25.1 Relations between degrees
The previous three chapters have described the main degrees according to theistic
science. This was done by identifying the structural degrees of scientific theism
with actual processes in the universe, using the fact that some of these actual
processes are known already and well described by modern science. Now we address
more specifically the causal connections between those degrees. We need
to consider the connections between the mental and physical degrees, between the
spiritual and mental degrees, and between the divine and the spiritual. This is
needed especially since, for many people it is controversial that such connections
exist at all.
In fact, many current world views can be defined as the denial of the reality
of one or more of these connections. There is a wide spectrum of such views. The
three most common positions are as follows.
Theistic science does assert the reality of all of the inter-degree connections
which contrasts with these partial or limited views. Theistic science goes on to
describe the details of these connections in a scientific manner. It draws on the
general principles of the scientific theism described earlier in this book and is
able to make predictions of how these connections operate.
- Denial that there are any mental-physical connections: this is what
it is to be a physicalist. This position used to be called materialism, but
that name is less popular now because of the many not-material-like qualities
within the physical.25.1To
be completely consistent, physicalists should further assume that all rationality,
thinking, feeling, deciding and consciousness must either be properties of physical
(or material) objects in the universe or only be appearances that do not really
exist. Some physicalists shy away from this conclusion. They attempt to formulate
a ‘non-reductive physicalism’ that keeps the reality of rationality and consciousness
while still allowing physics to be a complete description of reality. Other
physicalists contend that such compromise positions are actually inconsistent.
Much current debate about physicalism and consciousness centers around these
- Denial that there are any spiritual-mental connections: this is to
take the view of humanists that minds are ‘natural phenomena’ that are self-aware,
self-motivating, and hence self-sufficient. Such people would therefore not
allow for the existence of anything transcending normal thinking or feeling.
They strongly dislike the idea of reducing mentality and rationality to physics.
They seek non-reductive ideas of mind such as non-reductive holism or emergence
in order to keep some real kind of mental-physical distinction.
- Denial that there are any divine-spiritual connections. This is to
be a ‘spiritual-atheist’, rather like the Buddhist view. Strictly speaking,
the Buddhists refuse to confirm or deny the existence of a divinity, but they
typically reject any talk of God or theism.25.2A
similar view, one that allows for spirituality in an atheistic universe, has
recently been advocated by Harris (2004).25.3
Between any pair of levels P and Q within the multilevel generative
structure that we have developed for theism, we can now begin to describe how
P influences Q by generative causation and how the effects in Q
yet again affect what can happen in P by selections or constraints. This
standard pattern is not symmetric dualism because generation is distinct from selection.
We will see that the overall effects of such asymmetric connections result still
in a rather close coupling between adjacent degrees. In the end, the result is effectively
an interactive dualism.25.4
Let us look first at the details of mental-physical connections: those between
our minds and our bodies (including our brain).