Charles Darwin postulated that biological evolution results from a mechanistic driving force called natural selection. His theory suggests that individuals accumulate spontaneous and random beneficial, detrimental or neutral mutations. After a spontaneous mutation occurs, the external environment deterministically filters out or negatively selects the detrimental mutations and leaves in or positively selects the beneficial mutations while ignoring the neutral mutations.
The external environment constitutes a fixed territory into which the evolving individual accumulating spontaneous mutations must adapt to in a perpetual turf war whereby only the fittest are thought to survive and thereby reproduce. Any ability to further adapt to this fixed territory is through additional spontaneous mutations.
This is the basis of selection theory, vehemently defended and promulgated by nearly every scientist.
In more recent times, following advances in developmental biology and genetics, scientists have postulated that spontaneous mutations occur solely in the genes of individuals. As the thinking goes, spontaneous mutations in the linear sequence of DNA or genotype alter the individual’s outward characteristics or phenotype, which are subsequently deemed beneficial, detrimental or neutral by the environment. To be precise, any organism, including us, lives waiting for spontaneous mutations of DNA to occur and inherit, hoping a negative feedback mechanism welcomes these changes. Furthermore, the only benchmark for wellness in an objectionable environment is the organism’s ability to spread the most genetic seeds.
These theories, along with their social, economic and psychological progeny, are almost ubiquitously endorsed and proliferated by scientists and non-scientists alike. Questioning this status quo is deemed heretical and almost certainly career ending for any scientist.
At this point, you may ask yourself if a spontaneous change and a selective sorting mechanism are actually sensible with your own and others’ natural experiences. For me, there are many inconsistencies. Two assumptions that come to mind clearly expose the prideful and prejudicial constitution deeply embedded in the selection theory of evolution. Please take a moment to consider how these assumptions are inconsistent with your lived experiences:
The assumption that the environment is definitively separate from the individual. As Albert Einstein said, “the environment is everything that isn’t me.”
The assumption that individuals are selfish, as Richard Dawkins proclaimed rather depressingly, “let us try to teach generosity and altruism because we are born selfish.”
The separation of individual and environment has been directly and indirectly asserted in many guises for centuries. A definitively objective boundary is placed between inhabitant and habitat. This rigid boundary paradoxically isolates both inhabitant and habitat from one another. It takes little effort to think of situations where the inhabitant and habitat are in mutual relationship, which undoubtedly requires dynamic, not rigid, boundaries—eating, moving, talking, breathing, listening, touching, and smelling, to name but a few. Yet, selection theory and the idea that the environment is every thing but me continue to be considered the definitive explanations for evolutionary change.
The persistence of this theory is partly due to the insinuation that all organisms are born selfish and that any non-selfish behavior is directly related to the perpetuation of relative selves in the form of genetic material. In this vein, you are twice as likely to help a sister than an aunt because you share 50% of your genetic material with a sister and only 25% with an aunt. Implicit in selfish thinking is that organisms are merely aggregations of pre-existing and isolated discrete material building blocks. Externally moved and manipulated Lego land machines without any internal agency to be anything other than selfish. This same blockhead mentality has permitted the rise of hierarchical Fascism, consumption Capitalism and coercive Socialism.
Evolution and natural selection are not one and the same. As I have shown, selection theory is a mechanism that attempts to explain changes in organisms’ traits over time. Conversely, evolution is simply any process of cumulative transformation regardless of the underlying activity. No doubt, evidence for the process of evolution is well established at all scales of organization, from sub-atomic to galactic. This evidence, however, does not definitively demonstrate that the key mechanism of evolution is Darwinian selection which posits individual change as random and environmental capacity as limiting.
Evolution is not a process by which spontaneously mutating species adapt over time in response to their restrictive environment. In reality, evolution is a continuing creative exploration in a pool of ever-changing possibilities. An indeterminate flow of life, not a selective elimination in response to random mutations. A fluid dynamic creation and recreation that accepts and becomes committed to particular channels while exploring new channels in a cumulative process of energetic transformation.
Experiences learned from the past are brought into the coming of the future through the present of living—a continually opening fluid possibility of natural energy flow that has no definitive beginning or ending. Life is not a win-or-lose competitive struggle for limited energetic resources. Life is an energetic relay in which individuals receive, nurture, and pass along energy while attuning to changing environmental circumstances.
Problems arise when we assume that individuals can be explicitly isolated from the wider world around them which is commonly thought of in terms of fight or flight for a given territory. Inhabitants more fittingly attuned with prevailing environmental circumstances indeed inhibit or replace the development of others in a habitat. This is not a winner takes all battle for survival but a dynamic multi-directional attunement of one with other in fluid relationship.
The anciently rooted concept of natural inclusion offers a more realistic and contextually aware way of understanding the relational quality of living systems. In this view, space and boundaries are sources of receptive continuity and energetic distinction instead of measurable distance and discrete demarcation. The loving, receptive influence of space extends everywhere while the moving responsive influence of energy informs locally as mutually inclusive presences in all material bodies.
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