Monday, September 7, 2015
On Evolution (1)
It is the duty of all sentient beings to disprove the theory of evolution. This task may be accomplished either by scientific methods or philosophically. However, philosophies evolve as well. Plato or St. Paul would have had no difficulty advancing philosophical arguments fatal to the idea of evolution. Even Hegel, perhaps, might adduce a convincing proof contra the notion of evolution by natural selection. But the philosophical viewpoints that have evolved from Hegel (and from Descartes) provide their adherents with no weapons of thought with which to attack Darwin’s ideas.
To the cool lucidity of the great intelligences from outer space, the actual entities existing on earth as distinct beings are languages. Languages demonstrate speciation – they evolve by natural selection with some languages becoming extinct while others flourish. Individuals speaking a language represent the genetic material by which the language propagates itself – the people speaking English, for instance, are the DNA molecules by which the language evolves.
Language seems to evolve toward a monoculture – that is, a single world-wide entity poised to inseminate other worlds. Since the real entities on earth are not the individual genetic material, (that is, people) but languages, the structure of evolution is toward one language.
Monocultures are subject to viral infection and may be wiped out by a single virulent and aggressive burst of pathology. This is a hazard that becomes increasingly serious as processes of extinction wipe-out languages that have been unable to compete with the monoculture of English. With the loss of Latin or the tongues of the Tierra del Fuego natives, we lose bulwarks against universal infection. War is a pathology of language since armed conflict is always presaged by a errors in speaking and defects in rhetoric – war exists because our language has suddenly made the unthinkable thinkable. In World War Two, some languages were not infected by the world-wide virus – I suppose that Indians in the Amazon and tribal people in Papua, New Guinea were not infected. In the next world-wide cataclysm, however, it’s probable that all the tongues of the world, because tainted with English, will be poisoned as well.
There is another way that a world-wide monoculture of language could prove lethal to itself. Let’s assume that certain fundamental concepts can’t be spoken in that language without wreaking physiological havoc on the entity attempting to pronounce those words. For instance, let’s say that the word "freedom" could only be pronounced by undertaking a prolonged gutteral belch and, then, shrieking at the top of one’s lungs until exhaustion. People desire to be free and they would wish to pronounce that word and orators would even construct speeches around that expression – but each speech would so damage the organism that, after a dozen or so utterances of the word, the person speaking would perish. This phenomenon may already exist with respect to words like "love" and "death" – phrases that can only be spoken by manipulation of the breath and glottal apparatus that is well-nigh lethal.
Do we suppose that the principle of evolution by natural selection is merely local to our planet or, instead, a universal law like gravity? Are there places in the universe where the laws of evolution do not apply?
Imagine a planet on which there is life but no fossil record, nothing to suggest that the life forms that we encounter on that world evolved from other living things. Because our imagination is now irrevocably tainted by the idea of evolution, we would believe that this planet was "seeded" somehow by life from some other place in the galaxy. What if we discovered a dozen or a hundred planets on which there was no fossil record and no evidence of natural selection? Would we believe that a creator god made life on those planets by divine fiat? In that case, to cite Kafka, there would be "hope, indeed, infinite hope, but not for us." Of course, the mere fact that we were able to access those other planets would demonstrate that the hypothesis of life inseminating those places from some place else is possible, indeed, probable. Returning to those worlds a thousand years later, wouldn’t we expect to find microbial evidence of our own presence on that planet a millenium earlier?
Is there evidence of alien (or extraterrestrial) genetic material in our genome? Assuming no evidence of extraterrestrial genes, what is the implication? Three possibilities suggest themselves: (1) interstellar distances are the ultimate "quarantine" – the universe teems with life probably evolved by natural selection, but we can’t make contact with that life; (2) there is no life anywhere else in the myriads of worlds – such a conclusion suggests, but doesn’t require, a divine origin to life on earth; (3) life exists in forms throughout the universe (and even on our earth) that we can’t recognize as living – for instance, the actual life forms on earth are the language groups not individual beings; thus, the earth may have been inseminated innumerable times by living beings, except that we can’t recognize those beings as alive. I know that certain quartz and agates are living – but their metabolism is so slow that we can’t grasp the rhythms of their life.
Evolution by natural selection requires a means of propagating a species with variations against a background of scarcity, thereby, requiring competition between members of the species. (Here, I won’t engage with questions about competition between groups or between separate species.) There should be no evolution if either one of the two conditions for natural selection fails to obtain.
For instance, assume an entity that propagates itself by making an exact replica, some sort of clone. Presumably, such an entity would not evolve. Or, more interestingly, assume a living creature that exists in an environment without scarcity – I suppose a creature might exist that subsists on hydrogen alone, the most common element in the universe and well-nigh ubiquitous. Would such a creature evolve? Or, imagine, a creature that somehow creates the energy on which it feeds – an excrement eater of some sort that gobbles up and is perfectly nourished by its own metabolism. Although such a creature may be impossible to imagine as an individual, what about a society of such creatures that is cannibalistic, that is, other creatures of the species provide exclusive fodder for animals of that type. Either this creature doesn’t evolve or, perhaps, evolves faster than other animals. In any event, it seems, that the laws of thermodynamics preclude the existence of such an animal, just as those same laws rule out the manufacture of perpetual motion machines...