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Responsibility

Chapter 7

The Great Leap

From what we have seen it appears that the mechanism of emergence is the creation of hierarchical control systems. Looking at the levels that we are familiar enough with that laymen can discuss them, it appears that, as we increase in the level of complexity, the nature of the hierarchical control increases in complexity itself. From the relatively simple mechanisms of electrical, gravitational, and thermal dynamics that result in the emergence of inorganic bodies, to the more complex arrangements of atoms that produce organic molecules, to the hierarchical programs that bring into being living objects, each level represents a higher level of complex constraint developed through organizations of the same physical laws that govern the universe. However, when we reach the level that represents men we find a major leap in the evolutionary forces has taken place.

From the infant using his "conversation of gestures," to the scientist with his telescopes and cloud chambers, to the doctor with his scalpel, the highest level of physical evolution probes the world around the individual. To be, to exist, means to be capable of being detected, identified, and possibly to be analyzed by man. This statement is not made on a faith in the capabilities of man. We are certainly a long way from understanding the interior of gas planets or the composition of distant galaxies. It is a conclusion from our basic assumption, and who knows, it might even be true, that the universe is a rational place and man is in fact a rational animal. Yesterday, last week, the eighteenth century: these things do not exist for any, even the most sophisticated animal on our planet. These things exist only in the mind of man, and they were not placed there by nature. They were assembled just as everything else that exists has been assembled, out of components, this time the neural patterns of the brain. Just a few years ago such a concept would seem preposterous to any objective person. Today anyone who has played a video game or watched their children play, can understand the idea of a world completely developed in software. It is because of these worlds and the ability to use what was discovered yesterday to understand what is experienced today, that man is able to expand his knowledge of the universe of which he is a part.

The great leap in evolution came with the advent of man, and beyond that there is nothing except what man has created. I mean by that, individual men and women, not corporations or governments. Unlike colonies of ants or bees, men in groups do not act other than as extensions of the men who make up the group itself. Organized groups of men, whether they are corporate, educational, or governmental, are tools that men use in the same way they use lathes and saws and hammers. As soon as we give the power of choice to an organization we short circuit the greatest advance in evolution. What the idea of self-reflexivity says is that we create these tools and use them when they serve our purpose and change them or discard them when they do not. The constant in the equation is always, and only, the individual man. Automobiles are not built by boards of directors. They are built by designers with the vision to see what is wanted, by individual workers who operate the machinery, and by leaders who can make the corporation a vibrant part of the society. In order for the organization to be successful it requires the dedication of every member, from the janitor to the chief operating officer. Every one of them is working as an individual; the corporation is not the producer, but rather it is only the tool that the producers use.

 Do you understand why John Adams said of the American Revolution "The revolution was over before the first shot was fired"? John Locke's words, fashioned in the heat of England's "Glorious Revolution" became the tools of an even greater revolution, a revolution of the people. Replacing one government with another, regardless of the constraints built into it, is not a revolution; it is simply a change of names. Those who shout loudest about the size of government or about limiting government, inevitably aim at tearing down government as a tool where people acting as a society accomplish what they cannot as individuals, and replacing it with governance, with control of what people are allowed do. It becomes obvious from this point of view why small government conservatives always end up with huge governments. 

The existentialists have a favorite saying: "without God man is condemned to be free". If you have been paying attention, you should be able to see that it is God, or nature if you prefer, Who has condemned man to be free. Each man has created the world in which he lives and therefore is completely responsible for not only its success but also the effects it has on the worlds of those around him.

In a living organism every cell knows its place in the organism and continuously performs tests to determine what activities it must accomplish. This is completely determined by the genetic structures in the cell and the hierarchical control programs active within it. There is no possibility for change; there is no option for choice. Every organism has been developed by evolution and honed by natural selection into a fit within a specific niche. It is left to each man to develop his own niche and create his own fit.

Freedom does not mean that man can develop any world he chooses. Freedom means that man must build his world. That he must choose. The only thing a free man is forced to do is to be free. But freedom is only half the equation, the other half is responsibility. For Aristotle, ethics was the foundation for politics and the foundation for his ethical system was based the assumption that since man was the rational animal, then the purpose of man must be rational. His conclusion was that it was the duty of each man to become the best he can of what he is, and it is the duty of the polis to see to it that he has what he needs to do this.  George Mead explained how the self is developed from the feedback the individual receives as a reflection from others in reaction to his actions. This is the way we measure our expressions. We modify what we do according to the effect it has on others around us. We hone our personalities and our abilities according to the kinds of reactions we expect from others and we know that others are doing the same using us as their mirror. This is why we know that we are affecting our environment and the people around us. The basis of John Locke's view of government is that man is naturally in a state of freedom. He said that men give power to the government to accomplish what they cannot do individually, but not the responsibility. Freedom is an awesome trust, not a birthday present. Every action we take, every decision we make impacts on others and our environment, and we individually are responsible for the result of this impact.

We can reject that responsibility. Or we can make use of it. The engine of evolution, of everything that comes into being above the level of man, does so through the work of individual men. Even working as a group they must first create the group. What we can accomplish is dependent only on the talents and the enthusiasm of individual men and women. If we assume that every single member of the group has something to contribute to the success of the group then it is absurd to concentrate the resources only on those who control the flow. The form that Complex Hierarchical Constraint takes at this level of complexity is hierarchical self-reflexivity, which means that the constraints that provide both the control of their community and the variety possible in the universe are created, monitored, and replaced by the same men who are controlled by them.

But what of God?  The Moslem philosopher Ibn-Rushd, known to Christians as Averroes said that there are two truths: one developed by reasoning only available to philosophers, and the other from the Koran for ordinary people. Later, some Christian philosophers said the same thing about the Bible and they were called averroists.  As an agnostic I can say nothing about belief or about truth. The impossibility of Gods existence would require that his existence entailed a contradiction and that would require first that God be identified. I have shown that to exist means to be something that man can identify, but if it is only the individual man that interacts with God then identification is a personal event and not a logical outcome. If this is true, and you want to know whether God exists or not, I suggest you stand alone on a street corner, in the desert, or on a hilltopnot in your church, synagogue, temple, or mosqueand seriously examine the past events of your life. The past you will be looking at will be something you personally have developed out of your interactions with the environment. Then answer the question yourself. If you found what I have said here to be an example of "intelligent design" then also remember that there is nothing here that contradicts available scientific data.

The next question is how can we use this new understanding to bring about a more productive as well as a more just society.