The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

The Evolution of Nature’s Destiny

Michael DentonIn 1985, a book by a largely unknown Australian biologist and physician, Michael Denton, was published in London: Evolution: A Theory in Crisis and soon won a wide and appreciative audience. Denton offered a systematic critique of neo-Darwinism, evaluating skeptically both the mechanism of evolution, and the patterns of evidence (fossil, embryological, anatomical, molecular) usually adduced in support of the theory of common descent. His book was instrumental in starting the intelligent design movement.

In August 1998, Denton’s eagerly-awaited second book arrived: Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe. Readers expecting a continuation of the arguments of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, however, found a line of argument markedly different from the earlier book. Although much of Denton’s skepticism about neo-Darwinism remained, gone were the challenges to the theory of universal common descent–i.e., the common ancestry of all terrestrial organisms–which had made Evolution especially controversial with mainstream biologists. In their place was an unstinting advocacy of common descent, and a notion of “directed evolution” in which the historical unfolding of life on earth was “built into” the universe from the start.1

Denton came up in conversation last night with my son. As a young graduate scientist working in Biochemistry and Chemical Pathology I had the pleasure of working with the young Dr. Michael Denton who was a MD Registrar training as a Pathologist and spent two years in our department. I remember many wonderful conversations with him about evolution, genetics and gene coding. He even gave me a couple of photocopied typewritten drafts of his Evolution: A theory in Crisis, a work in progress, which I still have somewhere in a box.

I remember him remarking that he wasn’t writing the book to say that the universe and life is created, but rather to challenge neo-Darwinian interpretation of evolution theory – the current science didn’t sustain the model of all lifeforms having evolved from the random assemblage of proto-biochemicals in the primordial soup and acted upon by random genetic mutation and natural selection. It did however, beg the question. If not evolution, then what? He was also motivated by his disdain of social Darwinism.

I last saw him when I quit my paramedical career to pursue life in a spiritual community based on principles contained in the world’s oldest sacred text, the Vedas, from the Indian sub-continent. The Vedas are written in the language of Sanskrit, long considered to be the root of all Indo European languages such as Greek and Latin. Mike was one of the few people in my life who appreciated and respected the path I was choosing and warmly wished me well.

The Vedas describe the Universe as being composed of earth, water, air, fire and ether, ego, intelligence, mind and senses and eminates from sound vibration. Consciousness pervades the universe, indeed the universe is manifest from the supreme consciousness. Consciousness begets life, not the other way around. In Vedic cosmology, consciousness is entropic – an individual soul will tend to devolve in consciousness to lower life forms as part of the deal it makes with the supreme soul in the eternal mists of time resulting in countless cycles of birth and death since time immemorial. That is called the material world. It is temporary and subject to cyclic destruction and re-creation. Human souls, and those affected by their actions, can be liberated to the spiritual world only under optimal circumstances.

Even though I had studied and written numerous exam questions on Darwinian evolution it struck me as a rather incomplete, speculative and mechanistic explanation of life and its origins. As it turned out, Mike Denton’s research sat sympathetically with my future Vedic understandings.

Critics2 say that Denton has converted from creationist to evolutionist. However, that is not the case. On the basis of contemporary science in 1985, Denton warned that the complexity of life could not be satisfactorily explained by the physical limitations and constraints found in the underlying biomolecular mechanisms. The big surprise in genetic molecular biology since then has come from mapping entire genomes to find that around 90% of DNA sequences are shared in common by all organisms and that only minuscule change is required to account for all species and organisms – a plausible mechanism for common genetic decent.

Denton took this new revelation and proceeded3 to develop an evolutionary cosmology, in which there is abundant evidence for common descent and an implicit suggestion that evolution is directed and programmed – that humankind literally is the point of creation and is the end product of a divine design. While the diversity of species can be explained within our scientific understanding of the history of the earth, given the common genetic mechanism, the origin of the common DNA with the full tree of life implicit cannot.

Contrary to the creationist position4, the whole argument presented here is critically dependent on the presumption of the unbroken continuity of the organic world – that is, on the reality of organic evolution and on the presumption that all living organisms on earth are natural forms in the profoundest sense of the word, no less natural than salt crystals, atoms, waterfalls, or galaxies.

Pretty much still in accord with a Vedic universe manifest from consciousness – the five elementary ingredients of creation, the interaction thereof set up by eternal time, and the intuition or nature of the individual living beings are all differentiated parts and parcels of the Personality of Godhead, Vāsudeva, and in truth there is no other value in them5.

May the force be with you, Mike!

1 Access Research Network
2 Edward Babinski
3 Edward Babinski
4 Michael Denton, Nature’s Destiny, pp xvii-xviii
5 Srimad Bhagavatam

Filed under: Big Picture, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Technology

One Response

  1. […] from The Dog’s Bollocks reveals Vedantic tendencies in musing about “directed evolution”, which isn’t quite as obviously silly as “intelligent […]

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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