Discussing some ideas last week, my friend and I touched on the subject of creation, intelligence, and if we can truly feel convinced in the existence of a Creator. I thought our discussion might benefit others, so I jotted down our words.
It is always best to start from what we know is 100% true, and draw all conclusions, inductions and deductions from that truth. In this way, we build a foundation of arguments, which are most accurate.
What is certain? We know the universe exists. We know it could not have created itself…nothing can create itself. For if X already existed, there was nothing left for it to do, regarding bringing about its existence, as it is already here. And if, on the other hand, X does not yet exist, then nothing can perform the act of creation. Hence, in either case, X cannot create itself. So too, the universe could not create itself: something other than this physical world we see, must exist, and this Creator cannot be physical, nor is He governed by the very laws He created, evident in the universe. We say the Creator is not physical. What is the proof? As we said, all things physical require something “else” to create them. That which is other than the physical must not be physical, by definition.
We arrive at the reality that God exists, the source of all we see, and what we see is truly mind-boggling. As thinkers often submit: throw ink as many times as you wish at paper, but it will never organize into letters, words, rows of sentences…let alone a novel. Now, a novel, any novel, compares little to the math, science and myriads of systems of laws evident in the universe and all created beings and things. Hence, the universe is no chance event, like ink thrown randomly on paper. Another argument is the impossibility of rewriting history, or fabricating events witnessed by masses. As we would never suggest that Caesar was not the emperor of Rome, we would not oppose any historical accounts, certainly, if those other accounts were attended by larger numbers of witnesses. Compound this argument with the unrivaled accounts of miracles recorded and transmitted in the Torah, and we cannot deny the existence of a Creator who continues to controls the universe.
Revelation at Sinai, its miracles, the Exodus, the brilliance of Torah wisdom and its parallel to scientific knowledge all teach that God is responsible for both: Torah and the universe. He created man. Why? We cannot answer, other than Maimonides’ words, “It was His will.” (“Motive” is human, and cannot be imputed to God) God graciously and generously benefits a new creature, “mankind”, with intelligence, so we may find amazement and appreciation in His wisdom. Nothing else on Earth but man partakes of wisdom; not animal, not plant life, or other matter. Beasts are as dumb today as at anytime in recorded history. Man alone has been granted speech and intelligence via a separate apparatus not evidenced in any other being. As the philosophers also concluded, but as we know from God’s words and from reason, human beings must possess a non-physical element, enabling us to perceive wisdom. This is not to be confused with the animalistic ability to recognize, mimic, and manipulate, all of which are rooted in the instincts, and not intelligence, or the “soul”.
The human soul is often confused with the instincts – our animalistic element. But these are two distinct faculties. Had animals possessed intelligence, we would certainly witness in the species of beasts more than mere parroting of human activity. Dolphins jumping through hoops with such precision appear more “intelligent” than other animals. In truth, they are merely more “trainable” than others. Dolphins may be regarded as the “dogs of the sea.” Just as dogs are easily trained for man’s needs, and this may very well be God’s design, dolphins too are quick to adapt. But that is all it is, “adaptation”. You will never see dolphins pondering its sins and perfection, formulating mathematical equations, composing poems, writing, or learning languages. Some also argue that animals are not as complex as humans, but are no different in terms of their faculties. They bring support from the design of bird’s nests, beehives, and the “problem solving” of monkeys. However, instincts alone explain these activities. Birds and bees have no abstract “blueprint” in their minds, since they do not have minds, only physical brains which control motor activity. Monkeys and apes appear to “figure out” how to obtain food, using sticks and the like, but this too is mere instinct, just as when an animal darts away from a predator, or when we quickly recoil our hand after leaning on something we did not know was hot. Animals are akin to programmed robots, evidenced in the exact behaviors duplicated in all species, never changing, over thousands of years. Had animals any intelligence, we would witness in them, at the very least, the same deviations found among members of the human race. But each beast, insect, and bird acts exactly like all others in its class, as schools of fish suddenly change course with such unison.
Animals’ unchanging natures and absence of any sign of intelligence is a clear display that man alone possesses a soul, in addition to instincts. We do not assume differently, simply because animals are similar in shape and action to humans. Just as we do not suggest plant life to be intelligent, we should not suggest this to be so of animals, even though we see commonalities.
We realize that God created all we see, and this idea is so important, that God commanded us in the Sabbath as a weekly reminder and testament. Through His very act of creating, teaching and maintaining us, we learn that God desires man alone to possess intelligence, for which we should feel grateful. He desires that we use our instincts and intelligence in His service, which is synonymous with a life seeking wisdom, governed by justice and morality. God desires man to have the good. As a Rabbi once stated, serving God, is, in truth, serving ourselves.
Ideas like these may be basic, but even basic truths, at times, deserve repeating, just as Sabbath laws confirm.