We have cited the very important new evidence on mechanobiology as it casts doubt, from still another direction, on hard core darwinism.
But the question remains, beyond negative critiques of evolutionary theories, what direction might we look for a positive view? Conventional biology, including even the critics, hardly has a clue to the enigma of evolution. The reason is that it is focused on the substrate based on biochemistry. That’s the only zone science allows but it is not enough to resolve the evolution mystery which may well be so far an insoluble mystery.
Here we have often explored the ideas of J.G.Bennett who despite his ‘new age’ slant is perhaps one of the most original thinkers on the subject. He actually leaves new age thinking in the dust, but has a number of liabilities in his model. Despite his limitations he moved in the direction of my take on evolution in the eonic model. Bennett is of interest because of the way he redivides the pie of reality into hyponomic, autonomic, hypernomic. Religious types obsess over the design argument and collide with creationist thinking. But we can see why that is and why it is hopeless wrong: evolution is a connected with the substrate and also, note, the ‘hyperstrate’, a term I just made up: it is a material higher aspect of the whole rendered materialist from its confused history as the ‘spiritual’ over and above the material, the disastrous logic of both obsolete religion and scientism both. Bennett has a fascinating take on ‘triads’. Triads reconcile three things, ask no more because you will soon be lost in Hegel land. Evolution is thus an emergent field on a planet cast as the outcome of the ‘reconciling factor’ (not unlike the dialectic in some versions) of the autonomic between the negation of the ‘stuff’ of physics realities and the affirmation of the ‘stuff’ of the hypernomic, whose character is not directly known to us but which we can exemplify with the idea of consciousness: consciousness is the highest rung of life and self-consciousness the lowest rung of the hypernomic: the consciousness of life organisms is but a subprocess or aspect of a more complex consciousness, often called self-consciousness, that funny something people who go to mindfulness workshops gush about. This is NOT to say that the universe is conscious and any of the muddle of such thinking. Consciousness is a property of live entities in our experience. We can’t extend that to the whole: the point is that consciousness is a vast domain of discourse and its connection to animal perception is the merest miniumum of what we suspect it is is. Like energy or light it has an immense range to explore. To make our point: man is unique in the way he can shift gears as a conscious being into self-consciousness and at that point he impinges however minimally on the hypernomic.
Self-consciousness is like a higher octave of consciousness (wary of such a metaphor) and man like a frog on the surface of a pond gazing outward at the boundary of two realms, water/land, can go ‘frog’ as the boundary of the autonomic and hypernomic as he shifts gears into self-consciousness. An idea as bizarre as it is brilliant, and after some thought a most curioser suggestion, as Alice might note. Again the hypernomic is not ‘conscious’ in our sense, and the new age mysticism that calls the universe conscious misses the point: in Bennett the level of ‘consciousness’ is but the threshold into a vast realm in which ‘consciousness’ is the bottom rung of something unknown to us. And we only perceive it in terms of an organismic brain apparatus, which is highly specified.
A remarkable model as brilliant as it is unproven, Bennett going off the deep end, but in a fruitful way. It is hard to think of a more brilliant way to touch on/clarify the hopelessly confused idea of the spiritual and to bypass the creationist (god did it) bandits lying in ambush of anyone trying to understand the enigma of evolution: the point is that the hypernomic is material like everything else, and that thus consciousness is material, including energy. The answer to that is, really, what else could it be? But more directly and a little clearer Bennett posits the higher category of ‘being’ (cf Heidegger’s use of the concept, and a muddled version) in which matter and consciousness are a polar pair. Consciousness has being the same as ‘objects’ of ‘material’ do and may well have some material/energistic aspect for science to discover but in the nonce we can say that ‘material’ objects and consciousness both have ‘being’ which is not exactly existence since being tends to stand beyond existence even as it includes it: think of a vacuum, apparently it has being but nothing ‘exists’ there (but physicists now think otherwise, vacuum ain’t what it used to be, there goes that analogy, but you see my point). Being is very close to the idea of self-consciousness in meditators who suddenly sense increased ‘beingness’ as self-consciousness.
In any case we crash into metaphysical ambiguities but our general point is clear: evolution like a wood block in a vice sits between two opposites that generate as a third factor the emergent life we see evolving in a grand triad. Brilliant but science fiction.
But while I can’t accept this a science the model does show why current evolution is off the mark: it wishes to explain evolution in term of the hyponomic, but that we suspect can’t work.
We will stop here and try our other approach with some citations of material already on this blog and which resembles Bennett’s but is less speculative and which looks at history instead of evolution, the two however directly connected.
Bennett’s views are outlandish, no doubt, but he raises an issue that won’t go away: is mind evolution in man the same as life evolution in general? Bennett’s outrageous speculations nonetheless fo…