual state. It is the hardest to describe, especially for those having no religious inclination. Otherwise, one only has to cooperate with delicate understanding of the wishes of the loved ones. One only has to experience the entire process in person, in order to understand the immensity of sadness and the deepest sensation of personal helplessness at the departure of a loved one, after which dark yet solemn moment there is only one hope left in our heart, to be with the loved one we have just lost. And this is our secret but final hope.
iii) The Secret Human Hope.
As the saying goes: ‘One person is absent, and the whole world is empty’. The sense of the loss of an other person takes on a whole new meaning. What is there left to say or think in the face of ‘absurdity’ of mourning? Those who experienced this deepest emptiness of abandonment would only understand the mental state in which there is nothing compared with the awesome realisation day and night of the thought that it is too late now, because the very person with whom we would dearly love to share all these thoughts and all this pain, is gone forever. To characterise this mental state of crisis, the closest we ever get is the religious equivalent of the so-called ‘dark night of the soul’, where metaphorically speaking, the only way to every true human “life” is a kind of “death”.
We may have clear philosophical or even religious ideas about the meaning and purpose of life, and yet, when standing beside the bed of a dying loved one and trying to reason things out, our eloquence suddenly reduced to the language of profound feeling of helplessness that paralyses us deep down to meaningless banalities.
First, the ‘stages of dying’ now will be re-enacted by the bereaved loved ones step by step, once again, but oddly enough, in a reverse order; and relatives and friends will join in as well. The earlier history of literature seemed to belittle the aesthetic romanticism of such process as being without depth, but we know today that it is a major objective fact of our daily life, a profound transformation of a human person as a social being.
Second, after a person departed, the bereaved loved ones see that there is ‘nothing to loose or to hide’ any longer, now they suddenly go against the whole contemporary outlook of the denial of afterlife. This reversal of sentiment completes the impossibility of accepting the death (the permanent departure) of a loved one.
The Afterlife: (Considered purely from a philosophical point of view.) The pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, and also Aquinas, together with some prominent philosophers and even scientists share the common view of immortality of the human psyche (soul), based on its irreducible, transcendental nature.
“Plato offers the first extensive arguments for his unwavering belief in the existence of immortality of at least some gods and a commitment to the rational soul’s immortality that is more circumspect and critical but no less profound.
These ‘arguments’ include:-
- a) Phaedo–The Opposites-70a-72e.
b) Phaedo –The Recollection-73a-77e.
d) The Phaedrus-245.
e) Republic X-690-10 and 611.
Philosophy distinguishes ‘immortality’ according to the two types of activities of the human soul, these are:-
- a) The psycho-physical activity of the soul, i.e. any ‘animal’ feeling in general, such as desire, fear, anger; it is impossible for this type of soul to exist in separation from the body.
- b) The intellect or the mind, the rational part of an individual human being is assured of its immortality. (On the Soul III. 4-5.). It also comments: “The commitment to the literal immortality of the ‘gods’ is unequivocal.” (Physics viii. 6; Metaphysics xii.7-8.) Aristotle does not follow Plato “….in that a certain form of life is preferred because of its implications in the afterlife”. (Extract from: Brennan, Tad.-2002. Rutledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy-London.)
Seifert notes on irreducibility of the human soul: “The human psyche, (soul) is one of those ultimate data, like being as such or the good, which are undefinable through something else.
“This irreducible essence of human life therefore forbids any explanation purely in terms of events that take place in inorganic matter”. Moreover, continuing: “Inasmuch as soul constitutes the essence and reality of life, life essentially belongs to the psyche (soul) so that ‘dead soul’ would be a contradiction in terms…..If we speak of the life of the soul itself, we find it extremely difficult to consider life as distinct from soul.” Plato thinks that life belongs to the psyche (soul) eternally and immortally.
Scruton describes four generally held, philosophical reasoning for the acceptance of afterlife, including some arguments against it as well. There is a deep-seated human yearning for the afterlife expressed by the ancient societies through their elaborate customs of embalming, burial ceremonies and burial places, such as the ornate sepulchers and pyramids. (This idea is originally one of Aquinas’ arguments). Thus, the sense of the individual and his identity, what philosophers mean when speak of ‘possessing one’s own death’, has been overcome by the respectful solicitude of the family and society.
Although the fear of death has not quite disappeared, but it became somehow more ‘humane’ and understandable through the perceived special nature of the human being. Our desire for afterlife is epitomised by numerous publications on the subject by philosophers and even scientists, among them John D. Barrow, astronomer and Frank Tipler, mathematical physicist, who proposed that ultimately human beings will become all-knowing, powerful and omnipresent throughout the Universe as god, by the “programming” of the human soul.
In his book, the “Physics of Immortality”, Tipler waxing lyrical (and god-like) about the super-computer like beings, that is ‘our future descendents’, will one day assume the role of the gods, and will exist until the end of time; (He means by that: forever). Thus, with the philosophical ideas about afterlife, we have reached the limit of our understanding, beyond which point the subject becomes inaccessible to the human mind.
A view from the real life: In an interview broadcast on a Sydney TV Network, after the state-funeral service, a prominent person said he held hope that his father’s views on the afterlife had turned out to be wrong. (i.e. He said reportedly after his life-threatening illness to that effect: ‘I’ve been there, and I can tell you my friend, that there is b…all on the ‘other side’).
Acknowledging his father’s skepticism though, he added: “It was ‘eerie’ to be with my father’s body in the moments after his death. To be there with a body that was so different to his character, which was so alive, made me think that there must be something, and so I am taking the positive and hoping and wishing that he is up there looking down on us”.
This article introduced the various aspects of biological life and the complexity of human conditions in an astonishingly precise and deterministic Universe, culminating in the appearance of the human mind, capable of observing, comprehending and asking some of life’s profound questions about itself and the Universe.
It was shown that while physical nature functions on a level of high efficiency in everything, from DNA molecules to the laws and forces of nature, the very same physical nature does not appear to demonstrate the same inexorable influence and the same inanimate properties when it comes to the reasoning mind and the deliberate will of the human beings.
Philosophy’s animating principle, the psyche or soul replaced in publications of this century with a less contentious word of ‘self-consciousness’ or mind. Consequently, these new words and their perceived meanings created more misunderstanding among life sciences and philosophers alike, due to their wide and liberal interpretations of the principles involved.
In addition to these difficulties, our limited reasoning could not provide an ‘absolute’ terminology for defining the concept of life, because in its essence, biological life is not perceived to be only of inanimate material base.
Hence, it appears that Philosophy is unable to replace with certainty the prevailing, modern-day scientific uncertainty about the transcendental nature of life. Encouraged by scientists telling us human beings are unique; we represent on the Earth the highest form of material organisation of energy and matter that has ever existed.
Many eminent philosophers define our essential human nature as having transcendental qualities found nowhere else on the Earth common with anything other than ourselves; we posses one common mystery called human nature. We then begin to realise this makes us different from other animal species, although inexplicably, we all share almost identical types and number of DNA molecules and genes with all animal species.
As if this mysterious property of life in itself would not be enough, we find this common yet inexplicable property, the gift of life, as a ‘golden thread’ transcendentally connecting us all human beings. The only condition for this spirit of belonging, (and in fact, it is applicable to all living beings), is that we show respect for one another. In its ultimate result, this sublime ideal would transform our individual self-interests to the perceived common good, which may just provide us the final answer we are looking for, the philosophical purpose of our human existence.
Finally: “When we consider the purely biological process of natural selection, there seems yet another problem arising for us, that is: The flowering plants, insects and vermin are all the equals, (and perhaps eventually the superiors) of humans, because throughout the ages they have succeeded through quick reproduction in large numbers. This evolutionary success, however, requires their inevitable early deaths of countless billions. We may draw from the above-perceived problem the following premonition as its logical conclusion:
“We have succeeded by our brainpower, and our numbers -alone among all the species- continue to grow on an unsaturated exponential curve. Let us hope that we are wise enough to exercise our power and circumvent the unpleasant prelude to the operation of the law of natural selection or worse. Hence, the full story of human life cannot yet be told”. (Frank Shu.)
The enigma of life and of human nature is eclipsed, way beyond our imagination, by the all-encompassing mystery of all mysteries of God, the divine Life, who is the giver of all life in His created Universe.
“Not with doubtful, but with sure knowledge do I love my God, a light, which no place can contain, floods into my soul, where He utters words that time does not speed away, where He sends forth an aroma that no wind can scatter; where He provides food that no eating can lessen, where He so clings that satiety does not sunder us. This is what I love when I love God”. (St. Augustine.)