I believe that I am the only thing that really exists. I think that my friends and people I meet are versions of myself if I had taken a different path in life. I could be anyone and I can understand even the most ridiculous of ideas. It seems like a negative view but I am convinced that everyone or everything I encounter is to benefit me in some way. I don't believe in good or bad. Nor emotions or science. Just nature. I was created and all I am here to do is survive as long as possible. Period. No silly questions about the meaning of life or what is my purpose or am I a good person. Life isn't a gift it was just something that was possible and eventually happened. I think people like to lie to themselves to forget the fact that they are basically useless. I apologize for making this sound negative and too long. I guess my question is how can anyone prove to me that they really exist?

Your question reminds me a little of the story Bertrand Russell told about the philosopher who claimed that solipsism -- the view that only you exist or anyway that there is no reason to believe anyone else exists -- was obviously the correct position and she couldn't understand why everyone else didn't agree with her! But there does seem to be a sense in which you cannot prove that anyone other than you exists. Actually, in that sense, it also seems that you can't prove that you existed in the past or will exist in the future. So you if you have standards this high, then the most you know is the content of your current experience, though even this may be saying too much.

If science (i.e. evolutionary psychology) can explain why I have the morality I do, does that mean morality is subjective? If what I believe about morality is just a product of my evolution and my upbringing, can I still expect other people to live up to my principles even though they may have had a different upbringing? What about myself? Can I still hold myself to my own standards or am I being deceived by my evolution into thinking it would be wrong to do so?

It is hard to say what makes a moral judgment correct, but the fact that a belief in a certain area has a innate basis, perhaps molded by evolutionary forces, does not entail that the belief is subjective. Thus it might be that I have an innate belief that certain animals are dangerous, and that this belief is objectively correct. Moreover I might go on to acquire excellent empirical reasons for this belief (if I survive the data).

A discussion with a philosopher friend got me all bewildered. He claimed that we cannot say that animals feel pain, because a mind is necessary to feel pain, and animals don't have a mind. My argument was twofold: 1. How do we know that animals don't have minds? 2. Pain is a result of stimulus to certain parts of the brain. If we assume that animals don't have minds, we can still see that their brains respond to pain stimuli the same way as ours. Even if they are unable to cognitively translate an external factor into a thought train like "I stuck my hand on a hot plate, it hurt, so I removed my hand from the hot plate", surely we can watch them pull back from things that we would experience as painful. I was wondering what your thoughts are on this subject. Thanks.

I know of no good argument for the conclusion that animals cannot feel pain, and given the behavioral and physiological similarities between us and some animals the evidence seems very strong that some do. A biologist friend of mine told me about an experiement with, yes, rats. These rats had severe arthritis, a condition very painful in humans. They were given a choice between plain water and water laced with a tasteless drug (tylenol, perhaps) that does nothing to improve the arthritis, but in humans reduces pain. The rats quickly came to prefer the water with the pain-killer. This is no proof that rats feel pain, but it is a telling argument. And remember that you have no proof, in the strong sense of that term, that people other than yourself feel pain either.

Many philosophers seem to believe that belief is involuntary. But if this were the case, wouldn't it be true that every human being, when presented with the right information, would automatically assume a certain belief? So when person A and person B are presented with information Y, the will always comes to believe X. Just as in other involuntary acts of the human body. If person A and person B are both given a chemical depressant, let's say a tranquilizer, they will always fall asleep. They have no control over it, it is just an involuntary chemical reaction in the body. It does not seem to me that belief works with this same type of involuntary, automatic, mechanistic quality. For example, we could take a sample of 100 Americans and show them all the evidence in support of Darwin's evolutionary process. About half would afterwards support evolution, and half afterwards would say it is phoey. Although I have not seen the results of such a study, I think it is safe to assume that this would be the...

Uniformity does not follow from involuntariness: the tranquilizer example notwithstanding, different people sometimes have strikingly different reactions to the same drug. So different that a drug that cures one person kills another. Getting back to beliefs, I venture that even if two individuals were brought up in exactly the same environment, they would not end up with the same beliefs. But of course no two individuals are brought up in anything like exactly the same environment.

ID theorists and creationists like to say that the Theory of Evolution is "just a theory." Is that true? What does that mean? What's the difference between "truth" and "theory"?

Theories are descriptions, and they come in two flavors: true and false. So the Theory of Evolution can be both a theory and true, which is just what a great number of scientists believe. When evolution by natural selection is called a theory, however, this is sometimes intended to emphasise that there is no proof that it is true. Now if by 'proof' we mean what pure mathematicians produce, then this is correct. There is no proof of the Theory of Evolution, and there is no proof of any other empirical theory either. Proof in this sense is not an option in science, because all theories go beyond the evidence upon which they are based. There can similarly be no proof that the sun will rise tomorrow. But the sense in which it is true that there is no proof of evolution is compatible with the claim that there is overwhelming evidence that it is true, which is again what a great number of scientists believe.

a. Is there a way to prove free will? b. Why can't I choose not to choose? Since everything we do is a choice. Thank you, Jerome

a. Many philosophers think that we can't even prove that free will is possible. b. It's impossible to choose not to choose, precisely because that would be a choice. (And by the way, even if everything we do is a choice, it doesn't follow that we can choose anything.)