The (ephemeral) phenomenon of man

De Chardin wrote his “Phenomenon of Man” in the 1930s. I read it at University where I studied evolution, and it has been a constant influence since then. Like Jung and Buber he speaks to a unity of spirit and material. Indeed he saw the whole evolution of the universe as a story of coalescence of consciousness driven by the force of Love (aka God). Marked by phase transitions from physical evolution to chemical through biological now to the world of pure ideas, Homo Sapiens is a waypoint. A phenomenon, yes – because in us consciousness has become self aware; but ephemeral. A stage and not the end, or final purpose.

Around the same time Wilfred Bion identified the mind as simply a developing apparatus to help humans tolerate and organize experience.

“The apparatus for thinking, the capacity to have thoughts “has to be called into existence to cope with thoughts” (1967, p. 111). Thoughts exist prior to their realization. Thinking, the capacity to think the thoughts which already exist, develops through another mind providing α-function (1962, p. 83)—through the “container” role of maternal reverie.”

Our mind is the mechanism by which thoughts are made concrete.

Richard Dawkins simply stole these ideas, regurgitating them as his “memes”. Unfortunately he stripped them of context and hence of their meaning. Bions context was maternal reverie and de Chardins was Love – “the most powerful and most unknown energy in the world”. Rather than originality Dawkins simply displays through his evangelism a childlike rage against what he conceives of as God (in the image of his own father perhaps?).

I believe absolutely in purpose and progress; that there is meaning to existence and to our part in an unfolding story. I would wish that we each set aside our personal imagining of God (even when we label this “Science” or “Humanity”) and instead share this fundamental premise, and wonder together about miraculous existence.

What then of the darkness of Man? Of our destruction of the planet, of the holocaust, of loss of society to the maw of technology?

Perhaps we should look forward to a next chapter where humans are recombined with machines and connected in a giant web. Perhaps rather than contemplating that with fear – we should embrace this future as Love’s path to the Omega Point.?

Here below is Wikipedia’s summary of the book. A work of prophesy if ever there were one.

Reprint of Wikipedia ..

“The Phenomenon of Man (Le phénomène humain) is a 1955 book written by the French philosopher, paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In this work, Teilhard describes evolution as a process that leads to increasing complexity, culminating in the unification of consciousness

The book was finished in the 1930s, but was published posthumously in 1955, and translated into English in 1959. The Roman Catholic Church initially prohibited the publication of some of Teilhard’s writings on the grounds that they contradicted orthodoxy.

The foreword to the book was written by one of the key advocates for natural selection and evolution of the 20th century, and a co-developer of the modern synthesis in biology, Julian Huxley.

Teilhard views evolution as a process that leads to increasing complexity. From the cell to the thinking animal, a process of psychical concentration leads to greater consciousness.[3] The emergence of Homo sapiens marks the beginning of a new age, as the power acquired by consciousness to turn in upon itself raises mankind to a new sphere.[4] Borrowing Huxley’s expression, Teilhard describes humankind as evolution becoming conscious of itself.[5]

In Teilhard’s conception of the evolution of the species, a collective identity begins to develop as trade and the transmission of ideas increases.[6] Knowledge accumulates and is transmitted in increasing levels of depth and complexity.[7] This leads to a further augmentation of consciousness and the emergence of a thinking layer that envelops the earth.[8] Teilhard calls the new membrane the “noosphere” (from the Greek nous”, meaning mind), a term first coined by Vladimir Vernadsky. The noosphere is the collective consciousness of humanity, the networks of thought and emotion in which all are immersed.[9]

The development of science and technology causes an expansion of the human sphere of influence, allowing a person to be simultaneously present in every corner of the world. Teilhard argues that humanity has thus become cosmopolitan, stretching a single organized membrane over the Earth.[10] Teilhard describes the process by which this happens as a “gigantic psychobiological operation, a sort of mega-synthesis, the “super-arrangement” to which all the thinking elements of the earth find themselves today individually and collectively subject”.[8] The rapid expansion of the noosphere requires a new domain of psychical expansion, which “is staring us in the face if we would only raise our heads to look at it”.[11]

In Teilhard’s view, evolution will culminate in the Omega Point, a sort of supreme consciousness. Layers of consciousness will converge in Omega, fusing and consuming them in itself.[12] The concentration of a conscious universe will reassemble in itself all consciousnesses as well as all that we are conscious of.[13]Teilhard emphasizes that each individual facet of consciousness will remain conscious of itself at the end of the process.[14]

Atheism. The most dangerous religion?

Nothing can be proved (at least intellectually). Neither any kind of God, nor any kind of absence of God. Don’t take my word for it. Read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Read Heisenberg and Godel.

This means that any honest discussion about God or no-God equally must always be prefaced by the statement –  “I believe”. This applies to a-theism, just as to any theism. These are all equally unprovable belief systems.

You wouldn’t think so if you listened to Richard Dawkins. He’d have you believe that science somehow has disproved God. Nonsense. Literally non sense. What is more he, and other evangelical high priests of this religion, should know better.  It is mostly leaders of the old religions – Christians, Muslims, Hindus – who preface their statements with “I believe”. (Have you recited the Nicene creed recently?). But it’s Dawkins and his followers who try to blind you with their pseudo science.

The dangerous Dawkins delusion..

And the result? Worse than any major religion. Atheism preaches a morality of nihilism (there is no point, no spirit, no meaning,  there is only the material). Unshackled from morality mankind has released truly demons. Think Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Capitalism. Let the whole law by thyself. Why not indeed if your religion preaches that there is nothing beyond this material existence. There is a kind of logic. But no logic of kindness.

The Dawkins Delusion

The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. BUT, the mechanics are not solely, and probably not mainly Darwinian. (And certainly not NeoDarwinian). The field has been siezed by populists, whos belief systems masquerade as science. Richard Dawkins is the current example.

The problem is that the study of evolution is only partially open to the scientific method. It has much in common with history, spiced with population genetics. There are few facts and much interpretation. I specialised in Vertebrate Evolution at Cambride in the mid 1970’s. I can remember the sense of release (from the physcial sciences), because almost any theory could be justified by one’s interpretation of the evidence.

I remember the excitement of the publication of the Selfish Gene. I was an acolyte and saw this as advancing the truths of sociobiology.

But since then the accumulation of evidence has washed away the foundations of these ideas, but the establishment look the other way. This is shameful, and it isn’t science.

A couple of examples …

  • Neodarwinism predicts gradual progressive change which does not lead to increasing complexity. Since the 1970’s there has been an enormous increase in fossil discovery, all of which evidences sudden emergence of new forms followed by millions of years of equilibrium. Further, that the direction of evolution has always been toward increased complexity.
  • The whole premise of Darwinism is the “survival of the fittest”. That is that it is driven by competition. The gene pool alters (gradually, generation by generation) driven by the success in breeding or otherwise of the bodies for which they code. Darwin, that first populist, ridiculed Lamarck’s theory that the body affected the genes  (giraffe stretches neck, genes altered to express this in next generation). Darwin also drove out the theories of Kropotkin and Meretchkovsky who believed that cooperation and mutual aid were important drivers of evolution. Now there are hectares  of evidence both for Lamarckian  and Kropotkian evolutionary mechanisms:  indeed in all probability our human bodies comprise an agglomeration of different creatures  -even our mitochondria and ghe maternally transmitted genes probably originated as bacteria.

Why do Dawkins et al still defend the outdated neodarwinian fallacy? Largely of course its to maintain their careers and material power and wealth. They founded a theory on conviction and  have ignored these inconvenient truths.

Steven Weinberg, honest atheist

I am interested in the philosophy and beliefs of the great scientists. Einstein, Bohr, Pauli, Schrodinger, Heisenberg. It strikes me that in almost every case they are led to a wonder at the harmony and structure underlying existence. What a refreshing contrast to the childish un-scientific preaching of Dawkins (all religion is “child abuse”).

Speaking at the “Beyond Belief” symposium in 2006 Steven Weinberg (Nobel Prize for his electroweak theory) was quoted as saying  “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief”. He is an avowed atheist, but since he’s a proper scientist he also said:

“I have to admit that, even when physicists will have gone as ar as they can go, when we have a final theory, we will not have a completely satisfying picture of the world, because we will still be left with the question ‘why?’

The Psychological make up of an Atheist

There is mounting evidence of the growth in western societies of three mind-sets:

narcissism, materialism and atheism

It seems to me that materialism and atheism are twin sides of the same coin, essentially an “I-It” rather than “I-Thou” existentialism according to Martin Buber.  I have wondered for some time what causes someone to become a militant-proselytising materialist atheist. After all the implication of their dogma, if true, of is nihilism, depression. No reason, no free-will. Why exist at all. As one atheist puts it – we would simply be the scum on the side of the universe. If that is what they truly believe – then why-oh-why do they want (I ask myself) to convert all others to their cause. It seems to me that Dennet, Dawkins et al have a NEED to convert. What is the psychological well-spring of their neediness?

I had wondered, looking at Dawkins life, whether it was a kind of Oedipus complex. Kill your father. Even Freud speculated as to that as the need behind atheism. However having read about the epidemic of narcissism I think that this instead  is the link or cause for materialist-atheism. I am told that narcissistic behaviour stems from a lack of love, or sense of love during childhood. This leads to an in-turning – deriving love from one-self – and denying the need for or existence of love elsewhere. Is it not possible, even probable then, that this mind-state would need to make itself the centre of all and deny that love elsewhere exists? Aggressively. In order to preserve it’s centred universe.

If then the rise of narcissism and materialism/atheism are linked – which is the cause and which the effect? Perhaps neither – and both are a product of some other factor.

Worth considering.

As a post-script – in reading around for this blog I found this from the militant atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett.

“I adopt the apparently dogmatic rule that dualism is to be avoided at all costs. It is not that I think I can give a knock-down proof that dualism, in all its forms, is false or incoherent, but that, given the way that dualism wallows in mystery, accepting dualism is giving up“.

Giving up? On what? The possibility of God, a reason for existence. Why would that a problem to be avoided or considered? Is the language not that of a narcissist – if you don’t agree with me you must be “wallowing in mystery”.

How depressing that a “philosopher” starts with a dogma of denial and then seeks to justify that with logic. Dogma isn’t philosophy. It’s dogma.

Do atheists own rationality?

I was told yesterday that someone follows my blog (thank you, we all have some narcissism!). I was told that he was amazed that anyone with intelligence could believe in God. He apparently describes himself as an atheist.

I’ve been pondering this.

It seems to me that at the heart of this view is the sense of superiority that atheists can have, that they “own” intelligence. Allied to that is their view that somehow intelligence “disproves God”. I assume here that they mean rationality, as opposed to emotional intelligence.

This argument is close to me because as an evolutionary biologist at Cambridge I had this argument flow past me in waves. Indeed I spent a large part of life summoning up the courage to confront the possibility of there being nothing, no purpose, no God. I concluded after several years of living in this space that in fact it is atheism that is illogical. Having got that out of the way – but not until my 40’s – I have finally been able to relax into the rich world of the living purposeful connection that is meaningful life.

Here’s why I don’t believe in no-God.

First, let us remove rationality from the frame. Nothing can be proved. There is no external premise or starting point from which a logic chain can reach any kind of “proof”. It seems rather (read “Godel Escher Bach” or “The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake) that the universe and time comprise an infinity of nested loops. Don’t believe me, rather refer to Heisenberg (Uncertainty Principle) and Godel (Incompleteness Theorum).

Ok. So in any case logic and rationality takes you nowhere certain. You can’t either prove or disprove God or no-God. If you find a Richard Dawkins or anyone else try to convince you otherwise – simply refer to Heisenberg and Godel – and tell them they are acting as evangelists not scientists, so they should preface all their statements with “I believe”.

So, then my personal beliefs. Well, firstly I get as far, logically, as saying there is “being”, or rather there is “something”. I wouldn’t go as far as “my” being – ie cogito ergo sum, because I think that presumes what “I” am. It does seem axiomatic to me that existence exists though. I used to run the argument that time is also axiomatic and that therefore you could define God as that which began being – one of those beautiful iterative proofs you get in mathematics (inductive reasoning). On that basis I used to “prove” God. This then turned the argument about God – into one of semantics. On that basis I would say that atheism is less logical that theism – because a theist “believes” in his/her version of God, whereas for atheism to work they would have to disprove every version of God.

Anyway, I’m not so convinced about time anymore – except as an illusion that frames what we perceive as reality. I do think, though, that God and existence tie together logically. Believe in existence and God is there. Our disagreements should be fought on definitions – “God sitting on a cloud”, “God as personalised”, “God as the numbers like speed of light that define existence”, “God as relatedness, connection”.

For me then, personally, which is the richer way to live? Surely enriched and joyful reality lies in our connectedness, in the shared smile, in the sharing of sorrow. That’s certainly becoming my deepening experience.

In any event – I can state definitely that I do NOT believe that atheism has rationality or intelligence on it’s side…

Mystical Ellipticism

Why are all the great thinkers difficult to understand, at least with our mind? Perhaps because reality is so difficult for us to perceive – as through a glass darkly. That wouldn’t be surprising I guess. Our brain is evolved to help our bodies survive in jungles. We don’t see polarised light as bees do. The point is – it’s not some kind of perfect instrument designed to understand the outer reaches and meaning of creation. Neither does it have complete sensory input.

At least for me, those who have most changed my life all point to reality in relation. That is to say – reality existing in the magnetism between two points. As opposed to reality in the points themselves,

Carl Jung, for instance, in his search for integration between opposites “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed”. Martin Buber sets out his form of existentialism entirely against a backdrop of relationship – his “philosophy of dialogue” with it’s primary words I-Thou and I-It. Teilhard de Chardin saw the process of evolution (powered by love) toward a shared consciousness. Alfred North Whitehead saw the whole of reality as process.

All of these elliptical thinkers seem to expose facets of the same underlying truth. It’s connection that matters, not matter that connects.

And yet..

For the Dawkins of this world it’s so simple. Matter. Of Fact. Simple(s). Nothing there but things. Science, thought and our brains have solutions. Death comes and there is nothing beyond. Love, kindness, a shared smile – all just twitchings of the material – set in the one-way street of time.(It’s not what science shows, but there you are .. better read Rupert Sheldrake on the subject.)

The writings of Buddha, the parables of Christ, the music of Bach. Complex – difficult. Mystical. Elliptical.