The Prophet’s Curse: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

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The Curse of the Prophets: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Richard D. Ackerman (2010-2011, 2d.Ed.)
Riverside County Bar Magazine Article

When first asked to write this article, I didn’t quite know what to think or how to approach the issues.  Naturally, one would inquire as to why they had been chosen to write an article on the idea that ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’  Perhaps it’s just because I truly believe in a uniform justice system that cannot be destroyed or weakened by the whims of political correctness, unjustified entitlements to power, or discrimination.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have lost on so many unpalatable positions, that I am perceived as being the consistent bearer of the losing position.

Perhaps the characteristics of being hopeful, tenacious and committed are necessarily defined by commitment to suffering humiliation.  For all I know, it may just be my fearless stupidity.

A model justice system is ruled by reason, equity, and a sense that one is entitled to rely on equal application of uniform law.  With this in mind, it also must be remembered that today’s dissent may very well be basis for tomorrow’s justice.  We know this, yet so often fear being the voice of dissent or a counterbalance to excess power.

Fortunately, the otherwise controlling fear of change can be defeated. The recent decision by Judge Virginia Phillips on the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy aptly demonstrates the power of commitment to principle.  While I did not agree with the decision for reasons of the separation of constitutional powers, I bear the deepest respect for her courage to take on the entire military system in the pursuit of equality.  Indeed, the very essence of dissent is what makes for human progress and development of the unique democratic experience bestowed upon us.

One might want to say that this has nothing to do with being punished per se’ for good deeds.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  For its power to be felt, prophecy nearly requires persecution. For the known history of humankind, we have seen one prophet after another being condemned for simply taking a stand and pronouncing the truth.

The essential form of what it means to be a prophet is historically seen in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, even the unimposing Dharma Bum, or just about any other perceived revolutionary.

By the way, don’t let your sensibilities about religion get in the way of a good thought about what it means to be human.  Don’t let my biases as to Biblical prophets interfere with the definition of yours (i.e., perhaps the Buddha or others).  Prophecy has never been a form of proselytization nor evangelism.  The latter require the ability to sell or enforce an idea or belief.  Prophecy is most defined by its initial lack of luster and desirability (i.e., because of its demand of human introspection).

I must also mention that I believe that prophets are neither nuts nor fortune-tellers.  To be a prophet means to be a representative of something higher than yourself.  It doesn’t mean you are a great person.  It certainly does not mean that you have any more power than anyone else.  You bear the calling of a messenger.  You get to bear complete responsibility for whatever you say and may even bear the risk of death itself.

Theoretically, each of us in the law ought to be a prophet on behalf of the Constitution and of the Judicial Branch in all of its noble purposes.

Of course, however, there must be a price for one’s desire to profess the law as it is, and the reason which provides the lifeblood of the law.  The price for your message may very well be disdain, frustration, mockery, lack of understanding, and intolerance.  As was recently pointed out by Jack Clarke, one of my most respected colleagues, if it was not for Dr. Martin Luther King, and so many others, we would not know the concept equality as we now know it to be.  What was the price Dr. King paid?  His very life.  Yet, his prophecy and vision lead to the conclusion that we all ought to be equally able to seek the highest that humanity has to offer.  This principle seemingly should never have been the barter for death.  His humiliation became a call for human dignity.

What is the sacrifice you would be willing to make in order to be a seeker of truth?  I don’t know if we would all deny representation of a well-paying client with a bad cause.  It doesn’t seem respectable that one should disagree with the mainstream.  Would you challenge a judge openly on a matter or law, or hide behind the veil of secrecy provided by ‘papering the judge’?  Will you and your house follow the law? Will you abide in the law and all of its travails?  Would you be willing to die to feed the life of another perceived to be of no value?

Often, respect for the law means that one will get to unpalatable conclusions.  Being truthful carries the risk of scorn.  This also means that one might as well plan on losing some arguments since reason, consistency, and justice require a stern heart and a desire to be magnanimous regardless of opposition.  Is strength and character found in accepting the status quo?  Or would it be better to define the status quo ante bellum, even if someone else may have to carry the torch after your embattled demise?

In the case of a being a lawyer, your representation of the law, as a higher cause, may simply mean that you have to be willing to respect the authority of the Court, but yet advocate for a position you know to be inconsistent with the realities of the times.  Humility in purpose has oft been the hallmark of a strong prophet.  Simply staying in the ring, without a complete knock-out, becomes the monument to one’s identity.

As of late, it seems that just about everybody needs to somehow be politically, religiously, or spiritually neutral.  This sickly complacency starves the human condition of its vitality.  Only an honorable judge needs to bear the responsibility of being completely neutral until the time of ultimate judgment under the law of our time.

Indeed, at the time of judgment under the law, not even a judge must remain wholly neutral.  Judgment ultimately entails the adoption of a steadfast position.  Our judges bear the message of a reliable system of law.  While rendering judgment does not necessitate the moral judgment of another, it certainly does require a willingness to rely on a foundation of truth.  Where the truth becomes elusive, fear of change causes manifest injustice.  If one cannot move from neutrality to judgment, one should not bear the position of being the arbiter of any dispute.  If one wants to find power in being wholly neutral from beginning to end, take up mediation or marital counseling.

Neither the parties nor their attorneys should be expected to maintain complete neutrality in their positions.  Not only is this psychologically impossible, it is unreasonable and a disservice to the calling of the profession.  Neutrality can be downright dishonorable.  The omission to act can amount to complicity in evil.  While it is true that one must be objective, it does not follow that one must simply concede to the most politically acceptable position.  The acceptability of particular political positions changes over time.  The failure to act in the face of intellectual tyranny has proven itself, time and again, to be consistently destructive.

Some would say that this is an over-dramatization of what it means to be a lawyer.  I think not. Indeed, I think it is a categorical imperative that we not be governed by reference to what our fellow attorneys might think.  Worse yet is the situation where we run from the law for fear of those who have not been blessed with the same gifts of knowledge we bear.  We don’t define our conduct by the conduct of others.  Neither hope nor faith would have a home in a static moral environment.

It is not sufficient that we simply do what is necessary to get by and achieve a result that just makes everybody happy.  Were it left to the happiness or perceived satisfaction of a given society in time, slavery would be but just one more accepted condition of being part of a human power structure.  Or, perhaps, the perceived right to be free of the crime of seditious libel against the government would be just a fleeting glimpse of true human freedom.  Perhaps the call of secularism would be the death of a hope in ultimate justice, regardless of what happens by mistake, evil, or just happenchance in this life.

The job requirements of being an advocate may very well mean that one is required to represent the higher principle of maintaining a system that can be relied upon by all regardless of the one’s perceived sins committed against society and its powers.

For, as has been said in other contexts, we wrestle not against the flesh but principalities.  Indeed, we become free by our very adherence to the strictures of the Constitution.  Paradoxically, we can find complete solace in a result we neither wanted nor one that could not have been foretold.

The fear of humiliation shouldn’t be confused with the humility which may be exactly what is required in a given situation. The unintended indignity of being told to sit at the back of a bus becomes the clarion call for the desire to stand up for the sacred privilege of defining the essence of human dignity for future generations.  Perhaps being called to the stench and squalor of a foreign place might lead to the conclusion that we justly be called blessed.  Don’t be afraid to accept punishment for your good deeds.

Be not afraid.  For the Good Judge shall bring down his judgment on all of us in the end.

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December’s Scream (2010)

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R.D. Ackerman (2010)

My Thoughts Over a Year of Growth and Reproval

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These are some of the philosophical observations I’ve made over the last year and a half.  The last year has been one of deep thought, reassessment, challenges, hopes, and finding God in what I thought were dark places.  Hope you enjoy some of them. Philosophy is truly the art of learning to live.

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First, it’s temporary.  Then, it’s eternal.  Live well.

Trading compassion for power has never proven worthy of an ability to progress.

Today and always, you contain everything in you for what you will be tomorrow. Live well. Fulfill who you are. Prepare for eternal life.

God doesn’t expect us to “earn” his love: He just expects to do what we promised to do when we agreed to believe in Him.

Though a single voice may not be so much as an unheard whisper in the Universe, your voice has the capacity to bring about eternal change in one to whom you speak in compassion and love.

It is good to believe what you say, and even better to do what you believe.

While it may very well be that all that we are nothing but a cosmic soup of atomic matter, it certainly does seem that humanity has the unique ability to stir the pot.

Tomorrow, today will be a yesterday. { Thomas Ackerman }.

Are we supposed to leave Church wondering what God can do for me? Or, should we be wondering about what can I do for others? Do I simply receive the fruit of the vine, or do I produce it for others so that my Maker might be honored?

Do you think in a language? What if we had to change the language of our thoughts to those of a true Christian? What a great dialectic that would be.

No Christian should be caught dead in failing to serve others.

May it be that I leave peace in my wake.

Lest our Faith become nothing more than a Platonic shadow, we must throw ourselves into the Light of Christ. We must become the Form of our Faith.

People always say that, “You have to believe in yourself.” This is not true. You have to believe in something higher than yourself so that you have something to strive for. When you only think of yourself, that’s about all you get.

Comment on the historical church: Building on a rock is good for foundations and buildings: Casting seed upon the rock is not good.

Relativism is a subtle form of anarchy.

Truth has no place in the confusion of violence.

Better to suffer in this life than the next. Justice requires no less.

Eternal faith in the absence of Earthly justice.

The difference between Man and animal is that Man’s evolution is self-directed, but not self-created.

We can’t change our circumstances. We can only change our attitude toward them. Oddly enough, when our attitudes change, so do our circumstances.

Better to suffer in this life than the next.

The Purpose of Suffering

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1990-91The purpose of my Faith is not to avoid suffering, but to learn from it and to become better through it. {Psalm 38}.

It’s one thing to accept personal suffering as a time to be tried in the fire, but it is entirely a different thing to rejoice in the suffering and loss of another. Joy in the suffering of others is pure evil; the acceptance of what God gives us is the beginning of Renewal. If another is want of food, and you have it, feed him or her and do not mock them. If you are unable to feed your neighbor, offer encouragement, and pray for someone to come into that person’s life who can feed them. {TheImpossibleProposition}.

Wash Up and Get on Your Knees

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Wash Up and Get on Your Knees:
Thoughts About Daily Purification and Humility

A few weeks ago, I deeply enjoyed a sermon put on by Victor Marx, a local Calvary Church minister. Victor also happens to be a person for whom I have the deepest respect and admiration. He did a great job of exploring what it meant to wake up each day with a view toward living a holy life and a life which is acutely focused on God. He even talked about how waking up each day leads to the basic meals that we enjoy and the feast of the day known as supper.

However, I doubt that he was thinking that he was making a great argument for the importance of the daily Catholic Mass, but I’m going to run with the thought anyway and admonish that any differences in the practice of theology are just that – differences only. Without a doubt, I consider Victor to be a Brother in Christ and a Messenger of Truth.

Victor very simply described the process of waking up each morning – with a view toward having God as the focus our day, having God help us stumble out of bed, immersing ourselves in the Word, and the individual importance of simply having our coffee and a good shower. He quickly drew the metaphor to the truth of the Scripture found at Ephesians 6:13-20, which states:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints —

While at first this all seemed to be rather simplistic, in a good way, in the coming weeks I have had the realization that what Victor was describing is exceedingly profound with deep theological underpinnings. He laid out the steps that I personally try to take each day I am able to get my lazy self out of bed and make my way to the local Catholic Church for daily Mass.

In thinking about the spiritual metaphors for daily cleansing and purification, the idea of taking a daily shower becomes a perfect metaphor for the spiritual cleansing which should take place on a daily basis. However, it also goes without saying that each of us even bathe differently on a daily basis, even though the outcome is much the same.

For example, one of us might use Irish Spring soap, another glycerin soap, or just about any other kind of soap. Nor do we all use the same brands of shampoo and conditioner. We don’t all use the same type of towel. Some like cold showers versus hot showers. Some shower in the morning — others at night. Some need bathrobes. Others need to just get dressed right away. Some get dressed in a closet and some folks just troop around in their birthday suits for a while. While this all seems mundane, the metaphor is powerful.

With respect to spiritual cleansing on a daily basis, some need to cleanse through a particular core theology which differs from yours. Perhaps, a physical reminder of our cleansing is needed through sacramentals such as holy water. Some of us feel a deeper need to dress up for Church than others. I, for one, enjoy getting up early and catching a time of reflection as the sun is just coming up. Some of us need to acknowledge our sins daily in a forum of admitted/fellow sinners. Indeed, some of us find deep benefit from art and imagery reflecting the bridge between our humanity and the spiritual world. For some, the power behind prayer, said in daily unison among believers, is remarkably powerful and unforgettable.

Indeed, some of us need to spend more time focusing on one area of our lives for cleansing and purification, just as one might use a specific type or brand of soap for one’s specific skin/hair condition. In the end, the basic purification process is accomplished. Although it may very well be true that a person forgets to wash his/her hair or forgets to wash some particular body part. Or it may be that the soap we’ve chose is simply insufficient for cleansing us of some disease or bacteria. This said, it’s probably also worth noting that most of us would not judge/condemn another for the type of cleaning product used. But, we might guide them to a way of doing things that helps their immunity from disease and ability to enjoy life. And, of course, we would acknowledge that taking a shower is a deeply personal issue which should be kept that way. Most of us are happy just knowing that others take the time to clean themselves. Why must it be so different in the case of religion and spirituality?

Before launching into the more controversial theme of this article, I must state that I absolutely agree with the premise that we ought to avoid dissension, theological fights, and any diversion away from our Christian purpose which has been described over several thousand years (i.e., Loving God with all of one’s heart and tending to the needs of the helpless). Isaiah 58:1-9; Romans 16:17-20; 1 Corinthians 1:10.

Nevertheless one should not be afraid to express personal views of what it means to be faithful and the practices by which one is able to fully realize the daily glorification of God such that we might better the plight of those we come in contact with and such that our souls may be amply purified for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 22:34-40; 25:31-46. This is the daily testimony that we should share with each other so that we might each come into a relationship with Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. John 21:15-19 [a directive given by Christ after what sounds like a good breakfast with his disciples].

Unfortunately, judgment of one religious view, or practice, over another has caused way too much division, but yet allows for the possibility that all Truth will be reduced by the failure to focus on reunifying and absolute truths. 1 Corinthians 1-15. Many would say that there are no absolute truths, but relativism is just one form of intellectual and spiritual anarchy. The Story of Christ is consistent, filled with unity of purpose and philosophy, and does indeed lay down a set of principles by which all Christians are to live by. See; https://richackerman.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/we-should-know-what-we-believe-in-not-just-believe-in/

For me, the best way of getting ready for the day is the regular attendance of daily Mass. It assists in providing a spiritual cleansing, it provides a sense of an integral part of the larger universe, it gives cause for introspection, provides cause for acknowledgment of my imperfect state, gives me a chance to clean up my imperfections, offers a daily “altar-call,” and ensures daily reaffirmation of the Redemptive Story as it plays out in/around me.

One is also provided with the daily opportunity to know that the Word of God is being spoken in a literally universal sense. There truly is a communion of the faithful on Earth and in Heaven. At any given time, there are countless faithful who are hearing and bathing in the same Word each day for 24 hours a day. With the right purpose and heart, it is done only for the glorification of He who is in Heaven and acknowledges our worship of Him. See; U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lectionary for Mass (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. 2002). I am humbled to join in the ranks of those who choose to collectively and literally kneel before the Throne of God on a regular basis.

With the thought that I can only describe what works for me in terms of daily preparation for life, this article is not intended to be an argument, but rather a heartfelt apologetic for what works for my spirit. I assume, because of your common humanity with me, that we might both better understand each other in what I have to say and your reaction to it.

For those not familiar with the Daily Mass and its Order, it goes something like this (with some variance according to day or purpose):

1st Most congregants will enter the Sanctuary and acknowledge their need to begin fresh by symbolically washing their head, heart, and body with holy water. Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:21. An introductory song is sung along with the entry of the priest responsible for leading the mass. Most Catholic hymns are taken directly from Scripture and put to music. Each day is a little bit different in terms of what theme the Mass might take with the music and Scripture to be read. Spiritually, this is the time when the congregants wake up and get out of bed – so to speak. We assess the availability of our spiritual armor and go through the process of putting it on for the travails of the day. It is a time to prepare for the spiritual cleansing and journey for the day. It is a time to fit our armor. Conceptually, it’s even good for those who like to wake up with a music alarm.

2nd Much in the same way a family member might greet us as we are waking up and beginning to mosey about, the Priest opens with a greeting and calls into focus the source of our power for the day. 2 Corinthians 13:14. Specifically, we are reminded that what we do is through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We physically reflect on our inner thoughts and sincere intentions by doing the ‘sign of the cross’ at this time. From this point, we ask for the blessings of God and prepare ourselves for the penitential reminder we need each day. Matthew 15:22. We acknowledge the marks upon our soul and ask for the cleansing that can only come through God’s Almighty Grace. We gird ourselves with the Truth of His Redemptive Purpose for us.

3rd We confess our sins to Almighty God and to our brothers and sisters. We acknowledge that we sin in not only what we do, but what we fail to do. We ask for prayer and forgiveness. Simply put, we recognize that we have made ourselves unclean by our acts and failures and that we wish for ourselves to be cleaned and to be provided the water and soap necessary to do that. I personally think that we even ought to recognize that there are fellow humans in the world who have neither water or soap. The same goes spiritually. It is difficult to think about putting on a protective breastplate or to shod one’s feet for the day when one does not so much as have a drop of water nor the ability to fight off disease and famine. We, who do have these things, must share of our wealth so that we might all be cleansed and ready for the pouring out of God’s Holy Rain upon our spiritual lives. Isaiah 58:1-9.

4th After taking confidence in our awesome blessings, through Faith & Grace, we can enjoy everlasting life, we thank God for his ability to cleanse us and the unique source and demonstration of His Power. Isaiah 6:3; Revelations 4:8; Psalms 188:26; Mark 11:10. This is done in the form of the Gloria, where we acknowledge the need for peace, we give thanks, we acknowledge that His cleansing takes away the sins of the world (not just us), and that He alone (in triune communion with Christ and the Holy Ghost), holds the power to cleanse us of our iniquities. We take on the helmet of Salvation and prepare to take up the sword of His Word only after thanking God for the strength and Grace to do so.

5th Next, the congregants take time to hear Scripture from the Old Testament, a Psalm (song), celebrate our participation in truth with a solid Alleluia (what is supposed to be “a superlative expression of thanksgiving, joy, and triumph”), and immerse ourselves in the Gospels. Psalms 146-150; Revelations 19:1-6. After each reading, we thank God for giving us His daily directions in the form of the Word. In this we have truly begun to bathe ourselves in Truth and prepare ourselves for acknowledging Christ in our lives in a most literal way each day. We think of the work that is required in our lives to fulfill the holy destiny that God has for each of us and how we will apply/work our lives in that direction through the thoughtful control of our freewill and the protective Grace of God.

6th We enjoy the interactive process of having a human representative of the Church (as a body of believers) share the practical meaning, history of, and interpretation of Scripture. As a representative father, he instructs on what we are to do with our day and the importance of staying clean for purposes of avoiding illness and in being able to commune with others. We acknowledge that the messenger is not perfect, but that the Message is perfect.

7th We collectively acknowledge the foundations of our faith by making a formal profession of our faith (particularly on Sunday). This is much in the same way that a family might sit down for breakfast and share in the value of their communal experience and daily purpose as a family. It can be as simple as enjoying a common last name. The processes of the father providing for his family and the mother providing the daily nurture for His Little Ones are put into motion. It is amazing to me how much the method of worship serves as a tight spiritual bridge to the natural order of our lives. Indeed, it should be no shock that the Mass bears spiritual truth in its representation of what it means to be human – even in some of its most simplistic aspects.

8th The purpose of our day is put before us in the form of gifts before the altar of Christ. This is much in the same way that a parent lays out breakfast on the table so that the members of the family might have energy for the day ahead. As so too does the priest accept the necessary gifts and make them ready for consumption. We take thanks that these nourishments are suitable to our spiritual bodies (i.e., our souls) and make ready our hunger for what is good and nourishing to our human be-ings. Before taking part in our spiritual meal, we acknowledge the purposes of our doing so and thank God that we have been provided with an Earth capable of producing what we need – for we have not so created that which we need for life.

9th We pray as Christ asked us to and acknowledge the simplicity of His purposes and provision. Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4. We make peace with those around us and acknowledge their humanity by shaking a hand and sharing a smile. John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19-20; 20:26.

10th Once we are at peace, we acknowledge that we, in our human states, are not worthy to receive Christ, but that he alone has the ability to heal us so that we might be able to make use of the Spiritual Nourishment we are about to receive. John 1:29-36; Revelations 5:6-13, 22:1-3; Luke 7:1-10.

11th We enter into the ultimate purpose of our day – to meet Christ literally and figuratively in our past, present, and future. We do so by acknowledging our sinful history, becoming clean again in Communion with Christ and his Church, and looking forward to the power of the meal we have taken up for the spiritual energy we need to sustain life into the future day.

12th After coming into full Communion and enjoying the Holy Meal put before us, we take a few moments to relax and contemplate the blessings we receive by and through He who provides for us. We prepare for dessert, which is the success, travails, sharing in the Redemptive Story, and hopes of a new day. Because we are not greedy or selfish, we look forward to sharing in our new found hope with others such that we might be a humble beacon of life to those around us. What a joyful way to start the day. We are clean and ready to go out into the world.

13th After having girded up for the day, His representative leads us in a request that we have a good day through God’s blessings and that we go out into the world in peace. So too is it in the case of parents sending their children off to school and taking upon themselves the duties of providing for those in need (i.e., their children who could not otherwise take care of themselves but must grow up to be responsible in their provision and sustenance from God). Genesis 28:3; Deuteronomy 14:29; Numbers 6:23-27; Psalms 29:11.

While I know that Victor wasn’t headed in this direction when he spoke of the value in starting one’s day right, I must say that his sermon had a very powerful effect on my faith and the faith that I try to live by. I honestly don’t expect everyone to use the same spiritual soap that I do, and I have no problem acknowledging that we each prepare ourselves for the coming day in different ways.

What I can say for certain is that Truth often speaks through the most simple aspects of our lives (like eating, bathing, creating and maintaining a family, etc.). These things don’t take great brain power, come naturally, and are the bare essence of what it means to be human. For me, anyway, I choose a spiritual discipline which most reflects this same essence. Oddly enough, the Sacraments also each mirror the basic necessities of human survival (birth, necessary food, health, procreation, adulthood, commitment/service/purpose, death).

Much of the totality of human life, when looked at from afar, appears complicated and unresolved. Yet, on the most basic level, when all humans come to have the basic ability to bathe, learn, and eat, we will truly be at peace. Only by acknowledging that we must do this with a common purpose (Love of something much higher than ourselves – the highest source of our Being) and with a love of our fellow humans (Love of one another), do we ever have the possibility of achieving ultimate peace and prosperity.

We should each wash up and get on our knees.

Richard D. Ackerman (2/20/2010)

More than Belief

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Will you simply believe? Or, will you follow me?

Following in someone’s steps is an action of the will and conduct. The act(s) of “following” is not a passive belief, however fervent that belief might be. Believing in something higher than ourselves requires action that transcends the the merely original, average or expected. Without the acted-upon will to transcend, there can be no expectation of redemption from our base state of human be-ing.

We’re Stirring the Cosmic Soup: A Quick Retort to the Religion of Pure Atheism

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While it may very well be that all that we are nothing but a cosmic soup of atomic matter, it certainly does seem that humanity has the unique ability to stir the pot.

As of late, I have given some thought to the arguments of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Edward Wilson, Peter Singer and a number of other players in the current debates about God, morality, and evolutionary biology.  Their basic premise seems to be that what it means to be human or a part of nature can only be explained by evolutionary theory.  Moreover, this theory leads the to the inexorable conclusion that all can be reduced to an explanation as to how atomic physics have played out in the last however many billion years or so. (See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe ). Nary a thought is given to the real fact that all of us have an epistemological gap between us and the beginning of time, such that no present explanation of our world can suffice to explain it entirely.  God does readily fill that epistemological void.

While it may very well be that all that we (and the universe we have our be-ing in) are nothing but a cosmic soup of atomic matter, it certainly does seem that humanity has the unique ability to stir the pot.  This ability is seen nowhere else in the ‘natural world.’  Indeed, it is this very deviation from cosmic destiny, evolutionary theory, or even simple neuro-psychology, that uniquely defines what it is to be human.

Unlike the natural world, we are not dependent on the synchronicity of our coexistence with/in  the many moving and interactive elements of the earth’s evolved environment.  Ostensibly, we are readily able to defy what nature might otherwise dictate.  Singer and others have, rather oddly, concluded that behavior which defies nature is somehow ignoble or immoral.  Isn’t everything “natural,” in the sense that all that is must be derivative of evolutionary processes and atomic destiny?  What possible moral difference could stirring the pot of cosmic existence make, if we can only have derived our ability to stir the pot from the very substance found in the pot?  There has to be a clear distinction made between the subject and objects confronted by human existence.

As an aside, this does not mean that morality would have to be completely dependent on some traditional notion of God. It is simply a matter of distinguishing a difference between intentionality, conscious acknowledgment and the human experience of what is “moral,” from that which is simply a byproduct of evolutionary necessity and atomic structure. Whether these aspects are distinguishable from each other is the question that Professor Dawkins raises. The conceptual parsing done by Dawkins is actually quite admirable and necessary to the understanding of either side’s argument.

Moreover, it seems readily apparent that the process of evolution for the ‘natural world’ moves at the same pace as it has from the beginning of time (barring any natural disasters).  Animals and plants are not dependent on us for their existence in a natural state.  They only evolve at certain scientifically definable rates in accordance with the environmental variables which govern the process.

Simply put, humans command the ability to even deprive ourselves of the natural synchronicity with nature.  It is indeed arguable that we sometimes separate from nature and defy it.   At a minimum, we stand out from nature.  For example, a lion cannot simply redefine itself or make claim to an existence other than that which it has at its essence. A view toward’s Heidegger’s philosophy on death would also underscore the reality that humans are perfectly capable of  experiencing “unnatural” deaths.  Most lions and other creatures will die substantially the same way and of the same causes.  Humans, however, bear a capacity for defining even the parameters of our own deaths.  Certainly, our nearest alleged “relatives,” chimpanzees, can hardly lay stake to such abilities.  In other words, there is something about the human experience that can be completely differentiated from that of the animal experience.  Indeed, this statement can be made even without accounting for the unique capacity of humans to conceive of [a] God, to understand beauty, and to engage in the fine arts.

Nevertheless, we can rightly claim that humans engage in unnatural acts.  They engage in acts that defy natural selection and the otherwise undisturbed progression of the natural world outside of humanity.  Animals are not generally self destructive in any real way.  Humans, on the other hand, are completely competent to destroy themselves and everything else around them.  Indeed, humankind is readily able to change its environment quickly and drastically.  And, in so changing, it becomes apparent that we are the only creatures on earth that are capable of self-directed evolution, even to the point of destroying ourselves.   Seemingly, evolutionists are ready to deprive of humankind of this sacred and distinct attribute shared by no other living creatures.

Frankly, it seems inconsistent to stand by an evolutionary biology explanans for why things are the way they are, and yet complain about the seemingly out of control, or even allegedly  immoral, progress of humanity.  Morality simply has no place in a universe driven only by the predisposed nature of atomic structures and the rules of physics to which they are bound.  In a very important sense, the effect of human existence on the environment is no less evolutionary or atomically driven than any other process that is claimed to have arisen from a purely evolutionary beginning.  That is, if one believes that all must have come from simple existence which led to a graduated complexity.

In order to speak of “moral” behavior, one must first believe that there is some constituent part of the universe which can be moral or act in a moral way.  If we rely simply on the synaptic firing of our neurons, coupled with a genetic destiny, it simply does not make sense to incorporate a moral lexicon into human existence.  However, if one believes that moral behavior is a step above, or uniquely differentiated from, the coldness of evolutionary survival of the species, it must follow that one believes that there is a higher arche to the human existence.  Whether this is attributable to God or a higher being/be-ing (a template for higher being or a more complex nature outside of the natural rules that apply to all other creatures), or not, seems to be the real question.

There are a good number of evolutionary biologists and philosophers of our time who readily conclude that all of human existence can simply be explained by reference to the primordial atomic soup from which all has evolved.  They do not explain where the atomic structure/fabric came from, they do not explain the source of the energy driving all that is, they ignore or gloss over the origins of art and beauty, and they completely ignore the obvious fact that the human line of species significantly deviates from otherwise predictable genetic destinies or even basic natural evolution of the rest of nature and its evolving complexity.

At first glance, the basic problem with evolutionary biology is that it rests upon what appears to be a purely linear view of the time-space continuum.  This purely linear view adds an unnecessary viscosity to the stream of the cosmos and nature itself. The evolutionists view does not account for the fact that all matter, or representations of matter, derive from an admittedly common source and theoretical moment of being put in motion.  That is, all things that can be perceived in the real world are the same age by reference to atomic matter, interactivity, and movement of the cosmos.

The only difference between one atomic structure and another is the ‘present’ constituency of the thing perceived.  Under a non-linear view of time, it may just be the case that the “age” of things is a function of where they are in the movement of the “cosmic swirl.”  An evolutionist should not confuse the properties of age with actual age — if time can even be said to be a good structure for cosmology.  If there was a single moment of creation, moving forward, differing “ages” of the atomic world’s constituents are not so obvious as to merit the conclusion that the universe actually is 13.7 to 37 billion years old or any other specific age for that matter.  If, at the time the cosmos was put in motion, certain aspects of reality were given characteristics in their atomic structure that give off the impression of being “older,” it may simply be that the evolutionist has been fooled in much the way a purchaser of art might be fooled by the acquisition of a good faux painting.  The thing acquired or perceived has all of the characteristics, but is lacking in the need of its original creator and an understanding of the process leading up to the perceived masterpiece.

In other words, the moment of creation may simply have been a stirring of the pot by an Omnipotent and wholly self sufficient Primary Mover.  A cyclical or interwoven time structure is not the same as a linear structure which starts from a given point and brings us to something called “today.”  The ‘swirl’  of the cosmic mass we call reality should not be confused with a purely linear view of reality, upon which evolution must rely (i.e., reliance on a Big Bang, primordial soup, then various periods of evolution/advancement of varying species).  Obviously, if linear time is the framework for the edifice of evolution, there is a strong likelihood that evolutionary theory is defectively constructed.

Additionally, it seems that the atheist opposition confuses their perceived improbability of God with ultimate exclusion from the range of all possibilities.  In the view of Dawkins and his company, it is nearly an absolute truth that God does not exist.  Were it the case that Dawkins could overcome the long standing objections that might be made by George Berkeley as to the importance of human perception in all of this, perhaps a better argument could be made.  However, Dawkins and his crew presuppose the validity and concrete values of their perceptions and just assume that a consensus gentium argument will carry the day because a vast number of other evolutionary biologists happen to agree on the notion that God, Creationism or Intelligent Design are improbable or altogether wacky.  Solipsism remains a strong enemy of confidence in the truth values of our own perceptions.  In fact it does seem that the utility and efficacy of certain “memes” bears out this very problem.  Cultural evolution is a product of passed on perception, without necessary regard to or of principles deriving from mathematics or physics.

In order for anyone’s argument to work with respect to great cosmological arguments, it does seem that the veil of basic human perception must first be torn and put aside in favor of an unobstructed view of reality.  Humanity has proven itself quite incapable of divesting itself from its condition as a status which depends purely on the senses and humanized logic.  Professor Dawkins and his ilk may be assured that just as great a number of scientific theories have fallen, after ready acceptance by consensus, as have arguments for the existence of particular gods or ontologies.  In large part, it seems that the human defect of limited perception is the cause of a great number of these many failed scientific theories throughout history. Indeed, it seems apparent that our singular or collective experiences limit the conclusions to which we may arrive.  Experience naturally limits the parameters of what we can actually know.  Admittedly, the breadth of one’s “experience” can be widened with knowledge/exposure to mathematics, physics, chemistry, theory of biology, philosophy, and other areas of learning.  However, the expansion of theory is dependent on the limits of our own personal knowledge and that of our colleagues in thought.  The limits of humanity do not give way simply because one believes in evolutionary biology.

Father Time has proven himself to be a bitter enemy to the life span of most scientific theories.  As human perception ‘evolves,’ scientific theories die.  Sometimes they die by the weight of their own complexity or the simply are shown to be inconsistent with the collective perceptions of an advanced humanity.  Oddly, however, the explanatory value of a higher cause or higher being has not died since the conceivable beginnings of human thought about the source of our being and the reasons for our existence.  This may be simply because a belief in God does provide a fabric to all that is.  Or, it may just as well be that the vast majority of humans have perceived something that can only be described as God.  For as many scientists and theologians as there have been in history, there have probably been nearly as many fools among them.

The pervasive perception of God, or the empirical basis for the use of a word such as “God,” cannot be simply disregarded.  Simply because Dawkins has not personally perceived something that might be called God does not allow him to summarily dispense with any Wittgensteinean objections as to the limits of our language and ability to articulate what we experience.  It is undeniably the case that the Judeo-Christian view of the world has rather successfully sufficed to unite an advancing/progressive group of humans, indeed the entirety of Western Culture, of which Professor Dawkins would be a participant.  The “memes” of, or which are, Christianity have proven to be a rather powerful force by any account.  See generally, John 1:1-4 (KJV).

It seems to me that the evolutionists of our time ought to give some minor consideration to the thought that the theoretical explanans and the actual explanandum of human existence are conceivably different.  If truth be the sum of its complete, necessary and agreed upon conditions, the evolutionary biologists/theorists have plenty of agreement, but could not possibly have a complete or necessary epistemological basis for the ultimate truths they espouse.  Admittedly, the same applies for a strict historical or epistemological view of Christianity.

In the case of both Evolutionary Theory and the belief in God, there is indicia of pure religion.  Religion requires certain elements, which appear to be:  1.)  A redemptive or explanatory story for what is;  2.) An explanandum/definiendum which outside of complete human perception or experience;  3.) Preachers and prophets of the truth or content contained within the explanans/definiens; 4.) A body of the faithful who simply may have no epistemelogical basis for a belief in what is explained or the explanation itself; 5.) A desire to operate by explanatory fiat or ultimatum.  Zealotry on behalf of any such religion can lead to discord and unnecessary viscosity in the stream of otherwise valuable arguments.  Certainly, both sides of the Intelligent Design argument seem perfectly capable and willing to lift the sword toward the other.

Or it may very well be that the enemies of God are simply asking the wrong questions even about their own existence and be-ing (Dasein) in the Heideggerian sense.  Perhaps it is just that they think it important to “stir the pot” in the proverbial sense.  But what sense does it make to stir the pot if you’re in it?

 

 

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