DARWINIAN THEORY & FIXED POINTS OF MANKIND – Satish Bhatnagar, Ph.D.
Nature being cyclic, its different phenomena have different periods. And, so are the different germination times of seeds – both in their physical as well as in metaphysical forms. I was 17-year old when I first read an essay on the Darwinian Theory of Evolution (1859) in a textbook, titled as, Ideas that moved the World. This being a part of an English course (comprehensive kind) in my college years (1955-59) in Bathinda, the professor’s explanation did not touch on biology and the labs involved. For years, we, friends, used to laugh at this theory of evolution, its assumptions and the so-called ‘preposterous’ generalizations and conclusions. That is how, perhaps, the seed of Darwinian Theory got embedded in my consciousness. It lay dormant for years and waited for the right time to germinate and sprout.
For a number of reasons, Darwinian theory has found acceptance amongst scientists and scholars across all political ideologies. The publicity that it got was due to the English colonial power too. However, it does clash with all major religions. For instance, in my Hindu faith, in everyday life, there is a frequent reference to chaurasi lakh yonian (8.4 million life forms). There are several interpretations of this number. However, I have never read or heard any explanation of this large number of life forms – either in its exactness or in its astronomical meanings. It includes life (who knows its definition?) in waters, air and ground – including microbes and sperms associated with all creatures – visible and invisible too in a mathematical limit.
Hindus believe in life in everything including the rocks. After all, according to modern science, the atomic structure of everything is the same – the difference is only in the configuration of subatomic particles. As a matter of fact, there are legends in Hindu scriptures, say, a popular one in Ramayana when the curse of a rishi turns a woman into a rock. Years later, it is turned back into a woman when the rock is touched by Lord Raam. In a nutshell, the Hindu mind transcends Darwinian Theory.
One could argue that this 8.4 million number is close to Darwinian Theory as it claims that life pulsated in some Big-Bang moment in the cosmos a few billion years ago. It started with a fish form in water. After a billion year, life jumped out from the waters to swampy grounds – as a turtle does. After another billion years, somehow, life jumped higher into the atmosphere – like in a bat form. These are the nuts and bolts of the origins of life or natural selection according to Charles Darwin (1809-1882). This number is to be taken in a metaphysical sense.
The other interpretation is that evolution and devolution are happening at every moment. Consequently, there is no superiority of one species over the others, as some diehard humans claim – they are no different from the believers in a permanent superiority of one race over others. To the best of my personal grasp of evolution or origin of species, there is a Cosmic Software, a Karmic Principle, that some may call it God ((I have no problem with it) that eventually mutates or transforms one life form into another. In short, that is my take on Darwinian Theory and Hindu religion.
In my life of 80+ years, while mulling over various aspects of this theory, I examined a corollary of Darwinian evolution from a different angle. It goes back to almost 20 years, when I started teaching History of Mathematics courses both at the undergraduate and graduate levels (UNLV’s MATH 314 and MAT 714). On Day One, I tell my students that personally, I no longer believe in the linearity model of human intelligence (not easy to define it) and apply it, say, to the humans, and conclude that human beings are evolving into more intelligent species after each ‘iteration’, or so.
There is a lot of history and politics behind this linear model of intelligence. Essentially, it propounds that children are going to be more intelligent than their parents – statistically speaking, if not literally. In short, it justifies colonization, slavery, and wars. However, on scanning the world history, one finds that men like Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates lived on this earth for more than 2000 years ago. Have we become super Jesus, Buddha, Confucius and Socrates? My answer is No! Going back another 2000 years in the past, there is evidence in pyramids, Hindu Vedas and Greek literature – establishing that the great minds did live 4000 years ago too. One can go on like this ad infinitum, though no physical evidence can survive after more than 5000 years. Time is a mighty destroyer. That is what I tell my students to keep on questioning and testing this hypothesis throughout this course and beyond it.
What is the source of my conviction of the constancy of human intelligence? Symbolically, it is tied with the Fixed Point Theory in mathematics. Its idea is simple. For a function f with a domain D, if f(x) = x, then x is called a fixed point of f. That is all. On a similar line of thinking, the fixed points of mankind are those traits which do not change with time. I visualize this as a grand software of the universe as a function and cosmos as its domain. Here is an abbreviated list of human traits that have been constant. The order of attributes is random, but my contemplation has spread over a few years.
1. SPEED. Human fascination with speed is never satisfying- whether in Arabian horses, model cars, planes and boats, rockets and missiles. Super computers for faster calculations are the products of the same mindset. In order to give a human touch, at the age of ten, Einstein often imagined himself sitting outside on the nose of a plane flying at the speed of light, and watching the panoramas of cosmos!
2. LARGE HOMES. In every age and place, man wants to live in the biggest dwelling according to social conditions, and wants to build a grand temple for his God or Goddess. Grandiose structures in forts and pyramids extend his possessiveness.
3. SEX is the most powerful in terms of its impact. The desire of a man for a woman is unbounded And, so is the power of a woman over man. They are two sides of the same coin. The Greek war over Helen of Troy and epic wars as described in Ramayana and Mahabharata were over women. Every day, brawls and fights over girls are taking place in school compounds and streets.
4. FOODS & DRINKS. Food is not limited to just satisfying pangs of hunger. The delicacies and varied cuisine have lifted food to a divine stature as referenced in ancient Greek and Indian literatures. Rich and poor relaxing over alcoholic beverages is universal. Somras is the proverbial alcoholic drink of ancient India. A few years ago, I was amazed to see a scotch bottle selling for $37,000 in an exclusive whiskey shop at London’s Heathrow airport.
5. CONTROL. Dominance and controlling people, places, materials in mines and environment. Air conditioning is an example of controlling the environment.
6. COSMETICS AND DECORATION. One finds its evidence in the excavation of gold, silver and precious minerals used for beautification of women and gods in all ages and places.
7. WAR. In human history, peace is only a preparation for war. Both peace and war run different economies and bring out the best and the worst in human beings. Wars, like wildfires, earthquakes and tsunamis are viewed as natural in a grand scheme. Deadly weapons of mass destruction have been conceived and manufactured in all ages – from ancient to modern times.
8. CURIOSITY. What is on the other side of the wall – whether as a peeping Tom or as an astronomer, marine diver, or a cosmonaut – they sum up the eternal quest of man to see far beyond what the eyes can see, hear far beyond what the ears can hear, and so on with other sensory experiences. All gadgets are extensions of the human limbs.
9. ENTERTAINMENT. At the end of the day or after the completion of an arduous operation, modes of relaxation with music, dances, skits, plays, songs and instruments have been recorded universally.
Yesterday, in the online class, I briefly mentioned these nine human traits as fixed points of mankind. I urged my students to think of the 10th one, and submit it to me for an extra credit. Each one of these points can be expanded into an independent reflection, but I just wanted to get them off my chest in one shot- a load that I felt had been there for quite a few years.
Finally, what are my conclusions? Possible answers are Yes, No and Maybe. Yes for the constancy of human intelligence. No for the ‘original’ or main Darwinian Theory. It must be pointed out that it came out at the zenith of English colonial power, and from a man whose ancestors and progenies were aristocrats, knights, members of the Royal Society, and politically connected. Yes and No to the Darwinian strand on Natural Selection. It is only in the world of mathematics that a conclusion is always in black and white.
I feel good writing this last sentence!
Satish C. Bhatnagar, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences,
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV 89154-4020.Tele: 702-895-0383 (O) and 702-895-4343 (FAX); Office – CDC- 1006. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adjunct Professor, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda (2019 – ) UNLV Faculty Senate (2018 – 2021)
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