On the Origin of Life Meaning and the Universe Itslef

by Sean Carroll

Life and consciousness do not denote essences distinct from matter; they are ways of talking about phenomena that emerge from the interplay of extraordinary complex systems. (location 263)

There is the conscious knowledge of human beings as opposed to the sense knowledge of animals. We can see with our eyes that animals can see and hear and solve simple problems. We know about the “conscious knowledge of human beings” because we can make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. One is a scientific observation and the other is a metaphysical observation. There is a great track record of success with scientific questions. However, there is no such track record of success with metaphysical questions.

We don’t know how life began, or how consciousness arose. (location 306)

What caused life to begin is a question in science. What is consciousness and how it arose is a question in metaphysics. The answer is that we can comprehend what human consciousness is because we have it. But we can’t define human consciousness. Knowing that the sky is blue means more than that light is entering the eye and a signal is going to the brain. It means an awareness of this. What is this awareness? This is a metaphysical question for which there is no answer.

We can’t decide whether an individual human life actually matters if we don’t know what we mean by “human being.” (location 355)

There are three equivalent explanations of what a human being is: 1) Humans are indefinabilites that become conscious of their own existence. 2) Humans are embodied spirits. 3) The human soul or form is spiritual.

Essentially, naturalism is the idea that the world revealed to us by scientific investigation is the one true world. (location 400)

In other words, naturalism means rejecting the method of inquiry called metaphysics. According to metaphysics, humans are superior to animals because we have free will. Form or soul is the principle or incomplete being that makes us equal to one another. Matter or body is the principle or incomplete being that makes us different from one another. The human soul is spiritual because we can comprehend free will but can’t explain what the relationship is between our self and our body.

Why does the universe exist at all? (location 428)

The universe is a collection of molecules. It is not a being. The universe is many beings. The universe exists only in the mind of the human who uses the word universe.

Are we sure it (a unified physical reality) is sufficient to describe consciousness, perhaps the most perplexing aspect of our manifest world. (location 432)

There are two worlds: the manifest world of our sense observations and the metaphysical world that arises from our transcendence, that is, our ability to make our selves the subject of our own knowledge.

But what if the table is made of atoms? Would it be fair to say that the atoms are real, but not the table? (location 1732)

If we look at a table and create an image of the table, the image is a mental being. The image is not real. However, the table itself is a collection of molecules. The table is many beings. To be is to be one. Unity is a property of being. I exist (cogito ergo sum) and I am a single unified being.

You may have heard that there is a long-running dispute about the relationship between “faith” and “reason.” (location 1967)

Faith and reason refers to two kinds of knowledge. Faith is knowledge God gives us or reveals to us. An example is life after death. The other kind of knowledge is based on observations, questions, and theories supported by evidence.

Thinking about God in a rigorous was is not an easy task. (location 2247)

Human are finite beings. A finite being’s essence limits its existence. An infinite being (God) is a pure act of existence without a limiting essence.

For the sake of keeping things simple, let’s divide all of the possible ways of thinking about God into just two categories: theism (God exists) and atheism (no he doesn’t). (location 2259)

There is an argument, not a proof, of God’s existence that is based on the assumption or hope that the universe is intelligible. There is no need to make a decision about God’s existence. Because of the historical event called the Resurrection of Jesus, we only have to decide only whether or not there is life after death.

But if that’s true, the fact that we do experience evil is unambiguous evidence against the existence of God. (location 2285)

The existence of evil is a reason to not believe in life after death. However, it has nothing to do with whether or not God exists. Human beings exist because God created us. This raises the question of what motivated God to create us. The only thing that could motivate God to do any thing is self-love. God created humans because He loved Himself as giving. But God could just as well love Himself without giving. Since we can’t understand why God created us, it makes no sense to try to understand why God created so much evil and human suffering.

…God’s essence is mysterious and impenetrable to our minds. (location 2300)

God is a pure act of existence without a limiting essence. When Moses asked God what His name was God said: “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you” (Exodus 3.14).

And there is no immaterial soul that could possibly survive the body. (location 2423)

This is correct. Many Catholics mistakenly think that the human soul goes to purgatory after death. However, this is just theological speculation to account for the gap between death and the Second Coming of Jesus.

After all, it seems pretty obvious that time does exist, and that it’s passing all around us. (location 3026)

It is not obvious to me. Time has to do with change and with the past and the future. Only the present is real. The past and the future are mental beings.

Essentially every working professional biologist accepts the basic explanation provided by Darwin for the existence of complex structures in biological organisms. (location 3422)

Natural selection just explains the adaptation of species to the environment. It does not explain common descent because of how rapidly animals descended from bacteria. It takes two decades for a single fertilized human egg to produce all of the cells in the human body. Bacteria transformed into giraffes in 100 million decades. One hundred million does not even begin to describe the complexity of a mammal. Only non-biologists think a billion years is a long time and that natural selection explains common descent.

Nevertheless, fine-tuning is probably the most respectable argument in favor of theism. (location 4574).

There is no explanation to date for why the mass of an electron is exactly what it is (fine-tuning). This is evidence that the universe is not intelligible and that God does not exist. However, the Big Bang and fine-tuning is a reason to believe God inspired the human authors of the Bible because the bible says God created the universe from nothing.

The special feature of self-awareness, the ability to have a rich inner life and reflect on one’s place in the universe, seems to demand a special kind of explanation. (location 4802)

We have a drive as human beings to know and understand everything. The explanation for self-awareness is that humans are able to turn in on themselves and catch themselves in the act of their own existence. The explanation for why humans exist is that there is a being (God) that created humans and keeps us in existence but that itself does not need a creator.

The idea of a unified physical world has been enormously successful in many contexts, and there is every reasons to think that it will be able to account for consciousness as well. (location 4812)

Science is successful in question arising from sense observations. There is no track record of success in questions arising from our ability to make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. We can’t even define the conscious knowledge of human beings, never mind explaining it.

Memories are physical things, located in your brain. (location 4991)

Memories are mental beings. Saying they are physical things is like the guy who is collecting minerals and arranging them according to their color. He builds a chest of drawers and labels the drawers the colors of the rainbow. He puts a red mineral in the red drawer, a blue mineral in the blue drawer, and so on. One day he finds a white mineral. He goes back to his chest and says, “White minerals don’t exist.”

None of this will necessarily convince a determined Cartesian dualist who wants to believe in immaterial souls. (location 5039)

There are four solutions to the mind-body problem. The most irrational one is dualism because there is no evidence of immaterial substances. Slightly less irrational is materialism. Idealism, the idea that the material world is an illusion, makes far more sense than materialism and dualism. The solution judged to be true by rational people and supported by the evidence is that the mind-body problem is a mystery with the understanding that there are no mysteries in science. In science, there are only unanswered questions.

A person has knowledge of something if they can (more or less) answer questions about it correctly or carry out the actions associated with it effectively. (location 5340)

Knowledge is the openness of being to the manifestation of being.

Do I, at the end of the day, have free will? (location 5736)

It is very clear that we have free will when we do something that takes a lot of will power, like sticking to a diet.

The volunteers were also observing a clock, and could report precisely when they made their decisions. Libet’s results seemed to indicate that there was a telltale pulse of brain activity before the subjects became consciously aware of their decision. (location 5802)

There are three kinds of causality. Free will involves a final cause. If you spend 15 minutes washing your car, the final cause is having a clean car. In metaphysics, cause precedes the effect in the order causality, not time. If the cause preceded the effect in the order of time, there would be a cause not causing anything and an effect not being effected by anything. In physics, a causal system is one where the energy is constant. If you know the position and speed of a mass falling under gravity at one point in time, you can calculate its speed and position at any other point in time.

I believe in naturalism, not because I would prefer it to be true, but because I thing it provides the best account of the world we see. (location 5866)

Of course it does. But the best account of the world finite beings know about from our ability to make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge (free will, our existence as a single unified being) is the existence of an infinite being.

There is no simplistic, undivided self, no tiny homunculus in the brain steering us around…. (location 6445)

There certainly is an “undivided self.” Descartes read contribution to metaphysics is: I think, therefore I am. But Descartes was wrong to think there was a spiritual little man inside the brain that controlled the body like a driver controls a team of horses. The driver and the horses are two beings. A human being is one being.