The Basis of Existence

The foundation and reason for human existence are the most burning question in the modern-day West of European man.  Western intelligentsia is generally inclined to the view that there is no reason for his existence whatsoever, and that his emergence is nothing more than an inexplicable accident.  This is in contrast to the pre-Enlightenment view that the cosmos and man were created by God, who was Himself thought of by — except for a few theologicans — most people in anthropomorphic terms.  Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, showing a bearded, body-building geezer giving a vivifying electric shock to the First Man (presumably Adam), is the image most symbolic of that former view.  Quite aside from that naive understanding of the Divine, today among the intellectual elites there is either utter confusion with respect to it, or complete agnosticism — which in practice amounts to atheism.  In addition, these elites include many, such as the late wheelchair-bound astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, who openly declare they are atheists.

In addressing the question of the ultimate cause of man’s being, it is first necessary to say that the Bible or other “holy books” are utterly irrelevant.  They consist of collections of myths, fabrications, obfuscations, idealized pictures, fiction, propaganda, erroneous philosophical notions, pious lies and, sometimes, insane drivel.  At the same time, we should remember that religion has played and continues to play a very large role in civilizing people, so that we ought to be careful and circumspect, and not contemptuous, in our efforts to re-educate such believers.  Utter meaninglessness (“God is dead”) can easily lead to a hurricane of megadeath.  As Nietzsche said, “Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, daß er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird.  Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.” — Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, Aphorismus 146  (“He who fights with monsters should take care to see that in the process he does not himself become a monster.  And if you stare into an abyss for long, the abyss will stare back into you.”)

Hence the urgent need to try to find out scientifically whether in fact we have any raison d'être at all.  Otherwise, neither the word “good” nor the word “evil” has any meaning whatsoever.  Today it is necessary to begin with facts, in so far as it is possible to know them.  This is not easy, since it has taken the combined efforts of generations of scientists and scholars in many different fields to uncover the strange and unexpected substrata and background of nature and history.

One can begin with physics.  This has revealed that nature, from the atomic level and higher, operates more or less in accordance with processes describable with “classical” mathematics — that is, with Newtonian and Einsteinian (relativistic) forms.  On the other hand, when dealing with matters one hundred times smaller than atoms — i.e., with quarks, gluons, etc. —, quantum mechanical math must be employed.  This version of logic, although extremely precise in predicting results, can nonetheless not really be understood by anyone.  The world of quanta (Planck’s constant, etc.) is fuzzy, wave-like, and of its very nature uncertain.  Moreover, the extremely abstract character of mathematics itself, regardless of type, makes it impossible to know the inner quintessence of the entities it purports to measure, as any honest physicist will admit.

Next, we must consider a phenomenon whose existence many people, including perhaps most scientists, refuse to admit:  the paranormal.  They take the stance of, say, a South Sea Islander who claims that, because he himself has never seen snow, snow therefore does not and can not exist.

It is helpful here to recall that the modern human neocortex, particularly the forebrain, has evolved in part as an organ which can suppress and control information emerging from the deepest, evolutionarily older parts of the brain.  But it is precisely these deeper parts which are sensitive and responsive to some aspects of the paranormal.  Occasionally, small children, many women, primitive tribes, and animals, for instance, and even adults in a state of somnolence (alpha- or delta-wave), spontaneously perceive interior visual or auditory information about past events, especially traumatic ones, “ghosts,” etc.  Other unusual people such as mystics, yogis, shamans, and the like do the same more or less intentionally.  There is much evidence for paranormal sensitivity among animals, as with dogs who know when their owners are coming home regardless of the time, or geese who begin raising a ruckus before bombers from an enemy country even take off to bomb their locale.  For detailed information, see philosopher-biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home.  Sheldrake’s thesis is that life forms are guided in their development by “morphic fields,” which might here be considered an updated term for the traditional word, “soul.”

In contrast, an adult male, especially a highly intelligent one with considerable education, will almost never have such experiences.  His neocortex blocks them from his consciousness.  And with the common Platonic fixation that natural “laws” (a word taken by analogy from human affairs) are absolutely inviolable, he makes unreasonable demands for peer-reviewed, laboratory proof that such events occur.

But the paranormal does exist, and occurs in many forms, usually unexpectedly and often under conditions of stress.  All human history is filled with reports of it, even though such reports may be misshapen or colored by various cultural or personal factors.  Those who deny this or purposefully misinterpret it are usually themselves victims of group think or paralyzed by fear of social condemnation by peers.  Regardless of these psychological factors, however, the paranormal occurs, and is a fundamental part of nature.

Let us now consider cosmogony and the evolution of the universe with the emergence of life.  Our cosmos began roughly 13.7 billion years ago, very likely springing from a quantum perturbance.  Almost nine billion years later, about 4.5 billion years ago, the earth self-assembled out of stardust, with life springing up not long after.  Petrofossils of complex microbes, members of five distinct species, have now been ascertained to exist in a 3.465 billion-year-old rock from western Australia (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017 Dec 18, at early/2017/12/12/1718063115).  This implies that some form of life must have started almost immediately after the earth had cooled, perhaps as early as four billion years ago.  But it remained fairly primitive until the Cambrian “explosion” about half a billion years ago.

In this connection, the question arises as to how single-celled organisms can, analogously to individual magnets, be combined into multicellular organisms bigger and generally more capable in surviving than unicellular ones.  Consider the following, from Edward O. Wilson’s Sociobiology:  The New Synthesis, original 1975:

To find an unambiguous example of reproductive efficiency as the ultimate cause of sociality, we must turn to a radically different kind of organism, the cellular slime molds (Bonner, 1967).  In good times these organisms exist as single-celled amebas that creep through fresh-water films, engulfing bacteria and reproducing by simple fission.  Using laboratory cultures, E. G. Horn (1971) found that each species of two representative genera, Dictyostelium and Polysphodylium, is specialized to feed on certain kinds of bacteria and can exclude other species when it competes for its favored strains in isolation.  Thus there is a premium on the rate at which the amebas can feed and reproduce.  We can infer that the advantage favors the solitary condition for each ameba, because one-celled organisms can grow and reproduce faster on a diet of bacteria than their multicellular equivalents.  At certain times, presumably when the environment deteriorates, the amebas aggregate into a slug-shaped mass called a pseudoplasmodium.  This newly formed society (or is it really an organism?) travels about for awhile.  Then the cells differentiate, building up a stalk on the end of which is a swollen body containing thousands of tiny spores.  The spores are released to disseminate through the air.  If a spore falls on moist soil, it germinates as a single-celled ameba to initiate a new life cycle.  The functions of the stalk and sporangium, the final productions of the colonial phase of the life cycle, are clearly reproduction and dissemination.  In fact, the entire form of these structures, and hence their very sociality, seems designed to disperse spores.  Remarkably convergent life cycles have evolved in the plasmodial slime molds, or myxomycetes, as well as in the procaryotic myxobacteria, which are phylogenetically extremely remote from each other.
— p. 58.

The principle involved here seems to lie in a process also seen in higher organisms, a process oddly called “murmuration.”  Here a flock, school or herd of creatures (e.g., birds, fish, etc.) act in perfect unison, as if choreographed in their synchronized movements as a unit.  The key in these collective sociobiological operations is apparently identical RNA/DNA in the component members of the wholes.  To put it succinctly, the collective is controlled by a group soul.  All of the starlings in a murmurating flock, for instance, share essentially the same DNA, whereas nearby birds of different species (and DNA) do not participate.  RNA/DNA, of course, has a molecular structure very much like computer code designed by humans.

Among humans, striking behavioral similarities are often seen between identical twins, even those reared apart.  Such similarities often seem telepathic in nature.  It is as if one were speaking of a single soul in two bodies — yet another example of murmuration.

This mystery is seen in all multicellular life forms, including humans, in which all of the individual component cells have the same DNA.  Interestingly, in cases where major organ transplants have been performed in surgery, after recuperation the patients sometimes involuntarily and unconsciously begin showing behaviors characteristic of the person from whom the transplanted organ was taken.  This might be considered as a kind of “semi-murmuration.”

To return to cosmic evolution:  we humans sprang into existence only in the last second or so of cosmic time — perhaps 200,000 years ago, from a branch of the higher primates.

Modern science — starting with Johannes Gutenberg and Nicolaus Copernicus, is only half a millennium old, and relativity and quantum mechanics have been in existence for merely a century, and are still evolving.  (In just the last few years, gravitational waves predicted by general relativity have been detected.)

Consider, now, the nature of life.  Without going into specifics, currently it looks very likely that at least unicellular or even multicellular microbial life is probably widespread on millions of suitable planets and moons in our galaxy alone, and in those of the trillion other galaxies in our cosmos.

Still, the evolution of high consciousness is probably rare in the extreme, despite the tales that authors of science fiction weave.  We are most unlikely to encounter any other consciousness from outer space during our own species’ lifespan.

Moreover, our existence may not continue much longer, given our erratic nature, conditioned as we are by our phylogenetic memories.  This is a primary reason why we ought earnestly to search for the reason, if any, for our being here in the first place.  Because ignorance is the surest path to extinction.

All life, from microbes to humans, seeks to preserve and enhance itself.  Given that living entities are at bottom forms of matter, we can only conclude that these complex forms express the will of the universe:  it wants to exist.  This is the reason why there is something rather than nothing.  There is a cosmic nisus, or urge, to be.  The greatest threat to any human being is the threat to his or her life, precisely because of this fundamental drive to exist.  This fact is the reason for the procreative urge in all life, for all medicine among humans, and for civilization itself.  It transcends every other consideration in existence.  Even the motive behind Islamic suicide bombers is the fear, wrong as it may be, that if they do not carry out their murderous jihad, they will suffer what amounts to an eternal dying.

But the critical feature of life is its adaptation (“fitness”) to its environment — that is, its “knowledge” of its milieu, knowledge which must be morphically built into the body and behavior of the life form.  As evolution proceeds to ever more complex forms, this informational content likewise increases, a process known as evolutionary epistemology (from Greek ἐπιστήμη “knowledge”).  Humans represent the current peak of this process on earth, and science (Latin scientia “knowledge”) is a yet further extension of it.

Unbeknownst to most of us, the aforementioned “paranormal” aspect of nature must be playing a major role in all of this.  Repeatedly, skeptics claim that “accidents,” especially tragic and sad ones (e.g., the late Stephen Hawking’s lifelong paralysis), are proof that there is no extradimensional “plan” or “design” in evolution.  But this objection ignores the environmental or “opportunistic” aspect of the paranormal.  (It is also subliminally based on the mistaken but pop-Christian idea that God is supposed to be “good” in human terms, fulfilling the desires of men.)  If one considers the aforementioned phenomenon of murmuration in nature (including slime molds), one can infer a kind of “group soul” activating the flock, school or mass of creatures taking part in the dance, and that the life of the individual is subordinate to that of the group.

As Rupert Sheldrake has shown in his book on morphic resonance (Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home), the inframind underlying life employs memory and intelligent communication with the natural spatiotemporal environs to reconform and adapt awareness, behavior and even the physical shape of life to those environs.  And its basic thrust is perpetually toward the incarnation of ever more knowledge in living matter.  In other words, the Master Intelligence inherent in the universe seeks to express itself fractally in us. Three eminent astrophysicists of the last century, Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne and John Archibald Wheeler, wrote in Gravitation, their weighty tome on quantum-mechanical and relativistic cosmology (1970-73, p. 1208):

“Some principle uniquely right and uniquely simple must, when one knows it, be also so compelling that it is clear the universe is built, and must be built, in such and such a way, and that it could not possibly be otherwise.  But how can one discover that principle?  If it was hopeless to learn atomic physics by studying work-hardening and dislocations, it may be equally hopeless to learn the basic operating principle of the universe, call it pregeometry or call it what one will, by any amount of work in general relativity and particle physics.”

This principle cannot be the prudery-obsessed, anthropomorphic God (theos, deus, Allah, etc.) imagined by the popular religions behind our political systems.  Yet as Misner et al. have stated, it can also not be discovered by “any amount of work in general relativity and particle physics.”  Instead, one must reach outside of the mathematical sciences to look at the results of nature.  Most scientists do not do so, and therefore cannot see the forest for the trees (the math and discoveries of their various specialties).  To maintain their beliefs, atheists and nihilists generally also deny the reality of the paranormal, because it is intimately connected with life — and in evidence particularly around death.  After all, that might expose a chink in their carefully constructed armor.  Others assume that the only kind of god must be the “caring, nurturing,” effeminate deity in vogue with the lower masses.  Then, noting the suffering in the world, many thinking people say that said suffering is incompatible with such a kissy-poo entity, and so there can be no Transcendent Mind whatsoever.  In futile reaction, a lot of religionists have tried to explain the suffering by justifying their assumed superbeing with all kinds of pretzel-like arguments (“theodicy”).

Quite apart from all this, the proof is in the pudding.  The reason for an acorn cannot be determined by cutting it apart and analyzing its molecules, but only by seeing it result in an oak tree.  The reason for a pile of building materials cannot be understood by examining the bricks, pipes, wood, etc. in the pile, but only by viewing the finished building made of them.  And that effect, that reason — pace the proponents of the “all-is-accidental-chance” idea —, points back to an intrinsic tendency inherent in nature to hologrammically replicate the underlying cosmic intelligence in the forms of matter we call in English “life.”  Evolution proceeds haltingly, often overcoming repeated mass extinctions and other threats, by constantly eliminating the lower instantiations of intelligence and allowing only the higher, better-adapted ones to survive.  And occasionally throughout the cosmos, microbial life can eventually lead to forms with conscious awareness.

As Misner, Thorne and Wheeler wrote at the end of their book on gravitation (p. 1217):  “So why on this view is the universe as big as it is?  Because only so can man be here!”

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Deus vult ! — Þeedrich ( Inscriptio electronica :   )
Dies immutationis recentissimæ :  die Mercurii, 2018 Mar 22