Monday, March 24, 2008

Supernatural versus natural

I do not think it is appropriate to believe the supernatural to be the source of the natural. Every system we know of behaves naturalistically. Weather, Oceanic currents, Glacial formation, Planetary orbital pathways, Radioactive decay, Nuclear Fission, Procreation, Immunity to disease and infection, Nourishment; all conform to the laws of nature. Plants do not call anyone "lord". Mountains do not move according to the verbalized mantras of wishful thinkers. There is only one natural system, influential to humanity, that has ever been considered to be a part of the supernatural realm (to its own detriment) and that is the system of thought.
Human beings are aware we exist. We are aware that others like us exist. We know that we are capable of gaining and retaining knowledge. We understand our own ability to think. Our awareness is what sets us apart from most other living creatures today (aside from the great apes, some primates, dolphins, parrots and other assorted animals). It is from this awareness that, long ago, we conjured up the idea of an immortal soul for ourselves. It's easy to look back and see how we could've viewed ourselves in such a self-important way, when the surrounding animals and plants were decidedly less intelligent than we were (and still are). How could such an advanced species not be endowed with something so esoteric as a "soul". We could think, we were aware, for cripe's sake. Our intelligence simply had to be the result of some divine intervention. We must've been born with this invisible attribute of immortality. The problem is we kept dying, and no one liked(s) that scenario. Death is not conducive to immortality, the two are most definitely at odds. And so, the discomfort with the idea of our concurrent intelligence (awareness) and our inescapable physical mortality led us as a species to invent many stories; ones designed to subvert the inevitability of our physical (and soul's) death (albeit a subversion which is delayed until after we physically die). We have not always been as intelligent as we are now. We were once ignorant of what most today would deem as common-sense. The sun does not revolve around the earth, the earth is not flat nor is it held up on the back of a great turtle, cutting someone deeply in order to "bleed" out an infection is a bad surgical treatment, the use of anesthesia during surgery results in more successful surgeries than the disuse of it does. The awareness of ourselves that gave rise to the idea of our possessing a "soul", has been coupled with a more complete knowledge of the world around us, more so now than at any other time in our brief history of life. Neuroscience is uncovering more and more each day of the buried behemoth of the human brain, and by doing so they are displaying the inessentiality of the concept of a soul. This may sound a bit gloomy for those who have grown up believing we have a soul, but it doesn't need to. To me, the fact that we are all that make us up and nothing else, composed of the same basic elements as everything in the universe, and we can still create works of grandeur such as the Goldberg Variations of J.S Bach, Stonehenge, or the internet is the mother of all testaments as to how wonderful we all are. On the flip side, I see it as unnecessarily condescending, to ascribe our worth to a being who is somehow simultaneously the same as and better than us. I see my son as the most wonderful human being in the world, but that feeling is in no way due to the benevolence of "god; it is due to my son. I will take no credit away from him for being the wonderful person he is. There is not now nor has there ever been a need for god. We are human beings and we are worth our own attention and accolades.

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