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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Darwin Is Dead!-The Dawkins Delusion

If you would like to contribute to our year-long "celebration" of Darwin's 200th birthday, please send your articles, editorials, or any other creative and informative pieces to

HG Narasingha Gurudas (a.k.a Martin Lyons) was gracious enough to share with us a few excerpts from his upcoming book, in which he plans to establish the Krsna Conscious positions of evolution and creation in opposition to some of the fallacious dogmas of modern religion and science.

Here he shares his third and final article, on "The Dawkins Delusion"

Sixteenth Argument: The Dawkins Delusion

‘Natural Selection’ purports to explain that the reason for any species’ existence is that it has somehow been endowed with particular features that favor its survival. The immediate problem with advancing such an ‘explanation’ is that it takes for granted the urge for survival itself. This implies that some original self-aware something-or-other had an initial intention or commitment to survival along with the intelligence and ability to set into motion various processes to promote the same.

It matters little whether we believe such original self-awareness first arose in genetic material or is ever-present in a divine overseer. What matters is that evolutionary theory neither honestly acknowledges nor begins to account for the original consciousness that must precede any notion of survival. And herein lays the heart of the problem with this entire theory: it utterly fails to explain the basic nature of consciousness or of ‘self,’ and hence also such concepts as self-awareness, self-preservation and so on.

Evolutionists assume that somehow or other consciousness developed from matter, that it’s perhaps some kind of brain function. One problem with this idea is that there is nothing stable or constant about our material identities. What I mean by this is that the very nature of both our bodies and minds is that they are constantly changing, in every sense.

From the time of conception to the time of death, our bodies are changing in every detail. Physically speaking, we have so many bodies in this very life: consider how different the body of a newborn is from the body of a fully developed adult. Nor are the changes merely external, or in appearance only. The physical reality is that as time goes on every cell is being replaced. Not only are cells dying and being replaced, as for example with our skin cells; but during their lives they are constantly ingesting food, oxygen and so on in order to replenish their own substance and to fuel their activities, while simultaneously expelling or excreting old worn-out cellular material and waste. So on the one hand, our physical identities are constantly changing: as you read this, you might consider that the molecular make-up of your body today is entirely distinct from that of your body as a newborn. And yet, when a mother sees her fully adult child, she knows it is the same person as the one she gave birth to, even though that body has changed n every regard. The question is, what is it that has remained the same?

Let’s take this one step further. When a person dies, is the mother consoled because she can still see the body of her child? Or does she lament that now her baby has gone? If we say that consciousness, or sense of self, is simply a product of the material ingredients of the body, how do we explain death; and how do we explain this simple awareness that although the body is lying there in front of us, we know that the person we knew and loved is ‘gone.’

If we think about this, we can understand that our taking the body to be the source of consciousness is actually a conflation of two entirely distinct phenomena. The fundamental nature of the body is that it is in a constant state of flux; whereas the fundamental nature of consciousness, of our sense of individual self, is that it is unchanging.

It is true that whatever we may happen to identify ourselves with at any moment is always changing. At one moment I may feel like this, and then at the next I may feel like that. So that we say, “I am” cold or warm, happy or sad. Our moods, desires, activities and social roles are always shifting. At one point in our lives we may consider ourselves as young children who are looking forward to becoming vets or train-drivers or whatever, happy to know ourselves as the protected children of our parents; then at another we may experience ourselves as anxious parents and spouses concerned about our jobs or our own children; and perhaps later on we know ourselves as active widowed retirees … and so on. But behind all such changes in the scenery of our physical, emotional, mental and social circumstances, we retain the same sense of individual self-awareness.

I never become you or anyone else; hence the mother can recognize her child so many years later. I am always ‘me,’ whatever that may be. And it is this constant sense of self that serves as the link between all our experiences and memories and hopes. Our entire sense of identity can only exist by virtue of this fact: that our fundamental nature is to be unchanging. Yet everything we know is ever-shifting: this is the essential difference between matter and self.

We are mostly quite unaware of this, so that we are continually mis-identifying our essential self, which we refer to as “I,” with this ever-shifting external environment: with what we are in fact not. Throughout our entire lives we are confused about our actual identities as individual selves. We believe that we are the body and associated mind; so that whatever we say about ourselves refers simply to what race or gender or country or religious/political group we may have been born into, or to whatever our body-minds may be doing or feeling/thinking/wanting in the moment. Yet nearly every detail can change from one moment to the next. Even if we say, that may be so, but at the heart of it all, I am still a human being, i.e. I am still this body, the question remains: then which body am I? Because this life is a journey through so many changes of body, from birth through youth and adult-hood to old age. The fact is, as can be recognized by objective reasoning, that we have this body, this mind; but that is a very different state of affairs to actually being such. Actually, we don’t know who, or what, we fundamentally are.

As Nobel Prize-winning physiologist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi wrote in his ‘Personal Reminiscences’: “In my hunt for the secret of life, I started my research in histology. Unsatisfied by the information that cellular morphology could give me about life, I turned to physiology. Finding physiology too complicated I turned to bacteriology. But bacteria were even too complex, so I descended to the molecular level, studying chemistry and physical chemistry. After twenty years’ work, I was led to conclude that to understand life we have to descend to the electronic level, and to the world of wave mechanics. But electrons are just electrons, and have no life at all. Evidently along the way I lost life; it had run out between my fingers.”

In the words of Max Planck, the acclaimed physicist and founder of Quantum Theory: “It is a fact that there is a point, one single point in the immeasurable expanse of mind and matter, where science and therefore every causal method of research is inapplicable, not only on practical grounds, but also on logical grounds, and will always remain inapplicable. This is the point of (our) individual awareness” (from Where Is Science Going?). Indeed Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s celebrated ‘bulldog,’ had many years earlier admitted that There is a third thing in the universe, to wit, consciousness, which I cannot see to be matter or force.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Consider the following. It goes without saying that evolutionary theory is meant as a way to explain and understand who we are and how and why we happen to be here. Yet it is predicated upon the fundamental misidentification of the self with the body. Evolutionary theory assumes that we are these bodies and that we are who we are because we (i.e. these human forms) have evolved from simpler or lower bodily forms. That is to say, the entire theory is based in ignorance, since the basic fact is that we are not these bodies.

The body is comprised of inanimate matter that lacks any consciousness or reason of its own to then organize itself into complex co-ordinated structures. Just like a car has no reason of its own to drive, or even to exist. Its structure is not in fact given by the metal and rubber and so on of which it is composed, but by its designer and builder, who is possessed of life and consciousness. Nor does it drive itself, but it is driven by the living person at the wheel; and should such a person abandon it altogether, it has no consciousness of its own to care whether all there is for it to do now is to sit and rust.

The conclusion is that matter is given structure and purpose and meaning by consciousness – which is of course quite opposite to the conclusion of the materialistic scientists (i.e. those scientists who do not give credence to anything other than matter/energy) who claim that over time matter somehow or other produces or evolves consciousness. We have no experience of this anywhere, while we see over and over that matter is gathered and organized by conscious living beings. Think of how an orange tree takes in water and basic ingredients from the soil and then re-organizes those into all the very complex structures and chemicals that make up the orange. Similarly we might take some bricks and build a house – on their own the bricks have no inclination to arrange themselves so as to form such a thing. The overall function and information content of the house as a single total structure is far greater than that of all the bricks added together as single unrelated units. Matter does not organize itself into more complex unified structures: this is entirely in keeping with information theory, which tells us that something of low information content cannot produce something of higher information content. It is simply irrational to claim that ‘somehow or other, over time’ matter produced consciousness and life. Rather, it is consciousness and life that composes matter.

As the driver is to the car, so are we to these bodies: we are the animating presence that lends the body form and function and direction, just as a body lends shape and movement to the clothes it wears, which are otherwise just simply so much crumpled fabric on the floor. At the time of death, when we quit this body, it again returns to such a ‘crumpled,’ or inert, state. In the absence of the composer, de-composition sets in. The composer is the consciousness that gathers and holds so much complexity of structure and function that is otherwise alien (i.e. of vastly greater information content) to the material particles the bodily structure is composed of. The abandoned body, just like an abandoned house or car, simply decays and dissolves back into its simpler constituent elements.

The rational and objective conclusion is clear: it is the presence of consciousness, or life, that gives matter complexity of structure and function; and in the absence of such consciousness, the complex machinery integral to living bodies breaks down. It is not that complexity (i.e. life) ‘evolves’ from simple matter; but that consciousness (Huxley’s “third thing in the universe”), being superior to dull matter, organizes matter to suit its purposes.

The question ‘where did we come from?’ is not suitably asked or answered in terms of ‘the origin of the species.’ Rather, we need to ask what and who we are, as something entirely distinct from these bodies; and why our consciousness is seemingly obliged to identify with such temporary and flimsy structures, necessarily subject to old age, disease and death. These bodies are impermanent; but that is not natural to us – as long as we can remember, we have always been, and we have always been ourselves, unchanging in our fundamental sense of identity. We are timeless; we are now; we simply and purely are.

Aging and death are unnatural to us, and we are frustrated that such must befall us. Therefore we unconsciously project this inner hankering for our own nature onto our external material environments: we try to stem time’s inexorable wearing down and aging of all that we know by so many arrangements, like photograph albums and plastic surgery and insurance. We are hankering for security and permanence, for freedom from all the threats and anxieties that are intrinsic to everything that is material and thus temporary in nature. In the same way, a fish out of water hankers simply to return to its own atmosphere; no amount of luxury outside the water can satisfy it.

The driver of a car cannot be satisfied by any amount of attention and care given solely to his vehicle, for s/he has her/his own needs and desires. Similarly the indwelling life or consciousness within this bodily vehicle cannot be satisfied by any material situation; but because we are unaware that there is a self that is other than this body, we imagine that the reason for our dissatisfaction is that we have not yet achieved a fully suitable set of material circumstances, and all our energy is spent in trying to adjust those in this way and then in that.

Meanwhile, regardless of all our efforts to take nice care of this body and to secure our situation here, it must ultimately fail us, and we are forced to abandon it and to leave everything connected to it behind: all our property, our relatives and friends, our reputation, everything. And then what will we have and where will be? If we can understand that we are something other than this ever-changing bodily situation, something unchanging, that is able to observe all the changing experiences and thoughts that are occurring to this body and mind, and that is granting a sense of continuity to all those … then we can ask who am I, why am I here, where have I come from, where am I going to? If we are not these bodies, then what are birth and death? Instead of marking our coming into and then going out of existence, they but mark our taking possession of and then quitting this one temporary vehicle. This life is not the whole play; it is but a single scene, where we are walking out onto its stage at birth and then back off again at death. So what is going on off-stage? What is our existence outside of this single scene on the stage of this world? Where was I before this birth, where will I be after this death? These are suitable questions for the discriminating intelligence afforded by this human form of life: for we can distinguish between our bodies and our indwelling conscious selves, between mere physical energy and Huxley’s “third thing.”

Yet if we fail to make this most basic and essential distinction, then all our enquiries into our nature and origins and fulfillment are in fact misdirected, and all our answers deluded. On the very first page of the preface to his book, ‘The God Delusion,’ Professor Dawkins claims that his book “is intended to raise consciousness.” This is certainly the most noble and generous of goals; but if he is unaware of what the consciousness is, that it is something entirely distinct from its corporeal surroundings, then what actual substance is behind his claim? Rather, in the name of fostering enlightenment, he is but projecting his own delusions, his own unconscious misidentification of his unchanging self with his temporary bodily and mental circumstances.

He further declares that “Human thoughts and emotions emerge from exceedingly complex interconnections of physical entities within the brain,” and that there is “no soul that outlasts the body” (The God Delusion, p.14). In this way he is like a simple uneducated or uncivilized person who sees a television for the first time, and concludes that there must be a person trapped inside the television who is responsible for the sounds and images coming from it. He cannot understand that the television is not the source of such images, but is merely a lifeless receiver, and that they are coming from somewhere else entirely. The living self or soul is the actual source of consciousness, which is the signal of life; whereas the body/mind/brain is merely the receiver. So that, to again quote Nobel-laureate Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who studied every pertinent scientific discipline to discover the secret of life: “along the way I lost life; it had run out between my fingers.” And Huxley, celebrated as Darwin’s bulldog for his powerful commitment to spreading the new doctrine of evolution: There is a third thing in the universe, to wit, consciousness, which I cannot see to be matter or force.” This Dawkins does not understand. Instead, he is quite deluded regarding his own most essential identity; and since all thoughts and ideas proceed outwards from the basic sense of self, then all of those are necessarily compromised by such basic self-ignorance, just as someone wearing pink lenses must, and erroneously, see and describe everything as being pink.

Thus for good reason the philosophers of old charged us to “First, know thyself.” For if we are ignorant in this, the very first line of all our observations, inquiries and speculations, then all our subsequent understandings are compromised by that very fundamental ignorance, however scientific-sounding they may be.

1 comment:

Sita-pati das said...

Here's an evolutionary theory that does account for consciousness: Information, Entropy, and the Soul.