July 21, 2012

Intelligent Design lacks a suitable teleology

Quite true. It is possible to reach a state where one becomes oblivious to one’s environment. Those who live in the vital need good weather to stay cheerful, but those who live in the psychic don’t care about it. In the initial stages, it is helpful to withdraw from the hustle and bustle of city life but later on, one has to accept to live in all conditions with equanimity.
Too much of good weather can also be detrimental to spiritual growth, because it influences the mind to become excessively optimistic about one’s spiritual condition. from Comments for IYSATM by Sandeep
If you had too much good weather, you might never get depressed or not very often. The invigorating air inflates your inner being and makes you mistake vital happiness for deeper psychic experiences. This is just something I concluded after observing some practitioners with polyannish views of spiritual life.
As for the hustle and bustle being detrimental to meditation, it is based on apocryphal evidence of another practitioner. The type of exposure required varies from person to person depending on the stage of their sadhana. There were people who were allowed by SA&M to experience the world outside the Ashram, while others were discouraged from doing so.

Darwin’s theory of evolution proposes that all life on earth has evolved from a common ancestor, that there is individual variation within every species, and that evolution is mediated by the process of natural selection due to which, in due course of time, certain traits become established in the species due to ‘survival of the fittest’.
During Darwin’s time, the field of genetics was in a nascent stage, with his contemporary Gregor Mendel, now known as the father of modern genetics, just initiating cross-breeding experiments on pea plants.  The study of genetic traits has now substantially expanded into the development of the booming field of genetics.    Today, Darwin’s theory of evolution has been integrated with Mendelian genetics to form what is called Neo-Darwinism or the evolutionary synthesis.  Evolutionary biology now recognizes that aside from natural selection, other evolutionary mechanisms such as adaptation, genetic drift, gene flow and speciation are also involved in evolution; it differentiates between microevolution and macroevolution.[7]  The theory of evolution is expanding to encompass evolution of minerals as well.  Scientists at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory have observed that minerals have also become more complex with time. They have found that the mineral kingdom co-evolved with life, and that up to two thirds of the more than 4,000 known types of minerals on Earth can be directly or indirectly linked to biological activity.  Today there are about 4,400 mineral species but 4 billion years ago, there were only a dozen minerals on Earth.[8]
Neo-Darwinism has been challenged by the movement known as Intelligent Design(ID), whose primary contention is that Darwin’s theory does not explain the ‘irreducible complexity’ seen in Nature.  ID posits the existence of an extra-cosmic entity which must have created the world, as adduced by the latent intelligence seen in various instinctive mechanisms found in Nature.  It must also be mentioned that ID is derived from and sustained by an earlier movement known as Creationism, which sought to invalidate Darwinian evolution by proposing that the world was created as described in the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis in the Bible.
Now we will briefly outline, based on the works of Sri Aurobindo, what we perceive to be the synthesis between scientism and literalism – between Neo-Darwinism and Intelligent Design.  The Universe can be seen as a Manifestation of the Divine, a conscious Being evolving itself through self-extension in Time and Space for the purpose of self-discovery and joy.  The Upanishad gives us the illustrative analogy of a spider spinning a web out of itself.  Sri Aurobindo identified a double movement of involution and evolution in which Spirit first involves itself through self-absorption in the Inconscience to create Matter and then Matter evolves the latent Spirit within through the mechanisms of Life-principle(Vitality), Mind-principle and so on [9, 10].   The Divine has become the Universe; it has split itself into souls in order to take part in self-finding.  It clothes itself in new forms (minerals, plants, animals and man) that are developed in successive stages to represent new forces breaking out of primordial Inconscience.  In a nutshell, we can say that the Universe was created by a “Differentiation of Consciousness” and in its upward evolutionary movement, it tries to recover the lost unity through an “Integration of Consciousness”. Therefore, it can be said that the Universe is involved in a giant “Calculus of Yoga” course.
Sri Aurobindo contextualizes Darwin’s trope ‘survival of fittest’ while discussing the development of  the Life principle (i.e. vitality).  Sri Aurobindo identified three stages of existence: the dumb will of energy, the urge to possess, the urge to love.  These three stages correspond to the three defects perceived in individualized evolving life-forms: death, desire and incapacity.   The dumb will of energy is observed in the first stages of life, where the subconscient will in primitive life-forms is driven by purely mechanical laws.  The second stage is exemplified by higher life forms which are driven by the instinct to live, and this necessarily induces in them the principle of struggle as well as adaptation to the environment.  The third stage is discerned in collective packs of animals which exhibit primal form of love and band together to survive.   The preservation of individuality is moderated with the necessity and desire for interchange and fusion with other individuals.   These three principles are also inherited and visible in the early stages of human life.  As Sri Aurobindo points out, it is struggle for vital development in evolution which was expressed in Darwin’s theory of evolution…
Intelligent Design raises valid questions about abiogenesis (i.e. how life arises out from inorganic matter) and speciation (i.e. how do new species arise) but is unable to satisfactorily answer them with a suitable teleology, other than to posit the existence of  an extra-cosmic entity which must be managing the Universe.  On the other hand, Neo-Darwinism only examines the superficial evolution of forms, and remains unaware of the greater aeonic evolution of souls as they are reborn in progressively more complex forms, (plant, animal and human) as determined by the evolution of soul consciousness.
We present the synthesis of the above ideas as discovered in the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.  Speciation is explained by the fact that consciousness precedes form in evolution [12].  There exists what is denoted as the ‘generic prototype’ behind every species, which is like a mold; it creates the general form that every member of the species will manifest.  What evolutionary biologists describe as sudden variation or mutation of the species and whose cause or genesis they are at a loss to trace, is precisely due to an occult change in the consciousness and will of this prototype [13].  Behind the physical world, there exist gradations of occult worlds in which the subtle sheaths which correspond the physical body seen on earth are first prepared and embodied by the reincarnating soul.

In this first part of your series on evolution, you have brought Intelligent Design and the Anthropic Principle into alignment with Sri Aurobindo's views on evolution. Whereas the ID movement undoubtedly takes its roots in the Christian Right and Creationism, and it is very unlikely that Sri Aurobindo would have any support for those roots, the arguments of ID need consideration by themselves for their possibilities of extending the reductionism of purely materialstic theories. In other words, would the ID hypothesis be completely rejected by the Auorbondonian view or would it lend itself to adaptation beyond its Christian or Abrahamic foundations? 
The principle arguments for ID consist of irreducible complexity (Behe, parts of a living organic unit are all necessary and needed to have evolved together); specifed complexity (Dembski, coexistence of complexity and specified meaning implies intelligent creator); and anthropic precision (Guillermo Gonzalez, constituents of the universe are related in a fine-tuned precision to support human life on earth; Granville Sewell, negative entropy of evolving complexity in life forms). 
Of course, al these have been challenged by the Darwinians and shown to be either non-exclusive or non-provable or not unprovable as explanations. But if knowledge is to be taken as not reducible to rational proof and alternate forms of knowledge are to be cultivated towards a future of knowledge by identity, then forms of intuition need to be given their place and value. In the Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo often directs or turns an argument based on natural or phenomenological intuitions. The kinds of intuitions used by artists or poets in making judgements may seem impossibly subjective to arriving at universal truths, particularly of the material world, but poets and philosophers like Goethe and Giordano Bruno developed a cross-disciplinary view of knowledge, which gave them access also to a new material science. 
Science itself, for that matter, is based on an intuition of a rational description of the world, reducible to one or at most a system of very few laws. This intuition takes its root in more primordial intuitive perceptions of the precision of numbers and proportions in the natural world, established by Egyptian and Greek geometers such as Pythagoras or Indian astronomers. The "fine-tuned precision" argument of ID may not be too far out of line with this intuition, though the question of what is concluded from it is of prime importance. The visual intuition that products of human technology (eg. the airplane) remain a functional assemblage of parts, while living things (eg., a bird) exist as irreducible units of conscious being is one that may align itself to the irreducible complexity and specified complexity arguments of ID, and opens a window on the Platonic world of invisible ideal forms which seek visible manifestations on earth. This kind of intuition also points towards discontinuity in evolution, each species evoking in mind an image of discrete distinctiveness, which is what Indian (and from them, East Asian) artists were supposed to contact in contemplating forms (rupa-bheda, sadrishya). All this need not immediately suggest an Intelligent Creator, though it does suggest the immanent, cosmic and transcendent presence of Intelligence manifesting in the material universe. 
The Anthropic principle privileges life on earth, but in its exclusive variety, as per its name, it privileges human existence as the meaning of the universe - the universe exists for the appearance of Man on earth. This resonates out of the Biblical "Man is created in the image of God." Here not only is there a divine creator, this creator has prepared the stage for his own appearance. The human being is potentially this appearance but it is only through his own incarnation as His Son, Jesus Christ, the perfected human archetype that the human potential becomes realized. Thesitic evoluitionism is also based on this mythology, with the difference that in the orthodox ID version, which is a cover for Creationism, the human being appears without any precedent, while in Theistic Evolutionism, God gathers his constituents from scratch (dust, inconscience) developing more and more complex forms of consciousness and meaning, pyramiding to the appearance of the human.
This version bears comparison with the Vedic view of the sacrifice of Purusha and the Vedantic view of man being made in the image of God. In the Aitareya Upanishad, the gods (faculties of knowlege) drop into the inconscience, marked by the absence of God and seek a creature to enter into. Prajapati marhsalls before them the cow, the horse and the human and they choose only the human as adequate saying "Oh, truly well fashioned." The Purusha who projected his organs of knowledge and the objects of these organs from these organs now reverses the operation with the fashioning of a being within the objectivized world which will house his own powers of knowledge and be able thus to gaze back with identity completing the circle of nun-dual darshan. The human being here however is also only potentially made in God's image and needs to use the power of conscious evolution, yoga to grow beyond this stage. The true image of God which he is to embody is captured more completely in the Gita. It is hardly human and apocalyptic to the degree of utter incomprehesibility to the human. It encompassess all creatures born and unborn, living and non-living forms, all forms and the formless, the benevolent and the terrible creation, preservation and destruction swirling time towards its unreachable ultimate. But most importantly this all-form is a Person, the One and Supreme Person, purushottama.
In terms of the Integral Evolution of Sri Aurobindo, this Transcendental Person is both beyond and within the cosmos and its elements as the Intelligence pressing on the creation from above and pushing for expression from below. In its immanence, governed by Supermind, it subjects itself to the slow random processes of natural selection and survival of the fittest, but not without the jumps only possible through the taking up of nature's approximations by ideal pre-existent forms and consciousnesses from above. In the human it arrives at the first sense of enduring personhood. But if such a process is to fulfill itself it cannot be through the human (even though the human becomes its launching pad), but through the yet alien gatherer of creatures into its incomprehensible body, the transdencent-immanent-cosmic Person self-multiplied in its infinite portions. DB 

by Kepler on Sat 28 Mar 2009 04:36 PM PDT |  Profile |  Permanent Link
“Human progress” clearly refers to a highly complex and many-sided phenomenon, and any definite assertion regarding its overall character will likely be open to easy counter examples. And Sri Aurobindo no doubt had a subtle and nuanced way of describing his own view of the subject. But my point was that if want to specifically highlight that “human progress itself is very probably an illusion” sentence as a key statement by Sri Aurobindo of his own view, I think that's likely incorrect. 
Again, between para 3 that ends with the sentence “it may be as well before proceeding farther to formulate succinctly the line of thinking which makes such a construction possible”, and para 12 which begins “This is a line of reasoning that has a considerable cogency and importance, and it was necessary to state it, even if too briefly for its importance, in order to meet it”, are 8 paragraphs in which he is giving voice to the anti-evolutionary view. From para 12 on he then deals with those objections and asserts his own views. The illusion quote comes in para 10, in the midst of the articulation of the anti-evolutionary ideas. To help see this, look at this sentence from para 5: 
“Man is the summit of this ignorant creation; he has reached the utmost consciousness and knowledge of which it is capable: if he tries to go farther, he will only revolve in larger cycles of his own mentality. For that is the curve of his existence here, a finite circling which carries the mind in its revolutions and returns always to the point from which it started; mind cannot go outside its own cycle,—all idea of a straight line of movement or of progress reaching infinitely upward or sidewise into the Infinite is a delusion. If the soul of man is to go beyond humanity, to reach either a supramental or a still higher status, it must pass out of this cosmic existence, either to a plane or world of bliss and knowledge or into the unmanifest Eternal and Infinite.” 
Surely he is not here asserting as his own view that the soul of man must pass out of this cosmic existence to reach a higher status! Even later in para 10 itself (the same one with the illusion quote), you can read this: “Nothing warrants the idea that he will ever hew his way out of the half-knowledge half-ignorance which is the stamp of his kind”, which hardly sounds like the way Sri Aurobindo typically presents his own view of the spiritual possibilities of humanity. 
Regarding the much later para 19 which has the “It cannot truly be said that there has been no such thing as human progress”, it's of course true that the prior sentence says “It may be conceded that what man has up till now principally done is to act within the circle of his nature, on a spiral of nature movement, sometimes descending, sometimes ascending,—there has been no straight line of progress, no indisputable, fundamental or radical exceeding of his past nature: what he has done is to sharpen, subtilise, make a more and more complex and plastic use of his capacities”. In fact these two sentences together look like a direct reference back to that earlier illusion paragraph. He is now articulating his own view and “conceding” the “no straight line of progress”, “no radical exceeding” elements of the earlier quote, but then pointing out its flaws in the following “It cannot truly be said that there has been no such thing as human progress” sentence. 
Note again I'm not trying to assert some view of human progress different from the one you are writing about (although I might later after reading your entire article :) I'm just suggesting caution in asserting that one particular illusion quote in the LD as being Sri Aurobindo's statement of his own view in his own words. Kepler 

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