Tuesday, August 24th 2004, by Brenden Macdonald
In finding a viable ethical system, Iâ€™ve devised arguments that use the anthropic principle as its basis, and I will attempt in this paper to express this theory. My thesis is that there is a tendency of living nature to form symbiotic relationships by which members of the ecosystem can evolve and sustain their life, and this natural symbiosis entails the criteria for ethical evaluation.
As Jack D. Forbes said, â€œThat which I exhale, the trees inhale. Together we form a circle.â€ (from [link]) I think that the circle of life manifests naturally and that life insists by its nature what is symbiotically consistent with it, and I believe a sound ethics emerges in consideration of what indeed is consistent with the ongoing existence of life.
James Gardnerâ€™s new evolutionary theory laid out in the book Biocosm has helped me come to these ideas, and also assisting my ideas are various writings that have come from a (â€œnew-ageâ€) social movement that currently lives as part of the internet subculture, the Deoxyribonucleic Hyperdimension, a group who advocates that awareness be turned to the evolution of symbiotic biology and sentience.
The state of our reality.
I think life has a natural order which causes the enhancement of life forms, that evolution toward better living affairs is possible unlike prevalent current views that claim evolution is a horizontal affair concerning simply the competitive refinements of mutation arising from the randomness of physics.
This assumption that life necessarily exists and does so in order to become better over time, not merely that life occurs and changes with time, works well with the anthropic principle as conveyed by James Gardner in Biocosm. It states in its strong form that the conditions and laws that prevail in the physical universe must be such that life arises naturally. In other words, reality necessarily contains the required conditions for life.
This is a profound statement because it emphasizes lifeâ€™s direct priority in the essential nature of reality. It means that the universe of things exist for the existence of life. The principle states that there is no possibility of existence without the outcome of life. It means that physical things must contain the potential for life, or that concerning the essential causal and behavioural structures of physical reality, life must be intended to arise.
This view has the potential to revolutionize our nihilistic conception of a thoughtless, unfeeling, and immoral universe of blind immensity and chance. Instead, the natural order of life arises because the reason for the existence of anything physical is â€œanthropicâ€ which means to say â€œto house life!â€ Thru its life-creating energies, we the living are naturally the purpose or goal of physical reality!
How the anthropic principle works and the process of evolution
Because of the anthropic principle, I think that ethical conduct is constrained by universal standards defined by the natural order of life. The anthropic idea is that making life is the natural order of reality and this leads me to consider evolution as having purpose for some ethical reason, ethical because life seems intended to be about the emergence of beings who can feel a world.
The natural order of life can be seen as the creation of symbiotic relationships that can sustain and enhance mutual survival, such as trees and humans exchanging breath giving one another energy to grow more and reproduce, and this enhancing humanityâ€™s linguistic, emotional, and hence moral understanding as we evolve. The conditions for these relationships are defined by the nature of the physical environment. For example, the breath trees and humans share has arisen from the presence of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
The presence of simple oxygen and carbon dioxide has evolved into our physical bodies that are incredibly organized systems of metabolic processes. But without carbon dioxide, oxygen, and their discrete and physically necessary chemical natures, our biology certainly couldnâ€™t have evolved.
The biology of any life form has a necessary structure resulting from the immediate surrounding relationships in the physical nature, and that biology requires symbiotic connections with an ecosystem that has complimentary metabolic processes for that life form to continue indefinitely (our breath in is the compliment of the treesâ€™ breath out). And all this in us and trees requires the laws and mechanisms of nature. If there is a path for the natural function of symbiotic metabolism to follow, do we not have the base for an ethical system?
Also, the natural tendency of life on Earth has been to move toward complexity. Living beings possess many very complex enzymes. Enzymes are catalysts. Catalysts make chemical reactions proceed more quickly. Any life form that reproduces is making more enzymes and in each successive generation of a species, the enzymes change because of the refinement of natural selection. The function of enzymes thru Earthly lifeâ€™s evolution has been to become more complex and diverse, and hence more effective. The point here is that evolution is not random, but that symbiotic relationships of living beings emerge that are their own mutual sources for growth and metabolic enhancement. I mean to say that life has a way of making itself feel (or survive) better.
Games Gardner said â€œthe evolutionary process is analogous not to a random walk through [just any] variations of species, but rather to the purposeful climbing of a ladder that leads to discrete and discernible plateaus populated with species of growing complexity and competence.â€ The natural order of life is not random but it is movement toward â€œgrowing complexity and competence.â€ In other words, life becomes connected in symbiotic ways within the environment in a non-random way; instead of a â€œrandom walk,â€ the connections that evolve between life are â€œdiscrete and discernibleâ€ and are â€œpurposeful.â€
Purposeful for what? Increasingly complex biology and greater biodiversity of species have purpose in that a greater symbiotic peace arises because a greater number of options become available for metabolic loops such as humans and trees to fulfill their biological needs. I guess the connection in my mind that Iâ€™m making to ethics is that a moral agent is necessarily a living creature so their innate biological tendencies toward symbiosis contain the basis for a natural flow, and I believe allowing this natural flow is the ethical good.
A recap on what Iâ€™ve written so far
I want to restate my thesis that there is a tendency of living nature to form metabolic relationships by which members of the ecosystem can evolve and sustain their life, and this natural symbiosis entails the criteria for ethical evaluation. The criteria for ethical evaluation are meant to be considered with respect to what actions are most consistent with the natural symbiosis that Iâ€™ve argued must, by the anthropic principle, emerge here.
Thru-out my argument I have carried the assumption that the anthropic principle is true, and I have agreed with James Gardner that evolution is not a horizontal affair, but instead has discernible purpose in and of its symbiosis (complexity and competence.) These two ideas if true make it legitimate to conceive that we humans are embedded in a biologically functional whole that is the universe coming to life in a precisely harmonized and intended way. I believe this naturally intended harmony is a source of ethical guidance. I believe that whatâ€™s virtuous is attuning to unavoidable symbiotic rhythms.
About ethical evaluation
It must be considered that humanity has the potential for virtue because we evolved and were given that ability, as alive, to act virtuously. Being virtuous must be consistent with the aim of life for symbiotic evolution. The anthropic approach evaluates all life as intrinsically valued as â€˜necessary and intendedâ€™ and promotes virtuous acts.
As I have described evolution, virtuous acts will be acts that promote freedom to access and to create symbiosis. I have argued that life occurs in a specific way that it does. This includes the notion that specific actions either work or do not work with the natural systems. This gives us a way to say what is right, or most beneficial, about actions affecting a whole ecosystem or a whole population within it. It is more difficult to think about human relationships, but I donâ€™t think it impossible.
Talking about the consequences of our actions, I tend to conceive of ethical matters in terms of the impact of events on my conscious and living existence. I desire that impact to be in support of my progress on Earth as a living creature. For me, conducting ethics and evaluating actions are a matter of putting life ahead of cultural, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic status or desire. Prioritizing consequences to life and evolution gives us clear answers in many ethical questions (this list is not meant as exhaustive in any way) :
1. Itâ€™s not wrong to abort a fetus if the mother and fetus are both certainly doomed to die due to complications otherwise,
2. Itâ€™s wrong to commit genocide and massacre innocents,
3. Itâ€™s right to disempower those who commit (2),
4. Itâ€™s right to empower beings in other regions to express themselves politically and artistically in order to liberate their cultures from oppression and in order to culturally evolve,
5. Itâ€™s right to promote sustainable interaction with the ecosystem and eliminate excesses of consumption of the economic system that directly impede sustainability, and hence evolution.
6. Itâ€™s right to ensure health and educative opportunity regardless of social status.
Challenges to my system
I state one of my assumptions again: evolution is a beneficial and enhancing affair that leads to the emergence of higher levels of peace in the form of biological symbiosis. One can challenge this but I find each of these arguments unsatisfactory and unworthy of mention, except that they follow from the premise that life indicates zero meaning in and of itself. This does not follow with the perception of reality that I have. Life appears to be inherently meaningfully related, with each creature possessing a specific and inalterable symbiotic link to its environment, and this represents the presence of rules or conditions of nature that ameliorate more suffering and promote more flourishing. In short, I believe lifeâ€™s own flow is what carries moral significance.
Even given this assumption of meaningful existence if purposeful evolution is accurate as a concept, some people may challenge this system by introducing ethical situations where it seems irrelevant to life and evolution what happens because of our actions, such as simply breaking a promise to another or even sustaining a hostile, irreverent intention toward another while never physically harming them.
When it comes to our mental and emotional activity when the immediate survival of our life forms are not in jeopardy, a weakness in the system is a lack of method of ascertaining the impact of an action to evolution, and the system seems to fail in cases where evolution and life are not threatened in any physical way, such as cheating on a lover against their will with someone else.
To deal with these moral questions, the concept of anthropic ethics (remember, that would mean ethics â€œto house lifeâ€) must somehow be extended to matters of human consciousness and emotion, as though just as for physical symbiosis, there may also be a naturally-intended order for minds to follow by which to achieve what it sentient symbiosis (i.e. that everyone may one day be happy and peaceful!)
That may be a difficult affair, but according to what surrounds the anthropic principle, the evolution of life is necessitated by what are strict physical laws and so, exact parameters exist for an organized and necessary emergence of life, and in this we may be able to scientifically determine what actions are most consistent with the natural objectives of any conceivable ecosystem.
The natural objective of Earthâ€™s ecosystem includes human minds, and these minds seem to have formed in a specific way such that complex and specific emotional sensations arise in response to the impact of our ever-changing environment. Therefore, there are probably actions that are consistent with mental objectives for sentient symbiosis in the same way the human body requires oxygen. We all require success, peace, and love for our sentient security, even if our bodies are physically safe and cared for.
The reasoning here goes: The domain of the anthropic principle includes everything that arises in reality, and sentience has arisen. Sentience allows us to be moral agents because without intelligible perception we would have no link of awareness to the internal or external world with which to evaluate ourselves. We have the emergence from biology of sentience so sentience needs to be consistent with the anthropic principle that contains or allows for biology.
Therefore, we must conceive of sentience as being just as necessitated and shaped by the nature of reality just as biological life is derived. In short, the anthropic principle becomes the statement: the conditions and laws that prevail must be such that sentience arises naturally.
If the anthropic principle creates biology, and if biology houses sentience, and if sentience is the foundation of having virtue, then virtue and the potential for ethical conduct arise from the anthropic principle.
Obligation of the real
(The following is a term of Heinz Pagels used in Biocosm that refers to the wonderful synchronicity of universal constants that seem finely tuned for our form of life: ) â€œThe cosmic codeâ€ appears to be written for the emergence of life, and the emergence of life contains our minds and actions. I think that our minds and thoughts are as naturally intended by the underlying order of reality as are our physical bodies, and if anyone wants to argue against that, they must provide reason to distinguish humanity from the naturalistic order of things, which I find impossible: weâ€™re within and of this world, a part of this world.
Is it too much of a leap to reason this way, that lifeâ€™s intricate and demanding symbiosis offers us a real and objective set of truly good actions? There are definitely limits on what behaviour is beneficial for life. It seems clear to me that those limits actually define what is moral for humans to do. â€œTo dissolve in the primordial matrix of life--this is sanity,â€ says Henryk Skolimowski in an essay called Forests as Sanctuaries.
I felt that in this statement, he urges us to consider that to â€œdissolve in the primordial matrix of lifeâ€ means to accept the natural and inevitable emergence and needs of life. The primordial matrix of life is all around us as the anthropic tendency of every bit of inanimate matter to become living. To dissolve in this would be sanity, I feel, continuing to live in accordance with nature.
Later in the same essay, he said: â€œWe have to recreate this meaning from the foundations. We have to re-sacralize the world, for otherwise our existence will be sterile. We live in a disenchanted world. We have to embark on the journey of the re-enchantment of the world.â€ I feel adherence and reverence to the nature of reality entails the primacy of flourishing life and sentience and this will enable the routes of such a journey for re-enchantment. I feel devotion to life would â€œsacralize,â€ or make sacred, our existence.
James Gardnerâ€™s focus on the anthropic principle led him to devise an evolutionary theory that â€œintelligent life is the architect of the universe.â€ I agree with him. In this essay, I have argued for an ethical system in which morality stems from the anthropic principle and concerns evolution and flourishing. Thus my argument nearly amounts to inferring that central to reality is an intelligence, life, and an ethically just ideal, entwined in a cocreative system, the realm of awakening, peace-forging souls.
Such a position has involved the synthesis of three concepts: the anthropic concept that natural physical conditions necessarily lead to the emergence of biological life, the symbiotic concept that within the necessary emergence of life there exists a kind of pre-arranged harmony for evolution to which life forms may adhere and benefit, and the ethical sentience concept that our minds who emerged from anthropic forces may willingly adhere to the virtue of the natural principles of life as to nurture and promote humanity and Earthâ€™s flourishing.
I find these concepts obviously interrelated, inseparable, and accurate, and that they contain the message that what our ethical attention must concern and what our maxims of conduct must refer to are essentially lifeâ€™s freedom to actualize its anthropic objective.
Gardner, James. Biocosm â€“ The New Evolutionary Theory of Life: Intelligent Life is the Architect of the Universe. Inner Ocean Publishing. Copyright 2003 by James Gardner.
Skolimowski, Henryk. Forests as Sanctuaries. ([link])
24 Aug 2004 @ 21:02 by shawa : *
"We're within and of this world, a part of this world. " Keywords, out of which the new ethics should be able to evolve. You are so right.
To cite Skolimowski (in Forest as Sanctuaries) :
" To dissolve in the primordial matrix of life--this is sanity.
To enter the communion with the shapes which spell out organic life--this is a silent joy.
To lose oneself in the forms soaked in the substance of life--this is a fundamental renewal.
Trees and forests are important for deep psychological reasons. In returning to the forest, we are returning to the womb not in psychological terms but in cosmological terms. We are returning to the source of our origin. We are entering communion with life at large. The existence of the forests is so important because they enable us to return to the source of our origin. They provide for us a niche in which our communion with all life can happen.
The unstructured environments which we need for our sanity and for our mental health, as well as for the moments of silent brooding without which we cannot truly reach our deeper selves, should not be limited to forests only. Rugged mountains and wilderness areas provide the same nexus for being at one with the glory of the elemental forces of life. Wilderness areas are life-giving in a fundamental sense, nourishing the core of our being. This core of our being is sometimes called the soul."
And this :...
"We have to learn to listen carefully to the beat of the primordial life in us, whether we call it instinct, intuition, or the wholistic response. We do respond with great sensitivity to spaces, geometries and forms of life surrounding us. We respond positively to the forms which breathe life for these forms are life-enhancing. Life in us wants to be enhanced and nourished. Hence we want to be in the company of forms that breathe life."
This is the whole idea behind the Earth Sanctuary. :-)
Other entries in Thoughts
Wednesday, July 1st 2009: Freedom, Fancy, and Life’s Mystery from Spinoza to Romanticism
Wednesday, September 22nd 2004: On use of experience and reason
Saturday, August 21st 2004: Cultural psychosis?