by Nicholas P. Snoek
Jack is at it again, pet peeve pondering the bete noire of human evolution. How did it all begin, and what were the crucial turning points?
How much weight should be given to this idea of orthogeny recapitulating phylogeny; the developing embryo enacting a sort of condensed replay of its racial history?
It seems intuitively fitting. What
More likely pattern of unfolding forth
Should ovum blastulated notocorded
Tadpole nymph embudded fetus follow,
Than that which led to its existence to
Begin with? But if it does apply, what do
We make of the neotenous implications
Inherent in the foramen magnum's
Erect posture situation in
The chimpanzee fetus? The spinal chord
Departs the brain in such a way, at such
A place, as strongly to imply an upright
Gait. But then, with parturition looming
Near there is a gradual correction,
To bring it back to its respectable
And orthodox apeworld positioning
For all-four locomotion. But all agreement
On the chimp or any simian ancestry
Belies the implication; it never walked
Upright. And neither did its atavistic
Cousin father forebears.
And stranger still
That physiognomy nonprognathous
Of that same beastie portrays a modern
Human baby look, as if worn by eons
Back spent generations of some proto
Apes, and then foregone again before
The human race was thought of.
There has to be a logic to some portions
Of the building plan, completely separate
From the paradigm, some inescapable
Requirements, to validate the scaffolding.
So then, let fit the part that fits, th'umbrella
Theory enshrouds hypotheses by gross.
No need for one-to-one extrapolation
In every part. No need to force the metaphor
Analogy to every nook and cranny.
The outline is an outline, it offers argument
Complete enough; we understand the drift.
So let it be and let it go. It works.
If some groups of these Abominable Sasquatch Bigfoot Yeti types are squarely apes, apes that came to walk upright in parallel to man development, then the same aboriginal gene-rating source would be a bifold origin for both man and upright ape.
So what we read from these anomalies is that there was a source for human traits, available in the accessible pool of genes, suggesting why there is this undoubted fact that man remarkably evokes an ape that never grew, a more or less retarded ape.
Haha. Apologies in deference to daddyo, you bet, but facts are facts. As we draw nigh to our maturity we come to look like proper apes, and our old age displays our noble heritage as we get hairier and shorter, and our extremities are more extreme.
The gods have had their fun with us.
But what about the godman?
The Virgin Birth
Cardinal and central doctrine of
The Catholic Church, the virgin birth of Jesus --
Could it have been a parthenogenetic
Happening? Contrived by `accident'?
No need for any Joseph, then, no need
For human father. Rapt in prayer to power
Most High, enthralled in pious transport, Mary
Could have been the instrument of prophecy's
Desire. And severing the Gordian knot with
Sword of sure and simple means, the holiest
Of holies might have used such biologic
Happenstance to bring about this miracle.
They say a natural device is often
Yoked, to bring to pass a supernatural
And come to think of it, could that
Have served in my own case as well? Was my
Poor mother victim of an accidental
Impregnation by NO father? Did she
Invoke a rape to keep her sanity;
Invented ravishment of innocence
By the Most Low, to answer foolish questions?
Am I th'expression of a virgin birth,
Dressed up in this misguided bastardry!
Jack has let up somewhat in his reading, so now he starts to look around, to fill the time freed up. And he soon has an idea. They have a nightshift at the mill just down the road. Perhaps he could arrange for part time work there.
He goes to see Kurt Wiesen, the chicken farmer who took over for him when he had to go back to school, in September.
"Kurt, you must get pretty tired, working all day on the farm and then at night at the mill too."
"Yeah, it's a lot of hard work. I keep thinking I should quit, but the farm doesn't bring in a lot of money, you know. I've got a family to feed."
"Well, what would you think of doing half a shift at the mill and me doing the other half?"
"Hmmmn. That's not a bad idea. You think they'd let us do that? I guess you'd want the first half, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah, you know, in order to get to bed at all, and do my homework. But I don't see why they wouldn't let us. Tell you what. Tomorrow why don't I take the first half. I'll tell them you couldn't make it. And a couple of days later we'll do it again. Then after that we'll ask them, together, the two of us. What do you say?"
"Okay, let's try it."
They do this, and no one has a problem with it; it works out perfectly. Everybody wins.
Daniel poses a problem: "Vickydick, this scientist or whatever he is, name of Turing, has come up with the idea that if we can design a computer that simulates human conversation to the extent that you wouldn't be able to tell by its responses that it's not a human being, you would have pretty convincing evidence that the human mind is merely a byproduct of brain activity, being no different essentially from a machine that can do the same thing. Because if you can't tell the difference, you can't very well claim there is one."
"That's all fine and dandy, dandy Dan, but what do we do till this is accomplished? Because if I'm right, and thousands with me, no machine will ever succeed in doing that.
This scenario is very much like creating life in the lab. Both are eminently plausible, in that people, especially those of the scientific persuasion, can see no logical impediment to their implementation, but my intuition, anyway, is that neither of these labors will ever bear fruit.
They can simulate organic compounds, sure. But that's not life. You have organic compounds without life every time a dog takes a crap. Not a big deal. And no doubt they will come up with a computer that could fool a person for a while, by sticking to pidgin English and avoiding emotive language.
But the give and take of a human conversation, with human knowledge, human reactions, spontaneous interjections, human smatterings of background assumptions and interests? It's impossible.
You cannot put a soul in a machine."
"You don't need to put a sole in a machine. The only soles people have is on their shoes. So there's no problem there. I think they will bring this off, eventually. An ever more complex programming, with a perpetually growing data base. It can be done, I assure you."
"No, you do not. Listen. If the program simulates human consciousness to the extent of fooling someone into thinking he is dealing with a human being, it would still be the mind of the programmer coming through. The conversation would essentially be with the programmer, not the machine. Just a fancier tape recorder."
Jack is mortified to learn that Leda has a sort of boyfriend already. His name is Norman, and he stays at the farm where she lives, and he works in the sawmill her dad and brother have assembled there, brought down from Prince George. The guy is built like a tank, and he's good looking besides! And there he is, right at the breakfast table every morning, pouring her coffee. Or is she pouring his?
How to compete?
Well, no backing off for that without a struggle, anyway. Jack makes and keeps contact at every opportunity. He asks her out again and again, but she is not keen, and there is always some problem of timing and transportation. They live about twenty-five miles out of town.
Eventually, however, his singlemindedness is rewarded by a group date, the best that could be done. Leda, Jack, her brother Len, Jack's sister Winnie, and Norman are all going to the show together. Yes, Norman too. That should be interesting!
The three out of towners arrive in Len's car, and pick up Jack and Winnie, who are just two miles out.
After the movie they wander out, and Jack, sticking close to Leda, leads her off a little ways so he can talk to her. Norman, now on the opposite side of the street, yells to them, "Hey, you guys too good to travel with us, or what?"
Jack looks at her, but she ignores the complaint.
Alright. There may be some scope for him yet.
Jack has sought out his sparring partner.
"Daniel dear, what do you think of this? The doctrine of the Catholic Church about the virgin birth of Jesus has at its root a plain and simple parthenogenesis. Is that what Mr McFee would call an elegant solution, or what?"
"Well, let me think."
"Okay. I've thinked. First, there is no need to find some scientific underpinning to religious doctrine. It's like putting salt under sand. There is no purpose; there is no use.
Second, think of what you're saying. Parthenogenesis is the more or less spontaneous development of an ovum into an organism without benefit of sperm. In other words an asexual type of reproduction, as happens in some lower forms of life. That means the offspring will be genetically identical to the mother. The mother, you see. And the mother is usually female. Now as I fondly recall from my Sunday school days, Jesus was a male.
So there, I've thunked my think; now you can have your elegant solution and put it where you wish."
"A good assessment, and a clue to a fitting disposal."
What an ass I am.
And if that negative absurdity applies in Jesus' case, it also would in mine. A parthenogenetic birth will always clone the mother, of course! Why didn't I think it out properly! And whether I am man or no I am most surely male; the little hose between my legs that never gives me rest can testify to that. Back to square one.
This game of chess will never end, never end, never end; this lousy game of chess will never ever end!
"Okay, Dan the man, you're perfectly right. I was a fool to miss that very obvious objection."
`I was a fool, oh yeah, I was a fool, ahah.'
A farmer fool fretting at the fabric that he weaves himself from airy nothing.
/// It's her again. What now, I wonder. "Hello."
"Hi, Jack. How're you doing?"
"Well, I'm starting to sort some things out now. But it's discouraging. I think I make some headway and along comes some silly thing I hadn't thought of and knocks the props right out from under me. When I'm up here with you it all makes sense, but I can't reconstruct those ideas down there."
"It takes time, Jack. Time and effort. Don't let it get you down, you're doing fine.
I should warn you -- about that letter from your real mother. I know you've stuck it away and you're ignoring it, but Brother Andre and your mother are coming to see you. We should talk about it so you'll be prepared."
"What's there to talk about? It can only be bad news, right? My mother says she was raped by an apeman, so no matter how you slice it, it reflects badly on her and on me, whether she is lying, is deluded, or even if she's telling the truth. And how could she be? An Apeman!"
"Jack, your father was an apeman."
He stares at her. "He was? My mother was raped by an apeman? She was telling the truth?"
"Yes, she was. But I'm not really comfortable with the word rape. A rape is an intentional violation, an act of aggression which a person in lusting self indulgence allows to vilify the selfrespect and personhood of another. And nothing of that sort took place between your mother and your father."
"I don't understand."
"Let me try to explain. Your father, as can be seen by the fact that he sired a human child, was very close to being human. So close, that all his life he wanted to associate with people, to be near them, to be like them, to try to become human himself to whatever extent possible. But he wasn't human, you see, so he could only dimly know what he wanted or why. He aspired to be higher than he was. He wanted to become something more.
That was the motivation of his mating with your mother. That's not to say he wasn't sexually attracted, of course he was, but not in the sense that characterizes rape. You see?"
"Yes alright, that makes sense. Makes you feel sorry for him, actually. But tell me then, what exactly is the difference between such a being, almost but not quite a man, and a proper man, just barely on this side of the dividing line?"
"Good question, Jack. But it would be more apropos if I hadn't answered it before. Remember we talked about proto humans crossing the line back and forth? For those who are so close, if there's a reasonable expectation that they'll have a chance to exercise and develop their human qualities, they are given the endowments that make them human, that make it possible for them to grow or develop a soul which later participates in a more spiritual development. You understand?"
"I think so. My father was not human. Kind of unsettling, you know. What was he like?"
"Well, he was big and strong. Quite hairy, blondish red. Hazel eyes, long arms. There's something else you might find interesting. His left leg from the knee down was shorter than his right. Does that ring any bells?"
"Holy cow! It sure does. My knees are different heights. But luckily so are my thighs, the opposite way, so there's no pelvic slant and I stand straight."
"Yes, a fortunate correction. He limped."
"He did, hey? My mother couldn't get away?"
"He took her by surprise, she was sunbathing and she didn't hear him coming."
"Well, no matter how you look at it, I was certainly not conceived in love. Come to think of it, can you teach me something about love?"
"Did you before?"
"It seems to me we discussed how you could alleviate your loneliness and isolation by loving away the differences between you and others."
"Well, yes. I remember something about that, but now I'm thinking more of the love between a man and a woman. I met this girl Leda a while ago, and she's really getting to me. You know what I mean?"
"Oh. Yes. Now here, too, we start at the same point. Each person brings to his existential path various exemplar epitomes of godness. Each new person has a unique gift as to mind, as to personality, as to germinal soul, all from God. Now when we rise above the purely sexual and get into the kind of attunement that characterizes a more mature love, what happens is a recognition-response to the God in another being. That's what makes love so endlessly fascinating. And that's the kind of love that will not die. You can blind yourself to it, but you cannot end it."
"How can you know all this?"
"I really can't explain that, Jack. I pretty much come to know whatever is helpful for what I have to do with you, but the mechanics of it are much too complicated to go into. For one thing, I don't understand it all that well myself."
"That reminds me. Can you help me at all with figuring out what is real, what exists, and how it's all organized?"
Laughing, "All this and Heaven too? A tall order, Jack. Let's see, we'll start at the beginning. The moon's a balloon, painted to look like green cheese, and the earth..."
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to come out quite like that. But you must know what I'm talking about. I want to know what is real."
"That's not so hard, Jack. Everything. Everything is real. I know, I know, you're going to say what about things people imagine, or what about ideas, or events, right?"
"Exactly. So how about them?"
"They are real. Think back to some of the things you've read in the occult literature, and even in a lot of self-help writing. What you think, becomes real for you. What you imagine works out an effect through you and results in a new reality that did not obtain before you started.
Creativity is not a chimera; people take part in creation, not only in becoming more and better or even just different from what they previously were themselves, but in what they create with their thinking and imagining. Fathering forth is not restricted to God the Father by any means.
Be careful what you think and want, for you create yourself, and much of your own world."
"I wonder what Daniel would say to that."
"Balderdash, I should think."
"Okay now, in deference to those of clay who are not with us, let me point out that the fact that something is real, that it has an existence not commonly reckoned with or actualized in most ordinary thinking, does not give it a noteworthy status in the scheme of things. Ideas, events, the ghost-memories of unworthy thoughts, all these can have reality, existence, but so what? The trivial is trivial still, no matter what its analytical orthogeny, or metaphysical firmness, so to speak.
As I said before about revelation, Jack, you must yourself evaluate and test and judge what should be real for you. It's up to you to make your world. And on that note, I must be off, and so must you. See you soon."
"Yes. Thank you, Deborah."\\\
"Daniel Duck, here's something else I've been picking at. The problem of what is real, or what exists, and how we should classify existing things. Okay?
Now, I've roughed out a four layered framework, with the physical at the bottom, next a level of mind which starts from an awareness as low as pure reactivity that comes with lower life and reaches its ascertainable peak in human self-consciousness, then there is a third layer which is the record comprising the output of mind in physical form, providing us with our only objective path to and from mind, and finally the fourth level, which we also access by the objective record, and that is the realm of soul or spirit.
So, what do you think. Would you find that a helpful scheme of things that be?"
"No, no, and No! You're wallowing about in a proliferation of categories. Four levels you say. Physical, mind, a record, and spirit.
I'd start by lopping off the last, there's no good reason to think there IS such a thing as spirit. Next I'd have a hard look at the second. What we subsume in the concept of mind may well turn out to be physically founded and fixed to the point that we must include it in the physical. But I like the Record. That can be helpful, I think."
"Daniel, how are you going to slay the lions, or make kittens out of them, without faith in the Lord? And where is your First Mover? How do you account for our existence or for any existence?"
"When I cannot account for something, I stoically accept the fact; I do not pretend to have the answers to all the questions you can think of. The First Mover, the Unmoved Mover, is an attractive philosophical idea, but all it really gives us is a beginning intimation. A starting point in connection with the problem of how and why there is a world or universe. A first approach, the beginning of a direction finder, a preamble.
No, no. Scrap spirit. Scrap soul. They are both, as you well know, extended metaphors for breath."
"Alright, Dan, let's leave that for a moment. What about mind? Surely as much as you talk about mind, and are proud of having a good one, you cannot just say your mind is only your brain in action."
"Why on earth not? A brain is a wonderfully complex organ, which we're hardly even starting to understand."
"You said it. Organ. Organ, a handful of physical stuff, a bowl of porridge. Organ as in organism, and both concepts refer to material or substance that is organized, which is to say, incorporates or instantiates pattern.
But no matter how intricately, dynamically or how recursively organized a material substance is, even if it is surcharged with electro-chemical energy in constant flux, it is inescapably material.
In spite of Spinoza, there is no thinking substance, no res cogitans. Substance is material, objective to all, substantial, and formative in time and space. Mind is immaterial, subjective to self, insubstantial, and formed only in time, not space.
Brain is that substance coterminous with a human mind's expression, and essential to human mind formation. Brain activity is an objective correlative to thought. Brain subtends mind.
It is life, and the mind that comes with life, that runs the brain. A living thing is of mind, and a nonliving thing is not. And never the twain shall meet."
"Poetry, Victor, poetry. You're indulging yourself with semantic whims, and all your wishful thinking and all your pretty words will not convince me that a mind is not some aspect of a brain. Find me some facts, some hard facts."
"Well, my categories may be prolific as you say, but I think they are valid, and I think you have a premature hardening of the categories. At such an early age, too!"
"Ha! Well, I have to take my petrified categories home now, see you later."