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Are intelligence and free-will in the same «dimension» as matter?
Many popular science authors have apparently dedicated their careers into tricking their readers to assume the next two sentences are the same:
1.1) Science has proven that man evolved from a monkey-like primate.
1.2) Science has proven that man's body evolved from a monkey-like primate.
The second sentence, as far as I know, is true, on top of being perfectly compatible with the Catholic Faith:
For these reasons the Magisterium of the Church does not forbid that
[...] research and discussions [...] take place with regard to the doctrine of
evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as
coming from pre-existent and living matter [...].
[Humani Generis, #36, my emphasis.]
On the other hand the first sentence, on top of being unscientific, leads to Atheism, one of the most toxic philosophical positions imaginable.
There are many possible consequences to sentence 1.2 here above. The aforementioned popular science authors constantly harp on them (without saying that the Catholic Church has nothing against those possible consequences!). Here are some examples:
2.1) "Darwin predicted the human body might have appeared in Africa, because monkeys and gorillas are the closest species to us, and they are in Africa". OK. So? Darwin (and any other scientist) is quite welcome to observe facts and to try to find logical explanations for them.
2.2) "Skeletons of manlike Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo ergaster and Homo Scoobidoous were unearthed in the caverns of Somewhere by Doctor Smith, and have been radiodated at a zillion years before Christ". OK. So? If our bodies really evolved over the course of millions of years, then many traces of that evolution probably exist.
2.3) "The DNA of chimpanzees differ from man's DNA only by 1.48%". OK. So? Go marry a chimpanzee if they are so close to us! Seriously, what makes us so different from chimpanzees is not our DNA.
Many popular science authors claim that some dots have obviously been connected, even though it's not obvious, and sometimes not even connected yet!
3.1) "I found a small piece of an old bone here. Therefore this old bone belonged to a tribe who practiced Friday Night square dancing and always performed ritual hand-washing after playing poker". Please! You found a small piece of an old bone. Some "deductions" from old bones to complex social behaviors are hilarious. Nothing wrong with speculation, but let's remember none of us were around zillions of years ago, and we don't have period videos.
3.2) "Homo Scoobidoous lived long before Homo sapiens, and it did things which are impossible without intelligence, therefore Homo Scoobidoous had intelligence". Please! The ants just outside my front door behave intelligently. They have an advanced social organization, carry back their dead, even subjugate other species (aphids) for their own interests. Yet ants are not intelligent. Whatever happened to Occam's Razor? If instinct easily explains a behavior, why postulate reason and free-will?
3.3) "Monkeys have cognitive abilities and social lives just like us". OK, so why isn't a monkey gabbing about your Ph.D. thesis in a tavern? Seriously, whatever happened to words like "similar" or "in a way the same"?
3.4) "Chimpanzees use tools (stones) to break open nuts, so man isn't the only species to use tools". Using your incorrect definition of "tool", birds use "tools" too (ordinary crows open snails by smashing them against rocks). So do insects, for that matter (some sphex - moths of the family Sphecidae - use other insects as a combination refrigerator-incubator tool, to keep the moth's larvae warm and provide them with fresh food). Claiming that recent discoveries "liberates paleoanthropologists from the heavy burden of the man-tool association" is ridiculous [Pour la science, Dossier: Sur la trace de nos ancêtres, oct.-déc. 2007, p. 40].
3.5) "Some chimpanzees imitate other chimpanzees, therefore they have a "culture" like we do". You call eating termites on a blade of grass "culture"? I can show you a video on YouTube of a parrot singing Mozart! Seriously, we have to be careful when we use words like "culture" (or "tool", or "language", etc.), when dealing with animals not endowed with reason, otherwise we risk falling into verbal inflation. (See also Section 2.3 of How To Evolve A Debate Against A Darwinist.)
Source: Pour la science, Dossier: Sur la trace de nos ancêtres, oct.-déc. 2007, p. 9.
Connecting dots with a ruler can be really easy if you choose which dots to connect! Is one of those nasty dots impossible to reach with your ruler, because it's in another dimension? Simple! Pick another dot!
A problem with that approach arises if you're a scientist, and you're trying to explain how to get from an easy dot to a hard dot. You shouldn't hide the hard dot under the rug. But that is exactly what some bad popular science authors do.
What distinguishes man from all other animals? Our eyes? No, eagles have better eyes than we do. Our stomach? No, pigs have better stomachs than us. Our capacity to run around? No, racoons can do that. Our emotions? No, many higher animals like dogs and cats have emotions.
There are only two things which make us different from all the other animals: intelligence and free-will (or "self-awareness and liberty", or "reason and autonomy", etc.).
A true scientist will carefully examine the "end dot", the point he is trying to reach with his explanation. The facts about our intelligence and free-will are not hard to find; we just need to focus our attention on them. (See among others the audacious scientific experiment described in Section 3 of Abortion And Soccer.)
Another way of coming to the same conclusion is to look at science-fiction. Almost inevitably, the story will include some extraterrestial lizard or advanced robot that has intelligence and free-will. In other words, a person whose body is not human. The author of that science-fiction story knows it, and the audience of that story knows it: what makes us persons is not our "bipedal stance" or our "use of primitive tools".
Once the "end dot" has been clarified (intelligence and free-will), we need to think about what is required for that "end dot" to exist. (See among others The Cockroach's Soul.)
If you pick an easier dot to connect, be honest and tell the spectators that you've changed your target! If you don't, then you're a liar, and you've just "devolved" lower than a monkey.
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