(continued from Monsters)
“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination.” -John Keats- Let's go back to evolution. Go through the argument again.
- Darwin's theory of evolution is natural selection of chance mutations. When we breed dogs for height we make sure other possibly advantageous qualities aren't given a chance to develop: not health, age, color, shape, strength, only height. We have difficulty imagining how in nature the equivalent conditions, a substitute for the breeder, could be found. A long neck is good for a giraffe, but so are many other qualities. Another problem is that a greater height and longer neck will come at the cost of other useful qualities. Hip problems, breathing problems for example are common with certain breeds of dogs. The dog breeder puts together tall dogs with tall dogs and ignores the problems, but it's hard to see what nature without the interference of a breeder could do about it. Another problem is the complexity that has to be maintained and extended for the development of specialized organs. For this to happen, useful changes must not interfere with existing structures, rather they have to extend the potential of existing structures. Hard to see how this could happen by chance.
- OK. You've said chance selection of random change in evolution, the spontaneous organization of the free market out of impersonal economic transactions are examples of myth and ritual. I don't really get that.
- The Guru brought over last night a girl who told me she'd prostituted herself the night before.
- You're living with a prostitute?*
- For the time being. I asked her if she was a prostitute, and she said she wasn't. She is living her life, living out the myth popularized by singers whose message is Be who you are are, everyone is as good as everyone else, find your power.
- Where is her power? Did she tell you?
- She told me. It's power over men. She was extremely defensive, she took everything I said to be an evasion or an attack. Her life was a struggle for power. She had to give up all other human qualities, sincerity, kindness, etc in the pursuit of being who she'd decided she was. At least for the time being. She was young, wanted to apply for film school.
- She was evolving herself into role like the dog breeder guides the evolution of his breeds.
- Yes. The politician does the same, saying or doing anything to get and keep the job.
- Evolution then is modeled not only on myth, but also on everyday social behavior?
- Lewis Mumford said that physical technology grew out of the historically prior social technology, the complex hierarchies of Middle Eastern empires.
- How does this connect with what you said about ritual?
- The politician, the prostitute, in every act of gaining and solidifying power passionately attempts to make up for the loss of personal alternatives, looking ahead to the power of newly established social relations.
- If the theory of evolution is merely a clumsy translation of social technology of ritual, how does evolution really happen? Or do you deny evolution altogether?
- Let's try to imagine a kind of social technology that could support evolution.
- Sure, if you can.
- We need to be able to get rid of the breeder artificially limiting which good adaptations are to persist, and we need to protect complexity. We have technology which does this.
- What technology is that?
- When we see something as beautiful we have taken a step back. We've stopped responding to immediate demands of the world, we see a limited part of the world and feel ourselves to be safe with it. Within that safety of defined relation of ourselves to the world, small changes can be allowed that do not imperil stability of relation, and which, if they too can establish a new, safe, beautiful relation to the world, will be acquired and take their functioning place in the complex world we already live in.
- Lost me.
- We we speak, we have confidence we will be understood and in the words we've already learned how to use. That is the background of beauty and complexity. We add one word on top of another, without knowing the end of the sentence. When the sentence works out to be a good one, a beautiful one, we have maintained complexity and evolved a bit our knowledge.
- Do you mean that individual animals learn to remake the world into something beautiful, in which condition evolution then can occur?
- If we assume we living things have something inherent in them similar to our conscious endeavor to create and live with beauty, evolution works**. Something like what we do when we use language takes the place of the breeder.
- But, this is difficult. Do animals take a step back like you say we do when we speak? Do they have a sense of beauty? Do they in fact act on the world to make it beautiful?
- I think it is possible that any form of life can identify different basic kinds of relation to the world without using language as we do in naming some things beautiful and others ugly. I think it is possible that adaptation and evolution could proceed with beauty, with making the world beautiful as a priority.
- Evolution may still be seen as a struggle for existence, but beauty may be its necessary condition.
Further Reading: Einstein & Intellectual Physics
* See the story The Wife, The Writer, The Guru...
** Complexity respected, a single path of adaption pursued, disadvantages taken into account along the way. In the example of language production: 1. Complexity respected: retained as the motive behind speaking. 2. Single path of adaptation: the course of the sentence being produced. 3. Disadvantages dealt with: sentence direction alters as obstacles of meaning encountered. From outside, natural selection. From inside, random change plus this additional factor (reaching towards beauty) selecting between changes.
Evolution thus modified applies also to property relations. The chance acquisition of property, limited by the demands of beauty, and selective pressure of the claims of other people yields something like anarchist economics.
For anarchist economics:
Property Is Silence
The Tools To Remake Our Lives