INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Joel Morrison began his life, passion, and vocation as an artist, working along the way as a multimedia designer for both Integral Institute (directly with Ken Wilber) and Integral Life. In this process of, as he would say, "waking up while building his eye," his art became ever more contemplative, culminating with his two recently self-published and lavishly illustrated books, SpinbitZ Volume I: Interface-Philosophy, Mathematics and Nondual Rational-Empiricism
and Sorce Theory: Unlocking the Basement
. As the original catalyst, however, his visual art maintained a critical, meta-philosophical role throughout this work, in the form of what he calls "vision-logic interfaces," catalyzing integration and elucidation in the aperspectival and nonlinear space that only the visual medium can provide. His home page can be found at www.spinbitz.net
This essay is an excerpt from SpinbitZ Volume I: Interface-Philosophy, Mathematics and Nondual Rational-Empiricism
is Intelligent Design
Joel D. Morrison
Mystic scientist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote:
Is evolution a theory, a system, or a hypothesis? It is much more—it is
a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems
must henceforth bow and which they must satisfy in order to be
thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a
trajectory which all lines of thought must follow—this is what
Because evolution—in its “deep” and sub-representational form—is the
very process by which representational systems come into being, we must
dig into the very roots of this alien intelligence to truly understand
the nature of the epistemic and its triunity of: knowledge, the
interface or means of knowing, and indeed the knower, who is himself
the problem-child of evolution.
So, what is evolution? Perhaps we can start by defining what
evolution is not. Evolution is not “survival of the fittest.” That
wasn't even Darwin's own catch-phrase for his “natural selection.”
Indeed, Darwin didn't like the phrase or the catch. So is evolution,
then, defined merely by Darwin's proposed mechanism of natural
selection? Not according to modern “postdarwinian” evolutionary
theorists, and perhaps not even according to Darwin himself who also
stressed sexual selection. As Kevin Kelly writes in his book Out of
What the postdarwinians have shown is that
there is no such thing as monolithic evolution run by one-dimensional
natural selection. It would be more fitting to say that evolution is
plural and deep. Deep evolution is an aggregate of many kinds of
evolutions; it is a multifaced god, a creator with many arms, working
by many methods, of which natural selection of variation is perhaps the
most universal factor. An uncharted variety of evolutions make up deep
evolution, just as our minds comprise a society of dimwitted agents and
a variety of types of thinking. Various evolutions proceed at different
scales, at different tempos, in different styles. Furthermore, this
blend of evolutions changes over time. Certain types of evolution were
important in early protolife; some are more emphasized now, four
billion years later. One variety (natural selection) will be ubiquitous
throughout the plurality, while others will be rare and specialized in
their roles. Deep, pluralistic evolution, like intelligence, is an
emergent property of a community of dynamics.
For decades we've known of many other “evolutions” far more capable
than mere natural selection. Darwin himself wrote extensively on the
much more powerful sexual selection. Why then is evolution, in the
mainstream of modern culture, always defined by natural selection?
Modern culture—even academic culture, much of the time—is stuck in the
evolutionary “kosmic rut” of the “survival of the fittest,” and this
rut tinges evolution with a negative “red in tooth and claw” brutality
After decades of research going far beyond natural selection,
to say the word “evolution” is still to utter “survival of the
fittest.” So, if we can't mean modern evolution when we say
“evolution,” but are stuck in an 1800's era kosmic rut, then we must
force a new definition by introducing a new term. Enter Kevin Kelly's
“deep evolution,” where we are required to double-take, make the
distinction and flesh it out with the depth that can finally begin to
approximate the inhuman, vastly distributed and deep intelligence of
Nature. Deep, vast and sprawling evolution, we will find, is deep
intelligence—an alien immanent power of creation breaking the bonds of
the transcendent-bias that would seek to define all of creation in the
strictly anthropocentric terms of monological, representational,
one-track humanoid intelligence.
“I believe there is a mathematics of life,” says Kelly, and natural selection is only the “additive function.”
But to fully explain the origin of life, the
remarkable trend toward complexity, and the invention of intelligence
requires more than addition. It needs a rich mathematics of complex
functions built upon each other; it needs deeper evolution. Natural
selection alone is not enough, not by miles. It must be alloyed with
more creative, generative processes to accomplish much. It must have
more to naturally select from.
And through interviews, experiments and interfaces with cutting edge
evolutionary biologists, computer scientists, engineers, video-game
designers, philosophers, futurists, mathematicians, ecologists,
physicists, complexity scientists and cyberneticists, Kelly spends the
bulk of Out of Control showing us a vast range of parallel “evolutions”
each of which—virtually unknown to the outside world—is far more
powerful than the ground-level additive function of natural selection,
or “shallow evolution.” Of these “many arms” of this out-of-control
“multifaced god” of evolution, we'll only have the time to explore the
prestidigitated fugues of sexual selection in the shallow ground-base
of natural selection. This will, however, demonstrate quite amply that
deep evolution is far more intelligent and interesting a composer than
the mere rhythm-section of natural selection would imply.
As P. D. Ouspensky wrote:
But we do not realize, do not see the presence
of intelligence in the phenomena and laws of nature. This happens
because we always study not the whole but a part, and we do not see the
whole we wish to study. But studying the little finger of a man we
cannot see the intelligence of the man. The same refers to nature. We
always study the little finger of nature. If we realize this and
understand that EVERY LIFE IS THE MANIFESTATION OF A PART OF SOME
WHOLE, Only then a possibility opens of knowing that whole. In order to
know the intelligence of a given whole, one should understand the
character of that whole, and its functions.
This core idea of evolution as a form of intelligence can be found
in a long line of eminent thinkers, from Erasmus Darwin to Samuel
Butler to P. D. Ouspensky to Alan Watts to Kevin Kelly to George
Dyson—not to mention the eastern thinkers and the countless engineers
working in the trenches with the alien distributed-intelligence of
evolution first-hand to help evolve solutions to problems unthinkable
by single-track human intelligence. Unfortunately we'll only have time
to skim a small portion of these fascinating details.
Evolution and the Problem-Child
In the human form of cognition we have an inextricably intertwined
mesh of functions. We call them, for example: consciousness,
intelligence, and wisdom. When we seek to distill these categories and
functions separate from one another, we seek their most general form.
For our concerns here, then, what is the most general and widely
applicable definition of intelligence? Perhaps intelligence can be most
simply defined as the power of “problem solving.” This is the most
general function and indeed the goal of most IQ tests, after-all. IQ
tests, for example, don't check directly for wisdom, nor consciousness,
though these can indeed feed into the resulting IQ score. How well you
can solve the problems of the IQ test—not how conscious or how wise you
are—indeed determines the power (or quotient) of your intelligence. But
it can be seen that intelligence is a form of consciousness or wisdom,
or that wisdom or consciousness is a form of intelligence, depending
only on your preference and the way your intrinsic system of categories
is already set up.
If we de-couple the 'problem' from its anthropocentric roots,
however, the flexibility of its definition can be extended to the more
general field of biology, and even to evolution. “Living organisms”
says computer-scientist John Holland, “are consummate problem solvers.
They exhibit a versatility that puts the best computer programs to
Naturally, problem and solution form a polarity, and a
problem-solver is a solution in its own right. Indeed, sometimes
problems, in another sphere, can only be seen in light of their
solutions. But where there is a solution, there was a problem … and
where there is a problem-solver there is a form and power of
intelligence—some kind of an “intelligent designer,” or “composer,” if
The question, of course, is whether this prodigious composer
of profound and preposterous proteinaceous fugues is humanoid,
reptilian, vegetative, mineral or an entirely different form
altogether: perhaps an amalgam or even an abstract principle… What kind
of intelligence must it be? … and just how intelligent, given the vast,
“geological” resources of time, energy and matter at its disposal?
The solutions to the problems hidden in the depths of
evolution are the myriad “life-forms” scattered throughout the history
of life on this planet—perhaps 99% of which are already extinct (which
tells us that the death of organisms hasn't yet been on the list of
problems for evolution to solve). We organisms—intelligent solutions in
our own right, if sometimes a bit quirky—are the problem-children of
Evolution, the mother of invention, has the general problem of
getting its children to replicate its code. But it has another problem.
Every time it thinks it has solved a problem—firing off an organism
capable of replicating its newly invented code—the environment into
which the problem-children are injected has changed and they often
can't seem to adjust. And so the code they would replicate dies out.
Evolution, then, must continually find new solutions to its new
problems which are, by now, vastly multiplying out of hand.
Shotgun Creationism: The Engineering Interface
But vast multiplicity and parallelism is evolution's strong suit.
Its exponentially-replicating problem-children are its very solutions.
Indeed, this is what gives evolution its inhuman power of creation. It
multiplies its code in billions of billions of variations at once, and
those that survive to reproduce are already successful while the rest,
unneeded, are forgotten. Evolution is a “differential reproductive
success”—a shotgun creationism; the madness of a method exploding into
a billion-billion sub-processes, each one a new trajectory tunneling
into the dark space of biological possibility.
Parallelism is one of the ways around the
inherent stupidity and blindness of random mutations. It is the great
irony of life that a mindless act repeated in sequence can only lead to
greater depths of absurdity, while a mindless act performed in parallel
by a swarm of individuals can, under the proper conditions, lead to all
that we find interesting.
This is indeed why engineering is increasingly turning to
“evolutionary algorithms” as an interface between the limits of
single-minded human engineers and the alien, distributed,
vastly-parallel intelligence of deep evolution. The novel solutions
emerging from this computational interface of simulated evolution tend
to be far beyond the capabilities of humans to engineer, let alone even
to understand. Kelly writes:
What humans can't engineer, evolution can.
[Tom] Ray puts it nicely as he shows off a monitor with traces of the
22s propagating in his soup: “It seems utterly preposterous to think
that you could randomly alter a computer program and get something
better than what you carefully crafted by hand, but here's living
proof.” It suddenly dawns on the observer that there is no end to the
creativity that these mindless hackers can come up with.
Evolution is indeed a form of distributed intelligence and
creativity quite alien to the single-minded approach of human
consciousness. At best, we can sit atop and harness the vast
parallelism of our brain-cells in an intuited spark which seems to come
from nowhere, but it is difficult for us to grasp the raw power—and the
products—of this alien intelligence which brought us into being, and
whose unconscious goals and desires still course through our own veins.
While evolution is increasingly an interface for engineering,
the inverse is also true. Engineered or simulated evolution is
increasingly an interface for understanding and expanding evolution, as
the two intelligences feed back into each other at ever higher levels
of sophistication. Kelly continues:
Perhaps the most astounding thing about Tom
Ray's electrically powered evolution machine is that it created sex.
Nobody told it about sex, but it found it nonetheless. In an experiment
to see what would happen if he turned the mutation function off, Ray
let the soup run without deliberate error. He was flabbergasted to
discover that even without programmed mutation, evolution pushed
The fact that evolution—after inventing its own sex games—pushes
forward even in the absence of random mutations, empirically informs
evolutionary biologists that sex is a powerful addition to the arsenal
of deep evolution.
To scientists, the most exhilarating news to
come out of Ray's artificial evolution machine is that his small worlds
display what seems to be punctuated equilibrium. For relatively long
periods of time, the ratio of populations remain in a steady tango of
give and take with only the occasional extinction or birth of a new
species. Then, in a relative blink, this equilibrium is punctuated by a
rapid burst of roiling change with many newcomers and eclipsing of the
old. For a short period change is rampant. Then things sort out and
stasis and equilibrium reigns again.
The Interface of Intercourse
As Tom Ray witnessed first-hand, evolution evolves, and to even
greater depth with the invention of sex. Like Ray, John Holland too has
experimented with computer sex: rather, he invented it. Instead of
waiting for them to discover it themselves, Holland plugged sex into
his genetic algorithms (GAs) from the start. Kelly writes:
In real natural life, sex is a much more
important source of variation than mutations. Sex, at the conceptual
level, is genetic recombination -- a few genes from Dad and a few genes
from Mom combined into a new genome for Junior. …
Mating rather than mutating was discovered by
theoretical biologists in the early 1960s to make a more robust
computer evolution -- one that birthed a higher ratio of sensible
entities. But sexual mating alone was too restrictive in what it could
come up with. In the mid-1960s Holland devised his GAs; these relied
chiefly on mating and secondarily on mutation as a background
instigator. With sex and mutation combined, the system was both
flexible and wide.
In deep evolution, sex and mutation work hand in hand. The sprawling
randomness of mutation allows sex to escape its kosmic ruts—jumping
dead-end routines into new kosmic grooves—while sex rapidly optimizes
these new shotgun trajectories and functions by feeding back its
intelligent selection into the mix. Kelly writes:
In Holland's scheme, the highest performing
bits of code anywhere on the landscape mate with each other. Since high
performance increases the assigned rate of mating in that area, this
focuses the attention of the genetic algorithm system on the most
promising areas in the overall landscape. It also diverts computational
cycles away from unpromising areas. Thus parallelism sweeps a large net
over the problem landscape while reducing the number of code strings
that need manipulating to locate the peaks.
This function whereby the highest-performing algorithms mate at an
increasing rate, mimics the function of sexual selection. In real life
it is often the most “successful” organisms—such as the dominant male
of a population—that get the most chances to mate. This massive
multiplicity and parallelism, optimized by sexual selection and
gene-combination, can find solutions to vastly complex problems that
humans can't even define, locate or properly understand.
The evolutionary approach, Holland wrote,
“eliminates one of the greatest hurdles in software design: specifying
in advance all the features of a problem.” Anywhere you have many
conflicting, interlinked variables and a broadly defined goal where the
solutions may be myriad, evolution is the answer.
Just as evolution deals in populations of
individuals, genetic algorithms mimic nature by evolving huge churning
populations of code, all processing and mutating at once. GAs are
swarms of slightly different strategies trying to simultaneously
hill-climb over a rugged landscape. Because a multitude of code strings
“climb” in parallel, the population visits many regions of the
landscape concurrently. This ensures it won't miss the Big Peak.
Implicit parallelism is the magic by which
evolutionary processes guarantee you climb not just any peak but the
tallest peak. How do you locate the global optima? By testing bits of
the entire landscape at once. How do you optimally balance a thousand
counteracting variables in a complex problem? By sampling a thousand
combinations at once. How do you develop an organism that can survive
harsh conditions? By running a thousand slightly varied individuals at
Sex and the Big Biological Bang
In the evolution of life on this planet there is a tell-tale sign of
the power of an evolutionary function: The faster the pace of change
the greater the power (or intelligence) of the function behind it. For
the first few billion years of evolution—based perhaps mainly on the
function of cellular division and random mutation—the history of change
moved at a snail's pace. It hardly budged from one point in time to the
next…and it left a slimy trail.
Then, at only around 500 million years ago—perhaps already 4
billion years into this languishing, monotonous, barely-intelligent
cycle—occurred a biological “Big-Bang” (pardon the pun). This is the
“Cambrian explosion” where, in the geological blip of perhaps merely 10
million years, all the body plans of the subsequent biological eras
were evolved. So, after four billion years, evolution suddenly picked
up its pace, exploding from single-cells into the sprawling
possibilities of multi-celled organisms and body-plans.
What changed? Kelly, tells us that the Cambrian explosion
occurred just after the invention of sexual reproduction, perhaps about
the time it takes for real-world eukaryotic sex to work its
hill-climbing magic on dull mutation. It took about 500 million years
to reach the knee of the exponential curve, but when it did — POW! —
this magic finally exploded from single-celled organisms into myriad
modes of multicellular monsters, injecting their own exponentially
increasing intelligence into the exploration of this vastly unfolding
space of multi-cellular possibilities. A fantastic menagerie of forms
of intelligence was now at the disposal of natural selection and deep
In sex, recall (if you're lucky), rather than merely going off
in a corner and replicating by yourself—actually dividing yourself in
half—there is an interfacing or union of two organisms to create a
third. But recall from your fortunate and romantic courtship all the
energy of intelligence (both conscious and unconscious) that went into
the endless quest, the intermittent battles and the final decision of
with whom to mate—you weren't prepared to mate with just anybody,
right? The same is true, but at a smaller scale with the early
organisms who first began to experiment with sex.
Sexual reproduction opens a space for sexual selection, and
sexual selection harnesses the intrinsic intelligence of the organism
in solving the problem of with whom to interface. Sex itself is a
medium for intelligent design, much more powerful than mere random
mutation, and we can see its effects directly in the often bizarre
sexual dimorphisms of its unwitting participants…which includes us.
Every time we have sex, we are participating in the higher-level
intelligence of evolution, because we have injected our own
intelligence into this program and passion for selective bonding and
breeding. Sexual selection, then, is a feedback “mechanism” magnifying
the intelligence of natural selection and the other mechanisms of
If natural selection is the “additive function” in the mathematics of life, then sexual selection is its “recursive function.”
Deep evolution is a form of intelligent design—a shotgun
creationism. And this recognition of evolution itself as an
“intelligent designer” is the nondual “judo move” in the “Evolution vs.
Intelligent Design” debate.
Transcendent-biased—top-down—Creationism has no sole claim to
“intelligent design,” when Intelligence can be explained from the
bottom-up—from the immanence, emergence and vast multiplicity of a
problem-solving capability alien to our transcendent-biased
single-track exoteric forms of consciousness. Evolutionary intelligence
ramps up in IQ from the additive function of mutation and “the survival
of the fittest” into the recursive function of sexual selection and
“the survival of the sexiest,” to put it crudely, where the
intelligence of the organism is injected back into the intelligence of
evolution. And this feedback process gets stronger and stronger the
more and more intelligent the organism feeding back into the process
that brought it into being.
Insane in the Mem-brain: Embodiment, Meaning and the Mnemonic Primitives
Language Learns to Speak: Genetic Mnemonics and Causal Languages
Through the mouthpiece of “Golem XIV,” a fictional,
super-intelligent, government-owned, war-computer turned
philosopher—Stanislaw Lem, in his book Imaginary Magnitudes,
pronounces, “You will come to know that the code [DNA] is a member of
the technolinguistic family, the causative languages that make the word
into all possible flesh … “ DNA is a code that translates directly,
causally, or emergently into the “technology” of the organism, rather
than into or through the representational level of semantics or
meaning. The “meaning” of the causative language is the artifact (or
organism) which it generates, just like the meaning of the source code
is the program or application which boots up into memory. As Golem
proclaims, “THE MEANING OF THE TRANSMITTER IS THE TRANSMISSION.”
Golem XIV declares that life emerged through the “negative
gradient” of a causative language which imperfectly replicates itself
through its creations. “IN EVOLUTION, A NEGATIVE GRADIENT OPERATES IN
THE PERFECTING OF STRUCTURAL SOLUTIONS.” It is negative, in Golem XIV's
mind, not only because of its imperfect replication, but also because
evolution “cares” not for its creations, and only for the code. Another
negative aspect is that life moves from feeding on the “pure” energy of
the star (photosynthesis), and begins feeding on itself—cannibalizing
in ever wider cycles of recursion—i.e. the “food chain”.
Because evolution “cares” only for its code, it did not
attempt to solve the problem of organismic death. But then again,
evolution proceeds in waves transcending-and-including each other into
higher and higher powers, from mutation to sexual reproduction and into
culture and beyond—creating ever more intelligent and powerful
creations along the way. Evolution has now entered its phase of
“auto-evolution,” as Lem terms it—evolution self-put to the task of
deliberately evolving itself. Mankind, now taking control of evolution,
has its own newly emergent problems and goals, and the predicament of
“natural death” or senescence is indeed being unraveled as we speak.
As we have seen, it was this imperfect replication itself—this
mutability—which was the initial creative, learning and intelligent
function of the code. A perfect linguistic replication can never make
mistakes and can never learn. It can never create or solve problems,
but can merely recapitulate itself to eternity. In this “negative
gradient”—from a sterile, immutable Eden into the fecund Earth of
continual creation—evolutionary intelligence has “fallen.”
But critically, for our purposes DNA is a causative mnemonics;
a living, breathing, replicating language of memory. This “imperfect”
memory allowed the first level of geologically slow creativity and
intelligence to emerge. Sexual reproduction and selection, on the other
hand, can't so easily be seen as merely a failed causative and
replicative language, but rather a successful collaboration between two
organisms to bring about a new one. But not only that. It is a
collaboration and a communication between organisms and their code. An
intelligent cultivating third, interfacing between two of its own
intelligences, injecting their combined intelligence back into the
evolutionary stream of creation which engendered their communicative
dance in the first place.
Sex, Feedback and Evolutionary Sensation
Stepping back to look at the whole of life on Earth, we see it
evolving within the thin interface and atmosphere of the planet. We
know that life penetrates or emerges from this interface at depths and
heights which to us are difficult to imagine, but in relation to the
earth, life is concentrated within a thin film of atmosphere,
hydrosphere and lithosphere, whose depth may be rightly compared to the
thickness of the skin of an apple. Indeed, we can again see the
interface as key when we reflect that this living cosmic membrane
occurs precisely at the boundary between the “order” of the frigid
reaches of interstellar space and the “chaos” of the molten core of the
earth, both of which are hostile to life, yet at their enfolding and
unfolding interface, life flourishes. Life itself is a
cultivated/cultivating third, on this “third rock from the sun.”
Stepping back yet again, we see life emerging at another
interface, the “sweet spot” or “habitable zone” of the temperature
gradient of the planetary orbit of the earth, just close enough to the
sun for life to evolve through the benefit of photosynthesis, and just
far enough away for those life-forms to avoid burning up.
So the relative interface of experience, memory and knowledge
can be seen in the visceral and vivid terms of the evolution of life
itself as it begins to encode the results of its interactions—its
“experiences”—into the embodied genetic code and memory of its
organisms. These “genetic memories”—through the causative language of
DNA, and protein expression—recall and recount only those successes in
the game of life. But these genetic recollections, causatively
expressed into cycles of living replicating organisms, are the very
rudiments of our mnemonic primitives. They are the genetic-mnemonic
primitives where the memory of the chain of successes of evolution is
directly or causally encoded into the organism at the very beginnings
of the emergence of knowledge, intelligence, rationality, and
experience (empiricism)—long before representation has dreamed itself
Through natural and sexual selection, the story of life is ever
told anew by its victors, but it is told directly and immediately in
the causative language of DNA. This causative language, now injecting
its selections back into the deep evolutionary stream of creation, is
part of the feedback or “sensation” of “what works” in the game of
life—and by absence of a vote, what doesn't. Without this additive
function of natural selection and the recursive function of sexual
selection there is no “sensation” or feedback of any gradient into
greater and greater function and intelligence, and thus no evolution.
Deep Evolution and the Intensive Forces
And naturally, we can see this purely positive reinforcement of the
living story of evolution—told only by its victors—as a form of the
familiar Deleuzian intensive forces, arising from the immanent,
sub-representational level of the causative language of evolution. The
intelligence of evolution itself functions on the intensive forces of
this purely positive feedback. The intensive forces of the “additive”
and recursive functions of natural and sexual selection—informing and
re-injecting evolution only with its successes—is the very rudiments of
evolutionary sensation, and it is naturally coupled with the rudiments
of memory in the genetic code. As this ever renewing tale is directly
“memorized” (encoded) and expressed in the causative language of DNA,
it echoes, recapitulates and unfolds into the very embryogenesis of its
Quoted from Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control.
The phrase was invented by Herbert Spencer for his spin-off of evolution called “Social Darwinism”.
Quoted in Kelly, Out of Control
For a brilliant and fun exploration of the intelligence of evolution see George Dyson’s book Darwin Among the Machines.
The Cambrian explosion occurred around 500 million years after the invention of sex. Because the intelligence power of sexual selection is indeed dependent on the intelligence power of its participants, then one would expect that its power would increase exponentially as it starts feeding back into itself its new powers. It then perhaps took around 500 million years to reach the bend of the knee of this curve.
Indeed, as we’d expect from a true polarity, though Lem’s meaning is clearly intended as “The meaning of the organism is the code,” it’s hard to really or ultimately pin down which is the transmitter and which the transmission; the organism or the code. Does evolution transmit its meaning into its organisms as code, or does the organism transmit its deepest meaning through reproduction of the code? Of course this breaks down into “mere” semantics…
… or with the “deep hot biosphere” perhaps the depth of an orange peel, or more. (see Thomas Gold)
8. It is, of course, just a coincidence that the earth is the “third rock” or node from the sun. Indeed, it is very likely only the third visible node from the sun. Let us not break down into numerology, but remain in the power and embrace of logic and causation.
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