Negation and Affirmation in Evolution: From Instinct to Choice


In the history of the cosmos, the ark of life’s evolution will be remembered as a transformation from the unconscious to the completely conscious. At the heart of this ark, is the transition from an evolution based on elimination of non-adaptive traits, to an evolution based on the formulation of, and then gradual replacement by, consciously preferred traits. In other words, when life begins it develops under conditions of natural selection, but eventually ends up usurping the natural selection process entirely.

An example of a negative evolutionary process: Birds on an isolated Island compete for limited amounts of seed, but the seeds have hard shells. In order to eat (and reproduce) the birds must open the seeds. The birds with the appropriate shaped beaks survive (or eat more, are healthier, live longer) and have more offspring. Overtime birds appear with better adapted beaks for opening hard seeds.

In this case, birds which could not adapt to current conditions died. They were selected out, negated, and with them the genes that shaped their beaks. The birds had no choice in this. They could not perceive this except in the flimsiest sense of their own being. They went as they only could have done, by instinct. Some came out alive, others did not.

An example of an affirmative evolutionary process: Humans in a planet-wide democracy (call it planet Aerth) have mastered genetic engineering. A group of scientists have discovered how to alter fetal tissue to ensure offspring are cancer resistant. A wide, often fiery debate occurs. Eventually a fair compromise is agreed upon; phase in treated humans with a randomly selected process that only affects 5% of the population. Any bias in selection, and scientific observation, is limited as much as possible. Overtime, as no negative medical effects are observed, more of the population comes to view the technology favorably and all newborns are treated. After 200 years, all humans alive on the planet are more cancer-resistant than their ancestors.

In this case, the condition of the human form was assessed and carefully altered. The change was favored, and affirmed. There were no more deaths than usual, and yet the genetic makeup of the species has completely changed. Note that this could have gone the other way too: the humans may have decided that they did not like the technology, it was either dropped halfway through or never adopted. This process could have gone many different ways. In the end affirmative evolution has still taken place.

These examples were meant to illustrate that the essential difference between affirming vs negating evolutionary processes is one of choice and rational deliberation vs instinct. This does not mean humans have done away with instinct, only that we have the capacity to act over it, with a “birds eye view” so to speak… just not the view the birds of the Island had.

At one end you have life which is bound to the whims of nature… and the other, nature which is bound to the whims of life. This is the future history of life in the cosmos.

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