The understanding of evolution from a quantum mechanical framework
One major challenge to the survival of humanity is religious fundamentalism in its various guises. These include uncritical belief in the inerrancy of scriptures and credal statements, such as interpreting the Genesis myth as a historical account of cosmology and creation. The presence of such fundamentalism is a summons to humankind to embrace tolerance of religious differences, interfaith dialogue, and world peace as imperatives. As rigid and dogmatic systems of belief in the inerrancy of religious texts, fundamentalisms are tribal rather than universal (or manifestations of the “God archetype” as the source of numinous experience) and tend to be intolerant of differences in faith tradition and are therefore unlikely to be open to such dialogue. In previous historical epochs, religion, while dangerous at times to individuals and groups, was not a threat to species survival. Weapons of mass destruction, biological or nuclear, had not been developed. With their invention comes the potential to sacrifice billions of people on the altar of scriptural literalism and belief in either monotheistic or polytheistic systems of thought. In the twenty-first century, it is chillingly obvious that such technologies can easily be utilized in the name of one or another variety of religious fundamentalism, either to fulfill a vision of Armageddon or to garner power by rationalizing military intervention motivated by control of energy resources. It is in this sense that religious fundamentalism can be seen as a collective manifestation of the collective Jungian shadow archetype.
In his apotheosis of Reason, however, Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion (2006), seems to me to be in some danger of neglecting other irrational motives for wars waged apparently in the name of religion or God. The Roman Empire, for instance, conducted military campaigns for the purposes of power and expansion, subjugating conquered peoples to the Pax Romana while plundering their resources. Devotion to the emperor as a numinous hero figure and to the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon provided a rationalization for such expansionism.
In the contemporary world, the climate of mutual suspicion and paranoia between the Abrahamic faiths, or religions of the Book, make the possibility of a thermonuclear version of the apocalypse very real. On the basis of collective archetypal projection entire nations can be demonized as part of an “axis of evil” and thus perceived as capable of the most diabolical destructiveness. Because the projection is unconscious, belief in the malevolence of the Other is held with complete conviction, as, for example, during Hitler’s Third Reich, the Jewish people were dehumanized as a menace to the state and their extermination as untermenschen could be justified with an attitude of moral righteousness and extreme anti-Semitic prejudice.
Terrorist acts in the name of militant forms of Islam are ultimately a Sisyphean exercise in futility motivated by archetypal shadow projections. Religious fundamentalism is a menace not only because it is one cause of wars which are driven by competition for scarce energy resources. It also corrupts the collective “superego” of nations as well as their leaders to such an extent that, without guilt or remorse, mass murder and even genocide can be perpetrated. Having established this point of partial agreement with Dawkins’s position, I must draw the reader’s attention to another phenomenon which should be distinguished from the manifestations of religious fundamentalism. In doing so I am utilizing the perspectives of Jung’s analytical psychology and sociology, which fall outside of Dawkins’s explanatory framework.
This is the phenomenon of the almost numinous energy and power that has historically been invested in charismatic leaders who led their people to wars of conquest. Hitler, Stalin, and Chairman Mao, to name three examples, became “archetypal” heroes and saviors for their people who in turn readily committed mass murder and genocide at their command. One could suggest that such leaders were deified or at least venerated in a manner otherwise reserved for supposedly divine beings. Of these three, Stalin and Mao were materialists and atheists, while Hitler, whose childhood background was Catholic, wanted his Reich to be endowed with the glory of the Roman Empire, reviving the pre-Christian zeitgeist of antiquity and enacting his own messianic delusions about being destined to lead an Aryan master race.
Even without invoking religion, such political figures act in such a way as to induce infantile regression in the collective psyche by instilling fear while assuming the role of omnipotent, omniscient, and hence Godlike parents from whom protection from the specter of terrorism and destructiveness is to be sought. Dawkins perceives religion as the root of much of the world’s evil, but I think he misses some important points about the ontogenetic and phylogenetic evolutionary origins of religious experience. Even in ostensibly secular or atheistic states, the same sorts of atrocities, wars, and genocides have occurred as those attributed to states acting within religious systems of thought.
The real question to be addressed here is whether some concept of the numinous or of God, other than the primitive animistic and anthropomorphic notions characteristic of humankind in its infancy, is either compatible with empirical science or already discernable in science itself.
The God of religious fundamentalism was largely killed off by the scientific theories of Newton and Darwin, though Dawkins does not seem to be thoroughly convinced of the success of this particular form of deicide. He seems thoroughly determined to ensure that the assassination of God is completed and the “dangerous” beliefs of fundamentalism are buried beyond any hope of final resurrection. But the end of religious fundamentalism will not eliminate the human quest for the experience of the numinous and for transpersonal meaning in life. It simply means the death of primitive concepts and archaic theologies driven by the animism and anthropocentrism of prescientific periods of human history. The end of religious fundamentalism makes room for the cosmic religious feeling described by such eminent scientists as Einstein, Schrödinger, Pauli, and C. G. Jung, who were not adherents of religious orthodoxy and doctrine although they probably experienced the numinosity of the God archetype in mystical experiences and in moments of mathematical and scientific inspiration (Penrose 1999, 544–545).
Decryption of the enigma of the existence of God may lie in a more profound grasp of the nature of genetic and quantum information theory, particularly as molecular microbiologist Johnjoe McFadden (McFadden and Al-Khalili 1999) and physicists Koichiro Matsuno (2000), Roger Penrose (2004), and Paul Davies (2004) have suggested.
For instance, RNA and DNA molecules may need to be understood in terms that go beyond the traditional genetic code to encompass a quantum code, not just in their “hardware,” but in their “software” or informational properties, as Davies has described them. What if mutation is not only vastly accelerated by some form of quantum information processing but also directed or adaptive? What would be the implications of discovering empirically an affirmative answer to Matsuno’s question, “Who got there first, biosystems or Richard Feynman” (2000, 39)? For instance, what if biosystems (such as cells and microorganisms) have already invented quantum computing, actively monitoring their own internal states so that reflective consciousness of that fact and its meaning would become a peculiarly human experience? Johnjoe McFadden has conducted research and published the results relevant to this question, specifically on what he refers to as adaptive or directed mutation in such microorganisms as E. coli and mycobacterium tuberculosis. In a recent essay on HIV/AIDS (Todd 2007) and in my paper “Unconscious Mental Factors in HIV Infection” (2008), I pointed out that if biosystems do process information quantum mechanically, then they would gain a marked advantage in speed and power that would be discovered by natural selection.
Such work may lead to a paradigm shift in the scientific under-standing of the very engine of evolution itself. At the very least, it implies the end of both religious fundamentalism and the doctrine of intelligent design, which creationists have regarded as a serious competitor against evolutionary theory as an explanation of the immense and magnificent variety of living forms, past and present, including Homo sapiens endowed with reflective consciousness, a late arrival on the evolutionary stage. However, as I have already noted, the demise of religious fundamentalism does not necessarily mean the abandonment of the numinous. Indeed, a more profound scientific understanding of the origins and evolution of life can illuminate such ultimate questions as the emergence of mind and consciousness as well as the existence of God. Humankind’s concepts and images of God themselves need to evolve, as I shall argue on the way to uncovering the theological reality of Hans Küng (2007) that God is both greater than the world and also in it. The Jungian notion of the archetypes as timeless cosmic ordering and regulating principles serves as a depth psychological framing of such an insight.
The Universe, Active Information, and Archetypes
To approach such questions as those addressing the origins of life, the emergence of consciousness, and the existence of God, it will be necessary first to consider the information properties to be discovered in the development of matter itself, prior to the emergence of even the most primitive life forms. Paul Davies has suggested that primitive life forms may have been fast-tracked to life by some sort of quantum mechanical process or search algorithm (2004, 75). The reader will note that I have emphasized the process of discovery of active information properties in matter, albeit at a subatomic level, not the notion of some external agency or “Intelligence” somehow doing the programming. Analogously, mind and consciousness emerge in biological systems that have evolved beyond a critical threshold of complexity and self-organization. Mind and consciousness are not mysteriously beamed into such systems from some outside metaphysical source referred to as “God.”
Such outmoded concepts of God are something of a soft target for skeptics partly, I believe, because they omit treating the problem of the origins and emergence of life while having practically nothing to say about a possibly nontrivial role of quantum mechanical processes (or computing) in its genesis. Such processes may be involved in evolving life from a prebiotic soup and in mutation. Strict neo-Darwinists may, of course, wish to postulate the existence of a principle analogous to natural selection as applying to the universe through backward extrapolation, so that states of matter which will eventually be fit for living organisms and consciousness somehow have an advantage. However, such a principle would be little more than a petitio principii, and if used to describe the improbable conditions in a universe that permit sentient life forms, it would simply be a restatement of the anthropic principle as described, for instance, by Penrose (2004). And naturally, as Penrose has also pointed out, in an infinite universe eventually even the most improbable contingencies will sooner or later occur without the need to invoke an external designer-God or super Programmer to explain them. The anthropic principle does not necessarily imply a universe evolving with humanity as a teleological goal. In its purely scientific formulation, this principle only states the conditions that are contingently necessary for the emergence of sentient life and consciousness. It does not address the possibility of a process (or incarnational) theology or archetypal psychology in which a numinous principle is implicit to the evolutionary process itself.
This brings the discussion back to the evolution of matter and to the notion of physicist David Bohm (2002) and his colleague Basil Hiley, who wrote “that even the quantum level can be thought to have, via active information, a primitive mindlike quality though it obviously has no consciousness” (Hiley and Pylkkänen 2005, 22). More specifically, the quantum potential appears to be “some kind of internal energy which carries information about the environment. The whole process, particle plus active environment is being formed partly from within, requiring no external force to determine its future behaviour” (ibid., 19). In this way the quantum potential differs from the classical “push-pull” potential on the level of macroscopic objects like billiard balls. Hiley reminds readers that when considering the root of the word information, the original meaning is that of putting form into process, and together with Bohm, he considers information to be “a link or bridge between the mental and the physical sides” of reality (ibid., 23). Thus it is possible to disentangle the notion of mind from that of consciousness which is an evolutionary emergent property in matter of such complexity and organization as that characteristic of the human brain.
This perspective, especially with its notion of a rudimentary mindlike quality associated with the quantum potential, may have implications that could demolish Dawkins’s central argument. This notion is perhaps all the more shocking because it has been postulated by eminent physicists, not by theologians like Teilhard de Chardin or other scientific apostates. Wolfgang Pauli, who formulated the famous exclusion principle and collaborated with depth psychologist C. G. Jung, expressed views similar to those of Bohm. Pauli wrote of the unconscious archetypes as cosmic ordering and regulating principles responsible for the patterned information and mathematical lawfulness to be found in the physical world.
Pauli considered the archetypes to exemplify Bohr’s complementarity principle, being both mental and physical in nature. The exclusion principle, as the explanation of the ordering and complexity of elements on the periodic table, needs to be understood in light of Pauli’s philosophical thought as a whole, as outlined, for instance, by the late Kalervo Laurikainen (1988). I shall discuss the contributions of Pauli and Bohm in more detail in chapter 3. Suffice it to say that their epistemological position on the mind-matter relation is that of a relationship of complementarity or dual-aspect monism. In his concept of a “U-field,” Pauli regarded the unconscious as the psychological counterpart of the field concept in physics and just as much a reality as matter itself. The German word Pauli used for archetypal symbols wasunanschaulich, which translates roughly into unvisualizable, “a metaphysical reality more material than what physics and depth psychology would characterise as real” (Atmanspacher 2011, 4).
When Bohm, toward the end of his life, considered humanity to be the “mirror created by the universe to reflect upon itself ” and contemplated a Mind far beyond the collective one of the species itself, he was overtly referring to a transcendent order of existence (2002, 389). Similarly, Pauli’s cosmic ordering principles point to something numinous in his concept of the universe and beyond his own personal cosmic religious consciousness. However, such notions require further reasoned argument and connection with scientific facts, such as those concerning the origins of life and the possible quantum mechanical processes involved in the mutation of microorganisms and even consciousness. Could it be that a universe thus understood needs no proofs by contingency for the existence of God? Perhaps, as Shalom has argued, such a universe is “not possible without a God,” given that “the existential ground of all being is commonly called God” (1989, 485). With these provocative comments, I turn now to living organisms and to what might be termed “the engine of evolution.”
This article is an excerpt from Peter B. Todd’s book The Individuation of God: Integrating Science and Religion (chapter 2: Religious Fundamentalism as a Shadow). For more information please visit http://chironpublications.com