Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quick, Henry, the Flit

Surely, no idea has caused so much mischief or unnecessary debate as philosophical dualism: natural/supernatural, body/soul, matter/spirit, law/miracle. And few ideas seem so deeply ingrained in minds and hearts. The vast majority of people embrace dualism in some guise.

Where did the idea come from? The experience of sleep and dream? An unwillingness to accept the finality of death? And why does it persist in the face of a total lack of evidence?

Let this be said: The astonishing progress of science is predicated on a unitary naturalistic philosophy. Furthermore, science has yet to encounter a single phenomenon that would require a dualistic explanation. The idea of a transnatural reality is simply a bust.

The morning glory plant on my window sill is covered with tiny green bugs. From a distance they look like dust; under my hand magnifier they look like fleas with lacy wings and long paddle-footed legs. I don't know what they are, but I am sure that somewhere in the world there is an entomologist who specializes in just this species, devotes a lifetime to its study, and then has surely only scratched the surface of what is there to be known. It would take a thousand lifetimes to exhaust the mysteries that harbor on my window sill.

Somewhere in the new book I write: The smallest insect is more worthy of our astonishment than a thousand choirs of angels. The buzzing business of a single cell is more infused with eternity than any disembodied soul. The Jesuit scientist/mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin celebrated "the flame [that] has lit up the whole world from within...from the inmost core of the tiniest atom to the mighty sweep of the most universal laws of being." He asked, wonderingly: "How is it possible that I am so incapable of passing on to others...the vision of the marvelous unity in which I find myself immersed."