"I don't see any reason to invent something "non-physical" to explain anything about our (or any animals) experience. In the past many "non material" ideas were invented to explain things; the rising sun, fire, plagues, death of the young, evil and on and on. Why not just say that, like the earth going around the sun, we just don't have the perspective to explain many complex things? A natural explanation may or may not come in the next 100 or 1,000 years. That does not in any way argue for a non natural cosmos. It is the many things that were considered supernatural that have come to have natural causes that have lead many of us to just go for the least complicated explanation for what is happening in the world."
BE YOURSELF is not the only reader of this blog that has confused these two notions: non-physical and non-natural. I described certain things (or non-things) as non-physical and he went from there to thinking that I was describing a non natural cosmos. What he has confused, I think, is what is physical or measurable with what is natural. And we, as a society, should get over this confusion quickly. Our astro-physicists are already telling us that at least 94% of the universe is not visible and that is only the neutrino plane of reality. Einstein postulated ten or eleven more planes that not only have no visible particles but have no mass either.
In our most natural, mundane, ever day, meat and potatoes reality, we deal with and
are surrounded by non-physical, immeasurable but perfectly real phenomena all the time. Do you think love is real? The only people that would doubt the existence of love would be psychopaths and Richard Dawkins (but perhaps I am being redundant!). But if love is real, where is it? Now please don't confuse the effects that something has on matter, including living bodies, with being physical. We often see, or think we see, the effects of love on various people and animals, but we cannot see that love directly. We experience it for ourselves, but we never can see it or measure it directly even when it is our own love that we are experiencing. What about desire? Now, if you think about it, desire is the underpinning of everything ever created by human beings. There is not a building or painting or shopping mall or book or symphony ever created that began without someone wanting to build or paint or write or compose that object. Yet, the wanting, the desire, is another thing or non-thing, just like love, that we all know from our experience and from our observations of its effect on others, but that cannot be directly observed. In this case even Richard Dawkins writes freely about desire, though he only limits himself to the desire to survive. But what is never acknowledged with Dawkins or in any of the evolutionary writings is that this desire to survive, this survival of the fittest, which is the underpinning of the entire theory of evolution (evolution could not move forward one inch or one second unless all the participants, all the living beings, were trying to survive). Although it effects the behavior of all of life and the biological processes of all of life, this desire, itself, cannot be seen or measured. Again, we can experience it. We all know what desire is, as an experience. But we cannot directly weigh it, see it, listen to it, taste it, or touch it. And beyond our experience, there are forces in the inanimate world whose effects we see all around us and yet we cannot see or measure these forces directly. What could be realer, especially for those skeptics who pooh-pooh the notion of anything invisible before they even think about it, than gravity? The effects of gravity on matter and on our bodies is obvious at every moment. Yet, where is it? How can we see gravity directly apart from the effects that it has on matter? What is this it that we call gravity and how can we observe or measure it directly? The answer is that we cannot and all these strong forces that are part of the every day ubiquitous fabric of our lives including love, desire and gravity are not seen directly and, although we recognize their effects on the physical world of living bodies and inanimate objects, they, themselves, are not things and are not part of the physical measurable world.
Intelligence, too, cannot be measured directly. Yes, you can take an IQ test which measures some intellectual abilities, and do very well. But when you go home after the test to play tag with your dog, you watch helplessly as your cockerspaniel makes a fool of you and runs you ragged as you desperately, and to no avail, try to catch him. Crows, in Tokyo, who are not known for acing the Stanford-Binet exam, wait for the WALK sign at busy intersections, quickly go out in the street and place nuts directly in the path of oncoming tires. At the next WALK sign they return to gather up their crushed nuts. These obvious signs of intelligence can be seen and appreciated, but, again, no one can observe or measure intelligence directly. And, as animal researchers are now finding out, intelligence does not correlate directly with any physical aspect of the brain. Migrating birds, with their little "bird brains," are capable of hiding supplies for the next season in over five hundred hiding places and retrieving them without a moment's hesitation one year later. So intelligence, too, although we see it's effects on living beings, is not part of the physical universe, and like love, desire and gravity, cannot be directly observed.
What about you? Can you be seen? Of course I can see your body, but can I see you? Are you and your body one and the same or are they distinguishable? Are you your body or are you that which experiences your body? Researchers have been able to distinguish which animals can recognize themselves in mirrors and which cannot. So what? Are these animals seeing themselves in the mirror or are they seeing the surface of their bodies? Are they recognizing themselves or are they recognizing what other people or animals see when they look at them? You have probably heard that "primitive" people do not like to have their picture taken because they think that it will rob them to some degree of their soul. Is this reflective of their silly superstitions or do they realize something that we just don't get? Is their fear not that some 'demon' hidden in the camera will cast an evil spell on them but that they will become identified with that photographic image and begin to think that that is what they are, the outer surface of their bodies, and forget that they are the spaceless, timeless soul that dwells within and through it? We have to decide if we are a boundless spiritual being, an inextricable part of the spiritual fabric of the universe, or if we are that little two dimensional nitwit staring back at us in the mirror.
The first time I had a colonoscopy my dogged gastro-enterologist insisted that I look at the pictures that he had taken of the inside of my large intestine. I had absolutely no interest in anything colon-related after a full day of depriving that part of my anatomy of any food, purging it with industrial strength laxatives and then having it probed by a two foot scope. When I did relent and finally looked at his camera work, I had absolutely no way of knowing, without him telling me, that those pictures were, in fact, my large intestine. It could have been anyone's. It could have been a picture of the landscape of Venus for all I knew. Did I feel ashamed, at that moment, because of my lack of self-knowledge? Of course not. I related to that picture as a picture, not of me, but of my equipment. Now I don't want to seem cavalier about it. I realize that I depend, vitally, on this equipment. If my doctor tells me tomorrow that I need another colonoscopy I will get another colonoscopy and I will get one tomorrow. I rely on that large intestine and I know that any abnormality in it will have a major impact on my life. But I am not my large intestine. And if I am not my large intestine, which is part of the more personal, interior of my body, why should I consider myself to be my face which is on the surface of my body? No, my only conclusion is that I am the non-physical being who expresses myself through my face, but I am not my face.
Most contemporary scientists will tell me that I am confusing my brain with my self. That, although it seems like I am thinking and feeling and experiencing the world around me, it is really my brain rather that is doing that for me. Further, that my entire sense of a 'self' is a projection of that brain, something that grew out of the complexity of it, and that survived as a projection because it assisted my ancestors in their survival more than those less fortunate competitors that did not have a sense of self to protect them. But, of course, I am not talking about a 'sense of self,' I am talking about the self that has a sense of self. If I didn't have a self who is it that is being fooled by the idea that I have a self? Who is it that is harboring this delusion? (Please see my post, SELF vs. SENSE OF SELF). And these competitors, lost in the dust of biological history, the ones that didn't have a sense of self, did they not even have a self? Were they merely automatons randomly pushed and pulled through their environment by gravity and electro-magnetism with no judgement or discernment? How are we to imagine such creatures? These animals that cannot recognize themselves in mirrors, do they not have selves? Do they not know the contours of their bodies, and can they not navigate through their environments, through dense brush and reefs and air currents every bit as well as those animals that do have a 'sense of self'? Do they not know what it is that they need to eat, where to find it, who their appropriate mates are when it is time to reproduce, and who their offspring are and how to care for them when they do reproduce? Do you see such animals getting confused and forgetting which group they belong to? Putting the story of 'The Ugly Duckling' aside for a moment, have you ever seen an ant wander off with a group of cockroaches, or a herring abandoning its mates and joining a school of sardines? To say that mirror recognition has anything to do with the 'self' is as shallow as saying that the image that you see in the mirror is your self.