Several months back I had a debate with an atheist on what we tend to categorize as "supernatural" as opposed to what is "natural". This debate followed along the path of evolution. Now I am no scientist, nor do I wish to be; but, I am curious about whom I am, what life is, and why I do the things I do. I am fairly intelligent and believe myself to possess the ability to THINK with reasonableness. There is a lot to be said for the ability to reason and to logically discern between ideas and particulars. These traits; I have come to understand, are not typical tools used by those who are unwilling to open their minds to all possibilities and points of view. We; as humans, like to hold onto our security blankets for as long as we can, because we tend to "fear" the things we do not understand and differ from "our" world we are accustomed to. Familiarity breeds contempt and contempt reaps prejudice. The closest we can hope to get to the truth of anything is to present a "thing" as itself and consider it from every angle. If you will indulge me, I would like to present certain particulars that peeked my curiosity as I perused the abundance of information readily available; via the internet highway, to the inquiring minds who to know.
First, I would like to present the distinction between the definitive concepts of evolution and devolution. There is very little; but; only as they are interpreted. Devolution is the passing of property from one to another, as by hereditary succession. Evolution is a change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. See they both basically infer the same thing. In devolution the "property" we pass on is our genes as hereditary characteristics in our DNA. Devolution does not necessarily involve change, per se, by its definition, but, change is necessitated through motion and everything is always in motion in the physical world. Therefore, logically, we can conclude that devolution and evolution are both processes of "change" and as far as hereditary traits are concerned; nothing we "pass on" is exactly the same for the mere fact that "passing on" entails motion and motion involves change. This is similar to a quote by a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus: "We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not."
What I believe this topic is suggesting comes under degeneration which is the evolutionary decline or loss of a function, characteristic, or structure in an organism or a species. If we look closely at this definition we "see" that it states evolution. What I found interesting in my research is that "evolution" is presumed a change in a positive manner; but, this is not so. Evolution is change and change; being relative to the circumstance, is not always good. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia.com on evolution that was very helpful to me:
In biology, evolution is the change in the inherited traits of a population from one generation to the next. These traits are the expression of genes that are copied and passed on to offspring during reproduction. Mutations in these genes can produce new or altered traits, resulting in heritable differences between organisms. New traits can also come from transfer of genes between populations, as in migration, or between species, in horizontal gene transfer. Evolution occurs when these heritable differences become more common or rare in a population, either non-randomly through natural selection or randomly through genetic drift.
This description of evolution is a generality that implies change of no particular direction. The idea that evolution connotes something beneficial is presumptuous and will lead to all sorts of unfounded imaginations. What I believe this topic is referring to as it relates to a positive inference of evolution would be best suited under the definition of "natural selection". This is what wikipedia.com has to say on natural selection:
"Natural" selection is a process that causes heritable traits that are helpful for survival and reproduction of these traits, to become more common and harmful traits to become more rare. This occurs because organisms with advantageous traits pass on more copies of these heritable traits to the next generation. Over many generations, adaptations occur through a combination of successive, small, random changes in traits, and natural selection of those variants best-suited for their environment.
This is where my debate with atheist comes in. What is natural?
1. Conforming to the usual or ordinary course of nature
2. Not acquired; inherent
3. Not altered, treated, or disguised
4. functioning or occurring in a normal way; lacking abnormalities or deficiencies
5. being in accordance with or arising from nature
6. begotten as distinguished from adopted
7. existing in or in conformity with nature or the observable world; neither supernatural nor magical; "a perfectly natural explanation
In order to proficiently determine what we are implying as "evolution" or "natural selection" to what is "devolution" or more appropriately "degeneration"; we must first have an understanding of what is "natural". Without a specific baseline; any claims for or against a change of any sort would be erroneous. In order to assert a change there must be something it changed from and then to, and consequently assess if this constitutes a "good", as in evolving or "bad", as in degenerating, change.
The above definition is a general definition of "natural"; but, as it relates to a specific you must logically apply it appropriately. A dog and a human are both mammals, but there are definite "natural" distinctions between the two and reproduction is conforming to the ordinary course of nature specific to each. If a human were to be born with paws instead of hands and feet, this would be considered an "unnatural" occurrence as it relates to a human. This example is very easy to understand; but; when it comes to disease we seem to overlook this major detail. Disease is defined as a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment. Disease is considered as a change to what is "natural" by the introduction of something foreign or what could be logically discerned, as an "unnatural" element that causes a disordered, incorrectly or "NOT" naturalfunctioning organ, part, structure or system. Take for instance diabetes. This was not a "natural" part of the human genome, neither was cancer or heart disease; but, in today's world they have become so commonplace as to loosely refer to someone who has died from one these as "dying of natural causes". NO! NO! NO!
As evolution would have it; we now even "pass" these on to our unborn children. What an inheritance, I say! And if you were not actively born with this disease in this generation, yet, it ran in your families' medical history, you are at a much greater risk for developing one of these in your lifetime. This is human evolution, my friend, and it is not difficult to discern whether it is "good" or "bad". These are caused by an outside influence brought into the "natural" environment known as the human body. Even though the cause may be "natural" unto its own species, it is "unnatural" to ours. In the brief synopsis from Wikipedia.com above it states:
Over many generations, adaptations occur through a combination of successive, small, random changes in traits, and natural selection of those variants best-suited for their environment.
One example of this is the difference in skin pigment from dark to light, where; in various parts the world, the melanin in the epidermis, or outer layer of skin, adapted to the amount of exposure to the sun's ultraviolet light. This was a "good" adaptation, but, the above named diseases, which are also an adaptation of prolonged exposure to a particular environment, is not.
We believe, as a species, that our technological advancements are good. But, if you look at the overall effect on humanity as a whole, you will see that it is not. Take, for instance, TV. Our children are addicted to it, you try to talk to them when they are watching something and they do not even hear you. It has become a "babysitter" because both parents are working; when they get home they are too tired to interact with the child, so throw them in front of the TV while they unwind. They have become a teacher, as in Sesame Street, which is for the most part harmless, but it removes the human element which aids in developing social interaction skills; and let's not mention computers, playstations, or cell phones, this list could go on indefinitelyAll this technology creates more wantsNOT needs and these wants create stress. The #1 culprit for breaking down the human body's only defenses; the immune system, is stress. Stress is what we feel internally; caused from outside of the "natural" body, through the environment, as in social /job status, political issues, and media influence. These affect our mind and our mind affects and controls the whole body, consciously and subconsciously. Our "frame of mind" determines what we do to maintain a healthy balance, as in diet and exercise. This is where we have "dominion" and we have given our "dominion" to the world! Then; to add insult to injury, we use outside things to try to fix inside problems. We refer to them as "stress relievers" as in alcohol and drugs and dare I say all our little toys: computers, TVs, cell phones, cars, houses, designer clothes, etc. We have certainly seen the consequential environmental and social "evolutionary" changes caused by these external stress relievers and the prognosis is not good!
On the medical side of this; we use outside treatments like antibiotics, insulin, and chemotherapy. Then we need other outside treatments to counteract the side effects from these. Hmmm Are you aware that one of the basic suggestions in modern for a cancer patient is to practice meditation? It has been proven to prolong one's life who is suffering from the disease and it is an inside job, I might add. Doctors are also recommending that one suffering from this disease to stop eating refined sugar as this feeds cancer, but, by no coincidence, it contributes to diabetes as well, along with processed white flour and white rice, as these complex carbohydrate's cause a similar spike in blood sugar. Sugar also contributes to stress!
Stress is a warning signal to the mind, not for an external change, but for an internal "emotional" re-evaluation. If we really think about it, all evolutionary adaptations in the physical body are caused by an external circumstance. By repeated exposure to this stress, it forces the internal body to conform to the external circumstance. These technological advancements man "perceives" as progress are the major contributing factors for the physical and emotional/ moral decline of the human race. Will the mind of man "wake up" before his demise?
We live in a dualistic world. This means that at the expense or loss of one thing is the gain of another thing. There are laws in this physical matrix we live in and they are "laws" because they have consistently proven themselves to be true. The 1st Law of Thermodynamics, better known as the Conservation of Energy, basically states (Wikipedia.com) that the total amount of energy in any isolated system remains constant but cannot be recreated, although it may change forms in shortenergy can not be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another from energy to matter back to energy. In a closed system there is no loss of energy in the process, just a change in form. Therefore, evolution, being a direct change in form, must abide by this law. Having change as its primary characteristic, it also involves motion. Newton's 3rd Law of Motion states for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This "equal" and "opposite" reaction; in a closed system, involves an equal exchange of an opposite dualistic nature. It equally exchanges what it takes from one "form" and distributes it "equally" to the opposite "form". For all good, there is an equal amount of bad; for all pleasure, there is equal amount of pain; for all change in one form; there is an equal amount of change in another.
Evolution is a change in a closed thermodynamic system and (worth repeating) all change infers motion. Progress in one direction involves degeneration in an opposite direction, this is a fact. Where the "external", technological advancements of today's "modern" world appear to be beneficial; they are, by the laws of nature; to the "internal", most detrimental!
In a discourse on harmony Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher mentioned above, writes: "The death of fire is the birth of air, and the death of air is the birth of water". Here is a perfect example of both laws above and it involves both evolution and devolution. What we perceive as evolution, being a positive change, as the "birth" of something new; always involves the "death" of something else. This is one form changing into another form; which, by its definition above, is devolution, or the passing on of "property", being of form or substance, by hereditary succession, in accordance with the conservation of energy and as a result of the 3rd Law of Motion. This in no way implies this change is good or bad, that is always relative to the circumstance involved. Heraclitus also said "out" of discord comes the fairest harmony". I ask "to whom or what bequeaths this "harmony" and to whom or what bequeaths this "discord"?
The human race is now face to face with a "Trojan Horse" and the question is not one of evolution or devolution, but one of pride and of prejudice. I think the best Teacher of mankind; Jesus Christ, said it best when he asked in Mt 16:26 "For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?"