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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at [email protected].
A Post-metaphysical Metaphysics of the Kosmic Witness
What I am suggesting here is that DNA as the template for life is a fractal iteration at the molecular level of the primordial Witnessing Process.
Just as the Yin-Yang condensate of a virtual particle-antiparticle pair briefly appears, interacts with the physical world, and records its interaction as a memory trace in the fabric of space-time when it returns to the quantum vacuum, so on the biochemical level we can say there is a sensual/sentient Shiva-Shakti condensate consisting of the nucleotide pairs of A-T and C-G. These pairs begin as self-replicating RNA strands and combine to make double-helical DNA strands that likewise (taking their cue from the yin-yang condensate process) interact with their environment and then record that interaction as a memory trace into the fabric of the DNA itself.
What I am suggesting here is that DNA as the template for life is a fractal iteration at the molecular level of the primordial Witnessing Process, the yin-yang condensate of particle-antiparticle pairs that emerge from the quantum vacuum and record a memory trace into the fabric of space. Thus it could be said that the nucleotide pairs of the DNA are the biochemical eyes of Spirit, witnessing interactions at the biochemical level from moment to moment and recording them as memory traces for future retrieval. The accumulation of such memories would be the equivalent of the learning process of the organism and of consciousness itself.
However we must be careful in conceptualizing this process. Does DNA interact directly with the environment and record its interaction/experiences into the DNA, just as the process of learning through the memories of neurons in advanced consciousness occurs? In the early stages of biochemical evolution this may indeed be how memories were recorded into the DNA. But for more complex life forms genetic memories are recorded (preserved) over many generations through genetic mutation and selection of phenotypes such as strength, speed, shape, color, etc., by environmental interactions.
Therefore, it must be emphasized, in more complex organisms the genes do not interact directly with the environment, but rather their phenotypes do the interacting, and then genotypes are selected over many generations. Nevertheless, epigenetic research suggests that some experiences in a single lifetime of an organism can be inherited by future generations, which then may be reflected in more fully genetic changes as those future generations adjust their behavior to those inherited experiences. So whether DNA directly interacts with its environment or not is not an open and shut case, for it is clearly responsive to the environment in a way that suggests it is not simply a script held captive to a fixed code of conduct that must await mistakes in the code to arise for it to start acting off script. In short, it is not a mechanical molecule, a victim and beneficiary of random mutations, but is capable of self-directing and self-organizing behavior.
Even if the neo-Darwinian model of evolution is essentially correct, where the genetic learning process occurs through the phenotypes interacting with the environment and then the genotypes being selected over many generations, the process remains the same: a phenotypical interaction occurs in the environment, a memory trace is recorded in the selection of DNA genotypes, and that memory is then feedback into the future interaction of phenotypes, from generation to generation. In this case, the eye of Spirit, the monitoring, recording, and feedback of interactions, would be the interaction of phenotypes in the environment determining what genotypes will be selected as the memories to be retrieved for future interactions.
This biological system-dynamic that begins with a Shiva-Shakti condensate (the nucleotide pairs of DNA) has its fractal precedent in the Kosmic Witnessing Process that begins with a Yin-Yang condensate (the particle-antiparticle pairs of the quantum vacuum). Whereas in the Kosmic Process everything, without exception, gets recorded and goes back into the dynamical evolution of the universe, in the bio-Kosmic Process only some things get recorded and go back into the dynamical evolution of life, with many exclusions. What gets remembered and what gets forgotten depends on its functional fit with the environment, or to be more exact, on Justice.
How then does DNA construct an organism? Much the same way that body, mind, culture, and society construct our everyday reality and experience as human beings: by the dialectics and tetrameshing of all four dimensions of our existence, in this case the nucleotides of A-T-C-G, in a continual process from moment to moment (and from generation to generation), involving interactions, memories, and feedback into the on-going dynamical process of adjustment and growth on the basis of past interactions and present circumstances.
If there is one thing we can attribute to such a universal dynamical process it is life-consciousness, which, at their foundation, are one and the same expressions of the Kosmic Witness.