Sunday, May 13, 2012

Survival of The Fitest - Existing of the Existant

I don't believe in any agency in creation. I don't know exactly where things 'came from', but the rough sketch currently available (the big bang) resonates as true even though it is quite un-reasonable (I cannot get my head around it's far too big). I think the theory of evolution is a very good road as I contemplate existence and mind and self. It is proving particularly clarifying for me these days regarding mind and self. All theories of mind and psychology should have an evolutionary background explanation to be trusted. For example, Freud, to my characterization, assumed some sort of uber agency at play allowing this and repressing that, but he never got to explaining why from an evolutionary point of view. Some modern researchers appear to be riff off of evolution with great success.

But, I think it is very important to wrestle the grand cliche' of evolution, "survival of the fittest" in a manner that excludes agency. To perhaps translate this to Buddhism, the argument must be constructed without picking and choosing (p&c). One can see p&c at play in the catch phrase in 'the fittest.' This, of course, carries implications of decision. Of two things compared and the fittest one gets to move on to the next square. In my understanding of cause/effect there is no room for this. One set of factors collapses into the next set of factors. There is no 'deciding' in the collapse. It happens that way because that is the only way for it to happen (even that reeks too much of p&c).

It is freaking astounding to me that the universe if full of stuff that aggregates. Under the right conditions it aggregates into creatures that make and watch flat-screen, LED backlit, high definition, 3D, wifi connected, internet surfing televisions. Under other conditions it aggregates into blue giant suns, black holes and quasars. But in either case it is one long tumble of cause/effect. There are no decisions of 'fittest' driving this thing. Rather less poetically it is simply that the things that exist, do, and those that don't, don't. There is no right and wrong in this. Things do exist because the conditions and past flow (karma) have lead to them.

This helps me frame my concept of "why" I exist, and what is my "purpose", and I do experience some sorrow in that agency is removed from my view. There is, in fact, no "why" to my existence other than the seemingly sterile fact of cause/effect. And, there is no "purpose" I can look up in some agents book of purposes in heaven. But this does not leave me nihilistic and absent joy, wonder, and compassion.

I still experience joy, wonder and compassion, because I must do. They exist as concrete, real feelings, with underpinnings in specific, physically definable, brain activities, that are one outcome of a great avalanche of cause/effect that probably involved the super-nova of a blue-giant star several million years ago. And on the other hand, there is only breathing in and breathing out.


Jordan said...

I don't know how in depth your study of the Dharma has been, but for things like this, I tend to like the good ole Pali Cannon. I don't know if it will work for you. but there is a great book laid out like a textbook by Paul Gerhards called "Mapping the Dharma" and I think it gives a great overview of Gautama's core teachings.

It is pretty thin, but has all the basic stuff that I usual assume everybody knows, and it is a book I recommend for anyone who wants to know everything.

Lauren said...

Jordan, hi. I have studied the old texts at all. I've got the book you recommend coming in the mail as I type. Thank's for the idea.

Lauren said...

Make that "have not"