History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Bennett on human evolution

March 1st, 2010 · 1 Comment

Update (read the original post first, below):

James’ comment on UFO’s (which I must shy away from) minds me to consider a related issue: the clear implications of transcendental idealism, Platonic ideas, and the potential to ‘exist’ in some sense in a body of consciousness of some kind. The latter science fiction idea appears on the sidelines in Bennett’s work, where the author doesn’t seem to understand what he has discovered. The point is that life and consciousness are distinct, athough copresent in man, and that consciousness might as Bennett considers be the ‘stuff’ at the low end of cosmic embodiment of some kind. We can see Buddhists almost making it to this kind of thinking, but rightly staying grounded in what they know. But they sense that the life boundary at the high end stops at the consciousness boundary at the low end. To be sure, consciousness in the ordinary sense (as opposed to the supercharged consciousness usually called ‘self-consciousness) probably exists in the lowest forms of life, but that doesn’t really change the issue here. We have a hard time discriminating the forms of consciouness. Weird stuff, maybe not weird enough. This kind of model, properly understood, solves at a stroke many of the paradoxes and muddles of traditional spiritual thinking, if only we could handle it in some intelligent fashion (out of the ear shot of New Age cookie monsters in human form hot on the trail of GIGO versions of the Theory of Everything. Warning: this form of ‘existence’ would probably include the queen in Alice in Wonderland, ‘off with their heads’.

Now to original post: Ironic value of Bennett on evolution

Going through Bennett’s material on ‘evolution’ could backfire as solemn (and mostly stupid) converts to Gurdjieffianity suddenly get an idea of what is being said, and proceed to a mystical belief system or screed on evolution.
But I think not: Bennett’s view is New Age hokum, if you like, but actually still close enough to science to collapse via falsifying challenges. But this view is of use, not as a theory, but as a sketch with a set of questions that ordinary science tends to filter out of its deliberations.

I have been going through J. G. Bennett’s material on evolution in his fourth volume of The Dramatic Universe.
This is very controversial stuff, and I hesistate even referring to it here, my purpose being to help students of Gurdjieff see through the New Age hype.

However, Bennett was his own man here and raised some questions about human evolution that won’t go away. In the end these issues are beyond resolution.
I don’t think it is possible to resolve the mystery of human evolution. And Bennett, following the ancient Samkhya yogis whom he is following, shows one reason why: the ‘triads of samkhya’ are a form of mechanization and design argument combined in a non-dual logic that is beyond verification, totally, at least so far. That is very frustrating because it is just the kind of explanation that might resolve the confusion over design/mechanical theories now so polarized. As the idiocy of Gurdjieff students has made clear you will produce nothing but New Age mush if you go down this route.

There is an intelligent alternative: considering the framework of transcendental idealism as in Kant, with its noumenal/phenomenal complication, and then considering Schopenhauer and his thesis of the ‘will’.
The restraint here might make it possible to create a samkhya of intelligent guesswork, echoing Schopenhauer, giving us some idea of the way in which evolution in general and the evolution of consciousness might have come about.
The point here is that Schopenhauer stumbles on the queer way in which physical laws shade upwards into the mechanizations of ‘will’ that he makes central in his system.
But in the end the Kantian critique of our form of consciousness makes our current efforts highly dubious.
Bennett failed to see the potential of his own framework, and I can begin to see all sorts of ways his viewpoint could approach science (as he himself suggested in the middle of extravagant New Agisms). But all of this stuff is not falsifiable/verifiable science at this point. But it does ask us to repose our questions, and refrain from dogmatic certainties.
Bennett ironically chaotifies the design argument by actually inventing a demiurgic designer who is far short of divinity, embedded in nature, and beyond the bodies it sees into existence. I question that on the grounds that he has obviously reduplicated his argument: after all the trouble of importing Samkhya a designer is superfluous. The cosmic triads were to replace such myths by showing how a ‘design’ mechanism in nature could shape emerent entities. But OK Bennett has to have two sets of toys for the same job.

It is just this kind of unempirical possibility that Bennett makes, if not plausible, then a phantasm lurking in the background to make a mockery of the demonic brand of Darwinism, whose fate will be to destroy modernity if its devotees can’t come to their senses and see through their primitive scientism. But the answer is not to go off the deep end.

Bennett’s science fiction is not to be believed, but it is a warning that our current views are probably so far off the mark as to be delusive, to put it mildly. In any case the question of triads of the ‘wil’, in a stage of stretching Schopenhauer in a direction he didn’t intend, is intuition of something more than mechanical law but less than mystical design thinking. This ancient form of Indic naturalism, although not sound knowledge, is a beguiling idea about the possible solution to the evolution of consciousness.

Tags: Evolution · New Age

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