This Text Can Be Found in the Book,
The Evolution of Consent: Collected Essays (Vol. I)
God and the Bees
I’ve learned so much about existence just from having a garden. No, not just from the books I’ve read about it!, but by being able to immerse myself in life, and to surround myself with its constantly transitional systems. I’d like to share a thought from the garden.
The fact that humanity and bees are both drawn by, and may appreciate beauty in, the same flower, demonstrates a degree of intersubjective understanding in my opinion. Though bees and humans approach them differently, and may see different uses for them, that bees and humans have come to appreciate a similar sense of beauty at all is quite astonishing. There is no doubt we live in an objective Universe experienced subjectively. Though our experiences may be subjective, our being seems rather objective, and common choices or desired outcomes, such as a shared appreciation for the beauty of a flower between mammals and insects, demonstrates some level of universal aesthetic truth.
At one point in existence there was no flower for the bee at all. At one time no Earth, Sun, or Moon. How did they get here? Evolution, of course. Perhaps God put them here? I’m not going to tell you about the Big Bang and the formation of metals in stars, but I would like to point out a small part of the evolution of the flower. As stated, at one time there were no flowers.
Bees and flowers share an intimate relationship. Many naturalists argue that flowering plants and these social insects co-evolved, as part of biological mutualism. Others contend that bees came first, and fed on, as well as pollinated, older non-flowering plants such as evergreens and ferns. Regardless of which came first, we can see the intimate relationship that bees and flowering plants now share today. Bees rely on flowers for their nectar and pollen, and flowers rely on bees for their pollination. This is relatively common knowledge, but what isn’t common knowledge is that bees are directly involved in the evolutionary direction of flowering plants.
Most of the flowering plants we are familiar with today would not exist if not for bees. Flowering plants put out their bright colors and designs to catch the attention of bees, in order to be pollinated or to pollinate others. Bees are directly involved in the sexuality of plants, and thus play a large role in their sexual selection. If not for the taste of bees in their selection, we wouldn’t have such beautiful flowers. If bees are intelligent, and they are depending on the definition being used, this is an example of intelligent design, although the designer is not anything close to resembling Zeus up there in the clouds. Is God a bee?
The Choices We Make
Bees are not the only species to demonstrate the ability to affect the development of other life forms throughout their evolution. Most life, being part of a larger ecosystem, has this ability, as well as the capacity to be affected. In humans, social and sexual selection— the choosing of friends and mates— has led us greatly to where we are. As we choose sexual partners, friends, allies, etc. we are designing the future, by choosing the genes that are passed on. This is also done through cultural selection, whereby a society’s memes can be preserved or lost.
Through culture humans create archetypes by which to select the traits which we will move toward genetically. By creating social pressures, ethics, culture has developed a means by which humanity will select its own path in evolution. This is similar to the way that humans have selected dogs artificially over the ages. We have created small ones for companionship, large ones to work, and those that fetch for hunting. We have also selected them based upon their ability to do well with our children and ourselves. Culture is the way for humans to make these choices about ourselves.
If it is the norm desired by society to know how to whistle due to the fact it is used in the local language, as in Silbo Gomero and many more, individuals who know how to do so will be favored over those without the ability. The same can be said for our moral systems. In a society which values love and respect, those who are inclined to be caring and decent will be chosen by society as friends and sexual partners. The genetic material will be passed on favoring such choice of action, creating phenotypes exhibiting such a behavior.
In a society where there is a dictatorship and strong class distinction, individuals will be selected out based on their noncompliance to government. This can have major effects on the movement of the species, especially if it occurs in heavy isolation, because it has the capability of genetically predisposing individuals to comply with authority, and thereby creating genetic castes in our species.
It’s important to know the choices we are making and how to influence culture with what we think is right. Whatever it is you choose, do so wisely. The future is in your hands.
Purpose and Selection
Much of humanity’s struggle has been against the environment. Humanity has not just been sculpted by its own choices, but also by weather, predation, resources, and more. In order to get by and solve many of their conflicts with their environments, the ancestors of humanity banded together. Greatly reducing environmental costs, association brought new costs of social interaction, giving us pressures within our own species to create ethics, status, laws, and the like.
Humans seem to be the only species capable of such high degrees of self-awareness. Amidst rules, statuses, and ethical systems, humans have started to concern themselves with something further than the external (environment and society) and toward the internal (value and purpose). When a person feels a void of value, purpose, and direction they become depressed, and look for new ways to find identity. Purpose, direction, and value may exist in the long term and in the short term. Short term goals, though important they may be as stepping stones, will ultimately culminate in higher purpose, or will lead to dead ends and depression.
Most of our goals are creative in nature— the writing of a song, the building of a home, the raising of a family, the cooking of a meal— and they satisfy us for their time being. We have created systems of shared goals and behavior— marriage, friendship, community—, and, as Michael Tomasello suggests, we have constructed a “we” in order to do so.[i] In every “we” there is both the higher expression and the loss of some part of the self.
It is our subjective experience that gives us need for meaning, purpose, and objectivity. Subjective experience, self, is represented by one thing alone and that thing is want. All subjective experience wants, because subjective experience is the experience of lack. Thus, life wants, and, in order to have, we must set and reach goals to meet our wants. In order to have our desires (food, music, family, friends, a home) met we must first give ourselves a purpose, a goal, an objective, and the material means to reach our desires. Without realistic goals, plans to reach our ideal desires of the future from the present reality, we become depressed, and may eventually die. It is depressing to have wants and no way to fulfill them. Life requires the accomplishment of realistic goals, motivated by desire, in order to continue.
Through the achievement of our goals (environmental, social, personal), and by giving ourselves purpose, we are intelligent designers partaking in the influence of evolution, whether we are simply trying to get pollen to our hive like a bee, or we are trying to meet the complex environmental, social, and personal goals that we may set for ourselves as humans. Life is putting together objective experience (lack of want), that little singularity that existed before the Big Bang, by setting and reaching its goals. Since energy cannot be created or destroyed, and the very same particles that make up our flesh have been on this Earth long before us, likely composing the brains and bodies of our ancestors and environment, we have largely sculpted ourselves through the process of natural selection long past gone. Our physical and emotional attraction to others today will do just the same. Just as bees have given us the beauty of flowers, when they pick the prettier ones to visit (and thus pollinate), our prehistoric ancestors chose from their own group’s genes and memes when they chose friends, allies, and sexual partners. Over long periods of time and speciation, we now have humans, whom are much more beautiful than the apes we evolved from, and capable of much more cooperation.
We choose our future by the choices we make today. The purpose of life is to live, to want, and to set goals to acquire these desires. To want, and to set goals for oneself, is an integral part of that, but desire, itself being a demand for objectivity of being and experience, should not stop with the desires of the self.
We go further than the self when we establish the “we” when we marry, make friends, or incorporate with business partners, or associate in the market to create society. It should not stop here, however. Over time, as life colonizes the stars, it will be necessary to extend our sense of we to the newly awaken matter, just as we have extended our sense of I into we. As we do this we step out of identity and subjectivity and into interconnectedness, objectivity. As the Universe awakens, life is destined to culminate through its systems of goals in the desires of The All— God— and put the Universe back together. As we reach our goals and extend our self to others we are a part of this process. We will find life less depressing when we see “being” as a time-period beyond our own life-term, and “self” beyond our own body.
[i] Michael Tomasello, 56.