Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In The Final Analysis

To get it straight, this gets it straight; what happens to the thought processes when you begin to clear away the wreckage of sentiment and nostalgia and the inanities of common, everyday concerns. If nothing else occurs, the grasp of essential terms and their employment in the place of old entrenched ones (the default settings of well-nigh autonomic responses close enough to the knee jerk to be organic processes) forces a confrontation with the unadorned reality of a situation, rather than one colored by experience.

At its core, the original argument remains firmly in place: Evolution. As much as Einstein based his theories on observations of Light, Darwin based his on observations of Life. Neither of their positions is open to argument, on the evidence, although everything is open to interpretation. But the evidence is clear on this: the organism's development via natural selection, adaptation and mutation, explains just about everything on how it got to be the way it is. The progression of a species, depending upon the rate and speed of reproduction and the complexity of the individual organism, can be affected by anything from dramatic climate shifts to the slightest solar radiation. While the latter may seem infinitesmal to a primate, to an amoeba it's like gamma rays to The Hulk. In either case, all it takes is a few broken chromosomes and the resultant genetic material will produce new chains of DNA sequences. Adaptation means these changes have become stable, but it also means the cycle can start all over again, as well.

The most salient point of philosophers (at least the one's we can understand without straining, like Wittgenstein and Bergson...and Kant, with a bit of heavy lifting) may be that they insist on keeping essential terms as close as possible to attributes/metaphors/examples representing human traits/aspects. In this, they are not that different from most legal systems: all testimony in courtrooms is limited to eye-witness accounts of experiences in the realm of the five senses, plus what those sensations meant to the testifier. What this means is that one universal truth which can be regarded as a Law, regardless of belief system or nationality, is that we call those things “real” (or at the very least “honest”) which hold up to some kind of empirical proof with the five senses.

One of the good things about Bergson was his reminder that whenever possible, use only primary references. And when I said I found two fuckups, he only violated this rule once, to my liking. He wasn't alone in citing Ernest Haeckel's “law”--“Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny”. (I bring up embryological parallelism, or biogenetic law, one last time as it appears to have the same appeal I seem to be making. It would be comforting if, as the theory goes, “the growth and development of an individual organism is the same as the evolutionary history of the species.” But it doesn't happen enough to be considered outside of various phylum. And, anyways, my thesis only runs on the same track; the race is quite different.) Bergson was taken in like every other scientist-philosopher of the time, making the same error and compounding it by never getting verification (one of his absolute bugaboos). It was actually Steven Jay Gould, who brought this point home to me, among the other examples in the intro to “The Lying Stones of Marrakech”. The reason why I bring it up here is that it has survived long enough for SJG to cite it means it endures as a time-honored lesson. It is this sort of “truthiness”-in which “facts” get mistaken for rigorous scientific proof—that has become a major tool of Creationists by bringing in specious studies without proper provenance.

What put Bergson in the back numbers wasn't that, however. It was his insistence on the “elan vital”--as close to Intuition as it gets. It was alright for Kierkegaard to take a Leap of Faith; he was only outlining a condition necessary for belief in God. It is just that unknown factor being such a core issue of his, the only one not directly predictable in evolution (except for animal instinct) and without a direct line to the five senses... unless Intuition may be our Instinct. Certainly, there is no question about trying to shoehorn this into Darwin in the traditional fashion. Natural selection? We'd have to go far afield to see anything “natural” in something that has no 5-sense/testimonial origin. Species adaptation to changes forced by environment? Possibly—but to what environment? Not the earth's climatary regions; utterly nonsensical as people now live in all zones of the planet and our present method of adaptation has nothing to do with evolution...unless you count dressing in layers. But suppose this is a new development? Now there’s something to work with. Some might say Henri believes we developed a “divine spark”…except—HE DOESN’T MENTION GOD! So then, it is that Homo Sapiens, somehow, went beyond the design parameters? Moreover, that this is exactly what they were “designed” to do?

This begs the question: Who? Designed what? The answer might then be something like “Intelligent Design but without a governing intelligence”, which means: it works perfectly because it works perfectly…for the moment. Then, isn't this getting perilously close to Creationism? Ok. No problem going there, as long as you admit it is the design of a “creator” who has no interest in what happens to these creations. (Really. Take a look at the last century first, please.) Don't try to sell me an interventionist god; Dawkins' blind watchmaker is much more plausible. No, the “designed” verb refers to the mechanism inherent within the structure; how it works, its operation, and “intelligence” is like the verb/noun in CIA, our perceptions of that “design” (kinda like Heisenberg’s thang about how the observer is part of the equation), its observable functions and purposes.

This isn't tricky at all. Life, of any kind, must always create more life. That's easy. When you get into ecological niches, however, there is also a symbiosis that occurs, a balancing act wherein one species overproduces as a food source for another with a slower breeding and/or gestation cycle, wherein one species' waste products serves as the breeding medium/food source for another, etc. (Think Galapagos...another of Darwin's hot spots.) These are not “directed” purposes as much as “evident” functions—what some Chaos Theory physicists have observed coming out of decaying turbulence streams: vortices of self-organizing systems. Some might say that this is not a “design”. Look up “pattern”, ok? Try “symmetry”. And if all else fails, use your imagination!

Life “designs” itself by natural selection.

The previous was neither a color exhortation or a rhetorical device to make a transition from essential terms and primary sources to The Next Bit. The Next Bit IS both of those bits AND the “design” element.

The other sticking point with Bergson came from his singular dismissal of Darwin in this one statement. “Let us take care not to confound evolution and development... The truth is that adaptation explains the windings of the movement of evolution, but not the general directions of the movement, still less the movement itself. The road which leads to the town is certainly obliged to climb the hills and go down the slopes; it adapts itself to the accidents of the ground; but the accidents of the ground are not the cause of the road, any more than they have imparted its direction." ("Creative Evolution", pages 111-112.) He got the right metaphor, but grabbed it at the wrong end of the scale. Don't start with the finished product; start with the path through the forest. Obviously, at some point, a homind of one sort or another sighted through the trees, or across a plain, and saw the easiest route, the path of least resistance. It showed less objects or obstacles to the depth of field offered by binocular vision, possibly, as well, representing trails blazed by large-bodied, four-footed mammals who had crossed the terrain previously. What Bergson appears to have missed is that roads—unless they are grids imposed by civic planning—are usually, by and large, products of old footpads over vegetation. These were made and laid for a reason...just not one immediately available to those who see only the paved surface that came later.

This has a more sound intellectual basis when all are considered in sequence.
1. Bergson diverges from irrefutable argument (or sound reasoning) when he makes the claim that “the truth is that adaptation explains the windings of the movement of evolution, but not the general direction of the movement.”
2. “The path through the forest” is a very good metaphor. Animals go through by their nose, foraging for food, eating brush, tender shoots, berries or fronds. Perhaps a hunter follows by spoor as well. In either case, as some twigs or saplings are bent, so goes the tree, bush, etc. and the hooves of ungulates dig further gouges in the earth. Their feces accumulate along the line of travel, fertilizing the soil, creating better, nutrient-rich surface for more growth along those lines of just the plants which attracted them in the first place.
3. Humans with binocular vision detect the subtle gradations of the ground to their goal. Over time, the succession of feet on the same ground wears a more well-defined path. It is this path which becomes a traffic pattern, creating the basis for a road, the surrounding forest becoming less dense in the bargain. A crossroads becomes a settlement, q.e.d. This is the evolution of a city, echoing all human development.
4. This refutes #1 as I understand it.

This may come under the heading of a “social” evolution, a “behavioral” evolution, but it still follows Darwin's theory to the letter. We have come to accept the “Gaia” hypothesis as the planet as a living, integrated organism, as the environment. It isn't any big jump to follow the “windings of the movement” as well as the “general director of the movement” to the same source. This is where the 5 senses of the living organism determine the development of patterns, along with other biological processes and imperatives, and that follows a course and speed set by the SELECTION OF THE ORGANISM (Darwin).

And, again, this is not a convenient metaphor or incidental cite: this is the core. The reason all the philosophers and scientists and even a theologian or two got their propers is that they are all, to a man (sorry, gals), THE PATH THROUGH THE FOREST. This is how I got here: thinking and reasoning as they do (to the best of my ability), testing hypothesis and questioning statements and propositions, etc. It was when all my questions began to merge, at the same junctions, the territory looking mighty familiar, and where all the terms started to describe the same properties and conditions, and when the forest stopped looking like a dark and tangled thicket and more a privet garden in the sunshine.

Ok. No more teases.

However, as the last philosopher cited previously was McLuhan, it is necessary to let him carry the ball through the uprights, but he's game. More or less, it is his position that all Media are extensions of the human organism and that every new media is an advance on the previous one, but not immediately recognized as so because, at it's inception, it pretty much duplicates (in combinations) the functions of previous media, until it finds its own purpose.
• Language=audio representation in specific messages between individuals; this is the mouth. At first it was for hunting and gathering, but later would evolve into the level of sophistication that could communicate our thoughts, our minds.
• Printing=extension of messages into symbols for general distribution. This is for our eyes, and/or most assuredly for our minds/brains, however you wish. What may have begun in simple iconography or even religious ritual, would become the most important human device ever, recording the past, ordering the present, and even describing the future.
• Telegraph=extension of messages into symbols in long-distance audio representation in code between individuals, but also for general distribution. This is where the body enters, allowing manipulation of things and events far beyond the reach of what would be our arms.
• Telephone=telegraphic audio messages without code between individuals. Again, the body, and the obvious ones of the mouth and ears.
• Radio=audio messages for general distribution. All the attributes of the telegraph and telephone but further, a theatrical element which once more engages the mind as does printing, creating, at times, an artificial realm for the eyes.
• TV=audio and pictorial messages for general distribution. This is radio without the artifice of mental images.
• The Internet=all of the above...and more.

So, inasmuch as Evolution is a progression based upon the demands of the organism’s basic survival, and the employment of the Five Senses to aid that end, so also is the History of Humankind’s development through Media. Then, to put in a little bit of substitution, just for a giggle, let’s say: MEDIA MANIFESTS THE SAME PROPERTIES AS AN ORGANISM, AND DISPLAYS THE SAME OBEDIENCE TO THE LAWS OF EVOLUTION: RESPONDING TO CHANGES IN THE COMMUNICATIONS ENVIRONMENT VIA NATURAL SELECTION, ADAPTING TO THE NEW MEANS OF MESSAGE TRANSMISSION AND TECHNOLOGY, AND GIVING BIRTH TO A NEW GENERATION OF ADAPTED MEDIA. Too over-arching? Perhaps. Yet, there is nothing in that statement which is incorrect…if only as a metaphor. So if we’re going to explore some fanciful constructions, let’s try another, like: IF ALL CHANGES IN THE ORGANISM ARE AT THE SERVICE OF ITS EVOLUTIONARY DEVELOPMENT, THEN ALL CHANGES IN ITS MEDIA ARE AS WELL. Again, if you place Media in the same category as the Five Senses (of which they are most certainly extensions), it is not unreasonable to say they must be doing some sort of labor at the behest of the organism, even if only selling commercial air time. Now let’s take one more step into speculative fiction: THE DEVELOPMENT OF MEDIA IS PART OF THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS OF LIFE. Here may be where the rest of the camp-followers depart: metaphor is ok; declarative statements are…well, kinda hard to hedge, actually, folks.

But why should it be? Remember: all developments must be at the service of the organism’s survival? Then why else did our brains/minds, which are, after all, developments of the Evolutionary process, even need to come up with Consciousness? A Creationist will tell you it was so we could have knowledge of God and worship Him. Like I said: open to interpretation. My boy Teilhard believed in God, but he understood Science was 100% Reality, or as much as could be said to be Real. And yet, this hard-headed pragmatic, anthropologist could still come up with something like an Omega Point of Noosis for a Christogenesis? It isn’t hard to accept that somebody who goes so far off the beaten path, and who’s shown a fair amount of horse sense in his time, must be seeing a different track through the shrubs.

So let’s talk some real hard-headed pragmatism. It’s no coincidence Marx came along with the Industrial Revolution; it was the first time Labor, to a certain extent, was liberated from Russell’s “brute existence” – and, incidentally, the invention of Leisure as something for other than the power elite. However flawed Capitalism would become, at that juncture in history it represented a mind-blowingly unique change in human consciousness. By and large, in our search for hallelujahs and hosannas, we came to this plateau on the road to our mansions in the sky via the route through God as an answer to all our non-subsistence-level-oriented questions here on earth. Now, there appeared an off-ramp at some little joint called happiness that looked pretty good.

So what does this have to do with the substitution game above? Suppose that Media was some kind of weird substitution-thing itself, wherein the Consciousness wanted to grow more, say, develop a sixth sense. Perhaps something like telepathy? Remember: consciousness must be at service of the organism, AND all media are extensions of Man. Well, if you think e-mail is fast, and Twitter faster, then you have no idea how fast a thought might be, even though they are trying their best to duplicate that instantaneous communication. Yes, we might have evolved into it, except we had God already there.

Why do I want to bring back Heisenberg now? Possibly because it is that same thing, tantamount to religion freezing Man at either Anthropoid or Ascendant Angel and MISSING THE BIG PICTURE! Remember: Behavior is an Emergent Property too! At quantum level, the analogy works just as well for Consciousness. The flux of particle/wave suggested the proof of the Uncertainty Principle, that fixity only comes in with an observer arresting one or another STATE OF BEING. But suppose that the "subject" is also the "observer"?

The Matrix has the same exact conclusion about the species as you, as a virus. However, when you add God into the mix, you get ideas like “unlimited growth potential” and “god-given rights” and “Manifest Destiny” and “entitlements” and such. The idea that God permits anything He does not stop and that, if anything goes wrong, God has underwritten the title policy against all acts of God, that God will fix it, abrogating responsibility of the individual or society to the rest of the individuals or society, the group/whole/racial identity, etc. (as long as they are not going to the same worship service as you) without any need for a social balancing act.

It also negates any need for personal growth. A stunted mind is one that will never find any environment inhospitable...unless it is asked to adapt and evolve, and is actually against the Laws of Evolution & GOD, if such a conception (in any form of awareness we could comprehend) does exist.

THESIS BEING: Humans have a limitless potential to develop, and would, even faster, without God to fill in the blanks. If we could develop a sixth sense, that might even be the one to know God with, instead of some belief in an ideal of various hotly-disputed interpretations. So—

Follow this one:

What we know of the Macrocosmic comes from our instrumentality , observation and proofs in physics. The same goes, and to a much lesser degree, for the microscopic and below to the subatomic and Quantum levels. But, add the two ends together and we have fairly good, logical reasons for believing in a 10-D universe. We live in three of them and part of 4 &/or 5 depending upon how you break down Space/Time, if you bother. As for the other 5 or 6, speculation has it that they were either “stillborn” or “undeveloped” (Note: foetus terms in embryology, metaphors – sure, but why not? After all, if you’re going to get philosophical, you gotta stick to human physicality…) or existing in some configuration “parallel” to ours (as much as anything can be described in term of Euclidean space), inaccessible but nonetheless absolutely essential to make our dimensions, the ones with Life in them, operate. (CARBON-BASED BIOPHYSICS? WHO’D A THUNK IT?)

So? What? Could be that they are in the same state of development as homo sapiens? Of course, this is rank speculation as there are no workable/useful definitions for “the Universe,” except GOD. (c/o St. Anselm of Canterbury?) However, if we can use GAIA to represent The Living Planet, we can use COSMOS (Why not – Carl Sagan?) for the WHOLE OF EXISTENCE.

In the final analysis, I will grant that it looks pretty cold; that anybody who participates in organized religion is part of the backsliding of the species from its fulfillment, the flowering of the organism into Brahma’s Lotus, or something—but it’s not, really. The reason I use a Buddha metaphor at the end was one of the best bits in the researches, about the meditation state of Tibetan monks. It seems that MRI scans of their brains lit up as the most serene when their contemplative zones went deep into the subject of Compassion and Mother’s Love – two of the highest character traits of human development. This proves that, EVEN WITHOUT GOD, we have a chance of achieving harmony and contentment, sorta like Woodstock in the mud, but without the mudslinging.

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