Skip to content

Evolution & Cosmology: Why “survival” ?

March 16, 2009
Figure 2. Diagramatic representation of the ke...
Image via Wikipedia

So life is a by-product of random chance; chemical reactions gave birth to the first cell… somehow. Though there have been some experiments about how life was made and that there are naturally occuring organic molecules that look like cell membranes, science is still very unclear about what exactly happened.

It’s a gray area that most scientists irritatingly steer clear of, instead of being bold about it and declaring their ignorance on the topic. This is the trademark of religious folks and other teleologically driven people, who express the kind of pride that bars them from admitting they don’t know.

So I’ll start with that; I don’t know how chemicals reacted to form life. What I do know, though, is that all life wants to “survive” – according to the theory of evolution. We’re all fighting for the survival of our genes, against other genes… competing for resources that would allow us to spread our DNA more than others. That is the universal rule for all life forms – again, according to the theory of evolution. (I’m writing this to explain what I know about evolution, not what I necessarily believe in…)

There’s a problem with this feature of evolution, if we are to believe that non-living chemicals reacted to orm a living “thing”; what the heck is survival, why would life forms have such a trait as opposed to the non-living chemical substances that created them. That is, what part of the chemical substances’ chemistry brought about the trait of survival????

In a universe that was formed by the laws of physics – where all matter obeys these laws… it seems strange that a product of these laws would have the queer trait of trying to replicate itself. The crux of the issue is; why would that happen? And what is the point of replication anyways?

We can say oxygen and hydrogen combine to form water… and water’s property is that it’s liquid in an earthman’s “room temperature”, etc. We can say uranium is an unstable element and it has such and such property. We can say the Earth is a planet and it has gravity as a property, by virtue of mass.

The sun has certain properties too… etc. What part of this physics and chemistry based perspective on the external world be applied to explain the totally ridiculous phenomenon of self replication!??

Humans bias the notion of survival as a struggle for their life – it’s defined in Western terms of individual struggle, stemming from their Protestant tradition. It’s really not like that as far as biology is concerned; it’s our genes that struggle to replicate and survive and the human body and consciousness is a by-product of that struggle.

But biology can not explain how life itself came to be. At least not yet. Physics and chemistry also fail to explain life as a natural property of some chemical structure, such as a cell.

We can realize at this point that the question of “why survival” is the result of our human nature – we like to think, process and categorize things. That is, we like to see some kind of order or pattern… and that allows us to interact with the external world.

But the question may not apply to the external world; the universe doesn’t have to function according to the way we think. We are simply hard wired to think a certain way and our cognitive ability’s function may not be geared to understand cosmology or life etc… but to simply enhance the “survival” of our genes.

Therefore the question of “why survival” may not even apply to life or even to the universe and is simply a cognitive “error” (for lack of a better word) inherent in our biology! So let’s take a step further “out”; let’s do some meta-meta-cognition and see where we get!

If we’re asking a question that doesn’t apply to the universe (sort of like asking “what does yellow smell like?”) then what does this say about the theory of evolution? Namely that the notion of “survival” is a construct of the human brain that helps us see order in life… and hence may not actually be the nature of life!???

What a blasphemous notion this may sound like to the un-thinking atheist! Heh. But coming back to the topic: that’s what science is, isn’t it? A constant preponderance and revision of theories that explain natural phenomenon in progressively simpler concepts, that are empirically verifiable.

Just like Aristotle’s cosmological constructs were not literally the way the universe functioned, so too are Newton’s theories of motion because the universe doesn’t actually use his mathematical calculations to find out how to function! His theories are a mathematical pattern that he created, to help us predict natural phenomenon. But it’s not literally the mechanism of the universe.

In the same way, survival (and hence evolution) may not literally be the true mechanism of life itself… but a theory to help us predict how we may change and how we got here.

This leaves us with a thrilling question; if evolution is not literally the true mechanism of life, then what is? This appeals to me, but I weary of the pitfalls of answering such a question; can we even know the “true mechanism”? Because we may not be biologically capable of fathoming it, just like fish can’t fathom the chemical structure of water. Another pitfall is spiritual or religious beliefs – if objective experience and processing can not answer this because of our inherent biology, then subjective experiences also inherent in our biology shouldn’t be able to do so either. I hope I don’t fall in to that trap either.

The bottom line though, is that I’ve shaken my belief in evolution… and am happy to revert to true skepticism again because it makes existence so much more inexplicable and exciting. 🙂

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: