Tag Archives: instinct

The Reason Delusion: The Dark Side of the Enlightenment

Invoking reason in support of an argument is like banging on the table.[i]

Those who invoke ‘reason’ are essentially asserting that ‘if you ‘reason’ in the right way, then you’ll agree with them; if you don’t agree with them, that ‘proves’ that you haven’t ‘reasoned’ in the right way.’

The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment is claimed to have ushered in the ‘age of reason’. And to give credit where it’s due, it did bring some relief to the plight of many people. It also fed the appetite for revolution against the authority of self-appointed political and religious rulers. But there was a dark side of the Enlightenment which remains to this day.

There were essentially two broad philosophical camps in this ‘new’ way of ‘thinking’. The first claimed that knowledge could be attained when reason is applied to our experiences in life as they are processed through our physical senses. In philosophical-speak, this was called ‘empiricism’. Basically it means that we make it up as we go along.

The other camp claimed that the application of ‘reason’ alone was sufficient to acquire knowledge, because knowledge was an innate attribute of human beings. But unlike Buddhism, for example, they could not explain the precise mental technique to be applied in order to access this knowledge, other than the application of ‘reason,’ of course. These were called the ‘rationalists’.

Utilitarianism

Along with the Enlightenment there was a parallel ‘philosophy’ developing across the sea in England, also claimed to be rooted in the application of reason. It was championed by that most pernicious of philosophers, a certain Jeremy Bentham. Bentham claimed to have made the revolutionary ‘discovery’ that human beings prefer pleasure to pain. So he devised a ‘philosophy’ centered on maximizing pleasure and avoiding pain. This became known as Utilitarianism.

Immanuel Kant – the Hybrid Philosophy

Immanuel Kant, probably one of the few philosophers the average person could identify if asked to name a philosopher, blended these various camps to create a hybrid philosophy. Essentially he claimed that ‘practical reason’ makes known to human beings a ‘moral law’ which, when violated, ‘makes even the boldest sinner tremble.’ But he couldn’t identify what this ‘moral law’ was. So he simply asserted that it was ‘presented to us for our obedience.’ But that did not mean that we shouldn’t also seek pleasure and avoid pain. We only need to curtail our appetite for pleasure when it offends the ‘moral law’. That’s what ‘practical reason’ tells us.

The Reason Delusion

Now all these philosophers got so ‘puffed up with vanity’[ii] at their new discoveries that we could be forgiven for wondering whether they had invented some brand new way of thinking – by applying ‘reason’. Kant even discovered two distinct kinds of ‘reason’ – ‘pure reason’ and ‘practical reason’.

‘Reason’ thus became the new religion. Instead of invoking the authority of the divine or royal blood to impose their will and beliefs on others, the new ‘rationalists’ invoke their superior ability to ‘reason’. ‘Reason’ is the rhetorical weapon wielded to belittle those who disagree with them.

But the fact is, ‘reason’ on its own account tells us nothing.

The Human Brain

The human brain comprises three broad faculties, each made up of neurological networks – instinct, morality and reason.

Humans share most of the primitive instincts possessed by animals, such as the instincts for reproduction, survival and security. But they also have a number of peculiarly human instincts, such as the instinct to understand how the world works. This latter instinct improves the human ability to service the more primitive carnal instincts. For example, knowing how to cast iron helped humans to hunt better, and to better dispose of perceived threats.

Pleasure and Pain

All these human instincts are activated by the prospect of pleasure, or the fear of pain. And that’s where ‘reason’ comes in. When some or other instinct dangles before ‘reason’ the promise of pleasure, or the risk of pain, ‘reason’ springs into action. It devises ways to maximize pleasure, and eliminate, so far as possible, the risk of suffering pain.

Animals do the same, of course. But here is the difference. Once animals have satisfied the urge for pleasure or eliminated a perceived threat, they move on. Not humans. With their enhanced capacity to ‘reason’, they devise all manner of mischief to service their insatiable appetite for pleasure, and to eliminate even the remotest threat to their survival, security, or indulgence in pleasure.

‘Reason’ in the service of primitive human instinct has caused human beings to inflict the most unspeakable atrocities, degradations and humiliations upon their fellow human beings, mostly without a hint of remorse. It accounts for war, betrayal, slavery, poverty, starvation, genocide, child abuse, greed, deceit, murder. In short, it accounts for everything we call evil. And we find it everywhere, from the playground to the corridors of power; and especially in the corridors of power.

The Moral Network

But there is hope. And that hope comes in the form of a moral network within the human brain. The moral network acts as a restraint on instinct by appealing for an audience with ‘reason’. If granted a hearing, the moral network counsels ‘reason’ to resist over-indulging the demands of our primitive instincts. It can even counsel suppressing primitive instinct entirely by renouncing pleasure and courting pain. But that’s for the saints.

For the rest of us, activating the neurological moral network on a sufficiently wide scale is the only real hope for the future. But it will require a supreme effort, because catering to the demands of our primitive instincts has become a twisted kind of ‘virtue’.

Modern Context

There are encouraging signs, however. There are signs that people are beginning to see through the fog of deception. They are beginning to recognize that ‘reason’ is not the preserve of a select few. And they are beginning to realize that ‘reason’ is not some ‘supernatural’ force that can elevate human beings to new heights of ‘enlightenment’ and ‘civilization’. They are becoming wise to the ‘reason delusion’.

What is really happening is that the neurological moral network is awakening in many people. And that awakening directly challenges the cozy alliance between ‘reason’ and instinct. The internal struggle within each of us to escape from bondage to our primitive instincts is also playing out in the political and economic arena as a struggle by the people to escape from bondage to political and corporate servitude.

In every sense, it is becoming a battle between good and evil. Perhaps it is even nearing the final battle. The outcome will determine the future of humanity. But we should be in no doubt that the forces of ‘reason’ in service to primitive instinct will stop at nothing to get their way. The dark side of the Enlightenment has served them well, and they intend to hang on to it at any cost.

Now this may all sound very apocalyptic. But we should not underestimate the ‘irrationality’ of ‘reason’ in the service of primitive instinct. Neither should we underestimate the rage of a neurological moral network that has been deceived, abused and violated for too long.

The battle lines have been drawn. The first skirmishes are under way. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Either way, it’s going to get very ugly.

******

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Notes

[i] Adapted from the jurist Alf Ross on ‘justice’.

[ii] A description of scientists by Albert Schweitzer.

Demystifying Mysticism

Einstein famously said that “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.[1]  The former Royal Astronomer of Britain, Martin Rees, says that Einstein was “expressing his amazement that the laws of physics, which our MINDS ARE SOMEHOW ATTUNED TO UNDERSTAND, apply not just here on Earth but also in the remotest galaxy.”[2]

But should it be so “incomprehensible” that the human mind is “somehow attuned to understand” the laws that govern the universe?

Broadly speaking, there are currently two alternative explanations for this curious ability. Either the human mind is entirely explicable by its physical make-up and its interaction with the environment through the senses, or there is an inexplicable element to the mind that gives it a metaphysical, or even mystical, character.

The former view is that of many physicists who hold that the principles that determine the behavior of fundamental particles determine the functioning of everything else in the universe, including the human brain. I include in this view those who argue that the chemistry of the neurological structure of the brain has a ‘life of its own’ that is ‘independent’ of the principles of the fundamental particles that make up its physical structure. There isn’t really any distinction between these views because in the last analysis they both perceive the functioning of the brain to be a consequence of its physiology.

The contrary view is that there is more to the human mind than the physical structure of the brain and its interaction with the environment. This view is exemplified by Immanuel Kant who said that “The moral law, although it gives no view, yet gives us a fact absolutely inexplicable from any data of the sensible world, and the whole compass of our theoretical use of reason, a fact which points to a pure world of the understanding, … and enables us to know something of it, namely, a law.”[3] This “moral law,” says Kant, is simply “presented for our obedience by practical reason, the voice of which makes even the boldest sinner tremble …”[4] Kant’s view is a mystical or metaphysical view. In religion it is called spirituality.

Although these views may seem incompatible at first, they are in fact simply different facets of the same phenomenon. Ironically, Friedrich Nietzsche inadvertently identified the mystical as a facet of the physical, and vice versa, when he mocked Kant for having “discovered a moral faculty in man.”[5]

In order to understand how that works, we need to go back to the Beginning, to the origin of the universe. Both science and the Scriptures recognize that an explanation for the universe and life, and consequently the structure and functioning of the human brain, is to be found in the origin of the universe itself.

A Final Theory – the scientists’ view

The physicist Steven Weinberg says that although DNA is too complex to be explained with current quantum mechanical equations, he maintains that with a sufficiently sophisticated computer, scientists could explain all the workings of DNA “by solving the equations of quantum mechanics for electrons and the nuclei of a few common elements.”[6]

Likewise, Martin Rees says that it is the principles, or properties, of fundamental particles, “their sizes and masses, how many different kinds there are, and the forces linking them together,” that dictate how everything in the universe functions, from planets and stars to chemical reactions and human beings. And this is all a result of “an expanding universe, WHOSE PROPERTIES WERE IMPRINTED INTO IT AT THE TIME OF THE INITIAL BIG BANG.”[7] According to Rees, “mathematical laws underpin the fabric of our universe.”[8]

This approach is known in science as reductionism[9]. Weinberg, for example, says that the “evolution of living things has been made possible by the properties of DNA and other molecules and that the properties of any molecule are what they are because of the properties of electrons and atomic nuclei and electric forces.[10] He goes on to say that physicists study fundamental particles “because we think that by studying [them] we will learn something about the principles that govern everything.”

Although this approach does not dispute that certain mental faculties and processes may determine aspects of human behavior, it argues that those faculties and processes are what they are as a consequence of the principles that determine the properties of fundamental particles. As Weinberg says, “we believe that atoms behave the way they do in chemical reactions because the physical PRINCIPLES that govern the electrons and electric forces inside atoms leave NO FREEDOM for the atoms to behave in any other way.[11]

By identifying these fundamental principles, physicists believe they could construct a Final Theory that will explain everything about the universe and life. This is also known as a Theory of Everything, and by definition such a theory would necessarily include an explanation for what we regard as the mystical. More importantly, this view also claims that a Final Theory would definitively settle the question of whether or not there is such a thing as God.

The problem with the reductionist approach is that it is morally ambivalent. Morality is simply a neurological response to certain environmental and social conditions.

In his book The First Three Minutes, Weinberg said that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”[12] In an attempt to deflect the criticism his remark attracted, Weinberg ‘clarified’ that statement in his next book, Dreams of a Final Theory, by saying that he “did not mean that science teaches us that the universe is pointless, but rather that the universe itself suggests no point. I hastened to add that there were ways that we ourselves could INVENT a point to our lives, including trying to understand the universe.”[13]

In other words, Weinberg suggests that we can “invent” some point to our lives by dedicating our lives to proving that there is no point to life. That sounds like ‘a Final Theory of Despair,’ in which the only purpose to human existence is the pursuit of vanity and the satisfaction of our physical desires.

This very ‘physicalist’ approach fails to recognize that the human capacity for moral judgment, which expresses itself in the establishment of systems of government and justice, may be a manifestation of a more profound dimension of the physical laws that govern the universe – a moral dimension,[14] rather than a neurological accommodation to physical conditions.

Kant recognized the nihilistic tendencies of such an approach when he said that “[man] is not so completely an animal as to be indifferent to what reason says on its own account, and to use it merely as an instrument for the satisfaction of his wants as a sensible [sensual] being. For the possession of reason would not raise his worth above that of the brutes, if it is to serve him only for the same purpose that instinct serves in them; it would in that case be only a particular method which nature had employed to equip man for the same ends for which it has qualified brutes, without qualifying him for any higher purpose.”[15]

Although Kant was wrong that reason can tell us anything “on its own account”, and it is used by most people as a means to satisfy their wants as sensual beings, it is Kant’s recognition of a distinction between the human capacity for moral judgment, and the servicing of our primitive instincts, that is crucial to understanding the ‘mystical’ in human existence.

The Scriptural view – a seed to a tree to a seed

Jewish scholars and philosophers have long recognized this distinction, as did Jesus. And they found it in the same place that physicists look to unlock the ‘secrets’ of the universe and life – The Beginning.

In his Commentary on Genesis 1:1, the Jewish scholar Nahmanides (1194 – 1270 AD), says this: – “He [God] brought out a very fine element from complete nothingness; it has no substance, but it is the energy that can create, that is able to accept a form and to go from the potential to the actual. And this is the first material [and] is called hyle by the Greeks. And after hyle, He didn’t create anything, but [rather] formed and made [the creations]; since it is from it that He brought everything forth and clothed the forms and refined them. … Behold, with this creation, which was like a small [and] fine dot, and without substance, were created all of the creations in the heavens and the earth.”[16] Nahmanides included the creation of man as a subsequent creation from the original matter. On Genesis 1:24, he says “that God created something from nothing on the first day alone, and afterwards He formed and made [everything] from the fundamental elements.”

Nahmanides adopted a literal reading of Genesis, yet still described the origin of the universe and life in precisely the way science now understands it (except that he attributes it to God). That is because of the Hebrew meaning of the word “beginning”, which is reishit.[17] The word relates to the origin or beginning of a thing, like a seed, which then grows or expands into something much larger and grander, like a tree. Although the tree has no outward resemblance to the seed that ‘created’ it, the fruit that it yields contains a replica of the seed that initiated the whole process. The fruit is not some inconsequential by-product of the tree, but the very purpose of the tree’s existence. The fruit contains a seed that is an image of the seed that created it, and an image of the tree and the fruit that the seed is ‘programmed’ to create. The fruit of a tree is not itself a replica of the seed that created the tree, only the seed within the fruit is a replica. The flesh of the fruit hanging from the tree is what enables the replica seeds within the fruit to be dispersed so that the species can propagate. The fruit is the vehicle that carries the seed.

It should not be surprising, therefore, to find Jesus adopting such an analogy to explain the “mystery of the Kingdom of God[18] to his disciples: “It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it growth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.”[19]

The account of creation in Genesis Chapter One describes the origin of the universe as a similar process. It tells us that the human organism is the fruit of the tree, the universe is the tree, and the human brain is a replica of the seed that gave birth to the universe.

The great Jewish philosopher, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, who lived at about the same time as Jesus, recognized this when he said, regarding the creation of man “in the image of God[20], that “the resemblance [between God and man] is spoken of with reference to the most important part of the soul, namely, the mind: for the mind which exists in each individual has been created after the likeness of that one mind which is in the universe as its primitive model.[21]

In other words, the mathematical structure that gave birth to the universe is imprinted into the human brain as an image of the original structure. The human brain is ‘programmed’ with the “mathematical laws” that Rees says “underpin the fabric of our universe.[22] The incredible abilities of the ‘mathematical’ savants are evidence of that.[23] In his excellent book Islands of Genius, Darold A. Treffert notes that some mathematical savants “seem to ‘see’ their answers as if projected on to a screen,”[24] and asks whether the “actual knowledge [of the prodigious savant], or at least the software templates or scaffolding for [the] rules of music, art and mathematics, or even other areas of expertise, come ‘factory installed’ in all of us?[25]

Likewise, Rees notes that “Newton’s laws are in some sense ‘hardwired’ into monkeys that swing confidently from tree to tree.”[26] And if in monkeys, why not in humans?

However, Genesis also tells us that the mathematical structure of the replica seed that is the human brain, like the original seed that gave birth to the universe, has three distinct but interrelated elements: morality, reason and instinct.

As explained in Parts VII and VIII of my series A Legal Proof for the Existence of God, the “image and likeness[27] of God refers to the human capacity for moral judgment; the symbolism of God speaking to the male and female He had created refers to the human ability to reason; and what God is said to say to the humans refers to human instinct, some of which we share with animals (the instinct to reproduce, and the instincts for survival and security), and others that are unique to human beings (the instinct to subdue and conquer, and the instinct to pursue knowledge of our world and the universe).

Chapter Two of Genesis symbolizes these distinct faculties with trees. The “tree of knowledge of good and evil” refers to the human capacity for moral judgement; the trees that are “pleasant to the sight, and good for food,”[28] represent human instincts; the reference to God commanding the man[29] symbolizes the human ability to reason; and the “tree of life” represents our ability to apply the knowledge of the universe to understand and seek to fulfil our true moral purpose and our true moral destiny.[30]

Each year science discovers further evidence that suggests that these elements of the human brain are the consequence of the mathematical laws that govern the universe. In respect of the faculties of reason and morality, for example, Dr Kelly Smith, of Clemson University, says that the tendency of the universe to produce complexity suggests that the emergence of life with a capacity for reason and moral judgement may not be accidental, but a consequence of the basic structure of the universe unfolding in a predictable manner.[31]

In respect of the instinct for reproduction, Jeremy English, a physicist at MIT, has proposed that the second law of thermodynamics inevitably tends to the rearranging of atoms so as to create life. But he also suggests that the energy dissipation that drives this process is most effectively achieved by self-replication. As English says, “A great way of dissipating more [energy] is to make more copies of yourself.”[32]

These scientific discoveries show that the distinct neurological faculties in the brain are in fact facets of the mathematical laws that govern the universe, which, in turn, if the reductionist view is proved correct, are themselves a consequence of even more fundamental principles that determine the properties of all the other mathematical laws, like the second law of thermodynamics.

Origins of Mysticism – competing neurological networks

Using the symbolism of trees to describe these distinct faculties conveys the message that these faculties are imprinted into the human brain as neurological networks. These three networks convert the raw mathematical data ‘pre-installed’ in the brain, together with the mathematical data processed through the senses, into emotions, words, images and concepts, enabling us to understand what the raw mathematical data means, and respond accordingly.

But all these neurological networks start out like seeds in the brain. They need to be carefully tended and nurtured in order to germinate and grow, and fulfil their intended purpose and potential. That is especially important for the moral network because it is the most easily neglected network. As Jesus said, although the seed of the “word of the kingdom of God” is “within[33]” us, “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becommeth unfruitful.[34]

That warning by Jesus brings us to the crux of the matter, because the neurological moral network is the most important of all the networks. It is the network that most induces the phenomenon we call mystical, or spiritual. That is because it acts as a ‘regulator’ and restraint on the networks that give us our instincts and our ability to reason. But its interventions often seem inexplicable. As Kant said, it is “the voice [that] makes even the boldest sinner tremble.”[35] And it is important that we learn to distinguish between the “voice” that speaks to us from the neurological moral network, and the voice of our instincts that tempts us with the prospect of pleasure, or fills us with the fear of pain.

Reason in the service of instinct, rather than in service of the moral law, is what we recognize as evil. It is responsible for the most despicable deceits, betrayals, humiliations and atrocities human beings can inflict upon their fellow human beings.

Take for example the instinct for reproduction. The instinct is fired by the prospect of the pleasure to be had by engaging in the act. But when this instinct is not restrained by the voice of the moral law, reason will find justification for all manner of deceptions and deceits in order to indulge the prospect of pleasure, or avoid the fear of pain. When totally unrestrained by the moral law, it will justify rape, incest, and even pedophilia, and devise deceptions to escape detection. It will even justify murder if its instinct for survival feels threatened by the possibility of detection. On the other hand, when reason is in the service of the moral law, it compels the instinct to reproduce to recognize that the act of creating a new life is sacred, and attaches profound and enduring obligations to those who engage in the act – obligations not just to the life they create together, but towards each other.

Likewise, reason in the service of the peculiarly human instinct to subdue and conquer is responsible for reprehensible acts like bullying, slavery and war. But when this instinct is regulated by the neurological moral network, we are compelled to apply it to subdue and conquer the human appetite for pleasure and the fear of pain. Reason in the service of the moral law enables us to subdue and conquer our primitive instincts. Buddhism is largely based on exactly this endeavor.

Likewise, reason in the service of our instincts for survival and security compels us to accumulate and appropriate to ourselves far in excess of what we need to survive and be secure, even at the expense of depriving others of a means for providing for their own survival and security. But reason in the service of the moral law compels us to compassion and a recognition of our obligations to the survival and security of the weak and least advantaged of the human species. This obligation was recognized as far back as 1,780 BC, when Hammurabi declared that the primary purpose of his Code was to bring “about the well-being of the oppressed” and ensure “that the strong should not harm the weak.” Similarly, Asoka (304 – 232 BC), in speaking of the Dhamma (Law), advocated “moderation in spending and moderation in saving.”[36]

And again, reason in the service of the instinct for knowledge, unregulated by the voice that speaks to us from our neurological moral network, willingly puts itself in the service of those who would use that knowledge to service their instinct to subdue and conquer. The claim by scientists that they only design the weapons of war, politicians use them, is such an example. It is like the irresponsible father giving his disturbed son a gun to take to school, but when the disturbed son then shoots dead scores of his schoolmates, the father protests that he only gave him the gun, he didn’t make him use it. However, when reason is guided by the voice of the moral law, the instinct for knowledge is applied to enhance the wellbeing of humanity, not to provide it with the instruments to inflict death and destruction upon itself.

It does not take a great deal of reflection to recognize those acts that are a consequence of reason in the service of instinct, and those acts that are a consequence of reason in the service of the moral law. The former we call evil or sinful, and we devise laws in an attempt to regulate them. The latter we recognize as good, and we should seek to encourage and promote them, if we had not so pitifully fallen into bondage to our primitive instincts.

Mysticism demystified – signposts in the mind

The ‘mystery’ of the moral law is that human beings recognize that there is a universal law that is not of human making; a law that is not a consequence of one person or group of people imposing their authority on others. It acts as a restraint on our instinctive reactions and motivations by directing us towards the good.

Science is now beginning to recognize that the human brain may indeed be programmed with such a neurological moral network that speaks to us of a supreme moral law. The IVF pioneer, Robert Winston, writes that “Psychologist Eliot Turiel observed that even three- and four-year-olds could distinguish between moral rules … and conventional rules … Furthermore, they could understand that a moral breach, such as hitting someone, was wrong whether you had been told not to do it or not, whereas a conventional breach, such as not talking in class, was wrong only if it had been expressly forbidden.[37] Winston concludes from such research that the human brain has “a sort of ‘morality module’ … that is activated at an early age.[38]

But, as yet, scientists have no idea how the “morality module” got to be ‘programmed’ into the brain, nor how it really functions.

Although research like that of Dr Kelly[39] suggests that the human capacity for reason and moral judgement may not be accidental, but a consequence of the laws of the universe unfolding in a predictable manner, another mathematical equation may reveal how the “morality module” presents the moral law to us “for our obedience.”

It is Richard Feynman’s “sum over paths” equation. Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, devised an equation (based on Schrödinger’s wave equation of quantum physics), referred to as “sum over paths,” which, in very simple terms, demonstrates that although particles are ‘free’ to choose between all probable paths, they appear to be ‘programmed’ to ‘know’ that they should adopt the path that leads to the deterministic laws of Classical (Newtonian) physics, the laws that are a prerequisite for an ordered universe capable of spawning and maintaining life.[40]

Then there is the curious behavior of particles in what physicists call delayed-choice experiments. As the TV physicist Brian Greene notes, modified versions of these experiments show that particles seem to “have a ‘premonition’ of the experimental situation they will encounter farther downstream, and act accordingly.”[41] That is, they appear to ‘know’ what a future environment will look like, and adjust to prepare for it. But they have to have that future environment communicated to them in some way.[42]

These ‘mystical’ properties of particles, or at least the mathematical equations that determine their properties, appear to be the origin of the similarly mystical mechanism in the neurological moral network that suggests to us which path is the right path to choose to comply with the “moral law.” Like the “sum over paths” equation, it suggests the path that fulfils our true moral purpose, and our true moral destiny, and warns us to adopt the right path by communicating to us the negative consequences of failing to do so. It suggests to us the path that leads to order and justice, not to chaos and oppression; the path that leads to compassion and sacrifice, not gain and vanity.

With the exception of psychopaths, who are virtually totally disconnected from their neurological moral networks (and according to a BBC Horizon program,[43] that includes a disturbingly large number of CEOs of leading corporations), most of us subconsciously ‘hear’ the voice of the moral law. Unfortunately, we are so overwhelmed with suggestions that appeal to our appetite for pleasure and fear of pain, and that appeal to our vanities, that what little we do hear is drowned out by the clatter of advertising. And as Jesus said, “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in,” serve to silence the already faint voice of the moral law.

But how does the neurological moral network present the moral law to us for our obedience?

As already noted, most of us are only subconsciously aware of the moral law. Others, however, and I would put the Old Testament prophets in this category, appear to ‘see’ or ‘hear’ it with stark clarity, like those savants that ‘see’ answers to mathematical problems “as if projected on to a screen,”[44]

Others, no doubt, experience something similar to savants like Daniel Tammett, and incredible mathematicians like Ramanujan. When Tammett was doing complicated calculations he said “I’m seeing things in my head; like little sparks flying off, and it’s not until the very last minute that those sparks tell me what on earth they mean.” Likewise, Ramanujan said that he dreamed of drops of blood followed by visions in which scrolls appeared to him containing complex equations.[45]

As I explain in my article The Power of Insight, the experiences of Tammett and Ramanujan are similar to what the prophets are said to have experienced. Isaiah and Ezekiel, for example, saw visions, Jeremiah saw words, while Daniel, as well as having dreams and visions of his own, could ‘see’ the meaning in what others ‘saw,’ because he had ‘understanding in all dreams and visions’.

It is important however to distinguish between hallucinations, in which the mind plays tricks on us, and the kind of insight experienced by the likes of Tammett and Ramanujan. It is also important to distinguish between ‘seeing’ the mathematical raw data ‘programmed’ into the brain, as Tammett and Ramanujan did, and ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’ that mathematical raw data after it has been converted into moral principles by the neurological moral network.

Although there is a ‘mystical’ element to the kind of insight experienced by Tammett and Ramanujan, only the “voice” of the neurological moral network, as it reveals to us the moral law, is truly mystical. It is this kind of insight that gives us signposts in the mind that reveals to us our true moral purpose, and leads us to our true moral destiny.

From Mysticism to A ‘Final Theory’ of God

Immanuel Kant best explained why this kind of insight is truly mystical when he said that the moral law is “absolutely inexplicable from any data of the sensible world, and the whole compass of our theoretical use of reason,” that it is “incomprehensible to speculative reason,” and, most significantly, that it demands our obedience “apart from all advantage.[46]

What Kant recognized was that the moral law is counter-intuitive. It holds out no prospect of physical or intellectual benefit. When viewed from the perspective of what we would normally consider logical or commonsense assumptions about life, it seems to suggest the contrary. Intuitively we aspire to personal gain, security and contentment; the moral law suggests submission, moderation and even sacrifice.

It tells us that there is something more to life than the physical. As Jesus said, “for what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.”[47] Or as The Preacher proclaimed, “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding …”[48] In fact, the theme is the whole basis of the Sermon on the Mount, exemplified by the saying “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.[49]

But recognition of the supremacy of the moral law is not exclusive to the Scriptures. It is common to all religions, to all people, and to all ages of history. As we have seen, conquering our appetite to service our instincts is the objective of Buddhism, and it was the basis of Mahatma Gandhi’s way of life.

And it all rests on the moral law being ‘revealed’ to us by the neurological moral network converting the raw mathematical data ‘programmed’ into the brain as an image of the raw mathematical data that governs the universe. That is the mystical in the moral law – that the fundamental laws of physics are moral laws. It tells us that we can no more invent the laws of morality than we can invent the laws of physics. We can only discover them.

Ever since our early ancestors first activated the neurological moral network by offending against it (that is the story of Adam and Eve – see http://wp.me/p5izWu-7C), human beings have sought to give expression to the voice of the moral law. They have done so by establishing systems of government and justice.

These institutions are a manifestation of the moral law, and they give us an insight into what it means. It compels us to recognize that a supreme law to which all are subject requires a supreme lawmaker to promulgate it. And it requires a system of justice to ensure compliance with the law, and which requires that there be a consequence for a violation.

Religion is similarly an expression of the moral law which moves us to recognize a Supreme law and a Supreme Lawmaker as its author. And just like human justice, it compels us to recognize that there has to be a consequence for a violation, otherwise the law is meaningless.

This means that government, justice, and indeed religion, are all a manifestation of the neurological moral network converting the mathematical data imprinted in the human brain into moral principles which, as Kant says, it then presents to us for our obedience.

Although Kant argued that his “moral law” did not prove an afterlife, or the existence of God, it did presuppose it. But it may just be more than a supposition. Perhaps we walk past the real proof of God, an afterlife, and even a judgment, every day of our lives – in the grand seats of our legislatures, in the courts of law in our towns, and in the prisons that incarcerate offenders. Of course, these institutions don’t get it right, because they are mostly occupied by those in bondage to their primitive instinct to subvert others to their own authority and power. Although they are not a model of what the moral law is, they do give expression to the basic components of the moral law.

It is clear, nevertheless, that the neurological moral network speaks to us of a Supreme law and a Supreme Lawmaker. It reveals to us that the mathematical structure in the human brain that speaks to us of a Supreme law and a Supreme Lawmaker is a replica of the mathematical structure that gave birth to the universe. And that tells us that the mathematical structure of the universe, the Supreme Law of the universe, must recognize itself as a creation of a Supreme Lawmaker.

That is the mystical in man, and it is a reflection of the mystical in the universe. But it is a mystical that is an integral aspect of the physical. It seems then that Weinberg was most probably wrong, the universe does suggest a point – to itself, and to human existence. And Nietzsche inadvertently explained where we can find it when he mocked Kant for having “discovered a moral faculty in man.”

But ultimately, the mystery may only be solved if the Final Theory, the theory that is the Holy Grail of science, turns out to be A ‘Final Theory’ of God.

————————————————————————

The arguments and evidence in this article reflect certain arguments and evidence set out in the book A ‘Final Theory’ of God by Joseph BH McMillan.

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved

Notes

[1] Physics and Reality (1936), in Ideas and Opinions, trans. Sonja Bargmann (New York: Bonanza, 1954), p292.

[2] Rees, Martin, Just Six Numbers, Phoenix, London, 1999 (paperback), pages 11-12 – my emphasis.

[3] Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Practical Reason, page 60.

[4] Kant, page 100.

[5] Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Vintage (paperback), page 18.

[6] Weinberg, Steven, Dreams of a Final Theory, Vintage Books 1994 (paperback), page 32.

[7] Rees, page 1 – Capitals are my emphasis

[8] Rees, page 1.

[9] See Weinberg, Chapter 3 – Two Cheers for Reductionism.

[10] Weinberg, pages 57, 58.

[11] Weinberg, pages 9 – 10 (my emphasis).

[12] Weinberg, Steven. The First Three Minutes, Basic Books, 1993 (paperback), page 154.

[13] Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory, page 255 – emphasis on invent is mine.

[14] As noted in my article “Perhaps there is hope for Humanity’s moral destiny after all!” at http://wp.me/p5izWu-7V there is at least one physicist who believes that there could be a moral dimension to the cosmos.

[15] Kant, page 80.

[16] Nahmanides Commentary on Genesis 1:1 paras 3 & 4 – http://www.sefaria.org/Ramban_on_Genesis.1.1.3-4?lang=en&layout=lines&sidebarLang=all .

[17] See Nahmanides on Genesis 1:1: http://www.sefaria.org/Ramban_on_Genesis.1.1.3?lang=en&layout=lines&sidebarLang=all

[18] Mark 4:11, Mat 13:10.

[19] Mark 4:30; and see Mat 13:31 and Luke 13:18.

[20] Genesis 1:27.

[21] Philo, On the Creation, XXIII (69).

[22] Rees, page 1.

[23] See Part X of A Legal Proof for the Existence of God: The Power of Insight, at http://wp.me/p5izWu-aN

[24] Treffert, Islands of Genius (paperback), page 36 – emphasis on ‘see’ is mine.

[25] Treffert, page 12.

[26] Rees, page 37.

[27] Genesis 1:26.

[28] Genesis 2:9.

[29] Genesis 2:16.

[30] See Revelation 22:14 and Proverbs 12:13 & 14.

[31] See Perhaps there is hope for Humanity’s moral destiny after all!

[32] https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/

[33] Luke 17:21.

[34] Mark 4:19. And see Mat 13:22 & Luke 18:24.

[35] See note 4 above.

[36] The Fourteen Rock Edicts, number 3.

[37] Winston, Op Cit.

[38] The Guardian, 13 October 2005.

[39] See Note 30 above.

[40] See Kaku, Parallal Worlds, Penguin, London, 2005 (Paperback), page 164.

[41] Greene,Brian, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Penguin, London 2005 (paperback),pages 188 & 189, and see http://wp.me/p5izWu-8S

[42] See an explanation here: http://wp.me/p5izWu-8S

[43] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b014kj65 and http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1y4j0s_e05-are-you-good-or-evil_tv for the video.

[44] See Note 24 above: Treffert, page 36.

[45] See The Power of Insight – http://wp.me/p5izWu-aN

[46] Kant, page 100.

[47] Mark 8:36.

[48] Ecclesiastes 9:11.

[49] Matthew 5:5.

A Legal Proof for the Existence of God (Part IX): Science in Genesis Chapter 3 – Adam and Eve

The first question to address is whether the story of Adam and Eve refers to two particular individuals, or is a generic reference to the first of the species to acquire specifically human characteristics. And Genesis tells us that it is both.

That is found at Genesis 5, verses 1 and 2:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him;

Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day they were created.”

The references to “the generations of Adam”, and “the day God created man”, clearly refer to a period of time, and a generic description of the first human beings.

The wording is the same as Genesis 2, verse 4 – “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” As we saw in respect of The Garden of Eden, this verse clearly refers to a period of time as well. Conflating the words “generations” and “day” can have no other reasonable explanation.

We then see in verse 2 that the “male and the female” are collectively called “Adam”. There is no mention of Eve.

Adam clearly thus refers to the first human beings endowed with human DNA. However, as we saw in the article on the Garden of Eden, there would have been a number of human beings with this DNA who would have joined up to create new human life in their own genetic image.

So at this stage of the development of the human race there would likely have been several small groups of people with human DNA who were the ancestors of all other human beings.

The San people of southern Africa are the descendants of that branch of the human species that did not succumb to the temptation of eating of the ‘forbidden fruit’.

The story of Adam and Eve relates to that branch of the early species that did take of the fruit, and produced so-called ‘civilized’ human beings.

Temptation

Chapter 3 records what happened when the primitive instinct to reproduce was aroused by the allure of the pleasure to be had by indulging in the act of reproduction, not for the main purpose of reproduction, but with the principal aim of deriving physical pleasure from the act.

It is appropriate here to quote again from the great Jewish philosopher, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria: “For other animals pursue pleasure only in taste and in the acts of generation; but man aims at it by means of his other senses also, devoting himself to whatever sights or sounds can impart pleasure to his eyes or ears.[1]

Chapter 3 deals with the transformation of the former to the latter.

We should set out the whole account of this transformation:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.[2]

Before considering these verses, it is important to remember that we are looking at the symbolism of what is being said. But there can be little doubt that the symbolism relates to real events.

These verses symbolize the conflict between primitive human instincts and the promptings of the neurological moral network as it arose in the first of the species. A picture is painted of a woman wrestling with the allure of pleasure by indulging in an act which her conscience is telling her is wrong. She is fantasizing; but about what?

Well, it is impossible to ignore the phallic imagery of the speaking serpent, so the most plausible explanation is that she is fantasizing about sex.

We should also remember that it was very likely that these early humans would have been living with, or at least in close proximity to, the species from which they had emerged, and even other species of primates that were genetically very similar to them. And these other species would also have been “naked.” And more tellingly, these other primates would have indulged in sex quite openly and casually, as they do today.

But at this stage, a number of characteristics had developed in the early human species which distinguished them from other primates. First, they had developed a higher level of communication, as well as a more advanced capacity to reason. But they also had a partially activated neurological moral network which acted as a restraint on their actions by arousing a sense of conscience.

However, the woman would have enjoyed the pleasure of intimacy with Adam. And this would have acted as a spark to ignite her imagination to consider ways to enhance the pleasure derived from sexual intimacy. And her capacity to reason would have been eager to tender suggestions and justifications.

There would have been plenty of examples in the behavior of the more primitive primates living in close proximity. Thus the imagery of the account of the woman being tempted by the serpent is not hard to translate into a real picture. Although constrained by her moral impulses to refrain from sexual encounters other than with Adam, by observing the casual sexual interplay of primates around her, the woman began to fantasize about what it would be like to do the same. She started to imagine what ‘forbidden pleasures’ could be had if she just suppressed the feelings of guilt aroused by such fantasies.

No doubt she would have questioned why it would be wrong for her to do what the other primates were doing. There was no consequence to them for doing it, so what could happen to her? Her reasoning appears to have gone into overdrive to justify doing what she knew would be wrong by suppressing the restraint and guilt demanded by her newly acquired moral aptitude.

Succumbing to Temptation activates the Neurological Moral Network

In the end, the woman succumbed to the allure of the pleasures to be had by indulging her sexual fantasies – “she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.” And by employing the newly acquired ability to combine reason with an ability to communicate, the woman persuaded “her husband” to do the same.

What they did, it can only be concluded, is indulge in sexual encounters with members of the other species around them, and no doubt with other newly formed humans if and when they encountered them.

Now many reading all this about a woman fantasizing about imitating the sexual practices of apes, and engaging in sexual encounters with them, will no doubt ridicule the whole interpretation. So what evidence is there that human beings could act in such a manner, either back then, or now?

Well plenty, actually.

Let’s start with the fantasy part, and humans looking to apes for ‘moral inspiration’. And for that we need look no further than a professor of philosophy, no less – AC Grayling.

In his book The God Argument – The Case against religion and for Humanism, Grayling claims that the arts (books, music, films and so on) demonstrate the importance of intimate physical relationships to human beings, but laments that the traditional moral consensus that sex should be limited to one other person in a bonding for life somehow inhibits what he calls human “flourishing.”[3]

So Grayling cites the behavior of bonobo chimpanzees as a model for a better approach. Being the primates most like humans, Grayling says that the bonobo’s equivalent of shaking hands is to engage in sex casually and often.[4]

Grayling thus claims that “pleasure is good – and sexual pleasure is very good.”[5]

According to him, this all means that sex only becomes a problem when it is “rationed and starved.”[6] So his solution is sexual experimentation. And with a lot of practice, Grayling claims that humans can better learn to ‘love’ and be ‘loved’.[7]

But if anyone inhibits your sexual self-indulgence, such as a wife or children, then they need to be made to understand that some human beings have certain “needs and interests,” which the victims simply have to “accept and tolerate … and be open-minded” about.[8]

And it is belief in God (religion) that Grayling claims inhibits this kind of sexual indulgence in the pursuit of human “flourishing”.

Grayling’s ‘philosophy’ is really based on a simple premise – why shouldn’t we behave like animals?

So we see that what is said to have aroused the first woman, and the ‘reasoning’ employed to justify indulging that arousal, is something that has stayed with many of the species up to this very day. And Grayling is not unique in that regard; it is not an uncommon phenomenon.

Marketing companies exploit the human obsession with sex to sell everything from ice-cream to motor cars.

But is there any evidence that the first humans did interbreed with other primates? Again, the answer is yes.

In an article in the online journal Public Library of Science (PLoS), Dr Paola Villa of the University of Colorado Museum, and Professor Wil Roebroeks of Lieden University, say that “current genetic data suggest that complex processes of interbreeding and assimilation may have been responsible for the disappearance of the specific Neandertal morphology from the fossil record.”

In their conclusion, they say that “The momentous cultural changes that followed the arrival of AMH (anatomically modern humans) in Western Eurasia were not uniquely due to the residents’ cognitive or technological inferiority causing rapid and total replacement. The Neandertal demise appears to have resulted from a complex and protracted process including multiple dynamic factors such as low population density, interbreeding with some cultural contact, possible male hybrid sterility and contraction in geographic distribution followed by genetic swamping and assimilation by the increasing numbers of modern immigrants.”

And Villa and Roebroeks cite evidence of this interbreeding in modern human beings: “In 2010 a draft sequence of the Neandertal nuclear DNA provided clear evidence of interbreeding between Neandertals and modern humans, estimating that Neandertal inheritance makes up 1–4% of the genomes of people outside of Africa. A revised estimate based on a high-coverage sequence of a Neandertal from the Altai Mountains now suggests 1.5–2.1%.[9]

However, clearly Genesis is not referring to this interbreeding between humans and Neandertals. The story of Adam and Eve relates to a much earlier time when humans were only just emerging as the species. The example of the interbreeding with Neandertals was simply a continuation of something that had started much earlier.

The real significance of the story, however, lies in its explanation of how the neurological moral network in the human brain was initially fully activated, and the central part played in that process by the human capacity to reason. The story demonstrates that reason can be applied to justify anything.

Why was acquiring the “knowledge of good and evil” wrong?

But if the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” symbolizes the neurological moral network, why, some will ask, would it be wrong to acquire “the knowledge of good and evil’?

The answer is that to awaken the neurological moral network the first human beings had to take some action which offended it. That produced a sense of guilt in the form of a conscience. And as we have seen, according to Genesis, the action that initially activated the neurological moral network  related to pleasure – “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was PLEASANT to the eyes, and a tree to be DESIRED to make one wise …”[10]

As Philo says, “anyone who follows a reasonable train of conjecture, will say with great propriety, that the … serpent is the symbol of pleasure.”  And he goes on to say that the “serpent is said to have uttered a human voice, because pleasure employs innumerable champions and defenders who take care to advocate its interests, and who dare to assert that the power over everything, both small and great, does of right belong to it without any exception whatever.”[11]

So the story of Eve’s (“the woman’s[12]) temptation clearly refers to the interaction between morality, instinct and reason.

The serpent represents the instinct for reproduction. The symbolism of the serpent ‘speaking’ relates to the allure of pleasure to be had by indulging the instinct for reproduction. And Eve ‘seeing’ “that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, …” symbolizes the application of reason to justify taking actions that we ‘know’ are wrong.

The prohibition against eating of the tree represents morality. It is the neurological moral network within the brain that ‘speaks’ to us of the morality of certain actions, and acts as a restraint to actions which offend against it, if we listen. However, until this moment, the neurological moral network was subconscious.

Consequences of activating the neurological moral network

Once the first humans succumbed to the allure of the pleasure to be had by indulging their primitive instinct for reproduction, the neurological moral network was fully activated. This is symbolized by the words “and the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”[13] They realized then that they were different to the other species around them, even those most like them, and that it was not appropriate to simply imitate animal behavior.

However, Genesis tells us that once the neurological moral network had been offended, it gave rise to a sense of guilt, and Adam and Eve are said to do what people do to this day in order to justify their actions; they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the Garden.” They attempted to escape the guilt aroused by their actions by seeking justification in their primitive instincts; in “the trees of the garden.”

As we have already seen, the trees in the garden symbolize human instincts, amongst which is the instinct to reproduce. So when they are plagued by a sense of guilt, they seek to justify their actions by reference to their instincts. They ‘reason’ their way to a justification by attempting to convince themselves that they should not feel guilty because what they did was perfectly natural – just like the animals around them.

But clearly the guilt could not be easily silenced. And so, like today, they started the blame-game – Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. In ‘excusing’ her behavior by claiming that “the serpent beguiled” her, the woman is essentially seeking to defend her actions by saying that the attractions of the pleasures she imagined could be had by indulging her primitive instincts were so strong as to be ‘irresistible’. So she should not be to blame. It was simply a ‘natural’ response to a ‘natural’ desire – much like AC Grayling.

But, of course, it was all to no avail.

Once they had crossed the moral threshold, no longer did they simply respond to an intuitive restraint to their actions from the neurological moral network. They had acquired an ability to identify specific actions as right or wrong. Yet, they were seduced by the allure of the pleasure to be had by indulging their primitive instincts, as humans are today. So they mobilized their enhanced capacity to reason to seek justification for doing that which their neurological moral network told them was wrong.

The Legacy

The ‘punishment’ that God is said to inflict on them clearly symbolizes the conflict that has plagued the descendants of Adam and Eve from that moment on – a conflict between servicing their primitive instincts, or servicing the promptings of their neurological moral network.

We can see that the ‘punishment’ puts “enmity” between the attractions of pleasure to be had by indulging primitive instincts, like those of reproduction, and the consequences of doing so.

The ‘punishment’ said to have been inflicted on Adam clearly relates to human beings falling into bondage to their primitive instincts. From that moment on, human beings would be driven to provide for their survival and security by relentless toil. The instincts for survival and security generate a fear of being unable to provide for themselves, and a fear of anything and anyone perceived to be a threat.

The words “in sorrow shalt thou eat of [the ground] all the days of thy life[14] clearly refers to the instinct for security; “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground[15] clearly refers to the fear of death, and the survival instinct.

But there was a far more unpleasant consequence of this awakening of the “morality module”. The previous mental tranquility of intuitively refraining from actions because they knew they were wrong, and responding to the promptings of their instincts “only in taste and in the acts of generation”, had been replaced with an obsessive preoccupation with the pleasures and fears aroused by those instincts. No longer were these first humans content to live day by day without the constant fear of want and death – now they were consumed by a passion to indulge the demands of their instincts so as to alleviate their fears, or feed their appetite for pleasure.

As Philo said, they had condemned themselves to “an existence more miserable than death.”

From this point on, Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, records the conflict between human instinct and morality as it plays out in historical context. And how human beings employ reason to justify doing wrong.

Cain and Abel

So we see in the account of Cain and Abel that Abel’s endeavors were proving successful whereas Cain’s were modest. This fired insecurity in Cain, and wounded his vanity. Abel was seen as a threat who had to be neutralized. The symbolism of God speaking to Cain to ask why he is angry, relates to Cain’s neurological moral network intervening in an attempt to quell the anger. God says to Cain, “If thou does’t well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou does’t not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”[16]

The Hebrew for the last sentence actually says this: “And subject unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

The message is quite clear – Cain has a choice about how to act. One choice is acceptable, or moral, the other is wrong, and will have consequences. The “desire” to satisfy his instincts is under his control – “subject unto thee.” And morality must rule over the desires of the instincts – “thou shalt rule over him.”

But, like Eve, Cain could not or would not listen to the moral ‘voice’ within him, and planned to slay Abel. We see that Cain “talked with Abel” before he implemented his plan. This indicates that Cain was using ‘reason’, and the ability to communicate, in service of his primitive instincts, and not in service of the “moral law.” And even once he had killed Abel, his ability to reason seeks ways to deny responsibility, saying he does not know where Abel is. Furthermore, he also asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – an instance of reason seeking to excuse accountability for the wellbeing of our fellow human beings.

Cain’s reaction to the guilt that arises from his actions is first to lie, then to ‘justify’ the lie by ‘reasoning’ that he is not responsible.

We see in Cain a regrettable model for those who believe that satisfying their own “needs and interests” at any cost is their primary ‘duty’ in life, and they ‘reason’ their way to justifying whatever actions they take in pursuit of their ‘goals’. And their goals are always the same – indulging their appetite for pleasure, and relieving the fear of their insecurities; in short, being in the service of their primitive instincts, and silencing the voice of morality whenever it ‘speaks’.

However, Cain realizes that he cannot completely silence the voice of morality, and finally acknowledges that “Mine iniquity is greater than can be forgiven.”[17]

And the only way he can live with the guilt of his conscience is to deny God – “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.”[18]

That, it seems, is the “mark” which God is said to have put on Cain; the propensity to apply ‘reason’ to justify the servicing of our primitive instincts in defiance of the “moral law” which created us, and which is within us. And humans accomplish that self-deception through the denial of a Supreme Law, and thus a denial of God.

In that way, those who seek to impose their own authority and will on others are free to ‘make’ such ‘laws’ as best serve their own interests, and to implement such measures as are necessary to compel others to submit to those ‘laws’.

That is the meaning of Cain building a city which he names after his son Enoch.[19] God is replaced with the pursuit of power and wealth to feed vanity and allay insecurity.

However, at the end of Chapter 4, the story reverts again to Adam and Eve. Eve conceives and gives birth to Seth, and he has a son called Enos. And it is this strand of the genealogy of Adam and Eve that came to the realization that God is indispensable to human existence. That is because, after the birth of Enos, “then men began to call on the name of the Lord.” [20]

And it is this strand of genealogy that leads to Abraham and on to Moses, and the Ten Commandments. They were the ‘keepers’ of the moral law that reveals God’s Will.

It was through Abraham that “all families of the earth shall be blessed.”[21]

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”[22]

The crucial words in that last verse are “because thou hast obeyed my voice.” It was this strand of the human species that stayed most obedient to the principles of the “moral law”; and, it seems, most easily able to decipher it over the clatter of demands from our primitive instincts.

Through Abraham’s descendents God’s moral law would be revealed not just to the Israelites, but to all humanity.

Conclusion

Genesis Chapter 3 reveals a remarkable degree of insight by the author/s of Genesis into the workings of the human brain. However, the most remarkable aspect of the story of Adam and Eve is the light it casts on the human capacity to reason. As the account shows, reason can be applied equally for good or evil. More reason does not guarantee more benevolent and good outcomes; less reason doesn’t automatically lead to malevolent or evil outcomes. Often it is the reverse, as history reveals.

The current consensus that reason can give us objective principles of morality is delusional. Reason is a neutral faculty. Its worth rests entirely on whether it is in the service of morality, or in the service of primitive human instinct.

That is the real message behind the story of Adam and Eve. And it is a message we should heed!

In the next article we will discover how the author/s of Genesis could have had such a profound understanding of the working of the universe, and of the human mind.

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This series of articles is based on the book A ‘Final Theory’ of God by Joseph BH McMillan

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved

Notes

[1] Philo, On the Creation, LVIII (163).

[2] Genesis 3: 1 – 7.

[3] Grayling, ACX. The God Argument, page 192 and 199. A full Review of The God Argument can be read under Book Reviews on this website jbhmcmillan.com.

[4] Grayling, page 205.

[5] Grayling, page 206.

[6] Grayling, page 201.

[7] Grayling, page 202.

[8] Grayling, page 193.

[9] Villa P, Roebroeks W (2014) Neandertal Demise: An Archaeological Analysis of the Modern Human Superiority Complex. PLoS ONE 9(4): e96424. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096424.

[10] Genesis 3: 6.

[11] Philo, On the Creation, LVI (157) and (160) respectively.

[12] The name Eve is not used in Genesis 3 until verse 20 – “and Adam called his wife’s  name Eve …”

[13] Genesis 3: 7.

[14] Genesis 3: 17.

[15] Genesis 3: 19.

[16] Genesis 4: 7.

[17] Genesis 4: 13 – also translated “My punishment is more than I can bear.”

[18] Genesis 4: 16.

[19] Genesis 4: 17.

[20] Genesis 4: 20.

[21] Genesis 12: 3.

[22] Genesis 22:18.

A Legal Proof for the Existence of God (Part VII): Science in Genesis – Day Six.

Day Six is an account of the ‘programming’ of human DNA to form the neurological structures in the brain that give us the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

It explains why the human brain has three distinct faculties – morality, reason and instinct. The interaction between these neurological faculties is what accounts for human consciousness, the human quest for knowledge and justice, and why, as we saw in the introductory article, science, philosophy and religion all reveal the search for a Supreme Law and a Supreme Lawmaker.

Unfortunately, it also accounts for the human capacity for almost perpetual conflict, and our ability to visit upon our fellow human beings the most unspeakable atrocities and degradations. However, the human propensity for violence is an inevitable consequence of the interaction between these neurological faculties when the moral faculty is dysfunctional.

We should recall, however, that at the end of Day Six, human beings did not yet exist in physical form. That is clear from Genesis Chapter 2, verses 4 to 7, as explained in the articles relating to Days Three and Five.

But before we address those issues, we need to briefly deal with verses 24 and 25. For ease of reference, here they are:

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

To understand why the creation of land animals is in Day Six, rather than Day Five when the other creatures were created, we need to briefly review how Genesis accounts for the creation of life.

As we saw in Day Three, primitive DNA was created in supernovae which then “seeded nearby nebulae.”[1] This DNA had the basic attributes of life which provided for its survival and reproduction – “whose seed was in itself.”[2] However, the scientific evidence is now showing that atoms can form into living organisms when they encounter the right environment. And since DNA is simply a more complicated structure of atoms, it follows that DNA must also be susceptible to transforming into more complicated structures under the right conditions.

We saw in Day Five how research by Jeremy English, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), suggests that this process takes place when atoms, or in this case DNA, is exposed to the right environment.

In Day Four, we find such an environment being created here on Earth. But at that early stage, the Earth did not resemble the Earth as we see it today. There was no water. That is clear from Genesis 2, verse 5 – “For the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth.”

Nevertheless, the environment that existed at that time was conducive to the primitive DNA transforming into more complicated DNA, and that is what Day Five tells us happened. The primitive DNA transformed into the DNA that would create the creatures of the sea and the air.

In my article on Day Four we saw how this happens when we considered the delayed-choice experiments. Those experiments show that particles appear to ‘know’ what the future environment will look like and adapt accordingly. That happens if the future environment is communicated to them in some way, and according to Genesis, that is represented by the words “And God said …” followed by “And God saw …”

Finally, we also saw in Day Five that scientists now know that what was previously thought to be Junk DNA in fact consists of genes waiting to be activated when the right environment is encountered, and with ‘switches’ to make that happen.

Day Five told us that some of the DNA that had “seeded” the Earth was ‘programmed’ with primitive instincts for reproduction, survival and security, and a limited ability to reason in order to service those instincts. That is symbolized by the words “And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.[3]

However, when we get to land animals, there is no reference to God blessing them. The reason is that land animals are simply a further adaptation of the DNA from Day Five which applied to “every living creature that moveth.”[4] The only distinction is that the DNA in Day Five was adapting to a future environment symbolized by the words “Let the waters bring forth …”, while in Day Six the DNA was adapting to develop on a land environment – “Let the earth bring forth …”

So land animals would have the same neurological faculties as the other creatures – primitive instincts for reproduction, survival and security, and a limited ability to reason to service those instincts. And once the DNA was ‘programmed’ with those limited capacities, we find the observation element that ‘locks in’ that limited capacity – “And God saw …”

And so we come to the final element of creation according to Genesis – human beings. Verses 26 and 27 read like this:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

This account tells us how human beings acquired a capacity for moral judgment. It tells us that human DNA is programmed with an image of the laws that govern the universe, and that those laws reflect the Will of the Author of those laws – the Supreme Lawmaker we call God.

By portraying humans as being created “in the image of God”, Genesis is telling us that human DNA was being programmed to adapt not just to the environment, but to the laws and will of God Himself. “Man” was to have a purpose beyond simply an ability to “Be fruitful, and multiply”. They would assume responsibility for those matters over which God Himself would otherwise have exercised power – hence the reference to “man” having “dominion” over all the other life that had been created. And “man” would be endowed with the tools to exercise that power wisely, if he chose to do so.

The “Image of God” as the moral dimension of the laws of physics

To see how Genesis tells us this, we need to dissect verse 26 into its various parts. So let’s consider the opening words – “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

This is what Philo says about those words: “the resemblance [between man and God] is spoken of with reference to the most important part of the soul, namely, the mind: for the mind which exists in each individual has been created after the likeness of that one mind which is in the universe.”[5]

But we should be careful not to consider the brain as a whole to be an “image of God,” because, as we shall see, parts of the brain are also used for other purposes – purposes, moreover, as far removed from anything resembling morality as we could get.

So we are really talking about a particular element of the make-up of the brain that reflects the “image of God” – its moral faculty. This moral faculty is the manifestation of the moral dimension of the laws that were established at each stage of the creation process.

Each stage of ‘creation’ starts with an expression of an intention – “And God said …

Then there follows the actual ‘doing’ or ‘carrying out’ of the intention – “And there was light,” … “And God made …,” … “and it was so;” … “And the Earth brought forth …;” and so on.

And finally, God observes what has been created, and gives it His seal of approval – “And God saw that it was good.”

It is this latter wording that brings the laws of physics and the laws of morality together. The final convergence of the various intentions, makings and observations, reflect the intention of the Creator who initiated and conducted the whole process.

In other words, the universe is an expression of God’s Will which reveals itself in the laws of physics. And the ultimate manifestation of that will, and those laws, is a human organism endowed with a capacity for moral judgment. That means that the “image of God” must be reflected in some physical structure within the human brain which is a “likeness” of God.

Many other Bible verses confirm the idea that God’s Law, or God’s Kingdom, is part of the human mind. Deuteronomy declares that the commandments are not “hidden” from us, but that “the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.[6]

Likewise, Christ said, “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is WITHIN YOU.[7] And when describing the Kingdom of God as being like a grain of mustard, or yeast, Christ incorporates into one parable a description of how the universe emerged from a tiny concentration of matter and space; how the moral dimension of the laws that govern the universe are imprinted into our brains and represent God’s laws and God’s Will; and how His own mission would unfold. [Luke 13: 19 – 21]

Creation of “man” as “male and female

The next words to consider are these: “male and female created he them.

At the very heart of any notion of morality lies the relationship between two people, a man and a woman, and their joining together to create new life – a new human being which is in their genetic ‘image and likeness’. As we saw in the first article, creating a new human life attaches onerous obligations to those two people who, by their own voluntary act, create that new human life.

In commenting on the Fifth Commandment (“Honour thy father and thy mother”), Philo says this about the relationship between a man and a woman when creating new life: “The nature of one’s parents appears to be something on the confines between immortal and mortal essences. Of mortal essence, on account of their relationship to men and also to other animals, and likewise of the perishable nature of the body. And of immortal essence, by reason of the similarity of the act of generation to God the Father of the universe.[8]

We also find Christ linking this relationship to “the beginning” when he said, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but FROM THE BEGINNING it was not so.[9]

So the concept of “male and female” has always had moral implications, and those moral implications also relate to the creation of the universe itself.

Why God is referred to in the plural

But why does verse 26 refer to God in the plural? It is the only place in the creation story where that is done.

The answer can only lie in the various means God is said to employ in the creation.

As we have seen, Genesis starts with “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Everything that was to be created thereafter was to come from these two things – in scientific terminology, matter and space.

But to transform the ‘material’ that was there at the beginning, God is said to have employed His spirit – “And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

The third element comes in God ‘speaking’ – “And God said …” We should note that this wording is different from the first words of Genesis which simply say “God created …

Psalm 33 puts it this way: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”[10]

So what we see is that when it comes to the creation of “man”, ALL the methods God employed in the creation of the universe are brought to bear – God Himself, the “spirit of God”, and the “word of God” as reflected in the words “And God said …”

In the Christian tradition this is called the Holy Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

Philo has a slightly different interpretation. His argument is that since God can only create that which is “good”, and since certain elements of human nature are not “good”, God had to resort to “assistants” when it came to creating human beings.[11] But he doesn’t say who God’s “assistants” might be.

I don’t think Philo’s interpretation is correct, because, as we shall see, those elements of human nature that Philo says preclude God’s involvement are not in themselves wrong. In fact, they are essential for human survival: they are human instinct, and human reason. It is only when reason is applied to the primary or exclusive service of our primitive instincts that the actions become wrong, or evil. Furthermore, when it comes to ‘programming’ human DNA with reason and instincts, God is not said to have resorted to “assistants” – He does it Himself.

The “likeness” of God as a neurological moral network

So the “image and likeness” of God can only refer to human DNA being endowed with the capacity to perceive the moral dimension of the fundamental laws that govern the universe. The “image of God” is the moral dimension of the laws that govern the universe which are imprinted into our brains in mathematical form, and the “likeness” of God is the neurological network that enables us to convert that raw mathematical data into moral concepts.

Science also recognizes that the human brain is in fact endowed with just such a moral network. The British IVF pioneer, Sir Robert Winston, says that the human brain has “a sort of ‘morality module’ … that is activated at an early age. Evidence from neuroscience would back this up, to a degree.”[12]

Physicists go even further. Steven Weinberg, for example, says this about DNA: “no one doubts that with a large enough computer we could in principle explain all the properties of DNA by solving the equations of quantum mechanics for electrons and the nuclei of a few common elements.[13]

That tells us that if human DNA has a moral component, then that moral component can only be a consequence of the moral dimension of the “equations of quantum mechanics” which, as we saw in Day One, are the equations that establish freedom as the foundation of the laws that govern the universe. But it also establishes freedom as the fundamental principle of morality, which is modified by its reciprocal negative obligations, as well as those additional positive obligations that are imprinted into our brains and evidenced when we create new life in our own image.

That accounts for the moral faculty that is imprinted into the brain. The next verse accounts for reason and instinct. It is verse 28.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every thing that moveth upon the earth.”

We need to separate this verse into that part that refers to reason, and those parts that refer to human instincts.

Reason

First, we should note the difference between how God is said to have spoken to animals compared to humans. In the case of animals, Genesis uses the word “saying[14], whereas in the case of humans the words used are “said unto them”. The words “unto them” clearly denote a greater level of understanding between the one doing the speaking (God) and those He is speaking to – the “male and female”.

These words symbolize human DNA being ‘programmed’ with a considerably greater ability to reason, as well as superior communication skills. Talking to someone is very different to simply saying something. As we saw in the example given in respect of Day Five, one version is like ‘saying’ something to your pet dog, whereas the other is like talking to your children.

At verse 29, we again find God speaking to the humans He had just created: “And God said, Behold, I have given you …”

Here the words are even more explicit. They depict an ability on the part of the humans to understand what is being explained to them. And that requires a capacity to reason.

There can be no other explanation for the different use of words depicting the communications God is said to have had with humans and with animals.

Instincts humans share with animals

Genesis symbolizes the ‘programming’ of human DNA with the same instincts as animals in verse 28, when God is said to say to “man” exactly what He said to animals: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, …[15] We should recall that in the case of animals the words were “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters …[16]

As explained in respect of Day Five, these words relate to the instinct to reproduce, and the instincts for survival and security. These are the instincts we share with animals. And other, rather unattractive, instincts derive from these instincts, notably the instinct for vanity.

Human instinct to conquer

However, according to Genesis, God saw fit to endow humans with a number of additional instincts.

The first of these human-specific instincts are set out after the reproductive and survival instincts. Here is verse 28 again: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every thing that moveth upon the earth.”

The key words said to have been spoken to “man” are “subdue” the earth, and “have dominion over” everything else.

These words symbolize human DNA being ‘programmed’ with the additional instinct to conquer.

This instinct leaves most human beings with a strong desire to impose their authority and control not just on their environment, but on other human beings, as a means of suppressing the fear of death and insecurity that fires the instincts for survival and security. That is because the ‘instruction’ to “subdue” the Earth did not include a prohibition against subduing other human beings, and mostly it is other human beings that are perceived as the greatest threat to survival and security, often with good reason.

Furthermore, the instruction to “have dominion” applies to “every living thing that moveth.” And human beings are such living things.

It is this instinct to conquer that Nietzsche called the “will to power”.[17]

However, not exempting other human beings from the consequences of these primitive instincts was not some ‘slip-up’ on God’s part. It was required in order to ensure that a fundamental element of God’s Law was preserved – freedom.

So we see that our instincts are not in themselves wrong or evil. They are necessary for our existence as a species. It is only when we employ reason to service those instincts, without reference to morality, that they do mischief.

Reason is susceptible to falling into power of our primitive instincts because our instincts are activated by pleasure and pain. For instincts to serve their purpose there must be some mechanism to activate them. And that mechanism is the fear of pain, and the expectation of pleasure. So reason devises ways to limit any expectations of pain, and to service the expectations of pleasure. And that is when things can get out of hand.

The human capacity for knowledge

Genesis does not end the ‘programming’ of human DNA with instinct. The next verses reveal that human DNA was also programmed with an innate knowledge of how the universe functions.

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree yielding seed; and to you it shall be for meat.”[18]

And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.”[19]

These verses are a continuation of God speaking to the humans He had just created and, as such, relate to instinct.

The portrayal of God explaining to the humans what they had been given, what they can eat, and what God had given to the animals etc, symbolizes human DNA being ‘programmed’ with an innate, but latent, knowledge of how plant and animal life functions, and the interrelationship between them. It symbolizes an innate knowledge of the laws of physics, chemistry and biology, and an ability to discover and understand those laws. It also gives human beings an instinct to do so.

But again, when reason is in the service of this instinct, rather than in service to morality, the consequences are inevitably disastrous. Worse still, when reason is in the service of another instinct, like the instinct to “subdue”, but with the benefit of the discoveries made by the instinct for knowledge, like lethal weapons, the consequences are horrific.

However, it is not just the instinct for knowledge that gives us the instruments for destruction and death that are dangerous. The instinct for knowledge that produces apparently beneficial technologies can be equally destructive when not regulated by morality.

So the instinct for knowledge is not inevitably beneficial and benevolent. Its worth is measured by the extent to which it is directed and controlled by reason in service to morality.

Likewise, reason is not an inherently beneficial and benevolent faculty. It is a neutral faculty. Reason in the service of instinct results in wrong and evil; reason in the service of morality results in good.

Nevertheless, it was this ‘programming’ of the brain with the instinct for knowledge that gave rise to Einstein’s amazement at the human ability to understand the universe. As he said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.[20]

It is also one of the reasons that science, religion and philosophy all reveal the search for a Supreme Law, and a Supreme Lawmaker.

Conclusion

Having thus ‘programmed’ human DNA with morality, reason, and instinct, Day Six ends with an observation: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.[21]

This observation is not just “good,” but “very good.” It was exactly what God had intended, it reflected His Will, and it was also His final observation.

The “day” ends with the familiar “And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”[22]

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The next article will deal with the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve, to show how the activation of these various neurological faculties gave rise to human consciousness.

It will introduce the reader to the descendants of those relatives of Adam and Eve who did not eat of the forbidden fruit. They are alive, and relatively well, right here on Earth today.

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This series of articles is based on the book A ‘Final Theory’ of God by Joseph BH McMillan.

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved

Notes:

[1] Kaku, Parallel Worlds, page 67.

[2] Genesis 1: 11.

[3] Genesis 1: 22.

[4] Genesis 1: 21.

[5] Philo, On the Creation, XXIII (69).

[6] Deuteronomy 30:10 – 14.

[7] Luke 17; 21 – my emphasis.

[8] Philo, Decalogue, XXII (107).

[9] Mathew 19: 4 – 8.

[10] Psalm 33: 6.

[11] Philo, On the Creation, XXIV (74).

[12] The Guardian, 13 October 2005.

[13] Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory, page 32.

[14] Genesis 1: 22.

[15] Genesis 1: 28.

[16] Genesis 1: 22.

[17] Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, para 36, page 48.

[18] Genesis 1: 29.

[19] Genesis 1: 30.

[20] Quoted by Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers, pages 11 – 12.

[21] Genesis 1: 31.

[22] Genesis 1: 31.