A Two Dimensional Model of Evolution, Part 2/2
Metanexus:Views 2001.10.01 4144 words
In today’s column, the second of a two-part series, Dr. Paul Utukuru continueshis exploration of the relationship between science and religion via twoparallel processes of evolution: a “Top Down” and a “Bottom Up” approach. Inthe column below, he refers to the views of various scientists and otherexperts in the field as regards the “top down” versus “bottom up” approachto time, the mind, physics in general, and spiritual experience. As Prof.Utukuru observes:
“Throughout history, intellectuals have pointed out that the form of theworld as described by us is dependent on the processes of understanding weourselves create based on what we observe and experience with or without thetools we invent. The most highly evolved instrument for understanding atthis point of evolution on earth is the human mind. The mind is in somerespects the maker of Nature, philosopher Kant noted. What we can evercomprehend is limited by what we are as a biological species. No wonder,Albert Einstein said: ‘The most incomprehensible thing about Nature is thatwe comprehend it, however minutely. The most beautiful thing we canexperience is a sense of the mysterious. That is the source of all true artand science.'”
So, please read on, and explore more of what we comprehend and more of whatwe find mysterious.
Since his retirement in 1995, Dr. Paul Utukuru, a Medical Physicist, has beenwriting and speaking on issues related to the Science and Religion dialogue.Dr. Utukuru is very much involved in the study of the history and commonality ofreligious beliefs and the emerging fields of Experimental Theology andNeuro-Theology. For those interested in reviewing the first part of thisseries, it appeared as Metanexus:Views on Monday, September 24, 2001.
–Stacey E. Ake
Subject: A Two Dimensional Model of Evolution: A step towards bridging thegap between Science and Human Religiosity, Part 2From: Gopala Rao, D.ScEmail: [email protected]
A Two Dimensional Model of Evolution:A step towards bridging the gap between Science and Human Religiosity
Support from Contemporary Scientists
The two-dimensional model proposed here is consistent with the thinking ofmany well-recognized contemporary scientists. That is not to say that everyone of them supports every aspect of the model. Here are a few examples.
When accepting the Templeton award, Freeman Dyson said:
“As a religious person, God to me is what mind becomes when it has passedbeyond the scale of our comprehension. The universe shows evidence of theoperations of mind on three levels. The first is that of elementary physicalprocesses, as we see them when we study atoms in the laboratory. The secondlevel is our direct human experience of our own consciousness. The third isthe universe as a whole. I do not make any clear distinction between mindand God. God may be either a world soul or a collection of world souls. So Iam thinking that atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ indegree but not in kind. Atoms are small pieces of our mental apparatus, andwe are small pieces of God’s mental apparatus. Our minds may receive inputsequally from atoms and from God.”
Intelligent Design advocate William Dembski writes that “God is at everymoment involved with the world”. God’s involvement at every moment impliesthe entire spectrum of “Top Down” interactions at all levels in Nature.Dembski also thinks that he will soon be able to design a reliable test fordetecting intelligent design. That will be a giant step forward inestablishing the validity or otherwise of the two dimensional model.
The acclaimed theoretical physicist and writer Paul Davies writes in hisrecent book The Fifth Miracle:
“The issue at stake today is not whether life has gradually evolved overbillions of years- the evidence for that is overwhelming- but whether thereis something slanted about the manner of that evolution. A blend ofDarwinism and levels of organizational complexity could offer a way forward.In such a scenario, small replicator molecules form by chance and start toevolve by Darwinian means, but the process is sometimes aided and evenoverridden by organizational principles that confer specificity andinformation.”
The role of information matrices on evolution in a ” Top Down” fashion isalso hinted in what Paul Davies had to say in his book. Information (orknowledge) has downward causative power, he writes. And he points out thatthe interatomic forces that form biological molecules like proteins andnucleic acids are indeed quantum mechanical in nature.
Manfred Eigen writes, ” Our task is to find an algorithm, a natural law thatleads to the origin of information.” He and his colleagues acknowledge thecrucial role played by molecular Darwinism. Nevertheless, they see the needfor it to be augmented by other physical processes which can be anadditional source of biological information.
Speaking on the issue of Nature or Nurture, psychiatrist John Ratey writesin his book A User’s Guide to the Brain:
“In reality, there is no debate. Most of who we are is a result of theinteraction of our genes and our experiences. In some cases, the genes aremore important, while in others the environment is more crucial.”
In another context, he points [out that]
“Even it you know the exact number of tigers, beetles, parrots, monkeys, andbanana trees, you have no hope of knowing which species will fare best inthe long run. Every single event has the potential to upset the balance ofpower and thus to change every subsequent event. In any such complex system,it really is up to the monkeys and tigers to see who gets the upper hand.”
“We do have free will, in a sense, for everything we do affects everythingthat follows, and the brain develops in a largely unpredictable way.Genetics is important but not determinative.”
Obviously, this line of thinking too is in tune with the two-dimensionalmodel of evolution even if we ignore the religious component of it.
As Noble Laureate Ilya Prigogine who introduced the notion ofself-organization in Nature pints out in his book The End of Certainty:
“Nature involves both time-reversible and time-irreversible processes.Irreversible processes are the rule and irreversible processes theexception. Irreversible processes produce entropy. In contrast, reversibleprocesses leave the entropy constant.”
As Prigogine also points out, we now have inherited two conflicting views ofNature: a deterministic time-reversible view central to both Newtonian andEinsteinian Physics and an evolutionary cosmology in which the energy of theuniverse is constant but the entropy is constantly increasing. Physicistssee this as a conflict between the quantum mechanical world view of purechance and a deterministic view based on the Theory of Relativity. Whileothers are struggling to resolve this dilemma by seeking to quantize gravityas well, Prigogine takes an intermediate position that recognizes both thedeterministic as well as the probabilistic aspects of Nature, but sees thedeterministic aspect as an illusion. He writes:
“We live in a world of definable probabilities where life and matter evolvecontinuously in the direction of time, and certainty itself is an illusion.Quantum mechanics can be extended to demonstrate time’s irreversibility.Time actually preceded the Big Bang.”
“The big bang was an event associated with an instability within the mediumthat produced our universe. Although our universe has an age, the mediumthat produced our universe has none. Time has no beginning, and probably noend. We are observing the birth of a science that is no longer limited toidealized and simplified situations but reflects the complexity of the realworld, a science that views us and our creativity as part of a fundamentaltrend present at all levels of Nature.”
Notice the similarity in this view and the scriptural support we haveelicited in a previous section
Julian Barbour, one of the most highly respected physicists of our time,argues in his recent book The End of Time that the unification of Einstein’sgeneral relativity and quantum mechanics may well spell the end of time.This is how he introduces the main theme of his book:
“The world is made of Nows. These Nows hover in “nothing”. Newtonianphysics, Einstein’s relativity and quantum mechanics will all be seen to dodifferent things with the Nows. They arrange them in different ways. What ismore, the rules that govern the universe as a whole leave imprints, whichphysicists take as the fundamental laws of nature, reveal few hints of theirorigin in a deeper scheme of things. The attempt to understand the universeas a whole by ‘stringing together’ these local imprints without a grasp oftheir origin must give a false picture. It will be the flat Earth writlarge. My aim is to show how the local imprints can arise from a deeperreality, how a theory of time emerges from timelessness. The task is not tostudy time, but to show how nature creates the impression of time.”
“The world is to be understood, not in terms of atoms and material thingsthat move in a container of spacetime but in terms of more fundamentalentities that fuse space and matter into the single notion of possiblearrangements or configurations of the entire universe.”
In reviewing Barbour ‘s book, Lee Smolin, another recognized physicistwrites, “Julian Barbour’s theory is the most interesting and provocative newidea about time to be proposed in many years. If true, it will change theway we see reality.”
Barbour calls the “nothing” in which the Nows hover “Platonia”. However, ifthe “nothing” in which the Nows hover is regarded as the mind of God, theUltimate Source, it follows that anything that happens in the Universeaffects the mind of God. And that explains a whole of lot things in terms ofour two dimensional model of evolution. These include God’s need for worshipand the returns It promises us. Our joy is God’ joy. Our suffering is Hersuffering.
Support From Spiritually Enlightened Human Beings.
Throughout history, spiritually enlightened human beings have felt that theyhave received a calling or message from God. The most recent experiencewidely publicized is that of Neale Walsch. In his book Conversations withGod, Walsch reports on God’s own explanation of the purpose of creation.
“My desire is the beginning of all creation. What is my Desire? To know andexperience Myself in all My glory. To know who I am. My purpose in dividingMe was to create sufficient parts of Me so that I could know Myselfexperientially. There is only one way for the Creator to know Itselfexperientially as the Creator, and that is to create. And so I gave to eachof the countless parts of Me in the physical universe and the metaphysicaluniverse the same power to create which I have as the Whole. My seconddesire is that you shall know and experience who you really are. My thirddesire is for the whole life process to be an experience of constant joy,continuous creation, never-ending expansion and total fulfillment in eachmoment of now.I have established a perfect system whereby these desires maybe realized. They are being realized now- in this very moment. Thedifference between you and Me is that I know this.”
Obviously, this explanation of the purpose of creation by God itself is intune with the central concept of our two dimensional model of evolution.
Recent Neurological Explanations of Human Spirituality And ReligiousExperiences
All said and done, it goes without saying that religious or spiritualexperiences like all other mental events are after all mediated via ourmind-brain complexes. Therefore, God cannot be conceived of as an entitywith a name or form in space and time or even beyond. He, She or It can beaccessed and experienced only as responses of our mind-body complex underdifferent conditions and circumstances.
Writing in the book God at 2000 that he co-authored with Ross Mackenzie,Marcus Borg well known for his numerous books on academic Christiantheology, writes:
“The question of God is not about the existence of another being, but thequestion of how we “see” reality. By reality, I mean, “What is this that isall around us, ‘the whole?'” We may see it as ordinary, as nothing special,or as simply a whirling collection of matter and energy. Or we may see it aswondrous and amazing, life-giving and nourishing, beyond all of ourexplanations, to which the appropriate response is awe, gratitude, anddoxology.”
In his recent book Are You Getting Enlightened or Losing Your Mind, apracticing psychiatrist Dennis Gersten divides the entire spectrum of humanconsciousness into three overlapping categories- the normal, the abnormaland the supernormal. With numerous case studies, he documents a cleardistinction between “getting enlightened” and “losing one’s mind”, miraclesand madness, spiritual emergence and mental emergency. Other scientistsactively involved in looking at the connection between brain science andspirituality are Andrew Newberg, Gerald Edelman and Ralph Greenspan.
Most scientists believe that the mind is merely the result of a complexarray of neurological events in the brain. However there are those likeNobel Prize winner John Eccles who do not agree. Deepak Chopra believes thatall minds are one and the same as that of the mind of our Ultimate Source,reminding us of the ancient Hindu Advaitic concept.
Candace Pert, well known for her role in the discovery of opiate receptorsin the human brain speculates on the basis of some recent experimentalfindings of herself and some of her colleagues in biochemistry andimmunology that the mind as we experience it is non-material, yet it has aphysical substrate which is both the body and the brain. More specifically,she thinks that the mind is the flow of information among the cells, organsand systems of the body. Pert further points out that the single-celledanimal, tetrahymena makes many of the same peptides, including insulin andthe endorphins, that we humans do.
Chopra reminds us that the nervous systems of higher biological species onearth are structured in layers. Different layers give rise to differentbiological responses or impulses. These impulses include the instinctsrelated to survival, the sex drive and raw elemental emotion. The humanmind-brain complex has evolved to the point of many additional biologicalresponses that correspond to the ” I”, “We” and “They” type of feelings andthe instinct to know ourselves. In every biological response, we experiencean aspect of our Ultimate Source based on our own interpretation of realityin response to a given situation and that interpretation is rooted inbiology. The higher responses come into play in different ways amongdifferent people depending on their spiritual growth and inherited geneticlimitations.
Chopra has identified seven particular types of responses of the humanmind-brain complex that are appropriate to our discussion here. These are(1) The Fight or Flight response (2) The Reactive response (3) The Restfulawareness response (4) The Intuitive response (5) The Creative response (6)The Visionary response and (7) The Sacred response, which is the ultimatespiritual or religious experience. The Fight or Flight response enables anorganism to survive in the face of danger. That much is not new tophysiologists. Chopra however is the first writer to speculate on thepresence of the remaining responses. The Reactive response, as he suggestsis what gives an organism a feeling of ” I, me and mine ” in varioussituations. This is what is involved in the survival drive, self-centeredbehavior, competition, sex drive, desire for power and domination etc. Thesetwo responses, we seem to share with the animal kingdom as well and perhapsalso with other lower species on earth. The five other higher responses seemto come into play only within the context of the human mind-brain complex.For example, the third one, namely the Restful awareness response is whatcomes into play when we experience a sense of peace and calm, especiallyduring meditation and deep reflection. The Intuitive respo se comes intoplay when we seem to gain sudden insights. The Creative response comes intoplay when we invent new things or discover new facts. The Visionary responsecomes into play when the mind-brain complex suddenly feels joyful andblessed. And finally, the Sacred response comes into play when themind-brain complex senses its identity with its Ultimate Source and the restof creation.
There is evidence to suggest that all these responses may be augmentedthrough “Bottom Up” interactions like meditation and prayer. Faith seems tobe a key element in prayer while it may not be in meditation. Grace isrecognized as a “Top Down” interaction in this interpretation. In thecontext of prayer, meditation and faith, miracles do occur occasionally orthey are interpreted by the mind as miracles. Chopra suggests that Stage 1miracles include surviving great danger and a sense of divine protection.Stage 2 miracles involve incredible achievements and success. Stage 3miracles include premonitions and the feeling of the presence of God orangels. Stage 4 miracles involve ESP and prophetic powers. Stage 5 miraclesinclude sudden insights and spontaneous fulfillment of desires. Stage 6miracles include powers of healing and the performance of supernaturalfeats. Stage 7 miracles involve inner evidence of enlightenment. To a fullyrealized person, the entire universe is one with God. To such a person, thekingdom of God is within himself or herself. Thou art That, you are That,all this is That, he or she declares. The knower, the known and the processof knowing become united in his or her mind. This is the final stage ofNirvana or Samadhi as described in Eastern religious traditions.
Discussion and Conclusions
Throughout history, intellectuals have pointed out that the form of theworld as described by us is dependent on the processes of understanding weourselves create based on what we observe and experience with or without thetools we invent. The most highly evolved instrument for understanding atthis point of evolution on earth is the human mind. The mind is in somerespects the maker of Nature, philosopher Kant noted. What we can evercomprehend is limited by what we are as a biological species. No wonder,Albert Einstein said:
“The most incomprehensible thing about Nature is that we comprehend it,however minutely. The most beautiful thing we can experience is a sense ofthe mysterious. That is the source of all true art and science.”
Thus, central to any model of evolution is the issue of understanding”understanding” itself. The instrument, by which any entity in evolutionunderstands, that instrument can never understand how it understands or whyit understands. Even within the context of this realization, as epitomizedby Albert Einstein, we are able to develop models time and space, matter andenergy and our own evolution as a species from primitive life forms. And weare even moving further and further in the direction of understandingourselves, our consciousness, our world, our universe, our Ultimate Sourceand even our Ultimate Destiny. And in that process are emerging our numeroustechnologies. And that is a still greater mystery.
Leaving aside the riddle of understanding “understanding’, another equallypuzzling issue is that of comprehending time. Currently there seem to bethree schools of thought. One is that time begins with the Big Bang (Mostmodern cosmologists operate on this basis). Another is that it has alwaysbeen there (Prigogine and his colleagues for example) Still another is thattime does not exist at all ( A few scientists like Julian Barbour feel thisway).
In this paper, we have argued that evolution, as witnessed from our ownhuman frame of reference within the context of Newtonian time and space,appears to involve two types of interactions. “Bottom Up” and ” Top Down”.Both types appear to be involved at every step in the evolutionary process.Some of these interactions involve communion of the evolved entities bothindividually and collectively with their Ultimate Source, referred to as Godin most religions.
“Bottom Up” and “Top Down” interaction may also involve the intermediateQuantum Domain of particle physics. And that domain may very well be thedomain of angels and departed saints, the purgatory in Christian terms. Thishowever is purely a speculative suggestion as it is currently not possibleto offer credence to the idea of soul in scientific terms.
Many “Top Down” processes involve an element of choice, either individuallyor collectively by the evolved entities. The element of choice is currentlyat its highest among homo-sapiens. Therefore, the future direction ofevolution on earth depends not only on the operative principles of naturalselection but also considerably on the steps we take as a species. We havethe potential to augment it in positive ways as well as in negative ways.The choice is within us as individuals and together as the human race.
It goes without saying that developments such as genetic engineering andmachines with artificial intelligence do not come out as playing God in thismodel. Nor do any advances made by any species on earth. They are all partof an open ended evolutionary progression on earth.
Spirituality and psychic powers are seen in this model as mere extensions ofother mental faculties and are likewise subject to both genetic andenvironmental influences. They too have the potential to evolve into higherand higher levels. Here also we have a choice. We can choose to grow bytaking the appropriate steps or choose to decline by taking retrogradesteps. As individuals, we can enhance our interaction with our UltimateSource and thereby enrich our lives through faith, meditation and prayer.The Ultimate Source is just One. The doors to it are many. The upper limitsof our access to it as humans are imbedded in our inherited genetic make-up.The same kind of limitations make it impossible for all of us to become likeJesus Christ, Einstein, Mozart or Hitler however much we try or get trained.
An alternative representation of the reality sandwich concept of DeepakChopra is presented in the attachments to this paper as Model 1 of Reality.A more speculative alternative for consideration by physicists is presentedin Model 2. A question mark has deliberately been added to the word “mind”in these models in view of the enormous diversity of views as to whatconstitutes the mind. [Editor’s note: please contact Dr. Rao for copies ofthese models, as they cannot be presented in our present email format. Thankyou.]
If physicists, evolutionary biologists and neuroscientists can accept thebasic tenets of this two dimensional model of evolution, with or without itsreligious component and seek to fill in the details, they will have made agiant step forward towards bridging the gap between Science and ourReligiosity, the two dominant aspects of our existence on this planet.
Authors Cited and Some of their Recent Books or Articles(Not in any particular order)
1. Larry Dossey:Healing WordsThe Power of Prayer and the Practice of MedicinePrayer is Good Medicine
2. Dennis Gersten:Are You Getting Enlightened or Losing your Mind
3. Deepak Chopra:How to know GodOn the Shores of EternityEveryday Immortality
4. Freeman Dyson:The Sun, the Genome and the InternetDisturbing the UniverseOrigins of Life
5. Ian Marshall and Diana Zohar:A Quantum Theory of Consciousness
6. Alwyn Scott:Stairways to the Mind
7. Arthur Peacocke:Theology for a Scientific AgeGod and Science: A Quest for Christian CredibilityPaths from Science toward God: End of all Exploring
8. John Polkinghorne:Faith, Science and UnderstandingBelief in God in an Age of ScienceFaith of a Physicist
9. Neale Walsch:Conversations with God (Vols:1-3)Communion with GodFriendship with God
10. Candace Pert:Molecules of Emotion
11. William Dembski:The History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition
12. John Eccles:How the Self Controls Its BrainEvolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self
13. Andrew Newberg:Why God Won’t Go Away:Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
14. Herbert Benson:The Relaxation Response
15. George Ellis and Nancey Murphy:On the Moral Nature of the Universe
16. Gerald Edelman:Neural DarwinismTopobiology
17. Ralph Greenspan:The Flexible GenomeGenes and Behavior
18. Paul Davies:The Fifth MiracleThe Mind of GodAbout Time
19. Harold Koeing:The Healing Power of Faith
20. John Ratey:A User’s Guide to the Brain
21. Marcus Borg:God at 2000Ross Mackenzie
22. Lee Smolin:The Life of the Cosmos
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