“When evening comes, collect your thoughts and ponder over the entire course of the day: observe God’s providential care for you; consider the grace he has wrought in you throughout the whole span of the day;
consider the rising of the moon,
the joy of daylight;
all the hours and moments, the divisions of time,
the sight of different colours,
the beautiful adornment of creation,
the course of the sun,
the growth of your stature, how your own person has been protected;
consider the blowing of the winds,
the ripe and varied fruits,
how the elements minister to your comfort,
how you have been preserved from accidents, and all the other activities of grace.
When you have pondered on all this, wonder of God’s love toward you will well up within you, and gratitude for his acts of grace will bubble up inside of you.”
“We must learn to treat all other situations in the same manner, not knuckling under to our desires, but keeping a tight rein on them, directing them to the one primary aim: to stay within the will of God and to do His will. If we do that, our desires will turn around, becoming good and righteous. We will stay calm in every storm, finding peace in God’s will. In fact, if we sincerely believe that nothing can happen to us except by His will – and if we have no other desire than to be actively doing that will – it is self-evident that we will always get only what we desire!” (Jack N. Sparks, Victory in the Unseen Warfare, pg. 58)
“The term the ‘Catholic Church’ applies in Ignatius – and in all contemporary sources – to the local Eucharistic community: each church is, indeed, the Church of God in its fullness because what gives that fullness is God’s presence, the Body of Christ indivisibly manifested in each Eucharist. This understanding of Catholicity, however, is not congregationalism; Catholicity implies unity with past (apostolicity) and with the future (eschatology), and also unity in faith and life with all the other churches that share the same Catholicity. Local churches are identical in their faith, and therefore always interdependent. Although celebrated locally, the Eucharist has a cosmic or universal significance. The church is always the same Church of God, although she ‘sojourns’ in different geographic locations.” (John Meyendorff in Tradition Alive: On the Church and Christian Life in our Time, edited by Michael Plekon, pg. 127)
My father turned 91 this past week. Age is showing itself in his life.
He and my mom are creatures of habit and have a number of very fixed daily routines and rituals. Breakfast is at 6:30am.
Another routine is immediately after their morning prayer they kiss. Sixty three years of marriage and still affectionate.
They still find a moment of joy in sharing a life together. A good witness and hope for us all. Age shows itself in every moment and movement of their lives today, but love shows itself stronger than time.
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;
it is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends;
as for prophecies, they will pass away;
as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. …
You can find links to any of my blog series that are available as PDFs at Blog Series PDF.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
As has been mentioned several times in my blogs, the heart in biblical thinking is the very place where the battle between good and evil is waged. It is in the heart that we wage the struggle of our conscience.
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)
And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.'”(Genesis 8:21)
Baylor University theology Professor Ralph C. Wood writes:
“The dictates of his heart reveals that prudence is a virtual synonym for conscience. The heart is the locus of desire, and the chest has been understood as the traditional stronghold of conscience – no less than the place of its worst violations. ‘The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart’ (Ps. 19:8). ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?’ (Jer. 17:9). The heart must be transfigured by prudence and wisdom in order for the desires to be redirected toward the Good. Only when the conscience is properly formed can we instinctively discern the truth and act swiftly upon it.” (The Gospel According to Tolkien, pg. 79)
Our Lord Jesus Himself taught:
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.”(Matthew 15:19)
In this the final blog of this series, I want to consider a few thoughts from Wilson which I found interesting for various reasons. First, Wilson, staying true to his belief in biological determinism, says there is a constant balancing act in humanity between the selfish gene and individual and the altruistic nature of communal living. It is this genetic balancing act which influences so much of human society.
“Nevertheless, an iron rule exists in genetic social evolution. It is that selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, while groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals. The victory can never be complete; the balance of selection pressures cannot move to either extreme. If individual selection were to dominate, societies would dissolve. If group selection were to dominate, human groups would come to resemble ant colonies.” (Kindle Loc. 3914-18)
“Selection at the individual level tends to create competitiveness and selfish behavior among group members—in status, mating, and the securing of resources. In opposition, selection between groups tends to create selfless behavior, expressed in greater generosity and altruism, which in turn promote stronger cohesion and strength of the group as a whole.” (Kindle Loc. 4419-21)
For Wilson all is controlled by genetics. Consciousness and self-willed decision making – whether individual or the collective – has little role in human behavior. This is an area where I think biological determinism cannot in fact fully describe what it is to be human nor can it offer any answer to the question, what does it mean to be human? There is for Wilson no difference between the eusociality of ants and humans. All such behavior is genetically determined, so humans do not rise above their genetically determined behavior. Such thinking seriously handicaps anyone observing human behavior for it denies what we can observe about human behavior.
Yet Wilson does at moments recognize the absolute uniqueness of humanity among all the creatures on earth.
“HUMAN BEINGS CREATE cultures by means of malleable languages. We invent symbols that are intended to be understood among ourselves, and we thereby generate networks of communication many orders of magnitude greater than that of any animal. We have conquered the biosphere and laid waste to it like no other species in the history of life. We are unique in what we have wrought.” (Kindle Loc. 270-73)
Humans are indeed unique, and the world seems to be well suited for their surviving and thriving. Biological science can say no more than that the existence of humanity is the end result of a very long cause and effect process. The end result of this process – the existence of intelligent, conscious human beings – is highly improbable, and despite the success of humans on the planet, more species have not evolved with our particular characteristics of consciousness and conscience. It is indeed miraculous that we exist at all.
“THE EXPLOSION OF INNOVATIONS that lifted humanity to world dominance surely did not result from a single empowering mutation. Even less likely did it come as some mystic afflatus that descended upon our struggling forebears. Nor could it have been due to the stimulus of new lands and rich resources—enjoyed also by the relatively unprogressive species of horses, lions, and apes. Most probably it was the gradual approach to and final attainment of a tipping point, the crossing over of a threshold level of cognitive ability that endowed Homo sapiens with a dramatically high capacity for culture.” (Kindle Loc. 3598-3603)
It seems that in this concluding comment Wilson admits that the evolution of humans cannot be completely explained by genetics alone. There is epigenetics, and there is the effect that human culture itself has on the continued development of humans, their intelligence and their consciousness. There are forces at work in the world that cannot be completely explained by materialism alone. Wilson rejects because of his own beliefs any notion that “some mystic afflatus” had any impact on our human ancestors. Yet humans have continued to aspire to levels beyond the limits of their own biology. They have shown an ability to create cultures which work against genetic desire or determinism. Humans have shown in their conscious creation of culture to reflect something far greater than their genetic makeup can account for. In humans we see glimpses of the divine.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet…
“True patience consists in bearing calmly the evils others do to us, and in not being consumed by resentment against those who inflict them. Those who only appear to bear the evils done by their neighbors, who suffer them in silence while they are looking for an opportunity for revenge, are not practicing patience, but only making a show of it. Paul writes that love is patient and kind. It is patient in bearing the evils done by others, and it is kind in even loving those it bears with. Jesus himself tells us: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute and calumniate you. Virtue in the sight of others is to bear with those who oppose us, but virtue in God’s sight is to love them. This is the only sacrifice acceptable to God. But often we appear to be patient only because we are unable to repay the evils we suffer from others. As I have said, those who don’t pay back evil only because they can’t are not patient. We are not looking to have patience on the surface, but in the heart.” (Gregory the Great – d. 604AD, Be Friends of God, pgs. 50-51)
Eastern Orthodox theologians assumed from the beginning of human existence that humans had a natural relationship to God and a natural inclination to move toward God. In their interpretation of Genesis 3, they see humans as making a critical choice to be self-centered and self-serving; humans freely chose to engage in self-love rather than love which is directed toward God and neighbor. Humans, who were created with a unique blend of physical features and divine/spiritual ones, in rejecting the divine life, further embraced their animal nature. So unlike the theory of evolution which has humans having nothing but an animal nature, traditional Christian thinking is that humans gave up the transcendent life to live a life limited by all the conditions that limit every other animal species. Both evolution and traditional Christian thinking thus do recognize there is a commonality between all other creatures and humans. But the monotheistic tradition of the West says humans were created to transcend a merely animal existence. Morality and spirituality at their best are efforts by humans inspired by God to return to that transcendent life which humans gave up by their own selfishness. Morality thus matters greatly in religion, for it is our effort to be fully and truly human and to reject any idea that everything about humanity is determined by our genetic makeup.
Wilson in his writings betrays a hostility toward religious ethics (without stating why). Perhaps because as one locked into biological determinism he feels humans should just follow their genetic desires so he doesn’t value any self denial. He doesn’t really believe in free will, so he doesn’t think we can transcend our biology anyway. Traditional morality shaped by religious experience or revelation is to be rejected as antiquated, and a new morality based in science is to govern human behavior.
“Whatever the outcome, it seems clear that ethical philosophy will benefit from a reconstruction of its precepts based on both science and culture. If such greater understanding amounts to the “moral relativism” so fervently despised by the doctrinally righteous, so be it.” (Kindle Loc. 4119-21)
A morality based in “both science and culture” is one totally governed by human reason and rationality. It is limited by how reasonable or rationale humans really are. Wilson is OK with moral relativism as it applies to traditional morality, but he is not amoral – he advocates biological diversity, so moralities which contribute to diversity are to be promoted. Raymond Tallis, another scientist and atheist, sees all kinds of red flags in Wilson’s notion that science and scientists should determine morality. As I reported in my blog The Brainless Bible and the Mindless Illusion of Self (II):
“Tallis sees the risks and dangers to humanity that the ideologues of the new neuroscience represent in more stark terms. The danger of what Tallis calls neuromania can be seen for example in the writings of Julian Savulescu who argues that ‘as technology advances more rapidly than the moral character of human beings, we are in increasing danger. We must therefore seek biomedical and genetic means to enhance the moral character of humanity.’ Savulescu is saying that it is biomedical tinkering and genetic engineering which are going to be needed to help humanity deal morally with the changes being brought about by modern technology. The belief that scientists can biomedically engineer a morally superior human being causes Tallis to conclude: ‘Be afraid, be very afraid.’”
To be fair to Wilson, he is opposed to biomedical engineering of a superior human being:
“I hope, and am inclined to believe on moral grounds, that this form of eugenic manipulation will never be permitted, in order that humanity can at the very least avoid the socially corrosive effects of nepotism and privilege it is bound to serve.” (Kindle Loc. 1691-93)
And yet a foundation for his moral beliefs is hard to determine. “Science and culture” give us very little guideline for what would be the basis of his morality. On the one hand he believes humans cannot escape their genetically predetermined warlike natures, but then without offering a shred of evidence that “science” can overcome our genetics, he trusts that science and reason can create a new ethics and apparently a new humanity. It is after all science and not human tradition or revealed religion which alone in his opinions determines morality. So scientists will be the new priesthood enforcing their own morality based in their own ideas of what is reasonable.
Wilson is not however a moral relativist – he only advocates moral relativity when it undermines traditional human and religious morality. Wilson writes:
“Humanity is strengthened by a broad portfolio of genes that can generate new talents, additional resistance to diseases, and perhaps even new ways of seeing reality. For scientific as well as for moral reasons, we should learn to promote human biological diversity for its own sake instead of using it to justify prejudice and conflict.” (Kindle Loc. 1445-48)
He would “promote human biological diversity for its own sake” (emphases mine). This is his own version of a pro-life attitude. He opposes humans determining their own genetics because it knows this will limit genetic diversity as scientists create humans in their own image and likeness. The weak, unwanted and sick will be cast off, left to die if they are allowed to be conceived at all under a purely rational system of morality. Wilson is not amoral or immoral in his thinking but does believe, again without offering any proof for this belief, that scientific humans can create a superior morality for the world. This utopian thinking has been a frequent child of the Enlightenment where it is believed (even when evidence is against it) that ignorance is the greatest human problem. And in this thinking ignorance can be cured by education and if not by education by scientific masters who govern the world with their pure rationalism. Laws would be created based on scientific reason that would outlaw any irrational behavior. And yet this belief in the power of human reason to create a better morality flies in the face of his equally held belief of a biological determinism which humans cannot escape. We cannot escape our genetics (at least he denies that religion can help us transcend our genetic limits) and yet by some form of magic, a morality based in science will lead to a human breakthrough from its genetic chains. It is the magic of science which for Wilson will break the genetic curse – science will by some miracle yet unknown to us transcend the limits of genetics. Science in this thinking is another Utopian philosophy or a new religion. Wilson is a prophet of this new revelation and religion.
It is true that science has indeed used the inventiveness of the human mind to create technologies capable of solving or curing many human problems and ailments. Yet humans will be humans. This is a truth that religion has recognized in its call for a transcendent morality. Humans left to their own devices will be self-serving and law will not be able to change that. That requires human ascetical effort.
A last moral point from Wilson:
“I am further inclined to discount the widespread belief that robotic intelligence will in the near future overtake and potentially replace human intelligence. This will certainly occur in the categories of raw memory, computation, and synthesis of information. Algorithms might in time be written that simulate emotional responses and human-like processes of decision-making. Yet even at their most extreme and effective, these creations will still be robots.” (Kindle Loc. 1693-97)
Here is a point which many theists can welcome from Wilson. There is something unique about humans which makes them different from all other creatures on earth and which will not be replaced by ingenious human technology. We have a unique place in our world.