The Cosmic and Spiritual Retardation of Philosophical Darwinists (7.26.10)
"Evolution" is just a way of saying "temporal continuity," which must exist if anything is to exist. In other words, if not for time, then everything would have to happen at once. (The word "evolve" is etymologically related to "unroll," as in an ancient scroll.)
And "temporal continuity" is just another way of saying "memory." For example, a person with alzheimer's loses his memory, and therefore his temporal continuity. It's always now, disconnected from all the other nows. Therefore, it's not even really now anymore, because now is only now in relation to a then.
One of my beefs with philosophical Darwinism is that, like an alzheimer's patient, it isolates its own conclusions from the greater context of cosmic evolution. For as Harris writes, "The modern conception of nature is of a continuous evolutionary process, linking the purely physical with the biological, the biological with the psychological, and the psychological with the social, moral, artistic, and religious experiences of man."
Given this temporal continuity, it is wholly arbitrary to define things in terms of the past instead of the present, since everything is in the process of becoming. In other words, in studying any phenomenon, it is important to know what it is in its mature form. If you only study a caterpillar in an isolated slice of time, you won't know anything about its connection to butterflies.
Likewise, if you study the Big Bang in isolation from the human knower, you're missing the whole point, again, because you're arbitrarily excluding the temporal continuity that even allows a subject to know about and comprehend the Big Bang -- which is without a doubt the most astonishing thing about the Big Bang! I still can't get over it.
A couple of posts back we spoke of the importance of spatial boundaries in human development. Only with the creation of a "semipermeable membrane" can the human subject properly evolve. But it is equally true of temporal boundaries. Again, if we weren't bounded in time, we could not be, for we would be the Absolute. But time for human beings is not merely duration. Rather, the point is to metabolize time, so as to create a deeper form of continuity in one's life, or a personal history.
Here again, I'm afraid that this is beginning to sound overly abstract, when it's meant to be as concrete as can be. For example, the typical therapy patient comes in with various temporal discontinuities. These are like "holes" in the psyche, except that they are gaps in time rather than space. As Freud said, the neurotic person suffers from "reminiscences," except that the reminiscences have lives and agendas all their own, disconnected from one's central identity. In short, they are mind parasites, or rogue elements within the psyche. And they are rogue elements because they have split off from the central government, which should ideally have a monopoly on memory.
Let's make this very personal in order to render it more vivid. I remember my first heartbreak at the age of 18. It triggered such a deep level of depression that only years later, in therapy, was I able to piece together what had actually happened.
To make a long story short, that heartbreak was just the occasion to feel a whole host of emotions that had been placed in escrow since my earliest childhood, from before I could even speak. They were there, stored away in a kind of atemporal eternity, just waiting for the appropriate experience through which to express themselves, or to deploy themselves in time. But because of the temporal discontinuity, I could not connect A and C at the time. I thought it all had to do with that dastardly C, which it couldn't have, since it was an effect that so far exceeded its cause.
But Darwinists routinely do the same thing. For example, the human subject so far exceeds the material shuffling of genetic material, that only a fool or a mental patient would deny the deeper temporal continuity. And on the deepest level, it should be a bananaty to peel out that in our cosmos, matter has the astonishing potential to sponsor life and human consciousness. As such, matter cannot possibly be what the physicist says it is, just as life cannot possibly be what the Darwinist says it is, for both, in their own way, deny temporal continuity. Again, they take an arbitrary time slice and impose a manmade boundary where there is none.
So if we're going to take time seriously, we would have to agree with Harris that "the product of an evolutionary process is, and must be, potential at its beginnings, and if what is inchoate at first becomes progressively unfolded as the process continues, the nature of the final outcome will be the key to the understanding of both the process itself and its origin."
Thus, the Darwinist wants to have it both ways: there is a continuous evolutionary series that culminates in man, and yet, this culmination may be reduced to a wholly random and mechanical iteration of genetic shuffling. Again, to do this not only abolishes man and all he values, but it ironically abolishes evolution, because it says that what has evolved has no intrinsic meaning that isn't reducible to the real meaning, which is simply genes in meaningless competition for survival. Frankly, this is psychotic, only intellectually psychotic instead of emotionally psychotic. Again, the psychotic mind dismembers temporal continuity and as a result lives in its own private hell.
It is also ironic that the Darwinist stresses the importance of adaptation to one's environment. For me -- and I am quite sure this is true of all Raccoons -- if I were forced to adapt my soul to the impoverished intellectual environment of philosophical Darwinism, it would be exceedingly painful, very much like living in a totalitarian state in which I had to subordinate my essential identity to the group's ideology. I am only able to articulate and evolve the most vital parts of myself through the pneuma-cognitive environment of the perennial religion. If I could not do this, it would be like a living death. It would be like a musician who was forbidden to ever pick up an instrument. How on earth am I to become myself in the absence of the appropriate spiritual environment to nurture and sustain my spiritual evolution?
Now, I don't doubt that Queeg or our scientistic jester -- or all of the infamous spiritual retards* such as Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris -- feel perfectly "at home" in the Darwinist environment, just as there are millions of people who get their entertainment from video games or their food from McDonalds. But I could no more feed my soul with Darwinism than I could stuff my body with Big Macs, or listen to rap music all day, or read Harlequin romances. Rather, I have a soul with very particular needs, and to be deprived of the means to fulfill those needs would be spiritual death -- which is to say, death.
Again, given the temporal continuity of the cosmos, there is surely horizontal cause and effect. No one would dispute that. But at the same time, an effect cannot exceed its cause, most especially when we are talking about an "infinite" effect. And make no mistake: the human subject partakes of the infinite and the absolute, even if some human subjects prefer to exile themselves to the relative and the finite. They are obviously free to do so, but they are only free to do so because freedom is real -- which is again to say that it partakes of the absolute. But such is the life of a spiritual retard. They just can't crack the cosmic egg, and want to cram the rest of us into their poultry little vision of reality.
For the temporal unfolding is in reality no more nor less than the serial self-articulation of the whole, which, as realized, is eternally complete. The eternal whole is therefore, without qualification, prior to the temporal process, and to speak of temporal posteriority in reference to it is to misunderstand its character. It is not what comes last but what includes and sublates all temporal series. --Errol Harris, Revelation Through Reason: Religion in the Light of Science and Philosophy
*And when I use the term "spiritual retard," I certainly do not mean it in the sense of an insult (much less to mentally retarded people) but as a literal diagnosis. It's obviously not a good thing, but it is no more an insult than is a diagnosis of cancer. There are intellectual retards, spiritual retards, aesthetic retards, moral retards, etc.