There is a question about the origins and provenance of the characteristic of living things called reproduction. One aspect of the question might be stated as being: how did reproduction in living things begin? One might adventure: did a single celled simple life form merely just split in half spontaneously – and thus reproduction was created?
This supposition has some problems of its own. Was it a one off? Did it happen many times and end there after one or two cell divisions; before a ‘mutation’ arose which allowed the trigger for the cell division event to become ‘programmed’ into the single cell life form?
Or were these first single cell life forms more or less immortal; thus possessing duration sufficient for them to develop cell division as a means to their reproduction?
Whatever the answer might be – there is the question arising about living things and entropy. The first living things, say they were single cell living things, which ‘learned’ to split themselves so as to reproduce – why were not two aged cells reproduced – instead of – apparently – two cells with a lifetime potential as long as that of the ‘parent’ cell had at the time it was itself created?
(It really doesn’t matter whether these first living things were cells or not; the questions remain valid nonetheless – I use the word ‘cell’ because it is handy and understood.)
So – two questions: 1. How did cell division – as the most basic means of reproduction in living things become embedded in the living thing’s programme in the first place? And 2. How did the two ‘new’ cells produced obtain a lifetime as long as the whole lifetime of the parent living thing?
Discussion of Question 1: What might be the stimulus which caused the first living thing to divide itself? Cut through by a fallen twig? Let us say that both its parts survived as viable and separate living things which carried each within itself sufficient for them to be called two viable living things and bearing the complete physiology of the previous single living thing. How then do we get from here – a fortuitous accident – to a determined reproduction? This leap to reproduction seems whatever way it is looked at, a quantum leap, or rather beyond a quantum leap, it just seems inexplicable.
Question 2 discussion: How did the two new living things resultant of reproduction in the single living thing – how did they obtain lifetimes as long as that of the parent living thing – in other words – how did they obtain newborn status?
If a person answers that these small living things were/are more or less immortal; the question arises then – why were not more complex living things able to evolve so as to be immortal? Especially so when there are such items as stem cells which appear to hold the potential for this immortality – if stem cells can do it – why cannot other cell types? This of course is the problem of ageing.
Back to the first living things: Is the theory that first living things were created in some way and many times over – and just lived (and died?) many times and were recreated again and again until reproduction kicked in and their populations could then ‘take off’ by themselves? But why? Why that mutation? Were there billions of billions of mutations and they just got lucky one time? That would mean billions of billions of new creations of living things out of a non living previous situation.
We are back to the monkeys on typewriters and Shakespeare’s works here.
One might say on the problem of ageing that all material things wear out. But yet somehow we have in living things a trajectory counter-entropic – one which creates form, order and complexity rather than suffers decay from these advanced states, as does the non living world. Further we have stem calls – which are cells able to be created and which carry a brand spanking newness in them – which babies show in their being organisms with a whole new lifespan ahead of them.
Two things arise. One: that immortality was/is a possible option for living things and 2: ageing is not a necessity but a default position in nature. So things could have been different but they were made this way in fact. Why? By accident or by design?
Next let’s look at consciousness. Is it merely a result of billion, billion, chemical electrical reactions? This of course is not our personal experiences of it. Consciousness is us – is we ourselves – so much so that were we to die we should hope that were any part of us to survive it would be our consciousness. Now it’s hard to look at ourselves and accept we at our inmost intimacy are billion billions chemical/electrical reactions only. Our pride or our sensitivities find it hard to accept.
A TV pundit suggested that human consciousness is ‘the universe become conscious of itself’ and the guy based this statement on life being an integral part of a rise and inevitable decline of the universe into nothingness eventually. Human life being the apex. Human consciousness then as something thrown up by events in the nature of things and as if after a ‘painting by numbers’ portrait made by the chain of causes. Back to Shakespeare’s works and the monkeys on typewriters again.
Question: Are the sum of events in the universe the limits of infinity; or are there other events which are happening/have potential to happen that do not/will not happen in the course of the duration of the universe? The answer to this query has bearing on the Shakespeare and monkeys argument.
Human consciousness is the original of ‘virtual reality’. (Animals to have consciousness by the way, and should not be underestimated). How might consciousness have arisen? Why has it arisen to be purposive? Intentional? And in humans to be meaning-seeking and value-creating? What is the profit of being human over a single cell living thing if value is all created by humans? Why should people be seekers after meaning, when there is no evolutionary purpose or niche, no advantage or end-product for this seeking?
These are all conundrums: Real questions which are unable to be answered – especially not able to be answered wholly satisfactorily by evolutionary theorising or by scientific research.
The upshot is that for humans to accept life forms and living things, and especially themselves, as being teleologically (in non-human terms) purposeless, directionless and valueless; all this is wholly against the grain of how humans by nature think.
The questions raised hereabove concerning ageing and concerning reproduction, concerning the renewal of tissue life in the gestation and birth processes; and concerning the potential for immortality in respect of stem cells; and concerning the possibility of all these things being viable and reasonable potential alternatives, present no theoretical barriers to them being realisable.
A general and unnecessary limitation in most thinkers’ thoughts, in these days, and on subjects like these, those discussed in this essay, consists of this: an automated closedown point occurs in their minds at those places where the limits of accepted dogmas in contemporary thought halt. These limits are by definition arbitrary and prefabricated; unnecessary and unhelpful. For each of them in one’s mind it represents and blind spot; a no-go-area; and so confines and constricts and constrains one’s vision and appreciation of things and life without one knowing it is doing so.
Trapped in such ‘mind-forged- manacles’ is the peoples’ vision in the contemporary developed world.
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