The Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS) works according to the following guidelines:
We are committed to the principle that humanity has a dignity that robots and animals do not have. Humans are accountable for killing other humans but they may use animals for food. We acknowledge this principle as a basic rule of morality and foundation of law.
This principle requires that humans can clearly distinguish humans from non-human animals. This distinction is possible today because evolution produced a sharp gap between us and animals by eliminating a huge number of intermediate varieties between humans and the great apes. Today species are distinct: it is possible to distinguish clearly which creature is human and which is not. But this is no longer possible when one goes back in the evolutionary history. Thus, by producing the sharp difference between humans and non-human animals, evolution laid the groundwork for assigning rights.
On the other hand, recent developments in evolutionary research suggest that the beginning of humanity cannot be established by biological means alone: it is biologically impossible to establish when the species Homo sapiens or any other species begins with anything other than arbitrary criteria. Defining humanity refers to an intervention coming from outside biology.
In this sense one can state that God used evolution to bring about humanity as a life-form called to be ruled by morality and law (see Genesis 9:3-6).
We welcome any criterion for discerning what makes human life precious and unique. For now, the belief that God became human flesh seems to provide a strong one and may help to found coherent moral rules and legal orders. In any case, we share the assumption that mankind will never be superseded by a “superior” species and work to promoting human flourishing.
Knowledge aims primarily to understand the human person and to seek the universal human good. The human person is “incarnate spirit”, or equivalently: “intermittently conscious spirit” (“sleeping spirit”), or “spirit in time”. In the corporeal world only human persons can properly be considered to exist (they share a “personal act of being”). All the rest of the material universe “exist for humans”, and in this sense it can be compared to speech that is uttered “because we humans are listening”. This philosophical perspective integrates and completes both classical metaphysics (based on an unspecified act of being) and modern philosophy (based on the conscious subject).
The ordinary fact that each of us again and again utters a sentence beginning with ‘I’ is, in fact, a most amazing fact! It reveals that we profoundly believe we have a personal identity which remains unchanged in all the changes we undergo in life. When I am awake I am conscious of my personal identity. But ‘I am’ also when ‘I am deprived’ of consciousness, as for instance while ‘I am sleeping’. So where does my personal identity come from? Who is sustaining me in being, so that I can claim ‘I am’? This fact confirms that the human person is a “sleeping spirit” (“intermittently conscious spirit”), “incarnate spirit”. In particular, ‘I am the same now’ as ‘I was in my mother’s womb’ before birth. This means that reliance and trust are essential ingredients of my personal identity: ‘I am’ means ‘I am, thanks my mother’, ‘I am myself’ because ‘I am in relationship to a thou’ since the very moment of my conception.
As “incarnate spirit” the human person can be considered to be made in the image of the “incarnate God”. To this extent human dignity is founded on the fact that “humanity is made in the image of God”. On the other hand, the basic principle of morality and law presupposes that humans can clearly distinguish humans from non-human animals. Thus, the intervention constituting mankind in the image of God happened only after the difference between humans and animals became established in evolution history as sharply as it today.
The proclamation that mankind is made in the image of God marks the beginning of humanity as a community to be ruled by morality and law, and at the same time defines humanity as distinct a biological species. Thenceforth, the human body is the basic ‘title’ for assigning rights: the basis of any consistent moral and legal order is that every (anatomically modern) human is recognized as a person worthy of respect. Personal rights hold for each human being independently of genome, culture, health, religion. Awareness of the difference between humans and animals, and the will to guarantee personal rights imply each other; explaining “what is” goes hand in hand with claims about “what ought to be”.
Free will and conservation of personal identity are first in the logical order and prerequisites of science. Quantum experiments and theorems support the view that: 1) Physical effects come from outside space-time (Bell nonlocality, Kochen and Specker contextuality), the visible world is governed by invisible, non-material principles. 2) Space-time is discrete, there is no material connection between my neurons today and my neurons yesterday; accordingly, the conservation of my personal identity cannot be guaranteed by any material substratum. 3) The ordinary world is defined by the assumption that observations or experimental results are universally valid and independent of the observer. This requires that quantum superposition is limited by the “collapse”-assumption. But nothing speaks against the possibility of extraordinary phenomena where quantum superposition applies to the macroscopic realm. Beyond the ordinary limit, quantum superposition bears different physical realities or parallel worlds (as the so-called Wigner’s Friend paradox illustrates).
The ordinary world is shaped by regularities (badly called “laws of nature”). God makes this world mathematically in order we can calculate and predict it. But even in this ordinary (mathematically-shaped) world there cannot be a “theory of everything”: any explanation consisting in a finite number of steps (algorithm) cannot encompass the whole arithmetical truth. This is a consequence of theorems by Kurt Gödel and Alan Turin, among others, which even the coronavirus-pandemic has brought into focus: there is no universal method to find a vaccine for any possible virus.
The view of humanity as community of human persons is relevant to promoting well-being (health, happiness) and sustainable economic development:
The role of the human body as basic title of rights and the assumption of the conservation in time of personal identity are particularly important in bioethics, for ascertaining the status of the person (definition of death, status of the human embryo, criteria for distinguishing between “disabled embryos” and “non-embryos”).
The individual unconscious has been the big discovery of psychoanalysis, and was completed by the discovery of the collective unconscious of humanity. On these bases different psychiatric and psychotherapeutic methods have been developed. Nonetheless these important discoveries remained largely misinterpreted within the framework of a deterministic and materialistic science, which has meanwhile been superseded. The need for a non-reductionist psychosomatic basis for medicine has recently led to new approaches for exploring the deep layers of the unconscious which enhance the view of the human person as “incarnate and relational spirit”. We think such approaches may complement standard medicine in the search for well-being, mental health and happiness.
Economic development is based on the principles of wealth creation and sustainability. The world is not a closed system but is steered by an infinite intelligence (“invisible hand”) from outside space-time. Human intelligence participates in this intelligence. Thus, although humans are essentially limited beings they can in principle through their creativity increase wealth beyond any limit. Economics should not mainly aim at distributing a cake that cannot grow, but rather empowering people to create an ever larger cake.
It is possible to overcome the classical individual‒society dualism by bridging the economic and political assumptions of liberalism with the teaching that every human being is a person and has the rights of the human person: fundamental rights cannot be established by belonging to a subgroup of humankind, be it by race, genome, developmental stage, culture, religion, or political class; neither can one reduce the rights of humankind to the rights of the present-day generation. The “own interest” and “the universal good of humanity” appear intrinsically united through the person sharing a body of the human species. Respecting this unity is the basis for sustainable development.