A Two Dimensional Model of Evolution
This paper considers evolution as a process that involves progressively increasing realization of the infinite potentiality of the underlying Ultimate Reality, referred to as God in religious parlance. A basic tenet of this model is the recognition that interactions in Nature are of two broad categories-“Bottom Up” and “Top Down,” as elaborated in their recent books by authors such as Arthur Peacocke, John Polkinghorne, George Ellis, and Nancey Murphy. Modern scientific theories have thus far been able to clarify the role of only the “Bottom Up” interactions in the evolutionary process.
Many “Top Down” interactions involve an element of choice, either individually or collectively by the evolved entities. The choice element is observed not only in the biological world but is also suspected in certain types of subatomic phenomena. It is currently at its highest among homo-sapiens. Still higher levels of “Top Down” interactions include such things as emotions, values and group action. The model suggests that at every level of evolution, there are not only self and mutual interactions among the evolved entities but also interactions between them and God, the Ultimate Source of all “Bottom Up” and “Top Down” interactions. For this reason, evolution is rooted in its own history as implied in the recent publications of neuroscientists such as Gerald Edelman and Ralph Greenspan.
Recognition of the involvement of “Top Down” interactions at the level of the human implies that the future direction of evolution on earth depends not only on the operative principles of natural selection but also considerably on the steps we take as a species. Human religiosity and psychic powers are seen as evolutionary extensions of other mental faculties in this model.
The on-going debate between scientific evolution and religious creationism is well known. From a scientific point of view, there is no question that life on earth has evolved over billions of years. On the other hand, many people including a good number of top-level scientists are convinced that objective reductionism, which is the hallmark of modern science, cannot satisfactorily explain the evolution of such things as consciousness, self-awareness, mutual awareness, and the associated spectrum of emotions among biological species. It cannot also accommodate the reality of many types of documented spiritual and psychic phenomena and subjective religious experiences such as the experience of grace, miracles, universal love, and revelation. The experience of revelation is the profoundest of them all. Many people throughout our history have written about it but the most widely publicized one in recent years is that of Neale Walsch as documented in his very popular book Conversations with God.
Validation of specific religious beliefs and practices by modern science is a task that cannot be undertaken at the present time. That is because if one were to seek such validation in terms of the Abrahamic religions, one has to deal with several intriguing issues outside the scope of science at the present time. These include the metaphor of the six days of creation, original sin, redemption, resurrection, the soul, judgment day, heaven, hell, angels, the devil, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, the messages to Mohammed from angel Gabriel, etc. If one were to attempt such reconciliation in terms of polytheistic religions, one has to likewise come up with an explanation of the numerous deities worshipped and invoked, the mythologies involved and ritualistic practices such as chanting and idol worship. Such matters can be undertaken if and when science can establish the existence of a spirit world outside of our own space time, perhaps a world of anti-space time and anti-matter. Alternatively there might be intelligent beings in other parts of the universe interacting with us here on earth through non-sensory means. But, there is no evidence to substantiate that sort of thing at the moment.
In the meanwhile, authors such as Arthur Peacocke, John Polkinghorne, George Ellis, and Nancey Murphy have brought to our attention the idea that all interactions in Nature can be divided into two broad categories. “Bottom Up” and “Top Down.” The “Bottom Up” category includes such things as atoms becoming molecules, molecules becoming gross substances, etc. “Top Down” processes on the other hand include such things as a volcano disrupting the harmony of ensembles of organic and inorganic matter or of human intention being the first step in the movement of a hand or utterance of a word.
Modern Big Bang Cosmology and Darwinian Evolution recognize the role of only the “Bottom Up” processes as necessary for a complete explanation of physical and biological evolution. It is somewhat ironic that “Top Down” type interactions too might be involved has escaped the attention of theoretical physicists and evolutionary biologists.
“Top Down” processes as a rule appear to be holistic in nature while “Bottom Up” processes appear to be mostly reductionistic. Furthermore, many “Top Down” interactions even at the lower rungs of the evolutionary ladder involve voluntary action by the evolved entities. And that in turn involves such things as emotion, choice, individual actions, and group dynamics. The evolution of self-awareness and mutual awareness is central to the evolution of such characteristics. At the human level, these characteristics have evolved to very high levels with the potential to evolve even further.
These considerations, and what I honestly feel as leads from a higher power, have prompted me to develop the idea that evolution may after all be a two-dimensional phenomenon involving both “Bottom Up” and “Top Down” interactions. If that is so, it follows that evolution is rooted in its own history as implied in the recent publications of neuroscientists such as Gerald Edelman and Ralph Greenspan.
In this paper, I will explore this model a little further and elicit support for it from various sources including the writings of some well-recognized contemporary scientists.
Central Concepts of the Proposed Model
Evolution involves two types of processes: “Bottom Up” and “Top Down.” Only the former are invoked in modern Big Bang Cosmology and Evolutionary Biology. “Top Down” processes as a rule appear to be holistic in nature while “Bottom Up” processes appear to be mostly reductionistic. The existence of both types implies that evolution is rooted in its own history, as Gerald Edelman and Ralph Greenspan have suggested.
Destiny (or determinism if you prefer that word instead), Free Will, and Chance are the three operational characteristics of evolution. They are obvious to all of us at the human level. Physicists have identified them even at the level of some subatomic phenomena. They remain to be recognized by biologists, too.
The evolution of consciousness, awareness, and emotions, too, are part and parcel of the evolutionary process. So also is the evolution of the Understanding and the desire to Understand, to experience oneself and the world around
One of the most profound aspects of the evolution of the desire to understand is the evolution of the human desire to reflect on and know one’s own self, one’s own identity, origin and ultimate destiny. To add meaning to our lives and to set standards for our behavior. And that is where our understanding in terms of our arts, literature, mythologies, spiritual awakening, psychic powers, and revelation comes in.
The central idea of our two dimensional model from a religious point of view is that evolution is a process that involves progressively increasing realization of the infinite static potentiality of the underlying Ultimate Source, referred to as God in religious parlance.
The evolution of each and every observable entity, phenomenon and concept in the Universe and each and every perceived law of Nature are the mechanisms for the dynamic realization of the omniscient and omnipresent potentiality of the Ultimate Source.
God as Nothing is the source of everything in the material world and in the spirit world, too, if there is indeed such a thing.
God as Nothing is the bottom-most of all “Bottom Up” processes. God as Everything is the topmost of all “Top-down” processes.
God in Everything at any point in evolution can intervene in any or all “Top-down” processes at any time at any place.
Faith comes into the picture when we begin to accept the subjective answers provided by the most highly evolved personalities amongst us to the ultimate questions we ask as a species and the supernatural element associated with their lives. And that is the origin of our religions. And it is their diversity that gives rise to the conflicts among the religions.
Limits of Understanding
The upper limits for understanding by any evolved species, individually or collectively, are set by its genetic makeup in general and its organs of understanding, in particular. At the level of the human, these limits are the mind-brain and mind-body complexes as they have evolved up to this point.
Scientific Support for the Proposed Model
The whole is not always the sum of its parts.
There is increasing consensus among researchers these days that not all properties of any evolved entity in Nature can be derived from the properties of its constituents. The whole is not merely the sum of its constituents. For example, the behavior and properties of water cannot be predicted entirely from the properties of oxygen and hydrogen.
Mathematician Alwyn Scott writes: “Evolution is but the process of building stairways along the spokes of a sphere originating at the center, each step an ensemble of entities characteristically its own, depending on the ones before for origin and support and yet with emergent properties not all derivable from the steps below.”
Every event in the universe seems to be interconnected with every other event. Order out of disorder and disorder out of order both emerge in novel and unpredictable ways. The former involves a decrease in entropy while the later involves an increase. All these features are easily explained by the two dimensional model. That is because it recognizes a mechanism for the evolution of those properties of evolved entities that cannot be attributed to the properties of their constituents. “Top down” interactions are seen as the mechanisms for their evolution.
As an example, we as humans can bestow properties to the things we create that are not present among the constituents that we use to create. We can design an automobile and bestow on it the property of being able to move us from one place to another. More spectacularly we can create new organisms and bestow on them properties that their precursors did not possess. The details of how such things may be happening throughout Nature also may well be beyond our recognition and comprehension at the moment.
In religious parlance, one might say that God allows evolution to progress naturally on its own through “Bottom-Up” processes, and at every stage, He, She, or It endows the evolved entities with properties not present in their predecessors.
Bosonic and Fermionic Behaviors in Nature
The model is also consistent with another well-recognized aspect of interactions among elementary particles. Physicists divide them into two categories called bosons and fermions. The quantum mechanical wave function of a pair of bosons is known to be symmetrical, while that of a pair of fermions is known to be antisymmetrical. What this means is that the behavior of the particles does not change if we interchange them in the case of bosons and it does in the case of fermions. Fermionic interactions seem to result in disorder and increases in entropy. Bosonic interactions on the other hand result in harmony, order and decreases in entropy. Furthermore, it has been discovered that while atoms behave as fermions, complex particles containing an even number of atoms, for example He4, behave as bosons when one considers processes such as scattering and statistical mechanics at energies small compared to the binding energy of the atoms themselves.
Bosonic behavior is also involved in lasers and systems known as Bose-Einstein condensates. Two examples of Bose-Einstein condensates are superconductors and superfluids. Superconductors conduct electricity with virtually zero electrical resistance. Once a current is started, it flows indefinitely. The liquid in a superfluid also flows forever. In effect, there is no friction. The nucleons in a neutron star are believed to form a superfluid. Scientists have also been able to make superfluids in the laboratory by cooling materials to very low temperatures. On this basis, Marshall and Zohar suggest that fermionic behavior may be implicated in selfishness and the survival drive and bosonic behavior in co-operative action among biological species. Bosonic behavior appears to be a “Top Down” process while femionic behavior appears to be basically a “Bottom Up” type reductionistic process.
Physics Concepts of Quantum Domain, Virtual Domain and the Unified Field
The proposed model is consistent with the recognition that at every level of evolution there seem to exist not only self and mutual interactions among the evolved entities but also interactions between them and their Ultimate Source by whatever name it is called.
In order to account for certain experimentally observed phenomena at the very small and the very large levels of Nature, namely the subatomic and cosmological levels, physicists sometimes co sider the Ultimate Source as a Virtual Domain devoid of space and time, matter or energy but only potentiality. Sometimes, they invoke the presence of a Quantum Domain where creation manifests, energy exists as a unified field, time begins and space expands.
The nature of interactions with the Ultimate Source and the Virtual Domain at the levels of larger non-living entities and biological species is beyond our comprehension yet. This may, however, change as physicists and biologists discover new phenomena.
The well-known author Deepak Chopra like many others before him equates the Virtual Domain of modern day physicists to God or the Ultimate Spirit that the religions speak of. Between the material world in which we live and God is the Quantum Domain, he suggests, where time begins, space expands from its source and information is embedded in energy. He calls this trinity, namely God or the Virtual Domain, the Quantum Domain and the Material Domain the reality sandwich. The Quantum Domain may be the region, he surmises, where angels reside and cause events we interpret as miracles attributable to them.
Choice and Emotions
The element of choice is suspected by some even at the elementary particle level, as exemplified for example in the well known double slit experiment. In the context of the two-dimensional model many “Top Down” interactions involve an element of choice, individually and collectively by the evolved entities at all levels. And this might apply not only to the evolved entities among themselves but also in their communion with their Ultimate Source. Obviously, the choice element is currently at its highest among homo-sapiens. Therefore, the future direction of evolution on earth depends considerably on the steps we take as a species.
At higher levels, “Top Down” interactions also involve issues related to emotions and group action. At the level of the human, the most positive ones are altruism, universal love, and justice. The most negative ones are hatred, violence, global warfare, and large-scale induction of environmental imbalance. “Bottom Up” reductionism cannot explain the evolution of these characteristics and their impact on the future of evolution. It cannot provide values and cannot set the stage for the positive role humans can play in directing the future of evolution on earth. The two directional model on the other hand has the potential to address these issues.
Faith, Prayer and Meditation
Yet another line of support for the two dimensional model of evolution comes from the studies of medical researchers such as Harold Koeing, Dennis Gersten, Herbert Benson, and Larry Dossey. Gersten, a practicing psychiatrist, has demonstrated through numerous case studies how spiritual orientation positively influences our mental health and emotional well-being. Benson and Dossey have demonstrated the effectiveness of technologies such as faith, prayer, and meditation on our ability to prevent and even cure physical ailments. Prayer has been shown to be effective even when someone else or an outside group prays for you. Such studies give credence to the role of holistic dimensions in healing through as yet poorly understood “Top Down” processes.
It must be remembered, however, that such studies cannot be based entirely on random trials and medical work-ups involving blood tests, imaging procedures, etc. By and large, they should also include subjective evaluations by the subjects themselves and objective evaluations of their psychological profiles and other emotional performance tests.
As psychologists and psychiatrists document more and more of the validity of spiritual and psychic phenomena along these lines, sooner or later, science will be able to reconcile to the notion that there are paths to understanding and human well-being beyond what is currently termed the scientific path.
Scriptural Support for the Proposed Model
Support from the Bible
God made Man in His own image, says the Bible. The Kingdom of God is within you, declared Jesus metaphorically. “I am in the Father, and the Father in me,” declared Jesus (John 14:11). “Each one of us is part of the body of Christ,” said John (1 Cor 12:13). Yet another relevant verse is the following:
In the beginning was the Word, And the Word was with God. And the Word was God. All things were made by Him And without Him was not Anything made that was made In Him was life And the life was the light of men. – John 1:4
These lines from the Bible imply that the most important attribute of the Ultimate Source or God is intelligence and wisdom, metaphorically referred to as the Word, the same way the ancient Vedic seers have symbolized them as the primordial sound Om. This realization combined with the Christian teaching that our emotional life is an eternal struggle between two opposing forces, namely God and the Devil, also provide a measure of support for the two dimensional model of evolution. In order to see the connection, one has to incorporate into our model the notion that God represents the creative force propelling evolution forward and the Devil a disruptive force that tends to retard it. What then is the intended direction? In terms of our two dimensional evolutionary model, the intended direction is towards the evolution of life forms with ever increasing realization of their own potential and their unity with their Ultimate Source, namely God.
Stripped of the religious dogma attributed to them, the emergence of highly evolved beings like Jesus Christ, the Sufi mystics, the Buddhas, and the Avatars is thus easily explained by this model.
Support from the Qur’an
God through the prophet Mohammed in the Qur’an: “I was a hidden treasure. I wanted to be known. Therefore, I created the world so that I would be known.”
Support from an Ancient Hindu Model
The two dimensional model is also in tune with one particular view of creation and evolution that is attributed to ancient Hindus. According to this view, evolution is a continuous process involving a dynamic realization of the potential of the Ultimate Reality, symbolically referred to as Brahman. Creation begins with an impulse by Brahman to realize Himself and His own potential.
Before the beginning There was neither existence nor nonexistence. All this world was unmanifest energy. The One breathed, without breath, By Its own power And the Universe came into being. – Rig Veda
According to the Hindu model, starting from the origin of space, time, elemental mental traits, and the fundamental particles of matter and energy, this process progresses towards the development of biological species with higher and higher levels of dynamism. The evolution of consciousness, the mind, intellect, and emotions are considered part and parcel of this process.
Interestingly, the time scales of evolution of the universe and life on earth according to this description are amazingly close to those of modern cosmology and paleontology. The point of interest to us here is the model’s emphasis on the evolution of the spiritual dimension. For it points out that inherent in the process is the growth of a material entity’s awareness of its own identity with its Ultimate Source, the Creator or God. This process is explained as being the result of the operation of the law of Karma and multiple births and deaths of the soul. The concept of soul is of course outside the province of our present day science.
However, we do know that humans, the most highly evolved species on earth, have evolved to the point of wanting to know themselves, their own identity, and their true origin. This is in our genome. Most of us, however, are as a rule still unaware of our unity with our Source and the rest of creation. Occasionally, however, there arises such awareness among some humans either as an inborn trait or by training through spiritual techniques such as prayer and meditation or initiation by others. Jesus claimed such awareness when he declared metaphorically that “I and my Father are one.” Many other mystics throughout our history have echoed the same feeling years before and since the time of Jesus. This phenomenon is not rare even in this day and age, especially within the context of the mystical traditions of all religions.
As one’s awareness of his or her identity with their Ultimate Source advances, one exhibits more and more of psychic abilities and spiritual wisdom. Along with these arise characteristics of compassion, universal love, altruism, and an intense desire to share all this knowledge with fellow human beings. As evolution progresses either by natural selection or augmentation by humans through pharmacology or genetic techniques, more and more humans may become aware of their identity with their Ultimate Source in the future. It is that kind of awareness that must have led Jesus to promote the idea of universal love and selfless service to fellow man as positive steps for man’s spiritual evolution.