MEANING OF LIFE (continued) (Continuation of Part 25)
One thing becomes clear when we consider the process of evolution: a model based on random mutation is unworkable. Complex organs cannot spontaneously, and accidentally, develop. Darwin himself admitted that the evolution of an eye, for example, was inexplicable. The concept of minor alterations making a creature the “fittest”, and subsequently having its offspring inadvertently, yet somehow progressively, mutating through each generation until a usable organ is completed, does not make sense.
A life-form in transition is at some stage inferior to the previously functional design, and is incapable of benefiting from the as yet incomplete attribute. Evolutionary theory holds that air-breathing animals developed from sea creatures. Obviously an animal which fortuitously acquires the physiology to be slightly better suited for breathing air, rather than water, is now at a disadvantage in its natural environment. In this situation, as in all others of a similar nature, we encounter a scenario where evolution becomes “survival of the frailest”.
Earlier we covered genetic prioritizing, where a trait which is initially a handicap will be replicated in subsequent generations because it will ultimately result in an evolutionary advantage; a reflection of the intent evident in life. This is most easily accounted for by applying the concept of a collective sentience, and a related factor supports such a conclusion: some effects appear to be related to “common thought”, rather than shared programming.
One example can be found in a recent (by evolutionary measures) development. Humans have been increasing in height over the past few centuries, which according to the fossil record, also occurred at various times earlier in our evolution. In the Developed World, our increase in stature can be partly attributed to better nutrition and possibly even the use of growth hormones in livestock production, but overall the primary factor is behavioural. All studies indicate that women, both consciously and subconsciously, use height as a determining factor when choosing a sexual partner, so we see a tendency toward offspring which are genetically predisposed to be taller. This does not end here, for research shows that men also make a value-judgment: tall males are more likely to be promoted within business, and subsequently tend to have more material wealth, making them desirable as provider-mates.
This “subconscious prioritizing” applies to men who are above average in height, yet not to those who are exceptionally so. But if tall is good, why isn’t tallest best? Being herd animals, we shy away from that which is too distinctive and does not conform to what we perceive as normal. Living things change to suit their environment, and patterns in breeding result in an appropriate size at the appropriate time. Simply promoting the largest, or smallest, of creatures causes excessive variation within a species, and is contrary to the goal of producing a uniform adaptation, ensuring the vibrancy of the species as a whole. In this situation prejudice is instinctive, and serves the purpose of keeping life-forms within definable limits, while aberrations remain insignificant.
At some point, the subconscious promotion of taller humans will stop, unless we are intended to continuously increase in size; which is highly unlikely considering our already phenomenal drain upon the planet’s resources. The last of the Woolly Mammoths, for example, were dramatically smaller than the earlier creatures. An alteration in the makeup of a species must begin in advance of an environmental change, or be done quickly enough, to avoid the risk of extinction. On the other hand, mating patterns must change early to prevent “overshooting the target”, otherwise a species becomes unfit for a different, albeit corresponding reason. We see a parallel, to what happens when a niche is missed, in certain animals which man has selectively bred to be smaller, as pets; or larger, as livestock. Most cannot survive in nature, and are condemned to forever live as man’s possessions.
The reason we cannot simply attribute this trend, of taller people, to a genetic stimuli-response is due to the variety of conditions experienced by our species. Humans live in climates ranging from arctic to desert, and the artificial environment we create for ourselves is in no way uniform across all cultures. Although we see racial variations related to environment, for example Inuit are generally shorter than the inhabitants of more temperate regions; the overall effect is the same relative to the local gene pool.
Concluding that the sum of a specie’s awareness equals a collective sentience resolves the problems with evolution and genetics. It permits the widespread and simultaneous changes seen in evolution regardless of local conditions. A programmed genetic trigger would require similar empirical stimuli, whereas a common awareness could initiate genetic prioritizing, not only stimulating the brain cells to enable the turning on and off of particular genes in reproductive cells, but also the behavioural changes which perpetuate a new genetic map.
Commonality accounts for species intent, and also allows for the overriding of individual intent. Each cell can be concerned with self-perpetuation, while the brain modifies this purpose by being able to direct the sacrifice of some for the greater good of the entire organism; ultimately guaranteeing the survival of the vast majority of individual cells. A greater sentience would explain why life-forms evolve with what is in the best interests of the species as the motivating factor, rather than that of the individual.
The basic mechanics of such a concept are not that difficult to fathom. Physical substance (genetic material and the organisms containing it) provides the means to perpetuate life under practically any condition. Reproductive chromosome-pairing permits an almost endless number of possibilities; but these would be entirely random without a reason to prioritize certain genes, and a cause for mating preferences.
The mental aspect of reproduction is of utmost importance in relation to evolution because the physical side is so rigid. Gene combinations follow logical patterns, and specific pairings will lead to an increased likelihood of certain results: two tall people are more likely to produce tall children; intelligent individuals will tend to have bright offspring. Due to dominant and recessive traits, some couplings cannot vary from set programming: two blue-eyed people cannot create anything other than a blue-eyed child. To cause trends in evolution, the random factor must be rendered insignificant, and this requires that persons with the “appropriate” genes develop an attraction for each other, and people with unsuitable coding primarily desire those with the favoured characteristics. A species awareness would then be a methodology for the optimization of genetic resources; the perpetuation of life dependent upon the physical, yet governed by the mental (or spiritual) aspect of existence.
But what of our earlier example concerning the evolution of the ability to breathe air; how would creatures choose mates which are more likely to develop lungs, when no such organs exist? We would have to conclude that a species sentience also enables cellular differentiation, and that the capacity for such gene activation requires that the “hard-coding” preexist. This brings an interesting anomaly into the argument: if differentiation can be controlled on this level, there is no need for behavioural direction because reproductive cells would all be capable of developing offspring with the needed attribute, regardless of parentage.
Since mating choices are significant, and some results cannot be achieved by the wrong pairing, the importance of genetic diversity becomes apparent. Only a portion of a species has the potential to produce a given alteration, so this potential must be exploited in order to ensure perpetuation. The random mutations discussed earlier do not just create dissimilarity for the purpose of having sufficient variety to guarantee the survival of enough members of a species, but also provide a genetic resource for the evolution of attributes that do not exist in the population. New combinations can bring about original results. Evolution must also preserve life which is not the “fittest”, in order to secure the future. Life does not have to be wholly cyclical, nor is it necessary for all possibilities to be encoded in the chromosomes, if a species sentience can exploit the potential within the gene pool.
Variety may be the “spice” of life, but on a fundamental level, it is the essence of life. All individuals are valuable because of their genetic potential. Since certain genetic patterns are impossible to achieve for some members of a species, we can make another comparison to microbiology. Cells within a complex organism serve different purposes by design. A heart cell cannot substitute for a brain cell, and although at conception they begin as one and the same cell, once assigned a role through differentiation, they are locked into their destiny. Humans, of course, reproduce sexually rather than by division, yet destiny is likewise determined at conception through unique pairings of chromosomes, and in a similar way we fulfill specific genetic roles.
One can even speculate on parallels in the physical structure of each level of life. Like the body, is there a portion of humanity that functions as the “brain”, while the remainder serves other purposes? Are those people, who never think outside of very narrow parameters and simply exist as blindly obedient herd animals, predestined to be that way? It could be suggested that average overall intelligence is dropping not just because the number of offspring an individual produces is relative to intellect, but also due to proportionality. A person has the same number of brain cells when weighing fifty kilograms, as they do at one hundred, although the total number of cells in their body doubles. If you simply divide their total “mental capacity” by number of cells, the result for their heavier persona will be lower; albeit an irrelevant calculation. Applying this to population, if a set number of people possess a level of abstract reasoning ability which represents the “brain” of humanity, any increase in those representing “mass” dilutes the sum; which is also an insignificant computation.
Of course, such speculation is just that, and if it were true, there would be no appreciable effect on a species sentience regardless of variations in populace, because the “brain” would always remain the same size. From this perspective, a small human population is just as “bright” as a large one.
If we assume the existence of a collective awareness composed of all the members of a particular type of living thing, it follows that the possibility of an even greater level of sentience must be considered. The argument supporting commonality can also be applied to the sum of all life on this planet. Life forms are interdependent, and each species perseveres because of its complementary relationship with other living things. For life to perpetuate and progress, it must be diverse and interconnected in order to adapt to an ever-changing world.
Numerous creatures survive by relying upon other specific life-forms, and the extinction of one will frequently lead to the demise of the other. The introduction of a species into a different ecosystem can have a devastating impact on the native flora and fauna. A balance is maintained in nature, and disturbing it causes living things to either adapt or die out. There does not appear to be any pattern relevant to a life-form’s resiliency: strong and versatile creatures may perish, while fragile ones thrive, yet equilibrium is ultimately restored. It may not always appear to us that order will return to a disrupted ecosystem, but then we perceive time from a human perspective, which is the briefest of moments in the overall scheme of things.
The simplest way to account for the incredible complexities of inter-species interaction is to conclude that a total of the awareness, encompassing all creatures within our biosphere, exists. This permits not only balance, but a method of prioritization, where certain forms of life can be sacrificed in order to ensure the perpetuation of life-in-general: inhibiting the evolution of those living things which no longer fill a role within the system.
Obviously, from this perspective, some life-forms have more value than others. Although we lack the mental capacity to ascertain why particular creatures must adapt to every circumstance, whereas others cannot, we can see that our attempts to eradicate unwanted forms usually fail, while our best efforts at protecting desirable ones are often futile. The essential type of living thing appears to be bacteria, and if we were capable of eliminating its many varieties, all life would quickly vanish from our planet.
Man would also appear to be of value in nature: no creature is more of a threat to the perpetuation of life on this planet, and nothing on Earth causes more damage to the biosphere; yet we persist. This is not to say that man is indispensable. Barring human intervention, our planet has billions of years of relative stability ahead, a period long enough for the entire sequence of evolution to repeat itself several times. In fact, the universal decline in human fertility, and the phenomenal mutation rate of viruses which prey upon us, may be indicative of a change in our status.
If it is the attribute of abstract reasoning which is the commodity valued by nature, permitting mankind to persevere despite our ruinous character, then there are numerous creatures only a short evolutionary step away from us. Would an animal such as the gorilla actually be better suited for dominance? Having moved further up the evolutionary ladder, perhaps this intelligent peaceful herbivore could advance its own science while living in harmony with nature. Humans, after all, are predators, and see other creatures as prey; whereas gorillas are fascinated by other forms of life.
In actuality, life-in-general is far more resilient than many people realize. Mankind can scorch the face of the planet, yet bacteria will survive to begin the process anew. Humans can blast Earth into pieces, and life will still continue elsewhere. Environmentalists may often seem to be more concerned about the well being of other living things, rather than that of humans, but in reality their efforts are meant to ensure that mankind remains a viable part of the ecology of this planet. We can be replaced, and subsequently, with the passage of time, all the harm we have caused can be undone.
The capacity for abstract reasoning, and the ability to sustain knowledge from generation to generation, increases the likelihood of organisms spreading beyond a finite world. If we accept the idea that progression is part of the perpetuation of life, and intelligence has value because it serves this purpose, we must then consider a level of sentience in addition to that of Earth.
As discussed earlier, the most logical explanation for the existence of life on this planet is that microorganisms arrived from somewhere else and began the evolutionary process. The fact that life progresses, and because this attribute would then be inherent to living things which were once alien to our world, means that common intent is shared with life elsewhere in the universe. This being the case, the drive to continue further than the limitations set by a planet’s life-span, and having the capacity to do so (as demonstrated by the bacteria aboard the Surveyor spacecraft), would require a “sum of all life” to account for the existence of these qualities. The mechanics which enable the levels of awareness discussed thus far, apply to the next logical step: if it is possible for each level to be a component of the following one, then there would be a totality of all life, because the existence of the lesser must lead to the greater. Being that a packet of sand is subject to all the laws of physics, a satchel of those packets must also be governed by the same rules, in the same relative way.
How should we perceive categories of life above that of the two we are intimately familiar with? Cells are self-aware, because they fulfill their individual needs in order to exist and perpetuate their kind, and humans do likewise in a more complex way. Is a species sentience self-aware? One would think that this is a given, since its components contribute to a whole, and the parts perform the equivalent role. The same can be said of planetary and universal forms of sentience.
It would be inappropriate to project the feelings experienced by individual life-forms onto distinct levels of awareness, for each reacts to the conditions present in a vastly different realm. However, there would be common equivalents to what we see as emotional responses. Almost all of what we experience is connected to our own preservation, and that of our genetic legacy; we simply overcomplicate these basic drives. Cells are also primarily responding to the same innate programming, with exceptions due to the brain overriding these drives in order to protect the entire organism. In a comparable way, a species “brain” would be responsible for directing actions which preserve the health of the species/organism.
A species functions with the preeminence of the whole as the driving force; it reproduces even to the point where its own future is threatened, whereupon external forces intervene to restore balance: the “brain” supersedes the tendency to focus only on “self” preservation.
Life on each planet is condemned to extinction, because eventually every world comes to an end. From the grand perspective, perpetuation is pointless without the potential to endure. If progression provides the opportunity for life to continue elsewhere when a biosphere’s time is up, then a universal awareness would govern the equilibrium of life-in-general, controlling the indiscriminate spreading of life; where the arrival of the wrong life-form could doom another world’s creatures.
It is easiest to consider every level of sentience as an organism, each acting in a similar way. Man is the sum of the microorganisms constituting the individual. Our species is humanity, and the attributes specific to our kind are the characteristics of our species sentience. Life on Earth is nature, the “living thing” which adapts to any environmental change, with fluctuations in the number and variety of its components altering its character, but not its fundamental purpose. The sum of all life that exists is comparable to what humans perceive as god; it is also “nature”, but on an all-encompassing level.
Although we can consider each form of awareness as an organism, they cannot be distinguished as entities in a human sense. A single brain cell is not a person in miniature, nor is our solar system the same thing as the universe, even though both are referred to as “space”. Humans attempt to personify nature/god; but mankind is simply a minuscule ingredient of the whole, with value only as it relates to all other living things, and is important only because of the niche it fills.
“God” would bear less resemblance to a man, being several levels removed, than you do to one of your cells. “God” is no more a “creator”, than you are the creator of your own component life-forms; all the cells in your body owe their existence to a single zygote, which was physically passed from other individuals, and so on backward through time. Nature is more aptly perceived as an “enabler”: governing the interaction and existence of the diverse life-forms which are its constituents, to ensure the perpetuation of life-in-general.
Microorganisms, mankind, our biosphere, and every other form and level of life in the universe are components of an organism which is infinite, both in size and duration. The universe itself can be considered as an immortal living thing; “living” in that all creatures provide the spark which is intent, with every inanimate element being the physical ingredients of existence, as they are for all life-forms.
We can only regard the universe from our infinitesimal point in space and time, and solely from a human perspective. Because of this, we cannot empirically validate an existence within levels of awareness. The concept may adequately explain phenomenon which are otherwise inexplicable, and provide a model based on observable aspects of microbiology and animal interaction, yet it must be founded on inductive, rather than deductive, reasoning.
Just as one of your cells cannot journey outside of you to interpret the world and determine the existence of the higher forms which it embodies, using the sensations and sentient capacity available to it; we could not comprehend nor detect something of a similar nature because we encounter the equivalent handicaps. However, whether a hierarchy of life is provable, or something we only perceive as fact, is of little consequence. Seeing existence from this perspective provides one with a reasonable model for how and why life is, and allows a person to possess a sense of purpose and worth; while causing only positive effects.
continued as Part 27.