Thursday, April 28, 2016

DAWKINS IN QUOTES

I could write a book, I'm not going to but I could, about Dawkins' use of quotes.  Each reveals a world of obtuseness, evasion or flat out denial that is necessary to support the materialist box, or coffin, within which he unknowingly finds himself and, also unknowingly, pulls his readers into.   I'll give one example.  In 'The Blind Watchmaker' he is talking (on p. 119 in my Norton paper back edition) about single-celled light sensitive bacteria.  These creatures are the starting point for his discussions, and Darwin's discussions, of the evolution of vision leading up to the human eye.  He says,

"Some single-celled animals have a light-sensitive spot with a little pigment screen behind it.  The screen shields it from light coming from one direction, which gives it some 'idea' of where the light is coming from." 

I should mention that this 'simple' beginning of the evolution of vision is, on the molecular level, not simple at all, but enormously complex (please see  Darwin's Black Box, M.Behe, pps 18-22 to get a 'sketchy overview' of the biochemistry of a light sensitive membrane)  and begs the question of how the light-sensitive spot could have evolved in the first place, and could have evolved simultaneously with an optic nerve without which it would be of no use, as an optic nerve would be of no use if it weren't connected to at least a light-sensitive membrane.  But my question is why  the word 'idea' is put in quotes?

Clearly Dawkins is having a problem with the notion that a single-celled creature would have an 'idea.' It must take, according to materialists, a brain in order to have an idea.  This may or may not be true.  But what is definitely true is that the single-celled animal must have an experience of light, whether or not, and probably not, it ever has an idea of light, or any idea at all.  Without an experience of light, there would be no point to it having a light sensitive membrane.  Experience is the word that Dawkins either avoids or overlooks.  A light sensitive single-celled creature must have an experience of light so that it can aid it in it's survival.

Another word that could be put in quotes from a Dawkins/Darwin perspective would be 'it.'  "....which gives it some 'idea' of where the light is coming from."  What is this it in the light sensitive bacteria that is having this experience?  Would that be the organism, the material structure of this single cell that is having this experience of light? Or would that be the being, the consciousness, that inhabits this single-celled organism?  Is there anything in the material world, including the organic material world of cells, any matter at all, that is capable of experiencing anything?  Or is the 'it' that he refers to really the being, the consciousness that inhabits this tiny organism?  In the same way, when we refer to 'you' or 'he' or 'she' or 'we' as feeling anything, or experiencing anything, or initiating any activity, are we referring by these pronouns to the body or the brain of that person or persons, or are we referring to the consciousness, the being, which is the non-physical milieu of experience and desire? When I say that I am going to get a glass of water, is it my body or my brain that wants that glass of water and that is initiating that action, or is it me, the consciousness, the being, that is experiencing thirst and that initiates the action of getting a glass and moving to the sink?  Am I my body and my brain, or am I consciousness which has a body and a brain, the conscious being that uses my body and my brain as the instruments to realize my desires and through which I filter and organize and define my experience of this world?

If evolution is about survival of the fittest, who or what is it that is trying to survive?  Who or what is it that cares about survival?  Do my cells care? my organs?  my neurons?  the nucleic acids of my genes, any part of my physical body?  Or do I want to survive because I, a conscious being, want to continue to enjoy the life that I am experiencing through this particular body and brain for as long as possible?  And if that is true for me, isn't it also true for my dog and for insects and plants and bacteria?  When Dawkins says that a bacterium with a light sensitive membrane has a survival advantage over a bacterium that doesn't have a light sensitive membrane, who is benefitting from this advantage?  Are the proteins and fats and sugar molecules of the bacteria enjoying this benefit?  Are proteins, fats and sugars capable of enjoying anything?  Is there any part of the physical universe that cares whether it is part of a living organism or not, whether it survives or not?  Cares whether it is hungry or full?  thirsty or sated?  tired or well-rested?  serving a living organism, not serving a dead organism, or serving a new organism that is feeding itself on the dead organism? Isn't the hallmark of life, since it's very inception, an organism which is experiencing things, which is what we mean when we say that an organism is alive; as opposed to an organism which is experiencing nothing, which is what we mean when we say that an organism is dead?

Dawkins, because of his blind adherence to materialism, cannot consider the reality of something that he cannot measure or observe; so even though he has spent the great majority of his life studying organisms, he has missed the essential, most salient  aspect of life, both modern life, ancient life and incipient life, and that is consciousness.  This is why Dawkins uses the word 'idea.'  The light sensitive bacteria must have an 'idea' of light.  Even this he must materialize.  The truth is we experience the world around us not because we have ideas about it but because we just experience it.  Experience itself, is the milieu in which every living being lives and consciousness is simply the ground of that experience or the ability to have that experience.  The experience of living beings,  either one's own experience or the imagined experience of others, is the focus of every work of art every written, drawn, composed or acted.  Yet Dawkins still cannot 'see' it because consciousness is not a thing that you can observe.  You can get it, but you cannot, literally, see anyone else's experience but your own.  So he materializes consciousness by thinking of it as a collection of ideas, which at least are tangible on a mental plane and can easily be materialized by speaking them or writing them down.  But consciousness is subtler than that.  It is not ideas, or thoughts or even feelings.  Those may be the contents of your consciousness; but not your consciousness itself.  Consciousness, itself,  is you, yourself, and you are context not content.  What you are, which cannot be located directly by any measuring instrument, cannot be observed, even by yourself, is the context, not the content, of your experience.  You are not a 'that' but a that which.  You are that which desires and experiences.  Not what you desire and what you experience, but the desirer, the experiencer.  Not any intellectual ability like the ability to think or remember, and not the ability to recognize yourself as in a kind of self-consciousness.  But simply and profoundly, the ground of experience, that which experiences.

Remember that I am talking now not just of human beings, but of all living beings, all!  The reason we are different is because each one of us has a different body, a different genome, a different way of structuring and defining our experience.  Members of the same species experience the world similarly enough that they can more or less understand each other, so they don't experience this life in complete isolation.  Yet we never understand each other completely.  We continue to surprise and learn from each other, so we don't experience each other as completely predictable and boring.  Species, for me, are communities of mutual understanding as much as they are communities of shared biological traits.

Even though our understanding of other species is limited, we can and do feel affection, sympathy and even love for members of other species, if we spend some time with them and if we sense when they are doing well or doing poorly, and that, of course, includes trees and flowers.  This is not because of any nonsense about an 'evolved' feeling of altruism that is a survival advantage over pure selfishness.  In ant and termite colonies, workers unanimously and totally sacrifice themselves for the good of the colony.  Is this not altruism?  Gene swapping among bacteria, which is far more complex and precise than anything achieved in modern biology laboratories or modern medical surgery, as is bacterial DNA replication, transcription and translation (so much for the evolution from the simple to the complex!); gene swapping is altruism at its most basic and profound.  A bacterium that has genetic material that protects it from an environmental threat that endangers the whole colony of bacteria, replicates that genetic material and grows pillis, or ducts, to connect it to other bacterium and through which flows the genetic material that the other bacterium needs to withstand this threat.  The recipient bacterium, now protected, replicates this material, in turn, and grows more pilli which connect to other members of the colony and, in short order, the whole colony is protected.  Now this process of amazing precision, complexity and colonial altruism, has been taking place for billions of years before the advent of any multi-celled creatures at all.  

We feel compassion for and connection with other life forms, because underneath the structural, chemical, biological differences between us, is the same ground of being, the same context.  Even though no two organisms share the identical equipment, the experiencer of that equipment, the context of that experience, is the identical same experiencer.  The self that looks out at the world through your eyes and the self that looks out at the world through my eyes and the self that senses the world through an organism that has no eyes, is the identical same self.  We feel compassion and connection with each other because we are one and the same being experiencing the world through a multitude of different organisms.

Consciousness did not 'evolve' from the material world, from advanced organism with advanced brains.  There would be no advanced organisms and no advanced brains without consciousness.  Organisms came out of consciousness, and everything created by organisms comes out of their consciousness, including dopey ideas about the ultimate material nature of  ourselves and the universe and Darwinian style evolution. 

The more we understand about the complexity of organisms (the material aspect of life) the more it's origin and development defies any merely physical or chemical explanation, whether Darwinian or otherwise.  Take the life form that is the most iconic of the evolution theory, Darwin's Galapagos finches.  So much has been written about how the variations of beak size and shape of different species of finches on the Galapagos islands are an example of Darwinian evolution, random mutation plus natural selection, at work.  Now we discover that the beak sizes and shapes are due not to mutations at all but to changes in the timing and rate of expression of two genes which are used in the beak formation of all birds.  What is the mechanism by which the timing and expression of these genes is changed?  Certainly not by mutations.  We may assume that these changes are adaptive; that they result in beak shapes that are better suited to the hunting and food gathering and nest building activities of different finches, but if we do not know the mechanisms by which these changes take place then we have no business using them as icons for a theory of change (Darwinian evolution) which has to do with the selection of mutational changes in genes which leads to amino acid changes in proteins and not about changes in the timing and rate of  expression of the same genes and the same proteins.

And even changes in rate and expression of genes is only part of the story.  This governs the 'amount' of beak material that is produced at different times in the ontogeny of the finch.  It says nothing about the shape, the contours of the finch beak.  Let's say I was designing and building a house.  I plan to have a dining room that has a window in the front of this house.  I could build the wall that contains this window straight across so that it is flat with the rest of the facade of the house, in which case I would need a certain amount of lumber, dry wall and other materials.  If I decide to put a slight curve in that wall then I will need somewhat more building materials.  If I decide to put a deep curve in it I will need that much more  building materials.  So I order the amounts of material that I need for the particular design I have in mind. 

Changes in gene expression effect the amount of materials produced and delivered at a particular time, but it does not dictate the contours that these materials will take.  That shaping and contouring of the whole beak is a different story entirely.  Saying that it is all done by the rhythm and intensity of gene expression is like saying that I can build a house by arranging for all the building materials to be delivered to the construction site at the right time and in the right sequence and the materials will build the house for me!

If the morphology, or shapes of organs and limbs and bodies are not determined exclusively by genes, then what are they determined by?  This daunting topic will be the subject of another post.

Peace.



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