Evolutionary Laws

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Studying the characteristics if the cosmic and natural evolution, we discover some universal laws, with their applications also in our daily lives.

The evolutionary process is described in the Evolution page. A reminder:

EvolutieSchema.jpg

These 9 levels can be grouped into

  1. Lithosphere (levels 1 to 5): the stages of dead matter
  2. Biosphere (levels 6 to 8): the stages of living matter
  3. Noosphere (level 9): the stage of thinking beings

Stage 9, the Noosphere or Socialization, is described in Functioning_levels.

Deepest characteristics

Along Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. the most fundamental characteristic of the evolving Kosmos is its tendency towards

  1. an increasing complexification and
  2. an increasing consciousness.

This tendency is described in more detail at the Evolution page.

Another characteristic is the fact that every higher level is completely composed of building blocks that were autonomous systems at just one lower level:

(9) noosphere, socialisation < (8) individual beings, metazoa < (7) cells, protozoa < (6) pre-cellular organelles, eobionts < (5) organic and anorganic molecules < (4) atoms < (3) atomic particles < (2) proto-particles: photons and quarks < (1) superstrings

One could describe Evolution as the complexification history of natural systems. No simpler complexification of natural systems seems imaginable. Hence it is not a surprise that the time every level needs to start the next, is on average the length of the previous stage multiplied by 0.618 (φ the Golden Section).

This simple symmetry is one of the arguments that support the plausibility of Teilhard's evolutionary theory.

Internal organization

The behavior and interactions at the first five levels of our Kosmos are simple enough to be controlled by individual interaction between the constituting elements, and influences from the environing systems.

Starting with level 6, nature developed steering subsystems as a part of the complex system. This steering subsystem controls the individual development of the system, and its behavior (interaction) with the environment. It's a kind of a software code, sustained by a biochemical hardware. Furthermore, this collected programs, representing an expanding insight or wisdom about how to build and to organize living systems, is passed through next generations, so it isn't lost, but develops over the generations and evolutionary levels.

At level 6 (eobionts, including autonomous living viruses, cell organelles and akaryotic bacils) it a simple string of DNA codes.

At level 7 (protozoa, i.e. monocellular living systems with a kernel) the DNA code is organized in chromosomes: lengthy strings containing millions of DNA codes.

At level 8 (metazoa, i.e. multicellular plants and animals) a nervous system, with a functional center at the frontal end of the animal, close to the most important observational senses, is developed. This nervous system develops three levels of reactivity:

  1. reflexes, i.e. simple mechanical reactions to significant observations
  2. instincts, i.e. complex programs of behavior to realize important projects, e.g. coupulation, nest building, feeding cubs.
  3. learning ability, i.e. the conservation (with memory and learning mechanisms) of succesful complex behavior, acquired by experience and with a quicker adaptation to the changing environment than instincts could ever realize.

At level 9 (humanity)


(3) with man, biological evolution stops (or is nearly completely outstripped and become obsolete), because the universe switches to another steering tool: intelligence, also called consciousness. Insight becomes the organizing principle. Complementary to the instincts, a learning ability is developed, and the development of intelligence is further enhanced by interaction possibilities (communication) starting with spoken language, enhanced by written communication (that got a boost with Gutenberg's printing tool, books and press), electric communication (phone, radio, TV) and, eventually, Internet. This stage is the noo-phase, the process noo-genesis, the result noo-sphere. So the Noosphere, in its evolutionary function, can best be defined as the (still developing) steering system of universal evolution. Seen from the inside, the noosphere, to be able to perform its steering function, includes an "image" not only of existing reality, but also of its ruling laws, and, most importantly, of its developmental possibilities and the practical ways to achieve this evolutionary process. Moreover, this "intelligence", this "consciousness" is shared and "crossfertilized" by more and more communicating people -ideally by all-, enhancing and stimulating its own progress (as sexual multiplication enhanced biogenesis).

Some other characteristics of Evolution

  • At every level nature encounters a natural limit, (Teilhard called these boundaries critical points) apparently marking the exhaustion of evolutionary possibilities (although evolution continues at a higher level, adding just one degree of complexity).
In every domain, when anything exceeds a certain measurement, it suddenly changes its aspect, condition or nature. The curve doubles back, the surface contracts to a point, the solid disintegrates, the liquid boils, the germ cell divides, intuition suddenly bursts on the piled up facts... Critical points have been reached, rungs on the ladder, involving a change of state -- jumps of all sorts in the course of development. [1]
Moreover, when science and technology try to transgress this point, it up to now never succeeded, to the great frustration of scientists. The most striking example of this in the development of more complex atoms than Uranium (92), nature's ending point. No cyclotron up to date succeeded in the breeding of a new stable element: only extremely short living times were encountered so far. Scientists already feel gratified when they encounter a "stability" close to 1 second...
For the same reason "Teilhardians" fear that transgressing the ending point of Man (stag 8) will prove difficult or perhaps impossible, to the great frustration of genetic scientists.
  • During evolution, the "dominant" system organizing the superior one, moves form the left end of the range (simple building blocks) to the right (the most evolved samples). E.g. at the molecular level, the most important and central atoms are simple elements such as hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. At higher biological levels the most elaborated structures become the building blocks: well developed cells for metazoa, and man for the socialization. This shift arises from the organizing principle: in dead matter structural versatility is of the essence, so that simple, versatile elements are favored. On the contrary, with more complex organisms, complex intelligence is preferable, so that for the "last" level of evolution, socialization and the noosphere, the most elaborated metazoon, homo sapiens, offers most possibilities.
  • There exist some impressive analogies between level 8 (the metazoa) and level 9 (socialization): as blood vessels transport products and cells from the point of production to the point of application, rivers and streets develop in society. As the nervous system transports information in both senses between decision making and executive centers, electrical and other communication devices connect people. The description of society as a planetary body of humans (and other beings and objects) is more than poetic.
Nevertheless there are some striking differences, due to the fact that. with homo, evolution changes its tactics for a versatile interaction with the environment. We observe a disconnection between the organizing and the performing device, the latter becoming external to the person. Up to the sub-primate level, progress in evolutionary effectiveness consisted in anatomic adaptation. Animals that run fast are physically conceived to run fast, most often at the expense of other abilities, say climbing, flying and swimming. In biophase, we observe a universal differentiation and specialization. With man, both functions are disconnected:
PsychoTechno.jpg
We can observe the same trend in nowadays' computers: they are becoming "multipurpose", taking the "intelligent" part of the job for themselves, and reducing peripheral devices as printers, scanners, musical instruments and speakers to their most essential performing aspects.
This departicularization of the intelligent element, i.e. man, not only leads to a even more far-reaching organization and transformation, through technology, of the non-human world, but frees humans. For the first time in history, an organism is able to take part in complexification without losing its individuality. This means that futuristic theories which imply the loss of an individual's ability to move or to think independently, and with a total, global application filed: human thinking and consciousness intends to cover all aspects of intelligible reality, and will, at least for the final decision making, not be surpassed by computers. We'll discuss this interesting topic in another page.
This is bad news for geneticists, who are dreaming to perfect human nature, reduce his aggressiveness etc. by genetic manipulation. In fact, biological evolution came to an end, and did so already a long time ago. Of course, genetic manipulation will allow us to make some useful corrections and repairs in diseases. It is, from a Teilhardian perspective, unlikely that psychological and technological evolution will be stopped one day, and that nature should return to a more primitive strategy.


It is clear that the Noosphere came into existence as early as at the dawn of human intelligence, but gained in importance with the progressive development of tools to communicate (and preserve) insights. Internet is the latest contributor to this noosphere, and makes it so obvious that even people who never heard about it begin to see it. At the same time it boosted the noogenetic process at such an extent, that one could believe that it came into existence only recently. But, of course, it is as old as man. If Teilhard should have had an intuition for something as Internet, he shouldn't have needed to include "telepathy" as a possible condition for noospheric development.

Teilhard suggests that, as complexification -the most striking aspect of universal evolution- started with the first organisms, also consciousness, so apparent in humans, is supposed to exist in a kind of primitive pre-form within primitive organisms, such as electrons, atoms, cells and plants. This statement provoked hallucinating hypotheses such as "souls" residing in plants and atoms. But if one recalls that consciousness is just one type of steering, and that the very structure itself (e.g. a watch, and even a snowball) can determine what a system/organism will do and will not do, then souls are no longer necessary to explain such a primitive forms consciousness.


SOME OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF EVOLUTION

1. At every level nature encounters a natural limit, (Teilhard called these boundaries critical points) apparently marking the exhaustion of evolutionary possibilities (although evolution continues at a higher level, adding just one degree of complexity).

In every domain, when anything exceeds a certain measurement, it suddenly changes its aspect, condition or nature. The curve doubles back, the surface contracts to a point, the solid disintegrates, the liquid boils, the germ cell divides, intuition suddenly bursts on the piled up facts... Critical points have been reached, rungs on the ladder, involving a change of state -- jumps of all sorts in the course of development. [1]

Moreover, when science and technology try to transgress this point, it up to now never succeeded, to the great frustration of scientists. The most striking example of this in the development of more complex atoms than Uranium (92), nature's ending point. No cyclotron up to date succeeded in the breeding of a new stable element: only extremely short living times were encountered so far. Scientists already feel gratified when they encounter a "stability" close to 1 second...

For the same reason "Teilhardians" fear that transgressing the ending point of Man (stag 8) will prove difficult or perhaps impossible, to the great frustration of genetic scientists.

2. During evolution, the "dominant" system organizing the superior one, moves form the left end of the range (simple building blocks) to the right (the most evolved samples). E.g. at the molecular level, the most important and central atoms are simple elements such as hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. At higher biological levels the most elaborated structures become the building blocks: well developed cells for metazoa, and man for the socialization. This shift arises from the organizing principle: in dead matter structural versatility is of the essence, so that simple, versatile elements are favored. On the contrary, with more complex organisms, complex intelligence is preferable, so that for the "last" level of evolution, socialization and the noosphere, the most elaborated metazoon, homo sapiens, offers most possibilities.




The fundamental Law of Existence

We could put one more step inwards, and try to define to most fundamental Law of Existence. Although Integration is a very important process, it is perhaps only the concrete way by which a deeper law is applied. To integrate is a way to participate into the existence of other systems, things and people, but what is this drive which pushes us towards active participation?

I propose the law: To exist = to educe existence

or to generate existence.

Description. This law, that I formulated first in 1966 [1], states that every form of existence (every system) somehow serves to provoke, sustain, repair, perfect or render useful other systems. It also suggests that each system obligatorily fulfills such a function, and that nothing exists without that effect. Moreover, each system in the universe can be seen as belonging to one (or several) chains of existence, containing two to innumerable participating systems.

Of course, doing so is not the final motivation of existing systems: they are only interested in their own needs: atoms tend to complete their outer electron layer ("striving" to an octet structure), animals try to eat, to copulate, and to prevent being eaten, and humans are driven by a number of inborn instincts, and to fulfill their physiological, sexual and psychological needs. This combination of often conflicting motivations not automatically leads to constructive participation into general existence. Often systems are destroyed (although being eaten is also useful function!), and sometimes systems, especially humans, act dangerously and even commit suicide. So, this law is not a guarantee for immediate and short term constructive effect. But when a number systems interact a significant period, the most durable mode of interaction will be the constructive, otherwise the evolutionary probability that they will disappear is more likely: existence can be destructive, but omn the long run only constructive, integrating participation into the existence of another people and things, yet into the universe as a whole, is the only durable interaction mode.

In humans, and to a certain degree in higher mammals, this fundamental process occurs, or at least could occur, on a conscious way: we can consciously project and decide to participate on an integrative, constructive way into the existence of other systems and people, and feel happy --another, intensive form of consciousness-- we do/did so. The fundamental law, for conscious systems, should read:

To consciously exist = to consciously educe existence and feel happy by doing so

Because we humans are not only driven by instincts, but also by subjective interpretations about our own functioning and importance (called phantasms by Freud), ons could state that, at this highest level of functioning in the Universe, i.e. the Noosphere, the phantasm to actively participate and to be of importance in the existence of others is perhaps the most central, which is confirmed by psychoanalysis.

Arguments and references. There is perhaps no better definition of love than "to consciously educe (happy) existence in somebody else, and feel happy by doing so". Teilhard said somewhere (and Brian C. probably will find the reference :-)) "Love is a local form of a universal process".

Even Einstein, in his fizzing mind, concluded that E = m.c2

or: To exist (mass) is to radiate effect (energy), and in extreme, nuclear conditions all mass is transformed into energy, and vice versa. This analogy is more than striking. Both statements perhaps point to the same fundamental reality

If we look to animal bodies, e.g. human body, we can roughly discern five subsystems, called tissues: muscles, connective tissue (including skin and bones), blood, gland tissue and the nervous system. The only sense of each tissue is to sustain the other four tissues. The significance of each tissue can only be evaluated in what it does and means for the other tissues. Biologists, and especially ecologists, design thousands of cycles describing the mutual interactions and transitions. Nature seems to be an astronomical number of mutually equilibrating although vulnerable cycles. The more complex the natural processes we study, the more complex the existential cycles (to exist = to educe existence) we can observe. The same applies for sociological processes.

An argument ex absurdo could be that the Universe had no choice: should another law have been fundamental, e.g. "to exist is to use the existence of other systems to fuel its own", universe should not have been long lasting. Or "to exist is not to educe existence" -- in that case we shouldn't be here to reflect about that hypothesis.

Some applications

1. Universe

The most impressive application of this law is, of course, universe itself. We see that, from the very simplest subatomic particles to socializing humanity on, nature never rests in trying to develop even more complex chains or cycles of existence. Interaction and centralization gradually become more expanding, more global. Layer after layer one degree of complexity is added: the products of the former layer become building blocks of the next layer. By the same process, interdependence and vulnerability increase, and the margin of conditions, within which the evolution can occur, even more narrow. This interdependence and vulnerability only can be protected by even more complicated existential cycles.

2. The God Hypothesis and its uneasy consequences

The most intriguing applications of this fundamental law can perhaps be found in some problems concerning God. These considerations are, of course, highly speculative, as speculative as the existence of God itself, but it is comforting that these intriguing hypotheses seem to comply with this fundamental law, and even find (a shy beginning of) an explanation in it.

1. Pain and imperfection. If we consider the God hypothesis, the first problem with God is: why did He create a Universe at all, and by doing so, why did he create such a creeping and painful universe? He is supposed to be a loving God and an Almighty, but His creatrion --if it really does come from him-- rather seems to be an act of incompetence and sadism. If our Fundamentel Law is right, God had no other choice to start up a Universe. In fact, this could be His only occupation, His only "Sense of Existence". One can, of course, use Love terms for it: God is Love [2].

Suppose he had immediately created a perfect universe, to avoid all that "useless" pain and spill of energy. This looks much more attractive, much more humane, but was it feasable? To create an auto-poietic (self-making) universe seems to be much more in compliance with the fundamental law "To exist is to educe existence". To enhance existence, to perfect universe is our only sense of existence! When a creator should have put us right into a perfect universe, our existence should have been useless, senseless. And, as discussed in the "Pro-creation Hypothesis" at the end of "Beyond the Evolving Universe", the perfected Universe probably immediately will start to set up a new universe, most probably along the same auto-poietic lines.

Of course, such a statement seems merciless and highly arrogant with regard to the indescribable sufferings by barbaries and senseless accidents, tragedies and illnesses. This important question, including the problem of death and suffering (Teilhard wrote about it), the intuition of life after death, still remains greatly unanswered, although this existential principle sheds some light on it. Some pages (yet to come) and links on this website try to discuss some of them.

2. Trinity. Another problem concerning God is the mysterious Trinity: one God in three persons. Being three in one is, of course, a tricky way to resolve the problem of solitude. But I think deeper considerations are indicated. As existing is educing existence, the very nature of God also ought to be a "Chain of Existence". When we consider the Third Person, the Spirit, as the interaction between Father and Son, we have here the most simple form of a chain of existence: two entities. I'm convinced Teilhard thought along the same lines, calling the created, evolving universe a Christogenesis. In other words, along Teilhard the Trinity is still in a stage of formation, although the limiting frame of time probably will not apply to God: from His point of view, Trinity --and Universe-- are already completed. [This topic is more extensively discussed in a page on the Christian Inspiration of Teilhard.]

3. Optimism

Another fascinating application of the law "To exist is to educe existence by integration" is the optimistic approach of evolution. In modern culture it seems wise to profess a certain pessimism. Optimism most evidently is a sign of naive credulousness. Suffice it to look at all the troubles and miseries in the world, most of them provoked by man himself, to conclude to the very bad nature of man, and the tragic issue of existence itself. Teilhard got some hard problems with his optimistic approach that, on top of his other statements suspected for heresy, seemed to deny original sin and hence the whole usefulness of salvation and church. This seems incredible for someone who wrote some of his most enthralling essays in Flanders Fields, and his Opus Magnum, The Phenomenon of Man, at the eve of World War II, in China, already under Japanese attack. He added a last chapter treating sin and evil, but this couldn't deceive his censor.

Pessimists use to label their approach as realistic, pointing at the perpetually returning tragedies, perhaps gradually even more atrocious. Optimism is considered as highly irrealistic, a claim without proof. Nevertheless, the opposite seems more plausible. In fact, optimists just believe that things eventually will evolve the way they always evolved. The thesis of a pessimist is: "in the former 8 levels of universal evolution, constructive outcomes were realized. But here and now, in the 9th level, the whole construction will collapse: integration will not be reached". On the other hand, the optimist is more traditional, more scientific. He just states: "Already 8 times, in much more difficult conditions than we have here and now, universe succeeded to make succesful integrations at each level. Now, the 9th time, it will occur probably the same way". It is important to see that the optimist has not to justify his position: he simply thinks things will remain as they always were. It is the pessimist who advances a proposition, completely opposite to what happened in the past. Suddenly, this universal law would be reversed. So, it's up to him present good arguments and proofs, not to the optimist! Of course, there is other law of nature that states that natural systems always produce more trials than the expected result: there are more flowers than apples, and more apples than new, young aplpletrees. Although the balance between trials / results tends to 1 with more evolved systems (fishes have thousands of little fishes, modern man roughly two children per couple, with few or no miscarriages), the certainty to hit the final outcome (the Omega Point) probably not yet equals 1. So, we could assume that, on a few thousand inhabited planets in the universe some probably will fail at the last stages of the evolution, and the Earth could be one of those unhappy planets. But even if the Earth fails, the global outcome most likeky will be positive.

4. Constructivism

A related phenomenon is the constructive "attitude" in life. In the aftermath of the Hippie movement, perhaps the first sign of the new Renaissance, during some decades numerous books about positive thinking were published, the most renown being V.N. Peale's The Force of Positive Thinking. [3]. The essence is that, while the possibilities of our personality and the situation we're living in, are probable richer than our defensive, neurotic way of thinking suggests, our chances to discover them are bigger if we suppose they are real. Moreover, new opportunities most probably will arise as a direct consequence of a positive attitude. Although this hype passed over with the desillusions of the eighties, the kernel of this idea remained, as well in psychotherapy as in commercial circles. Also this personal form of optimism, rather inspiring to constructive action, creativity and self-deployment is clearly in line with the "attitude" the constantly evolving universe always featured, leading to the creation and realization of systems, highly unlikely in the prevailing circumstances. Positive and constructive thinking is not just one variant of several possible appropriate mental attitudes, it is the fundamental law of evolving nature.


[1] Roose, Kris, Hiperfizika, zin en toekomst van bestaan en heelal, ("Hyperphysics, Sense and Future of Existence and Universe"). Ms., 1966. [2] Bible, 1 Joh 4 and 18 [3] I myself published one in Dutch: Roose K. & Van Brandt B.: Het Geheim van het Geluk ("The Secret of Happiness"), Kluwer, Antwerpen, 1985.