Article 1 : System Philosophy of life
1. The system model
2. Cell as a Phenomenal System
3. The puzzle of life finally solved
For explaining the puzzle pertaining to the definition of life, it is necessary to take into account of the differences between the four world views – Vitalism , Mystic principle (prana),
Naturalism (classical biology)and Physical process view(modern biology / computer model).
The enigma of life is primarily due to the four worldviews mentioned earlier. As a result, religion and science proposed divergent concepts about life. Vitalism is aligned with the religious notion of soul; then life is a metaphysical being different from material body. The influence of metaphysical realism is so strong in our mind that we have the habit of separating life from physical body. The forms of language create confusion when we say the following typical sentences: “death is the event when life departs from body”, “this is a dead body” and “he lost life”. This religious view involves many philosophical problems, mainly the intractable issue of body-mind dualism. Mystical principle (prana) is definitely the process version of vitalism; it also suffers from the controversies of metaphysical realism.
The worldview of naturalism tries to explain life as an epiphenomenon of material evolution. This is the paradigm of classical biology and related sciences. Earth was formed about 450 crores years ago when it consisted of low level atoms only. During the first hundred years, the inanimate atoms called hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon combined in various stages to form macromolecules like DNA, RNA and protein. These macromolecules somehow got the power to organize them for constructing the structure of a cell. So, according to scientists, life emerged in the first cell about 350 crore years ago as a byproduct in the process of inanimate evolution. However, there are many philosophical drawbacks in the description of the evolution of earth as well as the doctrine of epiphenomenalism. Scientists are at wit’s ends in explaining how life with such wonderful non-physical properties can arise from inanimate macromolecules.
1. The system model
For addressing the puzzle of life, modern biology proposes the principle that life is the joint activity of DNA and genetic code. Here the focus is on the description of various biological functions of organic cell, which are ultimately determined by the information contained the genes contained in the genetic code. This is the computer model of life.
We have already shown that the computer model for understanding the fundamental aspects of life is grossly inadequate. Firstly, scientists find it difficult to answer the question as to how genetic code emerged in the DNA. At this stage the scientific view slips to the premise of naturalism to hold that genetic code is an epiphenomenon of material DNA In fact we have observed the fallacies of that principle. In this situation, the origin of life in the first set of macro molecules remains as an unsolved issue. Secondly, the working of genes found in DNA macro molecules cannot be treated as purely physical and mechanical process. We can observe the factors like creativity, freedom and opposite purposes in the function of genetic code. Such nonphysical attributes do not fit in the machine-algorithm framework. It exposes the drawbacks of the theory of justification called naive realism adopted in modern biology. In the wake of the failure of science in explaining the phenomenon of life, the traditional views of religion continues to hold sway in public mind.
An important implication of the philosophical problems of physical process view is that we must shift to content view of knowledge for conceiving the theoretical aspects of biological phenomena. In fact, scientific justification can be proposed only through content view because it deals with the existence of theoretical entities. We have to translate the propositions of modern biology to the content view so as to include in the box of naturalism for proceeding in our philosophical discussion.
It is possible to observe the functions of macro molecules and genetic code in the various visible levels of organism. Then the computer model has to be redefined suitably by extending the empiricist framework to the level of DNA, genetic code and other components of the cell of an organism. Instead of saying that DNA bases function according to the dictates of genetic code, we must postulate that DNA bases exist with the property of genetic code. In this way, the genetic information is an aspect which supervenes the molecular structure of DNA; but we have to discard here the doctrine of epiphenomenalism. The moot point here is how the nonphysical attributes such as purpose and creativity can be incorporated with the definition of DNA molecule. The epistemology of empiricism and naturalism is inadequate for this purpose since it is confined to physical aspects only. Moreover, we cannot admit the naïve realism pertaining to naturalism because of certain drawbacks.
Taking into account the above critical points, we will now introduce a new philosophical scheme named as System Philosophy primarily to explain the existence of life in various cells and higher organisms. The central concepts introduced here are system, phenomenal existence and real existence which pave the way for a new understanding of biological organism.
Philosophical definition of system
What are the constituents of the universe? We answer this question in an ordinary way saying that universe consists of diverse things which can be divided into three levels – inanimate world, biological world and mental world. Later we can extend the mental world to a higher level of social systems also. By analysing the numerous things of universe through philosophical manner, we see that the ultimate constituents of a particular level are the opposites like matter and energy, macromolecule and information, body and mind respectively depending on the level considered. Additionally, human mind can experience the phenomenal things in terms of opposite properties such as white-black, day-night, love-hatred and physical-non physical. These types of fundamental notions, pertaining to opposites included in the theoretical part of our knowledge, can be collectively called as phenomenal predicates. It has been explained above that the opposite predicates do not have existence when they are considered as separate objects adopting Aristotle’s rules of thought.
In the present context we are concerned with the fundamental components of a biological cell, mainly, DNA, RNA, protein and genetic code, which display the physical and nonphysical properties. When these theoretical entities are considered as independent and separate, they are divided into two mutually exclusive classes – physical and nonphysical. Such theoretical entities are mere predicates without existence. If the laws of modern biology are to be justified it is required that the fundamental components have phenomenal existence. As science is a phenomenal knowledge, its theory of justification also must be phenomenal; we want to discard all kinds of realism.
We can tide over the foregoing problem by postulating that the theoretical entitles are systems when they constitute the structure of organism. We philosophically define system as a productive structure composed of opposite entities and show that a system has existence. The axiomatic properties of a system are presented below.
a) Symmetrical structure of X-Y coordinates
The opposite components of a system are similar to the X axis and Y axis pertaining to analytical geometry. Here X and Y have dialectical and productive relation – it is the characteristic of system.
b) Production Function model
System has a production function similar to that of a factory. According to economics, factory is a system for producing various goods using the inputs called labour and capital. The production function model of factory is well known where X axis is labour and Y axis is capital. The production of various outputs with different combinations of X and Y as inputs is illustrated on the basis of analytic geometry.
c) Complementarity of opposites
As a rejection of Aristotle’s rules of thought, the opposite entities X and Y are not independent entities. Instead X and Y are opposites which have complementary character. We cannot define one entity without considering its opposite entity. The opposite components of a system are complementary to each other; they have interdependent existence. Accordingly, it is postulated that a system is a whole of opposites and that only system has existence. We can talk about the opposite components, then they are predicates only – such opposites do not exist separately. Since system or factory has existence its output also can be said to have existence.
There are four blocks, technically called as quadrants in the X-Y model. But the outputs of a system are factually marked in the first quadrant (+X, +Y). Additionally, we can recognize that things have the opposite qualities of good and bad. While, the good things occur in first quadrant, the bad things appear in the third quadrant (-X, -Y). It may be clarified that a particular thing has both states of good and bad depending on the circumstances. Snakes’ venom is good in some situation while it is bad in other situations. This consideration of good and bad pertains to our knowledge of value; hence, the system model of four quadrants has special relevance in the subject of ethics.
The distinction between phenomenon and reality is to be clarified here. We have already defined phenomenon as a thing or event that belongs to a network of cause-effect relations. In other words, phenomenon is an entity which is caused by another entity. From this perspective, it may be noted that all entities pertaining to nature, religion and art are phenomena. On the other hand reality is defined as the first cause of all phenomena in the universe. As such, reality is self-caused, permanent and infinite.
The above axiomatic definition of system can indicate the structure of both phenomenal existence and real existence. Accordingly, a system has phenomenal existence if its opposite coordinates X and Y are phenomena. If X and Y are components of reality, the concerned system has real existence.
2. Cell as a Phenomenal System
We can logically apply the principle of system to describe the phenomenal existence of organic cell and its components. At the outset the structure of an organism is divided into visible level and invisible level. Then there are two sublevels for visible level. These facts are shown in the following table.
Levels in the structure of organism
Visible level 1. The level of cells (cells, tissues and organs)
2. Functional units in the cell (membrane, ribosome, nucleus, chromosome etc).
Invisible level 3. Macromolecules like DNA, RNA and protein as well as the genetic code (information).
The DNA macromolecule found in a cell contains information or genetic code which is a nonphysical aspect. It means that DNA has both material aspect and non material aspect. Similar opposite aspects are found in other macromolecules like RNA and protein also. Considering this fact, it is better to take macromolecule as a generic term for representing the physical aspect of life while information is the nonphysical aspect. We cannot separately observe the macro molecules and information. This is the reason why they are included in the invisible level of the above table. Next stage is to hold that macro molecule and information respectively represent the opposite forces of matter and consciousness. For the time being we use only the opposite terms, macro molecule and information, because they refer specifically to the subject of modern biology.
The most important issue to be settled in this context is about the source of the nonphysical aspects called genetic code. The empirical scientists who brood over this question are sharply divided into two groups. First is the group of materialists adhering to the physical interpretation of life; they do not like to see the non-physical aspects of organic cell. The second group resorts to the notion of intelligent designer existing outside natural world. We can say that they try to combine the metaphysical vitalism with the empirical naturalism; this mixing of two worldviews is bound to create intractable problems of thought. A detailed discussion of Intelligent Designer Argument is postponed to chapter 11 because the concerned issue becomes more explicit in the context of biological evolution. Here it suffices to say that the controversy about intelligent designer can be overcome now by holding that the nonphysical aspect is inherent in the organic cell itself. The notion of system accomplishes just that.
The opposites called macromolecule and information can be arranged in the form of X and Y coordinates. This system has a production function for producing the invisible and visible levels of organism. In our ordinary way of speaking we can say that DNA, RNA, proteins and the various functional units of cell are different levels of macromolecule-information duality. The X-Y coordinate system of macromolecule and information has phenomenal existence. Consequently, DNA and other macromolecules also exist phenomenally because they have the dual components X and Y. At the higher levels, we can see the systems called cells, tissues and organs which hierarchically constitute an organism. The diagram showing the structure of an organism in this manner can be called System Model of Organism.
The principle of phenomenal existence introduced here solves the problem of skepticism – all organisms have existence in the phenomenal sense because they are systems of physical and non-physical opposites. Here It is necessary to clarify the distinction between the system model and the computer model. The system model is under content view, which holds that DNA and other macromolecules exist as wholes with physical and nonphysical parts. But we ordinarily treat physical part and nonphysical part as separate objects, as a consequence of Aristotle’s rules of thought. The empirical approach of science is to reduce the non-physical aspect into physical properties so as to uphold epiphenomenalism; it results in the view that the macromolecules are physical objects. As a further step, the nonphysical aspects of organism together are treated to be a physical algorithm. It is the method of physical process view, termed as computer model, adopted for modern biology. It may be reiterated that the purpose of science is the production of practical knowledge about various phenomena, by reducing the non-physical aspects of system into physical properties.
The hierarchy of organisms in the biological world is illustrated comprehensively using the system model of organisms. For that purpose, we have to distinguish between various systems. A suitable modification of Aristotle’s rules of thought is proposed here: the items A and B mentioned in the three laws are systems; then A and B are not predicates. The depiction of hierarchy among organisms such as bacteria, plants, fishes, reptiles, animals and humans is called The System Model of Biological World. The hierarchical levels of organisms are now illustrated as the products of increasing complexity on account of the inputs called macromolecule and information. We will utilise this seminal point to address the philosophical issues arising in the theory of biological evolution to be presented in the next two chapters.
3. The puzzle of life finally solved
Major achievement of the innovative system model of organism is to refute the emergence theory, which is the received knowledge of scientific community about the origin of life. Scientists are eager to adopt the evolutionary framework suggesting that life arose upon the earth by a natural process of slowly evolving from inanimate matter. We can challenge this idea in a systematic way.
Our aim in this chapter has been to postulate that emergence of life and subsequent evolution is due to the production function of material and mental forces. This is incorporated in the System Model of Biological World which solves the puzzle of life. We should not treat life as a separate entity different from physical body of organism. Alternatively we must say that every organism exists as a system of material part and mental part, which are conveniently called macromolecule and information, respectively. Various activities in a cell such as protein production, growth and cell division happen due to the dialectical relation between macromolecule and information. When we want to describe the biological activities it is necessary to adopt process view, which treats the organism as similar to a factory complex.
@@ In spite of this reformed line of thought, the word ‘life’ denotes our linguistic practice of separating between organism and inanimate thing. We want to observe a living person to be different from a dead body. Such practical exigencies are behind the popular use of the word ‘life’ to denote an entity different from physical body. Though we can continue with this linguistic practice, we need a new definition of life for solving the age old philosophical problems. Based on the System Model of Biological World as given above we propose two definitions as under.
1. Life is the essential property of a system formed by the opposite entities namely macromolecule and information. Here, life is a non-dualist entity (this is content view).
2. Life is the set of activities performed by an organic cell which is a system of macromolecule and information (this is process view).
The definition under content view is the answer to the ontological question: What is life? Through the dialectical process of macromolecules and information (X and Y co-ordinates) the first cell was formed as a system. The properties or activities of this organism – such as metabolism, growth, reproduction etc – are denoted by the word ‘life’. We should not construe life as a separate entity different from the physical structure of organism. Thus we refute the idea that life originated in the macromolecules like DNA, which was popularised by empiricism and physical process view. The emergence theory, proposed in tune with the physicalism of science, is now proved wrong.
It is enlightening to note that the system model of organism can be linked to the existence of inanimate world. The application of the principle of system to material things will be explained in chapters 7 and 8 which present the unifying vision of all levels of natural phenomena. Thus we realise that the System Philosophy of Reality compares the evolution of our universe to the growth of a seed to become a tree. The existence of phenomenal things depends on the real existence of Ultimate Reality that is a system of Body and Mind. The separate theories of inanimate world and biological world are two paradigms used for deriving knowledge about the corresponding levels of phenomenal universe.
Article 2 : System Philosophy of Evolution
1. Synthesis of different worldviews
2. Fallacy of Intelligent Design Argument
3. The System Model of Biological Evolution
The critical analysis of previous chapters was centered on the question whether there is purpose in biological evolution. Accordingly, we have arrived at the following premise: The four factors of organic evolution – mutation, struggle for life, inheritance and natural selection – have nonphysical attributes of purpose, creativity and freedom. Now we may reconsider the different theoretical frameworks meant for the study of the biological life and evolution, for developing an integrative philosophy of evolution.
1. Synthesis of different worldviews
With regard to the four different worldviews pertaining to organic evolution, it is expedient to use the following classification.
a. Content view: vitalism and naturalism
b. Process view: mysticism and physical process view (Darwinism)
Let us first recapitulate the critical problems of mysticism which holds that there is a metaphysical life force – the power of immanent God – for causing the process of organic evolution. The various doctrines under this mystical process worldview have been briefly mentioned in chapter 8. The evolutionary theology or process theology advocated by Teilhard Chardin and A.N. Whitehead is the prominent mystical view about organic evolution. We can reject mysticism in the present context due to the following reasons.
• The notion of life force is an abstract idea arising from the rational level of mystical thought. Mysticism adopts metaphysical realism to hold that the rational idea of life force corresponds to a really existing divine process. It necessitates the talk about the dual aspects of physical process and mental process. This will lead to the issue of body-mind dualism under process view. Mysticism is patently incapable of explaining the origin of such opposite processes.
• The issue raised by Immanuel Kant about existence of things is very relevant here. We can hold that the term life force is a predicate denoting certain phenomenal properties and it does not imply existence. As such life force cannot be said to exist really. We have to avoid mystical realism. It implies that the nonphysical aspects of biological evolution cannot be explained through spiritual worldview.
Now we may turn to the opposite doctrine under physical process view, i.e., Darwinism. As elucidated in the previous chapter, this scientific approach does not answer the ontological question pertaining to life and evolution since the existence of DNA and genetic code suffers from philosophical inconsistencies. As a matter of fact, process view describes the context which undergoes change resulting in the origin of new species. Generally speaking, the process path of either mysticism or modern biology does not answer the key questions which we ask always as follows. Has evolution happened? Is evolution a fact? What is the cause of evolution? Does evolution exist?
The above questions definitely are occurring in the realm of content view about the various levels of organic world. Abstract concepts like hierarchy, evolution, mutation, heredity and natural selection as well as the notion of cause-effect are defined in content view only. Thus, we recognize that content view and process view are complementary approaches for understanding evolution. The former focuses on the existence of constituent factors and the cause-effect relation between them. For that purpose we define the abstract ideas such as mutation, heredity, physical, nonphysical, cause-effect, natural selection and so on. So it is asserted here that evolution must be perceived as a subject under content view of knowledge when we focus on the ontological questions. Due to the exigency of our deliberations, the ensuing analysis of evolution will be conducted under content view.
In this situation, we need the synthesis of vitalism and naturalism given in the table of worldviews. For that purpose, firstly, we have to extend naturalism to the area of modern biology, particularly to genetic theory, in which the hierarchical order of organisms is explained by the joint existence of DNA, genetic code and other macromolecules. Then, life is treated as an epiphenomenon that exists over and above the physical processes of cells and organs. Can we define evolution from the static conception of bodily parts and life? We have to translate the definition of evolution into the static language of naturalism: biological evolution is a phenomenon caused by external circumstances resulting in the existence of a hierarchy of organisms. The problem to be addressed urgently is about the presence of the nonphysical aspects inherent in the evolutionary stages.
The conflict between naturalism (including modern biology) and vitalism has arisen mainly on account of the properties of creativity and purpose in organism. Biologists tried to deny such nonphysical aspects so as to interpret life and evolution in terms of physical attributes of macromolecule and genetic code. We have already explained that the scientific project of epiphenomenalism has failed. Turning to the other side, vitalism is a form of idealism adopting metaphysical realism about the existence of life force. Hence, we can treat naturalism and vitalism as the opposite sides of realism. The former leads to atheism while the latter is transformed into creationism in the context of religious philosophy.
The doctrine of naturalism cannot be sustained due to the critical issues about the existence of matter. At the same time, the metaphysics of vitalism is already refuted by resorting to Kant’s critical philosophy. Consequently, the synthesis of naturalism and vitalism consists in postulating the joint existence of physical and nonphysical aspects in an organism, without the assumption of metaphysical realism. Before entering into this integrative philosophy, we must examine critically the Intelligent Design Argument also since it has caught the imagination of academicians as well as ordinary people as a substitute for vitalism.
2. Fallacy of Intelligent Design Argument
In recent decades a group of biologists have considered that the nonphysical aspects of organism have come from an Intelligent Designer, external to natural world. This idea is proposed on the basis of empirical knowledge about world and it is viewed as a compromise between naturalism and vitalism. Here, we have to mention the historical background also for attaining a proper perspective.
In the beginning of 19th century, William Paley (1743-1805) suggested that we can get the idea of a creator God by observing the complexity of objects in nature. He used the analogy of a watch found lying in a deserted place. Since the watch is a complex machine we ordinarily make a logical inference that it was designed and manufactured by some intelligent person. In similar way, the apparent complexity of natural things prompts us to think that they have a creator that is God. This proposal is called Intelligent Design Argument; it is in accordance with the postulate that we can rationally infer the existence of God from the observations of natural world.
But Paley’s line of thought – popularly called the watchmaker argument – was famously rejected by David Hume who argued that we get only empirical knowledge about natural world. According to the empiricism of Hume, the great varieties and opposites in nature are known through sensory observations and it can never lead us to the notion of a creator God as assumed in theist religion. The opposites like good-bad, birth-death, creation-destruction and so on do not point to the all-powerful and perfect God underlying the religious faith. Hume adds that, considering the diversity and complexity of natural world, the idea of a group of gods is more plausible than that of a single God, though it is a mere imagination. In other words, nobody can postulate the existence of metaphysical things on the basis of empirical knowledge about world that is phenomenal and transient.
Considering the above diametrically opposite views of William Paley and David Hume, the notion of Intelligent Designer is problematic. However, recently in 1990s, a group of biologists and thinkers tried to renovate this thesis adopting the empirical approach for explaining the order and complexity in natural world. American scientists mainly Michael Behe and William Dembskey published books for promoting the Intelligent Design Argument in the context of biological evolution. They aim to give a secular and scientific flavor to the Designer so as to avoid the problem of linking religious God with science. This movement is specifically meant to attack the atheist mood created by Darwinism, which holds that biological evolution happened through materialist processes and hence, the belief in the existence of God is baseless.
An overview of Intelligent Design Argument currently debated among scientists with religious orientation consists of two principles as under.
• Irreducible Complexity Principle
• Anthropic Principle
Taking into account the discoveries of molecular biology and genetics we can say that cells and organs of an organism are like highly complex machines. In a complex machine we can see the mutual compatibility of various parts. If we try to remove one part and replace it by a slightly different one, then the machine will not work. In other words, the parts of a complex machine cannot be replaced one by one; to change the machine we need an entirely new design and make a new machine as a whole. This situation is termed as Irreducible Complexity Principle.
Michael Behe, William Dembskey and their friends argue that Darwin’s theory of small variations (mutations) is not feasible since each part of organism has irreducible complexity. To buttress this point, they take the example that the eye of an ape cannot be changed bit by bit to form the eye of a human being. The evolution of eye has to be accompanied by corresponding changes in brain and nervous system as well as the modification in the tissue structures. The primates evolved into monkeys, chimpanzees and humans by repeating the stages of new design; that is, in every stage of evolution there is a new holistic design of a higher organism. This necessitates the existence of an external Designer with cosmic intelligence. The Designer is like an artist who draws a picture many times in order to get the satisfactory one, throwing the unsatisfactory drawings into the waste basket.
The term anthropic means “of or relating to human beings or the period of their existence on earth”. Accordingly, anthropic principle supports the view that the origin and evolution of universe happened for the existence of human beings. There are two versions for this principle in cosmology: (1) Conditions that are observed in the universe must allow the observer to exist. It is called weak anthropic principle. (2) The universe must have properties that make inevitable the existence of intelligent life. It is called strong anthropic principle. For our present purpose, we can hold that the inanimate astronomical world evolved during about 1000 crore years after Big Bang for realizing the purpose of creating the environment for the origin and development of life on earth. In this context, the term fine tuning is used for describing the cosmic evolution of astronomical world in order to make life possible on earth. This involves the setting of values of about 200 cosmological constants including the parameters of elementary particles and the relative strength of nuclear force. The proponents of anthropic principle argue that the fine tuning of inanimate astronomical world is not solely attributable to chance; instead, it suggests the existence of an Intelligent Designer with purpose and creativity.
Now we have to take up the epistemological analysis of the said Argument. The proponents make an inference about the existence of Intelligent Designer on the basis of empirical data from nature. This doctrine is adopted for explaining the evolution of irreducibly complex structure of organisms as well as the fine tuning of inanimate world. Accordingly, the belief in Intelligent Designer is an Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE). This term was introduced in third chapter, in connection with scientific realism. As explained in that occasion, IBE suffers from the problem of induction and so it leads to skepticism.
The concept of Intelligent Designer stands for Cosmic Mind from empirical point of view. Since additionally the proponents adopt scientific realism about the existence of matter, they will slip into the problem of body-mind dualism, the most important riddle of epistemology. In this context we can note that Intelligent Designer Argument is more or less similar to creationism, which is an unhealthy mixture of metaphysics and science. The creationists tend to argue that their subject is a science; it can be dismissed by showing that religious faith and science are two different areas of knowledge. We can conclude that the so called creation science is a pseudo science.
In a nut shell, we can summarily reject the concept of Intelligent Designer due to three reasons:
• Firstly, it suffers from the problems of induction and skepticism.
• Secondly, it will slip into the problem of body-mind dualism.
• Thirdly, it is the empirical version of creationism.
These lines of arguments would prompt us to seek a new framework for understanding evolution, which is based on scientific and philosophic reasoning, without realism. The remaining task in this chapter is to postulate an alternative philosophy so as to account for the nonphysical aspects of creativity and purpose evident in evolution. Our project of synthesizing naturalism and vitalism will lead to the further advancement of System Philosophy introduced earlier.
3. The System Model of Biological Evolution
At the outset it is necessary to clarify whether there is purpose in nature. The everyday occurrence of opposites called development and destruction — or growth and death — have prompted some people to think that there is no purpose in nature. In philosophical way this point is expressed as that nature has no teleology. Note that the notion of teleology means purpose and it is usually associated with the religious view of nature holding that God created nature with good purpose. The atheists traditionally choose to refute the religious view citing the enormity of destruction, pain and death in phenomenon world. In this way they want to prove that God does not exist. Here we do not intent to discuss the philosophical issue about the definition and existence of God. Rather, we focus on the notion of purpose in nature in order to expose the fallacy of counter arguments, especially in the context of biological evolution.
For our present deliberation, the term purpose needs a specific meaning in observational terms. The most visible aspect of organic evolution is the achievement of great diversity and ascending order of complexity in biological world. Taking into account this fact we can define purpose as the tendency of organisms to evolve to higher level of complexity. But the advocates of materialist and atheist doctrines do not agree with the linking of evolution to the idea of purpose; their position may be criticized as following.
For arguing that there is no purpose in evolutionary history, the concerned group of materialists and atheists point to the massive destruction of intermediary species in the process of natural selection. It is estimated that the number of species which perished in the struggle for existence is a huge majority as compared to the small number of new species survived upon earth. It is similar to the death of most of the soldiers for winning a war. Such death and destruction can be treated as evil and we are disturbed about the existence of evil. Philosophically speaking, this predicament is characterized by the phrase problem of evil. The atheists often ask: can there be so much evil and destruction in the evolutionary process if there is a God? A perfect and all loving God would cause the favourable mutation only so as to lead to a new species straight away without involving the production of imperfect species and their eventual destruction. Moreover, the all powerful God need not make evolution as a complex affair. As per this line of thinking, the atheist biologists mainly Richard Dawkins prefer to accept the materialist notion of chance instead of divine guidance.
Now we can clarify that purpose has both positive and negative aspects since it is a value. The positive aspect of the evolutionary process results in the formation of new species with higher complexity while the negative aspect constitutes the destruction of intermediate (unsuccessful) species as well as the imperfections in surviving organisms. This proposal will enable us to make a secular and scientific interpretation about the good and evil aspects of evolution. As per the foregoing, it must be admitted that there are positive and negative (good and evil) directions to the purpose in evolutionary process. The opposite directions of purpose are implied when we define evolution as the progressive change in some organisms and its future generations pertaining to a species, resulting in the emergence of a higher species.
Further, the complementary nature of content view and process view must be emphasized here. Remember that in the process view we get only a description of the circumstances or factors of evolution; it promotes a nihilist view of reality. Though evolution is a process happening through the passage of time, we must see it in a static way in order to find its cause. The notions of existence and cause-effect belong to the content view of knowledge. It entails the ontological perspective on evolution. We will proceed to develop an innovative philosophy that will explain the hierarchy of species existing in biological world from the perspective of content view of knowledge.
Regarding the System Philosophy of life, the main thread of arguments presented earlier may be recapitulated. According to the theory of modern biology discussed in chapter 5, all life-related activities of an organism are preformed at the level of cells. Basically these are functions of genes where each gene is defined as particular hereditary information embedded in a segment of bases of DNA present in the cells of organism. A gene contains the information or code for producing appropriate proteins and the totality of all genes is called genetic code. So a gene has the duality of material part (a segment of DNA bases) and information. All biological functions can be reduced to the production of proteins – this is the central dogma of molecular biology. It is assumed that life is another name for genetic code and it is an epiphenomenon of the sequence of DNA bases. This description is aptly called computer model of life involving the machine-algorithm duality.
Through philosophical analysis, we have established that life cannot be treated as an algorithm that is a flowchart of mechanical activity. In other words, equating genetic code to algorithm is not proper because there are certain non-physical aspects (creativity, purpose etc.) in genetic code and it cannot be reduced to mechanical terms. We can explain that it is just the method of biology to treat DNA and genetic code as separately existing entities, on account of Aristotle’s rules of thought. So our next task is to explain the property dualism – physical and non-physical properties – represented by DNA and genetic code. According to Immanuel Kant, scientific predicates (theoretical entities) do not have existence; those are phenomenal concepts only. Adopting this principle, we can say that DNA and genetic code do not have real existence; thus scientific realism is refuted. The same argument will enable us to reject the realist notion of Intelligent Designer for explaining the non-physical aspects.
The foregoing method of thought clears the way for synthesizing the four different worldviews of life – vitalism, mysticism, naturalism and physical process view. We want to show that though macromolecules (DNA, RNA and protein) and genetic code do not have separate existence, these are opposites that make the dual parts of a whole. To convey this idea we have introduced the notion of system, originally in the context of existence of life. By our axiomatic definition, system is a symmetrical structure of X-Y coordinates. Accordingly, system is like a factory having production function or input-output scheme. The system model of organism presented in the seventh chapter may be recalled here. It was shown therein that the cells and higher levels of an organism are formed by the production process of the system of macromolecules and genetic code.
In economics, the production function of a factory is illustrated by taking the dual entities labour and capital as X axis and Y axis respectively. Then the quantities of the various kinds of products can be depicted by the graphs called isoquants. Each isoquant represents a particular quantity of product; the various points of this curve shows the product containing various levels of inputs (x,y) according to change in technologies. In this manner, a set of isoquants illustrates the levels of products and corresponding combinations of inputs. We propose here to utilize this technical diagram for illustrating the phenomena of life and evolution.
The above diagram can serve to describe the process of biological evolution having the hierarchy of organisms from bacteria to humans. We represent the ascending levels of organisms using the graphs called isoquants. Accordingly, an isoquant denotes a particular species including countless number of individuals at different points. Thus the lowest isoquant stands for the various kinds of bacteria which are organisms with single cell. Large varieties of bacteria are formed by the mutation of some genes in the first cell and subsequent division of cell as well as by the repetition of the process innumerable times. In the next stage, the joining of various groups of bacteria and genetic mutation resulted in the formation of multicellular microorganisms; these species are represented by higher isoquants. The repetition of this process through evolutionary history has resulted in higher order species like plants, fish, reptiles, birds, animals and finally humans. All these species can be represented by a sequence of isoquants in the X-Y model; this diagram is called The System Model of Biological Evolution.
The preceding model illustrates the existence of species at various levels in a static manner. For example, consider the evolution of a species B from a lower species A. This fact is represented by two isoquants A and B where A is lower than B. Then the system model explains that the evolution from A to B is caused by the dialectical and productive relation between macromolecules and genetic code, which stand for the physical and nonphysical aspects respectively. Here, we are concerned with the key questions: what is evolution? What is the cause of evolution? We get the answers to these questions from content view by virtue of the above system model.
It may be emphasized that the System Model of Biological Evolution is based on three axiomatic principles as below.
• Evolution has both physical and nonphysical aspects.
• Content view is necessary to know the cause and ontology of evolution.
• Each worldly phenomenon has the dual features of permanence and change.
The first principle holds that each species is a dialectical combination of macromolecule and genetic code, in the form of X and Y axes respectively. That is, every organism has physical and nonphysical parts, or alternatively matter and consciousness. It may be clarified that here consciousness is responsible for the purpose, creativity, design and planning observable in the stages of biological evolution.
The second principle asserts that cause-effect is a notion pertaining to the content view of knowledge, which is the ontological perspective. The system of macromolecule and information (X-Y system) has phenomenal existence and it functions as the cause of evolution. This system is like an artist who wants to draw the best picture. He throws the unsatisfactory drawing to the waste basket and repeats his creative work till he reaches the desired level of perfection. This analogy can be used to understand the discreet levels of species in the fossil collection. Since the isoquants are separate graphs, there is a clear gap between two consecutive species. It means that the evolution from one species to a higher species involve visible gap and jump, when we adopt content view. The mutation of interrelated genes of a species and natural selection altogether is a creative event which results in the formation of a higher species.
The third axiomatic principle urges us to study evolution under content view in addition to the traditional method of process view. We have defined evolution as the change to a higher level of complexity. But this phenomenon has both the aspects of permanence and change. When we observe the hierarchical levels of organisms, we are concerned with the aspect of permanence for a finite duration. A particular species that exists today may become extinct after a period. The formation of various levels of species in the evolutionary history is a matter pertaining to temporal permanence. On the other hand, the emergence of a particular new species from a preexisting lower species is a topic to be considered under process view. The mainstream of evolutionary science including Darwinism focuses on this aspect of change. The complementarity of permanence and change is to be born in mind for an enlightening study of evolution.
The foregoing principles of system model would equip us to tackle the problem of missing links in an ingenious way. When the scientists arrange the collected fossils of species in an ascending order, they find that there are gaps between two consecutive species. In this situation, scientists speculate that there are some intermediary species belonging to the gaps, about which fossil evidences are not yet available. Such species are called missing links in the fossil line. A problem arises here when we ask: do the missing links indicate the creative jumps in evolutionary history so that Darwin’s theory about small variations is to be refuted? The heated debates between creationists and evolutionary scientists regarding this issue can be resolved now as per the following paragraphs.
Richard Dawkins in his book The Greatest Show on Earth – the Evidences for Evolution (2009) argues that the notion of missing links is superfluous in the context of scientific study of evolution. There may be many unknown intermediary species in the process of natural selection. It is irrelevant to debate upon such species about which fossil evidences have not been obtained. The principle of natural selection explains coherently the evolution of a higher species from a lower one, in spite of the non-availability of fossils about intermediate species. Through complicated lines of arguments Dawkins becomes the most vociferous follower of physical process view called Neo-Darwinism. However, since Dawkins’ basic premise has been refuted by our philosophical analysis of last chapter, there is no significance to his treatment of gaps in fossil line.
The problem of missing links is a favourite topic for the advocates of the religious view of creation and fixity of species. Their fundamentalist argument is that the gaps in the fossil line imply the stages in divine creation. The intelligent design argument is another version of the religious position, adopting the empirical perspective. We have already rebutted the religious view of creation since it involves the controversies about the existence of God. The problem of missing links essentially arises when the creationists bring in God to fill the gaps of fossil sequence.
We may reiterate that, for interpreting the missing links, the physical process view about natural selection or the religious theory of creation cannot be admitted on account of the reasons just highlighted. In this situation, System Philosophy can innovatively interpret the idea of missing links as following.
Suppose that A and B are two consecutive species in the fossil record, the natural selection from A to B happened over many millions of years in accordance with the system model. It is reasonable to conceive about many intermediate species between A and B. But the non-availability of fossil evidences may be due to geological reasons or other factors. In spite of this fact, the principle of natural selection is valid for explaining the evolution from A to B. Now, assume that in future scientists get the fossil of an intermediate species; let it be denoted by A1 which is placed in the fossil line between A and B. In this situation, the principle of natural selection holds good to explain the evolution both from A to A1 and from A1 to B.
The System Model of Biological Evolution under content view accepts the notion of missing links. It represents the gap and jump between two consecutive isoquants, caused by the dialectical productive relation between physical and nonphysical aspects of biological evolution. Since the notion of missing links is a static view about the levels of species, it cannot be incorporated in the process view of evolution. Now we may emphasize that the process scientists like Richard Dawkins are concocting frivolous arguments against an idea that lies outside their methodical framework. The acrimonious debate between evolutionary scientists and creationists is the result of the ideological differences between materialism and theism; we find it as irrelevant in our scheme of analysis.
The integrative approach of system model eliminates the said controversy by limiting the idea of missing links exclusively to the content view. A few additional points also may be considered here. Regarding the earlier stages of evolution, the absence of fossil evidence about intermediate species is mainly due to geological reasons. For example, the evolution from microorganisms to fish and then to plants, reptiles and birds exhibit conspicuous gaps because such stages happened very long years ago, much beyond the possibility of fossil formation. However, the evolution of human species from the family of apes is a relatively recent phenomenon. It is remarkable that the fossils of intermediate species such as Australopithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus and Neanderthal man have been obtained. The advantage of system model of evolution is in illustrating the existence of a hierarchy of species without bothering about the fact of missing links.
Next we will note that the above Diagram-3 can be used under process view also. In this situation, it is beneficial to adopt the concepts originally introduced by Charles Darwin, albeit by suitable adaptation. Accordingly, the formation of a new species from an ancestral species happens on account of four factors namely mutation, struggle for life, inheritance and natural selection. System Philosophy modifies Darwin’s theory by holding that each of the four factors is a combination of matter and consciousness. Our method incorporates the material and creative aspects pertaining to mutation and subsequent factors of evolution. In this way the same diagram serves to depict the various levels of species under the process view as well as content view. The integrative method presented above envisages that there is a sort of mystery in evolution and it is beyond the frame work of science. The creativity and purpose inherent in evolution is comprehensively explained by the system model of macromolecule-information. In this scheme of thought, there is no place for the notion of creator God or intelligent designer, which suffers from the issues of realism.
For completing this philosophical deliberation, we have to connect biological evolution with the development of inanimate world and here we rely on the notion of fine tuning introduced earlier. The evolution happened to astronomical bodies, especially earth and its atmosphere, during the long thousand crore years after Origin was a sort of preparation for the emergence of life. This evolutionary process in the inanimate world can be logically construed as displaying the nonphysical aspects of purpose and creativity in addition to material complexity. From this point of view, the sequence of developments in biological and inanimate fields can be unified as the phenomenal effect of a deeper reality. We can conceive the ultimate reality of universe as matter-consciousness system; it is the essence of the theory of reality under system philosophy. This topic will be technically articulated in a later chapter.
Then what is the future of Darwinism? Admittedly, it is a pragmatic and scientific theory only for explaining organic evolution through physical process view. The nonphysical aspect of evolution – creativity, purpose and freedom – is outside the scope of science exclusively constructed in physical terms. According to this method, Darwinism attempted to translate the nonphysical aspect of evolution into the physical processes of DNA and other macromolecules of organism. In this manner, the genetic code is treated as an algorithm, alternatively termed as information, representing the mechanical activity of macromolecules. This computer model is applied to describe physically the factors of evolution, namely, mutation, struggle of life, heredity and natural selection.
We have mentioned earlier that the scientific method has helped biologists to collect material evidences – fossils and suitable geological data – for deriving inferences about the stages of evolution. The so called tree of life is constructed on the basis of such physical evidences; it is the practical achievement of evolutionary scientists. But they unwittingly entertain the fallacy of treating biological evolution as a physical process. Moreover, the justification of theories and inductive laws pertaining to various physical phenomena constitute an unsettled issue in philosophy of science. In spite of the baggage of epistemological problems, the protagonists of Darwinism would continue their research programme for practical and ideological reasons.
We may conclude this chapter by adding a few points as a final review of the writings of Richard Dawkins. The overall objective of his books is to counter the creationists by advancing the project of Darwinism. He hammers on the point that, since the physical process approach is strongly supported by scientific evidences, creationism is refuted by default. But we can comment here: the strategy of positioning the scientific view against the religious view reflects the age old conflict between materialism and idealism. Both these philosophical theories involve the drawbacks of realism. It is the springboard of the antagonism between science and religion in the context of biological evolution. To be more specific philosophically, one side consists of scientism and atheism while the opposite side is formed by creationism and pantheism. We have cleared this mess and erected the edifice of system philosophy on firm grounds for a comprehensive and integrative knowledge about evolution.