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Freedom: Expanded Book 1The New Biology

Part 8:2 The history of the development of order of matter on Earth

I have said that prior to becoming fully conscious and before the upset state of the human condition emerged, we humans lived in a completely cooperative, harmonious, loving, unconditionally selfless, fully integrated statewhich raises the question: how could a gene-based learning system develop such unconditionally selfless, altruistic traits given that unconditionally selfless traits self-eliminate and so, it would follow, can’t become established genetically?

To answer this question it is necessary to firstly look truthfully at the history of the development of order of matter on Earth. As was pointed out towards the end of the previous Part 8:1, Darwin anticipated that ‘In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation…Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history’, and given Koestler’s comment that ‘if you take out finality and [integrative] purpose you have taken the life out of biology as well as psychology’, what was required to bring about Darwin’s ‘new’ en-‘light’-ening ‘foundation’ for ‘far more important research’ in ‘biology as well as psychology’ was acknowledgment of ‘integrative’ ‘purpose’. So, to end the current crippled, atrophied, stalled state of biological thinking requires putting aside all the denial-distorted thinking that so saturates biological dialogue and texts up until now, and, starting from the ‘new foundation’ of the acceptance of the purpose of developing the order of matter, think simply, cleanly and freshly through the whole biological story from its beginning. We need to assume Integrative Meaning and examine the fundamental ingredients of our world and follow where the process of integration takes us.

Firstly we need to replace the word ‘evolution’ with the word ‘development’. Evolution implies that organisms do change or evolve but avoids acknowledging that there is a direction and purpose to that change, which is to develop the order of matter.

To begin: the study of physics has revealed that our world consists of three fundamental ingredientstime, space, and energy, with energy taking the form of the 94 or so naturally occurring elements of matterhydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, etc. These ingredients are subject to the laws of physics. As has been explained, when subjected to the laws of physics, particularly the law of Negative Entropy, matter in space and time became ordered or integrated. It formed more stable or enduring (in time) and ever larger (in space) arrangements.

This development of order of matter involved the initial mixture of the Earth’s elements and their gradual formation into stable arrangements called moleculesearlier I provided the example of a water molecule being the stable arrangement of two single positively charged hydrogen atoms with one double negatively charged oxygen atom. In time, through the mixing of different elements, each with their own particular properties, many other stable arrangements were found or developed, leading to even more and greater order and complexity of arrangements. In time, molecules became organised or integrated into very complex macromolecules involving many different elements.

The problem, however, for the development of order was that the more complex these macromolecules became, the more unstable they tended to be. Highly complex macromolecules would only occasionally form and when they did they didn’t tend to hold together for long before breaking down into their separate parts. Eventually an impasse was reached where instability set a limit on how complex macromolecules could become. When this instability limit was reached it appeared Negative Entropy, or ‘God’ if we were to personify the process, could not develop any more order of matter on Earth.

However, one day in the primordial soup a complex macromolecule occurred with an unusual propertyDNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. What was unusual about DNA was that it could replicate. It could split, allowing the two halves to draw material from the environment to build two complete DNA molecules. The significance of this replication was that it meant DNA could defy breakdown. It could turn a relatively brief lifetime for a complex macromolecule into a relatively indefinite one. DNA’s ability to replicate meant that even though some of the replicates disintegrated into smaller parts, others would survive and go on to replicate further. With slight variations called mutations occurring from the effects of solar radiation, replicates were ‘found’ that were even more stable/ enduring (in time) and more ordered/ complex/ larger (in space). The process of natural selection of more stable and larger arrangements of matterand the origin of an indefinite lifetime, or ‘life’ as we call itappeared.

In this process, each replicating arrangement of matter or reproducing individual was in effect being tested both for its ability to survive and reproduce in its lifetime and, over generations of offspring, for its ability to adapt to changes in the environment in which it lived, with those that managed to survive and adapt inevitably, whenever possible, finding/ refining/ achieving/ growing/ developing even greater order of matter. The effect of this process over time was that more and greater order of matter was integrated. It was the ability to survive and adapt that supplied the opportunity for more and greater order of matter to develop. Thus, using the tool of replicating DNA, Negative Entropy was able to integrate matter into larger wholesit was able to develop ever more and ever greater order of matter on Earth.

DNA is actually a very complex crystal. Crystal molecules aboundcommon salt, sodium chloride, for instance, is oneand in a suitable nutrient environment they all have the capacity to reproduce, of growing their structure from their structure. However, being much simpler than DNAhaving far less variety of elements within their moleculesthey have little or no potential for adaption and development of greater order.

Variability is so critical to this DNA process of developing greater order of matter that ‘sexual reproduction’ of DNA molecules developed where the split halves from two closely related DNA molecules were made, through natural selection, to come together (be ‘attracted to and mate with each other as males and females’) to form a new, slightly different whole DNA-based sexually reproducing individual. This greatly increased the variety of a particular DNA type or ‘species’ and, by so doing, greatly increased its chances of finding/ achieving/ growing/ developing larger and more stable arrangements of matter. Sexual reproduction, therefore, soon replaced non-sexual or ‘asexual’ reproduction as the most successful or effective form of DNA reproduction in this business of finding or developing greater order of matter.

As has been mentioned, Negative Entropy is really only a product of possibilities. The differing properties of matter mean that some arrangements of matter break down towards heat energy, while others stay stable and still others become part of larger stable associations of matter. In time, all the possible associations of matter will be automatically or, as Darwin called it, ‘naturally’ investigated until the largest stable association is naturally left or found or, as Darwin described it, ‘selected’. What happened with DNA was that it not only turned a relatively short lifetime for extremely complex molecules into a relatively indefinite one, it also made a business, as it were, of this negentropy directionboth of resisting breakdown and of developing order. The replicating DNA molecule gave rise to a process that actively resisted breakdown and actively developed ever more and greater order of matter. This is ‘the active striving of living matter towards order’, ‘a drive towards synthesis, growth and wholeness’, the ‘active’, ‘creating’, ‘purposiveness’ of life that Koestler wrote of. As has been mentioned, this negentropy surviving and building process does require energy from an external source, which in Earth’s case is provided by the sun.

If we want to know what is occurring on Earth‘what is the meaning of life?’we only have to cut off many short lengths of wire (representing the different elements), bend them into different shapes such as hooks, loops and spirals (representing the different properties of those building blocks of our world), put them into a box (representing space), shake the box up (representing time), and then lift the lid and look inside and see what has occurred. What we will see is that the wire pieces have formed themselves into all sorts of tangles; they have developed larger arrangements or wholes of matter. Again, Integrative Meaning is a simple and obvious truth but for all its obviousness it has been the main truth we insecure humans have had to learn to block-out or deny.

To continue our analysis of the involvement of DNA in the development of order, the DNA unit of inheritance is called a gene, and the study of the process of change that genes undergo has been labelled ‘genetics’. As a tool for Negative Entropy’s development or refinement of the order of matter on Earth, the genetic process was very powerfulit was able to develop the great variety of ordered matter we call life. From DNA, virus-like organisms developed, then from virus-like organisms developed single-celled organisms, and from single-celled organisms developed multicellular organisms. The next level of order to be developed or integrated by Negative Entropy was societies or colonies or ordered arrangements of multicellular organisms. It was at this point that Negative Entropy or ‘God’ encountered another major impasse.

While genetics has proved to be a marvellous tool for integrating matter it has one very significant limitation, which arises from the fact that each sexually reproducing individual organism has to struggle, compete and fight selfishly for the available resources of food, shelter, territory and a mate that it needs if it is to successfully reproduce its genes. What this means is that integration, and the unconditionally selfless cooperation it depends on, cannot normally develop between one sexually reproducing individual and another. Indeed, the competition between sexually reproducing individuals is the basis of the natural selection process that gave rise to the great variety of life on Earth. The word ‘selection’ in ‘natural selection’ implies competitioncomparison between sexually reproducing individuals for their ability to survive, adapt and develop greater order of matter. So integration beyond the level of the sexually reproducing individualthat is, the coming together or integration of sexually reproducing individuals to form a new larger and more stable whole or association or aggregation or assemblage or amalgamation or unification or conglomeration of sexually reproducing individualscould not, normally, develop. This was the second major impasse that Negative Entropy (or ‘God’) encountered. The development of order of matter on Earth had seemingly come to a stop at the level of the sexually reproducing individual.

Each sexually reproducing individual normally has to ensure its own genes reproduce, which means sexually reproducing individuals can’t normally develop the ability to behave unconditionally selflessly towards other sexually reproducing individualswhich, as was explained in the previous Part 8:1, is what full cooperation and thus complete integration requires. Certainly sexually reproducing individuals can develop conditionally selfless behaviour towards other sexually reproducing individuals. Situations of reciprocity can develop where one sexually reproducing individual selflessly helps another on the proviso that they are selflessly helped in return, which in effect means both parties are still selfishly benefiting. So sexually reproducing individuals can develop reciprocity because it is, in essence, still selfish behaviour: it doesn’t give away an advantage to other sexually reproducing individuals and therefore doesn’t compromise the reproductive chances of the sexually reproducing individual practicing the behaviour. Unconditionally selfless, altruistic traits, on the other hand, do give away an advantage to other sexually reproducing individualsthat being the meaning of unconditional selflessness, that you are giving without receivingand therefore unconditionally selfless, altruistic, self-sacrificing traits do compromise the reproductive chances of the sexually reproducing individual practicing such behaviour and therefore cannot normally develop.

So cooperation between sexually reproducing individuals cannot normally be developed beyond a situation where there is reciprocal/conditional selflessness, and, since conditionally selfless behaviour is still basically selfish behaviour, full cooperation and thus complete integration cannot normally be developed between sexually reproducing individuals. This inability to develop unconditionally selfless, altruistic behaviour leaves sexually reproducing individuals competing relentlessly with each other for available resources of food, shelter, territory and a mate. So much so, in fact, that what we see happening between sexually reproducing individuals as they try to develop more integration under this limitation of not being able to develop unconditionally selfless behaviour is that the competition between them becomes so intense that the only way they can contain it at all is by establishing a dominance hierarchy, where each individual accepts its position in a hierarchy that is ordered according to the competitive strengths of the various individuals involved. The benefit of a dominance hierarchy, or a so-called ‘peck order’, is that, once established, the only time competition breaks out is when an opportunity arises to move up the hierarchy; for the rest of the time there is relative peace. The emergence of a dominance hierarchy is a sign that a species has developed as much integration as it possibly can.

It should be pointed out that in situations where a dominance hierarchy breaks down, where, for instance, male elephants or whales or kangaroos or birds or solitary insects, etc, etc, chase a female in estrous, it’s not simply because the female wants to discover which is the strongest male with which to mate to ensure her offspring is the strongest, most competitively successful individual it can be, as is currently taught, but because the Negative Entropy integrative tendency has driven the males and the females to that extreme state of competition. Such extreme competition is a result of trying to develop greater order of matter. More will be said about this shortly, but the real story is about integration, not selfish competition.

Although dominance hierarchy hides it from view for most of the time, the reality is that extreme competitiveness characterises the behaviour of the more cooperative and thus integrated, or what has evasively been called ‘social’, species. In my youth I remember feeding hens in our hen house and seeing a hen twist her leg and become temporarily crippled, at which point all the other hens immediately attacked her. In that instant it was suddenly apparent to me just how closely and intensely each hen was watching all the other hens for an opportunity to literally move up the peck order. The hen house was not at all the gregarious, peaceful community I thought it was; rather, it was a place of absolutely fierce competition! Charles Darwin recognised this truth about the real struggle in the lives of most animals when he wrote that ‘It is difficult to believe in the dreadful but quiet war of organic beings, going on [in] the peaceful woods and smiling fields’ (12 Mar. 1839, Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, Barrett et al., 1987, p.429).

This situation where sexually reproducing individuals relentlessly compete for available resources is the situation, the condition, that almost all animals have to endureit is the great, agonising ‘animal condition’, about which much more will be said in Part 8:4C. When we humans become free of our numbed, alienated human condition we are going to be shocked by the agony of the animal condition: we are going to feel the distress that all non-human animal species live under, where each sexually reproducing individual is having to relentlessly and fiercely compete to reproduce its genes. Unfortunately, because animals’ innocence confronts us with our lack of innocence, we humans presently so hate, despise and resent animals that we hunt and shoot them for ‘sport’; but one day we are going to have so much sympathy for animals because of what they have to endure trapped in a life of having to relentlessly compete with each other, often with their closest friends! Certainly the same extremely competitive state exists for plants, insects and microbes, but not having the developed nervous system of animals their awareness of the agony of that horrifically competitive existence could not be as great as it is for animals.

What now needs to be explained is firstly that while sexually reproducing individuals cannot normally be integrated, the sexually reproducing individual itself could be elaborated, made bigger, which, as will be explained next, is how single celled organisms developed into multicellular organisms, and how multicellular colonial ants and bees integrated into their fully cooperative and thus completely integrated colonies. Significantly, in these ‘elaborated sexually reproducing individuals’, the cells of the multicellular body, or the individual ants and bees in their fully integrated colonies, are no longer sexually reproducing individuals themselves, but part of a larger sexually reproducing individual which is the body, or, in the case of ants and bees, the colony. Secondly, it has to be explained why I have been saying it is ‘normally’ not possible for sexually reproducing individuals to become fully integrated. There was, in fact, one species who managed to achieve the development of the next larger whole in the integration of matter on Earth of the integration of sexually reproducing individuals: our human primate forebears. As will be fully explained in Part 8:4, this amazing step in the development of matter was achieved through the nurturing of our offspring, which has been another of those unbearable truths that we couldn’t face until we could explain the human condition.

To summarise what has been explained so far: in the development of order of matter on Earth, all non-human animal species are stuck in the ‘animal condition’, with each sexually reproducing individual member of the species forever having to compete to ensure its genes reproduce and carry on. That is the essential fact or rule of the gene-based natural selection processgenes are unavoidably selfish, they have to ensure they reproduce if they are to carry on. It is important to note, however, that even though this selfishness and the extreme competition between the sexually reproducing individuals it gives rise to is the characteristic of virtually all of nature, the truth is such selfishness is only occurring because of the limitation of the genetic process of normally being unable to develop unconditional selflessness between sexually reproducing individuals. In his 1850 poem In Memoriam, the English poet laureate Alfred Tennyson famously wrote: ‘Who trusted God was love indeed / And love Creation’s final law / Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw / With ravine [in violent contradiction], shriek’d against his creed.’ While Integrative Meaning or ‘God’ and its theme of unconditional selflessness or ‘love’ is the ‘creed’ or ‘final law’ of ‘creation’ that the competitive, selfish and aggressive, ‘red in tooth and claw’ characteristic of so much of ‘Nature’ seems to be in violent contradiction ‘against’, we can now understand that this selfish characteristic doesn’t mean that the overall biological reality of existencelife’s meaning and themeis to be selfish, as the dishonest theories of Social Darwinism, Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology, Multilevel Selection and Eusociality would have us believe. As will be explained shortly in Part 8:4, in the case of humans, we don’t have selfish instincts like other species, rather we have unconditionally selfless instincts. And the selfishness that is characteristic of so much of nature is only occurring because of the limitation of the gene-base refinement process, its inability to develop unconditional selflessness. The genetic process would develop unconditionally selfless, fully cooperative behaviour between all sexually reproducing individuals if it couldbecause such selflessness is what is required to maintain a fully integrated wholebut, because of its particular limitation, it can’t. Integrative selflessness, not divisive selfishness, is the real nature or characteristic of existence, the theme of life.