Historically this assumption by a subject-object metaphysics that all the world is composed of substance put a strain on the Theory of Evolution right from its beginning. At the time of its origin it wasn't yet understood that at the level of photons and electrons and other small particles the laws of cause and effect no longer apply; that electrons and photons simply appear and disappear without individual predictability and without individual cause. So today we have as a result a theory of evolution in which 'man' is ruthlessly controlled by the cause-and-effect laws of the universe while the particles of his body are not. The absurdity of this seems to be neglected. The problem doesn't lie in anyone's department. Physicists can ignore it because they are not concerned with man. Social scientists can ignore it because they are not concerned with subatomic particles.
So although modern physics pulled the rug out from under the deterministic explanation of evolution many decades ago, it has survived by default because no other more plausible explanation has been available. But right from the beginning, substance-caused evolution has always had a puzzling aspect that it has never been able to eliminate. It goes into many volumes about how the fittest survive but never once answers the question of why.
This is the sort of irrelevant-sounding question that seems minor at first, and the mind looks for a quick answer to dismiss it. It sounds like one of those hostile, ignorant questions some fundamentalist preacher might think up. But why do the fittest survive? Why does any life survive? It's illogical. It's self-contradictory that life should survive. If life is strictly a result of the physical and chemical forces of nature then why is life opposed to these same forces in its struggle to survive? Either life is with physical nature or it's against it. If it's with nature there's nothing to survive. If it's against physical nature then there must be something apart from the physical and chemical forces of nature that is
motivating it to be against physical nature. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all energy systems 'run down' like a clock and never rewind themselves. But life not only 'runs up,' converting low energy sea-water, sunlight and air into high-energy chemicals, it keeps multiplying itself into more and better clocks that keep 'running up' faster and faster.
Why, for example, should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen struggle for billions of years to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? What's the motive? If we leave a chemistry professor out on a rock in the sun long enough the forces of nature will convert him into simple compounds of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, and small amounts of other minerals. It's a one-way reaction. No matter what kind of chemistry professor we use and no matter what process we use we can't turn these compounds back into a chemistry professor. Chemistry professors are unstable mixtures of predominantly unstable compounds which, in the exclusive presence of the sun's heat, decay irreversibly into simpler organic and inorganic compounds. That's a scientific fact.
The question is: Then why does nature reverse this process? What on earth causes the inorganic compounds to go the other way? It isn't the sun's energy. We just saw what the sun's energy did. It has to be something else. What is it?
Nowhere on the pages of all that he had read about evolution did Phaedrus see any answer. He knew of theological answers, of course, but these aren't supported by scientific observation. Evolutionists, in their reply, simply say that in the scientific observation of the facts of the universe no goal or pattern has ever appeared toward which life is heading.
This last statement so neatly sweeps the whole matter under the carpet one would never guess that it was of much concern to evolutionists at all. But a reading of the early history of the theories of evolution shows this is not true. The first major evolutionist, who was not Darwin but Jean Baptiste Lamarck, maintained that all life was evolving toward perfection, a synonym for Quality. Alfred Wallace, who forced Darwin to publish by independently arriving at an almost identical theory, also maintained that natural selection was not enough to account for the development of man. After Darwin many others continued to deny the goallessness of life.
Phaedrus had found a good summary of the entire matter in a Scientific American article by Ernst Mayr.
Those who rejected natural selection on religious or philosophical grounds or simply because it seemed too random a process to explain evolution continued for many years to put forward alternative schemes with such names as orthogenesis, nomogenesis, aristogenesis or the 'Omega Principle" of Teilhard de Chardin, each scheme relying on some built-in tendency or drive toward perfection or progress. All these theories were finalistic; they postulated some form of cosmic teleology or purpose or program.
The proponents of teleological theories, for all their efforts, have been unable to find any mechanism (except supernatural ones) that can account for their postulated finalism. The possibility that any such mechanism can exist has now been virtually ruled out by the findings of molecular biology.
Evolution is recklessly opportunistic: it favors any variation that provides a competitive advantage over other members of an organism's own population or over individuals of different species. For billions of years this process has automatically fueled what we call evolutionary progress. No program controlled or directed this progression. It was the result of spur of the moment decisions of natural selection.
Mayr certainly seemed to consider the matter settled and this attitude, no doubt, reflected a consensus among everyone except anti-evolutionists. But after reading it Phaedrus wrote on one of his slips, 'It seems clear that no mechanistic pattern exists toward which life is heading, but has the question been taken up of whether life is heading away from mechanistic patterns?'
He guessed that the question had not been taken up at all. The concepts necessary for taking it up were not at hand. In a metaphysics in which static universal laws are considered fundamental, the idea that life is evolving away from any law just draws a baffled question mark. It doesn't make any sense. It seems to say that all life is headed toward chaos, since chaos is the only alternative to structural patterns that a law-bound metaphysics can conceive.
But Dynamic Quality is not structured and yet it is not chaotic. It is value that cannot be contained by static patterns. What the substance-centered evolutionists were showing with their absence of final 'mechanisms' or 'programs' was not an air-tight case for the biological goallessness of life. What they were unintentionally showing was a superb example of how values create reality.
Science values static patterns. Its business is to search for them. When non-conformity appears it is considered an interruption of the normal rather than the presence of the normal. A deviation from a normal static pattern is something to be explained and if possible controlled. The reality science explains is that 'reality' which follows mechanisms and programs. That other worthless stuff which doesn't follow mechanisms and programs we don't pay any attention to.
See how this works? A thing doesn't exist because we have never observed it. The reason we have never observed it is because we have never looked for it. And the reason we have never looked for it is that it is unimportant, it has no value and we have other better things to do.
Because of his different metaphysical orientation Phaedrus saw instantly that those seemingly trivial, unimportant, 'spur of the moment' decisions that Mayr was talking about, the decisions that directed the progress of evolution are, in fact, Dynamic Quality itself. Dynamic Quality, the source of all things, the pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, always appears as 'spur of the moment.' Where else could it appear?
When this prejudice against 'spur of the moment' Dynamic Quality is removed new worlds of reality open up. Naturally there is no mechanism toward which life is heading. Mechanisms are the enemy of life. The more static and unyielding the mechanisms are, the more life works to evade them or overcome them.
The law of gravity, for example, is perhaps the most ruthlessly static pattern of order in the universe. So, correspondingly, there is no single living thing that does not thumb its nose at that law day in and day out. One could almost define life as the organized disobedience of the law of gravity. One could show that the degree to which an organism disobeys this law is a measure of its degree of evolution. Thus, while the simple protozoa just barely get around on their cilia, earthworms manage to control their distance and direction, birds fly into the sky, and man goes all the way to the moon.
A similar analysis could be made with other physical laws such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and it seemed to Phaedrus that if one gathered together enough of these deliberate violations of the laws of the universe and formed a generalization from them, a quite different theory of evolution could be inferred. If life is to be explained on the basis of physical laws, then the overwhelming evidence that life deliberately works around these laws cannot be ignored. The reason atoms become chemistry professors has got to be that something in nature does not like laws of chemical
equilibrium or the law of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics or any other law that restricts the molecules' freedom. They only go along with laws of any kind because they have to, preferring an existence that does not follow any laws whatsoever.
This would explain why patterns of life do not change solely in accord with causative 'mechanisms' or 'programs' or blind operations of physical laws. They do not just change valuelessly. They change in ways that evade, override and circumvent these laws. The patterns of life are constantly evolving in response to something 'better' than that which these laws have to offer.
This would at first seem to contradict the one thing that evolutionists insist upon most: that life is not responding to anything but the 'survival of the fittest' process of natural selection. But 'survival of the fittest' is one of those catch-phrases like 'mutants' or 'misfits' that sounds best when you don't ask precisely what it means. Fittest for what? Fittest for survival? That reduces to 'survival of the survivors,' which doesn't say anything. 'Survival of the fittest' is meaningful only when 'fittest' is equated with 'best,' which is to say, 'Quality.' And the Darwinians don't mean just any old quality, they mean undefined Quality! As Mayr's article makes clear, they are absolutely certain there is no way to define what that 'fittest' is.
Good! The 'undefined fittest" they are defending is identical to Dynamic Quality. Natural selection is Dynamic Quality at work. There is no quarrel whatsoever between the Metaphysics of Quality and the Darwinian Theory of Evolution. Neither is there a quarrel between the Metaphysics of Quality and the 'teleological' theories which insist that life has some purpose. What the Metaphysics of Quality has done is unite these opposed doctrines within a larger metaphysical structure that accommodates both of them without contradiction.
* * *
The river was opening up now into a broad lake that the chart beside Phaedrus identified as the Tappan Zee. Like the Zuider Zee, he supposed. Nice that they'd kept the old Dutch name. He turned and looked behind him and there was the mountain range that he'd passed through. The last range. The American continent was coming to an end. Soon this strong heavy boat would be out in the Atlantic for the first time, where it really belonged. That felt exciting after all these weeks. The boat was built to cross oceans and circumnavigate continents, not just 'run the buoys' down placid inland waterways.
It was still early afternoon. The boat was making ferocious speed. He supposed that contraction of the river by the mountains must have made it speed up. Now, according to his calculations, the tide would begin to reverse and it would be slower going.
Anyway, that 'migration of static patterns toward Dynamic Quality' he'd been thinking so much about seemed to hold up so far. In the past when ideas like it had been defeated they were always knocked down by the assumptions of a conventional metaphysics of substance, but with the Metaphysics of Quality behind it, it stood up. He'd tried dozens of times to think of how it could be knocked down with one argument or another but he'd never found anything that worked. And so in the months since it had emerged he had tried to work out various refinements.
The explanation of life as a 'migration of static patterns toward Dynamic Quality' not only fitted the known facts of evolution, it allowed new ways of interpreting them.
Biological evolution can be seen as a process by which weak Dynamic forces at a subatomic level discover stratagems for overcoming huge static inorganic forces at a superatomic level. They do this by selecting superatomic mechanisms in which a number of options are so evenly balanced that a weak Dynamic force can tip the balance one way or another.
The particular atom that the weak Dynamic subatomic forces have seized as their primary vehicle is carbon. All life contains carbon yet a study of properties of carbon atom shows that except for the extreme hardness of one of its crystalline forms there is not much unusual about it. In terms of other physical constants of melting point, conductivity, ionization, and so on, it does just about what its position on the periodic table of the elements suggests it might do. Certainly there's no hint of any miraculous powers waiting to spring chemistry professors upon a lifeless planet.
One physical characteristic that makes carbon unique is that it is the lightest and most active of the group IV of atoms whose chemical bonding characteristics are ambiguous. Usually the positively valenced metals in groups I through III combine chemically with negatively valenced non-metals in groups V through VII and not with other members of their own group. But the group containing carbon is halfway between the metals and non-metals, so that sometimes carbon combines with metals and sometimes with non-metals, and sometimes it just sits there and doesn't combine with anything, and sometimes it combines with itself in long chains and branched trees and rings.
Phaedrus thought this ambiguity of carbon's bonding preferences was the situation the weak Dynamic subatomic forces needed. Carbon bonding was a balanced mechanism they could take over. It was a vehicle they could steer to all sorts of freedom by selecting first one bonding preference and then another in an almost unlimited variety of ways.
And what a variety has been chosen. Today there are more than two million known compounds of carbon, roughly twenty times as many as all the other known chemical compounds in the world. The chemistry of life is the chemistry of carbon. What distinguishes all the species of plants and animals is, in the final analysis, differences in the way carbon atoms choose to bond.
But the invention of Dynamic carbon bonding represents only one kind of evolutionary stratagem. The other kind is preservation of what has been invented. A Dynamic advance is meaningless unless it can find some static pattern with which to protect itself from degeneration back to the conditions that existed before the advance was made. Evolution can't be a continuous forward movement. It must be a process of ratchet-like steps in which there is a Dynamic movement forward up some new incline and then, if the result looks successful, a static latching-on of the gain that has been made; then another Dynamic advance, then another static latch.
What the Dynamic force had to invent in order to move up the molecular level and stay there was a carbon molecule that would preserve its limited Dynamic freedom from inorganic laws and at the same time resist deterioration back to simple compounds of carbon again. A study of nature shows the Dynamic force was not able to do this but got around the problem by inventing two molecules: a static molecule able to resist abrasion, heat, chemical attack and the like; and a Dynamic one, able to preserve the subatomic indeterminacy at a molecular level and 'try everything' in the ways of chemical combination.
The static molecule, an enormous, chemically 'dead,' plastic-like molecule called protein, surrounds the Dynamic one and prevents attack by forces of light, heat and other chemicals that would prey on its sensitivity and destroy it. The Dynamic one, called DNA, reciprocates by telling the static one what to do, replacing the static one when it wears out, replacing itself even when it hasn't worn out, and changing its own nature to overcome adverse conditions. These two kinds of molecules, working together, are all there is in some viruses, which are the simplest forms of life.
This division of all biological evolutionary patterns into a Dynamic function and a static function continues on up through higher levels of evolution. The formation of semi-permeable cell walls to let food in and keep poisons out is a static latch. So are bones, shells, hide, fur, burrows, clothes, houses, villages, castles, rituals, symbols, laws and libraries. All of these prevent evolutionary degeneration.
On the other hand, the shift in cell reproduction from mitosis to meiosis to permit sexual choice and allow huge DNA diversification is a Dynamic advance. So is the collective organization of cells into metazoan societies called plants and animals. So are sexual choice, symbiosis, death and regeneration, communality, communication, speculative thought, curiosity and art. Most of these, when viewed in a substance-centered evolutionary way are thought of as mere incidental properties of the molecular machine. But in a value-centered explanation of evolution they are close to the Dynamic process itself, pulling the pattern of life forward to greater levels of versatility and freedom.
Sometimes a Dynamic increment goes forward but can find no latching mechanism and so fails and slips back to a previous latched position. Whole species and cultures get lost this way. Sometimes a static pattern becomes so powerful it prohibits any Dynamic moves forward. In both cases the evolutionary process is halted for a while. But when it's not halted the result has been an increase in power to control hostile forces or an increase in versatility or both. The increase in versatility is directed toward Dynamic Quality. The increase in power to control hostile forces is directed toward static quality. Without Dynamic Quality the organism cannot grow. Without static quality the organism cannot last. Both are needed.
Now when we come to the chemistry professor, and see him studying his empirically gathered data, trying to figure out what it means, this person makes more sense. He's not just some impartial visitor from outer space looking in on all this with no purpose other than to observe. Neither is he some static, molecular, objective, biological machine, doing all this for absolutely no purpose whatsoever. We see that he's conducting his experiments for exactly the same purpose as the subatomic forces had when they first began to create him billions of years ago. He's looking for information that will expand the static patterns of evolution itself and give both greater versatility and greater stability against hostile static forces of nature. He may have personal motives such as 'pure fun,' that is, the Dynamic Quality of his work. But when he applies for funds he will normally and properly tie his request to some branch of humanity's overall evolutionary purpose.
Phaedrus had once called metaphysics 'the high country of the mind' - an analogy to the 'high country' of mountain climbing. It takes a lot of effort to get there and more effort when you arrive, but unless you can make the journey you are confined to one valley of thought all your life. This high country passage through the Metaphysics of Quality allowed entry to another valley of thought in which the facts of life get a much richer interpretation. The valley spreads out into a huge fertile plain of understanding.
In this plain of understanding static, patterns of value are divided into four systems: inorganic patterns, biological patterns, social patterns and intellectual patterns. They are exhaustive. That's all there are. If you construct an encyclopedia of four topics - Inorganic, Biological, Social and Intellectual — nothing is left out. No 'thing,' that is. Only Dynamic Quality, which cannot be described in any encyclopedia, is absent.
But although the four systems are exhaustive they are not exclusive. They all operate at the same time and in ways that are almost independent of each other.
This classification of patterns is not very original, but the Metaphysics of Quality allows an assertion about them that is unusual. It says they are not continuous. They are discreet. They have very little to do with one another. Although each higher level is built on a lower one it is not an extension of that lower level. Quite the contrary. The higher level can often be seen to be in opposition to the lower level, dominating it, controlling it where possible for its own purposes.
This observation is impossible in a substance-dominated metaphysics where everything has to be an
extension of matter. But now atoms and molecules are just one of four levels of static patterns of quality and there is no intellectual requirement that any level dominate the other three.
An excellent analogy to the independence of the levels, Phaedrus thought, is the relation of hardware to software in a computer. He had learned something about this relationship when for several years he wrote technical manuals describing complex military computers. He had learned how to troubleshoot computers electronically. He had even wired up some of his own digital circuits which, in those days before integrated circuit chips, were composed of independent transistors, diodes, resistors and capacitors all held together with wire and solder. But after four years in which he had acquired all this knowledge he had only the vaguest idea of what a program was. None of the electrical engineers he worked with had anything to do with programs. Programmers were off in another building somewhere.
Later, when he got into work with programmers, he discovered to his surprise that even advanced programmers seldom knew how a flip-flop worked. That was amazing. A flip-flop is a circuit that stores a '1' or a '0'. If you don't know how a flip-flop works, what do you know about computers?
The answer was that it isn't necessary for a programmer to learn circuit design. Neither is it necessary for a hardware technician to learn programming. The two sets of patterns are independent. Except for a memory map and a tiny isthmus of information called the 'Machine Language Instruction Repertoire' — a list so small you could write it on a single page - the electronic circuits and the programs existing in the same computer at the same time have nothing whatsoever to do with each other.
The Machine Language Instruction Repertoire fascinated Phaedrus because he had seen it from such different perspectives. He had written hardware descriptions of many hundreds of blueprints showing how voltage levels were transferred from one bank of flip-flops to another to create a single machine language instruction. These machine language instructions were the final achievement toward which all the circuits aimed. They were the end performance of a whole symphony of switching operations.