Dynamic Materialism: The Root of Evolution and History
Chopra on evolution Posted in General at 1:43 pm by nemo
Is Evolution Ready to Evolve?
I respect Chopra’s honesty in challenging Darwinism, and his interesting suggestions for a better theory. But I think that his suggestions, unless taken as usefully heuristic, are based on the fallacy of a ‘conscious universe’, which makes no more sense than the fallacies of a mechanical universe. To brave the issues with this kind of assertion is nonetheless a provocative way to stimulate thought, and break out of the mindframe of scientism. More commentary later on this, let Chopra speak for himself, with or without my endorsement.
AN OPEN QUESTION: Besides “mechanism” or “consciousness” what alternatives do we have to account for nature’s unique workings in natural history and evolution? … For myself, I like the ideas put forward in complexity theory about dynamical systems, self-organization, and emergence; but still this begs the question about telic ‘design’ versus reductionist ‘mechanisms’ of change in the history of the physical universe.
Neither concept is satisfactory, but how do you possibly get around either of these alternatives? …
“Consciousness” is a good explanation in that it explains the unique formatting of natural systems to their environments and settings in the world; but in the end, it forces us to concede either a GAIA in physical entities driving them along to their natural outcomes or an outside spiritual or supernatural agency directing them to their ends. … This is untenable … Therefore, we’re forced to scrap the consciousness idea. It just doesn’t work in our science and theoria-based world. Philosophy has shown this (in the classic rationalist, tradition of the West as well as in the overall history of human thought) and Science has demonstrated it, empirically and theoretically, in Modern times.
But, ‘mechanism’ falls short too in explaining the basic phenomena and natural principles of our universe. “Machines” in this instance “requires” (a machine maker or agency) behind the rise of a mechanically-based reality … even if it is a purely physical or non-Intentional, non-Directing, and non-conscious agency responsible for producing the ‘machinery’ in question.
Worse yet, the only example we have to work from is an analogy to ‘human‘ machine-making for explaining how the world operates. That, in itself, projects an aspect of human experience onto nature that’s unwarranted – namely our propensity for technological creation and understanding, which may or may not actually be applicable to the reality of the universe as it stands. Just because, machinery works for us in the world and our science has built for us a technology and a culture constructed on that mechanical understanding, doesn’t mean the cosmos itself is necessarily framed around that mechanical principle in its basic terms. It could be – in part – but not wholly because the explanation can only be carried so far as those kinds of phenomena that are uniquely suited to it (i.e. mechanically-representable kinds).
Anything else – which is pretty much everything that doesn’t fit into the standard framework of Newtonian-based physical science – is left hanging in lieu of this mechanical explanation not applying to it. That means a sizable portion of natural phenomena is left unaccounted-for and/or unexplained by this mechanical model of scientific knowledge.
Even more, though, the appeal-to-mechanism itself can’t even realistically address the appearance of mechanically-geared phenomena in the world (in its own right), without holding such as being axiomatic, since to many it seems almost self-evident that the idea of ‘machinery’ recreates the material underpinnings of the physical order of reality. In other words, the argument is that mechanistic models work because they supposedly mirror the fundamental material order of reality.
But do they really? … Do they actually re-create the order of nature or merely shadow it in their approximation of physical principles? …
It’s readily obvious they imperfectly shadow it because real-world phenomena is much more complex in its elements and its interrelations than mechanical science can reproduce. The world of molecular reality, atomic, and subatomic phenomena all showcase the absolute fallibility of clockwork-science, but even the phenomena of Classical Newtonian science do not completely work by its rules either. They demonstrate the fact that something “more” is at play here in nature than just mechanical principles like we might see in an old fashioned clock, a simple engine, or similar devices. Nature, in other words, is more than just a ‘mechanism.’
So what is it then that we see at work in evolution and natural systems? …
It’s clear that it’s some sort of dynamic principle … but one that’s multifaceted enough to replicate (1) the features of machinery (2) what we believe we see in conscious action and determination, as well as (3) preserve the basic laws of material reality as they’ve been drawn out by Modern Science.
That is to say, this is a kind of dynamic materialism or hylomorphism we see at play in natural systems and processes in the universe. Materialism, normally, isn’t thought of in this manner, but if material structure patterns itself dialectically on formalization and
substantialization, then we have a way in which matter, by definition, can mirror both the contingencies of conscious choice and mechanistic modeling.
Matter, from such a point, cannot only format itself to whatever conditions best optimize its state and functions, but can self-regulate its form to fit its required niches. The result: the nature-based equivalent of “smart matter” (i.e., material systems which, from the most elementary levels of material reality upward, can fundamentally program themselves to fill a given need in the physical environment). Hence, by way of such dialectic up from the very roots of matter itself at the subatomic level and of material existence in the cosmos to begin with, space-constraints and time-constraints coupled with the nascent laws of physics would have predisposed material forms to build and fashion themselves into whatever they needed to be.
The very roots of “sentience” and “life” would have been patterned into matter from the beginning; all that needed to happen from that point was for natural progression in cosmological history to proceed apace; no magic touches, no ‘deus-ex-machina’ moments; just growing time and space for material interactions to produce their eventual outcomes. It was inevitable, then, from that point that “biology” and “history” would have arisen from “matter.” These results were already ‘in the cards’, so to speak. All they ‘needed to do’ was ‘to be played.’
That’s how this natural history/evolution paradox can be addressed … Not by consciousness, not by a homage to purely mechanistic and reductionist interpretations of natural phenomena … but by an enhanced understanding that materialism itself can – and did – create for us the ‘miracles’ of life and thought over the normal course of time.
To say anything less belittles nature and our material world.