The unity of the real
Posted by Jonah Lynch on 30 November 2012 ·
Is the world the result of chance? As a scientist, I can easily view it as the extraordinary development of a blind principle, a winner-take-all contest among the various beings for light and resources. This is a reading of things which, on the basis of purely immanent and material principles, I cannot deny.
Not satisfied with this “explanation,” some speak of an anthropic principle, which focuses on the earth’s unity and the extraordinary coincidence of factors which make possible human life. Among these factors are the material constants, which, had they differed by even the slightest degree, would not have been able to generate the stability of temperature and the abundance of atomic connections which produce carbon, necessary for all forms of life that we know. Certainly one can pile up evidence that the earth is a special place. But here too, this evidence does not require the conclusion that the earth is the work of a good creator.
There are experiences, too, which suggest that everything is not just matter and energy: complex experiences, such as love, or conscience, or freedom. If everything were matter, where would freedom reside? In the brain or in the heart? In the liver? No one has been able to say. Even the question itself seems a contradiction, since to speak of freedom is to speak of something immaterial which nonetheless acts on matter, such as my fingers which are now typing. Some say that freedom or conscience are “emergent” phenomena: if you put together enough neurons, at a certain point they become capable of watching themselves in action. This seems a bit like sweeping the dust under the rug: you no longer see the problem, but it’s still there all the same.
Once a scientist said to me that freedom is an illusion. I responded by dousing him with my glass of water – to which he replied that this too was an action determined by my culture and my genes, and that I had not done it freely…
This example brings me to my point. In the final analysis there are only a few basic paths for interpreting reality. My act of faith is to believe in the unity of the real. One could also believe in the ultimate irrationality of everything, or that all is a projection of one’s own mind. These seem inelegant paths, however, which lack seriousness, especially when we observe the extraordinary rationality of the world. Nonetheless, all of these are acts of faith.
It is curious that reality can be interpreted in various ways and that, if one confines himself to particulars, many things can be explained in a purely materialistic manner. Indeed it is characteristic of God not to interfere with our interpretation. The creator does not force himself on our understanding, nor does he oblige us to acknowledge him – a style we also notice in the parables. Jesus offered himself to each person’s freedom, without compelling them with ironclad reasons. And even to the explicit question, “Are you the Christ?,” he responded mysteriously. He wants us to cling to him with our whole selves, neither as slaves obligated by His will, nor as intellectual slaves, constrained by a syllogism which leaves out the heart.
foto Juan Fco. Marrero