Lesson 103- Primates, Logos and Mental Level
As I ended my last program, I was describing the second level of evolution, the Organic Level, in which life, thorough the Law of Complexification, moved from one-celled creatures, to multi-cell ones. Had it not moved beyond this point, the only forms of life would have been a protoplasmic slime on the surface of the waters. However, at this point another law kicked: the Law of Organization and Specialization.
It appears that the Logos of Reality, whom we know as Jesus the logical left hemisphere of God’s dialectical mind, has a need to organize things once they reach a certain level of numerical complexity. For example, we all began as two-cell beings resulting from the union of our mother’s egg with our father’s sperm. However, these two cells began to quickly divide and subdivide until we were a mass of single cells, known as stem cells. Allow me to digress for a moment, to comment on the issue of stem cells.
These cells are at the center of a heated debate today because at this stage they are all identical because they have not yet been assigned a function. Thus, scientists hope that if they can harvest them they can be injected into people who have damaged or malfunctioning organs where they will repair or replace the damaged area. The Church is not opposed to this but it is opposed to how we go about harvesting them. Stem cells are found in the placentas or after-birth following each baby’s delivery and also in the body of adult human beings, and the Church has no objection to harvesting them from these sources. However, they are also found in embryonic human being who are still at the stage of development where the cells have not been assigned a function. The argument arises when some scientists, not satisfied with the other two sources, want to create embryonic human beings in order to destroy them for their stem cells. Since life is a continuum that begins at conception, the Church considers this murder and opposes it.
At the present moment, the argument is now centered on fertilized eggs that were created as part of “in vitro” fertilization programs designed to help potential parents who have had trouble having children. The Church warned about the danger of doing this because it opened the door to other abuses involving human life since it involved the creation of many embryos from the mother’s eggs and father’s sperm. To improve the chances of pregnancy, four or five would be inserted into the her womb, with the hope that one of them would “take.” However, if more than one or even all five began to develop, this created a problem since the parents were seeking only one child. The solution was “selective reduction”, a euphemism for killing the unwanted embryonic children. A second problem arose concerning what to do with the other fertilized eggs that were frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen to be used in case none of those inserted “took” or for future pregnancies. Many of them have been abandoned by their parents who no longer desire more children. Those who favor embryonic stem cell research argue that eventually they will have to be thrown away so why can’t they use them for experimentation. This is a prime example of the pragmatic belief that “the ends justify the means.”
President Bush, who opposes the creation of embryonic children for stem cell research, compromised by allowing researchers to clone those human embryos that are stored in liquid nitrogen but he continued to oppose the creation of new embryos for research purposes. The Church, of course, is opposed to both methods. It points out that some people have adopted these embryonic human beings by having one inserted in the womb of the adopting mother. We now have fully formed children who are alive and happy as a result of this. The Church keeps trying to warn us of the “Slippery Slope” involved in these well-meaning but unwise procedures. What benefits an individual in one instance and in the short term sometimes creates a hidden danger for the group in the long term. It’s just as Shakespeare said, “Oh the tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive.” By this he meant that one lie or deception opens the door for a tangled web of lies and deceptions that naturally flow in defense of the original lie. Anyway, let me return to how stem cells and the Law of Organization and Specialization are related to the theory of evolution.
At the multi-cellular stage, we have a mass of protoplasmic cells that are identical to each other. From Logos’ point-of-view this is an evolutionary dead-end because the repetition of the same things will never lead to any higher forms of life. Therefore, the logical, left hemisphere of God’s dialectical, rational mind, whose forte’ is organization, takes these stem cells and begins to organize them according to specific functions. One group becomes “light sensitive” and form eyes. Another becomes “sound sensitive” and become ears. Still others form the heart, liver, stomach, intestines etc…
Thus, through the interaction between the Law of Complexification and the Law of Organization and Specialization, multi-cell beings begin to form into complex life forms composed a billions of cells that have united for their mutual survival. Not only does this enhance their survival chances but it also allows them to experience life in a fuller way. Therefore, we could say that they are moving towards the “fullness of life.” You might remember that Jesus, the Word or Logos of God, said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more fully.”
In my last program I described how the Organic Level of evolution progressed through various ages where one form of life or another became the dominant species because of some acquired advantage over other creatures. Thus, we had the Age of Plants, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Marsupials, and Mammals, all of which radiated into a multiplicity of forms that allowed them to take advantage of whatever opportunities for life existed. They walked, crawled, burrowed, flew and developed appetites for whatever food sources were available.
Each age was a step towards an unseen goal that was inherent in the evolutionary process. I have already referred to this goal as the “fullness of life” in general terms but, to be more specific, it appears that the Logos of Reality was taking the whole process towards another level of evolution: the Mental or Cultural Level.
It appears that the prime candidate for this next level were the primates who were one of the many radiations among the mammals. The identifying characteristics of primates that distinguishes them from other mammals is that they have hand instead of paws and eyes in the front of their heads instead of on the side. Hands are essential for the making and using of tools and the location of the eyes gives primates three-dimensional vision. This means that they can see length, width and depth because each eye is looking at the same scene from a slightly different angle. In a sense, they have dialectical vision because the synthesis of the two slightly different views adds the third dimension of depth to their vision. You can see how this principles works if you have one of those 3-D circular slide viewers from Disney World with two eye ports. If you take out the circular slide card, you will see that there are two pictures of the same scene taken from slightly different angles. Other mammals, with eyes on the sides of their head only see two dimension: length and width which is what we see when we are reading a magazine or looking at television.
However, it is not their three-dimensional vision that is the most important feature about their vision. Of greater significance is that other mammals depend mostly on their sense of smell and hearing and less on vision. Experiments on their brains have revealed larger areas devoted to these senses and less to sight. Primates, on the other hand, devote less brain space to smell and hearing and more to sight. It is obvious that our dogs hear and smell much better than we do. As a result their mental world is composed more of memories of what they have heard or smelled whereas our is based more on what we have seen. When two dogs meet, the don’t look each other in the face and say, “Gee, Jeff, I haven’t seen you for awhile!” Instead they sniff each other as to say, “I haven’t smelled you for awhile.” On the other hand, the primate’s memory bank is full of images, which is an essential foundation for any creature who is destined to become a rational being. From this will arise a mental power that is essential to any creature destined to have a creative brain: the power of imagination. Let me demonstrate the significance of this power.
Close your eyes and imagine a powerful looking pure white horse with rippling muscles who is facing you. Coming from each shoulder blade are magnificent white wings that are extended as if prepared for flight. From the center of its head is a spiraled horn that comes to a point and on its feet are roller skates. You have just used your power of imagination that would have been impossible without your visual memory. Through it you were able to combine in a creative way things that normally don’t go together and that is what creative thinking is all about. Had your memory bank been based mainly on smell and sound, you would not have been able to do it. Thus, it appears that primates had the necessary pre-requisites that the Logos of Reality was looking for as the candidate for becoming a rational being.
Now even as I say this, I am repulsed by the idea that I am descended from a lower primate and I would be very happy to learn that it is not true. And it may not be true. However, the Church must take a “wait and see” position and thus it cautiously says that it might be true. However, it also says that even if it is proven to be true that our physical bodies evolved from lower primates, our intelligence that separates us qualitatively from the rest of the animal world, was the result of a special infusion by God of His Logos into our minds. With this in mind, let us continue our exploration of the theory of evolution from a Catholic perspective.
Zoologist tell us there are over ninety different types of primates, ranging from monkeys to apes. According to them, the apes are closer to us than the monkeys and, among the apes, the chimpanzees, who share in over 90% of our genes, have the closest connection. Since Darwin first announced his theory there has been a feverish search for a “missing link” between apes and humans. The Leakey family of paleo- anthropolgists have unearth ancient skeletal remains in Africa and Asia that have some human characteristics but whether they are the “missing link” is inconclusive. The evidence is based on fragments of skulls, hips, pelvic bones, teeth, etc… and, one of the problems is that we have no definitive way of telling whether they were truly human. Shall we go by the size of the skull, of the fact that they walked upright, or that they used tools, or by some other criteria?
Depending on your criteria, the first humans could have lived millions of years ago or less than 100 thousand years. For example, recently genetic anthropologists have concluded that modern man, which is “us”, didn’t appear on the scene sooner than 80,000 years ago. They base this on the assumption that this is when human types began to use language. Thus, for them, language is the defining characteristic of humanity.
This is interesting because, language would also be the defining characteristic for the Church’s theory because the left hemisphere of our brains is the source of language and it is also the seat of logic. Remember that John I says that Jesus was the Word or Logos of God and that he was the light that was found in every man.
Based on Fr. Chardin’s theory of the three levels of evolution, the first two- the Chemical and Organic/Living Levels- existed in the Kingdom of Mental Darkness or Gehenna. The relationships that move things from the potential to the actual on the Chemical Level were non-conscious and accidental; those on the Organic/Living Level were unconscious or subconscious because the creatures were driven to perform rational acts through blind tropism, drives, passions, and instincts. Flowers opened their petals to the sun without knowing about photosynthesis. The roots of tree were drawn to grow downward toward the earth through a drive called geotropism and towards a water source through another called acquatropism. Plants developed shapes, and smells that attracted insects to assist in the cross-pollination of their species without knowing about genetic diversity. Animals were driven to form sexual unions without knowing about sexual reproduction and to consume food without knowing about nutrition. In short, they did what was necessary for the continuation of life without consciously knowing what life was or why it should continue. They were performing micro level actions without any knowledge of their macro level consequences or significance. Thus, we can truly say that these two levels of evolution existed in Mental Darkness or Gehenna.
And yet, despite their lack of knowledge of the drama of which they were a part, the general thrust of their actions kept pushing life towards higher and higher forms. But how was this possible? How could all these accidental and mentally blind relationships result in an ever-upward thrust towards higher expressions of life? It couldn’t unless there was a judging agent because, as I noted in a previous program, “without judgment or reflection there can be no progress.” In other words, a neutral system cannot progress towards a higher goal or, for that matter, any goal. But, according to the scientists, the system in not neutral because it operates according to the Laws of Natural Selection and the Survival of the Fittest. “Selection” suggest judgment and “Fittest” suggests a value judgment in which some actions are valued over others. Thus, there must be a Logos or logical element in nature that is steering the process towards higher expressions of life. The scientists might call it Natural Selection but Christians call it the Logos of God, who, as John I states is Jesus, the Wisdom of God.
Seen from this perspective, Jesus is the logical side of the dialectical, rational mind of God who has been assigned the task of actualizing the potential in the universe that was contained in the Event Horizon. At the moment that he was begotten, space moved, and time began initiating a negentropic cosmic struggle towards the actualization of His Father’s Plan. He was, as the scriptures say, the Suffering Servant who had come to do His Father’s Will. The problem was that He had to accomplish this within a “free system” because the Godhead, being Love itself, was a great respecter of “freedom.” Thus, as Niel Bohr, the physicists, observed, the indeterminancy that Heisenberg discovered on the atomic level was an embryonic form of freedom because it established the possibility for single atoms to deviate from established natural laws. Their deviations, like the deviations in the Normal Curve, would not affect the course of the universe so long as atoms in groups continued to follow the laws.
How long this struggle would last then depended on how well the creation cooperated with its plan. Obviously, on the Chemical and Organic/Living Level rational cooperation was impossible or unlikely. Thus, the fulfillment of the plan required that the process eventually arrived at a point where the creature became aware of the process and freely chose to cooperate with it. In other words, “evolution had to become aware of itself.”
And then it happened. The Logos of Reality, upon seeing a primate-type being with the capacity for imagination, moved into its brain structure, which at that point was an arational mind that had two lobes that, functionally and operationally speaking, were non-verbal right lobes. Unlike the Creator of the universe, who as a rational being had a dialectical mind in which an artistic, creative, intuitive, genius right lobe was reflected upon by a constructive, logical, craftsman left long, these primates shared in the intuitive part of the Creator’s mind but they lacked the logical side. Therefore, they were not “made in His image and likeness.” But, when the Logos in Reality that was part of nature moved into the brain of this creature, it created a qualitative difference between it and other animals and began a new level of evolution known as the Mental or Cultural Level. What it may have been like before Logos entered its mind is best described by Helen Keller who lived six years without an activated left lobe. In her book, “My Religion” she describes what it was like when her left lobe, which possessed the ability for understanding language, was finally activated. This is how she described it:
"For nearly six years I had no ideawhatever of nature or mind or death or God. I literally thought with my body. Without a single exception my memories of that time are related to touch. For thirty years, I have examined and reexamined that part of my development in the light of new theories, and I am convinced of the correctness of what I am saying. I know I was impelled like an animal to seek food and warmth. I remember crying, but not the grief that caused the tears. I kicked, and because I recall it physically, I know I was angry. I imitated those about me when I made signs for things I wanted to eat, or helped find eggs in my mother’s farmyard. But there is not one spark of emotion or rational thought in these distinct yet bodily memories. I was like an unconscious clod of earth. Then, suddenly, I knew not how or where or when, my brain felt the impact of another’s mind, and I awoke to language, to knowledge, to love, to the usual concept of nature, of good and evil. I was actually lifted from nothingness to human life. (Gehenna?)
When the sun of consciousness first shone upon me, behold a miracle! Down in the depths of my being I cried, “It’s good to be alive!” I held out two trembling hands to life. The world to which I awoke was still mysterious, but there were hope and love and God in it, and nothing else mattered. Is it not possible that our entrance into heaven may be like this experience of mine?
Several years later my life enlarged when I learned to speak. I can never cease to marvel and be excited by that event of thirty-six years ago, it stands out so isolated, miraculous, baffling. Think of changing mute, soulless air into speech in the midst of midnight silence. Literally, I had no concepts of speech, and my touch was not enough to convey to me the thousand vibrations of spoken words. The pain and disappointment I have endured (in learning to speak clearly) are incalculable; but they are a price worth paying for the joy I have in being able to keep this living bond between the outer world and myself. As I learned to talk and to put feeling into what I said, I sensed more and more the miracle of all time and eternity-- the reality of thought!Thought, out of which are wrought books, philosophies, sciences, civilizations, and the joy and the woe of the human race! Even as if the lonely blind man who has traveled many years in midnight gloom should suddenly stumble upon the sun and all the glories of a sunlit world, so it was with me when the light of understanding flooded my mind, and I realized that words were precious symbols of knowledge, thought, and happiness.
The normal human being is familiar with the use of words, and he cannot remember when he first began to use them. I have had a different experience. I was nearly seven years old when I began to acquire language, and I remember distinctly the feelings I experienced... It was a wonderful day never to be forgotten. Thoughts that ran forward and backward came over me. Now I see it was my mental awakening., I think it was an experience somewhat in the nature of a revelation. That first revelation was worth all those years I had spent in dark, soundless imprisonment.”
What Helen is describing is what a totally right lobed creature would experience when suddenly the left side of its brain suddenly became a logical, reflective agent upon its right side.
As Christians, we believe, that this Logos of Reality, which, from the beginning of time, has been leading the creation out of Mental Darkness or Gehenna towards Mental Light and Understanding has been doing the same thing with the human race. The only difference is that where before it judged the creation from the outside, the judgment has moved to the inside. Like other creatures we are still subject to external judgment through the Laws of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest but we also have the capacity to logically analyze the consequences of our decisions and thereby avoid external judgment. In other words, through the logical brains ability to know primary purposes and the truth, we can be set from the Gehenna of “empty thought.” And how does this happen? In Proverbs 8, God’s Wisdom says that He is constantly speaking to us through experience if “we have the eyes to see, and the ears to hear.” It indicates that it is involved in all of our human endeavors and it wishes to guide us in creating good societies and a better world. And how do we learn from experience? Through the dialectical process of Thesis-Antithesis and Synthesis. In other words, the Hegelian Dialectic is a model for how we get out of the Gehenna of “empty thought”, which is the Old Testament’s word for hell. Because it is a search for the Ultimate Truth or God, it describes how the “Truth will set us free.” Salvation, like everything else, is an evolutionary process through which we are “being saved” from the blindness and ignorance that causes us to sin. And like every evolutionary process, its final outcome is determined according to the Laws of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest. What, for example, do we think the Last Judgment is when Jesus, the Judge of the Universe, separates the “sheep from the goats” and the “wheat from the chaff.”
In previous programs I have discussed how we have distorted the nature of God by our emphasis on His loving nature that we have interpreted as meaning that He is that Big Marshmallow in the Sky who, because of His all-forgiving nature, doesn’t hold us accountable when we violate His laws. Why He wouldn’t send anyone into hell, and, in a way, that’s true. Gehenna or hell is a “state of being” into which we and other creatures are born. It is the Kingdom of Mental Darkness and, since the rest of creation lacks the Logos that is capable of knowing the Truth that could set it free, they will never be able to escape from the “state of being” that Helen Keller described. We, alone, because we posses the Logos are capable of knowing the Truth that can set us free but, if we don’t follow it, then we will never get out of Gehenna. Thus, St. John asks the question, “Why does God condemn Man?” and his answer is, “ Because the Light (of Logos and Understanding) came into the world and Men loved darkness.” The obvious conclusion is that God doesn’t throw anybody into hell. We are born into it and, like the universe, the Logos within our mind has been trying to take us from the Kingdom of Mental Darkness to the Kingdom of Mental Light. If we insist on acting like animals, then we will remain animals.
Thus, to those who think that they can flaunt the laws of God and challenge His objectives by following their blind passions because they are convinced that He is Unconditional Love and would not condemn them for their behavior, think again! This is the God of Creation that we are talking about who instituted the laws of nature based on Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest. Do any of us really think that the creator of these stern laws can be “fooled with.” The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.” And the counter-part to this is that “Only the foolish think that there is nothing to fear.” Jesus thought that the consequences were so severe that he advised, “If your right hand offends you, cut it off! If your eye offends you, pluck it out, because it would be better to enter heaven minus a hand or an eye than to lose salvation because of them.,”
God’s ways are the ways of Wisdom and His Unconditional Love does not mean that He doesn’t care what we do. Unconditional Love means that He loves us whether we love Him back and He is always ready to lead us out of the Kingdom of Darkness no matter what we have done. This is because His love is transformational and it never leaves you “where you are” but takes you to “where you ought to be.” But that can’t be done unless we are willing to follow the Truth by admitting that we are sinning, that is “missing the rational target He has set for creation” and are willing to change. In other words, forgiveness hinges on “repentance and reform.” If we don’t repent and reform then we can’t be forgiven.
So the real issue that faces all of us is whether we will do things “our way” or “God’s way.” Will we remain in the animal kingdom of Gehenna where passions and instincts rule or will we enter the kingdom of rational thought where truth and knowledge rule? Will we continue to fight territorial wars and operate according to the “rules of dominance” based on “might makes right” and the “strong dominate the weak” or will we operate according to the “rules of law” based on “truth and justice makes right”? Will we ever reach the point described in the Bible where “Men will beat their weapons of war into farming tools, justice and peace will kiss, and the lion will lay down with the lamb.” That depends on how we respond to the advice that God directed Moses to give the Hebrew people. He said, “Tell them today I put before them life and death, the blessing and the curse. Tell them to choose life!” Remember life is “integration” and death is “disintegration.” The first results from the actions of negentropic people who have added their efforts to the Suffering Servants struggle to bring evolution to its final end. The second results from the actions of entropic people who either because of their destructive behavior or indifference are taking the creation back towards the chaos from which it sprung. Which side are you on?
In my next program, I will describe the Mental or Cultural Level of evolution in greater detail and describe how the Logos of Reality has been using the stage of history to lead Humankind from Gehenna to the Kingdom of Light.
Well, I see that my time is up! Here’s Dom!