The author begins with the question “What are we? and why are we here?” (p. 1) and gives at the end of the book an incorrect answer:
The short answer to the question what are we? is that, uniquely as far as we know, we are the unfinished product of an accelerating cosmic evolutionary process characterized by collaboration, complexification and convergence, and the self-reflective agents of our future evolution.”(p. 587)
The author tells us that he was a theist in his youth, became an atheist, and is now an agnostic. In other words, he claims to understand the arguments for God’s existence but can’t decide whether or not God exists. This makes no sense because there is no need to decide whether or not God exists. Since God may exist, there are two kinds of knowing: faith and reason. In faith, we know something is true because God is making us believe it. In reason, we know something is true because we observe it with our senses (science) or from our ability to make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge (metaphysics). In reason, we also ask questions about our observations, invent theories, gather evidence, and decide whether a theory is true or just probable. Since all religions tell us that we pay for our sins when we die, responsible individuals decide whether or not this is true. There is no need to make a separate decision about God’s existence.
The author knows the difference between science and metaphysics because he says, speaking of B. F. Skinner, “…he rejected unobservable phenomena like mind and intention.” (p. 394) My accusation against the author is that he uses the phrase unobservable phenomena
instead of metaphysical observation
to cover up the fact that there is a method of inquiry called metaphysics
that provides an argument for God’s existence. The first and most important step in understanding the argument is to answer the question the author poses and answers so irrationally: What is a human being?
Another indication that the author understands the difference between metaphysics and science is this quote:
Whether such capacities [language, use of symbols, and a sense of selfhood] are nothing but neural activity in parts of the brain or neural activity is a correlate of these capacities is a major metaphysical, rather than scientific question that I shall examine later.( p. 429)
The author’s criticism of the theory of intelligent design for biological evolution (ID) is more irrational than the orthodox refutation, which is the patently absurd idea that ID is not science because it is not testable. According to the author,
…the most reasonable approach to understanding the emergence of life on Earth is that, while keeping an open mind, we should seek a natural explanation rather than a supernatural cause like God or intelligent design.(p. 235)
Supernatural and natural explanations or theories do not exist. There are only good and bad theories. The good explanations are supported by evidence and judged to be true by rational people. The honest and rational criticism of ID is that there is no evidence for it. So-called atheists and agnostics don’t like this rebuttal because it brings about a rational discussion of what caused bacteria to transform so rapidly into the plant and animal kingdom. To his credit, the author does discuss evolutionary biology in a rational way. That there is no explanation for common descent with modification, as it should be called, is a reason to believe God inspired the human authors of the Bible because the Bible says God created the universe from nothing.
The author argues that the reflective consciousness of humans evolved from the consciousness of animals. The author defines “reflective consciousness” this way:
The property of an organism by which it is conscious if its own consciousness, that is, not only does it know but also it knows that it knows. (p. 429)
I consider the author’s definitions of consciousness and reflective consciousness to be pseudoscience. What the author is referring to is the conscious knowledge of human beings as opposed to the sense knowledge of animals. Putting it this way makes the distinction between a metaphysical observation and a scientific observation clear. Trying to give a definition to a metaphysical observation obscures the distinction between metaphysics and science.
The correct definition of “reflective consciousness” is that we can comprehend it, but can’t define it. The author’s definition of reflective consciousness has no content at all. It is like defining free will as the ability to either do something or not do it. The correct definition of a human being is that we are indefinabilities that become conscious of our own existence. Another definition is that the human soul is spiritual or that we are embodied spirits. My favorite way is to say human beings did not evolve from animals. What evolved from animals are hypothetical creatures called homo sapiens.