Human Evolution from an Anthropic Universe (Report of the Iberia-Network of LSI)

This paper concerns some specific aspects of the combined research promoted by the Iberia-Network of LSI. A general scheme of the combined research was already presented in Metanexus Conference, June 2006: “Human Evolution - Script for Research Project to be carried out by the LSI and the Iberia-Network in Spain.” This is a restricted research project, carried out in parallel to the Sophia-Iberia in Europe Project by a team of approximately thirty university researchers and professors. It will deal with “Human Evolution” using the same general approach as the Sophia-Iberia in Europe Project. This research project will be enriched by the same course of reflections begun by Sophia-Iberia in Europe.

The study of human evolution enables us to obtain a scientific knowledge of the processes and causes which lead to the appearance in time and the constitution of human reality. This knowledge has two aspects: 1) knowing how nature has formed human nature through evolution as a biological system which has a number of psychic faculties and processes (sensation, perception, conscience, attention, memory, knowledge…) which permit specifically human action; 2) the specific products of human action which have constituted and continue to constitute history: the human being uses faculties to produce emotions, perceptions, knowledge, organizing a memory which accesses history, language, etc., and forms culture. This process, as a whole, constitutes human evolution: and this can be expressed very specifically in computational terms as the fact that human evolution occurs in the formation of the “hardware” of the biological system and in the production of the specific “software” with which each individual and each culture has filled his own history with content.

Evidently the theology of any religion always refers to the real man: it is the real man who, using his psychic powers, constructs in his mind, let us say, the “software” of a determined religion in response to the stimulus of his own nature in the universe. Moreover, in the Christian religion, the comprehension of the supposed Revelation in the history of Israel and in Christ is always made by constructing a theology founded on certain idea of the human being (conditioned by the circumstances of a time in the history of culture). Consequently, if the image of human evolution in modern science helps us to draft an image of the real man, this must be considered to be a basic presupposition for a Christian theology which “understands” Revelation from the parameters of modern culture. This new “explanation” (or hermeneutics) of Christianity would be a candidate to substitute the “explanation” generally presented, at least, in the Catholic Church, from within the parameters of Greek Philosophy and its image of man.

Research on human evolution in the Iberia-Network of LSI is oriented towards theology. Therefore, the study of human evolution is a means to present and discuss the type of theology the new image of man in science leads us to. However, in this communication for the 2007 Philadelphia meeting, we are not going to deal with theological conclusions, but with another more specific aspect, which is also related to our research o the human evolution: the roots of human evolution in an anthropic universe. Thus, we limit ourselves to this methodological question.

We use the term “anthropic” in the “weak” sense. We mean that, if man has been produced in the evolutionary process of the universe (and this is the presupposition for the principle of science), thus, the supposition should be established that only an anthropic universe can provide sufficient explanation of the real presence of man in its interior, where “anthropic universe ” is understood to be a universe which includes the necessary, or at least the appropriate, ontological properties so that the evolutionary emergence of man might be possible. Another case would not be justified in science. This is really a question of the classical Scholastic axiom “ab esse ad posse valet illatio” (from the factual being it is possible to correctly infer the possibility of its beginning).

Thus, we say that the universe is “anthropic” but not in the sense that the universe which produces man is a universe which responds to the “design” of a superior intelligence. We address this problem in our research, but not in this communication in which by “anthropic principle” we only understand the initial “weak” presupposition that from the fact (man) it is possible to infer his possibility (in the ontological conditions of the universe).

Human Evolution from an anthropic Universe begins from the ontological conditions of the universe in evolution until the appearance of man with his own psychic faculties and the exercise of these faculties in history. The evolutionary universe constitutes man and man constitutes history as he appropriates himself of objective possibilities. Of especial interest among the past, present and future possibilities opened up by history are the appearance and meaning of religion (theology) within the framework of human evolution.

Consequently, a basic aspect of the study of human evolution must consist of the ontological properties of the universe which have made this possible. In fact, the roots of human evolution in all its aspects must be found in the germinal properties of the universe. This must be “anthropic” in the weak sense. If it were not so, or, and this is not the same, if science were not capable of describing an anthropic universe to us, then, human knowledge would fall into a dramatic state of confusion: or “reduce” the explanation of man without assuming aspects which are essential to our human experience (reductionism), or “postulate” that man is not explained by the universe and is “something else” (dualism). In fact, reductionism and dualism radical adversaries in the theory of man in recent years. This dispute has today been transformed into the struggle between a non-humanistic idea of man (computational reductionism) and another humanistic idea (represented by emergentism).

In any case, the study of human evolution cannot be done properly without taking into account its cosmic roots. These must be analyzed with “anthropic” correction in order to avoid both reductionism and dualism. However, what is the method for studying the anthropic properties of the universe? Evidently there must be a “heuristic” method for searching for anthropic properties.

The objective or finality of Human Evolution from an anthropic Universe is not to make a complete, in depth study of the whole process of human evolution.

Its first objective is selective. First, the selection of evolutionary states: the selection of some important states which contain the keys to the process which makes human evolution possible and enable us to understand its nature. Second, the selection of relevant evolutionary profiles: at each of these evolutionary states and the selection of certain properties, states and processes which, in fact, contribute to the constitution of evolutionary lines which will make man possible. These will be the anthropic profiles, principles, content or properties which make man possible.

Its second objective is synthetic. That is to say, to relate these with each other, coordinating the evolutionary states and the relevant evolutionary profiles in a unit with sense in order to understand how and why and how human evolution makes religion (theology) possible or not possible.

In order to achieve these two objectives, selective and synthetic, we need an epistemological criteria: that is to say, previous principles which make it possible to construct arguments to select the evolutionary states and the relevant evolutionary profiles. This criteria must be epistemological because epistemology is the discipline which tells us which productive method we must follow (methodology) in order to achieve a certain type of knowledge (intention of knowledge). For us, the intention is to scientifically know human evolution and the methodology is the form of the cognitive process which leads us to this knowledge.

The basic criteria is offered by epistemology in the general form of all scientific explanations.

A) In the first place, this always supposes the selection of a natural phenomenon, termed explicandum (what must e explained). It is not possible to explain something if we do not know what we want to explain. Therefore, the explicandum must be first delimited with precision: this task is called “phenomenology” (the objective description of the phenomenon). Science must explain what has made it possible for us to be where we are and where we cannot doubt that we are. Thus, anthropic research of the universe will consist of seeking those properties of the universe which make the “phenomenological man” who constitutes our personal and social experience possible. Which phenomenological characteristics does our human experience present? For the study of human evolution it is essential to formulate these precisely as they constitute the obvious point of arrival: what currently constitutes our personal and social human experience. In a way, these are the “explicandum” of a scientific reconstruction of human evolution: namely the knowledge of the causes which have made it possible to reach here. We will stress four contents which are considered to be essential in our phenomenological experience.

B) However, in the second place, the scientific explanation also supposes knowing the causes (or “reasons”) which make it possible to understand why this phenomenon (explicandum) has been produced in nature: the set of explanatory causes are termed scientific explicans (that which carries out the explanatory function).

Therefore, all scientific explanations consist of referring a phenomenon or explicandum to a system of causes or explicans. The explicandum always carries out a control function in the knowledge process (science) which makes it possible to reach the causes. First control the search for the causes aiming at where they are probably located. Second, once a certain proposal of the causal system is reached, a check must be made whether it effectively enables an “explanation” of all the content and nuances in the phenomenological description of the explicandum. The “facts to be explained” (or explicandum) are thus the appeal court in which to judge the pertinence of the scientific explanations (or explicans) proposed.

However, returning to the objectives of the workshop, we can now specify and order them better, in the light of the epistemological criteria of how a scientific explanation is constructed.

a) For us, human evolution is the explicandum. Therefore, it is not possible to move forward unless we start from a phenomenological description of the fact whose scientific explanation we are trying to construct. Human evolution, or man as the terminal result of his evolutionary process, is the terminal phenomenological experience of a process which leads to man for us. It is a question of proposing the phenomenological description of its content in such a way that its serves as a control to orientate the search for its explicans (the causal system which produces the human phenomenon): both for controlling the search and for controlling the explanatory proposals.

b) The evolutionary states and the relevant evolutionary profiles are the explicans. In fact, the selection of evolutionary states must be made depending on their importance for human evolution. However, the selection of relevant evolutionary profiles, within each one of these states, must be made with the same criteria: its contribution to causing human evolution. Both aspects (states and profiles) must be explained (explicans): what causes have made man, what we see phenomenologically today, and why religion (theology) finally appeared in his mind.

We now refer, first, to human evolution as the phenomenological explicandum where we must start from. Then, in the second place, we refer to both aspects, evolutionary states and relevant evolutionary profiles, as the explicans selected to propose a causal system of human evolution.

Human evolution as the phenomenological explicandum

The human sciences normally understand phenomenological as “reality as it is presented in ordinary experience”. It is not a question of establishing what reality is like in itself, but how it appears before us objectively. That it appears as we verify it cannot be doubted: what must be sought are explanations that it appears as such. These explanations can also lead, perhaps, we do not know, to constructing explanations on what reality is like in itself (ontologically) to a greater or lesser degree.

Therefore, we then make a selection of the phenomenological content or features present in our human experience. We live these as the terminal result of an evolutionary process which finally makes us human. In synthesis they respond to an experience already described at the dawn of Western Philosophy in Greece: the experience of unity and difference.

a) A time-space world of differentiated objects. Each man as a living being has an individual condition (his body), differentiated from other objects, living beings and men, which permits him to occupy a determined place and time in time-space. Thanks to this construction of the universe, known phenomenologically, man can move among things and live his life adapting to physical and social environment.

b) A world of stable, determined events. Both the psychobiophysical constitution and human action are possible because the universe is stable and the changing processes are determined by a number of regularities and laws. Thus, man knows that his body is “reliable”. Moreover, the interactions are firm and man can design his life knowing that the world will behave regularly and his actions will be possible. Furthermore, the human reality as a species which transmits the same human condition by inheritance would not be possible without a world of determinations which functions with stable, genetic regularities.

c) A world which produces holistic states. Human phenomenology shows the evidence that the world produces holistic environments: that is to say, environments in which differentiation seems to disappear and unified wholes are formed. Holism already appears at different levels (a body, although it is differentiated and located in time and space, it is holistic). However, it is in psychic experience that a more stunning type of holistic experience appears: the experience constituted from the systems of sensation-perception-consciousness, principally in self-perception and in vision (as described in the phenomenology of the American Psychologist, James J. Gibson).

d) An open world of indetermination and freedom. The experience of what it means to be a man goes together with the experience of being in an open universe where human freedom can plan several vital routes: all are possible and dependent on being taken, that is to say, assumed by human freedom. Thus, the phenomenological experience situates us in an open universe which creates ts own future through choices, therefore, it is partly absolutely indeterminate (indetermination compatible with the part of determination mentioned above). This flexible oscillation regarding the choice of the future by “creative self-determination” is known intuitively by extension throughout all of nature, especially in the animal world.

e) A world open to the emergence of reason. In the human experience of the phenomenological exercise of reason, can be seen the unity of the four phenomenological contents mentioned (points a-d). Reason would not be possible without a stable and determined world which forms the solid ground on which reason may walk. However, reason is in itself the experience that this world of stable determinations has generated in reason itself as the power to weigh up, criticize and choose a future through free, responsible options. This is the synthesis of creative determination and indetermination.

In conclusion, we can say that the phenomenological experience unifies and lives the contents we have just summed up: differentiation, determination, holism, indetermination-freedom and reason, as simultaneously possible and factually non-contradictory. The phenomenology of human self-experience is not only an isolated psychic experience of the “world”, but is rather the unitary experience of a physical body among objects in a differentiated world of fields of time-space interactions, energy, stability, in which psychism occupies a congruent place and makes existence possible. It is a personal and social experience, agreed to inter-subjectively; This consensus gives meaning to society and culture.

Man is conscious of his phenomenological self-experience in this way (explicandum) and this means that human evolution has been the process which makes this possible. Therefore, the scientific explanation of human evolution must know the system of causes (explicans) which have produced this. If the universe was produced from primordial matter which derived towards its organisation as universe and as life, it is not possible to doubt that we are factually obliged to admit that the real matter-universe-life system has anthropic properties: that is to say, they make life possible as this would not have occurred with something else. These anthropic causes are essential to know the nature of human evolution.

If the expectations of science is that all that has been produced in the universe is explained from the same dynamic properties of matter in evolution, then, undoubtedly science also has the interdisciplinary expectation that all that man sees in his psychobiophysical constitution (by phenomenology) has been produced from the germinal properties of the matter whose organization has given rise to the universe.

Therefore, it is evident that physics as disciplinary scientific knowledge can methodologically dispense with biology, psychology, philosophy and anthropology. However, from an interdisciplinary perspective which seeks the unity of knowledge (an eminently scientific pretension), physics cannot dispense with being firstly “bio-pic” and, in the end, “anthro-pic”. That is to say, must first make life intelligible and, then, man. Otherwise, it would not be an acceptable science.

If physics does not achieve this “living” and “human” intelligibility, it would place the interdisciplinary project of science in a serious position: having to accept a view which is non-congruent with cosmic facticity (life and man), and would have to retreat towards reductionism or dualism. However, science, correctly understood, must flee from this radicalism in order to adapt its image of matter and the universe and provide them with congruence with the facts and explanatory capacity regarding life and man. That is to say, when the physical image of matter and the universe becomes interdisciplinary science, it must become an “anthropic” image.

Thus, the heuristic approach of our research on human evolution assumes that understanding the evolutionary emergence of the human being cannot be achieved without reference to the ontological roots of this evolution in the ontology of matter and in the construction of the universe –world as the human habitat. Consequently, the study of human evolution logically commences by “anthropic” physics: the physics which endeavors to collect the properties of the matter-universe which make man possible and explain essential aspects of human ontology and its psycho-bio-physico functioning.

The phenomenological aspects mentioned connect with properties which are recognized in the ontology of matter-universe: intense holism from quantum mechanics, the differentiation of matter and genesis of the classical macroscopic world, the persistence of intense or holistic environments in the classical macroscopic world, determination and legality, indetermination, either by the classical, chaotic, probabilistic, statistic way, etc. Drafting the “anthropic” profiles of the physical image of matter-universe in this way is the first step in a study of the human evolution which can, as we have said, form the basis of the subsequent argumentation of a theology of science.

Evolutionary states and relevant evolutionary profiles as explicans of human evolution

Where is this system of evolutionary causes which lead to the constitution of humans found? The control of where to search and the pertinence of the causes found depend on human phenomenology, and these must lead to where we are now. The project has made a selection of evolutionary states where the relevant evolutionary profiles can be sought and these will make it possible to explain human evolution. In a way, human evolution has been possible because our universe was formed in accordance with certain anthropic conditions (which made man possible). The explanation and evaluation of human evolution and the nature of man cannot be achieved without understanding these anthropic conditions at the different evolutionary states.

These are the following:

a) Matter. This is the first evolutionary state from which everything is produced. A certain type of matter would not have made human evolution possible. What are the properties of matter which lead to the production of life and man?

b) Universe. The organisation of mater is produced in the form of the universe. What are the anthropic conditions of the universe which make man possible?

c) Life. Life arises from the physical universe. It represents a first evolutionary step towards the remote anthropic properties of matter/universe. Life emerges really and proximately within the universe in an intermediate stag which in turn generates new anthropic properties, more proximate to the emergence of humans.

d) Man/Neurology. The evolutionary appearance of man through the formation of his mind by his neuronal system becoming more complex is the result of anthropic evolution of matter/life/universe. What evolutionary possibilities does the human mind lead to?

e) Formal Sciences. Formalisation is one of the most relevant products of the human mind. The formalising capacity of the mind makes it possible to probe the hyper-complex profiles of future human evolution.

f) Religion/theology. Another of the historically more relevant products of human evolution is the metaphysical, religion, theology. Why did the human mind create theology? Will current scientific knowledge of human evolution permit the human mind to be occupied in the construction of theology? What type of theology does the image of human evolution in science lead to?

Each one of these six points responds to a part of the project. The first five evolutionary states will make it possible to discuss the relevant profiles which constitute the evolutionary appearance of man as described phenomenologically. In the sixth state, the way in which human evolution enables access to the evolutionary state in which the human mind opens up to the metaphysical can be studied within the framework of religious and theological speculation.


Join Metanexus Today

Metanexus fosters a growing international network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature and culture. Membership is open to all. Join Now!