Friday, March 25, 2011

Evolution, What's It For?

Any theory is only as good as the assumptions it rests upon. Almost every theory of evolution I've heard or read has produced an intellectual abortion by beginning with a false assumption: that evolution is driven by survival. It isn't.

Part of the problem is the use of the word, "evolution". It has been assigned to two completely different processes that are assumed to be the same thing, but are not. On the one hand, it refers to genetic adaptation, gradual changes in response to changing and/or specialised environments. On the other hand, it signifies the tendency of life to produce ever more complex forms with novel abilities and greater information processing capability. In the first case, survival is a driver, but in the second, it is not. Only the second process actually deserves to be called evolution. The first should be called what it is: genetic adaptation. For clarity's sake the remainder of this blog will employ that distinction.

To say that survival drives evolution doesn't make any kind of sense. The most evolved life-forms are also the most vulnerable in the survival stakes. For example, plants would survive just fine without mammals, but the reverse is not true. Greater complexity = greater vulnerability, as a rule. It pains me to have to say something that should be so obvious. I spent some time visiting "evolution" websites such as this one. Nowhere is this problem addressed, or even acknowledged. It certainly isn't in the FAQs. In fact, that site doesn't talk much about evolution at all. It focuses on adaptation, presumably because there is evidence for that. And what is the evidence that this complexifying trend is a survival strategy? I don't know. I couldn't find it. It's just assumed. Why would something like that be assumed without challenge? I'd suggest that the assumption that survival drives evolution derives from another assumption: that the universe is accidental, not intentional. The subconscious mind has here engaged in a maneuver to defend a belief system from threat.

To reject survival as the motive force behind evolution, is to raise the question, "If not survival, then what?" A dangerous question indeed, and one that must be asked, (unless you decide that there's no such thing as evolution, but that would open an equally ugly can of worms for materialist scientism). If evolution does exist, what function could it serve? What could be behind the tendency of life to produce ever more complex forms with novel abilities and greater information processing capability? The observed pattern of evolution tends toward an increasing range for consciousness. Stating the obvious again, if that's what evolution does, maybe that's what it's for. But that would suggest that evolution is meant to serve something, consciousness, that isn't supposed to have existed until very late in the process. Awkward? It isn't hard to understand why such speculations would be avoided by some.

It's note-worthy that the whole subject is painlessly bypassed through simply equating evolution with genetic adaptation. As long as that yoke is in place, there's no need to think about evolution or it's inconvenient implications. This is a deliberate trick and a very effective one. Other examples of it are spirituality = religion, morality = law, and individuality = false ego. People are taught to believe that such pairs must stand or fall together. To accept that belief is to be deceived no matter what. For example, if spirituality = religion, then should religion be seen as false, spirituality is rejected also. If religion is seen as true, it then stands in spirituality's place, substituting it's hand-me-down, pseudo-experience for the real thing. In either case, spirituality is prevented from calling attention to itself and thus causing trouble.