Darwin’s Troubling Choice
Darwin, pausing briefly on the wave-washed decks of the Beagle, contemplated how close to the edge of an early ‘recycling’ in nature that the ship, its crew and passengers were now hanging. The thought of the ship being broken open by the sea and its plummeting descent to a peaceful resting place in the briny depths was not entirely unpleasant, in view of how it would bring an end to his frightful mal-de-mer. On the sea bottom, his body would be food for algae and the algae would be food for plankton and the plankton food for fish. Some other human mariner would eat that fish that ate the plankton that ate the algae that ate Charles Darwin and the circle of life would go on. In his log he wrote;
“In the Bay of Biscay there was a long and continued swell, and the misery I endured from seasickness is far far beyond what I ever guessed … Nobody who has only been to sea for 24 hours has a right to say that sea-sickness is even uncomfortable. The real misery only begins when you are so exhausted that a little exertion makes a feeling of faintness come on.” — ‘Charles Darwin and the voyage of the Beagle’.
As he returned below-decks, the nature of the motion of things changed. Now the crew and passengers moved from here to there as if by their own internal purpose rather than being flung about by the fluid turbulence of nature. In this shift in their mental and physical framework, they were able to slip away and defer, for the time being, the reckoning whereby nature ultimately recycles all things and excludes no thing from its ceaseless renovating.
As Darwin moved across his cabin to retrieve one of the specimens he had gathered and filed earlier, he felt once again ‘his own man’, moved by a spirit within, by his own inner purpose and his own internal knowledge.
A moment ago, without the benefit of being inside of the ship’s rigid wooden frame and, nesting within that, his small cabin-cubical, he had felt on the very edge, his movements having been driven more by the turbulence of the fluid space he was included in, than by his own purpose To feel the source of the drive and direction of his movements shifting back from the dynamics of a fluid space into his own interior, allowing him to feel ‘in control’ once again, came to him with a flood of comforting relief. Yes, he was in charge of himself once again by being in his own fixed framework, although this feeling was moderated by the sense of being a sparrow in a shoebox rattled about by a giant hand.
Years later, as he prepared ‘The Origin of Species’ for publication, as he troubled over two possible directions he could couch his evolutionary theory in, he recalled that moment of insight wherein he, as a human organism and representative of the species, was in first hand contact with the fluid turbulence of nature, wherein he understood himself to be like the ‘sailboater’ on the edge of chaos whose form, power and steerage must all surely derive from the dynamic space that he is included in,… and then, …. making his way inside the protective frame of the ship and experiencing a change of heart wherein he could again understand himself as being like the ‘powerboater’ whose form, power and steerage is all ‘onboard’, where he seemed to possess locally originating behaviour of an orderly type driven by internal process and directed by internal knowledge and purpose.
Which of those characterizations captured his own deepest essence of ‘self’? Lamarck had said that ‘la cause excitatrice’ permeated the habitat and the inhabitant. His idea was that ‘les fluides incontenables’, thermal energy fields, electric and magnetic fields, the gravity field,, energy-flows that ‘could contain, but which could not themselves be contained’, … were the spatial-forcers of evolution. Emerson too, the American ‘evolutionist’ who preceded Darwin, in his 1841 essay, ‘The Method of Nature’, had echoed ‘la cause excitatrice’ of Lamarck, suggesting a spatial-sourcing of evolution. Emerson had said;
“The beauty of these fair objects is imported into them from a metaphysical and eternal spring. In all animal and vegetable forms, the physiologist concedes that no chemistry, no mechanics, can account for the facts, but a mysterious principle of life must be assumed, which not only inhabits the organ, but makes the organ.”
Emerson’s ‘over-soul’, the sense that the web-of-life pulled each new strand into existence, was a theme that was picked up later by Nietzsche, who was a life-long admirer of Emerson and a critic and mocker of Darwin’s theory and Darwin’s followers. Providence in the guise of the balance-seeking harmonies of the world pulled each new participant in evolution into place for a purpose. The niche, the opening of spatial possibility, preceded the blossoming of creative potentialities of the newcomer. The blossoming of assertive innovation in material form was the result of the evolutionary flow rather than the cause of it., as the blossoming of the asserting watery matter of the storm-cell is the result of the evolving flow of the atmosphere rather than the cause of it.
Did the overall world dynamic open up the spatial possibility for the dynamic material innovation to fill? Or was the dynamic material innovation really a ‘local system’ that could ‘beget’ new and different ‘local systems’ by way of the process called ‘reproduction’, with a replication-breaking assist from ‘random chance’?
Darwin knew that the notion of ‘reproduction’ implied a contradiction. If the world as a whole was evolving then no local dynamic figure in the evolving dynamic ground could ‘reproduce’ since the world that ‘framed it’ from which it drew its meaning, the world the ‘reproduction’ took its place in, would not be the same world that gave meaning to its predecessor form. In the changed world, the same thing would be a different thing; i.e. ‘reproduction’ in a changing world is unrealizable idealisation.
Darwin sensed that this ‘problem’ related to his ‘two views of self’ on the Beagle in stormy seas. He knew that if he viewed himself as he did when inside-the-frame, as a ‘powerboater’, as a local material system with its own locally originating, internal process, knowledge, and purpose-directed behaviour, then he would have to explain any and all change processes without help from direct outer-inner engaging. That is, if he excluded the possibility of a spatial sourcing of evolution, then he would be obliged to put together an explanation in which ‘local systems begot’ new local systems, a system in which random chance would have to play the major role. This troubled Darwin, not just because philosophers like Emerson would express their objections, as it came to pass that Emerson and other early evolutionists did;
“Darwin has deposed Providence and enthroned chance as the governing power of the universe.”
Darwin was equally troubled because he had used as an argument, to calm religious critics, a notion that he had ‘borrowed’ from Newton, who he greatly admired. Newton had also made a statement on the nature of cosmic ‘creationism’, however, Darwin’s ‘borrowing’ was at the same time, ‘misrepresentation’ of Newton’s intent. Newton had said;
“… and the planets and comets will constantly pursue their revolutions in orbits given in kind and position, according to the laws above explained ; but though these bodies may, indeed, persevere in their orbits by the mere laws of gravity, yet they could by no means have at first derived the regular position of the orbits themselves from those laws. The six primary planets are revolved about the sun in circles concentric with the sun, and with motions directed towards the same parts, and almost in the same plane. Ten moons are revolved about the earth, Jupiter, and Saturn, in circles concentric with them, with the same direction of motion, and nearly in the planes of the orbits of those planets ; but it is not to be conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many regular motions, since the comets range over all parts of the heavens in very eccentric orbits ; for by that kind of motion they pass easily through the orbs of the planets, and with great rapidity ; and in their aphelions, where they move the slowest, and are detained the longest, they recede to the greatest distances from each other, and thence suffer the least disturbance from their mutual attractions. This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
In making practical use of Newton’s statement on cosmic ‘creationism’, Darwin used the implication that God doesn’t have to deal personally with every detail of the form and shape of the planets and their orbits, Darwin followed up on an idea he had put forth in an earlier essay in 1842;
“It is derogatory that the Creator of countless systems of worlds should have created each of the myriads of creeping parasites and slimy worms which have swarmed each day of life . . . on this one globe.”
Following up on this idea that we should not have to think of ‘God attending to every little detail’ in the evolutionary unfolding, in a correspondence with Charles Lyell, Darwin ends up by twisting Newton’s interpretation of God’s role in saying;
“Astronomers do not state that God directs the course of each comet and planet. The view that each variation has been providentially arranged seems to me to make natural selection entirely superfluous, and indeed takes the whole case of the appearance of new species out of the range of science. . . . Why should you or I speak of variation as having been ordained and guided, more than does an astronomer, in discussing the fall of a meteoric stone? He would simply say that it was drawn to our earth by the attraction of gravity.”
What Newton had intended was that ‘man’s laws of gravity’ may describe the planets and their orbits AS THEY NOW APPEAR TO US IN THEIR VISIBLE FORMS AND IN THEIR VISIBLE MOVEMENTS but such descriptions are INSUFFICIENT to explain how the dynamic forms in space came in to being together with their harmonic inter-relations, harmonic inter-relations which as Kepler had also noted, took precedence over their dynamics seen in terms of their being local individual objects, notionally possessed of their own ‘local agency’. That is, Kepler had also alluded to the ‘irreducible complexity’ of nature’s celestial dynamics, where spatial-sourcing of motion seemed to prevail over local-sourcing. In ‘Harmonies of the World’, Kepler had said;
“Now, the ‘harmony-of-the-whole of all the planets contributes more to the perfection of the world than the single harmonies by twos and the pairs of harmonies by the twos of neighbouring planets. For harmony is, so to speak, a spatial volume of unity. A deeper unity yet is presented, when all the planets form a harmony with each another, as when just two at a time harmonize in a dual manner. In the conflict of these harmonies deriving from the dual harmonic line-ups, which the pairs of planets form with each another, the one or the other must capitulate, so that the harmony-of-the-whole can prevail.”
Newton validated Kepler’s view with his own acknowledgement that while the planets, all of the planets, appeared to be moving under one another’s simultaneous mutual influence, as associated with the gravitational force/field, there was no graphically ‘picturable’ mathematical solution beyond ‘two bodies’, a situation which prompted Newton to comment;
“An exact solution for three bodies exceeds, if i am not mistaken, the force of any human mind.”
What Newton and Kepler were both implying is that the visible, material motion derives from forces that are not visible and not material-based; i.e. from the influence of ‘invisible fields’ or ‘currents’ (field/flow) so that the visible motion of local objects (material bodies) are the secondary ‘shadows’ of a deeper, invisible, nonlocal, non-material dynamics. Kepler used the analogy of the ‘currents’ in a river;
“Particularly happy and better accommodated to our inquiry are the phenomena exhibited by the propulsion of boats. Imagine a cable or rope hanging high up across a river, suspended from both banks, and a pulley running along the rope, holding, by another rope, a skiff floating in the river. If the ferryman in the skiff, otherwise at rest, fastens his rudder or oar in the right manner, the skiff, carried crosswise by the simple force of the downward-moving river, is transported from one bank to the other, as the pullly runs along the cable above. On broader rivers, they make the skiff go in circles, send them hither and thither, and play a thousand tricks, without touching the bottom or the banks, but by the use of the oar alone, directing the unified and most simple flow of the river to their own ends.” – Johannes Kepler, Astronomia Nova, 1609
The message of both Kepler and Newton was clearly that ‘what human observers COULD NOT SEE was the PRIMARY or PARENTING source of the visible, material motion that the observer could see. God would not be similarly limited by the limitations of human visual sensing; i.e. God would not be puzzled by the gap between the full and true world dynamic and the limited understanding that came to men by way of their visual sensing (e.g. the shore-based observer who sees the swimmer moving about in water does not realize that the swimmer’s movements are orchestrated by ‘thermal field-flow’ that has him move from cooler to warmer spatial situation). The visual ‘details’ in terms of visible material dynamics are thus ‘man’s details’ and not ‘God’s details’.
Thus, Darwin, in seeking to neutralize theological criticism through Newton’s pronouncements on cosmic ‘creationism’, misrepresented Newton’s intention in his (Newton’s) statement on ‘cosmic creationism’.
That is, … IT WAS NOT THAT GOD DIDN’T ATTEND TO EVERY LITTLE DETAIL IN THE UNFOLDING WORLD DYNAMIC, IT WAS INSTEAD THAT THE ‘LITTLE DETAILS’ WERE ‘MAN’S LITTLE DETAILS’, THE ARTIFACTS OF HOW SCIENCE KEYED TO VISIBLE, MATERIAL DYNAMICS AND IN THE PROCESS BROKE DOWN THE ‘DIVINE’ DYNAMIC UNITY OF NATURE INTO SEPARATE PARTS.
Newton’s point was that the scientific notion of the local independent existence and ‘local agency’ of material objects was man’s way of scientifically approximating the world dynamic, which missed out the natural primacy of inherent harmonic inter-relations, the interdependent ‘web-of-life’ aspect of the natural world, which Newton attributed to ‘God’s Providence’ and which in later times would be attributed to ‘quantum gravity’; i.e.
“In Newtonian and special relativistic physics, if we take away the dynamical entities – particles and fields – what remains is space and time. In general relativistic physics, if we take away the dynamical entities, nothing remains. The space and time of Newton and Minkowski are reinterpreted as a configuration of one of the fields, the gravitational field. This implies that physical entities – particles and fields – are not all immersed in space, and moving in time. They do not live on spacetime. They live, so to say, on one another. It is as if we had observed in the ocean many animals living on an island: animals ‘on’ the island. Then we discover that the island itself is in fact a great whale. Not anymore animals on the island, just animals on animals. Similarly, the universe is not made by fields on spacetime; it is made by fields on fields.” — Carlo Rovelli, in ‘Quantum Gravity’
Darwin might not have misrepresented Newton’s intention in his statement on ‘cosmic creationism’, had Darwin explored physics in more depth, but Darwin, during his brief enrolment at Cambridge had commented;
“My time was wasted, as far as the academic studies were concerned.”
Meanwhile, “Darwin found that his friendship with John S. Henslow, professor of botany, made life in Cambridge extremely worthwhile. Through long talks with Henslow, Darwin’s knowledge of the natural world increased. Henslow encouraged Darwin in his studies of natural history. In 1831 Henslow recommended that Darwin be chosen for the position of naturalist on the ship the HMS Beagle.”
But had Darwin explored physics in greater depth, Newton’s intention in his statement on ‘cosmic creation’ would have become clear. Newton, also, had the experience of the ‘two views of the self’, the frameless view and the framed view. Gravity came to Newton in the form of unbounded mutual influence; ‘As with the order of movement of an apple in fall, so with that of the moon and so with all.’ (Bohm). Gravity seemed to be ‘everywhere at the same time’. For Newton to present his works to the scientific community, he needed ‘graphical proofs’, proofs expressed by way of Euclidian geometry. Yet, as Kepler had noted, this limited the proofs to ‘two body proofs’ since when three or more bodies moved under one another’s simultaneous mutual influence, there was no possibility of a ‘graphical proof’. As Newton observed, planetary behaviour derived from such simultaneous mutual influence that was beyond graphical proof and which implied that orbits were not ‘reproduced’;
“By reason of the deviation of the Sun from the center of gravity, the centripetal force does not always tend to that immobile center, and hence the planets neither move exactly in ellipses nor revolve twice in the same orbit. Each time a planet revolves it traces a fresh orbit, as in the motion of the Moon, and each orbit depends on the combined motions of all the planets, not to mention the actions of all these on each other. But to consider simultaneously all these causes of motion and to define these motions by exact laws admitting of easy calculation exceeds, if I am not mistaken, the force of any human mind.” — Principia addendum, submitted by Newton to the Royal Society in 1684 but not published until 1693, following the first publication of Principia in 1687.
[[“… the complexity of the real motions was always going to leave room for competing theories if only because the true motions were always going to be beyond precise description, and hence there could always be multiple theories agreeing with observation to any given level of approximation. — George E. Smith, ‘Closing the Loop: Testing Newtonian gravity then and now.’, The Isaac Newton Lectures at Stanford, 2007]]
Darwin had ‘broken out’ the worms and parasites (in the manner that Newton had ‘broken out the planets and their orbits’) and described them as if inside, and relative to, a fixed reference frame, even though a ‘larger view’ was possible wherein these worms and parasites made sense in terms of their role within a larger and inherently more complex, simultaneously mutually influencing ‘ecosystem’ or ‘web-of-life’.
Darwin’s point had been; ‘God has launched an evolutionary process which itself takes care of the unfolding detail within it. God doesn’t personally have to “create each of the myriads of creeping parasites and slimy worms which have swarmed each day of life . . . on this one globe.” But Newton’s point was that breaking the ‘individual components’ out of their web of simultaneous mutually influencing inter-relations, was the inherently limited idealisation of science, rather than the divine-providence orchestrated reality.
In Newton’s case, the ‘breaking out’ was accomplished by using the fixed reference frame of Euclidian geometry, which enabled graphical (picturable) proofs. In Darwin’s case, the fixed reference frame was also implicitly used, but without Darwin questioning the loss of inter-relational content.
What Newton did not ‘see’, was the fact that the possibility of existence of the Euclidian frame itself was not graphically provable due to Euclid’s fifth postulate which stated that two parallel lines would go to infinity without ever meeting, however, an infinite extension of two lines exceeds the capability of finite graphical depiction. The subsequent refutation of Euclid’s fifth postulate by Lobachevsky, Gauss and others exposed the ‘hole’ in scientific depictions that depended upon a fixed frame as a reference to give meaning in a ‘local’ sense to changing material form and motion (without the fixed reference frame, changes anywhere would be relative to change everywhere in the manner of the gravity field being ‘everywhere at the same time’, and or, in the manner of storm-cells in the common unifying fluid-dynamic-space of the atmosphere).
Darwin was not thinking in terms of the relativity associated with simultaneous mutual interdependence. ‘Common sense’ informs us that ‘some forms are superior to other forms’ as his statement on worms and parasites implies. But as Einstein notes;
“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”
And, in the societal flow of ideas that Darwin was immersed in, and gathering prejudices in, for his first eighteen years, the ‘common sense’ view was that nature’s dynamic forms fell naturally into a hierarchy that ranged from the most superior to the most inferior, with “the myriads of creeping parasites and slimy worms which have swarmed”
While the notion that nature functioned as an interdependent web-of-life would have dispelled such prejudice, and delivered a view of conflict that derived from an orientation to always restoring balance and harmony in a ceaseless, innovative unfolding (the continents don’t ram each other in order to seek domination over the other, their movement is in the service of transporting thermal energy from regions of high concentration (warmer) to regions of low thermal energy concentration (cooler), the ‘purpose’ of ‘bringing balance’ is not a directive force that originates within them, but is a directive force immanent in nature that not only precedes them but which creates them (e.g. as in Emerson’s notion of ‘evolution’ with its ‘over-soul’ and ‘ethical universe’).
Darwin, using the ‘common sense’ of his upbringing that informed him that nature’s forms implied a superior-to-inferior hierarchy, interpreted conflict, NOT IN THE SENSE OF BEING DRIVEN BY THE NEED TO RELIEVE TENSIONS AND RESTORE BALANCE/HARMONY, but in the sense of two-body confrontation and the purpose of domination/submission or a zero sum winner/loser engagement.
Evolutionary biologists who have pondered the strength of this ‘prejudice’ in Darwin’s writings, such as Douglas Caldwell, have noted how it manifests in terms of Darwin’s recurrent word/proposition usage in ‘The Origin of Species’, which exposes how the concept of a web of interdependencies undergoing innovation (where conflict derives from the pursuit of restoring balance and harmony under changing conditions) is not being explored by Darwin. The regression to zero-sum winner/loser propositions is implicit in the following table based on the full text of ‘The Origin of Species’;
The ‘framing problem’ that Newton was talking about has come back to ‘haunt’ Darwinism in the complexity of ‘cells’ in modern research, and the name being given to the ‘framing problem’ is ‘irreducible complexity’, where it appears impossible to explain evolution by the evolution of individual participants (within the cell) since these simultaneously mutually-influencing web-of-life interdependencies have a primary forcing role on the dynamics of the included participants in the web. The same result has been found in experiments in cultivating multi-species microbial communities wherein the web of interrelations in the community precedes and orchestrates the emergence of new microbial participants (- Douglas E. Caldwell et al).
What Newton said was; ‘we can’t see God’s harmonious-inter-relational forest dynamic because our scientific inquiry had only been capable of showing us the apparently local trees’, and Darwin’s (flawed) Choice was in his concluding that ‘God’s work includes details (creeping parasites and slimy worms) that God doesn’t need to worry himself with’, where the reality is that these are not the implicit details falling out of the evolutionary process that God launched, but are instead the artefacts of visual-sense-based scientific dissection of an inherently harmoniously unifying world dynamic. These local visible details, these local visible material systems notionally equipped with their own ‘local agency’ are as Schroedinger would later say ‘schaumkommen’ (appearances). .
Newton, had he been around in Darwin’s day, might have corrected Darwin, saying;
‘No Charles, what you are saying is that YOU, or WE HUMANS, can’t see God’s soil for the worms because it is the piecemeal approach of our classification system, as is the case too with my two-body based law of gravity, that operates on the diverse multiplicity of allegedly ‘independent’ parts without being able to address the harmonic interrelations in the dynamic space of nature that take precedence over the dynamics of the parts that we (falsely) understand as ‘their own local agency’.”
One can imagine that Darwin was aware of this problem and that he felt ill about it. It called back to him his illness on board the Beagle, and the comfort of retreating to his cabin where the ship’s frame, his cabin walls, floor and ceiling, his cupboards filled with files and specimens, transformed him back into a powerboater, a local organism in his own right, notionally equipped with his own locally originating, internal process driven and internal knowledge and purpose-directed behaviour.
Outside, on the wind and wave-swept deck, he felt far more humble, though part of something far more powerful than him, like a whorl in a flow, an included experient in a dynamic space which orchestrated the individual and collective behaviour of those on the ship. If he, the ship and its crew were to be recycled, though it would seem like a cruel world dynamic that would so such a thing, it would signal the natural primacy of being included in a dynamic inherently more comprehensive and powerful than his own.
Perhaps, if the spatial harmonies of the world were in precedence, if the web-of-life opened up spatial possibility to induce the emergence of new forms to provide needed balance, in the way that convection currents in the oceans and atmospheres were spatially induced to take form for no other reason than to serve the transporting of thermal energy from thermal energy rich regions of space to thermal energy poor regions of space, then there would no need for, as Emerson complained, “deposing Providence and enthroning chance as the governing power of the universe”. The notion of ‘natural selection’ only ‘worked’ in conjunction with the ‘fixed frame’ view of the organism as a local ‘powerboater’ system, arguably, the human organism’s preferred vision of himself, though not the most truthful vision of himself..
Nietzsche in his later era, also, had mocked Darwin’s theory and Darwin’s followers for failing to account for the fact that, in the irreducible complexity of interconnected relations that characterize nature’s systems, weakness is the author of strength rather than the vanquished. When the eyes grow weak the hearing grows more intense and vice versa. Nature incorporates ‘resilience’ by way of its simultaneous mutually influencing inter-relations and the natural, non-deliberate resilience that manifests in mixed species communities equips the community with complex capabilities that surpass the capabilities of the individual.
Larmarckism did not limit the evolution of acquired traits to the behaviour of individuals. Lamarckism was based on ‘la cause excitatrice’ that permeated ‘les fluides incontenables’, the fields such as thermal and gravity which are ‘everywhere at the same time’, as embodied in ‘energy-flow’ (fluids) which as Lamarck noted ‘can contain but which cannot themselves be contained’.
When food for humans is scarce on land, there may still be plenty of plankton in the depths of the sea. If one thinks in terms of ‘competition’, it would be over-simplistic to picture ‘competition’ in terms of the relative fitness of the physical attributes of individual organisms. Fish can swim to the depths and gather plankton in a container called ‘themselves’ and deliver it to man. The plankton can feed on phytoplankton which feed on the sun’s rays. And just as the fisherman that teams up with a trained cormorant will fare better (be more resilient) in times of scarcity than men ‘foraging on their own’, so it is with those organisms within a common web-of-life. That is, such webs-of-life have a resilience that is beyond the capability of the individual strands in the web.
Reflection would suggest that the webs take precedence over the strands in evolution as Lamarck and Emerson contended; i.e. evolution may be understood as being spatially forced by harmonies that are intrinsic in the dynamic space of nature, rather than being locally-forced through ‘absolute space framed’ notional ‘local systems’ that beget ‘new systems’ by way of the intervention of ‘random chance’ as in ‘natural selection’. As Newton observed;
“… the growth of new systems out of old ones without the mediation of a divine power seems to me apparently absurd.”
For Newton, ‘divine power’ was the harmony in the world that Kepler had termed ‘geometry’, in the most general dynamic sense of geometry, … saying ‘Geometry is God, God is Geometry’, echoing the phraseology of Kepler’s mentor, Proclus, who had said; ‘Nature is God, God is Nature’. Today, physics claims that ‘nature’ is resonant-energy-charged space. Matter-energy equivalence suggests that emergent dynamic forms are to the dynamic habitat as hurricanes are to atmospheric flow; i.e. they are ‘spatially-forced’ though we like to invert our view of them by way of ‘framing them’ within a fixed frame so as to regard them as ‘local systems’, notionally equipped with their own locally originating behaviour. It is simplification that is convenient and appealing, but ‘unreal’.
Was the Charles Darwin struggling ‘on-the-outside-deck’ the orchestrated product of the turbulent space of nature he was included in, or was he ‘the man below decks’ who, when observed relative to the local fixed frame, was a local system with his own locally originating, internal process, knowledge and purpose-directed behaviour?
Depending on the choice that man makes for himself, the status of all organisms will follow suit, which is why Nietzsche accused science of ‘anthropomorphism’.
To be sure Darwin must have struggled with this choice. If Darwin had stayed with Newton’s intent, instead of twisting it, he might not have traded out God’s Providence for ‘random chance’ but instead given to ‘the harmonies of the world’ the evolutionary power that was traditionally imputed to God (what’s in a name? … ‘resonant energy-charged space’ would signal harmonious providence in the unfolding as well as ‘God’; i.e. apart from the aesthetics of words, the power and the glory of creation can as equally reside in one as in the other). Intellectually, shifting the creative power of the universe from ‘God’ to ‘the harmonies of the world (resonant energy of space)’, rather than shifting the creative power of the universe from ‘God’ to random chance as in Darwin’s ‘natural selection’, is less brutal and less arbitrary.. And what is ‘random chance’ but departures from our own human expectations. It is a way of correcting our experience to make it agree with our theory. It is based on ‘repetition’ (how often a particular outcome results from repetition of the same exercise). Repetition (reproduction in a literal sense) is impossible in an evolving universe. As Heraclitus said; “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
But Darwin did ‘choose’ in such a manner as to, implicitly, “depose Providence and enthrone chance as the governing power of the universe.”
Along the path of the ‘choice not taken’ by Darwin, the path of Emerson, Providence is not dethroned by chance, and we have the notion of the ‘over-soul’, emergence of form by way of being called to duty, in the manner that a convection cell is called into duty as a balance-and-harmony restorer, transporting thermal energy from thermal energy rich regions of space to thermal energy poor regions of space.
To a follower of religion, the notion of man being called into action to become an agent charged with ‘doing God’s will on earth’, is not a particularly troublesome concept (unless it becomes the driver for a politician after he has been elected to ‘serve the people’ in a powerful position of central authority).
But to one who seeks ‘scientific understanding’ in Emerson’s broad view of the terms ‘scientific’, the notion of the ‘over-soul’ that pulls dynamic forms into existence is a tricky concept. True, the example of the emergence of a convection cell ‘works’ in that the ‘over-soul’ is the spatial field in which the tensions of imbalance are intensifying; e.g. the sun brings the flow of the atmosphere towards the boil, which intends that differentials arise in the thermal energy concentration that induce pressure differentials and that the ‘tensions’ associated with these differences induce emergent dynamic form/s.
But how do we ‘port’ this understanding to ourselves, to ‘human organisms’?
Emerson, in ‘The Method of Nature’ (1841) gives a portrait of emergent man that is not ‘cut off’ from the world by a notion ‘rigid frame’ that will mirror back meaning to his actions as if they are meaningful ‘in-their-own-right’, rather than relative to man’s unique situational inclusion in the dynamics of nature; i.e. relative to his ‘place in the natural scheme of things’;
“Did he [man] not come into being because something must be done which he and no other is and does? If only he _sees_, the world will be visible enough. He need not study where to stand, nor to put things in favorable lights; in him is the light, from him all things are illuminated, to their centre. What patron shall he ask for employment and reward? Hereto was he born, to deliver the thought of his heart from the universe to the universe, to do an office which nature could not forego, nor he be discharged from rendering, and then immerge again into the holy silence and eternity out of which as a man he arose. God is rich, and many more men than one he harbors in his bosom, biding their time and the needs and the beauty of all. Is not this the theory of every man’s genius or faculty? Why then goest thou as some Boswell or listening worshipper to this saint or to that? That is the only lese-majesty. Here art thou with whom so long the universe travailed in labor; darest thou think meanly of thyself whom the stalwart Fate brought forth to unite his ragged sides, to shoot the gulf, to reconcile the irreconcilable?
Whilst a necessity so great caused the man to exist, his health and erectness consist in the fidelity with which he transmits influences from the vast and universal to the point on which his genius can act. The ends are momentary: they are vents for the current of inward life which increases as it is spent. A man’s wisdom is to know that all ends are momentary, that the best end must be superseded by a better. But there is a mischievous tendency in him to transfer his thought from the life to the ends, to quit his agency and rest in his acts: the tools run away with the workman, the human with the divine. “
What ‘troubles’ the scientifically inquiring mind is this notion of ‘free will’ where we take the ‘self’ to be the ‘self inside the frame’ with its notional ‘local existence’ and its notional ‘locally originating, internal process-driven and internal knowledge and purpose-directed behaviour’. After going to the trouble to develop a model which jumpstarts the dynamics of the organism, both evolutional and behavioural, from the inside of the notional local system’, the ‘powerboating’ model, … it becomes difficult to ‘see’ the individual in the unframed ‘sailboating’ terms wherein his form, his power-drive and his steerage all derive from the fluid-dynamic space he is uniquely situationally included in.
That is, we feel very solid in our knowledge that we can choose to go where we want and do what we want, at least on the inside of the frame. We don’t have to go and settle in the Shenandoah valley because such land ‘beckons to us to take our place in its natural scheme of things’, we can exercise our ‘free-will’ and go an settle in ‘Death valley’, … so what if we are soon amongst the bleached bones that litter the desert landscape.
But such an expression of ‘free will’ is a mirage. We can put whatever powerful outboard on our sailboat we want so as to choose our destination and to push forward single-mindedly to its attainment, but the whole concept of locus-motion and destinations is ‘Euclidian’. The fluid-dynamic unfolding continuum of nature is not bound by any fixed frame. Any trajectory we should like to impute to a material body is overtaken by the ceaselessly innovative spatial unfolding of nature. Which are we to ‘make primary’? … the ceaselessly innovative spatial-relational unfolding, or the frame-dependent space and time trajectories we impute to ‘local material systems’?.
If it is the former rather than the latter, then it ‘makes sense’ for the transient human organism to ‘take his place in the natural scheme of things’; i.e. in the real world of nature. If he takes the ‘frame-based’ world wherein he must ‘come up with’ his own local, internal process-driven, internal knowledge and purpose-directed behaviour, then he is going to have to turn his back on the beckon call of nature inviting him to take his place in the natural scheme of things, and instead, construct his own onboard motive engine. That such an onboard engine (onboard power-drive and direction) is the primary driver of changing form as well as behaviour is implicit in Darwin’s theory, it follows from Darwin’s choice of the below-decks (framed) view of self rather than the above-decks unframed view of self.
Do we really have an ‘over-soul’ that associates with our emergence, that invites us to take our place in the natural scheme of things, as Emerson suggests?, …invites us to bring balance and harmony to the dynamic unfolding we are each uniquely, situationally included in, to think of himself as the circulating ‘cell’ that is born to resolve developing tensions and differences in the flow of the world?
“… darest thou think meanly of thyself whom the stalwart Fate brought forth to unite his ragged sides, to shoot the gulf, to reconcile the irreconcilable? Whilst a necessity so great caused the man to exist, his health and erectness consist in the fidelity with which he transmits influences from the vast and universal to the point on which his genius can act.”
Can we feel the tensional fields of the world we are included in and move so as to subsume them with balance and harmony? If so, we could then understand that this IS our ‘over-soul’, our natural purpose in an intrinsically ethical universe.
When the weather becomes turbulent, however, our queasiness may encourage us to go ‘below-decks’ where we once again are crowned king, creative masters of ourselves, locally-forcing our own evolutional and behavioural dynamic, with a helping hand from ‘luck’ or ‘random chance’.
Does a butterfly flapping its wings really spawn a tornado? Or is it just simpler to conceive of a vortex by imposing a frame around it and personifying it in its own right, with sensitive dependence on the world in which it is included? (‘It’ is forming, ‘it’ is strengthening, ‘it’ is heading north, ‘it is wreaking destruction, ‘it’ is weakening’, ‘it’ is dissipating, ‘it’ is gone!). In the view of Emerson and of physics, The vortex is the result of the turbulent flow it is included in, rather than the cause of it. The vortex is the local, visible, material aspect of a ceaselessly innovating flow-continuum. As physicists who have tried to correct the ‘vulgarization’ of field-effects using the ‘butterfly effect’ anecdote, the field is, at the same time, the resonant forms that gather within it. Lamarck’s ‘la force excitatrice’ resides within ‘les fluiides incontenables’, or as Emerson puts it;
“In all animal and vegetable forms, the physiologist concedes that no chemistry, no mechanics, can account for the facts, but a mysterious principle of life must be assumed, which not only inhabits the organ, but makes the organ.”
The man who demonstrates his ‘free will’ by settling in ‘Death Valley’ rather than the ‘Shenandoah Valley’ validates a theory that is formulated in the constrained terms of notional ‘visible, local, material systems’, notionally equipped with their own locally-originating, internal process-driven, internal knowledge and purpose-directed behaviour. The proof cannot go beyond the fundamentals in which it was formulated, and such a formulation disregards the alternative ‘choice’ of possibilities wherein the invisible, non-local, non-material dynamics of a resonant-energy-charged spatial continuum is the first cause, primary sourcer(or) that “not only inhabits the organism, but makes the organism.”
Any of us, having experienced ‘being out in a stormy sea’, will not blame Darwin for ‘his choice’ of opting for the fixed-frame-referenced, ‘below-decks’ version of ‘self’. Only Darwin himself would know how much ‘he held out’ between this type of modeling and his ‘poetic intuition’ of life and self. By the sound of his biography, he was like a ‘Picasso’ who said; ‘la peinture est plus fort que moi, elle me fait faire ce qu’elle veut.” (“my work is stronger than I am, it makes me do whatever it wants me to do”).
To an Emerson, we are all bound together in an interdependent web of relations and tensions arise due to innovation that derives from the invisible, nonlocal, non-material ‘fields’ from when the visible, local, material itself derives (the ‘genius’ of nature – ‘a mysterious principle of life … which not only inhabits the organ, but makes the organ.”)
Ceaseless innovation of the web incites imbalances and tensions as older spatial relations must give way to newer, and these tensions (as between those who are newly rich and those formerly rich who are newly poor) can be interpreted (a) in the ‘unframed’ view, as naturally arising since we all derive our form, power and direction from the dynamics of the space we are included in, and/or (b) in the ‘framed’ view, as arising from the superior form and internal process (power-drive), and internal knowledge and purpose direction, of the notional ‘locally-existing organism’, notionally equipped with its own locally-originating (internal process-driven and purpose-directed) behaviour.
The (a) unframed view understands that conflict arises naturally and responds in the service of restoring balance, while the (b) framed view understands that conflict arises from win/lose competition, so that the response called for is logically, to seek domination over the other when tensions arise as if ‘between the two’ (i.e. the tensions are not recognized as deriving from innovation effecting the interdependent web of relations.
Ironically, while the pull of Darwin’s over-soul (in search of bringing balance to the tensions in his spirit) may have quietly, invisibly, and non-materially inducted him into new and exotic intellectual harmonies unknown to most, the Darwinist-fundamentalist ‘follower’ is prone to reject any such pull, and to instead construct his own superior theory based knowledge to serve as his internal directive source, to drive him, from out his internal, full-and-overflowing knowledge centre, towards his pre-planned destination (rather than letting his ‘over-soul’ pull him on a continuing voyage of discovery). If things get rough along the way, there is always some sort of ‘gravol’ to further desensitize the self-declared-as-‘independent’ ‘self’ to the interdependent web of relations that one is inextricably woven into. The ‘remedy’ is to throw away the gravol and accept that conflicts are bound to arise since we are all included in an interdependent web of relations that is undergoing ceaseless innovation and our challenge, as our over-soul informs us, is to accept ‘tensions’ as useful directives that can guide us as we, continuously, let our movements serve the restoring of balance.
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Footnote: “Emerson and Evolution:
“Emerson at the beginning of his career had assumed the truth of evolution in nature. More and more this idea became fruitful to him. His friend Agassiz, on the appearance of ‘The Vestiges of Creation’, had committed himself warmly against it, but Emerson felt certain that the future of science belonged to that principle which he had reached by his poetic intuition. … Nearly thirty years ago (1853), … we went out, travelling the 17 miles [to Emerson’s home in Concord] to hear a lecture that was to have been given by him. It had been unavoidably postponed by Emerson, hearing of our arrival, invited us to his house, and we had no reason to feel any disappointment. Nevertheless, Emerson wrote me that if I would make the preparations, he would read an essay in my room. On that occasion, Emerson read an essay on ‘Poetry’ in which he stated fully and clearly the doctrine of evolution. This was five years before the appearance of the papers of Darwin and Wallace in the Journal of the Linnæan Society (1858), …” (later published as ‘Letters and Social Aims’). — Moncure Daniel Conway, American Abolitionist, Unitarian Clergyman and Author, from the New York Times, June 18, 1882
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