The Third Level
With the benefit of the information developed in our consideration of Level 2 in the preceding chapter, we are now in a position to begin an exploration of the less readily accessible third level. The general situation is the same in both cases. Inanimate matter (Level 1) aggregates into increasingly larger units under the influence of gravitation and the other forces that operate in this inanimate region. Some of this aggregation has the effect of developing structures that are more complex as well as larger, and at a certain point in the order of complexity the behavior of each unit changes radically, in some important respects even reversing the previous pattern. This we have interpreted as indicating that the complex Level 1 structure formed by the aggregation of matter has entered into a combination with a unit from the cosmic sector of the universe—Sector 2—and is now under the control of the latter.
Similarly, the biological structures formed by combinations of this nature gradually increase in complexity by evolutionary processes (not by mere aggregation as in inanimate matter) and when this complexity reaches a certain point, we again see a radical change in behavior, as before reversing the previous pattern in some important respects. Since we have already found that there is a third sector of existence as a whole which is capable of exerting an influence in the local region, we may conclude that the explanation for the observed situation is the same as at the lower discontinuity; that is, a unit from another sector of the universe—in this case Sector 3—has entered into a combination with the biological structure and has taken some degree of control of it. In the pages that follow, it will be demonstrated that there is sufficient evidence to provide a definite confirmation of this conclusion.
The fact that survival is the dominant objective in the living world and the controlling factor in the evolutionary process not only means that all possible developments favorable to survival will eventually take place; it also means that no development unfavorable to survival can take place by means of biological evolution. Because of a subsequent change in the environment, an evolutionary modification may occasionally turn out to be detrimental to survival in the long run, as a purely mechanistic process of this kind cannot anticipate what the future has in store, but a modification which is inherently unfavorable for survival has no chance at any time. Evolution cannot produce a unit with a behavior pattern that relegates survival to a subordinate role; the kind of a pattern that distinguishes Level 3 of observable existence.
As in the transition from non-living to living, there is an immense gap here which the adherents of the “continuity” theory simply ignore. No one has been able to produce any plausible explanation of how man acquired the first ethical ideas; how he was able to transcend the evolutionary limitations even to a very minor degree. Most casual observers simply assume that the transition from animal to man was one which took place in “a series of almost imperceptible steps,” as Walker characterized the transition from non-living to living. But any critical analysis shows that, in both of these cases, the change is a revolutionary one, inherently incapable of being accomplished in steps of any kind. As J. H. Breasted says in his book The Dawn of Conscience, “The marvel is that a creature rising out of animal savagery should have advanced to begin the great transformation at all.”122
This is indeed a “marvel”; not an “imperceptible step” but a momentous change. A biological organism which, not only throughout its own life but throughout its whole evolutionary history all the way up from the most primitive life forms, has been governed by the “tooth and claw” laws of evolution, suddenly changes its course and takes actions contrary to the evolutionary laws of behavior. Like the analogous phenomenon where a giant organic molecule that has hitherto obeyed the Second Law of Thermodynamics implicitly suddenly begins to act in opposition to the Second Law, this rudimentary ethical behavior represents a definite discontinuity in the order of increasing complexity. It is a change that is totally inexplicable other than on the ground that the unit that is involved is now subject to a new directing force: a new set of rules.
The untenable position of those who deny that any new element has entered into the picture, and contend that all human behavior can be explained as a product of evolution, is clearly brought out by the way in which so many of them resort to non-evolutionary explanations of one kind or another if they find it necessary to go beyond a flat statement of their evolutionary position. For example, Kirtley F. Mather makes this positive and unequivocal statement:
The spiritual aspects of the life of man are just as surely a product of the process called evolution as are his brain and nervous system.123
But having said this, he evidently realizes that he cannot maintain such a position, and a few pages later he brings in a demon—an ad hoc force—to take care of the discrepancies:
The inference is valid that man’s awareness of aesthetic values and ethical principles is likewise a response to spiritual forces in the cosmic environment. There may well be a spiritual field, as well as a gravitational field and an electromagnetic field, to which adjustment may be made in accordance with the regulations of the evolutionary process.124
Here we have an individual who is desperately trying to avoid admitting the existence of any metaphysical entities or any non-evolutionary aspects of human life, and before he is through he has, in effect, conceded both. An ad hoc “spiritual field” is indistinguishable from a metaphysical existence, other than semantically, while the idea of a human “adjustment” to that hypothetical field is a direct defiance of evolutionary forces. There is no escape from the fact that much of human behavior involves a drastic change in the governing rules: something that a mechanism, evolutionary or otherwise, is inherently incapable of accomplishing. Later in the discussion we will want to identify and examine some of these new rules.
In the preceding chapter, it was possible to attach names to both Sector 2 of the universe and to the corresponding observed level of existence. Sector 2 has already been given the designation “cosmic” in previously published descriptions of the Reciprocal System, and the name “life” is well established. There are also some terms in common use that might perhaps be adapted to the requirements of the present chapter, but the area we are now entering is one that is subject to extreme differences of opinion and intense partisanship, and any term that we might utilize has implications in current usage that go considerably beyond the meaning that we would want to attach to it. It has seemed advisable, therefore, to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding by continuing to use the expressions Sector 3 and Level 3, without connecting them definitely with any other terms that may currently be applied to concepts in the same areas. Although this introduces a certain stiffness into the presentation, it has the important advantage of not committing ourselves to any specific ideas concerning the phenomena we are investigating until we develop these details one by one in the subsequent discussion.
The Sector 3 units which exercise control over Level 3 existence will be called control units, adding the qualification “Sector 3” only where this appears to be necessary for clarity. The distinction between Sector 3 and Level 3 should be carefully noted. Sector 3 is the existence independent of space and time, the reality of which was inferred from established scientific facts and principles in Chapter 4 and will be confirmed in the ensuing development by standard scientific methods. Level 3 is the stage of existence that we actually observe above the discontinuity at the highest evolutionary stage. On this basis, we arrive at a definition of Level 3 which can be expressed in the same form as the definition of life given in Chapter 6.
Level 3 is a condition in which a living organism is under the control of a unit from Sector 3 of the universe.
Here again, as in the primitive living structure, what we find existing in our observed world is a compound structure. The behavior pattern of a simple living organism is that of the cosmic sector, but the organism itself is not a cosmic structure; it is a material structure under cosmic control. A purely cosmic structure could not exist in the material environment, other than momentarily. At the other end of the scale of complexity of living organisms, we now encounter another type of compound structure. Here the behavior pattern is that of Sector 3, but a structure independent of space and time cannot exist as an observable entity in the space-time universe. Consequently, what we observe is not a Sector 3 structure; it is a living organism under Sector 3 control. It is a material (Sector 1) structure, controlled at the life level by cosmic (Sector 2) influences, and then subject to an overall control by Sector 3 influences.
Observations of human conduct make it clear that complete domination by the Sector 3 control is seldom, if ever, attained at the present stage of the progress of the human race. It is therefore evident that we cannot equate man with the Level 3 structure in the same manner that we were able to equate life with the Level 2 structure. Rather, we will have to identify the Level 3 structure with an idealized kind of human: an ethical man, let us say, giving the term “ethical” a very broad meaning. The boundary line between Level 2 and Level 3, then, is not between animal and man, but between man and ethical man. However, much of the human race is partly across the boundary; that is, each of these many individuals is at some times, and to some degree, under the domination of the Sector 3 control unit rather than the Sector 2 life unit.
Man as a mere member of the animal kingdom… fights out the struggle for existence to the bitter end, like any other animal…. Ethical man… devotes his best energies to the object of setting limits to the struggle.125 (T. H. Huxley)
In this connection, a distinction needs to be drawn between the extent to which control is exercised by the higher sector and the effectiveness of that control. The latter depends to a very substantial degree on the capabilities of the organism that is being controlled. A primitive unicellular organism, for instance, is largely at the mercy of the inanimate forces of nature, even though its life unit has undisputed control, but as the organism evolves toward a higher level of capability, it becomes increasingly able to resist these inanimate forces where they come in conflict with the biological objectives. Similarly, the manner in which a human individual is able to resist the purely biological urges and to make progress toward the Sector 3 objectives depends not only on the degree of control that is exercised by the Sector 3 control unit but also on his general knowledge and the extent to which his ethical personality has been developed.
One of the implications of the foregoing explanations of the Level 3 structure is that behavior in accordance with ethical principles (the laws of Sector 3) will not be found in purely biological organisms, even if these organisms qualify as human, while neither ethical behavior nor evolution (in the biological sense) will occur in the inanimate world. Because it is a composite structure, each of the upper levels retains some of the characteristics of the level or levels below it, but no level has any of the special characteristics of a higher level. Since the conclusions that are being reached in this work are applicable throughout the universe, some of the more radical of the current speculations about extraterrestrial life are definitely ruled out. Fred Hoyle, for instance, regards the range of possibilities as extremely wide.
We must be prepared to find in the larger universe outside the earth… even “inorganic” collections of matter endowed with a sense of “justice,” for example.126
But inorganic matter, we find, is two full steps removed from justice. It cannot even carry on a biological type of evolution, to say nothing of harboring ethical concepts on the order of justice. Ethical behavior appears only when and where a highly developed biological organism combines with a control unit from Sector 3 and as a consequence becomes subject, at least in some degree, to the rules and principles of Sector 3. Even then, the ethical responses may be few and far between, as the degree of Sector 3 control may be minimal. There is a borderline situation in which the human organism may be either in Level 2 (living) or Level 3 (living under Sector 3 control) just as a virus may be either in Level 2 (living) or Level 1 (non-living). However, the boundary lines in the latter case are clear-cut—the virus is living when it is inside a living cell; it is non-living outside—whereas the influences that have a bearing on whether the control of man’s actions rests with Sector 2 or Sector 3 in any particular situation are many and varied.
A significant fact in this connection is that the responses of different individuals to the same situation may be entirely dissimilar, and it is still more significant to find that the same individual makes very different responses to identical situations at different times. From this we must conclude that the central control of the life system (the Level 2 control) and the Sector 3 control unit are competing for dominance, and the response which an individual actually makes under any given set of conditions is determined by the degree to which either one or the other of the contenders gains the upper hand. The relevance of this struggle for control to some of man’s problems will be discussed later.
We are now in a position to make some deductions as to the nature of the control unit, and by extension, the nature of the Sector 3 existence of which the control unit is a local manifestation. In our previous consideration of the nature of life, we noted that the material aggregates—molecules or combinations of molecules—must attain a relatively high degree of complexity before they can join with cosmic units to form living structures. In fact, they must attain the greatest degree of complexity that exists in the inanimate world. Now we find that a correspondingly high degree of complexity of the biological structure is necessary for combination with a control unit: nothing short of the most advanced living organism, the most complex unit that exists in the biological world. The high degree of complexity in the material aggregate, we found, was necessary in order that the molecule might possess a feature which is not present in less complex units: a structure that would be able to reproduce itself when combined with an appropriate cosmic unit. We may deduce that, at the upper transition point, the similarly high degree of complexity is required for the same reason: that is, some particular feature had to be developed before a combination with a control unit from Sector 3 was possible.
Now let us ask, Just what significant characteristic is present at the upper end of the evolutionary scale that is absent in the lower stages? The answer is clear. The significant development at the highest level of evolution is the emergence of intelligence. The name that modern man has chosen to apply to himself, Homo sapiens, is sufficient evidence in itself to demonstrate the general agreement on this point. Intelligence, if we give this term what we may call a minimum definition, is the end product of evolution, the building-up process in the living world, as matters now stand. It is the most recent of the long series of successive developments which have contributed to the ability of the living organism to survive (as a species) in his particular environment, and to increase the range of environments in which the species can exist successfully. Furthermore, it is the principal possessor of this most recently developed ability, man, in whose behavior we can (occasionally, at least) recognize evidence of the presence of Sector 3 control.
It should be emphasized, however, that intelligence does not produce the changes in behavior that mark the transition from Level 2 to Level 3. Intelligence, in a minimum sense, merely increases the ability of the organism to act effectively in the manner dictated by the controls under which the organism operates. It cannot change the laws of the sector that is in control, or the ultimate ends toward which they lead. Intelligent life acts effectively toward increasing the probability of survival. An intelligent individual under Sector 3 control, an ethical man, as we have called him, acts effectively toward entirely different ends, not jeopardizing survival unnecessarily, since survival is desirable from his standpoint too, but subordinating it to other considerations. Although intelligence must exist before Level 3 can be attained, it merely sets the stage and makes control by the Sector 3 unit possible. It does not automatically accomplish the change.
Many of those who recognize that there is a specifically human level of existence, one that is not shared with other animals, do not concede that intelligence is the most advanced attribute of the lower level. From their viewpoint, it is a characteristic of the human level. In explaining this view, Mortimer J. Adler points out that, if man is to have the unique status which the religious dogmas assign to him, he “must be conceived as different in kind from all other terrestrial things… a radical difference in kind, involving a break in the continuity of nature.” As he sees the picture, intelligence is the crucial factor:
That radical difference in kind must be conceived in terms of man’s unique possession of an intellectual power that transcends the properties of matter and the operation of physical causes. In other words, man’s intellect (i.e., his power of conceptual thought) is the immaterial component in his constitution that makes him a person, requires his special creation, gives him the hope of immortality, and endows him with freedom of choice.127
One of the difficulties here is that there is no agreement as to the definition of intelligence. It is often stated, however, that intelligence is “the ability to adapt behavior to new situations.” This carries with it the ability to recognize and evaluate alternatives, the feature that had to be developed before a Sector 3 control could be superimposed on a biological organism. Such a minimum definition, as we have previously called it, is appropriate for present purposes. The point at issue, then, is whether intelligence, as thus defined, can be produced in the ordinary course of the evolutionary process. If so, there is no adequate justification for presuming that the emergence of intelligent life must be the result of some other factor.
Obviously, the ability to adapt to new situations is definitely conducive to survival, both of the individual and of his species, and it is therefore just the kind of thing that evolution will produce if it can do so. In this connection, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that evolution is a survival process. This does not mean that it is a purposeful process aimed at increasing the probability of survival; it is a purely mechanistic process in which survival itself builds greater probability of survival. In order to get a better perspective on this situation, let us take another look at the analogous situation in the inanimate field. As brought out in Chapter 5, the basic process in the inanimate world is aggregation. Here, again, no purposeful motivation is involved. The inanimate matter gathers into larger and larger aggregates by reason of a purely mechanical process in which size builds greater size. Greater complexity may result from the increased size, as in the formation of complex molecules, but this is not a necessary result. Indeed, it is a very infrequent result. Even though the greater part of the matter of the universe has gathered into large aggregates, more than 90 percent of it is in the form of hydrogen, the simplest of all elements. The general principle here is that collateral effects such as increased complexity may be produced under some circumstances, providing that they do not conflict with the primary objective, but the overriding consideration is always aggregation, and the process of aggregation continues as long as matter exists.
In the biological field, however, aggregation—increase in the size of the units—is not a dominant factor. In the earlier evolutionary stages, an increase in size is favorable, as it permits a greater degree of specialization of the constituent cells and the consequent development of more efficient survival mechanisms. But there is an optimum size for each species (varying somewhat with the environment) beyond which further increase in size is unfavorable. Nor does the optimum size increase with progress up the evolutionary scale. The average mammal of today is much smaller than the average dinosaur that he replaced. The aggregation factor, which is all-powerful in the inanimate sector, is thus reduced to the status of a collateral item of relatively minor importance in the realm of the living.
On the other hand, evolution, which is entirely absent from the inanimate world, becomes, in the living world, the dominant factor to which everything else is subordinated. And evolution is not only directed toward survival; it operates by means of survival. Whatever is able to survive does survive, and this means that whatever modifications of living structures are capable of contributing to survival will in due course be produced. Ability to adapt to new situations is clearly favorable to survival, and if there is no basic obstacle to the development of such an ability, the evolutionary process will ultimately produce it.
In considering the question as to whether evolution can accomplish such a result, we will find it helpful to examine the capabilities of the giant computers and other man-made machines that are now taking over so many of the routine tasks of our present-day world. According to the findings of this work, the living organism is simply a mechanism, far more complex than any machine ever devised by our engineers and scientists, but nevertheless equally subject to the general laws governing mechanisms. Neither the computer nor the living organism can do any of those things which mechanisms are inherently incapable of doing, but either can do anything of which mechanisms are capable, providing that the task is within the performance range of the specific unit. The question as to whether evolution can produce an intelligent living organism is thus analogous to the question as to whether it is possible to design a machine that has the ability to adapt its behavior to new situations.
There is no doubt but that such machines can be built, as they already have been built. An error, for instance, creates a new situation whenever it occurs, but there are machines that will detect errors and make the necessary corrections. Some will even identify and discard inconsistent or incongruous results: a still more sophisticated form of adaptation to new situations. Then, again, machines have been devised to play games, such as chess. As long as the game is played according to the rules the machine can adapt itself to whatever situation may develop, and it can recognize and evaluate alternative courses of action. The physical universe is a mechanism, and one of the basic characteristics of a mechanism is that it always plays according to the rules. A living organism that can adapt its behavior to new situations within the boundaries of the physical universe is therefore possible, and since such an ability is favorable to survival it will be produced by evolution in due course. Intelligence, as defined, is thus an evolutionary product, a feature belonging to Level 2.
Adler was quite correct in his contention that there must be a “radical difference in kind” between the human race in general and the rest of the observable universe, one that involves a “break in the continuity of nature.” In the absence of any other likely candidate, it was natural for him to conclude that intelligence, the most striking of man’s exclusive (or almost exclusive) possessions, is the explanation of the difference. But when we inquire more closely, it becomes evident that intelligence, on the basis of a minimum definition, does not involve “a break in the continuity of nature,” whereas if intelligence is defined in a more inclusive manner, it cannot be produced by evolutionary processes and therefore requires the introduction of a hitherto unidentified factor. The distinctive attribute, the “immaterial component in his [man’s] constitution” is not intelligence. It is the Sector 3 control that directs the utilization of that intelligence and other human abilities into channels that lead toward objectives quite different from the goals of the biological organism. Such a modification of objectives would not be possible unless the ability to recognize and evaluate alternatives were already present. Thus intelligence is not a Level 3 characteristic, but a prerequisite for the transition from Level 2 to Level 3.
This fact that intelligence (in the minimum sense) is a Level 2 attribute, a property of the biological organism, tells us something about the nature of the Sector 3 existence. In order to exercise control over an intelligent biological organism, the Sector 3 control must also be intelligent. It takes intelligence to dominate another intelligence to the extent that objectives are modified, or even reversed. Inasmuch as the Sector 3 control unit is a local manifestation of existence in Sector 3, the general metaphysical region, we may then deduce that intelligence is a general characteristic of Sector 3 existence. Thus, by a simple chain of deductions, based on premises derived from experience, we arrive at a factual confirmation of the postulate that the metaphysical existences are intelligent.
A question which may arise here is whether all metaphysical existences are intelligent, or whether the situation might not be something on the order of that existing in the physical universe, where only a relatively small proportion of the existing entities are intelligent. This is a question that we cannot answer on the basis of the information now available. It is one of the many items that will have to be left to future investigations.
Another feature of biological life that will have a bearing on our current inquiry into the nature of the higher level is the fact that the evolution of living structures is a cooperative process in which both the material structure of the organism and the structure of the life unit that controls that organism evolve together in the direction of greater complexity. The changes in the life unit are more difficult to follow than the easily observed growth pattern of the material structure. Nevertheless, we can safely say that no single molecule or small molecular group is capable of controlling the activities of a chimpanzee, for example, even though it may have been adequate to control some primitive unicellular organism. Evolutionary development of the original simple life unit therefore must have taken place to accomplish what we see is being accomplished. The central control of a multicellular organism composed of a variety of specialized cells obviously has a task which is much more complicated than controlling the activities of a single cell, particularly since the central control must exercise a certain degree of authority over the operations that are being carried out under the immediate jurisdiction of the local controls, as well as taking the entire responsibility for coordinating the activities of the individual cells.
Some idea of the nature and extent of the development that has occurred can be gained by observing the vast amount of electrical equipment included in the structure of the higher forms of life and the very important functions that electrical impulses perform in these organisms, particularly in connection with those matters that are presumably under the direction of the central life unit. So far as we can tell, these more advanced functions of the organism—memory, thinking, learning, decision making, etc.—are all electrically operated. If we follow the path of evolution backward from these higher forms, we find that the electrical activities decrease roughly in proportion to the decrease in the complexity of the physical structure, which means that the evolution of the organism has included a parallel evolution of the electrical system within the physical structure. The significance of this lies in the fact that electrical phenomena of the type existing in the local environment are related to the material phenomena in the same inverse manner as the phenomena of the cosmic sector; that is, they are inherently cosmic rather than material. From theoretical considerations, we deduce that the cosmic unit controlling the life processes must increase in complexity as biological evolution proceeds. Now we find that there is, in fact, a very substantial increase in the utilization of electrical processes: phenomena inherently cosmic in character. Most of the details are still obscure, we must admit, but the general conclusions arrived at theoretically are substantiated by these empirical findings.
The interaction of the cosmic and material sectors in Level 2 (the biological level) is a two-way process; the influence of the life unit causes a profound change in the material structure, but at the same time, the association with the developing material structure results in a substantial modification of the life unit. All of the available evidence indicates that the general situation in Level 3 is similar. The biological organism continues to develop in ways which lead to greater effectiveness in reaching its objectives, while coincidentally there is a development of the Sector 3 control unit in ways which lead to a more accurate identification of the Sector 3 objectives and a greater degree of effectiveness in substituting these objectives for the purely biological goals. Here, too, there is a process of growth or evolution of the combination structure, and in this process each component has an effect on the other.
The combined effect on human behavior is easily recognized. In the more advanced societies, the general level of ethical conduct is not only higher than that in the more primitive societies—an indication that the transition to Sector 3 control has progressed farther—but there is also a clearer understanding, at least in the better-educated segments of the population, as to what constitutes ethical behavior, and a gradual raising of ethical standards: an indication of growth or development of the human race along ethical lines.
Analogy with the evolution of the biological organism leads to the conclusion that in the beginning—that is, when man first began to emerge from the purely animal stage—the control units were very simple structures comparable to the simple life units that control the primitive biological organism; and that here, also, the control unit must develop a greater complexity as the human being progresses from the primitive stage of ethical understanding into the more advanced stages. Then we can further deduce, on the same grounds, that the extent to which the Sector 3 control unit is developed in any particular individual depends on how far this cooperative process of ethical growth has been carried.
One further question that we will want to consider at this time, because it will have a significant bearing on some of the issues that will be examined in the subsequent pages, is whether the existence of ethical men on earth is a unique phenomenon, or whether there are similar metaphysically controlled intelligent organisms elsewhere in the universe. We found in Chapter 6 that primitive life forms exist in abundance, and are available wherever the conditions are suitable, probably on billions of planets. The biological laws, like the physical laws, are the same everywhere in the physical universe, and evolution is therefore taking place wherever life exists, directed toward survival just as it is here.
The question as to whether the products of that evolutionary process will be similar to the products of terrestrial evolution, particularly whether intelligent beings can be expected to exist elsewhere in the universe, is one on which there is a great deal of difference of opinion. Basically it is a question as to the fundamental nature of biological evolution. There is one school of thought, especially prevalent among the biologists, which contends that man is the result of a long series of evolutionary accidents, “an almost incredible sequence of highly improbably events,”128 and that in each instance there could have been a different outcome which would have altered the whole course of the subsequent development.
Even if some kind of life has arisen in many places in the universe, it is utterly unlikely that its evolution has followed a course even remotely similar to that followed on earth.90 (Dobzhansky)
We can be quite sure that if the environments of their ancestors had been very different from what they were, the organisms of today would also be very different…. Even slight changes in earlier parts of the history would have profound cumulative effects on all descendant organisms through the succeeding millions of generations.129 (Simpson)
To give point to our argument, let us suppose that in the progress from primitive organic soup to modern industrialized man there were 100 critical steps, and that at each of these steps there were two possibilities. The odds against the final result would be 2<&>100 to 1.130 (H. Sandon)
Simpson points out that, in assessing the likelihood of the existence of “humanoids” on other planets, “There are four successive probabilities to be judged: the probability that suitable planets do exist; the probability that life has arisen on them; the probability that such life has evolved in a predictable way; and the probability that such evolution would lead eventually to humanoids (natural living organisms) with intelligence comparable to man’s in quantity and quality, hence with the possibility of rational communication with us.”131 He then gives his estimate of the probabilities as follows:
1st — Fair.
2nd — Far lower, but appreciable.
3rd — Exceedingly small.
4th — Almost negligible.
Overall — Probably not significantly greater than zero.
The findings of this present work lead to altogether different conclusions. We find that the formation of planetary systems is a normal and frequent event in the physical universe, and it is therefore certain, not merely “fairly probable,” that planets similar to the earth exist in large numbers. We further find that life is certain to develop wherever the conditions are suitable, and hence life will appear in due course on all earth-like planets. There are many planets that are different from the earth in one or more respects—colder or warmer, wetter or drier, larger or smaller, or with more or less of some other property—and life may exist on these planets as well, but this introduces a question as to what effect the different environments have on the evolutionary process, and for present purposes there is no need to complicate matters by bringing in this issue. We will therefore limit our consideration to “earth-like” planets, a term we have defined as planets which resemble the earth in all important respects. The immediate question then becomes: Will the evolution of living organisms on each of these earth-like planets follow a course similar to that which evolution has taken on earth?
The answer that emerges from the present investigation is affirmative, but since this is a controversial issue, it will be advisable to take a look at the arguments that are advanced by the biologists. The extreme position, as stated by Sandon in his assertion that “the evolutionary steps are not really accidental, but the complexity of the factors determining them is so great that for all practical purposes they may be regarded as such,”130 can be dismissed summarily. On this point Simpson agrees. “Evolution is not a random process,” he concedes, “and adaptation cannot be wholly, or indeed to any but a minimum extent, accidental.”132
However, Simpson regards evolution as a historical process and hence not repeatable. “No species or any larger group has ever evolved, or can evolve, twice. Dinosaurs are gone forever. Nothing very like them occurred before them or will occur after them.”133 This is, of course, absolutely correct, but it is a strong point against Simpson’s thesis, not an argument in favor of it. Every such restriction, every one of the many requirements “that place statistical or probabilistic, if not absolute, limitations on evolutionary possibilities”134 has an effect toward confining evolution to specific, even if rather broad, channels. The evolutionary channels pass through an Age of Dinosaurs only once in each evolutionary system, to be sure, but they pass through such an age once in every evolutionary system.
Simpson emphasizes that evolution is “opportunistic,” and takes advantage of all of the opportunities that become available. “Over and over again in the study of the history of life it appears that what can happen does happen,”135 he says. Whatever increases the probability of survival will be produced if it can be produced. This principle establishes the primary goals of evolution— multicellular structure, cell specialization, mobility, sight, temperature regulation, intelligence, to name only a few—and it assures us that all of these goals will be reached in all evolutionary systems, given sufficient time. Furthermore, this evolution will necessarily proceed in a rather specific series of steps, since the more complex objectives cannot be reached until after certain primary and intermediate steps have been taken. Cell specialization must precede the development of sight, and so on.
At every stage of the process there is what amounts to a force—a “selection pressure,” as the biologists call it—keeping the evolutionary developments in the channels leading in the direction of the major evolutionary goals. Local conditions may cause a divergence from the optimum evolutionary path. They may, for instance, result in a development that leads away from good vision rather than toward it. But in the long run this merely increases the selection pressure tending to favor better vision, and makes it all the more probable that the next evolutionary step will be in the direction of improved vision. Similarly, if a species happens to develop its light receiving apparatus in one of the ways that reaches its maximum potential well below the usable level of capacity, this creates a selection pressure favoring the survival of other species with better photoreceptor systems.
The dinosaurs to which Simpson refers were not produced at any earlier evolutionary stage because many preliminary steps were necessary before such animals were possible; they were produced on earth at a particular time because by this time the prerequisite steps had been taken and the dinosaurs were better adapted to the general environment than any available competitors; they will be produced on any earth-like planet at a similar evolutionary stage; they will not be produced on earth or anywhere else after the next major evolutionary goal, a temperature regulating mechanism, has been reached and animals superior to the dinosaurs by reason of the possession of such a mechanism have appeared on the scene.
It is true that all but a tiny fraction of the immense number of evolutionary opportunities lead to dead ends, but this does not alter the fact that some of the opportunities of which evolution takes advantage lead to progress toward the primary evolutionary goals. The opportunistic character of the evolutionary process therefore insures that all of these goals will be reached by some organism in every evolutionary system, even though the great majority of the evolutionary developments either make no progress at all or reach their limits somewhere short of the ultimate objective. A detailed analysis of the situation by Robert Bieri arrives at the following conclusions:
Given the ninety-two known, naturally occurring elements, the forms of energy available, and limited time, the number of alternative solutions to the major steps leading to a conceptual organism are strictly limited. The phenomenon of convergent evolution is so widespread in both the plant and animal kingdoms that it needs no special elucidation here. Suffice it to say that the evidence shows that, again and again, animals and plants have independently evolved not only similar structures but also similar biochemical systems and similar behavioral patterns as solutions to the same fundamental problems…. If we ever succeed in communicating with conceptualizing beings in outer space, they won’t be spheres, pyramids, cubes or pancakes. In all probability they will look an awful lot like us.136
Simpson admits that parallel and convergent evolution are “extremely common,”137 but he discounts the argument based on these phenomena on the ground that there are significant differences between the products of the separate evolutionary lines. He points out that while the Tasmanian “wolf,” which is often cited as an example of convergent evolution, is much like the true wolf in appearance and habits, “in spite of all similarities, any competent student can distinguish a Tasmanian ’wolf’ from a true wolf at… one glance.”138 But no one is suggesting that the inhabitants of the earth-like planets will be indistinguishable from human beings. The contention is that they will resemble human beings. The fact that a “competent student” may be able to detect the difference is irrelevant. Anyone can recognize differences between the various human races, whether he has any special competence as an anthropologist or not. This does not prevent us from asserting that there is a general resemblance between them, or even from including them all in the same species.
We know that intelligence is favorable to survival, and therefore we know that evolution will produce an intelligent organism if it can. We know that evolution can produce an intelligent biological organism under the conditions prevailing on the earth, since it did do so. And since these are, by definition, the same conditions that prevail on any earth-like planet, evolution can and will produce intelligent organisms on these planets. Furthermore, all other earth-like planets are, like the earth itself, located in existence as a whole, and they are therefore subject to the same Sector 3 influences as human beings.
There has been some opposition to the current efforts to open up radio communication with the inhabitants of extraterrestrial abodes of life, if there are any within range, on the ground that these beings may be of a malevolent nature, and capable of doing us harm of some kind if we establish contact. Our findings indicate that these fears are groundless. The Sector 3 influences have more control over some individuals than others, but there is no reason to believe that their average effectiveness in application to any other large group of intelligent beings is any less than it is in application to the human race. If the inhabitants of a distant planet are far enough advanced technologically to enter into communication with us, they are also far enough advanced ethically to constitute no more of a threat to the nations of the earth than those nations are to each other.
On the basis of the foregoing considerations, we can say that Homo sapiens is not unique; he is only one of many: a conclusion that has some very important implications for both science and religion.
- There are three separate levels of existence accessible to our observation: (1) inanimate matter and phenomena, (2) biological organisms, and (3) ethical man.
- Inanimate matter and associated phenomena are purely physical, and are constituents of the material sector of the universe (Sector 1).
- Biological organisms are material structures under the control of life units originating in the cosmic (inverse) sector of the universe (Sector 2).
- Ethical man is a biological organism in which an overriding control by a unit from the sector of the universe outside space and time (Sector 3) is superimposed on the control exercised by the life units.
- Each sector of the universe is governed by its own set of natural laws, and each of the three levels of observable existence is subject to the laws and principles of the sector in control.
- By reason of the operation of these laws, Level 1 (material) existence is directed toward aggregation. Level 2 (biological) existence is directed toward survival of the individual and his species, and Level 3 (ethical human) existence is directed toward ethical conduct.
- The change from Level 1 (no control mechanism) to Level 2 (Sector 2 control) is immediate and complete. The change from Level 2 to Level 3 (Sector 3 control) takes place gradually and irregularly, and human existence normally involves a conflict between the two controls.
- The existence of a Sector 3 control over an intelligent biological organism confirms the validity of the postulate that the Sector 3 existences are intelligent.
- Intelligent, metaphysically controlled beings resembling human individuals exist on numerous planets distributed throughout the universe.