2. The Evolution Controversy

 
 
Visions 
Of A Ghostseer 

  

Section 2.3




 
World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon

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 CHAPTERS:
 

 

 
 

 
2. The Evolution Controversy  
      2.1 The Legacy of Darwinism  
         2.1.1 Debates and Darwin Trials 
         2.1.2 Evolution and Ethics
         2.1.3 The Metaphysics of Evolution
         2.1.4 Is There A Science Of History? 
      2.2 Beyond Natural Selection 
         2.2.1 The Limits of Observation  
         2.2.2 Random Evolution: Climbing Mt. Improbable?
         2.2.3 Punctuated Equilibrium
         2.2.4 Natural Selection and The Oedipus Paradox  
NOTES  
      2.3 Visions of A Ghostseer  
         2.3.1 Wallace's Second Opinion  
         2.3.2 Theism/Atheism: The 'God' Debates  
         2.3.3 Critique of Evolutionary Economy  
         2.3.4 The Evolution of Evolution  
         2.3.5 The Science of Freedom  

Next: 
 3. Descent Of Man Revisited 


        
        

     
  
        

    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

   2.3 Visions of A Ghostseer

 

The labyrinth of modern thought is a difficult one in which the unforgiving complexities of parallel dialectical movement, seen in the divergence of idealism and materialism, can leave understanding stranded in the restricted movement of divorced specializations, and paradigms. Issues of ‘materialism’ and ‘idealism’ can vitiate thought, and deserve to be relegated temporarily to the sidelines, so that a practical study can get underway. We can construct our model of the eonic effect on the basis of limited foundations without deciding on key metaphysical issues. The philosophy of materialism is very ancient, for example the Indian Samkhya, and its modern reductionist form can confuse us, and often ceases to serve contemporary thought where the ideas of physical force fields, computer software, infinitesimals, and of information, move to bridge, better replace, the ancient distinctions of material and spiritual. Methodological naturalism, as current in the conduct of science, often muddles the question of ‘naturalism’ in its stances toward mind, consciousness and values, sometimes making them seem ‘spiritual’ unless subjected to reductionist revisionism. It is important to consider the often neglected potential of so-called ‘transcendental idealism’, in its Kantian version. Neither transcendental, nor quite an idealism, it is the perfect complement to Newton . This crude but effective kludge is, at the least, the perfect way to state our problem, whatever its solution.

Whatever the case, the stance of science is appropriate, and a rough and ready ‘materialistic phenomenology’ can be our starting point. But let’s declare the ‘material/spiritual’ distinction bad terminology. The ‘mind’ is not a ‘spiritual’ entity, but it doesn’t follow we can reduce it to simple mechanics. We can make no assumptions about the limits of naturalism, the nature of consciousness or self, based on reductionist preconceptions or extensions of physics. To make natural selection the de facto principle of demarcation was and is a recipe for confusion. One problem is that Western thought is stuck in Cartesianism. And this becomes worse as the attempt is made to transcend this dualism via reductionist materialism. However harebrained, Cartesianism is not worse! Kant’s transcendental idealism and the hybrid dual system of Samkhya are two ways to examine, and bypass, the frequently sterile ‘idealism versus materialism’ dialectic.

Extending the religion-science debate, we can consider various New Age perspectives inherited from antiquity and resurfacing in modern times. We can examine later the materialism, or generalized naturalism, of the classic Samkhya with its freedom from Cartesian duality. This non-theistic tradition, predating the rise of monotheism, shows how ‘spirituality’ can be cast without the material/spiritual terminology that is the source of chronic confusions and exploitations. Such literature, as it is translated into such terms, often ceases to make sense.

But the best guide here is the philosopher Kant, given also those he tacitly debates, such as Spinoza. The Cartesian self is seen as a metaphysical totality veiled from our self-representations. Agree or not, Kant is unmatched as a mediator of religious and scientific metaphysics, although he is still too theistic for our Darwinian atheist obsessive, and his system is complex, and often charged with inconsistencies. Kant, at least, does not suppress the issues in one-sided claims. His thinking bursts asunder his own rational theology lurking in the background. In an age where science education systematically avoids philosophy, it is strangely forgotten that Kant, issues of his idealism apart, with Newton at his fingertips, pronounced skeptical judgment over assumptions, material or otherwise, arbitrarily made about the ‘Big Three’, divinity, soul, and free will. We might consider them semantic quagmires one, two, and three, Q1, 2, 3. Kant came close to showing the subtle mechanization of this triad of concepts whose mastery will prove the true foundation for some future theory of evolution. His early essay, Visions of a Ghostseer, with its critique of mysticism, prefigured this classic treatment of metaphysics later addressed in his famous Critique of Pure Reason. The Preface to that Critique opens with the famous statement,

Human reason has the peculiar fate in one species of its cognitions that it is burdened with questions that it cannot dismiss, since they are given to it as problems by the nature of reason itself, but which it also cannot answer, since they transcend every capacity of human reason.[i]

The Darwin debate can be taken as fully in the grip of this peculiar fate. This passage has suffered a strange fate itself. It was a challenge to metaphysics. Yet now science denounces Kant as metaphysical even as it makes the mistake indicated in Kant’s Preface. Reductionist evolution based on natural selection is as metaphysical as it gets. If Kant is seen to be wrong somewhere, we default back to this paragraph, with no science of metaphysics, and hence no science of evolution, physics generally managing to fend for itself.

The problem arises because Kant proceeded to a seemingly inconsistent viewpoint in his also famous Second Critique, dealing with ethics. Sometimes Kant is accused of being a foundationalist, and pragmatist or Nietzchean diatribes attempt to dismantle Kantian deductions or systematics. Neo-pragmatist denunciations of Kantian dualism are a current fashion, although this began with figures such as Hegel. But analytic philosophy is thrown off-track by Darwin. A seminal text here is Dewey’s book on Darwinism and philosophy. If we reject natural selection it is back to square one. We might have to proceed here without foundational deductions. And then such strictures apply to science as well.

There could be nothing more outrageous than accusing Kant of foundationalism, only to make Darwin’s theory of natural selection the single and sole foundation for universal and cosmic conclusions. The world of modern physics has led to another, perhaps in the future a better, version of all this, despite the massive denials of most physicists. One might conjecture that Kantian distinctions of the noumenal and phenomenal are early anticipations of current physical dilemmas. It is not true that realist Quantum Mechanics, for example, renders these issues obsolete. Current physics sails straight into these waters both at the quantum level, and in the issues of relativity and the speed of light. Science has a way to proceed here, but it is never used.[ii]

One approach to this confusion is to bypass the methodology of the first Critique and simply look at the real starting point, the antinomies explored in the section on Dialectic. In Kant’s first Critique, the section of the Dialectic addresses the Ideas of Reason, and the antinomies that arise in the context of the metaphysics of divinity, soul, and free will. Kant’s double-edged critique of ‘rationalism’ and ‘empiricism’ finds the Darwinists disguised metaphysicians. Despite the fury of the Darwin debate, it is not Q1 (unless they adopt a reverse argument by design  to claim disproof of the existence of divinity) but Q2 that is the nemesis of Darwinism. They have failed to consider the boundaries of the ‘self’. We would like very much to avoid the quagmire of ‘soul’ discussions. But we cannot, and we cannot claim selectionist theories provide proof for us here. This is a question of epistemology. There may be other approaches to the issues that don’t adopt the standards of knowledge discourse. But even a polite view of much ‘soul discourse’ shows that while soul beliefs may be justified the discourse of such is hopelessly confused. It is significant that even Buddhists speak of reaching ‘Enlightenment’, yet no discourse of such has truly resolved the question of self in closed form. We should take Kant’s warnings about divinity, soul, and free will to heart without presumptions, and be wary of any fixed assumptions in these three areas, even at the price of a fuzzy or incomplete theory.

In terms of the first Critique, Kant is a transcendental idealist, and empirical realist. This terminology tends to throw people off-track, and is in many ways unfortunate. The usage of the term ‘transcendental’ is not the same as ‘transcendent’. Although endlessly criticized now, and despite problems, this approach has never been bettered. It is one of the most classic treatments of the ‘spiritual/material’ quagmire shared by religionists and reductionists both. It is not our intent to promote Kantianism, but it is good to aware of this classic discourse. Darwinism simply proceeds into this swamp and sinks. Despite its evasions, science cannot make a place for the formal idea of freedom , and enters an infinite loop of causal theory. Kant is taboo, and endless research is devoted to methodologies making the same mistakes. Darwinian claims for the evolution of ethics are displaced into deep time, and inferred without evidence, a novel metaphysical finesse. Kant thus remains a player here. Sorry, but it’s cash at the point of sale. It’s no use saying Darwin solved this problem if the proof is deferred to the next paradigm shift or the expectation of some future discovery of fossil bones.

At the price of a two-domain theory, Kant’s approach is unmatched for its treatment of the idea of freedom, becoming problematical for some in his stance on ‘practical reason’: to which domain belongs ‘will’, if any? It is useful to displace discourse to the idea of freedom, bypassing the theological deadlock of Q1. It is really Hegel who is the idealist, and who, in collating Q1 and Q3 attempted to counter Kant’s two-domain theory with a Spinozistic metaphysical fugue. Schopenhauer tries to restore a streamlined Kantian two-domain theory. The value, or flaw, of the Kantian approach is its self-limitation: the two-domain theory produces the noumenal and phenomenal distinction, careful to deal only with what it knows.

Many will attempt to recast this as the spiritual/material divide, and many dissenting critiques exist of this in current analytic philosophy, or the philosopher Nietzsche, but it remains a benchmark, against which we can measure most other theories. The issue of dualism and its debates distract attention. Like the tip of an iceberg, we see a dualism, supposedly, of the visible tip and the invisible part. There is a dualism, yes, between tip and whole, or, no, there is no dualism, only one iceberg. Although our approach diverges from this formulation, being about history, and certainly doesn’t intend to be fooled by the rational theology that Kant almost too fairly withdraws into a systematic skepticism next to the demand for autonomy, that theology of reason should be a caution to the fanaticism of monotheists entangled in the legitimation strategies of theistic mythologies of domination. Since it would be a five-minute exercise to unscrew the Kantian formulation from its sockets and recast it in the fashion of someone like Schopenhauer, we might simply pause in respect for a potential contribution to the crisis of religion that never survived its birth in the press of propagandas.

Darwinism, we can see already, because of its concealed metaphysical ambition, and claims for ‘universal science’, is thrashing about miserably in Q1, 2, 3, claiming that natural selection resolves them. And nothing can relieve this confusion with the theory in its current form. Its claims about divinity (if any) are challenged by monotheists, its claims about ‘self’ by yogis (among others), and its claims about ‘freedom’ (if any) resolve, as we will see, to a particular ideology of social action. Actually, Darwinists are not so unreasonable as near Kantians, and take intelligent stances here in many cases, and it is only the misuse of selectionist theory that is a problem.

The problem is the implied resolution of Q2, using natural selection. The floodgates of scientism open and we have ethics derived from population genetics, next to implied ‘proof’ of the non-existence of soul. This is pure metaphysics in disguise. The point is that the implied negative affirmations on these issues are often taken as established, when they can be no more than disguised metaphysical assumptions. To construct a science of history  we would need a science of metaphysics. But we do not have decision procedures on our three key questions. If Kant’s science of metaphysics fails, these issues will stand unresolved. The point is that natural selection is not a decision procedure on these issues. The reason is that we have not properly correlated the emergence of self with actual data of natural selection. The clear projection of a metaphysical thesis onto an unseen totality triggers the Kantian alarm bell.

Notice then that Darwinists tend to make fixed assumptions on all three of our questions, small wonder the tenacity of the Darwin debate. Darwinism is really a ship that has taken three direct hits, but always stays afloat due to the artificial respiration of sophistry or assumptions about what science will discover in the future, based on assumptions about what reductionism or natural selection ought to be able to explain, if science is to explain everything. We will construct an ‘evolution of freedom’ argument to try and trap the Darwinist in a discrepancy, if not contradiction, over freedom and necessity.

In summary, we should note that the questions of metaphysics forever haunt any form of macrohistorical reasoning, and this applies to the descent of man, and we need to stay clear of the ‘dialectic of illusion’, by using sage concepts that do not precipitate contradictions. In fact, we will embrace one such contradiction explicitly, that of freedom and necessity, and use the two ideas in tandem in a generalized empirical model.

Schopenhauer and Death In the wake of Kant the philosopher Schopenhauer  produced a brilliant, streamlined version of transcendental idealism. We might cite a passage from Dale Jacquette’s The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, remarkable for revealing the latent potential of ‘transcendental idealism’.

Schopenhauer’s philosophy often gives the impression of having been composed expressly for the purpose of reconciling the phenomenal will to the inevitability of death. All the apparatus of his main treatise, the fundamental distinction between the world as Will and representation, the concept of thing-in-itself as beyond the principium individuationis, and fourfold root of the principle of sufficient reason, can be understood as contributing to a moral, metaphysical and mystical religious recognition that death is nothing real and hence nothing to fear. If Schopenhauer is correct, he proves that death is not an event, and hence altogether unreal. Death is not an event in the world as representation, but is rather an endpoint or limit of the world as representation, and in particular in the first-person formulation as my representation. The world as representation begins and ends with the consciousness of the individual representing subject. At the moment of death, all representation comes to an immediate abrupt end, after which there remains only thing-in-itself. An individual’s death is not something that occurs in or as any part of the world as representation. Nor can death possibly be in or a part of the world as thing-in-itself or Will. There are no events or individuated occurrences, nothing happening in space or time, for thing-in-itself, and in particular there is no progressive transition from life to death or from consciousness to unconsciousness. If with Schopenhauer we assume that there exists only the world as representation and as thing-in-itself interpreted as Will, then there is no place on either side of the great divide for death, no possibility for the existence or reality of death.[iii]

The connection between science, transcendental idealism, and the issues of the nature of the organism stand out in an especial clarity in this passage, which shows the key to an evolutionary psychology that reconciles the hopeless confusions of degenerated mysticism in the context of a philosophy tailored to the context of science.  

 

    Notes

   Web:  chap2_3.htm

 

[i] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Stephen Körner, Kant (New York: Penguin, 1960), Susan Shell, The Embodiment of Reason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). Yirmiyahu Yovel, Spinoza and Other Heretics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).

[ii] David Hildebrand, Beyond Realism and Antirealism ( Nashville : Vanderbilt University Press, 2003).

[iii] Dale Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhaur ( Kingston : Ontario : McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005).

 

 
 


 

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Last modified: 09/21/2010