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Evolution

Elsewhere on NB, evolution has been mentioned and I thought that I would share some of my reflections on its meaning for us. I am putting this in "Comparing Religions" because I shall be quoting a Roman Catholic priest and scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In his book "The Phenomenon of Man", he says:

from: BOOK III.
The Modern Earth

"A turn of profound importance is taking place in the world which may even crush (our contemporary existences)."

For Teilhard, this turning point at which we find ourselves is triggered by our uncovering of the process of evolution as an integral condition of the cosmos. The result is a change in awareness which he compares to the way in which depth perception develops in the infant.
There are some important differences, however. Depth perception is directly linked to a sense organ, the eye, and increasingly-mapped cortical areas. By six months old, an infant can choose by depth-defined size. The development appears to have more to do with physiological rather than cognitive origin, although there are effects on cognition.

"The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself.
...........
Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow."

Humanity is the product of millennia of evolution. Of this assertion I am convinced and find any other explanation simply mythic rather than real, although there are lessons to be learned from such myths of origin as from any other myth.

We currently believe that Homo Sapiens, the Thinker, evolved from Homo Habilis, the Tool Maker. So where do we go now? Some theorist suggest that physical evolution of humanity has reached an end-point. They do not convince me because it is just too early to say. In large and complex organisms, particularly those which have managed to control and reduce the stresses of their environment, the processes of evolution are probably slow to manifest. That they continue to operate seems to me to be inevitable, even if they result in extinction.

In the hope that humanity is not headed for extinction as a result of our effect on the ecosphere or from our tendency toward total war or some cataclysm, I see the underlying principles of, for example, Buddhism or compassionate Christianity, Islam, etc. as leading towards a new humanity which I have dubbed Homo Benevolens, the Compassionate. As more and more tread the Noble Eightfold Path or the engaged Christian Way, we may manage to build up a critical mass of pre-benevolent humans and bring about a tipping point where humanity evolves away even further from our "red in tooth and claw" ancestry.

I accept that this is purely speculative and based on my observation that human beings appear to believe - as evidenced, however briefly, in the optimism of the Arab Spring - that things get better. Even Stephen Pinker believes it.

Roll on the time of Homo Benevolens when the blessings of the Beatitudes become realities.

Comments

  • I would accept the development of 'Homo Benevolens' as being an evolutionary inevitability. However we are also part monkey, influenced by age, socialisation, territory, hormonal factors etc. Some of us are changing into the co-operative, kind, empowering of the beneficial. We also are amongst our own and others monkey behaviour . . . who will win? I would suggest the more successful model.

    http://yinyana.tumblr.com/day/2013/10/08
    http://yinyana.tumblr.com/day/2012/04/02

    :wave:
    cptshrk
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `     ` `     ` Outa Range Fridays thru Sundays South Carolina, USA Veteran
    Good to see you writing on these here boards again, esteemed Pilgrim!

    Don't know where I stand on Chardin's Noosphere right now, given the climate of the "naughty" internet, but he did have a profound influence on me when I was coming up.

    For me, though, it's funny that in the minds of many, Darwin's theory of Natural Selection is synonomous with "Evolution." Of course things change, they evolve. Even convoluted things such as absurd mythological beliefs that people seem to hold onto for dear life change according to the times and circumstances of the "believers."

    One of the more interesting things that I've seen in the last few years concerning natural selection is how large a part altruism plays in the survival of the species. We all rely on the help and goodwill of others to live a more meaningful life. The survival of the fittest, then, carries with it implicitly the need for individuals more concerned with the collective welfare than for their own self interest.


    Roll on the time of Homo Benevolens when the blessings of the Beatitudes become realities.

    Indeed! And Thanks, kind Sir!
  • To be fully human, whether we call it 'saved' or 'enlightened', is to have become liberated from this fatal inheritance.
    :clap:

    Yes indeed. Agree with all your points. Evil or in Buddhist terms, unskilful or monkey based behaviour is part of our heritage but not our future. In theistic mysticism the innate positive qualities are 'God given' in Buddhism they are removal based. I feel as a species the movement towards a betterment of individuals and society can be secular, scientific or religion based. It is happening.

    Wonderful. :wave:
  • @lobster: As a non-dogmatic 'theist', I take slight issue with your misreading of the Genesis story (" In theistic mysticism the innate positive qualities are 'God given' ") which is similar to Augustine's error. I prefer to see 'monkey-based' or unskillful behaviour, as I have said, as the animal heritage in each of us. The movement towards a betterment is precisely what Teilhard ( a Catholic priest, as I said, and a Jesuit to boot) calls the movement towards the Omega Point and that is my abiding hope.
    lobster
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    lobster said:

    I would accept the development of 'Homo Benevolens' as being an evolutionary inevitability. However we are also part monkey, influenced by age, socialisation, territory, hormonal factors etc. Some of us are changing into the co-operative, kind, empowering of the beneficial. We also are amongst our own and others monkey behaviour . . . who will win? ...
    http://yinyana.tumblr.com/day/2012/04/02

    :wave:

    Just for the record, evolution does not say that we evolved from apes or monkeys, but rather that we all evolved from a common ancestor. Your personal mileage may vary.

    BunksMaryAnne
  • ZeroZero Veteran


    "Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow."

    Humanity is the product of millennia of evolution. Of this assertion I am convinced and find any other explanation simply mythic rather than real, although there are lessons to be learned from such myths of origin as from any other myth.

    We currently believe that Homo Sapiens, the Thinker, evolved from Homo Habilis, the Tool Maker. So where do we go now?

    Roll on the time of Homo Benevolens when the blessings of the Beatitudes become realities.

    I'm not sure that I can digest evolution as a general condition of all theories... as a curve that all lines must follow.

    For these purposes, I'm considering 'evolution' as a single theory - however, even on that basis, no such theory has shown evidence of a causal link between the various 'Homo' classified species and 'Homo Sapiens' - you may have heard of the 'missing link'... even on the best and most current theories, this is not a single species, not even close - the vast physiological and genetic differences would require a quite substantial number of 'missing link' species, none of which have been discovered (whereas evidence of the various homonid species are widespread)... then there is the Mitochondrial DNA issue... these issues are only 2 in a number and are real however as they do not fit into the scope of various acceptable theories, they are ignored in favour of as yet unearthed evidence.
    The politics of science as an industry is convoluted... as a random example, bear in mind that when Einstein presented his theory of relativity his audience all left mid-talk - he was branded a charlatan!! Now he is a poster boy for the infallibility of science.

    The reason I say this is that the consideration follows what appears to be a logical pattern - however, logic in the sense of calculus (lending an objective classification) is based on initial assumptions of integratable smooth curves (which are the exception rather than the rule!) therefore the extrapolated estimates of calculus are by nature and definition limited in their application - the other side of the coin is chaos which are mathematical truths that have nothing to do with the regimented logic of calculus - calculus and chaos however are the only two sides of the mathematician's arsenal and both must exist together as this is how maths is categorised - neither alone may be true.

    Very briefly, in terms of chaos and for these purposes, we are considering Chaos in space and Chaos in time - for space, we are considering fractals which are chaotic instruments (of which our bodies are one) - fractals spell the death of reductionism as they contain infinite complexity along all points (symmetric and not) - fractals are widespread in natural systems - for time, we consider 'Sensitivity to initial conditions' for comparable systems (akin to the butterfly effect exposition) - again a fatal attack on reductionism as any small variation along a time line will increase exponentially until all knowledge of the system is erradicated - in other words, any uncertainty (of which there is always some) will / must spiral so even if we know x now, we cannot say what x will become along any time line due to the exponential variation to chaos.

    Thus it seems this counterpart chaotic position which is in essence incapable of negation by calculus is an equal standing 'doubt' to 'certainty' - hence the indigestion.
  • Sounds like some ideas that would interest my Lama's husband Rigdzin Shikpo. He is trying to develope a physics in some sense that is applicable to the dharma. He says it's a lot like Roger Penrose stuff. Anyhow

    infinite complexity along all points
    really intrigued me. Reminds me of awareness how each point is related to others in the system. It is said that our consiousness is like the conglomeration of points in that each mathematical point has 0 dimensions. My teacher says that the connection between sentient beings has no dimensions and is outside space and time. Sooo I think what you know is very interesting. We need more Buddhist scientists.
  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran
    Namaste all,

    Interestingly, I was watching a show simply called "Earth" two nights ago with my mother and my daughter (who LOVES dinosaurs and wants to be either a palaentologist or a zoologist when she finishes high school) and it was going through the changes to the Earth and evolution from the Big Bang to present day.

    What really struck me was that circa 160 millions years ago was a mammal that looked a lot like King Julien from Madagascar, that is both an ancestor of monkeys AND homo erectus (who came into being around 140 million years ago). My daughter was fascinated by this and has thus undertaken a project off her own bat to explore this more. She also asked her science and history teachers if she could present this to the class. They both were delighted and said yes (a Christian school too).

    I told my daughter she has to present it to me too. I'm eager to see what she finds out. I'll let you know the result if anyone is interested :)

    In metta,
    Raven.
    MaryAnne
  • Is it wise to reduce evil to mere animalistic behavior? Is it right to view everything, even moral issues, in terms of evolution?
  • My heart is filled with love and hope.

    Thanks for the sharing.
  • I would add that my reflections on the problem of 'evil' lead me to infer that what we call 'evil' is largely a result of this animal heritage. To be fully human, whether we call it 'saved' or 'enlightened', is to have become liberated from this fatal inheritance.
    To be fully human is to "know" good vs evil, gain vs loss, etc. All this is in the realm of humans, which is still better than being an animal. Even this is to be transcended.
    "Monks, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. Which eight? Gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions.
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an08/an08.006.than.html
  • As a non-dogmatic 'theist', I take slight issue
    :)

    This really is the basis of all monkeying around. All too often these minor points become the issues of contention, when in effect as others say we have a commonality that is far greater. To take this example: My Gnostic Christianity was based on a dualistic heresy in which this world order was created by a demiurge with only a spark of the real divine being present. This belief was eventually rejected by most orthodox churches. I too found it suspect. So my apologies for reverting to an explanation of Christianity which I reject as false dharma.
    Similarly in Buddhism we have some extraordinary assertions which people cling to as territory, important, issues etc. Many examples exist. It is like:
    "So I say to you -
    This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:"

    "Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
    Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
    Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream."
    Diamond Sutra

    :wave:
  • @Zero: Thank you for your contribution. As one who is convinced by the scientific reality of evolutionary processes (not necessarily 'straight-line' but responsive to environmental and other pressures as well as to non-lethal mutations), I must reject as fallacious the 18th century notion of 'missing link' however much the term still seems to be used in the popular press. The very notion is based on a pre-Darwinian concept of the Great Chain of Being and has been discredited time and again. You will no doubt be aware of the work of Gould (which is sometimes confused with the 'missing link' myth by those who have not taken the time and trouble to read his work) and of many others.

    The fact that the fossil record is incomplete should be understood in the light of the relatively short time span of investigation, being fewer than two centuries. The record increases year by year as does our understanding of the scale of the evolutionary processes. We are only at the start of the great journey in our quest to describe the process and its underlying laws - if such exist.

    To infer a causal link between the various primate evolutions is, I would suggest, no more than an exercise in post hoc ergo propter hoc and, as far as I know (although I am always prepared to stand corrected) no reputable scientist has suggested any such.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    Why would you deny missing links? The concept simply means that -- at a particular time -- a transitional fossil connecting a line of evolution had not been discovered yet. As time has passed, many missing links have been found.

    If you take human evolution, even since I was a geology major in the 1970s specializing in paleontology, many transitional fossils have been found making a more complete record. I was at university just at the time when "Lucy", an Australopithecus was found, but as late as the last decade a more complete lineage has been pieced together with new discoveries. You might enjoy reading http://anthro.palomar.edu/hominid/australo_1.htm . It's not too long, but interesting.
  • Once a transitional fossil is found, it is no ,longer "missing".
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    edited October 2013
    Of course. But that doesn't argue that there were -- and still are -- many missing links in the fossil record.
  • Aren't you guys saying the same thing?
    DharmaMcBum
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    No.
  • ZeroZero Veteran
    I take your point on 'responsiveness to stimuli'.
    The issue that keeps me as unconvinced as convinced is '...if such exist'.
  • ShakShak Veteran
    betaboy said:

    Is it wise to reduce evil to mere animalistic behavior? Is it right to view everything, even moral issues, in terms of evolution?

    Evil has been judged on an ever changing, relativistic sliding scale over the centuries. Something that was once considered evil can now be considered normal, conversely, what was once considered a societal norm( slavery for example ) is most certainly considered evil nowadays. To compare evil to animalistic behavior is doing an injustice to animals all over the world who are acting in accord with their own nature. Perhaps, if we view evolution for what it really is,the impermanence of everything, then maybe we can more clearly understand the reality we find ourselves living in.
  • @Shak:

    Perhaps I was - not unusually unclear. I do not ascribe 'evil' t animals. They are, as you say, acting in accordance with their nature - unless we imprison, 'train' or 'tame' them. Judgments of good vs evil are categories which do not apply to animals or, I believe, any of the natural world with the exception of human beings. Of course, there are myths and legends all across the world about animals doing good deeds. There is the Buddhist story of a bird circling a stupa clockwise and thus gaining merit. Nice story but.....

    What I am suggesting is that human beings have, through evolution, developed a capacity to distinguish right action from the unskillful, if you prefer these terms to 'good' and 'evil'. The Enlightened, we are led to believe, are completely skilled and this is the aim of our practice because only then is dukkha finally extinguished. The impulses which lead us into unskillful actions are, to my mind, part of the pre-human nature which remains in us as our evolutionary inheritance, like the vermiform appendix. Thus, when we 'go beyond' ("gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate"), we achieve the next, and possibly final, step in the evolutionary adventure which began all those millennia ago.

    This is why it is only when we have the blessing of human birth that we can hope to achieve nibbana.

    This precisely how I read the story of Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus and of the Resurrection/Ascension: a 'going beyond' or, in Christian terms (not the blasphemous fundamentalist nonsense) a 'new birth'. And that may start a few new hares running LOL
    Nirvana
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