Originally published in: Bulletin of the Czech Geological Survey, 75(1): 73-85. Praha 2000
Library, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Viničná 7, 128 44 Praha
2, Czech Republic
Poole:) "Do you believe in ghosts, Dim?"
(Captain Dimitri Chandler:) "Certainly not, but like every sensible man, I’m affraid of them...""
two wonderful pictures of Robert Broom
are not used in the published article
(taken from Watson, D. M. S. (1952): Robert Broom, 1866-1951. In:
Obituary Notices of Fellows of The Royal Society, 8, 37-70. London)
Broom (1866-1951), born in Scotland, was a palaeontologist 'who in his
work showed himself possessed of genius', wrote his friend, Prof. David
Meredith Seares Watson (1886-1973), shortly after Broom's death. Broom's
memory, as pointed out by Watson, was really extraordinary. He remembered
every fossil and every statement from every of his numerous publications,
every casual remark in letters sent to him, and many other things. Prof.
Raymond Arthur Dart (1893-1988) even wrote about Broom as a skillful chess-player.
When Broom had been asked how chess should be learnt, he said: "Blindfolded,
so that all the moves and positions of the pieces can be memorized."
(Dart 1951). His answer was quite reasonable.
According to John Welwood, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, "specific intuitions usually come to us as diffuse wholes, which we may have difficulty explicating at first or providing reasons for. We simply 'know' something through contacting our diffuse felt sense of the situation. Much scientific and philosophical argumentation and reasoning is often a working back from a conclusion arrived at intuitively, adding the logic or proof steps afterward...." and "Explicating the implicit is like a retransformation or deblurring of the transform back into recognizable form. The first step of explication, direct reference, allows a pattern to emerge from the blur." (Welwood 1982)
there is, of course, something more in the case of Broom's scientific genius.
I must recall the article of Snyder & Mitchell (1999), who have recently
discovered that autistic savants, with their extraordinary skills, have
access to 'lower levels of information' not normally available through
introspection. As pointed out by Birbaumer (1999), this occurs by circumventing
the usual conscious 'executive' brain functions. For most people, the route
to such low-level processing may open up only during severe physical illness
or altered states of consciousness. According to Snyder & Mitchell
(1999), this 'low-level processing' in the autistic savants is effortless
and it does not require training. The skill seems to occur mainly in young
savants, before the age of puberty. The autistic savants operate on the
early stages of processing and do not progress into the later, multisensory
comparisons characteristic of conscious processing. According to Snyder
& Mitchell (1999), we all have the same fundamental cognitive abilities,
but the autistic savants have access to the rapid and early low-level processing
owing to a functional or pathological loss of the executive brain centres.
Maturation induces concept-driven processing of information, which requires
extensive (and time-consuming) comparisons of incoming information and
concepts stored in working memory. The authors argued that creativity involves
the formation of such multisensory interactions in widely distributed areas
of the brain and, therefore, access to the low-level, early processing
stages may be conceptually unproductive. But the latter statement is unconvincing
because of the very existence of Robert Broom himself and some other giants
Broom was an admirer of the work of Sir Richard Owen (1804-1892), who was also physician, morphologist and palaeontologist, and originator (in 1840s) of the distinction between homology and analogy. Practically all subsequent phylogenetic conclusions, regardless of worldview of scientists, have been and are based on Owen's definition of homologue (meaning the same organ under different circumstances) and analogue (different organ under similar circumstances). Interested in Cuvier's work on functional adaptation as well as German non-materialistic science (idealism of romantic Naturphilosophie) of form, Owen advanced the idea of synthesis between functionalism and transcendentalism in vertebrate palaeontology. The latter, transcendental aspect of the biological form (intrinsic structural order of it), was prime for Owen. He suggested that organismal morphologies are variants on perfect or ideal forms (Archetypes or "primal patterns" as the First Cause) and proposed the so-called 'secondary causes' (metagenesis) which were the means of "translating the Word into flesh" (meaning exactly the paraphrase of the New Testament, John 1, 14).
In the last paragraph of Owen's address delivered to the Royal Society of Great Britain and published the same year the author said: "To what natural laws or secondary causes the orderly succession and progression of such organic phenomena may have been committed we as yet are ignorant. But if, without derogation of the Divine power, we may conceive the existence of such ministers, and personify them by the term 'Nature', we learn from the past history of our globe that she has advanced with slow and stately steps, guided by the archetypal light, amidst the wreck of worlds, from the first embodiment of the Vertebrate idea, under its old Ichthyic vestment, until it became arrayed in the glorious garb of the human form." (Owen 1849).
In his Palaeontology, Richard Owen has pointed out that everywhere "in organic nature we see the means not only subservient to an end, but that end accomplished by the simplest means. Hence we are compelled to regard the Great Cause of all, not like certain philosophic ancients, anima mundi, but as an active and anticipating intelligence." And he concluded that "we not only show intelligence evoking means adapted to the end; but, at successive times and periods, producing a change of mechanism adapted to a change in external conditions. Thus the highest generalizations in the science of organic bodies, like the Newtonian laws of universal matter, lead to the unequivocal conviction of a great First Cause, which is certainly not mechanical." (Owen 1860).
Adrian Desmond has well-summarized Owen's position as follows: "Owen needed a sensible alternative to transmutation embedded in a non-materialist framework, and he too turned to German transcendentalism, which he blended and muted with a liberal appeal to law. Far from the sterile hybrid that Huxley would have us believe, the union was astonishingly productive. First, it gave him the ideal Archetype, the 'primal pattern' on which all vertebrates were based. This was a kind of creative blueprint, "what Plato would have called the 'Divine Idea'". In practical terms, it was simply a picture of a generalised or schematic vertebrate; but this in itself provided him with a standard by which to gauge the degree of specialisation of fossil life, and in 1853 he saw it as an indispensable aid in determining the true pattern of emergence 'of new living species'.". And the same author has concluded that the "moral purpose behind Owen's science is clear: to prove that Man was in the Divine Mind at the time of Creation. Owen knew of course that not all fossil lines pointed the human way, in fact only one of many did - still, there was a timeless purpose behind nature's veneer. Romanticism this was, though of a typical British variety: shadows of change masked an eternal truth, a preordained Plan. But Owen was never one to accept the panpsychic mysticism of the German nature-philosophers, under the influence of F. W. J. Schelling, the Prince of Romantics. For Schelling nature was immanent in God and the Divine Intelligence reached out to express itself through a kind of cosmic poetry. Owen denied that the 'Great Cause of all' was an 'all-pervading anima mundi', the more pointedly, perhaps, because Schelling had actually pleaded guilty to a sort of pantheism, and Owen himself had been accused of it by Puseyites. Rather, his God was a traditional British craftsman working to a blueprint." (Desmond 1982).
The latter emphasis on the work of the great Victorian naturalist Richard Owen is very important because we can better understand Broom's evolutionary ideas if we understand Owen's. It is impossible to speak about Owen or Broom without having them constantly in mind with their similar worldviews and intense love of the Bible. As a lifelong and thorough student of the Bible, Robert Broom welcomed many opportunities to function as a lay-preacher. His mother, like his brother Williams, was a strict sectarian of the Plymouth Brethren persuasion but his father John held less dogmatic views. We can understand them from the beautiful passage of a letter to his son Robert: "Try and recollect that in bygone times a dredful divorce has existed between two classes of thinkers -- philosophers and theologians -- to the detriment of both parties. A purely theological training is hardly safe now when natural science has made such strides; and again a purely scientific training though useful and popular does, I think, narrow one's nature and cannot account for the feelings and hopes of our life. Faith has many times a strange basis but assuredly it makes the strongest men." It is crucial that Robert Broom shared religious views with his father John as well as with Richard Owen. Raymond Dart wrote that Robert Broom was an evolutionist who believed in the disembodied existence of spirits and in that his work here was a preparation for a correspondingly vaster work beyond this sphere.
palaeontologists, Broom's genius and great abilities are widely known but
his brilliant work as an evolutionary theorist is much less appreciated.
Many scientists of Broom's times who were not convinced with mutationism
looked to a sort of neo-lamarckism as the general theory of evolution.
Broom, as he himself said, was always an evolutionist but not a Darwinian.
From Broom's viewpoint, the very existence of trends in evolution was quite
fatal to darwinism. Explanation of origin of some organismal structures
by mutations followed by natural selection seemed to him to differ little
from the theory of special creation. According to Broom, lamarckism was
a much better theory, having 'some element of truth in it', but also failing
to explain evolution. Henry Fairfield Osborn also opposed both darwinism
and lamarckism but his 'aristogenesis' seemed to Broom to have much in
common with the related concept of entelechy. Paradoxically, in 1910 Broom
lost his seven-year position at the orthodox university in Stellenbosch
because of his lectures on evolution (Watson 1952). Interested in the work
of Richard Owen, evolutionary theory of H. F. Osborn and the theory of
holism of General Smuts, Broom himself spoke rather about some sort of
an 'intelligent spiritual agency' of two types: a) the lower agency, present
in animals and plants, of limited vision and limited power, and b) that
of a much higher type which has planned and directed evolution (via directing
from time to time the former, inferior agencies). Neo-darwinists tend to
downgrade Broom's theory very briefly. For Simpson (1953), Broom was a
finalist who ascribed goal and purpose of evolution to spirits.
Really, in search for understanding similar forms in nature, naturalists have called upon archetypes, spirits, God, transcendentalism, vitalism, functionalism, structuralism, darwinism, etc. The seventeeth-century neoplatonists (see e.g., Gould 1999b) advocated for a meaningful construction of nature that reveals wisdom and harmonious order of creative forces resulting in a multitude of rather symbolic resemblances. As a surprising consequence they did not identify the fossil fish as a former organism but suggested instead that plastic forces within the rocks can generate the same ideal (archetypal) form as is created by organic forces from the fish's egg. The search is not over. Today, we are even well aware that the scientific research did not and does not constitute a steady progress of advance or a continuous growth of knowledge. That our beliefs are rather a matter of changing paradigms is clearly shown in Thomas Kuhn's famous book (Kuhn 1962) Structure of Scientific Revolutions (in the year of author's death the English edition itself constituted over a million copies sold). Moreover, change of a paradigm needs to make the 'prerequisite leap of faith' thanks to the 'spirit of the time'.
Today, morphologically similar organisms, or homeomorphs, require explanations which are extremely 'paradigm-sensitive' and their existence may be either overlooked (as random coincidence) or variously explained as 'adaptive convergence' (Darwinian adaptation to similar environmental demands), space-time-dependent Darwinian mimicry, sometimes even space-time-dependent unknown local causes (Wallace 1889, p. 254-267), further, of course, as inherited from a common ancestor (any morphological similarity between closely related species is known as parallelism and between unrelated species is termed convergence), as various constructional or fabricational constraints during parallel or convergent evolution, etc. But the demarcation between the two main possibilities, i.e. between parallelism ("similar genotype") and convergence ("similar selective pressure"), is surprisingly arbitrary (Webb 1994). For example, some similarities between a timber wolf and a Tasmanian wolf are attributable to a common ancestor but the cause of the remaining similarity, especially of those traits which are found in the two wolves but not in other mammals of either kind, is that they occupy similar ecological niches (Saunders and Ho 1984, p. 134).
Similar species are frequently phylogenetically related but there are many (and possibly very many) unrelated species with characters quite different from their ancestors but similar to each other. In the Darwinian world, convergences are either ignored as accidents or explained in terms of adaptation to similar mode of life in similar environments via natural selection. Several textbook examples are traditionally clear but these are rather the most apparent from many hundreds of different fossil animal forms whose remains present us with fascinating puzzles. The beautiful streamlined bodies of Palaeozoic and modern sharks resemble those of ichthyosaurs (Mesozoic swimming marine reptiles) and of many cetaceans, especially dolphins. Relatively brief inspection of the whole set of characteristics of these animals leaves no doubt about their independent origin. Likewise, wings of bats, birds and pterosaurs, all functioning in the same way but constructed from different structural elements, point to their separate origins. Birds have feathers but bats stretch their wing membrane between their elongated fingers while pterosaurs used only one finger (see e.g., Gould 1988a).
One of the most popular heterogeneous group comprising repeatedly evolved identical bauplan are sabre-toothed carnivores possessing blade-like, very long and slender upper canine teeth. Very similar sabretooths appeared at various times and various places during the approximately 50-million-year history. They occurred repeatedly and independently in at least four distinct mammalian groups: in completely extinct nimravids, hyaenodontid creodonts, thylacosmilid marsupials, as well as in modern felids. In every time they coexisted succeessfully with their short-canined relatives, and it seems to be a matter of chance that we have no sabretooth with us today (Radinsky and Emerson 1982).
In evolutionary biology as well as evolutionary palaeontology, we defend talking about genealogical genetic relationships because phylogeny is to be explained in material terms and all the hereditary information for a new species seems to be in the genes. A genus is defined as a group of species that are more closely related to one another than to species of another genus. Unfortunately, we have no criterion for specifying how many species should be included within a genus. Therefore, paradoxically, we commonly define a genus as an entity whose members occupy a single 'adaptive zone' as if convergences do not exist (Wood and Collard 1999). In the same way, in spite of the fact that it is known that everything in nature occurs in cycles, all 'natural laws' are supposed to be eternal; although species within higher taxa have relatively uniform species longevities, all extinctions are supposed to be accidental; although ecosystems are utterly complex and all living things utterly interconnected, Gaia (Lovelock 1979, 1988) is generally supposed to be useful but 'romantic and rather mystical metaphore'. The reason these habits of thought endure in spite of the fact that they are paradoxical seems to be that they are strongly paradigm-sensitive.
Morphological convergences are really fascinating whether clearly time-space-dependent or not. We may certainly take into account the following words: "Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account" (Ecclesiastes, 3: 15). But convergences are striking not only from the morphological point of view. For example, it has been documented that navigational systems are developed in amphibians, reptiles and birds along similar lines and that both celestial and magnetic compasses are well and independently established within the three groups (Rodda & Phillips 1992).
seems to be self-evident that molecular techniques have finally solved
the problem of distinction between homology and analogy but the separations
of genealogies and superficial similarities are not necessarily so obvious.
Scientists of the relatively new field of the so-called 'evolutionary developmental
biology' ('evo-devo') had discovered that many genes that shape ontogenetic
development are similar in creatures so different as fruit flies and people.
According to 'evo-devo' specialists, these genes define similar structures
in very different animals but often 'generate' also quite different body
plans. For example, the gene called distal-less seems to be responsible
for budding off appendages from the main body axis in all sorts of creatures
from the fleshy appendages of polychaets, limbs of vertebrates to the strange
tube feet of echinoderms (Wray and Raff 1999). The gene Pax6 of mammals
is similar to the gene eyeless in fruit flies and both seem to 'dictate'
eye development. The vertebrate gene chordin helps to establish cells on
one side of the embryo as dorsal and the other as ventral, and there are
many other examples (for summary see Pennisi & Roush 1997). These findings
are very surprising for phylogenetic reconstructions because we commonly
believe that genes themselves generate all sorts of body plans.
"... the highly developed, or specialized types of one geologic period have not been the parents of the types of succeeding periods, but ...the descent has been derived from the less specialized of preceding ages...Animals of omnivorous food-habits would survive where those which required special foods, would die. Species of small size would survive a scarcity of food, while large ones would perish... the lines of descent of Mammalia have originated or been continued through forms of small size. The same is true of all other Vertebrata... Degeneracy is a fact of evolution ... and its character is that of an extreme specialization, which has been, like an overperfection of structure, unfavorable to survival. In general, then, it has been the 'golden mean' of character which has presented the most favorable condition of survival, in the long run." (Cope 1896, p. 173-174).
Today, 'post-modern' macroevolutionists discuss Cope's law rather differently. But although the trends are much more complex, the basic reality remains the same (Stanley 1973, Gould 1988b). Generalized founders of clades tend to be small. All major animal groups exhibit clear flexibility during early diversification but these same features give way to conservatism just before their extinction. The utterly specialized and complex opportunists stand empirically at the final stage of clade's history. Broom logically concludes that there ”.. are no mammals to-day in the world that are not already specialised so far that they can never evolve into anything very different.” (Broom 1932a). Interestingly, Broom received a letter from Julian Huxley in 1933 where the author says:
have often thought about your idea of the fading out of evolutionary potency,
and though I cannot pretend to agree with some of the philosophical corollaries
which you draw from it, I more and more believe that it is of great importance
as a fact.”
"Dubois went to Java to look for a missing link and found Pithecanthropus after some years. I went to look for a missing link and found one within a few weeks. It may have been an accident, but it is rather strange that the skull should have been blasted out within a week of my going to Sterkfontein, and a most careful hunt for two years did not yield another but only odd bones and teeth." (Robert Broom, from Watson 1952).
other words, Broom was particularly impressed by phenomena for which C.
G. Jung proposed his famous acausal principle of synchronicity. For Jung,
synchronicity represents a principle of meaningful connections between
the subjective and objective world. Jung says: "Although meaning is
an anthropomorphic interpretation it nevertheless forms the indispensable
criterion of synchronicity. What that factor which appears to us as 'meaning'
may be in itself we have no possibility of knowing. As an hypothesis, however,
it is not quite so impossible as may appear at first sight."
And more clearly: "Body and mind are the two aspects of the living being, and that is all we know. Therefore I prefer to say that the two things happen together in a miraculous way, and we have better to leave it at that, because we cannot think of them together. For my own use I have coined a term to illustrate this being together; I say there is a peculiar principle of synchronicity active in the world so that things happen together somehow and behave as if they were the same, and yet for us they are not...".
"...The Chinese philosophers were no fools, but they were as intelligent as we are... They have a science, but you do not understand it. It is not based on the principle of causality. The principle of causality is not the only principle, it is only relative... look at the modern physics! The East bases its thinking and its evaluation of facts on another principle. We have not even a word for that principle... The Eastern word is Tao... Tao can be anything. I use another word to designate it, but it is poor enough, I call it synchronicity. The Easten mind, when it looks at an ensemble of facts, accepts that ensemble as it is, but the Western mind divides it into entities, small quantities... Not so the Eastern mind; it is interested in being together." (Jung 1968).
Nevertheless, for Broom it was rather a transcendental spiritual force who guided his research activities and discoveries. His solution results from the traditional British metaphysics where meaningful coincidences are invariably explained via the agency of transcendental beings. For example, William Whiston, Professor of mathematics at Cambridge, author of the book: "A New Theory of the Earth from its Original to the Consummation of all Things, Wherein the Creation of the World in Six Days, the Universal Deluge, and the General Conflagration, as laid down in the Holy Scriptures, are shewn to be perfectly agreeable to Reason and Philosophy" (written in 1696) attempted to unify Biblical Genesis with forces of the Newtonian universe. In his interpretation, comets became deus ex machina for rendering almsot all catastrophic events of Genesis. Whiston wrote:
"That Omniscient Being, who foresaw when the degeneracy of human nature would be arrived at an unsufferable degree of wickedness... and when consequently his vengeance ought to fall upon them; predisposed and preadapted the orbits and motions of both the comet and the earth, so that at the very time, and only at that time, the former should pass close by the latter and bring that dreadful punishment upon them." (from Gould 1987).
that is the traditional British metaphysics to the core.
the end of it all is the production of spiritual personalities of types
far beyond any with which we are acquainted and for purposes in the universe
of which we cannot even dream.”
So, for Broom, the physical evolution has stopped but the process continues on a higher, spiritual plane. The great prophets of mankind, like Gandhi, now so rare, will become more and more abundant until the whole nature of man will be altered for the better (Broom 1933b, Watson 1952).
us consider also the ideas of A. R. Wallace: "If, therefore, we have
traced one force, however minute, to an origin in our own will, while we
have no knowledge of any other primary cause of force, it does not seem
an improbable conclusion that all force may be will-force; and thus, that
the whole universe is not merely dependent on, but actually is, the will
of higher intelligences or of one Supreme Intelligence...
These speculations are usually held to be far beyond the bounds of science; but they appear to me to be more legitimate deductions from the facts of science than those which consist in reducing the whole universe, not merely to matter, but to matter conceived and defined so as to be philosophically inconsievable. It is surely a great step in advance, to get rid of the notion that matter is a thing of itself, which can exist per se, and must have been eternal, since it is supposed to be indestructible and uncreated, - that force, or the forces of nature, are another thing, given or added to matter, or else its necessary properties, - and that mind is yet another thing, either a product of this matter and its supposed inherent forces, or distinct from and co-existent with it; - and to be able to substitute for this complicated theory, which leads to endless dilemmas and contradictions, the far simpler and more consistent belief, that matter, as an entity distinct from force, does not exist; and that force is a product of mind. Philosophy had long demonstrated our incapacity to prove the existence of matter, as usually conceived; while it admitted the demonstration to each of us of our own self-conscious, spiritual existence. Science has now worked its way up to the same result, and this agreement between them should give us some confidence in their combined teaching." (Wallace: Essays on Natural Selection, IX: Limits of Natural Selection as Applied to Man, from Wallace 1895, p. 212-213)
But we can also encounter with the spiritual uniqueness of man in many atheist writers. At least, let us return briefly to the outstanding giant of modern synthesis, Sir Julian Sorell Huxley. In a bibliographical memoir dedicated to his life and work, Baker (1978) points out that in many essays, Huxley seems almost obsessed with the necessity to impress upon his reader the uniqueness of man who had 'moved across a critical threshold, the threshold from the biological to the psycho-social phase of the universal evolutionary process'. Moreover, Huxley originally suggested that all matter is associated with 'something of the same general description as mind in higher animals' and for this 'mind-like quality' he later proposed the name 'mentoid'. Therefore, Huxley preferred the word Weltstoff to ‘matter’ exactly because the 'world-stuff' had mental (subjective) as well as material (objective) aspects. According to Huxley we cannot discover a supernatural purpose in evolution but ”we can discern a direction – the line of evolutionary progress. And this past direction can serve as a guide in formulating our purpose for the future. Increase of control, increase of independence, increase of internal co-ordination; increase of knowledge, of means of co-ordinating knowledge, of elaborateness and intensity of feeling – those are trends of the most general order…” (Huxley 1942).
In a poem, he reversed the concept of a supernatural creator: "The Universe can live and work and plan, At last made God within the mind of man." J. Huxley believed that 'there is no longer need or room for the supernatural’' but also that the 'transference of the sense of supreme sacredness from fear to love, accomplished by Jesus, led men to wholly new levels of religious value'.
A similar vision we can encounter in Arthur C. Clarke's famous science-fiction Childhood's End (1953). The Overlords, sent by the Overmind to monitor man on his way ahead, appeared suddenly over every city of the Earth. The Overmind has its limits and in the past it had attempted to act directly upon the minds of other intelligent races for the purpose to influence their development. Such attempts had always failed. The Overlords, servants of the Overmind, unified countries, eliminated all poverty, all wars, and supervised the unique evolutionary transformation of humankind into a single spiritual being, resulting in consequences in the destruction of the whole material Earth. Here, Clarke has advanced an interesting idea of transcendental memory present in particular intelligent species:
"There must be such a thing as racial memory, and that memory was somehow independent of time. To it, the future and the past were one."
But the evolutionary transformation of the last human children is most impressive:
an epidemic spreading swiftly from land to land, the metamorphosis infected
the entire human race. It touched practically no one above the age of ten,
and practically no one below that age escaped.
It was the end of civilization, the end of all that men had striven for since the beginning of time. In the space of a few days, humanity had lost its future...
... they (the children) were of all ages from five to fifteen, yet they all moved with the same speed, precision, and complete indifference to their surroundings...
They were emptier than the faces of the dead, for even a corpse has some record carved by time's chisel upon its features, to speak when the lips themselves are dumb. There was no more emotion or feeling here than in the face of a snake or an insect...
...And then in an instant all the trees and grass, all the living creatures that had inhabited this land, flickered out of existence and were gone. There were left only the still lakes, the winding rivers, the rolling brown hills, now stripped of their green carpet - and the silent, indifferent figures who had wrought all this destruction...
"Why did they do it?" gasped Jan.
"Perhaps the presence of other minds disturbed them - even the rudimentary minds of plants and animals. One day, we believe, they may find the material world equally distracting..."
Karellen's surprising answer is confirmed in the last report of the last
man (i.e., last specimen of Homo sapiens), Jan Rodricks, on the final evolutionary
"There's a great burning column, like a tree of fire, reaching above the western horizon. It's a long way off, right round the world. I know where it springs from: they're on their way at last, to become part of the Overmind. Their probation is ended: they're leaving the last remnants of matter behind."
It is impossible to read it without recalling passages from New Testament on those 144,000 sealed, not for damnation but for an eternal spiritual life:
I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living
God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given
power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or
the trees, untill we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our
God." Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all
the tribes of Israel, ...
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands, ...
And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore "they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger, never again will they thirst; the sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."" (Revelation 7)
Of course, in our early post-modern times, palaeontology is often depicted as being simply a science concerning the system of fossil animals and plants. A few palaeontologists still try to uncover the mystery of evolution, curiously often via computer analysis, and frequently denying that there remains a place for speculation. Moreover, the basic research in contemporary evolutionary theory is almost invariably conducted by evolutionary biologists. Unfortunately, the latter assume that to study fossil record is problematical and that to 'document evolution' over a few years should provide a general model for events at all scales and times. But this is an incredible denial of the curious patterns in the fossil record and evolutionary palaeontologists know that nothing can be further from the reality (see e.g., Gould 1998).Acknowledgements
Every palaeontologist is well aware of the fact that computer analysis of fossil assemblages would be essentially impossible without several initial, inevitable, utterly free-thinking speculations. So-to-speak, palaeontologist and the fossil are inseparable. There is no such thing as "objective analysis via computer". The initial subjective reflections on the history of life have always been a hallmark of palaeontology. Today, the science of fossils finds itself more or less in a situation that it requires not only further data but rather a new unifying conception to rationalize and explain vast tracts of relatively very detailed but unconnected informations. Types of and even the very existence of connections of the informations are, however, 'paradigm-sensitive' and paradigms themselves cannot be generated by computers, at least at present. In the long history of evolutionary thinking, repeated trends are well-documented in the fossil record but had been markedly differently explained (sometimes even denied!) by various paradigm-dependent theorists. Sir Julian Huxley (as well as some other giants of the modern synthesis, as e.g., Bernhard Rensch or G. Ledyard Stebbins) had often conceived the problem of trends and progress in evolution from the neo-Darwinian perspective but never closed eyes before the reality of the patterns in the fossil record. It is the self-evident goal of evolutionary palaeontology to derive a theory from the avalanche of data provided by systematic palaeontologists, biostratigraphers and collectors. According to Robert Broom, a palaeontologist "...is the man who can give some definite account of what has happened in nature..."
Paradigms change but the patterns in the fossil record remain unchanged. Broom proposed an evolutionary theory of his own but used words of his times. The spiritual force operating 'from time to time' has for us strong implications of natural cycles. Geological time and its rhythms is extremely important and nobody can deny the existence of a sort of 'spirit of the time' because "... we all experience the quality of time through what Germans call the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the time. No one knows why different periods of human history should have particular moods, feelings and fashions..." (Sheldrake 1990). Many of us are recalling that there is a "time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build..." (Ecclesiastes, 3: 1-3). In Plato's Timaeus, time is born when a divine worksmith imposes order and form on primaeval chaos. Two aspects of reality are proposed by Timaeus: 1) eternal world of Being, and 2) everchanging world of Becoming, i.e. of time (the world of Becoming is coming to be and ceasing to be, but as a mere object of opinion and irrational sensation it is never fully real).
The geological as well as biological time is rhythmic. Running or sitting makes our heart rate rising or falling in response to the body's needs. Ebbs and flows of some rhythms in human body are known as biorhythms, many starting from the moment of birth. Organisms of the everchanging world undergo rhythmic oscillations, periodicities, or cycles. The tick of celestial time has rhythms that are utterly fundamental to life on Earth. Surprisingly, the so-called ’directional time’ was not always experienced in human history. Time is so inseparable from the circular movement of heavens that it was often supposed to be inherently cyclic, ’circular’.
Rhythmic fluctuations of animal populations are also well known for ecologists, and often very problematical (see e.g., Elton 1924, 1933, 1942, Zimmer 1999). Organisms must cope with temporal variations of the physical environment and adjust their physiology and behaviour to them. So, they are provided, individuals, as well as whole species, with intrinsic, innate, endogeneous rhythmic 'programs' that match the astronomical cycles and allow the 'adjustment' of all biological activities to a number of temporal changes. The best known of them are daily periodicities (rotation of the Earth, movements of the Sun and of the Moon in relation to the Earth) but I hope that many readers are recalling that also annual cycles of whole ecosystems and even higher order rhythms operating for long stretches of time are known. Such rhythms, commonly related to astronomical events, are as obvious in the physiological behaviour of organisms as well as in the social behaviour of human beings (Young & Ziman 1971).
So, Broom's 'spiritual force operating from time to time' represents nothing unusual. It is his own interpretation of the ever-changing reality, of visible empirical patterns revealed in the fossil record.
The great Stephen Jay Gould - Simon Conway Morris debate
Broom clearly differs from darwinists in his particular causal explanation of evolution, and especially of convergent evolution. From the post-modern point of view, this problem is well-paralleled in the curious debate of Gould and Conway Morris, reflecting opinions of two different present-day Darwinian schools. Stephen Jay Gould is certainly the most influential evolutionary thinker of about the last 25 years and co-author of the theory of punctuated equilibria (Eldredge and Gould 1972). He makes evolutionary palaeontology accessible through a wealth of stories, quotations and references ranging over a wide variety of topics, explaining complex ideas of almost all great scientists in human history. He is an heterodox, thought-provoking structuralist but also a very orthodox darwinist, leaning toward one or another mode of thinking. No book on the so-called 'Cambrian explosion' (and on Palaeozoic fossils at all) has achieved as wide readership as Gould's Wonderful Life (1989) but today, palaeontologist Simon Conway Morris, in his new book The Crucible of Creation (1998), attacks Gould's structuralist understanding of evolution in many ways. Especially, he does not accept Gould's view of the Burgess Shale animals as evolutionary dead end but rather supposes this unique fauna as progenitor of modern groups (for their battle see esp. Conway Morris 1999, Gould 1999a). Moreover, Conway Morris charges Gould about implications of some 'unorthodox mechanisms' during the evolution of Burgess Shale animals.
The key for probable solution may clearly provide the law of unspecialized ancestor (of which the well-known 'Cope's Rule' forms a special part) which we have already mentioned above. All major animal groups exhibit distinct flexibility during their early diversification but these same features give way to conservatism just before their extinction. Such utterly specialized and complex forms as represented by the Burgess Shale fauna stand empirically at the final stage of their history. This empirical law suggests clearly that Gould did not fail to realize what is present in the fossil record.
But in the debate there is one most striking paradox. Conway Morris points to the common reality of convergences in the fossil record but it is just what would be expected from the point of view of a structuralist (but, of course, not of all structuralists!), i. e. of the more heterodox Gould. But the latter, on the other hand emphasizes as usually chance and often denies the very existence of majority of convergences. Stephen Jay Gould, in one of his very rare articles concerning a fascinating case of mimicry states: "I promise to relate the story ... just a few paragraphs down the road, but first some comments on the general evolutionary phenomenon of look-alikes in a world with a predominant and opposite motif of diversification into a stunning variety of unique objects" (Gould 1993, p. 14). But it is just what would be rather expected from the point of view of the relatively more orthodox darwinist (again, not of all darwinists!), i. e. Conway Morris. Consider, for instance, an analogy. A rapid initial 'radiation' of mammals has followed a mass extinction of dinosaurs and of many marine and flying reptiles. The mass extinction subsequently allowed mammals to 'radiate' (to have 'elevated rates of origination'), and, thanks to numerous convergences, to replace ecologically the previous groups. But Conway Morris understands, seemingly 'appropriating' the argument of his rival to himself and vice versa (as if conclusions of both the outstanding scientists are to be based sometimes on real observation, sometimes on strictly personal worldview).
Here, we can consider even parallels of Gould's and some typically non-Darwinian propositions. Structuralist Frankfurt school of constructional morphologists deny the existence of camouflage and mimicry by saying that "the predator probably cannot see it" (Edlinger, Gutmann and Weingarten 1991). This position is clearly not far from Gould's curious argumentation that striking convergences are generally a matter of 'psychological hope and social convention'. So, Gould's position is curious: he may be (and is) attacked by darwinists as being a Goldschmidtian non-Darwinian structuralist destroying the gradual adaptationist scheme of changed conditions followed by natural selection, while he may be (and is) attacked by heterodox evolutionists as a person who "has pounded natural selection into a fine, anti-progressivist blade, which he has wielded to protect the lineage of neo-Darwinism." (Richards 1992). The embarassing part is that both attacks are right or wrong: that makes no difference. The crux of the debate is that Conway Morris is quite right in maintaining that there are many convergences in the fossil record - because it is a visible fact. The denial of the existence of progressive trends and of striking convergences in the fossil record is not based on facts but makes a sort of religious faith in Randomness. So, to any perceptive reader, the debate offers food for thought about the battle of two very different lines of neo-Darwinian ideologies, both claiming to be true, and both stressing the importance of being ideologically correct. Consequently, the reality of the fossil record sometimes escapes their 'empirical attention'.
Heterochrony from a post-modern point of view
Ernst Haeckel's 'biogenetic law' (proposing that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny) is discredited due to many limitations. We know that, for example, in bird embryo there are no signs of developing scales before feathers. So, today it is generally agreed that ontogeny can only partially recapitulate phylogeny and that the 'evolution by heterochrony' can 'translate' dramatic ontogenetic changes into morphological variations on an evolutionary scale by modifying the rates and timing of ontogenetic developmental processes. The morphological outcomes of these interesting modifications are phenomena called 'paedomorphosis' and 'peramorphosis' (see e.g., Klingenberg 1998). When is it paedomorphosis and when peramorphosis? A descendant is defined as paedomorphic if its own later ontogenetic stages retain morphological characteristics from earlier ontogenetic stages of its ancestor: we say that the evolution 'goes back' and such a phenomenon is well-known as 'reverse recapitulation' (Alberch et al. 1979). But the descendant is defined as peramorphic if its own later ontogenetic stages produce exaggerated morphological characteristics derived from later ontogenetic stages of its ancestor. Here, the evolutions 'goes ahead', in other words: ontogenetic development and evolution have the same direction.
From the modern point of view, there is no other possibility. It is because we feel that any different explanation will be a denial of everything we have discovered, especially of the 'freedom' in evolution, of self-evident adaptation to random changes in conditions. Heterochrony seems to be reasonably explained in this light because we know that the so-called 'preformation theory' was again and again disproved three or two centuries ago. Although the latter theory formed for many previous philosophers an easy explanation of creation, it is essentially mechanistic. Curiously, we are now certain that there is no destiny or fate in evolution and that the notion of any preformation seems to be absurd. But it is a paradox. As clearly pointed out by Sheldrake (1988, p. 73-87), Weismann's immortal germ-plasm (central dogma of molecular biology), common modern concept of genetic code, or even Dawkins's notion of the selfish genes, these are all the same thing - a resurrected subtle form of preformationism. Moreover, we believe the idea of epigenesis to be an excellent one but do not use it at all (epigenesis means that more material forms arise from less but it is just what would be rather expected from the point of view of Plato)!
From the post-modern point of view, the concept of paedomorphosis is equally to be understood in terms of 'prophetic stages'. Such a position represents by no means any return to the concept of preformation of the world all at once or to another extreme version of the doctrine of predestination. Evolution is apparently neither wholly orderly nor wholly disorderly, and we certainly cannot point to any 'universal plan' with steady progression toward a discernible goal. We will only stress that never has been convincingly shown that Zeitgeist is not characteristic of evolution and that it is not a key to any of its operations.
A note on Plato's allegory in relation to the British metaphysics
A sort of a strict dualism between mind and matter is deeply embedded in almost all modern Western ideas. Our everyday language is dualistic. We all know that mind and matter are mutually interconnected and interpenetrated but we behave as if they are cut off from one another. We even believe that the duality of form and matter, mind and matter, spirit and matter, etc. is inherent in all traditional Western philosophies, beginning with Plato. But we rather change real history.
George Berkeley's solution to the problem "what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations" gives a self-evident answer: "utterly nothing", and this latter view is identical with an uncountable multitude of Oriental as well as Western philosophical teachings. Of course, for the purpose to describe nature of reality various sorts of terminologies are used but the world remains the same. Mind and matter are not strictly separate entities divided from one another. The so-called 'perennial philosophy' of the outstanding German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) and of the contemporary American philosopher Ken Wilber are clear: the reality is non-dual, "neither one nor many, neither permanent nor dynamic, neither separate nor unified, neither pluralistic nor holistic..." (Wilber 1996b). Author of the well-known Gaia hypothesis, James Lovelock (1979, 1988) writes: "If we are a part of Gaia it becomes interesting to ask: 'To what extent is our collective intelligence also a part of Gaia? Do we as a species constitute a Gaian nervous system and a brain which can consciously anticipate environmental changes?..." (Lovelock 1979, p. 147). A positive answer to this question is very important and depth-gaining because without it Gaia will remain only a 'romantic useful metaphore', cutting off from her mind.
Let us return to Plato and recall the two aspects of reality proposed by Timaeus: eternal world of Being and everchanging world of Becoming, i.e. of time ("What is that which always is and has no becoming; and what is that which is always becoming and never is?"). It is often believed that 'Platonic Ideas' are eternal, transcendental, beyond space and time, cut off from this world, and that this is a consequence of Plato's dualism. Moreover, it is now equally believed that natural laws are eternal, beyond space and time, and that this is self-evident for our atheistic 'materialism'. But the reverse is the truth. Plato's two worlds are essentially inseparable. In Plato's Timaeus, the reality is described from several points of view of the same person. Anthony Storm has pointed out that Plato never speaks directly through Socrates. In Timaeus, Socrates states: "One, two, three; but where, my dear Timaeus, is the fourth of those who were yesterday my guests and are to be my entertainers to-day?" The sentence is very important, suggesting that in the dialogues Plato himself is split into 'psychological quaternity' for a simple purpose of presenting different aspects of an idea, sometimes agreeing with this speaker, sometimes with that one. But the reality is for him non-dual. Wilber (1982) says: "Plato's cave is an excellent analogy, as long as we remember its paradoxical nature. There are the manifest shaddows in the cave; there is an absolute Light of reality beyond the cave; and ultimately they are not-two..." and Plato himself in the famous paragraph: "This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed -- whether rightly or wrongly God knows..." (from Plato's Republic, Pt III: Philosopher King, 29: Allegory of the Cave, Benjamin Jowett's translation)
Plato's pupil Plotinus is much more clear in this respect, suggesting that spirit constantly empties itself (effluxes) into this world while this world constantly returns (refluxes) to spirit. So, the "absolute is both the highest level of reality and the condition or real nature of every level of reality" (Wilber 1982).
On the other hand, the British emphasis of the dual character of reality is evident from the start. God is the 'traditional British craftsman'. The best example of this view is to be found in the work of one of the most brilliant scientists of the world, physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton (1642-1727)). In his Optics we can read: "Whilst the comets move in orbs very excentrical, with all variety of directions towards every part of the heavens; 'tis not possible it should have been caused by blind fate, that the planets all move with one similar direction in concentrick orbs; excepting only some very small irregularities, which may have arisen from the mutual actions of the planets and comets upon one another; and which 'tis probable will in length of time increase more and more, till the present system of nature shall want to be anew put in order by its Author."
The German philosopher G. W. Leibniz (he and Newton were contemporaries) beautifully described the essentials of British metaphysics in his correspondence with the English philosopher and Newton's disciple, Samuel Clarke (1675-1729). Leibniz wrote:
"...Newton says that space is the organ which God makes use of to perceive things by... According to them (Newton and his followers) God has to wind up his watch from time to time. Otherwise it would cease to go. He lacked sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion. This machine of God's is even, on their view, so imperfect that he is obliged to clean it from time to time by an extraordinary concourse, and even to mend it, as a clockmaker might his handiwork..." (Leibniz's First paper to Clarke, 1715, from Leibniz 1995, p. 205-206). Of course, Leibniz's 'continental view' was that the God's force is present in the world always, not only from time to time.
One of the giants in the field of theology, philosophy, astronomy, mineralogy, and history of science, William Whewell (1794-1866), wrote in the motto to Darwin's Origin of Species: "But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this - we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws" (here taken from Darwin 1860; it appeared originally in the Whewell's contribution to the famous 'Bridgewater Treatise'). God, Creator, or 'traditional British craftsman' mentioned by Desmond (1982) is rather supernatural. His traces have remained in materialism, in which the 'natural laws' are superimposed on nature. The eternal laws are none other than a consequence of the British dualism between the ever-changing world (handiwork - matter - "machine" - nature) and its ever-lasting Creator (workman - mind - "ghost" - law).
'Natura naturata', 'natura naturans'
and a note on darwinism and scientific creationism
The German term 'Zeitgeist' may be attributable to manifestations of the unseen productive powers, to human society as well as to the nature as a whole. Because the reality is non-dual, Zeitgeist itself is somewhat beyond grasp, beyond any description. It is transcendental, invisible, transcending all speech, all images ('natura naturans'); but it is also immanent in all things and everything in this world is to be regarded as its manifestation, the visible or sensible God ('natura naturata'). The 'transcending powers' are not outside nature. Leibniz clearly stated: "... by miracles, anything can easily be accounted for... God will not be Intelligentia Supramundana, he will be included in the nature of things, that is to say, he will be the Soul of the World." (Leibniz's Second paper to Clarke, 1715, from Leibniz 1995, p. 210).
In Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling's philosophy spirit goes out of itself to produce 'objective nature', awakens to itself in 'subjective mind', and then recovers itself in 'nondual awareness'. In Schelling's own words: "objective and subjective are so united that one cannot say which of the two has priority. Here there is no first and second; both are simultaneous and one." Other German naturalists and philosophers are equally clear. Carl Gustav Carus says: "Die Seele ist der Sinn der Leibeserscheinung, und der Leib ist die Erscheinung der Seele...", or Johann Wolfgang Goethe: "Die Natur in Gott, Gott in der Natur..." But even in G. W. F. Hegel's philosophy nature is not set against Spirit, it is rather 'slumbering Spirit', 'God in his otherness', 'self-alienated Spirit' (that is to say, the lowest form of Spirit on its way to return to Spirit). According to Ken Wilber: "...nature is a 'self-organizing dynamic system' that is 'the objective manifestation of Spirit' - precisely Plato's 'visible, sensible God,' but now set developmentally afloat. So nature is most definitely not a static or deterministic machine. For Schelling, nature is 'God-in-the-making.' " (Wilber 1996b)
So, as we have just seen, in theistic religion, 'natura naturans' (naturing nature) and 'natura naturata' (natured nature) cannot be separated. Unfortunately, attempts of deistic religion to remove at least some of the active powers from nature are successful in scientific creationism and, paradoxically, modern neo-darwinism. One would think that modern darwinists are immune to believing transcending powers and dualism typical for scientific creationists. Let us recall that as we have already noted, religious founders of mechanistic science have expelled during the deistic scientific revolution almost all active powers from nature, step by step, and placed them in the 'supernatural Creator' (really an unfortunate attempt for both the religion and science), leaving to nature relatively passive matter in motion governed by some invisible forces (natural laws, natural selection, genetic programs, etc.). The latter have remained because any attempt to remove all traces of the self-evident spontaneous organizing activity from nature was impossible from the outset (see Sheldrake 1990, p. 61-62). Reduction of the reality makes the basis of research and its outstanding results but also some very unfortunate consequences of the modern scientific revolution. It ought to be stressed that the map is not the landscape itself. We need both reductionism and holism or we would suffer from a dangerous crisis of perception. Fritjof Capra says that "it is the Cartesian view that values competition more than cooperation and therefore sees only competition in nature and not the cooperation. And with that sees the separation, the separate objects, rather than the interconnected patterns" (Capra in Weber 1982).
All development in the Darwinian world is commonly pictured as relatively passive random modifications governed by unseen productive power of natural selection. But the utterly transcending creative power needs no real research - everything is already explained in the theory itself. Without doubts and hesitations, darwinists and scientific creationists believe tales that conflict with evidence and clearly undervalue the role of the "patterns of nature". Between scientific creationism and the modern neo-darwinism there is no fundamental difference: nature is often very helplessly cut off from the governing principles in both. So, too, both the concepts are apparently cut off from the reality itself (scientific creationism based directly on the chapters in Bible, orthodox neo-darwinism on the logical construction of the Theory of Natural Selection). From the Popperian perspective, both can neither be proven nor falsified. From this point of view 'scientific creationism' is at least as good as modern neo-darwinism. Although both were originally derived from an extreme version of the British metaphysics, both only talk about the truth but they do nothing about it. The great traditional "Argument from Design" has been replaced by two misleading ones - "Argument from Biblical texts" and "Argument from the Theory". Moreover, scientific creationism and darwinism lack the most beautiful aspect of the traditional British metaphysics - the bold wings of poesy.
I thank to all librarians of the Geological Survey of South Africa in Pretoria, who, several years ago, sent me kindly requested copies of some crucial Broom's articles. Special thanks are extended to David Kománek (Faculty of Science, Charles University, Praha) for printing of the whole manuscript and to Zdeněk Kukal (Czech Geological Survey, Praha) for some very valuable suggestions. I am extremely indebted to my American friend Frederick H. C. Hotchkiss for his constant and generous help with literature, especially for sending me the New International Version of the Holy Bible published by Zondervan (Grand Rapids, Michigan), and for his most encouraging comments.
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