Alternative evolution

For those who are sceptical of a reductionistic view of evolution where blind forces and accidental mergings are purported to account for the observed diversity of life, here is an alternative theory. This approach begins from a standpoint that assumes mind and consciousness to be primal as opposed to the above view which treats lifeless physical substance and forces and nothing more as the originator of life.

The primal mind and consciousness I will call spiritual, the physical substance and forces I will call material.

In my opinion the material is condensed out of the spiritual. So I am just giving an explanation of evolution to be considered and not trying to pass anything I say below as fact.

From this aspect the sun that we see in the sky is just the physical manifestation of the spiritual sun which covers a much more inclusive area. All of the surrounding sphere of influence of the sun is encompassed by the spiritual sun. And so our earth and all the planets are included in this sun. When we look up at the night sky all that we see, all of the visible objects are manifestations of the spiritual. All that we don’t see, the darkness, the vacuum of space, this belongs to the spiritual from which the physical is condensing. And through physics we are starting to realise that empty space is anything but empty. It is only empty from the point of view of human physical senses.

Now there are distinct levels of condensation. If we look at the solar system, the gas giants have condensed less than the earth and inner planets.

Moving on to earthly life, the single celled organisms we see around us are descended from those forms which condensed the earliest and by so doing have become less plastic and unable to develop further. There forms are not suitable for the descent of consciousness into the physical forms. But this remaining behind was an absolute necessity in order to form a base from which ever higher forms of life could emerge. And at every stage of life’s development certain forms remain behind and develop their consciousness no further. Organisms such as fish have descended more slowly and have thus been able to evolve further than the earlier forms. But they have progressed no further than their current stage. And this is how evolution continues. Humans have taken the longest time to condense down to the physical and thus have developed a physical form in which consciousness, which is spiritual, is able to become manifest in the individual organism.

And this is why we see a nested hierarchy of life from its early beginnings up to the present. Life is an evolution of consciousness which can also be described as a condensation of individual consciousnesses out of a cosmic consciousness. Prokaryotes share in the cosmic consciousness but have very little in the way of any noticeable individual consciousness. Humans are at a level where they do manifestly display a certain amount of individual consciousness.

This development of life can be seen mirrored in the development of each one of us from conception to adult. See the diagram below:

Images of human development compared to the evolution of sentient life:
A & K – Single cellular beginnings
B & L – Cells multiplying
C & M – Differentiation of forms
D & N – Distinct forms appearing
E & O – Developing locomotory systems
F & P – Early stages of central nervous system and senses
G & Q – Transition to a terrestrial existence
H & R – Limbs have developed to a point where they can support the body
I & S – Bipedalism gives the upper limbs more freedom from the gravitational forces
J & T – Organisms have moved from being just creatures to being creators

And this series is not meant to be taken as a simple progression one following on the one preceding it. There are overlapping forms between and within each level. I’m sure everyone understands that life is vastly more complex than depicted by this simple diagram.

Thinkers such as Lorenz Oken and those ancient astronomers who interpreted the heavens in the form of the zodiac, the circle of animals, pictured the animal kingdom as a spreading out of the human form, a series of individual forms each displaying a one sided aspect of that which is seen as complete in the human form. The human is the culmination of all that was prepared in preceding life. And that is what I have tried to show with this diagram. What is spread throughout the animal kingdom is condensed in the individual human being.

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153 thoughts on “Alternative evolution

  1. Corneel: But if air is invisible, then why is the sky blue? It cannot be the light itself scattering in the atmosphere, right? So what blue thing are we looking at?

    From a Goethean perspective the blue effect is observed when light is in front of darkness, we are looking at darkness through the light. The same effect can be achieved by looking through a glass of cloudy liquid. With a dark background the liquid will have a blue tinge, with a light background it will have a yellow tinge. And of course the sun appears yellow because of the atmosphere which is darker.

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  2. Kantian Naturalist:
    For whatever it’s worth, I think that the relationship between concepts and objects — which is the main focus of my research and scholarship — is much more complicated than Goethe made it out to be. So I don’t take him as being an authority on this issue.

    In the smallest possible nutshell: the correspondence between concepts and objects obtains not because objects are themselves concepts or concept-like but because concepts are themselves a kind of object.

    How can ANYONE claim to be an authority on thought experiments?

    You don’t see the absurdness of your declarations?

    It would be like saying- Dreams are objects. Memories of dreams are illusions. Stories about dreams are false conceptualizations of objects. Memories of stories about dreams are illusions of false conceptualizations of objects that are themselves distortions of illusions.

    True story.

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  3. CharlieM: From a Goethean perspective the blue effect is observed when light is in front of darkness, we are looking at darkness through the light. The same effect can be achieved by looking through a glass of cloudy liquid. With a dark background the liquid will have a blue tinge, with a light background it will have a yellow tinge. And of course the sun appears yellow because of the atmosphere which is darker.

    Aha. So when “light” is in front of “darkness” we see a “blue tinge”. I guess the next logical question would be why we see this during sunset (did you see that coming?).

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  4. CharlieM: Have you actually read the book?

    As I say, I was introduced to the theory by someone on an internet discussion group who spent some time trying to convince others Goethe was on to something. It was a fair while ago. It might have been EvC forum. I’ve had a quick look and did indeed have some discussion with Martin Cadra back in 2007 but I can’t find the thread on Goethe.

    I suspect I got my information from Cadra and Google but I see Goethe’s book is available via Gutenberg.

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  5. phoodoo:
    CharlieM,

    Those are some pretty cool light videos Charlie.

    Kind of makes you think, what do we actually know.

    Yes, I’d say that anyone who say’s that they understand light is deluding themselves

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  6. Corneel: Aha. So when “light” is in front of “darkness” we see a “blue tinge”. I guess the next logical question would be why we see this during sunset (did you see that coming?).

    Because we are looking at the sun and sunlit atmosphere (light) through the intervening atmosphere (dark) thus at sunrise or sunset we quite often get yellow, red effects. At midday, away from the sun, we are looking at the darkness of space through a sunlit atmosphere which is light by comparison, thus the blue effect.

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  7. It’s got to be emphasized that CharlieM is talking about phenomenology — how we experience the world — and not about what our best empirical science tells us what about is really going on. Not even apples and oranges — more like apples and potatoes.

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  8. Kantian Naturalist: It’s got to be emphasized that CharlieM is talking about phenomenology — how we experience the world — and not about what our best empirical science tells us what about is really going on. Not even apples and oranges — more like apples and potatoes.

    Then why aren’t we talking about photoreceptors or the working of the visual cortex? And why does phenomenology require an elaborate alternative branch of Goethean physics?

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  9. Corneel: Then why aren’t we talking about photoreceptors or the working of the visual cortex?

    I thought that’s what others in this conversation besides CharlieM wanted to talk about.

    And why does phenomenology require an elaborate alternative branch of Goethean physics?

    I don’t think it does, but then again, my dealing with phenomenology comes strictly out of 20th-century German and French philosophy: Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty. I find phenomenology really quite fascinating and I use it in my scholarship.

    I think there’s probably something to the idea that the divide between Goethe and Newton is one between phenomenological physics and experimental physics — are we interested in describing our experience of the world or are we interested in describing the fundamental, objective properties of the world by, as it were, “subtracting’ our experience of the world from our explanations of it?

    (Also at stake here, in the question about proper scientific method, is the question of the relation between science and art. If science is itself phenomenological, as Goethe seems to have thought, one will not be too impressed by the difference between science and art.)

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  10. Kantian Naturalist: I thought that’s what others in this conversation besides CharlieM wanted to talk about.

    Heh. Let’s rephrase: Does Charly know he is talking about phenomenology?

    Kantian Naturalist: I think there’s probably something to the idea that the divide between Goethe and Newton is one between phenomenological physics and experimental physics — are we interested in describing our experience of the world or are we interested in describing the fundamental, objective properties of the world by, as it were, “subtracting’ our experience of the world from our explanations of it?

    Yes, I saw a similar sentiment expressed in the webpage Charlie linked to. It sounded reasonable to me.

    Kantian Naturalist: (Also at stake here, in the question about proper scientific method, is the question of the relation between science and art. If science is itself phenomenological, as Goethe seems to have thought, one will not be too impressed by the difference between science and art.)

    Not sure I follow that. Is the purpose of art to describe how we experience the world?

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  11. CharlieM: Because we are looking at the sun and sunlit atmosphere (light) through the intervening atmosphere (dark) thus at sunrise or sunset we quite often get yellow, red effects. At midday, away from the sun, we are looking at the darkness of space through a sunlit atmosphere which is light by comparison, thus the blue effect.

    But at midday, the “sunlit atmosphere” immediately surrounding the sun should be red right? Just like at sunset. Yet it is not.

    Incidentally. if I were to tell you that I get the distinct impression that you are making things up as you go along, would you understand why?

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  12. Kantian Naturalist:
    It’s got to be emphasized that CharlieM is talking about phenomenology — how we experience the world — and not about what our best empirical science tells us what about is really going on. Not even apples and oranges — more like apples and potatoes.

    But not quite the standard philosophical phenomenology. Goethe was not really interested in exploring the nature of consciousness in relation to the objects of our perception. He preferred active participation to reflective philosophising. He realised that by studying nature intensively, without adding speculative theories, then the objects of his study would begin to reveal to him their essence. Instead of dissecting nature and in order to examine its individual ‘letters’ he wished to read the ‘script’ that was there to be read if he went about it in the right way.

    The standard scientific method could tell us a great deal but it could only go so far. In dissecting nature you kill it. Goethe was eager for it to remain whole and living so that it would reveal its character to him.

    He may not have been correct in everything he said, but IMO his method is worth following.

    Below is an article which I haven’t read but the abstract gives a good summary of the Goethean method.


    Goethe’s phenomenology of nature: a juvenilization of science.
    Skaftnesmo T1.

    Abstract
    Empirical science is not a mere collection of facts. It builds theories and frames hypotheses within those theories. Empirical theories are stated as plausible answers to questions we pose to nature. According to the Galilean-Baconian tradition within science, these questions should basically explore the causes of observed phenomena, and further be restricted to the measurable and quantitative realm. Thus, the answers are generally expected to explain the effective causes behind the actual phenomena. By framing falsifiable hypotheses, the theories are tested against the empirical foundation on which they rest. In this way we try to relieve science from false theories. Thus, we have two epistemological levels: First, the theoretical level; the scientific theory explaining the phenomena, and second, the empirical level; the phenomena or facts verifying or falsifying those theories. According to the poet and multi-scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), there is however another way of science, namely an approach where these two levels fuse and become one. Goethe intended this approach to be a complementation of the Galilean-Baconian method, more than an alternative. He considered his “hypothesis-free method” to be a more comprehensive and secure way to understand nature. Whereas the Galilean-Baconian method aimed at explaining the effective causes of natural phenomena, in order to control and exploit nature for technical and industrial purposes, Goethe aimed at an exposition of the inherent meaning of the phenomena.We will explore, exemplify and discuss this approach with reference to the inherently Goethean phenomenology of evolution credited to the Dutch anatomist Louis Bolk (1866-1930), later commented and complemented by Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) and Jos Verhulst (1949 ). In the course of this presentation we will outline the Goethean approach as a method representing a juvenilization or in Bolk’s terms, a fetalization of science.

    Normal science is becoming a fragmentary undertaking where the experts are becoming specialists in their own field which nobody else can understand. The Goethean method can be applied by anyone with an interest in nature, and you don’t need to be a specialist to participate.

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  13. Corneel:

    Kantian Naturalist: It’s got to be emphasized that CharlieM is talking about phenomenology — how we experience the world — and not about what our best empirical science tells us what about is really going on. Not even apples and oranges — more like apples and potatoes.

    Then why aren’t we talking about photoreceptors or the working of the visual cortex?

    These are fascinating subjects which need to be understood if we are to figure out the mechanics of vision. But it does not tell us how we consciously understand what is in front of us. It will not tell us about the nature and behaviour of clouds or rainbows or the atmosphere.

    And why does phenomenology require an elaborate alternative branch of Goethean physics?

    It doesn’t. It requires us to, say, pick up a prism look through it at various contrasting patterns and to notice what we are seeing. Or to look at a plant or animal, not just once, but in all its stages of development, and in its wider environment, and to look at the same species of plant or animal in a variety of environments. In other words to get to the nature and behaviour of the being in front of us.

    This does not require any elaborate physics. Paying attention is all that is required.

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  14. Kantian Naturalist: ”

    I thought that’s what others in this conversation besides CharlieM wanted to talk about.

    I don’t think it does, but then again, my dealing with phenomenology comes strictly out of 20th-century German and French philosophy: Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty. I find phenomenology really quite fascinating and I use it in my scholarship.

    I think there’s probably something to the idea that the divide between Goethe and Newton is one between phenomenological physics and experimental physics — are we interested in describing our experience of the world or are we interested in describing the fundamental, objective properties of the world by, as it were, “subtracting’ our experience of the world from our explanations of it?

    (Also at stake here, in the question about proper scientific method, is the question of the relation between science and art. If science is itself phenomenological, as Goethe seems to have thought, one will not be too impressed by the difference between science and art.)

    Newton was trying to be objective so he manipulated a light beam to pass through a prism. He then observed the image on a wall. Goethe did away with the middle step and just looked directly through the prism. In the end they both had to use their sense of sight to interpret what they saw. They were both doing experimental physics. Only Goethe did not see why the experimenter should be excluded. Newton tried to exclude himself as experimenter, but that is something that he could not accomplish. If you want to understand colour then the eye must be taken into account.

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  15. Corneel:

    Kantian Naturalist: (Also at stake here, in the question about proper scientific method, is the question of the relation between science and art. If science is itself phenomenological, as Goethe seems to have thought, one will not be too impressed by the difference between science and art.)

    Not sure I follow that. Is the purpose of art to describe how we experience the world?

    Science gives results of how we interpret the world through thinking and as such it should be universal, equally valid for anybody. Art is an expression of feeling, it is an expression of how one individual interprets the world. And even ‘though it can be appreciated by anyone it is a personal statement.

    Both are different but valid means of expression.

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  16. Corneel: But at midday, the “sunlit atmosphere” immediately surrounding the sun should be red right? Just like at sunset. Yet it is not.

    Incidentally. if I were to tell you that I get the distinct impression that you are making things up as you go along, would you understand why?

    Both the light and the dark spectra have two poles. The warm red/yellow pole and the cold blue/violet pole. In your photo the colour of the sun belongs to the warm pole, the blue sky belongs to the cold pole. If you look at a low sun through an atmosphere which has been darkened by, say volcanic ash, it will appear red. It all depends on the relative contrast. What we do see in you picture is yellow rays radiating out from the disc of the sun and that is an atmospheric effect.

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  17. CharlieM: Normal science is becoming a fragmentary undertaking where the experts are becoming specialists in their own field which nobody else can understand. The Goethean method can be applied by anyone with an interest in nature, and you don’t need to be a specialist to participate.

    Of course, when it comes to making up shit, any idiot can participate. Really convenient. But you know what? Fuck the goethian method, I’ll just make up my own method. If I’m going to pretend to understand everything from biology to light and subatomic physics or neuroscience etc., I might as well take all the credit.

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  18. dazz: Of course, when it comes to making up shit, any idiot can participate. Really convenient. But you know what? Fuck the goethian method, I’ll just make up my own method. If I’m going to pretend to understand everything from biology to light and subatomic physics or neuroscience etc., I might as well take all the credit.

    Good luck in your endeavours 🙂

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  19. CharlieM: Both the light and the dark spectra have two poles. The warm red/yellow pole and the cold blue/violet pole. In your photo the colour of the sun belongs to the warm pole, the blue sky belongs to the cold pole. If you look at a low sun through an atmosphere which has been darkened by, say volcanic ash, it will appear red. It all depends on the relative contrast. What we do see in you picture is yellow rays radiating out from the disc of the sun and that is an atmospheric effect.

    Ah, I see. Goethean colour physics is so hard to learn. And it seems there are more rules everytime I present a new example, did you notice that?

    Here we have the sun photographed from space. So the sun belongs to the “warm red/yellow pole” and it is observed against the darkness of space. Let me see, “light” is in front of “darkness” so there should be a blue tinge. The sun should be red or yellow because it belongs to the warm pole and intervening space is dark.

    Yet the sun is white and space is black. Most peculiar. Where did I go wrong?

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  20. Corneel: Ah, I see. Goethean colour physics is so hard to learn. And it seems there are more rules everytime I present a new example, did you notice that?

    No rules, just observations. Two spectra, light spectrum – red/yellow (warm) merges with blue/violet (cold) – green produced, dark spectrum – yellow (warm) merges with cyan (cold), magenta produced. light over darkness blue hue, darkness over light red/yellow hue. And as I have already said light is affected by matter. Do you need any more clarification? The best thing to do would be to get hold of a prism and play with it.

    Here we have the sun photographed from space. So the sun belongs to the “warm red/yellow pole” and it is observed against the darkness of space. Let me see, “light” is in front of “darkness” so there should be a blue tinge. The sun should be red or yellow because it belongs to the warm pole and intervening space is dark.

    Yet the sun is white and space is black. Most peculiar. Where did I go wrong?

    The image of the bright sun is not displaced over the darkness of space so there will not be a blue edge. There needs to be something to interfere with the light and there is not enough matter between the sun and the camera to affect the light so it remains white. I have magnified part of your photo (see below), and you will notice the blue between the rays. Both the rays and the blue effect are probably caused by the light passing through and being displaced by a window and/or the camera lens. And in your original photo the earth’s atmosphere can be seen clearly to be blue because it is brighter than the darkness of space behind.

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  21. First, thanks for answering my relentless stream of pesky questions 🙂

    CharlieM: The best thing to do would be to get hold of a prism and play with it.

    I know what a prism can do, but the question is whether your interpretation of the resulting observations holds up with other observed phenomena.

    CharlieM: The image of the bright sun is not displaced over the darkness of space so there will not be a blue edge. There needs to be something to interfere with the light and there is not enough matter between the sun and the camera to affect the light so it remains white.

    White? I thought pure light was invisible. Hence the sun is not a source of pure light, I guess? Then where does pure light come from?

    Of course, I agree that a medium like air can scatter light, and at the interface of two media there will be refraction, sure. But that’s borrowed from Newtonian optical physics. In your Goethean model, darkness was reified in that it could influence light, and pure light was invisible until it was weakened by matter and colour was instilled on it. Yet in your current explanation, you are edging closer to classical optics.

    CharlieM: I have magnified part of your photo (see below), and you will notice the blue between the rays. Both the rays and the blue effect are probably caused by the light passing through and being displaced by a window and/or the camera lens.

    Also both caused by refraction at the interface of the glass. I don’t need Goethe to explain that. I need Goethe to explain why the sun looks white in space and yellow on earth without resorting to differences in refraction between various wave lengths.

    CharlieM: And in your original photo the earth’s atmosphere can be seen clearly to be blue because it is brighter than the darkness of space behind.

    Is air invisible, or does it have lightness and/or hue? These statements cannot be simultaneously true. You said the sky was blue because the light atmosphere was in front of the darkness of space. This does not jibe well with your previous statement that air is invisible (thus cannot be “light” or “bright”).

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  22. Corneel:
    First, thanks for answering my relentless stream of pesky questions

    If a question forces me to think about things then it isn’t pesky 🙂

    I know what a prism can do, but the question is whether your interpretation of the resulting observations holds up with other observed phenomena.

    Yes, that is a good question.

    White? I thought pure light was invisible. Hence the sun is not a source of pure light, I guess? Then where does pure light come from?

    Of course, I agree that a medium like air can scatter light, and at the interface of two media there will be refraction, sure. But that’s borrowed from Newtonian optical physics. In your Goethean model, darkness was reified in that it could influence light, and pure light was invisible until it was weakened by matter and colour was instilled on it. Yet in your current explanation, you are edging closer to classical optics.

    Also both caused by refraction at the interface of the glass. I don’t need Goethe to explain that. I need Goethe to explain why the sun looks white in space and yellow on earth without resorting to differences in refraction between various wave lengths.

    I never said that the light from the sun is white, I said that the sun appears white from space. The image of the sun which we observe in the photo appears white. The more our view of the sun is obstructed by the atmosphere the deeper the grade of yellow it becomes eventually red if there is enough obscuring matter. White is the closest visible image to light and black is the closest visible image to darkness. We cannot see pure light and we cannot see pure darkness but we can definitely see black and white. Have you ever had the experience of being in a thick forest on a dark moonless night? I have, and believe me, in the darkness I could see absolutely nothing.

    We don’t see light, we see the effects of light. We see the sun as a visible object but we don’t see its pure light.

    I haven’t borrowed refraction from Newton. I observe it and I observed it long before I knew anything about Newton. Anytime that we poke the bottom of a pond with a stick we observe that the image of the stick is distorted on entering the water. That is refraction.

    If there was only pure light then we would see nothing, if there was only pure darkness then we would see nothing. We see because of the contrast. Even if we were completely blind to colour we would still see objects in various shades of grey. Edge spectra would appear as gradients over a white edge from black to white and gradients over a dark edge from white to black. With our normal colour vision we see gradients over a white edge from black through red and yellow to white and gradients over a dark edge from white through cyan and violet to black. The colours intrude over the black surface or the white surface as the case may be..

    Wavelengths are something that we don’t see, they are extraneous to what we see. Goethe wanted to remain within what was observed and not to speculate about what if anything lay behind the phenomena.

    Is air invisible, or does it have lightness and/or hue?These statements cannot be simultaneously true. You said the sky was blue because the light atmosphere was in front of the darkness of space. This does not jibe well with your previous statement that air is invisible (thus cannot be “light” or “bright”).

    The air is not blue. The blue that we see is the effect of looking at the darkness of space through a light filled atmosphere. Mountains are not usually blue but if we look at mountains in the distance they appear blue because their darkness is interrupted by the light filled atmosphere between us and them. It is the same effect.

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  23. Kantian Naturalist:
    We don’t experience ourselves as seeing wavelengths, but so what?

    I just found this article that seems germane to the conversation about the reality of colors:

    Color is a dance between your brain and the world

    Thank you for sharing that. At the end of the short video Mazviita Chirimuuta says, “There is no one to one correlation between wavelength of light and the colour we perceive.”

    I would agree with that. In the book, The Wholeness of Nature, by Henri Bortoft, he writes:

    Once we recognise the historical nature of a science – mathematical physics for example – then we can detach from it because we can see that it has no absolute claim on us. The science in question is temporarily “suspended.” It is in this moment of freedom that we recognise that there could be other possible kinds of science, which would also be accomplishments to be achieved. Thus, the Goethean proposal of the science of the wholeness of nature can be confined only by the historical process of the development of the science of the wholeness of nature. As it was once with the then new science of mathematical physics, so it was now with the new science of the wholeness of nature: it is an accomplishment waiting to be achieved.
    The new science of the wholeness of nature is not in any way in competition with mainstream science. It does not seek to show that mainstream revealed is wrong or to replace it i any way. It is obvious to anyone but a fool that mainstream science is correct-who could realistically doubt that mathematical physics, for example, is true? There is no way that the science of quantity and the science of wholeness could be compared to see which one is “correct.” This is not for the reason that, regrettably, no way can be found in principle by which a comparison could be made, so that we cannot find out what nature is “really like.” Even to think that such a comparison cannot be made is, nevertheless, to think of a comparison,and this is already the wrong way to think.The science of quantity and the science of wholeness are incommensurable, but this is no reason for epistemological pessimism. Their incommensurability does not mean that we cannot know “what nature is really like.” The being of nature can be revealed in different ways by different kinds of science, none of which has any claim to be more basic or fundamental. What becomes visible in each case is nature itself, but only one possible aspect of nature. Thus nature can be quantity, or causal mechanism, or wholeness, for example.

    Here he was trying to explain that there can be more than one scientific undertaking. There is the quantitative science which examines mathematical relationships and there can be the science of wholeness which is carried out in the way that Goethe tried to do. Both can give us a better understanding of reality and they need not and should not be in conflict.

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  24. Alan Fox: Not to repeat myself or anything, but neuroscientist, Iain McGilchrist has (IMHO) some interesting stuff to say about perception.

    Both you and I find Iain McGilcrist interesting.
    He talks about our two souls which are ostensibly in conflict but ultimately complementary. He likes Goethe’s idea that we find the infinite through the finite, and the general through the particular. I would say we find the whole by examining the parts.

    And in this video he says that there are two ways of understanding the world, the logical and the mythical. I think that this is a good point, the one belongs to the analytical science of quantities the other the intuitive science of wholeness. And he also says that quite often scientists begin with their conclusions and work back from there while they should be beginning with the data and drawing their conclusions from these.

    There is no reason why we can’t have the best of both worlds.

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  25. Returning to the topic. Evolution is the story of the development of individuals developing ever higher forms of consciousness, which at present is apparent in human self-consciousness. For an individual to experience this higher self-consciousness there must be a feeling of separation between ‘I’ and the world. A major step in this separation is in the overcoming of gravity. In our ascent to self-consciousness we must have something to push against.

    Fish have remained at a stage where they do not need to overcome gravity in the same way that terrestrial animals do and so will never attain self-consciousness in their present form.

    Birds, on the other hand have surpassed humans in the way that they have overcome gravity. But they have overshot the mark so to speak. Their senses and limbs have developed in a one-sided way at the expense of brain development.

    In humans there is a balance between the lower limbs and metabolic processes and the higher brain and thinking processes taking place in the head. Self-consciousness can only be achieved by a balanced, coordinated development of the whole organism.

    Look at a fish, there is not much to distinguish the head from the rest of the body. (around the mid point in my diagram} Whereas in birds the head is far more free to move than in humans and can serve a similar purpose that arms and hands do in humans. (birds belong on the left hand side of my diagram).

    Humans are the only organisms that have developed in the balanced way to allow self-conscious creativity. And some necessary steps on this path are by becoming terrestrial and having a vertical orientation given by bipedalism.

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  26. CharlieM: Evolution is the story of the development of individuals developing ever higher forms of consciousness, which at present is apparent in human self-consciousness.

    No, it isn’t.

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  27. CharlieM: I see you’re a graduate of the Monty Python School of Argument

    Just pointing out that you were making an obvious mistake. Evolution isn’t progress. It is just change (or adaptive change).

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  28. Neil Rickert: Evolution isn’t progress. It is just change

    Lets be clear, you mean accidents. You don’t think all change is evolution, just the accidental kind is.

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  29. Neil Rickert: Just pointing out that you were making an obvious mistake. Evolution isn’t progress. It is just change (or adaptive change).

    CharlieM isn’t using the word “evolution” in the sense accepted by scientists, and I don’t think he’s even trying to make scientific claims in the typical sense. As the discussion about Goethean optics vs Newtonian optics makes clear, he is basically doing phenomenology and trying to pass it off as “alternative science.”

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  30. Neil Rickert: Just pointing out that you were making an obvious mistake.Evolution isn’t progress.It is just change (or adaptive change).

    From Ernst-Michael Kranich:

    According to Gould, the success of natural selection is measured only by the quantity (of individuals, families, species, and so on) of a particular form of life. For him, therefore, bacteria are not only the most primal but also the mosst significant of all forms of life. Everything else – plants and animals up to the blossoming plants and the mammals – are only accidental appendages to the bacteria.

    It is apparently possible to make oneself blind to facts and problems by looking at them long enough through the glasses of a theory as incomplete as Darwinism. And questions pointing to the complexity of an elephant compared to that of a bacterium can apparently be brushed aside when one has been wearing these glasses long enough and has been lulled into an intellectual sleep by the concept of chance. The elimination of progress and development from evolutionary theory is the result of attempting to tackle so profound a theme with inadequate intellectual tools.

    Through the insights we have reached in the foregoing discussion, the breach created by Darwinism in our understanding of development is closed again. At the same time, a principle set forth, by Friedrich Kripp in Higher Development and Human Evolution (Höherentwicklung und Menschwerdung) gains its inner foundation. Kipp explains that upward development must be distinguished from adaptation to environmental conditions.

    You do not see any progression in evolution because you are committed to a philosophy that does not allow for there to be progress. Accepting progress in evolution would mean denying the reductionist/materialist assumption which must adhere to the belief that evolution is blind. From my holistic/non-materialist point of view there is progress in evolution in the same way that there is individual progress from zygote to adult. The whole reflected in the parts.

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  31. CharlieM: Accepting progress in evolution would mean denying the reductionist/materialist assumption which must adhere to the belief that evolution is blind.

    Your mistake. I am neither reductionist nor materialist.

    To see evolution as a progress is to impose human values on what we see. And that imposition is what I am trying to avoid.

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  32. Kantian Naturalist: CharlieM isn’t using the word “evolution” in the sense accepted by scientists, and I don’t think he’s even trying to make scientific claims in the typical sense. As the discussion about Goethean optics vs Newtonian optics makes clear, he is basically doing phenomenology and trying to pass it off as “alternative science.”

    What is science if not making careful observations and using our thinking minds in an attempt to fit the observations into a unified, non-contradictory whole? Observing and “seeing” what is actually there, and not “seeing” what one expects to be there.

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  33. Neil Rickert: Your mistake.I am neither reductionist nor materialist.

    To see evolution as a progress is to impose human values on what we see.And that imposition is what I am trying to avoid.

    But you are trying to remove the human from your picture of evolution. IMO life has progressed to the point where individual organisms can actually begin to understand their place in the history of life. It is this conscious self-awareness that has progressed to its current level. Your only means of understanding evolution is by means of this awareness yet you consider this ability to be just an accidental by-product of evolution. You are using this ability to deny the importance of this ability for life.

    I would say that human actions and abilities are very profound and important features of the current stage of the evolution of life.

    No matter how objective you are trying to be, we cannot exclude ourselves from the picture.

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  34. CharlieM: We cannot see pure light and we cannot see pure darkness but we can definitely see black and white. Have you ever had the experience of being in a thick forest on a dark moonless night? I have, and believe me, in the darkness I could see absolutely nothing.

    … not even darkness. 😀

    Though I am still unclear about what “pure light” is, I think I will give it a rest. Thanks for indulging me in my exploration of Goethean optics.

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  35. Corneel: … not even darkness.

    Though I am still unclear about what “pure light” is, I think I will give it a rest. Thanks for indulging me in my exploration of Goethean optics.

    And thank you for confirming my faith in the fact that we can have disagreements and still find the discussion a pleasant experience.

    One last thing I would like to mention about Newton v Goethe. Goethe noticed that Newton set up his experiments to get the results he wanted. There is only one narrow position where you will get the ROYGBIV spectrum projected onto the surface. If the distance between the prism and the surface is too small or too great then the green colour will not be seen. Green appears as a result of the edge spectra coming together.

    Rather than setting the conditions Goethe wanted to observe light, darkness and colour under as many conditions as possible in relation to the eye of the observer.

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  36. CharlieM: What is science if not making careful observations and using our thinking minds in an attempt to fit the observations into a unified, non-contradictory whole? Observing and “seeing” what is actually there, and not “seeing” what one expects to be there.

    I would say that science essentially involves testing our hypotheses to find out which ones are more likely to be true, and that actively interfering with the world through carefully constructed experiments is crucial to this process. Rigorous data collection is crucial because one is not just making careful observations but recording the results of intervention.

    By contrast, what you describe as “science” — trying to integrate observations into a non-contradictory whole — is really speculative metaphysics, not science at all.

    (No doubt speculative metaphysics can be informed by science, and should be. But since science itself is a work-in-progress, one would need to be informed about the best contemporary science as a constraint on metaphysical speculation.)

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  37. CharlieM: No matter how objective you are trying to be, we cannot exclude ourselves from the picture.

    Not excluding ourselves from the picture does not mean making ourselves the center of it. The Scala Naturae is a philosopher’s anthropocentric fiction. Goethe can be forgiven for accepting it, because he died 27 years before Origin of Species was published.

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  38. Kantian Naturalist: By contrast, what you describe as “science” — trying to integrate observations into a non-contradictory whole — is really speculative metaphysics, not science at all.

    So you are saying that a rose in a vase is real, whereas a rose growing over time from a seed producing shoot, root, leaves, flower and fruit, is speculative metaphysics? For you it seems that the part is real but the whole is just speculation produced by my fantastical imagination.

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  39. CharlieM: Goethe noticed that Newton set up his experiments to get the results he wanted. There is only one narrow position where you will get the ROYGBIV spectrum projected onto the surface. If the distance between the prism and the surface is too small or too great then the green colour will not be seen. Green appears as a result of the edge spectra coming together.

    Only if you are working with inadequately collimated light.
    Use collimated light (y’know, like a sane person would) and you can explain all the effects of your video (and more) as being the result of good old-fashioned Newtonian optics. Easy way to get collimated light: punch a hole in a window blind to get a beautiful parallel beam of sunlight. Put THAT through a prism and you’ll get ROYGBIV at all distances.

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  40. CharlieM: So you are saying that a rose in a vase is real, whereas a rose growing over time from a seed producing shoot, root, leaves, flower and fruit, is speculative metaphysics? For you it seems that the part is real but the whole is just speculation produced by my fantastical imagination.

    I think that both are real — indeed, equally real.

    One of the key differences between our views is that you think that the senses just give us “snapshots,” as you like to put it, and that the imagination is brought into play — as it were assembling the snapshots into a movie.

    I don’t think that that’s true.

    Rather, I think that the imagination is always at work in producing image-models, and that the senses are always at work guiding the construction of those image models so they don’t veer too far from what is conducive to successful action.

    Here’s a quote from Sellars that conveys what I have in mind (though I would stress the role of bodily movement far more than he does):

    “Perceptual consciousness involves the constructing of sense-image-models of external objects. This construction is the work of the imagination responding to the stimulation of the retina. . . . The most significant fact is that the construction is a unified process guided by a combination of sensory input on the one hand and background beliefs, memories, and expectations on the other.”

    What Sellars does not quite add (though he comes perilously close to the truth) is that perceptual consciousness is therefore heavily constrained and biased — biased both both the perspectival facts of bodily movement in space and time, and the evolutionary constraints of the sensory apparatus, and the various biases (both biological and cultural) at the level of the background beliefs, memories, and expectations.

    What makes experimental science distinct is that although it uses perceptual consciousness, there is a huge amount of socio-linguistic scaffolding that systematically filters out as much bias as possible. (Note: “as much bias as possible” is not “eliminates all bias completely.” There is no view from nowhere.) This involves a great deal of technological intervention, mathematical formalism, and the iterated error-filtering of peer review.

    It’s because of the various constraints involved in perceptual consciousness that science must involve systematically eliminating as much bias as we can from what is disclosed to perceptual consciousness, and that involves a community of inquirers who can criticize each other as well as the equipment necessary to disentangle the causal influence of various phenomena.

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  41. Kantian Naturalist: Not excluding ourselves from the picture does not mean making ourselves the center of it. The Scala Naturae is a philosopher’s anthropocentric fiction. Goethe can be forgiven for accepting it, because he died 27 years before Origin of Species was published.

    Goethe did not try to fit his views into any preconceived ladder of existence. Instead he attempted to study nature and let it tell its own story.

    Steiner:

    How Goethe’s Thoughts on the Development of the Animals Arose

    Lavater’s great work Physiognomical Fragments for Furthering Human Knowledge and Human Love [ 17 ] appeared during the years 1775-1778. Goethe had taken a lively interest in it, not only through the fact that he oversaw its publication, but also by making contributions to it himself. But what is of particular interest now is that, within these contributions, we can already find the germ of his later zoological works. Physiognomy sought, in the outer form of the human being, to know his inner nature, his spirit. One studied the human shape, not for its own sake, but rather as an expression of the soul. Goethe’s sculptural spirit, born to know outer relationships, did not stop there. As he was in the middle of those studies that treated outer form only as a means of knowing the inner being, there dawned on him the independent significance of the former, the shape. We see this from his articles on animal skulls written in 1776, that we find inserted into the second section of the second volume of the Physiognomical Fragments. During that year, he is reading Aristotle on physiognomy, finds himself stimulated by it to write the above articles, but at the same time attempts to investigate the difference between the human being and the animals. He finds this difference in the way the whole human structure brings the head into prominence, in the lofty development of the human brain, toward which all the members of the body point, as though to their central place: “How the whole form stands there as supporting column for the dome in which the heavens are to be reflected.” He finds the opposite of this now in animal structure. “The head merely hung upon the spine! The brain, as the end of the spinal cord, has no more scope than is necessary for the functioning of the animal spirits and for directing a creature whose senses are entirely within the present moment.” With these indications, Goethe has raised himself above the consideration of the individual connections between the outer and inner being of man, to the apprehension of a great whole and to a contemplation of the form as such. He arrived at the view that the whole of man’s structure forms the basis of his higher life manifestations, that within the particular nature of this whole, there lie the determining factors that place man at the peak of creation. What we must bear in mind above everything else in this is that Goethe seeks the animal form again in the perfected human one; except that, with the former, the organs that serve more the animal functions come to the fore, are, as it were, the point toward which the whole structure tends and which the structure serves, whereas the human structure particularly develops those organs that serve spiritual functions. We find here already: What hovers before Goethe as the animal organism is no longer this or that sense-perceptible real organism, but rather an ideal one, which, with the animals, develops itself more toward the lower side, and with man toward a higher one. Here already is the germ of what Goethe later called the typus, and by which he did not mean “any individual animal,” but rather the “idea” of the animal. And even more: Here already we find the echo of a law that he enunciated later and that is very significant in its implications — to the effect, namely, “that diversity of form springs from the fact that a preponderance is granted to this or that part over the others.” Here already, the contrast between animal and man is sought in the fact that an ideal form develops itself in two different directions, that in each case, one organ system gains a preponderance and the whole creature receives its character from this.

    He looked at the animal realm and noticed how they developed in certain one-sided ways which showed in their whole form.

    Look at an earth worm and you will see that the alimentary canal is emphasised over an other bodily component or organ. Or look at a wandering albatross or a condor and see how the wings are so well developed for soaring above the earth. All other parts are formed to assist in this activity. Reduced bone mass, sexual organs, cranial capacity and such like.

    They soar with their wings at the expense of being able to soar with their minds as humans do. All you have to do is look around you to see the inventiveness and creativity that is in evidence as the result of human thinking. We have gained this capacity by not being constrained by ever narrowing niches like many other animals are.

    The animals mentioned above have given up the potential to rise to this level of creativity because of their one-sided development. They may be perfectly adapted to their particular niche, but this perfection has come at the cost of further development. They must follow the lifestyle they and the rest of their species are destined to follow from birth.

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  42. DNA_Jock: Only if you are working with inadequately collimated light.
    Use collimated light (y’know, like a sane person would) and you can explain all the effects of your video (and more) as being the result of good old-fashioned Newtonian optics.

    If we are trying to understand natural light why would we think that altering it before we study it is a good idea? Goethe wanted to study light and colour as they are in and of themselves and not as they become when manipulated by human actions.

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  43. petrushka:
    Or, you could just look at a CD.

    Or a duck’s speculum, or a butterfly’s wing, or an oil slick, or the halo around the moon on a misty night.

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  44. I recommend staring straight at the sun. Anything else alters your perception of light unnecessarily

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