Problems of Dualism
Ontological Dualism is not ordinarily a coffee table topic. Before raising such a topic, one should be confident the foundation is laid for such a weighty discussion. The physical constants of matter ordering our everyday lives in the physical world may fascinate our friends at some level, (they may profess a fondness for science), but soon the subject may become too challenging. Add the topics of the human mind and human consciousness to the discussion and the conversation may clearly outdistance the ordinary attention span. With this introduction, we hope to supply some insights into the relationships of matter and mind. Physical matter and its relationship with the human mind and human will is fascinating and complex.
We begin by reminding readers of past discussions of physical constants. The universe could not exist if these constants assumed values different from what we observe. We repeat—our universe would not operate if even one or just a few physical constants were altered. There are dozens of physical constants upon which life in our universe depends.
The proposition that the universe would not be conducive to life, particularly human life, “is discussed among philosophers, scientists, theologians, and proponents and detractors of creationism” in Wikipedia’s opening paragraph discussing the “Fine-tuned Universe” concept. The meaning and significance of physical constants of the universe are sometimes hidden from science laypersons by esoteric definitions of physical constants such as “a physical constant is a physical quality that is generally believed to be both universal in nature and constant in time.” While correct, this definition may obscure the significance of physical constants.
Scientists agree that existence in our physical world is governed by a set of constants. We have lightly termed them “rules of the game.” Some have proposed the philosophical scenario that our world is a completely material, physical world. If no life of any type existed, such a case could be proposed. No sapient life associated with humanity or even conscious life in lower life forms would theoretically exist in such a lifeless universe. We assume such a world could be ordered and free of chaos. No living things would be present, however, to make this judgment.
Locked in a physical world governed by constants, philosophers have long speculated on a complex reality termed ontological dualism. They made a distinction between matter and mind. In Christian theology, mind may relate to the distinction between physical matter and the soul/spirit. At serious risk of oversimplifying a topic of intricate complexity, we shall inject a theological component into the long-standing discussion.
In terms of physical constants, the universe has no “choice” but to be governed by them. The physical order of our universe has been fixed by the Creator of All Things. Free will for humanity is a different reality superimposed by God in a different realm. God creates different realms for different purposes. The world of God’s physical creation is a backdrop for the existence of “free-will” beings with minds. It is the will of God that humans are free either to love and serve him, or not. In this fashion we might say that the soul/spirit (mind) co-exists with the world of ordered matter. This is a divine plan of incredible depth and beauty.
The Apostle Paul in the Book of Ephesians describes the will of our Heavenly Father that we should choose to walk in free-will obedience to him. Formerly, Paul stated, we all willfully obeyed “the ways of the world.” But it was God’s will that we should walk, by our choice, according to good works: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
We thank God for his created, orderly constants. How much more do we thank God for creating an ontologically dual world in which we have freedom to enjoy the predictable physical world and also willfully serve the Creator.