PONDERING EVOLUTION

By William Markiewicz

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After 'putting on trial' the notions of evolution and energy in the February issue, here I present the other side of the medal -- that of honouring them. There should be no contradiction between those two attitudes because the Old Professor told us that everything is relative.

Evolution can be defined metaphorically as energy moving in time and leaving its tracks in space and matter. It rolls like an invisible wheel on the road of existence, leaving its tracks in the form of species. As the track tells us nothing about its direction and the animating power of the wheel, so the species we see and are part of tell us very little about the nature and tendency of evolution.

The same thing happens in the field of psychology; instincts cannot tell us too much about intelligence. The difference between them is not in complexity and subtlety. Naturalists know very well the unbelievably complex pathways of many instincts in various animal species. The basic difference lies in the fact that instinct remains rigid, immutable, like those tracks of species that remain behind the forward turning wheel of evolution, while intelligence represents an everchanging pattern not only of adaptation but also of exploitation of all possibilities. And as those are infinite, there is no limit to the searching intelligence. Intelligence advances much faster than her biological sister -- evolution, and like a microscopic twin sister of the universe, extends and runs in all possible directions.

If we could see humanity and its environment from the perspective of time running infinitely slower, we would see humanity as the mass, like we see a river flowing as one entity, and not as an agglomeration of drops, molecules, or atoms. We would see this mass flowing forward, taking, like a liquid, all kinds of shapes following the patterns of intelligence. Certain human primitive structures would not follow and would remain behind unchanged, living fossils behind the tracks of evolution's rolling wheel. Intelligence, being on the front line of evolution, identifies itself with the invisible wheel. Even if we cannot trace the road, we can foresee the direction. As evolution is at the service of life, is life itself, then the "goal" of evolution must be nothing other than immortality.

Our Biological Calendar

In our times, the medical profession, and through it, the mass media, have taken an interest in the study of the process of dying. In schools there is more talk about death than ever before. Gerontology looks for ways to ease the symptoms of old age. But the very problem of aging and dying remains timidly on the periphery. As a result, science and pedagogy give more attention to the cosmetics: trying to push the problem away instead of dealing with it at its very core. But the main question is this: is it possible to stop the process of aging and dying? We know of course that the cycle of birth, breeding and dying is at the base of the ecological and social equilibrium. But this doesn't answer the question: must aging and dying be the inseparable companions of life?

Old age and natural death do not exist among unicellulars. So this "natural process" of aging and dying showed up relatively late in the life history of our planet. Roughly speaking, the multicellulars poison themselves with their own excretions and that's "old age" and finally death. Each species possesses its own biological calendar. A 15 year old dog is an old dog, while a human of the same age is adolescent. The human is one of the slowest aging species, and is perhaps unique in nature with its big variations on an individual scale. There are people who remain youthful and live longer than others. So, there must exist a self defence mechanism in species and individuals against aging and death. This alone should impel us to take an interest in this self defence mechanism. Science, in this matter, stands on tiptoe perhaps because, as in the struggle with cancer, it doesn't know from which point to start.

The Human differs from other species in intelligence. It would be tempting then to try to link human mental faculties with longevity. In other words we could ask if intelligence serves only as a weapon against external adversity or if it may serve also on the internal bodily front. In the affirmative case the prolongation of youth and life could be a psychosomatic affair. The human could have developed this self defence mechanism because, among species, he is perhaps unique in predicting death and living constantly in its shadow.

The French painter Le Bel (XVI - XVII c.) wrote: "...in love of painting . . . one feels a pleasant warmth in the chest. The pulse beats slowly, regularly. Digestion is easier. Thus, this passion is good for the health." Le Bel is perhaps the first observer of psychosomatic phenomena who makes us think that creativity plays an organic role. But science takes creativity for granted: biologists and physiologists are interested in creative activities only as consumers after their working hours, leaving it professionally to psychologists and philosophers. As for the creators themselves, contrary to the exceptional Le Bel, they are preoccupied with their creation more than with the observance of its effect on themselves. Nevertheless, creativity could be an expression of organic "hunger" similar to other hungers.

If aging is a sickness as gerontology considers it, it's a painless sickness. We don't feel the process of aging, only its most advanced consequences. But an "anti-aging" instinct may be present in the body and creativity may be its expression.

If we study the life stories of the famous creators, those who did not die prematurely because of some illness, we see that those were individuals who held youth and longevity more than others. The 90 year old Titian exclaimed, "Let me live ten years more and I will learn how to paint." We also have Shaw, Tolstoy, Goethe, Bach, and many others. The constant nourishment of "positive stress" - might be the motor of longevity typical to creators and great mystics. The mystical trance common to all religions gives its adepts, according to many testimonies, a power of endurance and legendary longevity.

An old English poet wrote: "Death - you too must die." Life is the enemy of death and all the "high" experiences, creative or mystical, could be the highest expressions of life. While creating we perhaps obey some biological order, and without knowing it we chase the spectre of aging and death far away from us. Perhaps one day the human will understand and dominate the mechanism of a long, very long, youth and life. 


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