By David Eldon Schroeder
We need to begin our inquiry into establishing a credible perspective on origins with the premise that nothing cannot make something. To believe otherwise requires a greater leap of faith than any proposition found in any religion. Therefore, if one does not want to call the maker “intelligent design(er),” at least the admission of a “creative impulse” or force must be allowed. And since all that we know in our dimensions of space and time seems to exist within a cause/effect nexus, the “creative impulse” must exist outside or independent of our material world, which breaks the dilemma of an infinite regress. (To be sure, it does require a faith assumption, but so does every attempted explanation of origins. The test of universal worldviews is not a question of faith versus some other basis of assumption, but their explanatory reasonableness [consistency, coherency, comprehensiveness and congruity; cf. James Sire, The Universe Next Door] in view of the evidence or effects that stimulate our inquiry in the first place.)
The purpose of this inquiry into origins is neither to find the answer nor to espouse a particular worldview. Rather, it is to challenge the empirically based view that it is impossible that there is intelligent design behind the origin of the universe and life. This brief treatise is more philosophical than theological; more perspective than polemic.
A second necessary premise for positing a credible perspective on origins is that non-life cannot generate life. To believe otherwise requires a leap of faith nearly as preposterous as the negation of the first premise. Therefore, the creative impulse must itself have life.
Third and fourth premises are that non-being cannot generate being and non-personality cannot generate personality. Therefore, the creative force responsible for life must be a being with personality. So, these four premises underlie the remarks which will follow:
- nothing cannot make something
- non-life cannot generate life
- non-being cannot generate being
- non-personality cannot generate personality
Admittedly, these four premises may seem to be a rephrasing of Thomistic ideas, but they do not move toward teleology. Nor do they press for a faith position after establishing empirical or cosmological arguments. Instead, these premises expose the need for a faith perspective upfront – before any inquiry or commentary may be made about origins of the existence of matter, mind or spirit. Both radical skepticism and radical belief make an initial leap, or start with a presupposition about what may not or may be allowed as evidence. So, it seems to me, these four premises are foundational for any serious inquiry into reality.
Keen thinkers will at once, of course, see that these are meta-physical propositions. To restrict an inquiry into the realities surrounding the material (physical) world merely to physical statements or ideas is to settle for uncaused causes—brute nature, as some call it—without meaning, purpose or value. But worse, such denial of the validity and necessity of metaphysical propositions betrays and must reject the immaterial mind that is questioning its own source. Surely, the mind must seek to understand its own metaphysical nature. What has a new corpse lost -materially or physically – with the death of its mind? Weigh it! Measure it! Do the autopsy to find what’s missing. Only one thing is missing—life, immaterial life. If the point is made that brain activity is merely matter (fuel) turned into energy (thought), we must ask what is operating system for stimulating the matter of the organism to convert the matter into mind? Is it not the mind itself? So, an honest, seeking mind will readily accept its metaphysical nature, and thus allow metaphysical premises in seeking an explanation for its source, and for all reality.
We do not minimize the enormity of the leap of faith that must be taken to accept the existence of a personal-being-creative impulse, and we accept it only because the negation of these properties requires an absurdly greater leap of faith, a leap with nothing (literally) to land upon. And the reason critical thinkers accept the personal-being-creative impulse idea reluctantly is that the huge amount of evidence we have, our cosmos and the universe beyond, is circumstantial. Some may see so-called “fingerprints” of the maker in the design and grandeur of nature, but unless one posits celestial fingers, there can be no fingerprints, and the overwhelming amount of disorder and natural chaos do not point to very friendly fingers.
But we must deal with the circumstantial evidence, and we do so not as extraterrestrial, objective analysts, but as highly subjective and invested inquiring minds. We want to know, we need to know what reality is and how to live appropriately within what we perceive to be the really real. So having accepted four premises, the validity of making the propositions that those premise underlie, and the uncomfortable leap of faith that lands us in a hostile intellectual environment, let us fast forward to the end of our inquiry and work backwards. The end of our inquiry is, of course, the end of our lives—the most fearful point of our reality.
The question that most quickly springs from our subjectivity at that point—the subjectivity of intelligent beings about to be extinguished—is a good question. Assuming that the creative force behind our existence is an eternal life force, an assumption far more easily made than the four premises that have led us in this direction, why are we not also able to assume that a being exists for whom termination is not a necessity? Since the “termination” we all expect is the end of physical life, a truly meta-physical being may also transcend the limitations of life as we know it. One might name this being any name one chooses, (let’s use the name Being) but the attributes we have described – creative ability, intelligence, personality and timelessness – also describe the Being. Other attributes may also apply, but these are essential to our hypothesis.
Three possible relationships between this Being and humans may exist:
- The Being has ceased to be aware or involved with humans.
- The Being is aware but uninvolved with humans.
- The Being chooses to remain aware and involved with humans.
The first two positions are variations of deism, a faith position which is a reasonable response to evidence or lack of evidence in the world. These positions may or may not posit postmortem life for humans. What they exclude are transcendent purposes and meta-natural abilities or activities of humans (such as prayer, worship, or any truly spiritual activities that imply communication with the Being).
The third possible relationship between the Being and humans is some form of theism, which implies the active, interested involvement of the Being in its creation, especially humanity. Perhaps the communicative drives that have been observed in all cultures, such as prayer, worship, and sacrifice, do not necessitate the actual existence of an attentive Being at the other end, but it seems reasonable that these impulses reflect the nature of the Being who seemed to have had a relational reason for the genesis of humans. If the creative Being is also a communicator with mortals, that communication would seem to be spirit to spirit. Language would not seem to be either an obstacle or necessity. Thought patterns in language will obviously be needed from the human side, but presumably the inner impulses that underlie the content of the human’s communication are perceived rather like a bar code at the other end. The symbols probably don’t mean much except to the scanner. On the other hand, our ability to perceive the communication coming to us – if there is such – seems limited to the filter of our minds.
Critical thinkers may wonder at this point if we are not like children trying to cross a swamp by hopping from one weedy clump to another. We keep moving from one tenuous thought to another, but as we do so, hopefully we are navigating our way to a firm landing, and at least we are not cowardly quivering on the shore with life and death questions that we do not have the courage to address.
If, then, a creative impulse with personality has intentionally produced life which this Being seeks to relate to, it is quite reasonable to expect the immaterial aspects of our nature to seek this communicative connection and to anticipate a clearer comprehension beyond the limits of our material existence. Post-mortem life seems to be a sequitur rather than an absurdity.
Anticipating the possibility of life after death, we then rewind in our imaginations to the life we now experience and look for signs that will direct us to the other side of the swamp. We hear the voices of others farther along, and read the accounts of those who pioneered the life of spirit. And while they all beckon us to live faith-fully as we move toward the other side, none of them (we assume) have actually appeared or spoken audibly to us since their crossing has been completed. Were their assumptions true and their expectations fulfilled? And because not all of them agreed on which path through the swamp would get us there, which voice or voices would be the best to follow? But these questions take us beyond the immediate inquiry.
What we are hoping to affirm credibly is the necessity of faith assumptions that point to the necessity of intelligent design, not just of present existence but also of future purpose. We are not seeking to establish just the validity of faith assumptions, and we are not seeking to establish just the plausibility of intelligent design, but the necessity of both.So we affirm that Something or Someone has produced all that we experience as real, and that its product that we experience and call creation somehow reflects the nature of what we have called Being: intelligence, personality, purposefulness, and nontemporal and nonmaterial existence.
This Impulse, Force or Being we may also call The Life (source of living beings), whose existence is The Truth (Logos = explanation of reality and origins) and whose will is The Way (to transcend material finality). As human beings, our best expression of intelligent life is to pursue greater knowledge of the Being who is The Life, The Truth and The Way. Our inquiry should not be limited to the possibility of intelligent design in the universe, but accepting the four premises above, perhaps in our own best interest it will be wise to inquire into and conform to the spiritual, social and moral implications of the design.