Modern science has drawn important challenges on how to solve unfathomable mysteries such as consciousness, free will and God.
In 1967, British biologist and Nobel laureate Sir Peter Medawar characterized modern science as, in the form of a book title, The Art of the Soluble. “Good scientists study the most important problems they think they can solve.” After all, it is your professional business to solve problems, not just deal with them, “he wrote.
The challenges of modern science
For millennia, the brightest minds of our species have struggled to gain ground in the vertiginous ontological cliffs of three great mysteries: consciousness, free will and God, without ascending anywhere near the fine air of their peaks. Unlike other inscrutable problems, such as the structure of the atom, the molecular bases of replication, and the causes of human violence, which have witnessed amazing advances in enlightenment, these three seem to be moving away more and more from understanding, even when we run faster and faster to catch them in our scientific networks.
Are these “hard” problems, such as the philosopher David Chalmers characterizing consciousness, or are they truly insoluble “mysterious” problems, as designated by the philosopher Owen Flanagan (inspired by the rock group of the 60s, Questionmark and Mysterians)? The “old mysteries” were dualists who believed in non-material properties, such as the soul, that can not be explained by natural processes. The “new mysteries,” says Flanagan, argue that consciousness can never be explained due to the limitations of human cognition. I argue that not only consciousness, but also free will and God are mysterious problems, not because we are not yet smart enough to solve them, but because they can never be solved, even in principle, in relation to how concepts are conceived in the language. Call us who are in this camp as the “last mysteries.”
A mystery without deciphering by modern science is that of consciousness is represented by the qualitative experiences (qualia) of what it is to be something. It is the first-person subjective experience of the world through the senses and the brain of the organism. It is not possible to know what it is like to be a bat (in the famous thought experiment of the philosopher Thomas Nagel), because if you altered your brain and body from humanoid to batoid, you would only be a bat, not a human being who knew what it is like. a bat It would not be like the peddler in the 1915 novel by Franz Kafka The Metamorphosis, who wakes up to discover that he has been transformed into a giant insect but still has human thoughts. You would only be an arthropod. By definition, only I can know my first person experience of being me, and the same is true for you, bats and bugs.
Few scientists argue that we live in a deterministic universe in which all effects have causes (except in quantum mechanics, although this simply adds an element of randomness to the system, not freedom). And yet, we all act as if we had free will: we make choices among the options and retain certain degrees of freedom within the restrictive systems. Either we are all delirious, or the problem is framed to be conceptually impenetrable. We are not inert stains of matter transmitted on the pinball machine of life by the palettes of the laws of nature; we are active agents within the causal network of the universe, both determined by it and helping to determine it through our choices. That is the compatibilist position from which volition and guilt emerge. Tremendous mess to unravel by modern science.
If the creator of the universe is supernatural, outside of space and time and the laws of nature, then, by definition, no natural modern science can discover God through measurements made by natural instruments. By definition, this God is a mystery without solution. If God is part of the natural world or somehow reaches our universe from the outside to remove the particles (for example, perform miracles such as healing the sick), we should be able to quantify such providential acts. This God is scientifically soluble, but up to now all claims of such measurements have yet to exceed statistical probability. In any case, God as a natural being who is much more intelligent and more powerful than us is not what most people conceive as deified.
Although these latter mysteries may not be solvable by modern science, they are convincing concepts, however, worthy of our scrutiny if for no other reason than can lead to a deeper understanding of our nature as spiritual, volitional and sensitive beings.
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