Friday, May 24, 2002

Is it possible to see the spirit of evolution as a god?

What kind of god would this be?

When one considers the emergence of living matter from inanimate matter, and of consciousness from living matter, and of self-consciousness from consciousness, the character of the spirit of evolution changes from the brute, dumb, almost malignant algorithm presented by contemporary neo-Darwinists like Gould, to a more progressive, positive spirit, perhaps even to a learning, growing, suffering entity. Although, of course, not an entity that exists independently of its components.

But this god would be nothing like the ethically good deity presented by the crescent religions.

This conception would be attacked as quaintly nineteenth-century progressivist by the vast majority of twentieth-century evolutionary theorists. Gould especially loved to ridicule the idea of evolution as progression, in fact he saw it as his duty to destroy the vestiges of Social Darwinism. But I think that there is an alternative to both Social Darwinism and flatland relativism.

If we are to ever recover--intellectually, ethically, culturally--from relativism--and I believe (with Nietzsche) not only that we need to, but that this is the task par excellance for contemporary intellectuals--evolution is surely the way out.

I read an article recently, but can't remember where, in which this kind of evolutionary speculation was described as Kubrickian. Yes, but also no: Kubrick inserted a MacGuffin, a black box, for what he couldn't put his finger on. That is, for what is driving evolution--the evolution of consciousness, and evolution beyond individual consciousness.

We must dare to go where Gould could not, and to where Kubrick could not, and describe what the spirit of evolution must be like.


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