Topic: neo-gnostic synthesis: Evanian Reprise (& Enigma Variation)
Member # 599
posted 06. January 2003 21:49
A while ago here at ISCID Evan posted a brainstorm on a possible synthesis between “ID” and orthodox evolution.
I am also interested in this territory, and wish to offer some thoughts in the area. It may be that wrinkles peculiar to myself emerge in the exposition, such as there is one, and so I have posted here as a new thread rather than perhaps divert the path of another one, even if it slumbers now in relative peace.
This may be my last contribution here for some time…certainly where thread initiation is concerned. I have recently embarked upon a conscious effort to spend less of my time criticising worldviews I do not really agree with (which I have done, as have most of us, I suspect) on other forums, and instead concentrate my efforts more on the positive side of idea and imagination: ie giving people the chance to consider something they may not have considered before, and expressing it (hopefully) in at least sufficiently coherent terms that they can choose to believe it without the call or need for outright embarrassment. As William James, once said, he wished he called his famous essay The Freedom to Believe rather than The Will to Believe, as will there, although he did not intend it, conjured up images for some at variance with what he had in mind.
Thus for me to, although I am not comparing myself to William James (although in my own defence I should stress, also, not to Syd James…I will settle for something inbetween), do I wish to offer the freedom to believe. If folks come away from anything I have said thinking “you know, gee, I might just be able to believe that after all”, then I will consider the adventure a success.
Anyway, after that Amazonian meander, let us begin.
How on earth to “synthesise” neo-Darwinism and “ID”? (if by ID here, we mean any form of intelligence, however described, having its finger in the cosmic pie). Broadly speaking, there are only three possibilities).
Many “Enigma Variations” can be conceived thereof, but in a nutshell, that’s it: nonbeing, A Being (or Beings), and Being, respectively. That pretty much has it covered!
- No gnostic presence whatsoever associated with life origin or life’s complexification (a stone finger in the pie) = metaphysical materialism.
- A supernatural or “artisan” gnostic presence responsible for life (pie stirrer)
= interventionist creation (deity / alien / unspecified artisans)
- An indwelling consciousness…immanent in the universe, or immanent and transcendent (gnostic pie) (Taowinian Evo!….and other variations of this version).
Obviously it is the case that neo-Darwinism, especially in its strong variant clothing of metaphysical materialism is not wholly commensurate with any form of ID, otherwise there would be no distinction to draw between them.
The question is then: can the two live together at all, and what would the differences be that would expect to see between them?
Evan has already covered some of this ground, so, with cap duly nodded in his direction, I will seek to express things in my own way. Naturally, I will be expressing mainly in gnostic mode, as that is where I am coming from.
Clearly, one would have to give up strong variant metaphysical materialism in order to believe in any form of ID save for alien intervention…and of course, there is the back referencing problem in that option of how those beings came into existence. If they were ultimately “arranged” by blind, unconscious and never-were-conscious natural forces too, then we have not surrendered our materialism.
In my experience, which is of course limited, the relative number who hold to metaphysical materialism out of sheer force of obstinacy or fear is pretty small. There are such folks of course, but conversations I have had (and I have had a quite a lot in this area) would tend to suggest that most people would be prepared to yield in this area if they could be persuaded for philosophical and/or aesthetic reasons of a view at least as likely as their own, when their chips are down.
Basically, there is nothing in the gnostic field view of the cosmos that should cause the neo-Darwinist to crawl with shivers in her bed at night, unless, as I have said, the glue binding her in place to metaphysical materialism has set so fast that it can no longer be sheared from its moorings without mortal pain, or the fear of it. That, I think, would be unfortunate, for there is very little, really, to fear, in this viewpoint, and much to excite the body, mind, and spirit, all in one.
There are however some “up front” issues, some modest wrinkles that must be smoothed out, if we hope to achieve a marriage, or failing that, at least a blessing, of these two seemingly divorced viewpoints (Darwinism / Taowinism).
On the first point, readers will be familiar from my other posts that I view “chance” as a kind shorthand for a “varying, folded landscape of gnostic will” in which the peaks and troughs (ie the anomalous features) represent “hotspots” in this will, and the background rippling over the undulating and slowly changing plain represents the basal will only…the will to preserve in expression the manifest world. BUT (and here comes the letters burned in fire, if there are any!) it is not the case that gnostic will “must rely on chance to do its deeds”. That is back to front. Gnostic Will, rather, is so deeply woven into the texture of the world that we are unable to distinguish it (absolutely) from chance; it is chance incarnate. It is part of the golden braid by which form and meaning is sewn into the empirical world, but to appreciate this, or to appreciate the possibility of it I should say, a certain magic-eye-picture type concentration is called for to see through the surface images of seemingly random patterns to the unicorn winking in the twilight behind them. The other important thing to stress about this viewpoint is that it is not in any ordinary sense what is referred to as “interventionist”…unless we view the gnostic ground as being able to intervene in itself (which of course it can, but then, of course, the objection raised itself collapses). There is nothing separate for it to intervene “in”…as if it were sitting on its laurels for a few million years and then suddenly performs some Godly feat. However, as I said before, this does not mean that the landscape of gnostic will is uniform; it does not mean that every event is equally invested with gnostic will, or that gnostic will cannot do something ‘special or, as we might imagine it, “more” over here than it is doing over there.
- The role of “chance” in the generation of evolutionary novelty, and the issue of “random wrt fitness”
- The “monster baby” problem (also discussed by Evan) and the possibility of saltation
- How “design” expresses itself in the world
So Evan is right, I think, and on this my view concurs with his own. What we call random mutations, or more precisely what we conceive as “randomly generated phenotype variations” are really the result of gnostic will. When we go looking for them we can’t find a specific cause. But wait: think this through. Of course we can’t, because gnostic will is the universal ground; it has no specific cause and operates by no specific cause. Rather, it is the causeless centre around which all causes move. The change in the DNA IS a “random” mutation. The bees ARE just ordinary bees. The notes in the symphony ARE just a “sequence of notes in a certain spatio-temporal arrangement”. The tears in the weeping statue ARE just the binding resin leaking from the eyes. The spirit glimpsed in the shadowy dell IS just the ignis fatuus lofting from the swamp. But that is only half the story; for gnostic will can express itself through any vehicle. So, at the same time, the mutations of evolutionary import ARE the direct consequence of gnostic will. When the cosmos moves from the ground up, we can only detect the fact through one or another set of empirical patterns that have changed their configuration…for our biological equipment cannot detect gnostic agency directly.
The key issue here is that “chance” rightly has an empirical and a metaphysical component. We can correctly test for and examine under experimental conditions the empirical component. But the metaphysical component is a leopard that changes its spots depending on the philosophy that is focused upon it. Under strong variant materialism, this undetectable component of chance is imagined in terms of a brute unconscious fact of the universe. Things just “stack up” in a certain way. But the nature of this “just” is, on careful thought, not itself prone to any kind of empirical examination, so is a metaphysical overlay on what we observe. As I have tried to express here, the overlay I am presenting instead is, I would argue, at least as convincing.
In the conventional picture, if 20 postman in a given area were bitten by dogs in a short time frame, there is one of two possibilities we might entertain. Either people in that area have suddenly taken a fiendish hobby of owning and training Rottweilers (the issue of specific cause) or, it is what we would call a “run”: given a sufficiently high number of “areas” and “postmen” and “dogs”; this kind of thing is bound to happen sooner or later. Actually, that conclusion does not follow, you will notice: it’s an overlay, and the seeing of that is all the more important in the arena of evolutionary form. Now on the conventional picture we end there. Without “interventionism” of some kind (ie miracle) there cannot be a “fabulous” accumulation of bitten postmen except by the phenomenon of “brute run”. Here is where the situation is at variance with the concept of gnostic will. Under that rubric, there is no empirical way to distinguish a brute run from a strong density of gnostic will towards a given outcome. We can never tell for sure whether a series of good hands at cards was just the way the cards came out, or whether “lady luck” was behind them, as the two are not separable in terms of the world’s traffic of empirical causes. The two are however different. And although we cannot establish by formal proof of any kind, it should readily be seen that the more “fabulous” the run, or lucky hands, or meaningful form becomes, the more is suggested that chance has some inexplicable noumenon tucked up its frilly sleeves.
Turning now to the monster baby problem. Which is, basically: if a jellyfish can give birth to a moose, then there will be some interesting problems to overcome in the nursery. From the above, we can conclude that there is no absolute barrier to saltation, even fairly significant saltation (a sort of punc-Tao-ated equilibrium) that is basically ruled out in neo-Darwinism. However, neither is there any special reason why gnostic will has to move by saltation, especially where the path of lesser resistance is not to. Always bear in mind that gnostic will is no kind of slave to the processes of creation. The processes of creation are the expressions of gnostic will, not vice versa. Although it may appear to us that nature is “in conflict” with itself or that species “compete for existence” etc, this is an illusion of our standpoint as limited gnostic agents bottlenecked off from the source. Gnostic will cannot be in competition wit itself, because it is the one and only will that really exists, just as it is the one and only consciousness that really exists. We don’t “have” consciousness; consciousness “has” us!
So the following points are worth mulling over in the mind
I should add here that gradual emergence of an adaptation is not the ONLY way in which the monster baby problem can be averted. Indeed, in a certain sense, the “monster baby problem” itself is a thought chimera, because there is an underlying (wrong) assumption behind it that gnostic will does not know what is doing, or can somehow be “caught out” by itself, all of which makes no sense at all, because its own intelligence of its forms in distribution is kinaesthetically absolute: they are the million radii of itself.
- What is 10 or a 100 or a thousand generations to a form of consciousness that is itself the author of time? There is no hurry, nor even a concept of hurry.
- Adaptations (or increments thereof) could quite well emerge from the gnostic ground ideomorphically, ie they would “lightning-flash” across pairs, groups, populations, or even (if necessary and appropriate) across entire species. This, you will recognise, would be completely impossible under strong variant materialism (except as the brutest of brute “runs” that ever was seen etc).
- Ideomorphic emergence can split adaptation reciprocally into the target forms…for instance male and female, again, if necessary or appropriate. A certain change in the penis structure of a male organism, for instance, could be correlated with a corresponding and opposite change in the vaginal cavity of the female. There is no *need* for the latter to wait around, although, again, there are other ways in which this could happen. As with male and female, so with predator and prey, parasite and host, and a number of other examples I leave to your capable imagination!
Thus we might say that if the offspring looked too different, the parents would refuse to wean it. But no: that doesn’t see deeply enough. The parents are expressions of gnostic ground, as are the offspring. Before the first gene has twitched on its sugar backbone, so to speak, gnostic will has correctly sighted all the relevant relationships and needs among the participating parties that will act to bring into reality the expression of manifestation towards which its will now leans. More precisely: it simply leans, and the result falls out, again, from our perspective, by any and whatever means among the world’s traffic of causes that we happen to register the outcome by. Thus, if necessary the inner instinct or psychology of the parental populations will be mysteriously or silently nuanced so that caring for these seemingly strange young will, in fact, not seem strange at all to the parent creatures, but the most natural thing in the world. That weird bump on little Johnny’s spinal cord, or the webbing across his toes, will be the most beautiful thing those parents have ever seen. Or, adaptations will be quietly secreted, where appropriate in a post-partum metamorphic phase, only gradually pulled back into the embryo stage once parents of the new emergent species are at sufficient threshold in the population. but: we could go on developing particular scenarios like this. Strangely enough, what I am trying to get across to you and persuade you of is that they are not that important. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: “life will find a way”. But it will not find a way because of chaos theory (the darling of that particular film) but because life is the way, life is the most active embodiment of gnostic will in the empirical world. We are also freed from the chains inherent in the concept of evolutionary creativity existing exclusively in the domain of pre-zygotic mutation, instead of in and through the entire life-process of the creature.
I do not hope that you will believe.
It would, though, be my fondest hope that you might now feel free to believe; most especially for those (even for one) who may not have felt so before.
If anyone should feel that they do not yet have this freedom…but feels they would like to…they would be my warmest invite to the discussion. Although, all are invited really.
Just one quick thought: replies (if any) before the end of the week I can probably respond to. Replies thereafter, for the best of my efforts, may become daffodils in the wind…
That, I think, will do here. In other words, the bump on this particular spinal cord is now fatigued and seeks the sleep cycle
[ 06. January 2003, 21:57: Message edited by: Light Jaguar ]
Member # 164
posted 08. January 2003 22:18
Among other things, I am impressed (and somewhat flattered) that Light Jaguar has dug around in some of my very early posts on ISCID (almost a year ago) and resurrected some of my thoughts about how a designer (of the external kind), or designers, might minutely orchestrate evolutionary changes so that no single event, or even a short series of events, would appear to be anything but the consequences of natural law and chance.
Later in my history at ISCID I became involved in discussion of the Multiple Designer Theory (MDT), which I am convinced should be at the very least the default hypothesis (as opposed to Single Designer Theory) for those invested in the hypothesis of design by external interventionist unembodied agents.
But I have most enjoyed this latest round of discussion about immanent intelligence (as represented by Taoism and gnosticism), and think that LJ’s creation of the term Taowinian evolution is a brilliant stroke of synthesis.
I, too, like Light Jaguar, am more pressed for time now than I was during the holidays, and have projects other than ISCID on my mind, but I would like to throw in a few more comments before LJ departs.
The most significant point in this recent post of LJ’s, and one in which I addressed even in my posts back in March, has to do with the role of chance, and the difficulties we might have in separating “pure luck” from the orchestrated work of design.
Here are some highly excerpted sentences from LJ’s post to consider. My thoughts on this follow, but I want to first highlight parts of his previous post.
quote:So here is my summary of the situation:
I view “chance” as a kind shorthand for a “varying, folded landscape of gnostic will” in which the peaks and troughs (ie the anomalous features) represent “hotspots” in this will, and the background rippling over the undulating and slowly changing plain represents the basal will only…the will to preserve in expression the manifest world.
BUT it is not the case that gnostic will “must rely on chance to do its deeds”. That is back to front. Gnostic Will, rather, is so deeply woven into the texture of the world that we are unable to distinguish it (absolutely) from chance; it is chance incarnate .
The other important thing to stress about this viewpoint is that it is not in any ordinary sense what is referred to as “interventionist”… There is nothing separate for it to intervene “in”…as if it were sitting on its laurels for a few million years and then suddenly performs some Godly feat.
However, as I said before, this does not mean that the landscape of gnostic will is uniform; it does not mean that every event is equally invested with gnostic will, or that gnostic will cannot do something ‘ special or, as we might imagine it, “more” over here than it is doing over there.
What we call random mutations, or more precisely what we conceive as “randomly generated phenotype variations” are really the result of gnostic will. When we go looking for them we can’t find a specific cause. ... for gnostic will can express itself through any vehicle. So, at the same time, the mutations of evolutionary import ARE the direct consequence of gnostic will. When the cosmos moves from the ground up, we can only detect the fact through one or another set of empirical patterns that have changed their configuration…for our biological equipment cannot detect gnostic agency directly. [my emphasis]
The key issue here is that “chance” rightly has an empirical and a metaphysical component. We can correctly test for and examine under experimental conditions the empirical component. But the metaphysical component is a leopard that changes its spots depending on the philosophy that is focused upon it.
We can never tell for sure whether a series of good hands at cards was just the way the cards came out, or whether “lady luck” was behind them, as the two are not separable in terms of the world’s traffic of empirical causes. The two are however different. And although we cannot establish by formal proof of any kind, it should readily be seen that the more “fabulous” the run, or lucky hands, or meaningful form becomes, the more is suggested that chance has some inexplicable noumenon tucked up its frilly sleeves.
The Tao (or gnostic ground) expresses itself through material manifestations which embody what appears to us as both natural law and chance events. “Normal chance,” be it the roll of the dice or the truly random decay of an atom based on quantum indeterminacy, is one end of the spectrum - the “background rippling” of the Tao’s ever-present will to manifest a material world.
At times this background rippling of chance rises from the ground state and the material world manifests itself in a more concerted or purposeful way - perhaps life forms or creatures evolve or unexpected coincidences appear in our personal life that change our life exactly in the right way at the right time. Chance plays a role in the Tao’s creative manifestation of the world at all times, but sometimes more so than other times.
But, from an empirical point of view (the one embodied and formalized in science), we can never sort out which particular events manifest “design” - “we can only detect the fact that [some empirical patterns] have changed their configuration,…for our biological equipment cannot detect gnostic agency directly.” It is a fact of our nature that we are irrevocably condemned to being agnostic about the nature of chance.
A central problem about all of this is that we are so wedded to our Western perceptions that we tend to get everything backwards. LJ brings this up when he discusses the idea of “intervention.” Let me say a few words about this
It is tempting to say that we have no empirical way to sort out which chance events lead to design and which don’t, but that very formulation implies an interventionist duality that is inappropriate to Taoism. The Tao doesn’t “intervene” - there is no dividing line between events which are and aren’t “natural.” Anything the Tao ever “does” (again a misstatement based on Western subject/object duality,) it does through material manifestations that intelligently arise by transforming one moment into the next in a logical and orderly fashion. Just as in the “monster baby” issue I discussed back in March, every event in the world flows into the next in a way that is supported by the past - there are never any “monster babies” between one event and the next.
So LJ is, in my opinion, absolutely right to separate the empirical nature of chance from the metaphysical, and he is right to say that the “ metaphysical component is a leopard that changes its spots depending on the philosophy that is focused upon it.”
I, therefore, am arguing that the proper metaphysic (and being a metaphysic all I can hope to do, as LJ so eloquently explain, is persuade one to consider this - it is beyond proof) - the proper metaphysic is one that is Taoistic or gnostic in form, rather the a Western metaphysic which embodies and subject/object duality between the creator and the created.
Therefore, it is my opinion that science does not need the addition of “design” as a third cause - one that adds to nature what nature cannot provide for itself. Nature can “provide for itself.” The Tao is self-sufficient and can (and does) express its creative will through mechanisms that we always will empirically experience as “natural.” The metaphysic behind the need for “design” as a separate cause is, in my opinion, faulty. The Tao designs everything, from the most mechanical of inviolate laws to the most fortuitous of events - the spectrum flows seamlessly from end to the other. There is no “teasing” out the designed from the non-designed (to use Dembski’s term), both because we don’t have epistemological access to the Taowinian ground from which the world arises and because the empirical world that does present itself to us (that to which we do have epistemological access) always manifests itself to us in a way that is consistent with explanations which utilize “law and chance.”
[ 08. January 2003, 22:21: Message edited by: Evan ]
Member # 599
posted 15. January 2003 19:06
Hello Evan (plus any sneaky eyedroppers)
I have seen and read your reply, which was as thoughtful as ever. Unfortunately, I won't have the time for a while to construct any lengthy, well thought out responses.
However, I won't have disappeared. "I shall return" as Arnold Schwarzenegger said with alernative phraseology. Also, until then, I may occasionally be spotted eyedropping myself, or posting the odd, probably much shorter message on ARN.
ps: the rumours that I've lost my growl are completely unfounded.
[ 15. January 2003, 19:08: Message edited by: Light Jaguar ]