Evolution, Science, and Religion 8: No, Humans are Not Animals

Evolution, Science, and Religion 8: No, Humans are Not Animals

“The task of humanity…is to create a global civilization which embodies both the spiritual and material dimensions of existence.”

The Universal House of Justice

Apr 2, 2012. In our last blog, we saw that Darwin thought of humans as animals – with sophisticated capabilities to be sure – but still animals. In no small part because of Darwin’s prestige and influence – many continue to think so today.

Is such thinking scientifically sound? Or is it simply received opinion?

Christians invariably think differently than Darwin. They view humans as created in God’s image and distinctly different than animals.

Is this just belief, or is it scientifically sound?

The Baha’i writings emphasize that what makes humans unique is their intellectual endowment, not their physical makeup. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá urges us to understand human reality by considering our spiritual nature, not our animal nature:

… there are men whose eyes are only open to physical progress and to the evolution in the world of matter. These men prefer to study the resemblance between their own physical body and that of the ape, rather than to contemplate the glorious affiliation between their spirit and that of God. This is indeed strange, for it is only physically that man resembles the lower creation, with regard to his intellect he is totally unlike it.”

and

The reality of man is his thought, not his material body. The thought force and the animal force are partners. Although man is part of the animal creation, he possesses a power of thought superior to all other created beings.

Is this contradictory to science?

What Makes an Answer Scientific?

To determine whether an answer to a question is scientific or not, one might simply ask scientists what they think — often a very interesting thing to do. Clearly, it would be fun to survey the views and opinions of a large number of scientists in a wide variety of disciplines on this question. But is it the correct thing to do?

We know Darwin’s opinion — he thinks man is an animal. And we know his reasons for thinking so — all the capabilities he sees in humans are found in nascent form in animals. But, and this is an important point, it is clear that he has not done more than just form an opinion in the context of his understanding of evolution.

Most importantly, personal opinion is just opinion — no matter how eminent the thinker or scientist: it is totally different than a well-established scientific fact or theory. And we know that the opinion of scientists is frequently wrong. For example, it was the opinion of a great many scientists in Japan that the Fukushima nuclear power plant was safe from damage due to a tsunami. Their opinion was wrong.

So, the opinion of Darwin, or of a few eminent scientists, is not the answer we seek. We need scientific answers.

How Do We Find a Scientific Answer to Our Question?

Karl Popper

A question — or an answer — is a scientific question or answer if it can be answered or supported scientifically. Or, spelling it out more clearly, a question is a scientific question if it can be answered empirically — i.e., by gathering the facts and judging them by some clear criteria. A scientific answer is such an answer

It is also a scientific question if it can be answered by a justified appeal to well established scientific findings. It is a scientific answer by similar light.

Sir Karl Popper — the eminent philosopher of science — famously said that science had to be falsifiable. If answers to questions could not — in either practice or principle — be shown to be wrong, then the questions being asked could not be said to be scientific. Popper — to name a famous example — didn’t think that Freudian psychology was a science. You couldn’t prove it was wrong.

So we have three paths to explore:

  1. What are facts and the clear criteria by which we can answer the question about whether we are human or not?
  2. Are we able to appeal to well-established scientific findings?
  3. Are our results falsifiable?

1. What are the Facts? And by what Criteria Does One Evaluate the Facts

Clearly, if we can are going to determine whether humans are animals or not, we have to establish a criteria by which to evaluate the facts of the matter. What should this criteria be?

It is easy to think of many, but let’s pick only several: biological, intellectual, social, cultural, and spiritual. Are we biologically, intellectually, socially, culturally and spiritually different than animals?

Biologically, the question is simple. Do humans have the same biological properties as animals? The answer, too, is simple. Even considering differences in hand dexterity, speech capabilities, upright posture, and brain functioning, man is an animal biologically.

What about intellectually? In a large variety of intellectual categories one can think of — intelligence, mastery of abstract principles, language, science, etc. — humans surpass animals by large margins. So, if you define the distinction between humans and values in terms of intellectual capabilities, clearly humans are different than animals — that is unless you set the judgement bar very low.

Suppose, for example, that you devise an intelligence test that both humans and animals can take and suppose that on average iguanas score 02, dogs 04, dolphins 06 and humans 100. Now, suppose that you further set a criteria for judging the difference between humans as the level 05. Then you might say: “Look! Both dolphins and humans are in the same category. Both score above 05.” Then you claim that dolphins and humans are the same according to your tests, and therefore they can’t be differentiated. Both are therefore animals.

But the bar has been set so artificially low that the criteria for measurement is not meaningful. It’s like saying that both Singapore and Antarctica have days where the temperature exceeds zero degrees centigrade so their climate is the same.

This is essentially what Darwin and his followers have done. They point out that all the traits that we think of as human — intelligence, rationality, culture, empathy, group behavior, and the like — have counterparts, albeit at different levels of complexity, in the animal world. Therefore they conclude that humans are not distinct from and different than animals.

But, again, this is like saying that Singapore has the same weather as Antarctica because both have days where the temperature exceeds freezing. In all these example cases, no scientifically valid criteria — one that distinguishes differences that are clearly shown in the data — has been applied. The conclusion that Darwin and his followers draw — it is very clear — is scientifically suspect.

Clearly, similar types of arguments apply to social and cultural issues. There are great differences in degree between humans and animals, even acknowledging the surprising and fascinating social cultures that we know animates life for animals like elephants and killer whales.

As to spiritual capabilities, the distinction cannot be drawn in the same way as for intelligence, society, and culture. But if we consider spirituality as intelligence-driven learning based on incorporating moral and ethical principles into both one’s considered and habitual responses, clearly intelligence, society, and culture provide indicators for spiritual capacity much in the same way as temperature, humidity, air pressure, and wind velocity provide indicators for the weather.

2. Can we appeal to appeal to well-established scientific findings?

Scientific findings appear to be a mixed bag, originally favoring the idea that humans are animals, but now tending towards the view that humans are unique. The paleo-anthropologist Ian Tattersall — a leading expert human on evolution and the fossil record — describes the situation thus in Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness, (1998, pp. 188-189) :

Homo sapiens is not simply an improved version of its ancestors — its a new concept, qualitatively distinct from them in highly significant if limited respects.

… what has neatly been called “human capacity” in not simply an extrapolation of the earlier trends in our lineage that the studies of paleo-anthropologists are designed to elucidate. It is more akin to an “emergent quantity” whereby for chance reasons a new combination of features produces totally unexpected results.

In 1998, this was pushing the envelope and accordingly viewed disapprovingly (see for example, the New York Times review of the book). Large numbers of scientists then held — and many still do — to the traditional Darwinian perspective: humans are animals. Describing the conflicting views, the prominent neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga in Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique put it this way:

Thousands of scientists and philosophers over hundreds of years have either recognized this uniqueness of ours or have denied it and looked for the antecedents of everything human in other animals.

Gazzaniga’s own conclusions are similar to Tattersall’s:

I have decided something like a phase shift has occurred in becoming human. There simply is no one thing that will ever account for our spectacular abilities, aspirations and capacity to travel mentally in time to almost the infinite world beyond our present existence. Even though we have all of these connections with the biologic world from which we came, and we have in some instances similar mental structures, we are hugely different. While most of our genes and brain architecture are held in common with animals, there are always differences to be found.

So it is not totally clear what science is saying. Large number of scientists hold to the traditional Darwinian perspective that humans are animals. But new research — carried out by scientists like Tattersall and Gazzaniga — are pointing increasingly away from the Darwinian perspective (see for example modern studies of human uniqueness).

3. Are Our Results Falsifiable?

The third criteria we proposed was falsifiability. Answers to scientific questions need to be disprovable if they are to be valid.

In this case, we have seen that the Darwinian perspective is to dismiss criteria like differences in intellectual capacity as meaningless, citing the idea that animals have rudimentary capabilities similar in kind to those of humans to support the idea that humans are animals.

But this violates the falsifiability criterion. No level of difference between humans and animals can ever change the conclusions when considered this way. So, their answer can’t be falsified and by Popper’s falsifiability criteria, are not scientific.

Conclusion: Humans are Not Animals

So our conclusion is both straightforward and nuanced. In so far as biology is concerned, humans are animals. But insofar as other criteria — intelligence etc. — are considered, humans are different than animals. And this is not a surprising result.

So, humans are not animals, except biologically.

What is surprising — at least to me — is how weak and “unsciency” the view that humans are animals is. Arguments in support of that conclusion have to ignore differences in quality — and these differences are what makes scientific ideas testable and empirical — in favor of vague ideas of similarity and/or evolutionary origins. If there are any signs of intelligence — for example — in dogs, then it shows that humans are like dogs and therefore like animals. Its a weird way to think, and perhaps a no longer needed “spandrel” from the development of evolutionary thought.

Next Week

Next week, we consider the issue of the implications of our conclusions that — scientifically, as well as religiously — humans are not animals.

…………………………

This is the 8th in a series of blogs on evolution and religion. The author, Stephen Friberg, is a Bahá’í living in Mountain View, California. A research physicist by training, he authored Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution with Courosh Mehanian. He worked at NTT in Japan before joining the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley.

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28 thoughts on “Evolution, Science, and Religion 8: No, Humans are Not Animals

  1. We still have the same old “dreary” problem: religious people trying to force the universe into a model based on mythic structures (pre-modern/pre-rational metaphysics).

    The idea that non-human species are incapable of “spirituality” is absurd if one believes in some kind of spiritual interconnectedness, or unity-harmony, in the universe, or in a holistic model of evolutionary consciousness. If human being are the only species that is “spiritual” then we live in a universe that is 99.999999999999999+ % spiritually “dead”. That is a bleak implication. It is however necessary in cultures bent on building empires and dominating mother earth and enslaving other human beings.

    What Dr. Friberg has established is necessary but not sufficient: that religion, in its various cultural forms, has been delegitimized by scientific-rational culture in ways that are not always “fair”.

    This author provides a simple explanation (that does not rely on myths/metaphysics) of why that is problematic: http://www.techcast.org/Commentary.aspx?ID=94

    Here, Ken Wilber explains something that Dr. Friberg overlooks: there are some very good reasons that scientific-rational had to bully religion to create modern culture:

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2289

    “In one sense, of course, science and liberalism are right to be anti-spiritual, because most of what has historically served as spirituality is now prerational, magic or mythic, implicitly ethnocentric, fundamentalist dogma. Liberalism traditionally came into existence to fight the tyranny of prerational myth and that is one of its enduring and noble strengths (the freedom, liberty, and equality of individuals in the face of the often hostile or coercive collective). And this is why liberalism was always allied with science against fundamentalist, mythic, prerational religion (and the conservative politics that hung on to that religion).
    But neither science nor liberalism is aware that in addition to prerational myth, there is transrational awareness. There are not two camps here: liberalism versus mythic religion. There are three: mythic religion, rational liberalism, and transrational spirituality.

    The trick is to take the best of both, individual rights plus a spiritual orientation, and to do so by finding liberal humanistic values plugged into a transrational, not prerational, Spirit. This spirituality is transliberal, evolutionary and progressive, not preliberal, reactionary and regressive. It is also political, in the very broadest sense, in that its single major motivation, compassion, is pressed into social action.

    A truly transliberal spirituality exists instead as a cultural encouragement, a background context that neither prevents nor coerces, but rather allows genuine spirituality to arise.

    But one thing is absolutely certain: all the talk of a new spirituality in America is largely a waste of time unless those two central dialogues are engaged and answered. Unless spirituality can pass through the gate of science, then of liberalism, it will never be a significant force in the modern world, but will remain merely as the organizing power for the prerational levels of development around the world. ”

    So, the burden is still on religion to put forward a more adequate model.

    Which has not been done, convincingly, by any bahais that I’m aware of.

    A scientific perspective on the role of religion in human evolution:

    http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/Richerson/RichersonNewsonReligion%20AdaptiveLong%20.pdf

    Short version of the above:
    http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/Richerson/RichersonNewsonReligionAdaptive.pdf

    Here is what may be a useful explanation of the problem, from a professor of comparative religion:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20020208222312/http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/pub/devol.htm

    Esoteric Anthropology: “Devolutionary” and “Evolutionary”
    Orientations in Perennial Philosophy
    Sheldon R. Isenberg and Gene R. Thursby

    excerpt:

    Humanity as a whole has never been in so precarious a position. We live under daily threat from pollution, polarization, and potential global destruction. Ours is a time of extraordinary crisis. But few notice one of the deepest roots of this crisis. It is not just that “we” do not understand “them,” it is also that we do not understand ourselves. There is a crisis of understanding underlying the very points of view which we designate as “modern,” for inherent to late modern thought is a radical skepticism about the possibility of understanding anything or anyone.

    The modern world is a stage in a process in which humanity has, at least on the surface, eliminated the myths and metaphysics of traditional culture, and since the eighteenth century the release from the past has been made palpable in a devotion to autonomous reason and technical progress. But the unprecedented brutality of war and the unforeseen consequences of an unbridled technology have called into question the human hope to create a heaven on earth. So we find in recent patterns of thought a questioning of the optimism and the simplistic anthropologies which were characteristic of the early modern period. In the current stage of modernity we find a despair accompanying the belief that we cannot really understand what it is we might find worth saving from this crisis — for thoroughgoing moderns there can be no clear notion about what it would mean to “save” humanity.

    One consequence of this modern spiritual dead-end is a reaction which has taken the form of a flourishing anti-intellectualism manifested in superstitious techniques to ward off fears, in naive fundamentalism, and in authoritarian cults. Another consequence is increased interest in non-Western spiritual movements which, whatever their own effectiveness, typically have not yet come to terms with modernity. So neither the advocates of reactionary nativism nor those who endorse imported traditionalism have been able to offer the means of integration necessary to take us beyond the contradictions that threaten to destroy us.

    However, there is a different standpoint, calling itself a “perennial philosophy,” which claims to transcend the paradigm of modernity by comprehension rather than merely to oppose it. This claim must seem paradoxical or nonsensical, of course, in the context of the modern commitment to dialectic and the modern denial of transcendence. It inevitably provokes puzzlement in moderns — a consequence of an image of human nature and possibility which is characteristic of modernity, and which perennial philosophy sees as constricted and incomplete.

    The purpose of this paper is to delineate over and against some modern images the main features of a perennial anthropology — the human image which is an aspect of the comprehensive paradigm entailed by “perennial philosophy” — in order to provide a basis from which to begin an intelligent consideration of the claim that the transcendent perspective of perennial philosophy offers a significant critique of modernity and vital guidance for moving beyond it. We believe that this “perennial” perspective offers a valuable critical tool for assessing our current situation — one that comprehends and transcends the despair of relativism, on the one hand, while preserving respect for exoteric orthodoxies and promising a freedom beyond their psychic bonds, on the other.

    The perspective we will consider has been presented in Europe most notably in the writings of Rene Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, and their associates; and in the United States by Huston Smith and more recently by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. In addition to these writers, and others who consider Guenon or Schuon their teachers, there are others who claim connection to the perennial philosophy, and who represent what we might term different recensions. Yet all of them seek to articulate a standpoint which finds its basis in unitive mysticism, and so they affirm a convergence of perspectives among those who follow any authentic path of mystical ascent to a certain level of experience. These contemporary perennial philosophers seek to draw from a common core of knowledge which is the foundation of all of the great religious traditions. Their writing, therefore, is not so much characterized by a devotion to novelty as by repeated references to a large but nevertheless delimited set of traditional teachers, including Neo-Platonists, Hermetics, Advaita Hindus, Mahayana Buddhists, Sufi Muslims, and Christian and Jewish mystics.

    1. Dreary indeed, because you wrote a long comment that doesn’t seem to address the central point of Stephen’s post. Which is the scientific validity of the idea that human beings are animals.

      He said very little about religion, perse, but most of your commentary, curiously, is a polemic against religion as narrowly defined in the beginning of your comments. Stephen made only one reference to the Genesis story (humans created in God’s image) and from that you seem to have extrapolated a great deal.

      You imply that this is just one more example of “religious people trying to force the universe into a model based on mythic structures (pre-modern/pre-rational metaphysics).” The literature that forms the core of Baha’i teaching rather insists that Baha’is see reality for what it is and strive to apply the very pragmatic spiritual teachings to life as it is. In other words, we are to abandon “mythic structures” and use what the writings refer to as our “first faculty” — reason — to view the universe and our place in it.

      Personally, I find this comment puzzling: “The idea that non-human species are incapable of “spirituality” is absurd if one believes in some kind of spiritual interconnectedness, or unity-harmony, in the universe, or in a holistic model of evolutionary consciousness. If human being are the only species that is “spiritual” then we live in a universe that is 99.999999999999999+ % spiritually “dead”. That is a bleak implication”

      As a science fiction writer, I find it bemusing that you’re limiting the confines of the spiritual universe to the inhabitants of this tiny planet. I fully expect that there are other “human” species in the universe (meaning spiritually like us, if not physically so). Nor does it follow that if only beings endowed with what Baha’u’llah refers to as “the rational soul” experience spiritual interconnectedness to the degree that humans do, the rest of the universe is spiritually “dead”. That seems a distinctly binary view.

      In any event, bleakness is in the eye of the beholder and assumes that the human soul has a “size” that makes it tiny in the face of this vast “dead” universe. That assumption is not necessarily true.

      One further note: I would advise you not to base your understanding of what the Baha’i Faith has to say about these subjects on what individual Baha’is can articulate. One of Baha’u’llah’s core principles is the independent investigation of reality: understanding what His “philosophy” has to offer and what the implications of His teachings are for the understanding of human reality is up to each of us. It’s not the purview of any Baha’i — no matter how well-trained in the application of Baha’i philosophy to Life, the Universe, and Everything — to put forward an adequate model. Each of us — including you — has to extract that model from reality for ourselves.

      1. The idea that humans are “not animals” is not a scientific question, so I didn’t see any reason to go down that rabbit hole.

        You might as well as say “fire is a plant”. Non-science. But, fully supported by the bible, which places the image of a LIVE metaphysical “burning bush” in the center of its stories.

        Or, fish is a mineral. They both have phosphorus in them!

        This is a religious blog, and as you state, religion is clearly the primary orientation in the beginning of the article. A religious institution is cited as the primary authority and inspiration. Your purpose is missionary, not scientific. Your orientation is to protect your “tribe” (religious subculture).

        The issue of consciousness and complexity is what “real” science concerns itself with, not with categories of meaning from ancient and medieval religions that had ZERO access to modern science, controversies and all.

        So, what does the (existing) archeological record tell us? It tells us that there is evidence of FIVE “human” species whose semi-human primate ancestors go back several million years. It also tells us that a variety of other genuses adapted to wild swings in climate by also developing larger, more complex brains and similar, impressive survival strategies.

        Were they, or could they have been, “spiritual”, or “semi-spiritual” ??? Is that a silly question? The answer is “yes”.

        The purpose of the metaphysical construct of a human “soul” (and the absence of such in “animals”) is the same as the entire set of metaphysical constructs, such as “sin”, or “evil”, or “suffering”, or “scriptural infallibility” or that “pagan” religion was “invalid”, that developed for concrete historical reasons at the time that farming and empires became widespread.

        Such constructs were the necessary rationale for the use of brutal, dehumanizing forms of hierarchy, patriarchy and imperialism in a system of “world denying love” as described by Max Weber.

        1. Hi Eric:

          Thanks for your comments! Its nice to have someone who disagrees, as it livens things up a bit.

          You say that whether or not human’s are distinct from animals is not a question that “real science,” i.e., a science that you feel abandons metaphysical constructs from the time of empires, embraces. You also say the real question is a question of complexity and consciousness. OK, fine. But, you do realize that the questions – the two points of view – are contiguous, don’t you? At least I hope you do.

          Bigger brains derived from evolution? By God, I hope so. Max Weber? Are you going metaphysical on me? Where are you going with all of this? Anyplace interesting?

          Stephen

          1. “This is essentially what Darwin and his followers have done. They point out that all the traits that we think of as human — intelligence, rationality, culture, empathy, group behavior, and the like — have counterparts, albeit at different levels of complexity, in the animal world. Therefore they conclude that humans are not distinct from and different than animals.”


            comment: a dog has more complex cognition/consciousness than a worm, presumably. So, it would be valid to say that a dog is not-worm.

            It would be incorrect to say that since a dog is more complex than a worm, it is thus not an “animal”.

            Like I said, this discussion is just a word game, trying to rearrange definitions of words to fit religious (pre-modern) categories that are not relevant to actual science (modernist). As such, I can’t see how it advances discussion of the strengths and weakness of science or religion, as currently understood.

            Robert Bellah wrote an excellent article on Weber’s analysis of how modernism destroys traditional metaphysics (dissociation of values spheres of “arts”. “morals” and “truth” (I, We, IT – similar to Martin Buber), a theme in Ken Wilber’s work), more or less a lament about how society has become worse as a result: a lack of the kinds of collective meaning and purpose (the “interiors” of consciousness) that religion always addressed, but science, which addresses “exteriors”, can not, or should not.

            Since Bellah and Weber point out the flaws in such scientific-exterior perspectives, you will probably enjoy the article. I’ll find the URL and post it.

            Also note that: postmodernism also increases such a lack of meaning and purpose, it even attempts to deconstruct science (or at least the absolutisms associated with the form of science that developed under modernism).

            I stumbled across this blog again due to a web search, looking for the original Isenberg/Thursby URL, which I thought I had lost track of.

            (If you don’t want this discussion space to be open to constructive criticism of bahaism, you should advertise it that way.)

          2. http://www.robertbellah.com/articles_3.htm

            | Max Weber and World-Denying Love:
            | A Look at the Historical Sociology of Religion1
            | By Robert N. Bellah
            |
            | Reprinted with permission by Oxford University Press
            | from the Journal of the American Academy of Religion,
            | June 1999, Vol. 67, No. 2, pp. 277-304.

            excerpts:

            The German word that lies behind these translations is Liebesakosmismus, and, in the course of teaching a seminar on Weber’s sociology of religion in the spring of 1997, I decided at last to get to the bottom of this term and why it was so important to Weber. The closest English equivalent I could come up with is “world-denying love.” “World-denying2 love” is a more accessible English translation, but even that reverses the German noun and adjective.

            … the subject is not, or not simply, religious rejections of the world but the differentiation of what Weber calls the value spheres (Wertsphären) and the increasingly irreconcilable conflict between them, a differentiation that leads to the “polytheism” of modernity, a “war of the gods” which is the result of the entire process of rationalization, Weber’s central preoccupation during his last and most fruitful period.

            We need not discuss further the aesthetic or the erotic spheres, or even the intellectual sphere, once we realize that for Weber salvation religion inevitably requires “the sacrifice of the intellect” (1920, 1:566;1946:352).24 But Weber’s arguments for the incompatibility of the modern economy and state with an ethic of brotherliness have to be taken with the utmost seriousness.

            Since Weber spent many years studying economic history in relation to religious ethics, it is not lightly that he argues for their incompatibility:

            [] Money is the most abstract and “impersonal” element that exists in human life. The more the world of the modern capitalist economy follows its own immanent laws, the less accessible it is to any imaginable relationship with a religious ethic of brotherliness. The more rational, and thus impersonal, capitalism becomes, the more this is the case. In the past it was possible to regulate ethically the personal relations between master and slave precisely because they were personal relations. But it is not possible to regulate–at least not in the same sense or with the same success–the relations between the shifting holders of mortgages and the shifting debtors of the banks that issue these mortgages: for in this case, no personal bonds of any sort exist.” 25 (1920, 1:544; 1946:331)
            []

            Weber fears any effort to impose ethical regulation on the market because of the danger that it would undermine the formal rationality of the market mechanism itself. Elsewhere he writes that “in [the world of capitalism] the claims of religious charity are vitiated not merely because of the refractoriness and weakness of particular individuals, as it happens everywhere, but because they lose their meaning altogether. Religious ethics is confronted by a world of depersonalized relationships which for fundamental reasons cannot submit to its primeval norms” (1978:585).26

            Weber seems remarkably contemporary in viewing any effort to “interfere with” the market economy as destructive of the viability of such an economy, as his lifelong hostility to socialism also suggests. But Weber is no simple apologist for laissez-faire capitalism–he sees its human destructiveness as clearly as its harshest critics. Rather, he is giving us his own bleak picture of the irreconcilable conflict of the value spheres. He closes his discussion of the economic sphere in the “Zwishchenbetrachtung” by pointing out the two “consistent avenues for escaping the tension between religion and the economic world”: 1) the “benevolence” of the mystic who gives whatever is asked with no thought of return; and 2) the paradox of the Puritan ethic of “vocation”:

            [] Puritanism renounced the universalism of love, and rationally routinized all work in this world into serving God’s will and testing one’s state of grace …. Puritanism accepted the routinization of the economic cosmos, which, with the whole world, it devalued as creatural and depraved. This state of affairs appeared as God-willed, and as material given for fulfilling one’s duty In the last resort, this meant in principle to renounce salvation as a goal attainable by man, that is by everybody. It meant to renounce salvation in favor of the groundless and always only particularized grace. In truth, this standpoint of unbrotherliness was no longer a genuine “religion of salvation.” (1920, 1:545-546; 1946:332-333)
            [] …

          3. Eric, is there any chance that you could pick out just one theme – say whether or not humans are distinct from animals – rather than a whole bunch of things? I’ve time and interest for discussion on a very limited set of topics, but not the huge amount of miscellaneous topics you are bringing up. Could you pick and choose what interests you most and that you would like to pursue?

            I think that you are persuaded of the rightness of what is often called a materialistic interpretation of society, one that tends to see spiritual pursuits as trickery and adopts an anti-clerical and an anti-religious point of view. Such interpretations have been a western European trend since Spinoza, one that has come to the fore in the French enlightenment and to dominance in the 19th century with the rise of German scientific materialism and their less vehement British and French counterparts. In many ways, it is the foundation stone of modern political and economic theory, be it capitalist or Marxist.

            But, unfortunately, this interpretation hasn’t held, as the wars of the last century, the widespread inequality and constant struggle of the modern era, and the rise of fanatical religious groups has shown. So, I find that one of the the burdens of discussion revolves around such questions as to which of values inherited from the religions and societies of the past are worth keeping, and which no longer bear fruit. That is a discussion where science has role to play, in my opinion, which is one of the reasons this is a blog on science and religion.

            Pick a topic we should talk about? Also, please don’t cut and paste large amounts of material. Do reference those materials – posting relevant paragraphs with comments. That’s an excellent way to go about things.

            Stephen

          4. “I think that you are persuaded of the rightness of what is often called a materialistic interpretation of society, one that tends to see spiritual pursuits as trickery and adopts an anti-clerical and an anti-religious point of view. ”


            comment:

            That is actually a bizarre, un-nuanced characterization that reveals your biases far more than it does my beliefs, or what I am persuaded by.

            Marx’s enduring insight was that culture, and religion, develop as a result of economic and technological change (not revelation, etc.). So, the “magic” religions of tribal and nomadic hunter-gatherers is replaced by, or transcended and included within, the “mythic” religion of the first farming communities and cities that were possible because of the food surpluses of the farmers.

            The problem (which could be described as trickery, etc.) is that as tribal cultures are scaled up into SuperTribes/Civilizations, the “other” of pagan culture has to be demonized. Bahaism does NOT escape this problem, it still uses the same categories as Islam and demonizes pantheist, pagan and magic religions that are not in the list of more or less “acceptable” “major religions” in the “all religion is one” mantra.

            Rationalism, science and modernity (individual achievement) developed as a result of the economic changes that came about in the middle and late medieval period, initially under decentralized political conditions, and culminating in the industrial revolution. There was a shift from communal, mythic values that arose from the “interiors” of human consciousness (I-We) to ones that are individualistic and focused on the “exteriors” of consciousness (“It”, material reality).

            Side note: there is a missing manifestation in the picture. How is it possible that the massive paradigm shift toward modernism that started in the 1700s, if not earlier, could have come about without a revelation from a manifestation to power it forward toward all of the horrors and splendors of the world of progress that we live in?

            The “interiors” of “I-We” are as much part of reality as are the “exteriors” of “It”. This should be a basic point of agreement for anyone that is trying to understand “science and religion” in the context of consciousness studies, complexity theory, etc.

            Marx was in direct conflict with traditional religion in that traditional religion sees “progress”, or something similar to it, as the result of the “guiding hand of god”, such as the regular appearance of Prophets in the Bahai scheme of progressive revelation.

            What Weber was pointing out was that the great drama of salvation and contemplative spirituality in mythic religion can’t function in the modern (rationalist-scientific) era in the way it did in medieval culture. The foundation of traditional religion is in the power of the “interior resonating” purity myths about the need for detachment from sin,evil, and suffering.

            When Weber’s “differentiation of values” begins to take place at the beginning of modernity, the “strivers”, people focused not on collective cooperation, but on individual achievement, burst on the scene, and begin to challenge the old order, and to erode the foundation of mythic-communal belief that the old order is premised on. Eventually we, have Nietzsche freaking out about the disordering effects of this liberation from mythic social order and the comforts of its psychic enclosures.

            The crucial point is that the reforms toward representative institutions, town charters and peasants’ rights, and freedom and prosperity that had developed for at least 500 years prior to 1492 under reform elements of the church, were swept aside by Absolutism when power began to be recentralized and turned toward the building of Imperial and Colonialist global powers.

            So there were two forks in the road of modernity, one democratic, local, dynamic, free market and decentralized, the other was centralized, formally bureaucratic, absolutist and mercantile.

            The Absolutist politicians took over the Church and eliminated as much of the local, decentralized stuff as they could, which was a lot.

            The idea that “no king was above the laws of god” was replaced with the “divine right of kings”, and in the case of the USA, the ruling religious elite was replaced by a ruling commercial elite. “god” had been replaced by “greed”.

            I find it hard to believe that you would be willing to objectively subject Bahai scripture to the kind of scientific examination your seem to be willing to put other religions to.

          5. Just quickly, because time is at a premium today, this: “Marx’s enduring insight was that culture, and religion, develop as a result of economic and technological change (not revelation, etc.).”

            Except that Marx’s “insight” was incomplete. Yes, some religion or at least permutations of religion develop as a result of changes in the overall environment of the humans involved. And those causes and effects are far more complex than you hint at in your comments. And for the record, I (and a host of others) have subjected the scriptures of the Bahá’í faith to such an examination as you propose before embracing the faith. In fact, Stephen Friberg, who was raised an atheist did exactly that before he accepted revelation of Bahá’u’lláh as being the real deal. So did my husband (atheist) and best friend (atheist).

            Everyone does not view Life, the Universe, and Everything from the same vantage point and it is this diversity of thought that lies at the heart of the Bahá’í teachings.

          6. Maya, isn’t Eric right though, that the Baha’i Faith considers pagan religions as inferior religions, with no divine revelation? So I guess then you would consider the many thousands of years when everybody was a polytheist or some similar pagan, as times of darkness, with no divine revelation available to humanity? Which would raise the question, why would God have been so silent all that time?

          7. First, I think “inferior” is the wrong word. Perhaps “incomplete” is more accurate. Certainly they are without an immediate and direct revelation that believers point to. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a revelation somewhere along the line that got incorporated into an existing tradition or that the tradition sprang from. For example, the pagan tribes (however one defines pagan) that Muhammad arose amongst had a form of worship that included such faith Fathers as the Prophets Abraham, Joseph and Moses. Their tribal gods were worshipped alongside the god of those Prophets. Egyptian religion, too, clearly points to a past in which someone claiming to be divinely inspired appeared to give teachings regarding human interaction and ethics. That Messenger is sometimes equated with the God-man Ra, just as Krishna—an avatar of the Hindu faith—is sometimes deified. In Chinese religion, too, it is accepted that Prophets such as Fu-hsi (who is credited with bringing to mankind writing and marriage), appeared to educate humankind and facilitate our evolution.

            Second, Bahá’u’lláh says clearly that there has not been a time when the entirety of mankind was in darkness. While I grew up with the (to me untenable) idea that God spoke only through Moses and Christ, and then fell silent, I came to realize that made no sense. Most especially it made no sense in light of Christ’s teachings about the nature of God as contained in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7).

            God, I found, never stopped talking. Bahá’u’lláh taught that God sends Messengers roughly 500 to 1000 years apart and He sends them where the darkness is greatest. That is ample time for teachings to spread, to be assimilated into a culture, to lift a people up to a new level of spiritual understanding before human agendas play their usual part in the process and entities and dogmas multiply. Why do they multiply? I suspect there are as many reasons as there are gods and dogmas, but the key point, to me, is that even in religions that have pantheons of gods (Hinduism, or Egyptian religion for example) there is a recognition that those gods are “created” and that there is one Supreme Spirit that is “uncreated”, to borrow a Buddhist term.

            This is a fairly universal idea.

            At any rate, there have been myriad such Messengers, some lost in the annals of time because of the circumstances of their appearance. God has been sending emissaries to us from time immemorial. The ones we know of today are only those who either 1) appeared after the invention of writing or 2) whose history oral histories were passed down to a point that we developed the technology to record them.

            “Pagan” religion isn’t the result of God’s silence; it’s the result of human inventiveness.

          8. Interesting, Maya. I did not know that the Baha’i Faith could even believe in some revelations in some polytheistic religions, like the ancient Egyptian religion.
            I have to admit I don’t know all that much about the ancient Egyptian religion, it does surprise me that they would have believed that only one of their gods is uncreated and is supreme.
            Likewise of all that I have read about Hinduism and Buddhism, I did not read anything about them believing that one of their gods, and only one, is uncreated and supreme. Maybe you can give me a name of such a god, in case of these 3 religions/

          9. The problem is that the monotheist religions, which provide the “truth” foundation of Bahai, are vigorously opposed to “pagan” religion. Bahais are certainly not going to reject Islamic scripture, which is viciously anti-pagan, for instance, without also rejecting some of the deepest, core metaphysics in their own scripture!.

            The primary reason for the rejection of “pagan” religion by monotheism, from a historical, sociological perspective, is that farming culture (which made settlement/cities possible and then monotheism on a widespread basis) are opposed to hunter/gather culture and its nomadic tendencies, its unsettled ways, its tantric, body paths to spirituality, its shamanism.

            Monotheistic, city religion is the religion of empires, or SuperTribes.

            non-Monotheistic religions are rooted in the 99.9% of evolutionary history where people lived a “natural” life, without complex, centralized institutions and urban infrastructure, slave and peasant classes, hierarchies and extreme patriarchal “law and order” systems to enforce role specialization and complicated bureaucratic rules.

            So, the basic problem is that Bahaism tries to “have it all”, to be inclusive, on a surface level, to appeal to urban liberal culture’s so called “universalisms”, while at deeper levels, remain rooted in a medieval, imperialistic and ethnocentric paradigm (law and order, patriarchy, centralized world bureaucracy).

            In the ways that matter, the actual operation of Bahaism as an institutional entity that protects and privileges certain “ways of existence”, it had a very high level of fidelity to the monotheism tradition and centralized power. There is very little tolerance for any kind of non-conformance involving the basic model of prophetic revelation, in other words, access to the Divine Source has to be mediated by rare individuals that produce “pure Revelation”.

            The typical model in pre-monotheistic religions is that while gurus/shamans/etc. are important guides to the sources of Divine Access, they do not require that anyone hold them to have EXCLUSIVE access that others are inherently incapable of accessing, with sufficient preparation and effort.

            And this is why Bahaism has to distort Buddhism and call its traditions “corrupt”, because those traditions never asserted that Divine Access is restricted to a few rare “Prophets” that produce “pure Revelation”.

            Basically what Monotheistic religions do, for understandable political reasons (you either build a unified empire, or get crushed by someone else’s unified empire), it to enforce a “unity” mantra via a purity myth that is wrapped around magic beliefs (supernatural events, such as rising from the dead, time travel, infallibility, etc.).

            So no, it isn’t a matter of “lost Messengers”, it i a matter that the entire model of what “Messengers” are is unsuitable to understanding how cultures evolved and developed various forms of spiritual practice before farming and settlement began in a widespread way.

            Another problem with the “progressive revelation” model is that there was no “Prophet” that was present when the era of Modernism began, in the 1600s/1700s. Given that the paradigm shift toward Modernism and industrialism-capitalism was one of the most profound events in human history, how could it have begun without some guiding, revelatory, prophetic figure (as “progressive revelation” requires)?

            To return to the topic, whether it is the challenge that evolution presents to traditional mythic creation myths and their underlying model of what human spirituality “really is” (unique {according to traditional religion} or shared with animals as part of a spectrum of evolving consciousness {modernist/postmodernist science and philosophy}), most of the major philosophers since the 1800s have had a deep worry about how pulling the mythic threads of religion out of the fabric of culture will lead to that the weakening of the foundations of morality and ethics, or in postmodern terms, authentic forms of culture.

            So, there is no question that the Bahai concern about the disintegration of ethics and morals by the forces of “materialism” is legitimate, and shared by major philosophers.

            The question is, is an effective strategy to support monotheist religion to retreat into the fortress of traditional metaphysics, which includes the “unscientific” notion that human beings are “not animals”?

            Given that almost all social theorists for the last 150 years agree that the foundations of such fortresses are essentially eroded to the point that they can’t function in an effective manner anymore (except as the organizing force for regressive politics), maybe it is time to let go and move on to something better? Or at least try to start working out what they might mean?

          10. Hi Eric:

            You write: “The problem is that the monotheist religions, which provide the “truth” foundation of Baha’i, are vigorously opposed to “pagan” religion. Baha’i’s are certainly not going to reject Islamic scripture, which is viciously anti-pagan, for instance, without also rejecting some of the deepest, core metaphysics in their own scripture! …

            If I ignore the questionable metaphysics, history, and theory, I think that you have a serious point – you ask whether the Baha’i Faith, which you see as monotheistic and owing allegiance to Islamic and other Abrahamic traditions, is compatible with non-Abrahamic traditions including Buddhism.

            Also you argue that monotheistic religions are rooted in cities, empires, and such and that non-monotheistic religions are associated with pre-urban, pre-empire societies, i.e., agrarian areas. (Buddhism, as I’m sure you know, is closely associated with the rise of sophisticated city life in India and after that great empires, so it is not a pre-urban phenomenon.)

            You propose the question: is it “an effective strategy to support monotheist religion to retreat into the fortress of traditional metaphysics”

            Let me try a short answer, and if you want, we can discuss further later.

            The Baha’i Faith indeed supports the belief that there is only one god, a view characteristic of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and sophisticated Hinduism. And while Buddhism does not use “God language” it has principles and practices that correlate closely to monotheistic belief. And, of course, through monasticism (most likely) and Sufism, Buddhism has helped shape Christianity and Islam.

            With respect to traditional metaphysics, by which I assume you mean Judaic, Hellenistic, Islamic, and Christian metaphysics, the Baha’i Faith does address traditions that are meaningful to people from those traditions. But it also departs from those traditions and leans strongly towards Buddhism when it emphasizes the unknowability of God and the idea that religious truth is not absolute but relative. And of course many of the ideas of Buddhism and Hinduism were embedded in Sufism and known to Islamic scholars and students of religion, including many who addressed questions to Baha’u’llah.

            The oft-stated aim of the Baha’i Faith is to unite people of all religions, and an oft-stated principle of the Baha’i Faith is the oneness of religion:

            Bahá’u’lláh … taught that reality is one and not multiple, that it underlies all divine precepts and that the foundations of the religions are, therefore, the same. Certain forms and imitations have gradually arisen. As these vary, they cause differences among religionists. If we set aside these imitations and seek the fundamental reality underlying our beliefs, we reach a basis of agreement because it is one and not multiple. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 175)

            What this means is that traditional metaphysics that leads to differences and disunity have to be rejected or rethought, and the same goes for religious practices. Shamanistic religious practices – like those practiced by the pre-historic, or even historic tribes, are sometime peaceful and helpful but often times militaristic and aggressive – consider ritual battle in old-time Papua New Guinea or Aztec wars carried out to get victims for ritual sacrifice.

            The Baha’i Faith is not going to endorse such unhelpful and destructive practices – for one thing, it made Mexico easy-pickings for the Spanish. Nor is it going to endorse violent or extremist practices in Islam or the misogyny rampant in many traditional agrarian societies. Rather, all these ancient, destructive practices will be swept away, as we see happening so dramatically in Islam today. And often, it doesn’t require effort on the part of the Baha’is but is part of the evolutionary growth processes affecting the world independent of what the Baha’is do.

            Stephen

      2. The fact is that any Axial system of metaphysics (medieval, monotheistic religion) is a narrow reading of the universe that developed in response to specific, concrete, historical forces, as per Marx’s insight into the origins of cultural systems (social forms) in economic and technological disruptions.

        Without global warming, and the end of the ice ages, and the rise in CO2, and the corresponding flourishing of plant life, and the rise of agriculture and dense urban populations, human beings would still be nomadic hunter/gatherers with “pagan” (matriarchal/magic) religions, and would have stayed that way for perhaps 10,000s of years more, given the rate of cultural evolution that existed prior to the end of the ice ages (which was relatively slow).

        The main point is that it is coevolutionary (gene/culture) and geophysical processes, not some “guiding, divine hand” (in the conventional religious definition) that gave rise to the invention of “religion” (as well as all other aspects of culture).

        I do not see your status as a science-fiction author to be relevant, other than to illustrate that the human imagination, including the ability to conjure silly ideas about “god”, is indeed vast.

        Bahaism is not a fully adequate model of Life/Universe/Everything (no such thing is possible given the limits of human cognition), it is the product of specific, historical set of circumstances. and, like all other metaphysical mashups and purity myths, is full of contradictions and inconsistencies, including the idea that its formulation of the “harmony of science and religion” is adequate.

        You can’t escape from the real limits of human cognition by simply positing metaphysical constructs such as “prophetic-scriptural infallibility” without suffering from significant delusions. (by the way the ability to form such delusions is probably also a side effect of evolution’s wiring of the cognitive-linguistic functions in the human brain as related to the need for social bonding and rituals in early human, and perhaps pre-human, primate species.)

        In other words, it wasn’t “god” that created the human consciousness of “spirituality”, it was nature and evolution, and as such, various incremental levels of awareness of “spirituality” are expected to

      3. (cont.) “various incremental levels of awareness of “spirituality” are expected to” [be present in different organisms.]

        But, “admitting that” is problematic to bahai (really sufi and earlier) metaphysics, which requires that nature conforms to the requirements of the (human constructed) purity myth that states that the world (especially “animal nature”) is basically evil, full of sin and suffering (imperfection).

        The great drama of human meaning and purpose, within the Axial construct, can then unfold with incredible psychological power: atonement, redemption and salvation are possible, and allow the “impure” human to experience the Divine (via the middleman of Pure Revelation). The grand narrative of Weber’s “world denying love” is then present, driving SuperTribes toward glorious forms of “universal civilization”.

        The idea that “humans are not animals” is a construct that is required for an elaborate metaphysical scheme around which a specific set of cultural meanings and purposes, and social forms, are structured.

        It is not “science”, it is playing games with words to try to paper over the inconsistencies of metaphysics that become apparent under conditions of modernity, rationalism, etc., that were not present when such metaphysical systems began to develop in human history when the needs of culture were far different than currently. (or previous to Axial times)

    2. Hi Fubar:

      Fascinating ideas! And a lot of new material I’m not familiar with. Thanks.

      You write:

      “What Dr. Friberg has established is necessary but not sufficient: that religion, in its various cultural forms, has been delegitimized by scientific-rational culture in ways that are not always “fair”.”

      I would say it as follows: The scientific-rational culture has poured its findings into the mold of mythic-religious structures inherited from the pre-scientific world to effect the same kind of control over social thinking that was exercised by religious thought in the past.

      In other words, new wine in old bottles.

      1. Not the greatest analogy, but it is correct in some ways.

        1. The ruling elites in medieval cultures were aristocracy and church/temple. Mythic-communal values that emphasize the interiors of consciousness. The downside, as explained in the Qur’an and repeated in Bahai scripture, is corrupt forms of mysticism, superstition, etc.

        What I have found recently is a very high tolerance for such chaos and corruption in eastern mysticism, to the point where predatory gurus that exploit people are not protested with much vigor. Bizarro.

        Monotheism and other western Axial constructs “attempt” to deal with the problem by positing pure revelation, thus they take the power of direct access to Spirit largely out of the hands of corrupt mystics/gurus and place it in a slightly less problematic location: “infallible” written texts and those that authoritatively interpret such text, such as religious scholars or priests. (Buddhism takes a very radical position and simply asserts that both individuals and the collective are responsible, but not in a very authoritarian or institutional manner.)

        2. The ruling elites in modern culture are commercial-scientific. Their meta-narrative is one of social progress via scientific and technological advances, democracy and capitalism. The values system is centered on rationalism and individual achievement. The emphasis is on exteriors, material reality.

        As you say, the commercial rulers of democratic capitalist social systems realized that they could not maintain social order and cooperation of the peasant/working classes without something approximating religious morals.

        Thus an “unholy alliance” is necessary between the traditional (conservative, religious) elements of society and the modern (professional, scientific, liberal) elements. This is the fascination of the BBC TV show “Downton Abbey”, it entails the decline and disappearance of the last vestiges of the Old Order and the rise and triumph of democratizing forces and the liberation and empowerment of the workers.

        Any remaining elements of aristocracy take on symbolic roles. Church and State become “separate”, thus depriving religious institutions of most of their former political and economic power. Religions are allowed to continue to educate the people in matters of medieval social order and cooperation, in watered down form.

        What is new is the expansion of the middle and professional classes (including scientists), who develop ways of taking some power away from the ruling commercial elites, by doing what the upper classes have always done: exploit the lower classes. On the occasions were the peasants rebel successfully (such as the “secret” labor wars from 1880 to 1815 in the USA), the commercial rulers and professional classes are forced to actually share wealth and power with the lower classes for a while (FDR’s New Deal). Eventually, the ruling elites develop more sophisticated methods of social conditioning, including via public schooling and commercial mass media propaganda, and the poor and working classes are increasingly exploited in service to an agenda of the concentration of wealth and power by the ruling elites.

        The conditioning is do profound that even massive declines in the position of most of the middle and working classes are insufficient to inspire real social unrest.

        Both religion and science are increasingly bent toward the objectives of a complex system of providing “bread and circuses” (weapons of mass distraction and addiction, etc).

  2. Hi Stephen

    Great post!

    As you said one train of thought is that animals are like humans but a lot less developed and that in time with a long period of evolution, the intelligence, reasoning capability will fully manifest itself.

    Another possibility that has hardly been mentioned is that perhaps the intermingling of the elements in humans is at a higher level than animals. Humans have abstract thought, can figure out differential equations etc, while animals do not have abstract thought and long evolution over time will not change this fact. One argument against this line of reasoning is that genetically we are 98% the same with gorillas. I find this argument problematic; one can code two programs where 98% of methods, subroutines are the same but the overall programs do very different things.

    This is a hypothesis, in order to prove it, one has to find a ‘signature’ that is unique in humans that reflects this higher level on intermingling and interaction, within the human body. This signature can then be traced back to develop the human ‘tree’.

    1. Hi Bahram: Thanks

      You wrote

      “Another possibility that has hardly been mentioned is that perhaps the intermingling of the elements in humans is at a higher level than animals.”

      The Baha’i Writings make this point, and it seems to me that it is the common assumption among most scientists. Its hard – if you are a scientists – to think that the huge differences between humans and animals are not accompanied by biological difference.

      You further write:

      “This is a hypothesis, in order to prove it, one has to find a ‘signature’ that is unique in humans that reflects this higher level on intermingling and interaction, within the human body. This signature can then be traced back to develop the human ‘tree’.”

      Presumably, the signature would be in the brain, perhaps some structure that humans have but animals don’t. Its not been found yet.

      The Baha’i point of view is interesting: like a mirror that reflects the sun, the human intellect attracts all of the attributes of God – or perhaps I should say it potentially attracts all. Can’t say that I understand it, but if you think of such things as compassion, empathy, intellect and the like, they are certainly things that the evolutionary folks are always talking about. So, It may well be that different ways of talking are being used to talk about the same thing but with an emphasis on different ways it plays out in reality.

      1. I think the “signature” is so present, so immense, so much a part of our nature that we literally cannot see it because we’re too close (as in surrounded by it).

        When I stand back and look at the situation from the distance I use as a writer, it amazes me that there’s any debate at all that human beings have something other animals do not. The fact that we are 99% like our primate cousins physically, yet not one species of ape is “almost human” in any sociological or intellectual sense.

        We do not even hold bonobos to any standard of human behavior, we do not expect any animal to adhere to social mores, nor do we hold them responsible for behaving like animals. Subconsciously, the most secular philosopher buys into the understanding that we are fundamentally different, AND YET FAILS TO SEE IT.

        There is, however, a disturbing trend in though that I see cropping up more and more that we ARE just animals and therefore the meanest, most animal behavior is acceptable—at least when it comes to matters of sex. We’re not quite ready to toss in the human towel when it comes to violent acts of rape and murder yet, but that is the logical termination of the philosophy that we are merely smarter animals.

        If there were, on this planet, after all these millions of years of evolution one or two other species that had even developed the most rudimentary systems that human beings have invented, it might be conceivable that it’s just a matter of time. But the evolutionary record produces no such claimants to “almost humanness”. We are alone in our niche, while among other animals, there are multiple creatures that fill the same niche.

        If it were just a matter of time, I would expect to see more competing groups of hominids or other sentient species with competing societies.

        Of course, Baha’u’llah does comment that if we mess up really badly and fail to rise to the challenge, God will raise up another race of men “out of the sea”.

        I take it on faith that we will not reach that pass.

        1. re: “If it were just a matter of time, I would expect to see more competing groups of hominids or other sentient species with competing societies. ”

          And in fact, that is what the fossil record tells us, and has for several decades! During the course of around 2 million years, our primate ancestors, became slowly more “human” in several different branches that we now know about. There are probably going to be more finds, but never a fully complete picture unless new technology provides for new methods of investigation.

          In recent years, we see Denisovans, a eastern variant of Neanderthals, and a new species of early Homo, perhaps Homo Habilus that seems to appear between “Lucy” and the earliest Homo known previously.

  3. The evidence obtained by Dr. Ian Stevenson, who’s work is been carried on by Dr. Jim Tucker at the University of Virginia (and there are others, like Dr. Sam Parnia at the Nour Foundation for instance) shows the human mind is non-local if we consider the mind to be that place where memories are stored.

    No human being would, or could ever be able to have memories of past lives which have been verified/confirmed/validated if this wasn’t true.

    It’s basic logic.

    How could anyone have memories in their minds of being someone who is already dead if it was “all physical” and memories were stored in some part of the brain? This would be clearly impossible. No way around it.

    And nope, it doesn’t have anything to do with people “hearing stories” and making it their own, because it happens across continents, races, languages, etc. And there are cases documented from long before the internet or any type of easy access to communication across the world ever existed.

    So yes, one of the components of what we call “a human being” is the physical body. The evidence shows that the being itself, the “I”, the man behind the machine, *The unit of awareness which is aware to be aware* the Identity which is the individual is NOT the body nor any part of it, but rather “IT” USES the body to be able to cause an effect on the physical Universe. (or to interact, or more simple “to be alive”)

    But the being itself is non-physical, and carries its memories from one life time to the next.

    This can not be (and will never be) possible to be duplicated in a laboratory, but it can be found and verified in first person.
    All it’s needed is to find those memories with the help of an hypnotist (or something of the sort) and then go on to investigate whether the person one remembers to had been on that particular past life truly existed and lived where it’s recalled to had lived, and all other memories related to that particular individual. It’s quite simple actually. It could be a bit complicated if the person lived on the opposite side of the planet and so forth, but it can be done.

    As for the “humans are just another animal” That was put forward by Wilhelm M. Wundt at the University of Leipzig – Germany based on his “studies” (which were never subjected to the protocol of the scientific method) pushed forward by Darwin with his THEORY, and is nothing more than a story based on the fundamentals of what is called “psychology” which is a make-believe system with not a single shred of scientific evidence to support the claim.
    It was also propelled forward by Pavlov with his dogs. And it’s very interesting the fact that most people know about the dogs salivating, but most people do not know that the “true discovery” made by this bubbling idiot was the fact that the dogs “forgot” all the training after going through a traumatic experience were many actually died in a flood.

    He took this and claimed that “now he new how to change any religious, political belief or what have you and replaced with whatever he wanted” and of course this consists of making people go through an analog experience to the one the dogs went through.

    Otto Von Bismark went along those lines as well. As time went by it became more and more “subtle” but the attempt to use it to control the population was (and still is) alive and well.

    Nowadays instead to try to say it openly has been replaced by the more subtle: “We think” “We believe” “the consensus is” “it is linked” “there’s a correlation” “studies have shown” (the latter was concocted by Edward Bernays to manipulate people with propaganda which he called “PR”) ad infinitum.

    I find funny when people say religious people are easily manipulated, (and I’m not saying they are not) mainly because this is usually said by those who have been indoctrinated into believing that they are animals.

    I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything more easy to manipulate than an animal… and people’s attitude actually show this to be so in our society nowadays.

    It’s like the “the pot calling the kettle black”

    But if you wanna see any of this “scientists” go into panic mode, all you have to do, is to pronounce this two words to their face: “Scientific Evidence” and as soon as they here it, you’ll see them run for the hills as if they were trying to get away from the devil itself.

    If we consider the evidence showing memories been non-local as the gathered evidence show, and the psyche (<===SOUL, or SPIRIT) being non-physical, then that all by itself renders the scientific method useless to work on this matter. Because the Soul, or Spirit (Again= the true Identity which is the Individual who travels from one life time to the next) would be something BEYOND the reach of the scientific method since it is constrained to the physical Universe which can be reduced to energy (Physical) and matter existing in the space through time.

    The mere SUSPICION of it being such already compromise the scientific method. And the Evidence showing these memories being /verified/confirmed/validated says exactly that. Because remember these memories can ONLY be obtained through the account of the Individual PRIOR to being verified.

    There's no such a thing as "a device" that can detect those memories.

    This btw, is the specific reason why memories will NEVER be "downloaded" like some idiots are claiming.
    There's an account CLAIMING that some "scientists" have been able to see what people are dreaming. But when you go through the nuts and bolts of the procedure, you'll find that what they did was to ask people to think of a Zebra, took the patterns of the electrical impulses going on in the brain of the person at that moment, uploaded those patterns into a computer, and told the computer to show a Zebra when those patterns show up.

    Hence, they are NOT "seeing" what the person sees on its dream, what they are seeing is a pattern they introduced into the computer while ASSUMING that such pattern "always means the same" and furthermore ASSUMING that this pattern represents "the same" in everyone's brains.

    So this claim is pure baloney.

    Cheers!

    Maverick.

    1. I heard an interview with a neurologist who surprised the interviewer by making a distinction between “brain-body” (the physical component) and “mind” when speaking about addiction and other self-destructive behavior. The animal brain, he said, wants the drug (or the candy or the flan or the cigarette) and says, “yes, yes, yes!” while the mind, knowing it is dangerous says, “no, no, no”. The human being loses when the physical brain wins the argument. So, yes, the human animal is easily manipulated especially if it focuses on physical and material pleasures as a source of life satisfaction.

      As CS Lewis once said, “I am a soul; I have a body.”

      As a Bahá’í, I believe that our evolution is toward the spiritual (the intellect dominant) away from the physical and material (the body and brain pleasure centers dominant). We are learning, slowly but surely, to consider people and things beyond our selves and to reckon time in the long term.

      BTW, before I became a Bahá’í, I had several experiences that inclined by to believe in reincarnation, though the actual religion doctrine made zero sense to me (what sense in learning a lesson if you don’t remember having learned it without extraordinary measures?) A Bahá’í speaker (Stan O’Jack, as I recall) shared with me a passage from the writings of Abdu’l-Bahá to the effect that in the next world the communication shared by the souls will make our language here seem like the yapping of wild animals. In other passages of Bahá’í scripture, it is said that when a person is in an altered state of consciousness—meditation, prayer, or semi-consciousness—they might “touch” the soul of someone in the next “realm” (which is not, after all, separated from this world physically) and exchange communication.

      When I put these two ideas together, the experiences I had suddenly made sense. They all had to do with death (the death of the dream “me”) and I was still struggling with the death of my father. I am inclined to think that I “conversed” with these souls because they had something I needed to know. But because the communication was instantaneous and not verbal, I experienced it as if I had been each of those people.

  4. Here is a video, about 21 minutes of the timer on the progress bar is correct, in which a biologist explains some new ideas in Complexity theory and Panpsychism.

    The ideas completely obliterate the notion that human beings exist in some separate “spiritual” (non-biological) category that was created by “god” where there is something inherently unique about consciousness.

    https://vimeo.com/44013533

    excerpt:

    Neil Theise, M.D. – Complexity Theory & Panpsychism
    from Matt Faw 2 years ago

    Dr. Neil Theise, LIver Pathologist and Stem Cell specialist, explains complexity theory, and how sentience could be a function not only of human brains, but of all life, and indeed, of all existence. Sentience, according to his view, is the very interaction that creates all patterns in the universe, including all matter and space.

    Interview shot as part of forthcoming 3D Consciousness documentary.
    Filmmaker: Matt Faw

    1. Love to have to talk to a mutual friend of Stephen’s and mine, Lisa Ortuno who is a biologist. In fact, I’d love to have her see the video.

      I don’t mean to be flip, but the idea that the creature studying its own consciousness can be objective about it is amusing. The human intellect is supernatural in the truest most literal sense of the word. Yet we seem to have no appreciation for that fact.

      We have no natural ability to fly, exist underwater, live in the vacuum of space, find our way unerringly from one place on the planet to another or travel faster than our legs can carry us, yet our consciousness uniquely investigates and discovers the principles behind the laws of physics that affect all these things, then uses those principles to imagine, design, invent and build the means of doing them. There is not another creature on the planet—not even our closest cousins with whom we share 99.9% of our DNA—has anything approaching that capacity.

      To me the argument that human sentience (what Bahá’u’lláh calls the rational soul or the first faculty) is just more and not different seems irrational. I do rather like this comment though: “Sentience, according to his view, is the very interaction that creates all patterns in the universe, including all matter and space.”

      It rather sounds like a definition of God. That is, that Interaction or Intelligence of which ours is a reflection.

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