Re: [asa] Event or process revisited

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Sat May 19 2007 - 04:17:04 EDT

Two of my motives for developing the attached views of soul evolution were 1) animals in many ways are similar to humans and 2) a world created by a spiritual being should be spiritual in one way or another. The world would be kind of spiritual if entities at all levels in the hierarchy of being had souls. I had other motives, including a need that these views not conflict either with biblical teachings or findings of science. The resulting ideas fit nicely into a rational view of the world created by and for God.

Studies of animal psychology and animal intelligence have advanced to a point where one can say there appears to be nothing in humans that does not manifest itself in at least some small way in one kind of animal or another. Certain animals can think logically, use tools, use language, etc. So we who believe humans have souls must ask whether animals have them also. To me a soul is almost equivalent--if not exactly equivalent--to the capacity to be simultaneously the perceiver and the perceived. In other words, a being that has self-awareness has a soul. Only if an entity can become aware of itself can it become aware of others; only if it can be aware of itself can it acknowledge and perceive God. Otherwise it's just a programmed computer attached to sensory and motor devices.

One view of animal behavior is that it's the result of the animal's computer program built into its genes. Behaviorism early in the last century in fact attempted to demonstrate that even in humans behavior caused thoughts and emotions rather than vice versa. If the intestines churned in a particular way, one would experience the corresponding emotion. And thought is incipient speech. An alternative view--one I espouse--is that much of animal behavior is motivated by self-awareness: Insects flee for safety not necessarily because they've been programmed to do so, but because they recognize a threat to their existence as individuals. Every form of animal life that has the ability to do so will try to save itself when threatened. Even clams dig like crazy to escape perceived threats.

If an animal tries to save itself when threatened, let's assume it's aware of a self that needs to be saved and hence has a soul. If some living creatures have souls, why not all? Where would you draw the line? Since we want souls to exist, and since no one can prove otherwise, let's assume entities at every level of the hierarchy of being have souls. Souls at the higher levels in some instances are ueber-souls built up out of souls at lower levels. That's one consequence of evolution.

Jack asks about mercy killing, etc., and David about abortion. Because of dementia my mother at age 90 was largely not there. I felt most of her had died long before. But I had no way of knowing what was there. In her right mind she may well have preferred death to that kind of existence, and her humanity may well have decayed to something below higher mammals--that is, her human soul may already have departed. But I could never have consented to mercy killing. I wouldn't have known for sure: Did her many failed capacities indicate soul absence or a soul simply incapable of expressing itself?

The question of killing a mature human body that, because of damage, may not still have a human soul is one that must take into account more than whether or not the body has a human soul. There are cultural and social considerations. That said, in the absence of compelling reasons to the contrary, I'd have no qualms about removing "heroic" life support systems of bodies for which the best medical opinion is that there's no chance of recovery.

As for abortion, it happens. I think the views presented here allow people to deal more reasonably with that distasteful reality than does the RC assertion that the full human soul exists in the fertilized human egg. Of course, no one wants to disrupt God's special plans for the world. No one would want to abort Jesus' fetus or that of a prophet. But there's no way you can be sure you're not inadvertently impeding God's plans. You can, however, trust that his plans are sufficiently robust to get around any impediments you may set up.

 Don

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Don Winterstein<mailto:dfwinterstein@msn.com>
  To: asa@calvin.edu<mailto:asa@calvin.edu> ; Carol or John Burgeson<mailto:burgytwo@juno.com>
  Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 2:55 AM
  Subject: [asa] Event or process revisited

  Burgy wrote: ...I do not argue any..position other than one of seriously considering all options.

  For many reasons I take seriously the possibility that the human soul evolved stepwise continuously from lesser souls all the way down. Such soul evolution holds that the emergence of the human soul involved both a series of processes and a series of events. "Soul phylogeny" and "soul ontogeny" both involve such series.

  Human soul phylogeny refers to the emergence of the human soul from animal souls, where those animal souls in turn emerged earlier from souls of lesser animals and before that from souls of single living cells, and so on. Human soul ontogeny refers to the emergence of the human soul in the womb from the fertilized egg.

  The processes of this evolution consist of the activities leading up to the events. An event is the formation of a higher new soul through unification of lesser component souls. The activities leading up to an event would be those that physically prepare the component souls for unification. For example, in order to form the soul of a living cell from organic chemicals, it is first necessary to bring together all the component chemicals that go into the cell. Once these are properly arranged and fitted together, the cell emerges as more than the sum of its components; it gains a soul. In higher forms of life, the processes would not involve assembly of diverse components so much as enhanced unification and integration of diverse components. Enhanced unification in mammals presumably comes largely through brain enhancements.

  To my mind the best analogy for the event of soul formation is what happens when an insight pops into the mind: Before the insight, one immerses oneself in all the details of the problem, but how the details fit together is elusive until the instant of insight. Likewise, when a soul forms, all the necessary hardware has been put in place, and at some felicitous point the soul simply pops into existence; the physical components go collectively to a state of new and higher awareness under the aegis of the new soul.

  The highest levels of consciousness result from the fullest possible unification of many parts having great diversity. Soul is not equivalent to consciousness but is closely related, and high consciousness cannot exist without an appropriately advanced soul. (That's what I assert, anyway.)

  This model of soul evolution is relevant to the question of abortion, whether and when: The human fertilized egg does indeed have a human soul, but it's a soul far less advanced than that of any adult mammal. As the fetus grows, it forms successively more advanced souls until it reaches a point where it becomes the kind of person that I believe God has an interest in saving eternally. I don't believe God has any long-term interest in fertilized human eggs or microscopic embryos.

  (Is this any sillier than what's been handed down to us from the philosophers? IMO it's less silly.)

  Don

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Received on Sat May 19 04:14:02 2007

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