Free: The End of The Human Condition—The Ascent of Humanity
The Two Refinement Mechanisms
There are two main mechanisms or tools for the refinement and development of the integration of matter — of learning ‘Godliness’. These are, first, ‘natural selection’ of arrangements of matter or information and, following this, mental (or intellectual or brain or mind) selection of information. In the past we have evasively referred to these mechanisms as ‘biological’ and ‘cultural’ evolution.Page 104 of
2(a) Genetic Refinement of the
Integration of Matter
Initially information refinement proceeded by chance. Random formations of molecules occurred and were destroyed. The information represented by each arrangement or system of matter was confined to itself. This random selection of information was dramatically improved upon with the advent of reproduction of information, DNA replication. The property of replication of the macro-molecule called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) turned a brief lifetime into a relatively indefinite one. Replication allowed DNA to defy breakdown in spite of its instability. If the DNA molecule replicated, as it could do, before breaking down and if, in turn, some of the offspring or replicates similarly replicated before they broke down and so on, an idea for a particular arrangement of matter could survive in spite of the instability, the short lifetime, of any example of that arrangement. DNA could cheat instability. Further, if the replicates occasionally varied slightly in their arrangement and properties the process of natural selection would gradually refine surviving down to an art. This is what science tells us did happen. DNA was able to make a business of defying entropy. With its advent, the development of greater stability and order of matter became purposeful.
This property of replication or duplication (called ‘reproduction’ in single-celled organisms and ‘growth’ in multicellular organisms), which had the effect of turning a brief lifetime into a relatively indefinite one, was the advent of what we call ‘life’. (Although this is now an unnecessaryExplains Life demarcation in the story of development. Life or lifetime existed before this in all systems of matter, even those below the development level of DNA, but the systems were either relatively simple in the variety of matter involved — simple molecules — or relatively unrefined in their ability to develop the order of matter — for instance, they couldn’tPage 105 of
Print Edition replicate). With reproduction, the earliest form of which was asexual, came generations.
DNA is actually a very complex crystal. Crystal molecules abound (common salt, sodium chloride, is one) and, in a suitable nutrient, they all have the property of reproduction (of growing their structure from their structure). However, being much simpler than DNA (having far less variety of elements within their molecules) and therefore having little or no potential for adaption/refinement, all the other known crystal forms are much inferior to DNA in their development potential.
Biologists think that the strips of DNA (or its prototype) which were the first replicating organisms would have been similar to today’s viruses except that they would have possessed the necessary enzymes or catalysts for their reproduction. (Viruses can only exist within living cells where they use the cell’s enzymes to reproduce themselves.) From this early virus-like organism natural selection proceeded to develop all the forms of ‘life’ that we now have on earth. Very briefly, this development involved refining single cells, integrating them to form multicellular plants and animals then integrating the multicellular animals. (For a relatively unevasive biological analysis of what happened in the step from molecules to single-celled organisms see Chapter 6 of the book Darwin to DNA, Molecules to Humanity by G. Stebbins, 1982.)
To describe what happens with DNA replication in a slightly different way. Reproduction of information involves separating the information from the matter. An individual DNA molecule might not survive but the ‘plan’ or ‘blueprint’ which details the way in which the matter is arranged within that molecule, that is, its information, carries on or survives in its replicates. At a more developed (what we used to term ‘evolved’) level, a zebra might die but the ‘idea’ or system that is the zebra species survives, maintains its stability, although modified or refined by the loss of the individual. So the benefit of this separation of information from matter was that it allowed information to be modified or refined. It allowed an arrangement of a system of matterPage 106 of
Print Edition to adapt to the present and thus persist in time and where possible grow in size. It allowed an arrangement of matter (information) to develop.
At first reproduction was asexual. It became sexual because the mixing of genes in mating contributed extra variety to select from, which speeded up refinement considerably.
The ‘natural selection’ of arrangements for their stability or durability can also be called ‘genetic learning’ or genetic refinement since the information is recorded on the genes.