Re: Ch. 4 - Before Darwin to the Twentieth Century
Saint Gasoline: Well, I'm not exactly sure how one would reconcile having transcendant purpose with our "accidental" existence.
I can think of a couple of ways offhand. One, the way that's been co-opted by ID Creationists, is to suppose that the terms of our existence were "front-loaded" into the starting conditions of the universe, such that an existence which is, from the viewpoint of phenomenon, accidental, would have transcendental meaning in a historically progressive view of things. I don't necessarily agree with that way of reconciling the two, but it does seem, to me, to do the trick of reconciling it.
The other way, and the way that makes much more sense to me, is to look at transcendence not as something built into the human condition -- like a trap door that only needs to be triggered -- but as something which we have to struggle towards, even in trying to determine what transcendence is and whether or not it can be attained. And I think that's an idea that has filtered into secular humanism, but which most humanists would be loathe to call transcendence. In that sense, transcendence wouldn't be a matter of what objective purpose we were born into, but rather, what sort of purpose we can find for ourselves that will, in some way, make us objectively more than we currently are.
I think that's one think that distinguishes my breed of theistic thinking from that of Creationists. At best, they try to re-situate evolution into a scheme that denies the more radical implications of the theory -- "front-loading" functions, after all, to minimize the randomness of the theory. I think that it's possible, and perhaps desireable, to look at religion as working along evolutionary lines, at least metaphorically speaking.But like I said, I don't see why people consider this something negative. I find it more negative to think of us as created for some sort of cosmic purpose, to be sure, as if we were inanimate objects like hammers.
Well, in the Judeo-Christian scheme, at least, I would say that it is always implicit, and often explicit, that the human purpose is equivalent to choice. That's not such a bad purpose, although the Christian scheme kind of minimizes the plus side of that choice by making one of the major choices about as unappetizing as any choice can be.