Question of The Day for August 13, 2012 ~ Evolving

If the Universe, is Evolving, Do We also Evolve, even after Death ?

The short answer for me is – yes the universe seems to be evolving, yes we seem to be evolving, and no – not after death.

The real question here, is what is meant by the term evolving?

It seems to me that there are many classes of processes possible, and one way of categorising them is:
Are the processes cyclic in some fashion, and thus revolutionary; or
Are the processes non-cyclic, and develop in some fashion that does not repeat, and are thus evolutionary?

Within the class of evolutionary processes, there is one specific class of patterns that are termed “Evolution by natural selection”.
This class of patterns is characterised by three necessary conditions:
1. Some pattern that can replicate and contain great diversity of replicants.
2. Occasional errors in the replication process, thus leading to variants in the population of replicators.
3. Competition between the variants in the population leading to differential survival of different variants in different conditions.

Some things can replicate, but only have a small class of possible variants – these things cannot deliver life.
If there is sufficient variability in the environment (but not so much as to cause extinction), in both spatial and temporal dimensions, then this process will necessarily lead to a continuing exploration of available possibility space, and an ever greater diversity of forms amongst the replicators. At some point (depending on definitions) the complexity of the replicating system will be at a level that meets the definition of life.

This process seems (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, based on the biochemical evidence available within the cells of all known biological life forms), to have given rise to all life forms we know on this planet, from non living simple molecules present in the oceans of the early earth.

An analog of this process seems to have lead to the development of culture and language in humans, as various patterns of behaviour and association (mental and physical) have been passed from individual to individual in early human society. In this case it is ideas themselves that are the replicators, and it is human minds, and human culture (in the widest sense) that have provided the environment for replication. In the latter stages this process seems to be largely responsible for our individual conscious self awareness as a software entity declared into being in language.

And there are many other classes of pattern that are not related to “evolution by natural selection” that are still evolutionary in the sense that they do not display any sort of cyclic behaviour – the Mandelbrot set is one very famous and well known mathematical example – there are thousands of others (like pi, the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference in flat space).

Some of these patterns are deterministic at some levels, some are less so.

There seems to be infinite variability and gradations of processes, some of which are more evolutionary, and some of which are more revolutionary in their characteristics, and all shades and combinations in between.

Life as we now know it seems to contain many different combinations of strategies from both the evolutionary and non-evolutionary sets of strategies.

[followed by]

Hi Deb

You said “Evolving means improving?”

That is quite a question.

It seems to me that evolving means changing in response to our environment (which environment includes our own conscious and subconscious being – as well as those beings of all others).

The notion of “improving” involves some sort of value judgement in some dimension of valuation.

I’d say that evolution always means change, and that with sufficient awareness applied, there can usually be lessons learned and benefit gained (in some dimension, at some level), but that there is no overall directionality to evolution in and of itself. It is almost as likely to go back the way it has come as it is to go some other direction, it all depends on the probabilities on each of the particular paths available in the possibility space the being inhabits. This possibility space has a multi-dimensional topology (to use the mathematical term), which means that if you graph out the probabilities, some paths are much more likely to be travelled than others (a bit like the way water collects in valleys, and flows as rivers in them, and even help to make those valleys deeper or wider depending on the specific details of that specific situation).

Thus, while one line of evolution by natural selection of primitive cells has produced us, many other lines have remained as bacteria and other simple life forms.
The simple life forms vastly outnumber the more complex ones.
And they have different modes of operation, different possibility spaces available to them for action.

No other life form on the planet appears to have a great a variety of possibility space available to it as human beings do.

Our ability to evolve in the dimensions of software (spirituality) that seems to be mediated by the use of recursive constructs in language, seems to vastly overwhelm any variability available to any other species – and some other species are very intelligent at some levels – like some dolphins, some apes and monkeys, some parrots (particularly the New Zealand Mountain Parrot or Kea), and some elephants.

So no – evolving does not always mean improving, and it is a possibility.

And our ability to keep improving seems very much to reside in our ability to keep challenging the assumptions that constrain us to particular possibility domains. In this respect, notions like “faith” are logical traps, that once they infect a mind to a particular level, the mind is trapped within a particular domain defined by the boundaries of that particular “faith”, and is no longer free to explore the infinite possibilities that appear to be available.

Fortunately, the human brain seems to have inbuilt mechanisms that seem able, in times of need, to re-awaken our natural scepticism, and allow us to break free of such traps.

[followed by]

Hi Torch

It seems to me that spirit exists, in the same sense that software exists for computers.
It is nothing physical.
It seems that it is a complex interplay of sets and levels of patterns of energy and matter in a matrix of matter.

So spirit seems to be something that evolves anew each time in each individual, and it takes a great starting leap from the culture into which it is born (most particularly from language), and is also modulated upon the hardware that is the human brain. Thus there is a great deal of similarity between all of us in our early spiritual life.

And it seems that there are a potentially infinite series of new levels of context available for the interpretation and modelling of being.

It seems very clear, that when body decomposes, and the systems that are required to sustain the higher level systems of mind degrade beyond the possibility of restarting, then the particular spirit that resided in that mind is terminated – never to restart.

[followed by]

Hi Eric

You are free to believe whatever you choose, and believing doesn’t make it so.

One might choose to believe that they could stand in a road and have a bus go through them without affecting them, and to the best of my knowledge no-one has successfully performed such an experiment. All evidence is that buses and living people do not mix well at different speeds on the open road. The people end up dead, and the bus relatively undamaged.

In my case, two of my closest friends on the planet have died, and both had agreed that if they managed to survive, they would contact me, somehow – no such contact has happened.

One was an atheist. So I can accept that he might not count in your eyes.

The other was a passionate believer in life after death, and spirituality. He thought he could do lots of things, and every time I tied him down to something specific, he failed to deliver in reality.

Then there are all the prizes that have been offered by James Randi and many other people and organisations for any sort of demonstration of life after death. All of which remain unclaimed.

So I have no sort of absolute proof.
I have no absolute proof of anything.
All I have is balances of probabilities, and my own sense of intuition.

It seems to me very probable that such is all any of us have.
That seems to align with a great deal of evidence at very many levels, from the sub atomic up to the systemic.

[followed by]

Hi Torch

Sorry, but that argument makes no sense whatever.

Either spirit has some effect in this “reality” of ours, or it doesn’t.

If it has no effect, then whatever existence it may have, it is irrelevant, as there is no effect.
If it has effect, then by definition, there is connection.

You cannot have it both ways, but only when it suits you, and not when it suits me 😉

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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