a-musing or two.
So Pins has been gearing our conversations towards evolution and consciousness, and a few things popped up in my head I thought I’d share.
So first of all, it seems a pattern for Pins to propose that evolutionary theory can be applied to this or that other field as well (as though expecting disagreement). I thought I’d articulate what I think some authors I’ve read have taken for granted, but not articulated: why evolutionary theory can be applied to just ‘bout everything.
Evolution is, to my mind, a branch or subdivision of a deeper field. That deeper field can perhaps be said as ‘the study of what exists’ (and covers what will continue existing, and why, and how existence has changed, and how various factors lead to changes, and probably lots of other questions as well). Evolution can be defined as the application of that field to biology. Many of the rules that are true to evolution (the importance of self-propagation, advantages leading to survival of some lifeforms and the extinction of others) can be applied to other subdivisions of ‘the study of what exists’, because the subdivisions of this field are likely by their nature to share patterns of success and failure.
For example, you could draw a parallel between propagation of the species and the spreading of an idea. When you have babies, you are increasing the size of your species. Similarly, if you define ‘species population’ as ‘the population of people convinced of a specific idea’, then when you convince someone of an idea, you are increasing the size of the host population, and in a sense propagating the species. You could speculate that the success of evangelical movements is based on the strength with which their ‘species’ (Evangelicals) propagate (i.e. convert people). In this way you are taking a principle from evolution - the species that is best at multiplying has an advantage, and applying it to an idea, a religion, etc…
What occurred to me that was particularly interesting, and that is the reason I write on this subject, is that my moods and habits can be said to follow this science too. My moods are, or can, constantly change, and those that stick with me are not necessarily those that I most prefer, but are those that are most successful in ensuring their continued existence. (similarly, the ideas that are prevalent in society aren’t there because they are right- they are there b/c they are the most successful at their own brand of evolution (i.e. ideological or cultural, or possibly many others).
Of course this is obvious in terms of addicting behavior, but it can also be true of place. Mood both depends upon and determines where one chooses to be, and what one chooses to do. Any daily habit can draw one into a year-long pattern, but be far from what is best for oneself.
In this sense, settling into habit is an abandonment of childhood dreams of paradise: the acceptance of a way of living that will work its way into your mind with increasing importance and resistance to change requires acceptance of imperfection. This is, perhaps, emotionally equivalent to middle age. In old age some people once again challenge these modes, taking the energy to lift themselves out and look for another (often for physical reasons one’s previous habits are no longer so appealing, and often for reasons of gained maturity). Thus the old adage that old age is a second childhood.
On the other subject, consciousness, I had a thought train to follow. It occurred to me that as we would define human consciousness, it would perhaps be unarguable that our consciousness can only focus on one subject at a time. I can walk across a field while listening to music and reliving a recent conversation in my head, but my consciousness can only be on one task at a time: I can focus on walking, the music, or on memory. The ‘consciousness’ could even be said to be that focus, which may imply awareness.
The implications of this are interesting vis-a-vis the conversation as to whether the interaction between humans and the internet constitutes a form of consciousness, because the feature I define above is not true of humans and the internet: there is no singular focus. This isn’t to say that humans and the internet are not an alternate form of consciousness, but then it’s really just a question of how one defines consciousness, which I consider an abstraction of physical reality to begin with.