Part Seven

Modes of Development

Section 1

Inanimate Evolution

Chapter 1

The hypothesis

This part could take a whole three or four volumes by itself, since it is supposed to be an overview of what happened from the first moment of the Big Bang (if that's how everything started) right up to the present; but I'm just not up to that, even supposing I had twenty years ahead of me that I could devote to it full time.

Nevertheless, I think I can give a kind of vastly oversimplified sketch of what I think happened, based on what one could predict from what this theory says about the nature of God, who created everything, the nature of process, of inanimate bodies, living bodies, human bodies, and society, as well as based on the rather meager empirical evidence we have about how things seem to have progressed from the beginning to the emergence of life, from life to the emergence of human beings, and from human beings through history to the present.

This is not going to be something à la Hegel, however, where everything is logically entailed by what went immediately before, in a dialectic of reason. As I have said several times in this rather inordinate number of pages I have inflicted on the world, there is more to reality and even thinking than reason, with its cause-and-effect necessity.

In fact, though I think that evolution is a kind of dialectic, because all process is dialectical, I believe that Hegel, ironically enough, had things only half right with what you might call the thesis of his dialectic: that the real is rational and the rational is real. In fact, the real is at least rational, in that some of the things that occur in it are linked by necessity (i.e. causality) to others; but the real is also non-rational (though not irrational) in that many things that happen did not have to happen. And, in fact, Hegel confronts this non-rational aspect of things in what he calls the "bad infinite," which he thinks must be surpassed and suspended in a new stage by reason's turning back in on itself as it tends to lose itself in "...and so on to infinity."

Further, the rational is both real and non-real, as the logic of our dreams and our imaginative activity shows. Hence, Hegel's attempt to show that all of reality can be put into an a priori rational dialectic is, if what I have been saying is true, doomed to failure, in spite of its brilliance. Reality is much more messy.

But the reason any process is dialectical is, as I tried to show in Chapter 3 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.3, that instability implies the future equilibrium, toward which it drives the process. Hence, anything in process contains a specific self-negation (its purpose) within it, which, when achieved, will destroy the process as such--or better, in Hegelian terms, suspend it in the fulfillment which is the existence in equilibrium of the purpose.

But as I said in discussing evolution at the end of Chapter 7 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.7 and in discussing evolution in Chapter 5 of Section 1 of the third part 3.1.5, this dialectic is not one of reason, but of love. God, who is (from our point of view, certainly) absolute love, created the universe out of love, and created an evolving universe. From this we can, as I said, make the following prediction as a kind of hypothesis about evolution:

Hypothesis for the evolution of the universe: The universe as it evolves will be a dialectic gradually revealing more and more God's love for it, and reflecting love within it to a greater and greater degree.

But since love is gratuitous, the dialectic will not involve a necessary progression, as Teilhard de Chardin seemed to think, but will be a sporadic thing.

The gradual revealing of God's love for the universe he creates will reveal itself as a greater and greater respect God shows his creatures, by leaving them more and more on their own as to the specification of what they are doing (though, of course, they can't be on their own as finite existences). The gradual reflection of God's love in the creatures themselves will be shown by activity that more and more makes sense or has its purpose in something other than the agent.

In the beginning, with inanimate evolution, things will be pretty thoroughly directed, since inanimate beings have no control over what they are doing at all, and are at the mercy of their energy level and the energy impinging upon them. This first stage will be characterized by causality, laws, and chance; but we will see that even here, the progress seems to come by manipulating the chance element in the interactions between things.

As to the reflection of love at this stage, all love, which is free giving, is implicit or "in itself" here; and what happens has to be construed as "loving" by an outside observer, since there is not what you might call a bias one way or the other in the inanimate bodies themselves. Nevertheless, as we look at what happens, I think it will be able to be said that there is a kind of "giving" that is going on rather than its opposite.

When the higher stage of life is reached, we find God's respect shown by giving the living body acts that are not strictly necessary for its existence; and insofar as the living body has control over itself, it tends to be left to follow its own impulses, rather than being bound by rigid laws.

But even though life is, in Hegelian terms, "for itself," since each living being must work to achieve and maintain its equilibrium in the face of a largely hostile environment, we will find that the living body seems to be "cheated" by its surroundings into doing things that benefit others as it tries to benefit itself; and that progress comes precisely through these acts that the living body does "in spite of itself."

At the stage of sentient life, we find the gift of consciousness, which is not needed at all for the sentient body to behave as it does--and therefore manifests a greater degree of love on God's part; and we find that the sentient body has much more control over itself and its activities than its non-conscious predecessors. But sentient beings also seem to seek out their own kind more obviously and to nurture their young and so on, simultaneously finding their own pleasure in this and doing something which does not really benefit themselves.

But love is "in and for itself" only in mankind, because a human being can know and choose either his own fulfillment or to make as his goal someone else's fulfillment. And as mankind develops, we find the notion of "we" gradually expanding until it embraces the whole of humanity; and creative love expanding until it transforms the whole of the universe that mankind can touch. And of course, in the midst of this, Love Himself becomes a man, and creates a collective person, whose reality expands as more and more people throughout history come to join themselves freely into cells of his mystical body.

But since love is explicit in human reality, there is also a counter-tendency that becomes explicit, the tendency toward selfishness and using others for one's own sake; and as human development goes on, this becomes more and more sophisticated, and often clothes itself as love.

The fact that I have used "in itself," "for itself," and "in and for itself" might mislead people into thinking that what follows is going to be triadic, with every "negation of the negation" coming back into a kind of reaffirmation at a more sophisticated level of the first stage which was negated. The dialectic is one of self-negation with a definite direction (and purpose) implied; and while it is true that the purpose is contained within the instability, it does not follow that the fulfillment of the purpose allows one to see the previous stage (the one before the process) lurking somehow suspended within it. A self-negation (an instability in the sense a dialectic of love envisions it) opens up unpredictable new possibilities when its purpose is achieved; often there are several avenues that evolution could explore, and sometimes does, going down blind alleys (such as with the dinosaurs) which die out, or arriving at stable stages which simply remain as they are. But for evolution to have occurred down to the present, there obviously is always at least one stage which itself is unstable, and which therefore denies itself in such a way that new possibilities are opened up, at least one of which, when explored, leads to an unstable condition which opens up further possibilities.

One other caveat: It is not a mark of wisdom to consider the path of evolution (i.e. the path from instability to instability) to be the "good" path, and the paths that become extinct as "failures," and the paths that simply remain stable as "arrested development." In the eternal scheme of things, nothing is "better" than anything else; God loves cockroaches as infinitely as he loves us. Granted, we are greater than cockroaches, because we are not only more complex but less limited. But are we thereby better? They have, after all, survived exceedingly well, and even adapted themselves to our mechanized environment. So beware of thinking that "progress" is something that necessarily should be sought after. Progress happens, and where there is instability, process, of course, is inevitable by definition. But not all process is advance toward lesser limitation, and it is equilibrium, after all, which is what is intelligible, not process.