What Daedalus Told Darwin – Quotes

QUOTES from Zann Gill in

What Daedalus told Darwin: Darwin’s dilemma & the struggle for existence

Rodin-Eustache-portrait-smWhy did Nature evolve artists, the intellectually curious, those committed to make a difference in the world — people who make great personal sacrifices to compose symphonies, write books, and pursue their curiosity to discover knowledge? When Eustache de Saint Pierre stepped forward to sacrifice his life to save his town of Calais, did he make a personal statement irrelevant to evolution? Those who sacrifice themselves don’t survive better to reproduce more. Are the most creative, committed individuals mere anomalies, inexplicable as evolution’s products? Or are they clues (as Darwin’s co-discoverer of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, thought) that our common view of evolution is incomplete?

Does being alive “make meaning” in the world in some broader sense than semantics previously allowed? If so, then intelligence is not life’s sequel, but one of life’s ways of driving its arrow toward complexity.

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Why have we relegated “collaboration” to the specialized niche of higher-level consciousness, while we accept that “competition” occurs throughout Nature? How does making competition a big, universal term, and collaboration a narrow, specialized term restrict what we can understand?

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The living world continually evolves its capacity to detect, discriminate, select, manipulate and synthesize information in order to adapt — to decide what to do next. This capacity for decision-making exists in non-living sensors, designed to detect (but their decision-making was imposed from outside by a Designer), and in life this capacity has evolved from bacteria, able to discriminate and swim upstream in a glucose gradient and antibodies, “recognizing” invading antigens by shape-matching, to chess masters, recognizing patterns evolving on the chess board.

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Although “commitment” at first sounds like a flight from technology to subjectivity, consider what robots may need to accomplish on missions into space. They may need to be able to make sacrifices for each other, or on behalf of the mission, or to enforce each other’s commitments as part of the checks and balances of the complex intelligent system of which each is a part.

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We can lapse into old patterns of nitpicking about terms and debating “what is correct.” Or we can adopt a new frame of reference to entertain a conjecture: What if synergetic evolution offers a constructive way to collaborate aboard this planet? To speculate about our possible futures from a new perspective that is more than an argument, more than a marshaling of evidence, we must reclaim “design.” We must pick up that other oar, so that we can steer our spaceship Earth with both oars into the future.

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If life is partially responsible for is own design (synthesis), while the environment carries out assessment (analysis), then life is a decision-maker in its own evolution, a design integrator as its elements collaborate to create increasingly complex individuals.

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We have embraced a theory that reflects back our own image, effectively explaining why life on Earth is heading toward “the Tragedy of the Commons.” But that theory offers no way to prevent our headlong collision with consequential emptiness.

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We are the Intelligent Designers we so abhor. . . . The process of evolution defines how we face the future. What “evolutionary skill-sets” do we, human civilization, have to steer our own evolution toward constructive, adaptive behaviors?

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The metaphor of Social Darwinism is spent. The great competition for survival of the fittest, has led us to the brink of Garrett Hardin’s sobering prediction — “the tragedy of the commons.” Evolution’s brilliant reprise is Nature’s “world game,” which evolution has been playing all along to create our co-dependent biosphere. The Gaia Hypothesis recognized our whole biosphere as a supra-organism without explaining how it came to be that way. How did it come to be that way? And what are the implications of synergetic evolution for the future of life on Earth?

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Species are rapidly going extinct as humans convert their habitats for development. So our present choices matter. We must now face the impacts of our interventions in this self-adapting system — our biosphere — changes in Earth’s environment that we, “civilization,” are making, and what these changes imply for life in the future.

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Why did Nature evolve artists, the intellectually curious, those committed to make a difference in the world — people who make great personal sacrifices to compose symphonies, write books, and pursue their curiosity to discover knowledge? When Eustache de Saint Pierre stepped forward to sacrifice his life to save his town of Calais, did he make a personal statement irrelevant to evolution? Those who sacrifice themselves don’t survive better to reproduce more. Are the most creative, committed individuals mere anomalies, inexplicable as evolution’s products? Or are they clues (as Darwin’s co-discoverer of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, thought) that our common view of evolution is incomplete?

spacer-sh

Does being alive “make meaning” in the world in some broader sense than semantics previously allowed? If so, then intelligence is not life’s sequel, but one of life’s ways of driving its arrow toward complexity.

spacer-sh
Why have we relegated “collaboration” to the specialized niche of higher-level consciousness, while we accept that “competition” occurs throughout Nature? How does making competition a big, universal term, and collaboration a narrow, specialized term restrict what we can understand?

spacer-sh

The living world continually evolves its capacity to detect, discriminate, select, manipulate and synthesize information in order to adapt — to decide what to do next. This capacity for decision-making exists in non-living sensors, designed to detect (but their decision-making was imposed from outside by a Designer), and in life this capacity has evolved from bacteria, able to discriminate and swim upstream in a glucose gradient and antibodies, “recognizing” invading antigens by shape-matching, to chess masters, recognizing patterns evolving on the chess board.

spacer-sh

Although “commitment” at first sounds like a flight from technology to subjectivity, consider what robots may need to accomplish on missions into space. They may need to be able to make sacrifices for each other, or on behalf of the mission, or to enforce each other’s commitments as part of the checks and balances of the complex intelligent system of which each is a part.

spacer-sh

We can lapse into old patterns of nitpicking about terms and debating “what is correct.” Or we can adopt a new frame of reference to entertain a conjecture: What if synergetic evolution offers a constructive way to collaborate aboard this planet? To speculate about our possible futures from a new perspective that is more than an argument, more than a marshaling of evidence, we must reclaim “design.” We must pick up that other oar, so that we can steer our spaceship Earth with both oars into the future.

spacer-sh

If life is partially responsible for is own design (synthesis), while the environment carries out assessment (analysis), then life is a decision-maker in its own evolution, a design integrator as its elements collaborate to create increasingly complex individuals.

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Photo Credit: Auguste Rodin Eustache de St. Pierre photographed by Laurie Annie