Our view of reality can go beyond materialism and therefore be literally meta-physical.
However, it is not necessary to posit an ontological break between nature and super-nature; what we need may be a larger understanding of nature. Developing a larger view begins with a critique of the materialist view.
Falsifiable does not mean false. Rather it means that there must be some conceivable experiment that could show the proposition to be false, in case it is. The materialist view is non-falsifiable. Whatever happens is known after the fact to be possible. Since this world is what it is, and since according to materialist doctrine natural selection is the only way that things develop, a world like this could have and must have evolved by natural selection.
Likewise, since there is such a thing as consciousness, according to the materialistic hypothesis, consciousness obviously could and did evolve by natural selection. Given the vastness of time and space, anything that can happen probably will.
The question is whether the materialist view is the most rational one, as materialists assume that it is.
A non-materialist view holds that consciousness precedes evolution and so evolution is consciousness struggling toward more complete manifestations. Those who affirm a God-Creator, or hold to pantheism, or any form of idealism, see consciousness as a reality prior to matter. I will refer to those who hold a non-materialists view as teleologists, meaning that they believe that life is purposeful.
Teleologists take consciousness as a given and can examine the development of consciousness in human beings without appeal to a miracle. In using the term “miracle” in this context, I am not making any super-naturalist assumptions but referring to any event that is wonderful, surprising, and not understood.
The materialist view holds that the evolution of consciousness is the product of unconscious particles that over time become conscious. The emergence of consciousness would seem to be a miracle, although a very slowly forming one. But materialists do not see the need for a miracle because they take consciousness for granted. The bland assumption of consciousness resembles the way that we as individuals look at our own personal consciousness. We do not consider our consciousness and the control that we have over our voluntary muscles as a miracle, because by the time we are mature enough to think about these things, they have already become so familiar as to seem ordinary.
The familiarity of consciousness is seen in the fact that it is difficult to speak of the movement of material elements toward unity without using the language of intention. In materialist descriptions the elements “strive,” they are “selfish,” they “tend.” Materialists make it clear enough that this language is metaphorical and that the elements do not really have intentions.
I think most of us frequently miss a most crucial gap in our knowledge, namely that the workings of anything below the conscious level lies beyond our understanding. We think that we understand inanimate nature because of familiarity and because of analogy to intentionality. Even when we manipulate things through our science and technology, it is our intentions that we understand, not the inner working of the things.
Both the materialists and the teleologists struggle with the relation between the elements and consciousness. The materialists explain the whole, namely human consciousness as a more complicated rendition of the mechanical action of the parts; genes are complicated molecular replicators, and memes are the cultural equivalent of biological genes.
Can we instead turn the relationship around and see the movement of the parts as primitive expressions of the reality that we experience at the human level? Might there be a force which American Philosopher C. S. Peirce (1839 – 1914) calls agape, meaning love, working along side of mechanical necessity and chance? Pierce holds a view, which he calls agapaism, which affirms a force of loving attraction that moves things at every level toward a teleological unity.
In this case evolutionary attraction would be seen as a more primitive instance of what we would think of as the highest form of love. Agapaism is the inverse of materialism in that it gives the movement toward meaningful unity an ontological priority rather than seeing it as a mere chance product of inert particles. This view is not provable, but it is at least as feasible as the materialist view.