A Story by Nolo Segundo

A few thoughts on a possible connection between the natural, temporal world and the supernatural, eternal world.

     Yesterday my wife was upset with her sister for believing in a strict literal interpretation of the Bible. I'll not consider here why some people will discount the vast amount of proof that the world is far older than 6,000 years or that the universe was not created in six 24 hour days (in  a sense, in terms of the law of physics that matter/energy is neither created nor destroyed, the universe was actually created-- came into being--in a tiny, tiny fraction of a second!) I won't even speculate why fundamentalists seem to pick and choose when it comes to science: their narrow-mindedness about evolution does not seem to stop them from driving a car, going to the doctor, using a microwave, or watching a car-- all things made possible by science.

     But lest my sister-in-law thinks I'm being harsh on her for her beliefs, it seems to me that the materialistic/atheistic world view is quite equaly lacking in breadth and depth, in particular when it comes to evolution. Darwin was brilliant, but maybe he didn't go far enough. After all, why is it that the great apes, who share almost all of their DNA with humans, have never composed sonatas, painted pictures, written letters or just sign their names, providing they gave themselves names? Why are we the sole species out of untold thousands, both extant and extinct, to have become so incredibly creative AND terribly, wantonly destructive of our own kind? Yes, we have evolved into mostly hairless, talkative, rather fragile beings, but why are we the only animal to have developed a mind to make ideas with, and language and music and architecture and medicines and literature that can convey the thoughts of those dead for centuries or millennia as though they were speaking to us personally, in the here and now? The Darwinians would say so we could adapt to our environment, any environment. True, but why did we sprint so far ahead of our ape cousins-- who have been on earth as long as our human ancestors and would no doubt have been happy just staying as they were?

    I suspect the answer comes in the difference between instinct and culture. All other animals rely primarily on instinct to survive and propagate--- whether it's maternal, survival or territorial. Yes animals learn and mothers teach their children, perhaps much like human mothers do only without  books and computers. But most of human behavior is not instinctual but comes from somewhere deeper and is unique to each of us: out hopes and dreams, our fears and prejudices. One may love Mozart and hate Picasso, pray five times a day or use sticks to eat with, prefer his tea green or refuse to eat meat. Think about it: we  possess the weaponry to kill quickly vast swaths of the human population and irreparably damage the earth, yest we go about our daily life quite calm about that.

    If anything, it appears homo sapiens has over-evolved to the point where we can destroy our own species along with every other species on this planet. But nobody, at least not the evolutionists, bothers to ask why? Why did our      ancestors  so far outstrip the competition, including the great apes who had similar beginnings, in this great evolution sweepstakes? Perhaps the answer lies in a non-material explanation, an explanation those who have faith, including fundamentalists, should be comfortable with. Now atheists, being as stubborn and narrow-minded as fundamentalists in my limited experience, will discount any metaphysical explanation for mankind's amazing ascent (and possible descent?) but I believe it's because somewhere along the line God put the immortal mind, the endless soul, into our ancestor's bodies, transforming animals into humans because with that came choice, a breaking of the chains of instinct and the freedom-- and responsibility that goes with free will.  

     After all, we are the only animals that murder. Other animals kill for food or territory or protection, but we humans, to roughly paraphrase Shakespeare, kill for sport. We also envy, slander, lie, cheat, torture, abuse, rape, and kill ourselves, outright or more slowly through drugs, drink, food, etc. Ironically, we are also the only animals (with the possible exception of your dog) who will run into a burning building to save unrelated members of our species, or throw ourselves onto a grenade to save other lives. Human behavior runs the gauntlet from angelic to bestial, and as the Nazis proved, it doesn't matter how sophisticated and advanced the culture might be. Could this be because we have souls, a consciousness that exists apart from our DNA,  from our culture, from family even? Would it explain how a serial killer could be raised by decent. loving parents, or a genius born to a pretty ordinary mom and dad?

     The soul with its freedom-- and mandate-- to choose between good and evil, between the selfish and the loving, between destruction and creativity, might explain why we humans are human: it is because we MUST CHOOSE, we must make decisions instead of relying on pure instinct for when to fight, when to flee, when to eat, when to breed. Compared to humans, animals have almost no choice in how they live their lives or how they die. They may love, in an instinctive way, the way my dogs may have loved me, but my love for them is greater because I  chose to love them. And my dogs could never worship, that is, love God, or even deny His existence. I'm sure the question has never even come up.

     If one thinks on it, perhaps all of our advances have come from this profound, compelling need to choose: because to choose to do one thing instead of another you have to think! Do I fashion a spear to go to war, or a hoe to feed my family? We are the only animals that must consistently choose to do one thing over another and by that repeated process, that WRESTLING between the light and the darkness that is in each one of us, we have developed our minds, our reasoning ability, our creativity unique among animals. (Would a million monkeys typing for a million years come up with Hamlet? Perhaps, but they still wouldn't understand it.) I believe it is because we each have an unique consciousness that existed before our our bodies were fused from egg and sperm and will exist after our bodies--and brains- have decayed that we are able to invent everything from cathedrals to thermonuclear weapons, precisely because our souls are capable of both good and evil and each soul is given the freedom to choose in each body it inhabits.

   I've long suspected that a Being that transcends time itself would have no problem knowing how evolution would turn out in one of its 'little experiments'.  What the materialists call 'chance', i.e., the random mutations of natural selection that have led to us, would be known, would be foreseen by such a Being. Is it really logical to believe that we are what we are by the  luck of the draw as it were? To believe that we are homo sapiens, the knowing ones, by getting  just the right combination of 'happy accidents' and that is why we outran so far all other animals, even our ape cousins, in the great evolutionary race?

     I think fundamentalists may have an inkling that this makes no sense, but the materialists cannot be refuted by absurdly refusing to accept the physical , verifiable proof (fossils, carbon dating, geology, etc.) of the earth's age.The problem with the materialists is that not everything human can be measured or predicted because we are not mathematical formulae. Within each of us our emotions and our thinking (forever intertwined) are in constant flux.
One moment I love my wife more than life itself; at another time I might find her quite annoying, and no doubt she sees me that way as well. There is no 2 plus2 equals 4 in the heart, something poets have known for millennia but those who would reduce people to a genetic algorithm or a patent psychological diagnosis do not.

    Of course, by definition the metaphysical cannot be measured-- not that people haven't tried, like those naive men who sought proof of the soul by comparing the weight of a dying person to the weight of the corpse. Yet just as gullible  may be the atheists/materialists who discount anything that cannot be measured 'scientifically'. The wise know that, after God, the greatest mystery is oneself.

© 2017 Nolo Segundo

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Added on August 16, 2017
Last Updated on August 16, 2017
Tags: evoultion, the soul, free will and the necessity of h


Nolo Segundo
Nolo Segundo

Philadelphia, PA

From adolescence until I was 24, I was an agnostic. Then I almost drowned, and had what has come to be called a near death experience. So for the past 45 years I've known that the problem with life i.. more..