A Model for External Influence | Survival of the Most Aesthetic | Limitations on the scope of Science | So, who are these beings? | Conclusion
Strange things are happening right now -- even the Scientists are becoming fundamentalists (Richard Dawkins, David Attenborough, et al). Is there no middle ground? I would like to suggest a bridge between the scientific approach and other views of how the world that we see was formed.
First I'm going to suggest a model for how our physical world may be influenced by beings that are external to the reality that we are familiar with, then I'll connect that with evolution to show how evolution could have been directed from outside. I'll end with a few comments on the scientific method, dogma, and religious views.
I would to suggest this minimal hypothesis:
That there are other worlds of beings that exist in forms of space not yet understood or detected by science.
That the interaction between these other spaces and our physical space is very weak -- that it would take an immense amount of energy or effort for these beings to cause physical changes in our world.
That, due to this, the vast majority of their interaction has been with the consciousness of living beings here.
I suggest that the mechanism behind this interaction is yet to be discovered by science. We have a lot of work to do to understand consciousness itself before we could begin to understand the mechanisms by which it may be influenced. (This is discussed further below.) Perhaps it is not obvious why interaction with consciousness would be easier than interaction with matter, but in that case, consider it part of the hypothesis.
Using this minimal hypothesis, we can begin looking for evidence and applications of it.
The most obvious thing, looking at the human species in general, is that throughout our history we have apparently been doing a great deal of talking with 'spirits' in various forms. This is evidence that either we have an overactive imagination -- that we have a kind of madness as a species -- or, alternatively, that there are indeed some kind of external beings that we have been interacting with. The final verdict on our 'madness' could go either way, but for now it is enough to note that the historical evidence can be used to support the hypothesis.
I would now like to suggest a bridge between the ideas of Evolution and Intelligent Design, i.e. a kind of "Intelligent Evolutionism". Here is the hypothesis:
That the physical mechanism for the origin and development of the species on this planet is pretty much as described by modern Evolution, i.e. genes, DNA, selection and reproduction. There may be some significant details still to be discovered, but the basic mechanism is clear enough.
That Natural Selection (survival of the fittest) is only one of various methods of selection.
That once there are enough members of a species surviving to reproduce, then selection is driven by other things, primarily the aesthetic qualities favoured by members of the species in one another.
Aesthetic qualities are a part of consciousness and therefore can be influenced by the external beings from Hypothesis #1.
That through this mechanism, beings outside of our immediate reality could direct the physical processes of Evolution to their own ends, through influencing the aesthetic sense in each of the species.
The reason why aesthetics influences selection is that individual members of a species must choose who to breed with. The choice is determined by the aesthetic qualities favoured by that species in its mates. This in turn leads to all the enormous variety of courtship rituals that are observed. Aesthetics starts to take over from "survival of the fittest" as soon as a species member has a choice of more than one breeding partner.
I hope the general mechanism is clear enough -- if I (as an external being) had the ability to influence a species to prefer one fur colour over another, then given a hundred generations, that fur colour would surely dominate -- by the simple established rules of selection. Influencing the preference or aesthetics of a species would be a very powerful way to direct evolution. It would also be the only practical way for beings to do so if they did not have the resources to intervene physically in the breeding process (e.g. as we do in the case of dog breeding). It would especially suit beings that have time on their hands and are able to wait, or that are detached from our experience of time.
If Hypothesis #1 is valid, then the second hypothesis leads on naturally, and is actually the most obvious way for beings with certain qualities and limitations to direct evolution from outside.
This now allows us to consider the possibility that maybe Evolution has indeed been directed, in small or large part, to fit the designs of some group of beings that we are not aware of. If some natural system seems to have some sense of higher order or organization beyond what can be explained by individual species following their own survival or aesthetic interests, then we can wonder: What were the external beings trying to achieve? What were they up to? What does this tell us about them?
This is a legitimate line of enquiry if Hypothesis #1 is provisionally accepted.
Science aims to be all-encompassing, but at the same time intentionally limits its own scope. It requires phenonema that are observable, repeatable and measurable. This becomes problematic when there are as yet no instruments available to measure something that we would like to investigate, or when the only instrument that can observe phenonema is the mind, which is considered fallible as a measuring device.
Consider the complexity of the behaviours being discovered by quantum mechanics, then multiply them up to the number of atoms in a human body. We have hardly started to understand what might be going on. There is a huge amount of room for unexpected things to be discovered. We have instruments to measure weird things happening with one or two particles, but nothing to work on the scale of a living organism. We've hardly started.
Pretty much all of this is still outside of the bounds of Science. However, it is important to realise that just because it is outside the bounds of Science does not make it untrue. It just makes it undecided -- Science is unable, as yet, to give us an answer. Science does, however, permit us to create working hypotheses and to prove or disprove them at a later date. This is the only way that we can hope to make progress until more subtle or sophisticated measuring instruments can be devised.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I am not attempting to determine who those beings may be, their allegiances or identities or any other such details, nor how they might relate to the various beings described by traditions throughout human history. I really have no idea. I think it would be a mistake to extrapolate too far beyond the immediate observations and tentative hypotheses.
All that I can say is that there is a potential mechanism for influence from outside, and that there is evidence that quite possibly some influence has been taking place -- i.e. that something suspicious has been going on.
As someone who prefers to work from observation rather than belief -- even when considering something that is outside the normal scope of Science -- I could not possibly accept the fixed dogmatic religious ideas of any one group. Many religious beliefs systems are very distant from the original observations and experiences that seeded them. It is observation that is interesting, not belief.
We need to get away from these fixed ideas. Dogmatic belief is not the path to finding the truth -- neither dogmatic scientific belief nor dogmatic religious belief -- but rather honest and unbiased observation. There was a time not so long ago when schoolchildren were criticised if they pointed out that South America and Africa looked like they might fit together on the map: "Don't be so ridiculous!" But now it is established science. It is currently unthinkable to Science that Evolution might not be random but might perhaps in small or large part have been directed by external actors, but maybe one day that will be different.
Right now there is a wave of fundamentalism in the world (both scientific and religious), but in my opinion, the only way to move forwards is to ride above all of that and not allow ourselves to be provoked into taking entrenched positions and rejecting new possibilities. We need new ideas, such as the ones that I am suggesting, to continue our progress as humans.
-- Jim Peters, 11-Feb-2010