FAQs: religion: cognition: evolution

William John (health2u@biogate.com)
Fri, 7 Aug 1998 14:01:28 -0500

It appears to me that there is a historical evolution of human cognition in which the theological/religious phase gives way to a metaphysical/philosophical phase and then a positivistic/scientific phase and maybe now a synthetic phase in which a philosophy of science can provide a self-chosen "existential" meaning to life and provide evidential answers to what once could only be answered in religious or mystical terms. The 4 etiological questions of origins:

1. How did the universe begin? (cosmogenesis)
2. How did life begin? (biogenesis)
3. How did humans get here? (anthropogenesis)
4. How did consciousness arrive? (psychogenesis)
1. Big Bang, inflationary cosmology, grand unified theories such as superstrings, quantum gravity, supersymmetry, etc in astrophysics 2. pre-biotic chemical evolution of autocatalytic processes and endosymbiosis (proposed by Lynn Margulis) 3. natural selection due to geological/environmental change, genetic drift
(e.g. a comet crash reducing photosynthetic food supply for large dinosaurs
but providing enough food for rodent sized mammals) 4. increased brain size, neoteny ("premature" birth) providing environmental stimulation while the brain is still forming (less "hard wired")

I agree that religion should neither be endorsed nor condemned. I think we should by default answer all religiously oriented questions based on scientific metaphysics (i.e. assumptions) not the mystical assumptions
(theological metaphysics) of the religious questioner. Such questions
always devolve back to first principles which is the domain of metaphysics.

Having studied Eastern religions before getting involved in philosophy and science, I can concur that Buddhism and Taoism are nontheistic. However, both of them are still mystical. Taoism says that the universe or Tao
(literally the "Way") emerged from both Nothingness (T'ai) and
Everythingness (Chi). The primordial T'ai Chi gave birth to Tao which then polarized into the complementary forces of Yin and Yang. These 2 forces then interacting with the 5 Elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and? Ether)generate the manifested universe. Sure there are no gods here but still lots of mystical entities that are beyond measurement/evidence. Similarly, Buddhism suggests that the samsara cycle of reincarnation can be stopped by realizing the Nothingness of the universe (anicca) to eliminate desire (dukka)and attain bliss/happiness called nirvana (or kenso). More mystical concepts. (Actually, lots of similarities huh? That's why Zen emerged as a blend of Taoism and Buddhism - historical note) Hinduism does have many gods (polytheism) that are manifestations of the universal god Brahman [with the n](monotheism). This theological/metaphysical dichotomy is sort of like the Trinity in Catholicism. (Incidentally 3 of the Hindu gods are primary making a clear trinitarian analogy - Brahma [without the n], Vishnu and Shiva)

The point of this review of the eastern religions is to show how they are not "more scientific" than any other religions on the planet just because they in some cases have no god concept. One can argue that basic assumptions such as the experimental method and hypothetico-deductive investigation are unprovable. That is the nature of first principles. Any system of thought
(religion, philosophy, science) has first principles that cannot be directly
argued for. Like postulates or axioms in a system of geometry, such are either accepted - at least for the time being - or not. If someone does not accept the first principles of science then he or she is wasting his/her time by pursuing dialogue with those who do accept these first principles. There is simply no common cognitive ground for discussion. For a more detailed history of cognitive evolution see: http://www.geocities.com/ResearchTriangle/9356/Webcog1.htm. Sincerely,
Web Master
Futurist Think Tank
http://www.geocities.com/ResearchTriangle/9356/index.html mailto:health2u@biogate.com