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Circling  |  Praxis Circle Team's posts focusing on worldview content.

From Covid-19 to Humankind

 

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. Letter of Paul to the Romans 1:20

 


 

How did they know?

Of course, no one today could miss the drawing used for this post as the Covid-19 virus. We are not biologists, but we know that whether viruses are alive is a matter of definition and debate. We also know viruses cannot exist without host cells like bacteria, which have one cell, or without human cells. Furthermore, human cells are different from standalone bacteria in that they create and preserve the human body. 

Here’s a longer version (7:21) of the fascinating video above of what a cell is. The micro world is as or more fascinating than outer space, and the two are closely linked through the worldview idea. If Paul could have only seen a cell. Today we offer a few thoughts about viruses and the universe. In the process we hope you will better see that how one thinks about Covid-19 and science’s story offers excellent clues indicating one’s worldview. 

In our last post we introduced a chart that appears at the very bottom here. The chart lists the three most basic types of worldviews: mindism, dualism, and matterism. While these three big worldview stories are mutually exclusive, the many sub-stories within each vary so widely they often create extensive overlap across the worldview spectrum. We think most people adopt one of these three stories over time because it produces a more accurate and useful representation of perceived reality and because it better suits personal purpose and intent. 

It’s also clear people will move from one story to the next and even blend them to suit the need of the moment. Again, as the Rolling Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want,” but if you want to get what you want, it can really help to serve up the most self-serving worldview, or even to switch it on a dime. Now, whether that worldview of-the-moment might be “correct” is a different matter. 

No doubt whatsoever, especially today: The truth of the matter is irrelevant after accomplishing a desired goal. Not that we approve of this at all; we just believe today it’s accepted by many as fact.

 


 

To return to viruses, some important worldview questions to consider in thinking about Covid-19 are the following:

 

1. What is this virus?

2. Where did it come from? (Wuhan, China might be correct, but that doesn’t answer the “Where?” question we’re asking.)

3. How did it get there?

4. Is it alive or mechanical?

5. What is “being alive”?

6. Are there degrees of being alive?

7. Is it really different from bacteria? (We gave the generally-accepted answer above, but we mean “How so?”) Is it different from a monkey? How so?

8. Is a monkey different from a person?

9. Is a person different from all other known things in the world and the universe?

10. What happens to living things when they die? Are fates of living beings all the same?

 

Each worldview answers these questions differently. When the human mind adds Time to the Space/Time worldview pillar, as illustrated in the chart at bottom, it begins considering cause and effect. Such happenings naturally involve human language in producing large and small stories to describe them.

Today the scientific story of creation, the universe, earth, life, and people, of course, involves the Big Bang. A Catholic priest and mathematician, Georges Lemaître, proposed the idea in the late 1920’s, and Edwin Hubble’s observations and evidence from the Hubble Telescope later showed an expanding universe. The theory became widely accepted in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Physicists and most of the public today believe the Big Bang occurred an estimated 14 billion years ago, with life appearing about 4 billion years ago, modern humans 200,000 years ago, and recorded history beginning in the range of 5,000 years ago. The universe’s narrative really becomes complex when human storytellers begin stressing randomness and, very recently, human freedom in the historical equation.

Here are three ways science’s current, generally-accepted story of creation are being told: The Time Lapse of the Entire Universe (10:49) portrays the Big Bang’s key events mentioned above to today in proportion to actual time over the 14 billion year period; The Beginning of Everything (5:54) tells the same factual story honestly without trying to hide any worldview biases; Origins of the Universe (5:49), after admitting there are many creation stories, then gets pretty technical in science’s story about what we “know.” Its detail might lose some of our viewers by the end. It did us.

Of course, good scientists know that if enough time is added over the course of the story, it’s easy to argue just about anything was possible before human consciousness could audit and record the situation, assuming consciousness is part of one’s story. 

But when we look at the complexity of cells in the videos above and consider all of scientific discovery just in the last 100 years, we can easily see why so many scientists today question certain random-chaotic aspects of Darwin’s evolution story, at a minimum, which then leads to inferences of a Designer. In the highest academic arenas across the world, scientists are strenuously disagreeing on these questions. 

 


 

We believe that how world leaders answered the ten questions above became a matter of life and death to millions during the 20th century. With that in mind, and in order to show how widely people can vary within any of the three basic worldviews under examination here, let’s consider immediately below a quote from one of the most noted “matterists” (materialists) today, Terry Eagleton. Dr. Eagleton is a Marxist and a distinguished professor of English literature, University of Lancaster, living in Northern Ireland. He is author of over 50 books. The quote is from his book, Materialism (2016), pages 11 – 13. It’s quite a gem, if you enjoy readable philosophy:

 

Like many an apparent innovation, . . . the New Materialism is by no means as new as it seems. It shares post-structuralism’s suspicion of humanism – of the belief that human beings occupy a privileged place in the world – and seeks to discredit this view with a vision of material forces that flow indifferently across both human and natural spheres. But you cannot play down what is peculiar to humanity by animating everything around it. Matter may be alive, but it is not alive in the sense that human beings are. It cannot despair, embezzle, murder or get married. The moon may be in some sense a living being, but it cannot prefer Schoenberg to Stravinsky. Particles of matter do not move within a world of meaning, as people do. Humans can have history, but poppies and bagpipes cannot. Matter may be self-activating, but this is not the same as achieving one’s ends. Matter has no ends to achieve. . . .

The truth is that men and women are neither set apart from the material world (as for idealist humanism), or mere pieces of matter (as for mechanical materialism). They are indeed pieces of matter, but pieces of a particular kind . . . Or, as Marx puts it: Human beings are part of Nature, which is to think of the two as inseparable; but we also speak of them as being ‘linked’, which is to point up their difference. . . .

Human beings are outcrops of the material world, but that is not to say that they are not different from toadstools. They differ from them not because they are spiritual while toadstools are material, but because they are instances of that peculiar form of materiality known as being an animal. They also have a peculiar status within the animal kingdom, which is by no means to say an unambiguously ‘higher’ one. The New Materialism, by contrast is too quick to see talk of the special nature of humanity only as arrogance or idealism. It is a postmodern brand of materialism. Alarmed by the prospect of privilege – of a disabling division between human creatures and the rest of Nature – it risks levelling such distinctions in the spirit of cosmic egalitarianism, while pluralizing matter itself. In doing so, it ends up with the kind of contemplative vision of the world that . . . Marx criticizes in Feuerbach. You do not escape such a standpoint by seeing everything as vital and dynamic rather than mechanical and inert.

 

One of Dr. Eagleton’s purposes in Materialism as a naturalist is to take soul and spirit of a non-material kind out of the human being and the universe. His big issue with the so-called “New Materialists” mentioned above is that, as materialists, they’re putting soul and spirit of an immaterial or spiritual kind back into the materialist story. In fact, he even accuses them of bordering on committing the sin of matterism’s opposite worldview “enemy,” idealist mindism.

We are not bothered when Dr. Eagleton later gets Thomas Aquinas wrong in referring to him as a materialist. There is no question that Aquinas believed man’s mind is unique in the animal kingdom, a gift from God, and that it continues on a basis after death. No, the great Catholic St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dualist.

In any case, in sum here, we just wanted you to see that materialists who fit under the Matterism column vary widely. In other words, by no means do they always agree or get along worldview-wise. We will see serious disagreement occurring among those who hold all three basic worldviews, as we walk through each major worldview this year.

 


 

We will end by taking you back in time cinematically to the popular scene in 2001 Space Odyssey (1968) where that fateful monkey discovers weapons by learning how to use an animal bone as a club. The scene compliments our recent post on the movie Shane and guns that illustrates where evil might originate and our last post about three ways to think about evil. Then we will forward you back to today, where Steven Colbert interviews Dr. Lawrence Krauss (June 21, 2012), an accomplished physicist and astronomer, about how the universe originated in the beginning. 

To introduce the “2001 Monkey Scene,” we believe the 2001 Space Odyssey movie itself was intended to help the materialist, Darwinian argument along in a way that would support Dr. Eagleton today. The futuristic movie goes back in time to show how monkeys and thus humans really started going bad.

In other words, it portrays how pre-humans probably began splitting up into tribes to both advantage and protect themselves against violence, and how the most “successful” tribes took that fateful turn, thus becoming human, to use extreme violence to supreme advantage. Marxists believe this move made them fabulously wealthy capitalists over the very long haul through exploitation of the rest, the vast and most unequal majority, still today. It was monkey capitalists who first used force and systems to exploit their fellow primates. It should be said: In the beginning, domination and property was theirs. 

Do these monkeys remind you of anyone you know? How about your business partners or competitors? Rival political parties or even countries? Could they be conspiring well enough this very day, those ingenious monkeys, to turn a hip bone into a virus?

 

 

The big mystery of 2001 Space Odyssey is not so much the monkeys or Hal, the nice but very evil supercomputer who predated AI. No, 2001‘s big mystery is “the Monolith” that appears near the beginning of the above scene, as well as three other times at similarly key moments. While most see Space Odyssey, in part, as an endorsement of materialism on some basis, the existence of the Monolith just might be the script writer’s admission that the story of the universe’s development and man’s evolution needs a boost of Designer Mind at critical moments to be plausible. That is, to get to the next scene. 

In other words, something more is needed to explain the jaw-dropping detail of cells, life, human beings, and the universe. If it’s hard to see how a cell can become a monkey and a monkey a human without some outside help, and you’re not willing to allow for a Designer or even space aliens, perhaps inventing a Monolith is the only answer we have left.

 


 

Finally, we end this rather heavy post with a light, funny clip (7:20). In 2012, Dr. Lawrence Krauss had just published his book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, and Dr. Krauss’ appearance on The Colbert Report was part of the book’s promotional tour. We understand at his core Stephen Colbert is a Catholic. As a result, he has to be pleased that he truly demolishes Dr. Krauss’ theory that something could ever produce itself from nothing, at least from the average Colbert Report viewer’s perspective. Mr. Colbert did this without scientific knowledge approaching Dr. Krauss’, and, indeed, without relying on scientific argument at all. 

In Dr. Krauss’ defense, if you read his book you will see that he really doesn’t argue that something can come from nothing on its own; instead, he argues that matter goes from something to apparently nothing and back to something on a fairly regular basis. Such is suggested in The Beginning of Everything (5:54) video linked above. It’s an interesting theory; however, it’s fair to say that if we had had a more accurate book title, then we would not have had as funny a Colbert Report. 

So, thank you, Mr. Colbert and Dr. Krauss.   

 

 

  

 


 

 

 

 

December 30, 2020

7 responses on "From Covid-19 to Humankind"

  1. What a great comment by Mr Colbert at the end. Seems that Language/Linguistics, Meaning, and Agreement between the two (symbols and meaning) are divine aspects of humanity… “Nothing” and “God” really are the same thing if you choose to define them in the way each of them did in that clip.

    • This comment only refers to your third sentence, not your first, Garnett. Would agree with your first two sentences. But Nothing = God? Here you go: Not a matter of definition, but of worldview. Perhaps our difference is in that I didn’t hear definitional agreement, beyond niceties at the end of an interview, perhaps. In the Western world, truth is usually accepted among two or more people and signified by an agreed upon word corresponding with a reality, also agreed to, often believed to be outside each self doing the observing. In other words, observing subjects all think they know and agree to the existence of the same object not being them. Human subjects agree to the existence of an object and call it “reality,” using language. “A grizzly bear is chasing us” is reality. “The walls we built are not parallel and might collapse” is reality. “God appeared to us” is reality. Most average persons across the world are religious and would agree that Dr. Krauss’ comment that “there is no evidence for god” is clearly false. Such an observation must be based on what is agreed to be reality to be true. There are lots of evidence for God all over the place, and Krauss is clearly choosing to disregard it. (We are not saying God exists, we are just saying many books written especially by many very smart scientists, like Krauss, are filled with evidence. That is the point of these books. And many of these scientists do not agree with Krauss’ comment that God is not necessary. Many believe quite the opposite is true.) Moreover, such evidence goes far beyond science’s purview. Dr. Krauss is engaging in scientism. Because Dr. Krauss says there is no evidence does not make it “true” in a Western sense. Even if Mr. Colbert and Dr. Krauss agreed that Nothing = God, that would not make it true either. Of course, Colbert was not agreeing with Krauss’ definition of Nothing, in our opinion. He was implying that Krauss’ nothing was actually something throughout the interview, which Krauss virtually admitted when pressed. Krauss’ nothing still takes up space and exerts force. It might be retreating to another dimension where it is undetectable, but it is still something. Western logic says nothing cannot create something anymore than a circle can be a square. Perhaps nothing cannot exist in Time-Space (no pure vacuums), but the Western assumption is that nothing can, did, and probably still does exist, at least outside Time-Space. In fact, vacuums or nothingness were mostly analytical concepts to the ancients, anyway. Such an analytical observation is no different than saying no perfect parallel lines exist in reality, while they can exist analytically (in our minds). So the definitions of God and Nothing do really matter when corresponding to realities people can imagine and agree to, and the agreement is that these words are not compatible. We can have one (Nothing) or the other (God), but not both in the same Space-Time. God is something. Perhaps an idealist, postmodernist, or nihilist could agree that God could equal Nothing while also equaling Something, but a Western dualist or materialist relying on Western reason could not. This would violate the law of non-contradiction. In fact, a materialist like Albert Camus would likely say to such an idealist, “C’est absurde.” We are not saying this is necessarily or certainly correct, but that’s the argument. Any further comments? Very thought provoking comment, Garnett. Thank you!!

      • Just some further thoughts to run by you, Garnett. Your statement about God and Nothingness clearly involves different types of truth and their application together. While that statement involves too much to get into here, the ideas of both God and Nothingness involve elements of correspondent truth (words corresponding to agreed upon reality) and analytical truth (like logic and math – stuff in the head that don’t need to be in reality the exact same way). My comments stress God as a correspondent truth having produced much evidence of existence in reality, and Nothingness more as an analytical truth. Of course, to many theologians and philosophers, God is also a necessary analytical truth – which might in part explain our comment about God in an idealistic sense. On the other hand, Nothingness is something (an oxymoron just then?) we are not even 100% certain exists in Time-Space (it has no existence!), so it becomes more of an analytical concept. But perhaps it can also exist in reality, as Dr. Krauss seems to suggest. In any case, Mr. Colbert thinks in a conventional Western sense reflecting my comments, and Dr. Krauss thinks as a Western materialist who bores on scientism, meaning science can explain everything – which it philosophically just can’t. Hard to see God = Nothingness either way. And idealist might say all is God and consciousness and a certain type of Hindu or Buddhist might say that God is no-self, which is perhaps a form of nothingness, but that would not make sense to a Western worldview outside idealism. Another interesting question beyond whether nothing can generate something is the related question of whether all creations need a creator. What creatures a caterpillar and what creates a butterfly? When is one thing not another? Good luck with that one, too. Your follow up comments are welcome. Quite sure we are missing things here.

  2. “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

  3. Yes, John 1:1 is what I was referring to in my comment. I actually tend to agree with your position, however, I see the divinity within us all, including Dr. Krauss, and that is why I love this Praxis project. It emphasizes the need to listen to each others’ worldview so we can understand them at a level beyond symbols. I was simply pointing out how Colbert’s tongue-in-cheek comment shows how Krauss’s understanding of “nothing” is basically the same as a laymen understanding of “God,” and thus, you’d be right in that Krauss is wrong about God.

    “in our opinion. He was implying that Krauss’ nothing was actually something throughout the interview, which Krauss virtually admitted when pressed.” –exactly.

    One aside– in the grizzly bear example, I would say there is a difference between the actual reality of the grizzly bear chasing us and someone communicating that the bear is chasing us. If I spoke zero English, I would still experience the bear chasing us as you would, but I would not understand “the bear is chasing us.” And therefore it is my belief that language itself is divine– which consists of meaning & agreement upon symbols. The Bible alludes to this phenomen(on/a) in both John 1:1 and also with the story of the Tower of Babel.

    • I understand you completely now, Garnett; fits my own worldview, I think. In every way: God’s image (Imago Dei) is in all humans and Krauss’ “nothing” being Colbert’s something – which was to Colbert God “in the beginning.” 🙂 I totally missed your meaning there the first time. Sorry! 🙂 Also, your distinction about the bear analogy seems quite right, as well: Language is a human mental and even spiritual, analytical activity at such a high level it places us on “The Word’s” plain (John 1:1) and makes us, at least on that basis, special among beings that we know of. Not necessarily better but wonderful and different. Other worldviews have these beautiful thoughts in the same and different ways. To top it off, we seem to agree in that we see the same Grizzly bear chasing us (the entire discussion we just had that we now agree on) and can leave him now back in the woods for the evening. Thank you for your very interesting response and have a great rest of evening!

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