Evolution and Randomness

Ah, evolution.


Great Blue Heron on His Barn Roof, Watching for Mice Below (Click.)

Is evolution a random process? Is life itself random? Did life arise on earth randomly and then develop randomly? [Evolutionary theory tends to say Yes!]


Are the Colours of This Gull Random? Is the Gull? Is its Behaviour? 

Mid-winter thaw on Okanagan Lake.

To be fair, evolutionary theory is using the “random” word to separate itself from a conception of the universe that is determined by will and intention, with a sixteenth century God making everything happen for his own social purposes.


God at Work?

Hey, it’s winter. You’d hope He’d play with the ice, right?

Truth is, technicians of evolutionary theory really don’t use evolutionary theory for opinions on matters of God. They use it to describe observable processes. (And God, by definition, is not observable.) Should evolutionary theorists comment on matters of God, however, they’re no longer talking about evolutionary processes; they’re talking about God.

P1130712Is This an Image of God?

No, by definition God is uncontainable in images. 

And in the middle of this dog chasing its tail is the word that  is used to separate notions of intention from those of non-intentional process: randomness. Another word for that is “chance”. Those early mathematicians were actually trying to figure out ways to cheat at cards. Ironically, they are called games of chance, but the ancestors of contemporary science were trying to take all the chance out of it. Hmmmm. A little switcher, and the problem is solved: use “randomness” instead. The problem is, however, that the word doesn’t fit the world well, either. It’s also just not random. Pattern, it seems, is inescapable, and beautiful, too. Calling it “random” changes nothing, except the ability to see it.


The Exquisite Energies of Winter

What is a guy to do, when the world that is described as random, to separate it from  intentionality and the predetermined fate that follows that (and the obedience to social class and the political and religious superstructures that follow hot on the heels of that), isn’t random? If it were random, it would be chaos.


This is Not Chaos

Sure, sure, sure, “random” means the non-intentional combination and combination of elements according to general, universal principles called “The Laws of Nature”, that create the preconditions on which the energy and matter architecture of the scientifically-imagined universe rest. One such “law” is Archimedes’ principle, which states that the upward buoyant force exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces. Just to give an example.


Displaced Air

Random, though, also means totally by chance, which has got nothing to do with natural laws, which, like the God they are modelled after, aren’t by chance. You could say they’re the very idea of will and intentionality that evolutionary theorists are trying to escape. Tut tut tut. What a mess.


This Is Not a Mess

In order to make their way through this maze, scientists, who are practical roll-up-the-sleeves-and-break-out-a-petri-dish folks who brook little nonsense and have built some really cool devices (like android phones running on ice cream sandwich … my my), tend to redefine or constrict words, such as ‘random’, to create a language specific to their intentions. That’s a powerful solution, but also one that locks thinking to specific parameters, while excluding others, which might also be present in phenomena.


In Romantic Forms of Art, This is Life

Now that academic art practices have subordinated themselves to scientific nomenclature it is illusion, and all the world with it.

Bizarre! Is this illusion?

P1150364 No, it is ice cut up by the wind. Is this illusion?


No. It is a gull. Any human seeing an illusion here is under an illusion. Here’s an illusion:


Blue Heron On His Old Telephone Pole Decoration House Post Thing

Here’s the real thing.


Great Blue Heron on His Barn Roof

See?  Not the same thing at all. Yes, I get it. If God is undefinable and can’t be presented in images, the old monkish game of listing what God is not (anything left over should, by definition, be God) retains its power in contemporary scientific thinking. But, wait, let’s try that, shall we.


This is Not God. This is a Bike Rack.

Umm… sorry. By definition, God is everything. 

Gadzooks. May I just say that from what I’ve observed as a human living in a physical world built out of spiritual energy and mapped through stories in which I am both the land and the man walking through it, could it be that something has been left out?


I Made This Crack in the Ice by Crossing it To Make This Shot


Could what has been left out be the notion of human-ness itself? What if nature, rather than being distant, is very close, and human?


I Cracked This Ice, Too!

It’s not the crack I wish to draw your attention to, nor my cracking of it, but that I cracked myself in the process. It might sound a little obscure, but it’s a direct, physical thing, like this:

P1150119Ice Cracking Under Its Own Tension

Or maybe the weight of geese. Physical, at any rate.

In the image below, I also had an intention, of moving my body into a certain position. I imagined it, in other words. I saw and felt myself there, and moved my body to get inside that thought. It happens much in the way you know where your hand is in the dark or how to get from your bedroom to the kitchen and get a glass of water without seeing a thing (watch out for the cat, though).


Human Body, Cracked

There is a force at work here that is neither fate nor intentionality but completeness. In the sense of energy, I was already there before I moved my body there and made the energy into a physical, or bodily form. Let’s call that completeness time, to get the discussion going.



What if time were filtered in to the equation? Would the gull that opened this meditation be random then? To help you meditate on that, here is an image of that gull taken shortly before the image above.

P1110520 And here it is shortly before that…


Sure gets around, doesn’t it! But, wait, if we’re looking at a gull existing in time rather than in space, what about the gull existing in a flock, rather than as an individual? How is that different, really?


Gulls with the Okanagan Lake Shrimp Fleet, Okanagan Landing

What if any individual gull’s movements were random only if considered separately from its relation to the flock and its own movements? What if the flock were the life and the individual gull only a generator of the movements in time that are the flock and which human definitions of “life” call “life”? Even the geese don’t have words for knots of ideas like that. They just cut right through it all and do this instead:



Well, lucky for us, we don’t have to answer questions like that, either. They’re unanswerable. They are questions asked with words. This is not a word…


… or if it is, it is spoken in a language of energy that words present as ice, water, light, flock and so on. That’s simply not the same thing, and to state that it is so is not to quibble with words, either. Just to point that out. 


This is Not a Quibble

It is called “walking carefully so you don’t fall down.”

To show you what I have observed in light of this observation, here’s some ice I found three days ago, in some grass in a young swampland just beginning to develop as an ecosystem.


Cool stuff, huh! What you’re looking at is water funnelled into an old irrigation canal by an urban street drainage system, which has given rise to a colony of reeds, dryland grasses, weeds and rushes high above the valley floor. That unique (and brand new) combination makes for some beautiful effects.


Caterpillar? Peas in a Pod?

No, just grassland ice.

Evolutionary and mathematical theory would suggest that the formation of such structures is “random”, because it’s unpredictable and unrepeatable, but what is random, anyway? A word? Yes. A mathematical concept? Hardly.


This is Not a Mathematical Principle

It is a complex combination of water, grass, light, energy, gravity, atmospheric pressure, and the boundaries between their energy states, as expressed through time. In other words, this is what time looks like. 

There are strict mathematical principles at play in the water captured in the image above, which give rise to basic forms like this …


… on a non-predictable frequency, but that’s not the same as interpreting those principles as randomness. There is, after all, the physics of air bubbles in freezing water and the play between water tension and the molecular energy of air, as they achieve a balance …


… always on the same principles but never quite the same …


… but that’s not precisely randomness, either. Again, I’m not arguing fine points of nomenclature here, or slicing and dicing words up into a rhetorical salad to make some point that doesn’t interact meaningfully with either the physical world or scientific practice. I’m trying to point out that phenomena are wordless and that there is more power and potential within them than words characteristically release.


There Are No Words for This…

…yet every human responds to them profoundly (and physically). The “thought” in play in such a response is a physical response, not the kind of cognitive one used to play hide and seek with “God”.

On the other hand, phenomena are constrained by words. The image below, for example, is an illustration of how early life formed around the frozen-thawed boundaries of different molecular regimes in the early earth.


No, not really. I made that up. Still, it might be the case, or it might not, but that’s not the point. Rigorous experimentation and analysis might increase understanding of the issues behind this hypothesis, or might dismiss it altogether, but that’s not what I’m trying to get at. I’m trying to get at this:


My point is that by applying descriptive terms to the ice (such as my hypothesis about cold-warm energy exchange boundaries playing a possible role in the formation of life on earth), certain lines of thought are opened while others are closed. That’s why words like “random” are dangerous — they do the same thing. Whatever the image below is, it is not random.


To say it is random is to close off possibilities that might lead to different comprehensions. Call those points of view. Here’s that ice again, from a different point of view.

P1130695 Ah, but what is a point of view? It is a viewing self, an individual human “I”, constructed by the early romantic philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte in 1792 as a portable, relativizing tool for scientific observation, that allowed measurement to both take place and be transferable, as distinct from the pre-scientific self, which was embedded in a social group, or a church, which isn’t called a flock for no reason. The following image presents another point of view. In this one, notice that a point of view that can separate the world into points of attention can also be redefined by the earth that it chooses to attend to.

P1130787 Looking at ice like that changes you.

It also means you are not downtown have a coffee at Starbucks.

A huge number of points of view are possible.


They are all human. You can talk about gas pressures and molecular structures till the cows come home, but, in the end, this is just ice.,


Before There Were “I”s to Focus Attention, There Were Words

To “understand” ice is one thing. To know what in the heck it is, you’re going to have to go out and spend some time with it.

You could, for example, eat it, touch it or just throw stuff on it instead of going out onto it yourself (Safety first!)


A Messy Experiment in Out of Body Travel

The scientific world view is built upon best guesses confirmed by experiment, which are then used to build the foundation for future hypotheses, which are confirmed by further experiment, and so on. At each step along the way, language guides which hypotheses are formed: it makes some possible and makes others extremely unlikely. In this sense, scientific descriptions of the world are cultural artefacts.


As Soon as You Name This It is a Cultural Artefact

Too much naming based on ladders of hypothesis and proof, as essential as they are to the system called science, risk turning that system of exploration into a self-fulfilling cultural prophecy. Perhaps an example from ancient Syria might help clarify that point. Beware, this was translated from the Latin, from the Greek, in 1911, by a New Age philosopher.

In like manner, also, as the light of the sun is present in the air without being combined with it — and it is evident that there is nothing left in the air when the illuminating agent is removed, although warmth is still present when the heating has entirely ceased — so also the light of the gods shines while entirely separate from the objects illuminated, and, being firmly established in itself, makes its way through all existing things.

Iamblichus, On the Mysteries (Source.)

Translation? Sure, I’ll make a stab at it:

In the same way that sunlight is present in the air without being part of it — and nothing of it is left there after the sun has gone down, although the air remains warm for awhile after the sun has stopped heating it —  the light of the gods also shines separately from the objects it illuminates. Because of its indivisible nature, it makes its way through all existing things.

Iamblichus is talking about ancient spiritual matters. Inn his discussion (which gave rise to medieval scholasticism and from that to contemporary science itself), two points are relevant to my point here:

1. Life rises from the earth when struck with the light of the sun (for Iamblichus, a supreme force, which gives rise to the gods as well),

2. Godhood (or the sun) is present in an object proportionately to the perfect shape (beauty) of that object. (The more beautiful [perfectly shaped] an object, the more the god [or the sun] is present within it.)

Not exactly the stuff of science, is it! Well, no, but it could be. That’s my point. Here, let’s look at that ice again. First, life is rising from the earth, when light strikes it…


Well, grass, at any rate. Of course, the grass came from seed, so it’s not really quite the way Iamblichus describes it. Sure, the new grass wetland has evolved from the combination of forces in an unlikely location, but the grasses themselves evolved millions of years ago, so the sun didn’t really animate dead earth to make all this magic happen (that was long, long before), and this stuff …

P1130884 Algae!

… evolved billions of years ago. All life stands in an unbroken chain with the cell divisions within these organisms and others like them. It has all happened in time. Read there, read as if time were space (um… it is!), it has all happened at once, much like this:


A Flock of Gulls, Okanagan Indian Band Beach, Okanagan Lake

Another word for this is Time.

That’s all a bit different than randomness, and a bit different as well from the intellectual rigour of science, which sought to separate itself from romantic interpretations of Iamblichus’s philosophy and the alchemical traditions that came from them.


Human I in the Ice

It’s not a romantic concept. Fichte tried to turn you into a more portable version less easily confused with God. Oh, those parsons’ sons!

Humanly observed, nature exists in human social time, in which the term “random” is a human social marker, moreso than a marker of actually physical processes. One such human social marker, for example, is the word “random.” Another is the notion that time progresses while space remains stable. It could just as easily be the opposite. There is certainly a sense of that reversal in Iamblichus.


Mom and Son Feeding Ducks

Is this time or is it space? No, it is space-time, which is a kind of word sandwich meant to say “human” without saying “human”.

Ah, what’s to be done? Well, one way to get at time is to go back to the beginning of life, with one eye on Iamblichus and one eye on molecular biology, which creates energy and material transfers and physical replications by such processes as gas permeation of membranes (for example, oxygen uptake into lungs), electron transfers across membranes (photosynthesis), and intricately folded hydrocarbon strings designed to adhere to specific atoms and molecules in specific positions (DNA, photosynthesis, and so on). It all happens at the point at which the sun strikes carbon in the presence of water and carbon dioxide, at particular energy levels. Here’s that ice again…


That’s not such a far cry from cell biology. Liquid water is required for life on earth, but perhaps frozen water, and its ability to separate processes on spectrums of time and energy, played a role…


…, in relation to water in its liquid state. What is separated in the process of freezing could be in the process of thawing.


and freezing again…


… and thawing and freezing and freezing and thawing and freezing and thawing and freezing and thawing as the earth turns…


… like breath.


That has merged with light.


Whatever those things are.


The fact that it looks like life is because a living human has observed it. Dead humans don’t observe stuff like this. Neither do android phones running on ice cream sandwich.

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