| WSOY, 2002, 306 p.|
Eero Paloheimo’s work Megaevoluutio (The Megaevolution [untranslated]) deals with the development of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day on the basis of physicalism and attempts to visualise the forecastable development of our planet from now on. It is divided into four interconnected and interdependent parts forming a single logical whole.
The author approaches the concept of consciousness in accordance with the principles of physicalism and concludes that matter, when its structure is right, both thinks and feels. He assumes that as genetic engineering, molecular biology, chemistry and particle physics advances it will be possible to find the genetic message of consciousness in the genes of thinking beings. He further assumes that brain research will soon explain more precisely what happens in the nervous system, so that the physical nature of consciousness will become clearer. Thus the results of observations will confirm that consciousness is a feature of matter, an ability produced through evolution.
The main emphasis in the book is on the conclusions that follow from physicalist assumptions. Hitherto mankind has put its faith in religions whose message is idealistic rather than materialistic and according to which the spirit directs developments, life and consciousness are miracles, life exists only on earth, there is a life after death and our future in controlled by some god. Politicians act in accordance with the paths indicated by religions, although research in recent decades has produced counter-arguments to all this. The future must be built according to realistic axioms.
Likewise the first person singular – I – is treated as a material entity in accordance with physicalism. The idealistic world of dualism is based on the first person singular who feels, experiences, thinks and introspects. Because the “I” strongly feels like it comes from something else than matter, it is difficult to accept the physicalist starting point. Logically, the physicalist view leads to a new concept of death, to the irrational fear of death. The death of the individual is by no means the end but a change in the order of matter, a step in the continuum of collective consciousness.
Physicalism does not release man from responsibility as free will is retained. Even though everything is seen as matter and energy, the value of our human culture and society does not diminish because the materialistic view is purely ontological and therefore has no influence over everyday activities. Logically, the materialistic view is not taken into consideration in ethical choices or societal development.
2. Development of the universe
In the second part of the book, the author describes the development of the universe in terms of the transformation of matter. According to physicalism, thought and experiences are just particle movements and thus phenomena that can be examined by the methods of natural science, so the birth of consciousness is also just one stage in evolution. Nevertheless, it is more practical to approach the greater part of reality – economic life, legislation or art – in a different way than as the movement of particles.
Treating consciousness, thought and experience as a material occurrence is a basic condition when accepting the evolution of the nervous system, evolution as such and the development of consciousness as an object for study by the natural sciences. The contrary alternative, the immaterial world of the mind, could also be considered true, even though the natural sciences cannot observe it and its basic nature is unknown. Accepting that reality is unknown means that our theory of evolution, life and consciousness, as well as the creation and structure of matter, would only be true within a narrow view. Nowadays, even those natural scientists who do not accept the philosophy of physicalism are inadvertently studying the world from a physicalist viewpoint. This fundamental contradiction has not been sufficiently stressed in the literature in this field. The belief in a natural, purely material development before and after the appearance of life presupposes the idea that there is nothing beyond the physical. If one believes that there is something beyond or parallel to the physical, then you might as well believe in creationism.
The author treats the development of the universe from the Big Bang to today and into the future as changes in the shape of matter, a process that contains no significant uncharted aspects. At no stage has the mass of the Big Bang appeared or disappeared, it has merely changed its form. Essential to this review is the cosmological principle that the same laws of nature apply throughout the universe. At no stage in this process was there anything supernatural, unexplainable or miraculous, even though science has not yet provided a complete and unambiguous explanation for all the details. Chance was ever present, so that the basic system that resulted was just one of the possible outcomes unique in detail. Thus the conclusion can be drawn that because at no stage in the process did any external factors intervene, so there is a singularity concealed within the basic features of the process and outcome.
This part of the book first deals with the lifeless universe, then the earth that primitive metabolic life changes, consciousness as a particular feature of evolution and finally man’s achievements. The latter is examined in 50-year periods based on the idea that the earth is now at a turning point. We are at the crossroads and the world will follow either one or other of the two recognisable directions. One is a blind alley that soon ends, the other continues into a future of opportunities, lying beyond the horizon.
In the third part of the book, the writer draws the most important conclusions from what has been said in the first two parts.
When consciousness is considered as a characteristic of matter and the point of departure is the cosmological principle, then the existence of conscious life outside the earth is also probable. In considering the existence of life beyond the earth, the book calls not only upon the natural sciences, but also the calculus of probability. Here the treatment differs from practice up to now. Here the fundamental issue is not how much life there is outside our solar system, but which of the two basic alternatives forms the basis for our thinking. The alternatives are: we are or we are not alone.
In the future the prediction of life beyond the earth may turn out to be right, at which time we will no longer talk of probability, but certainty. It is assumed in the book, that consciousness of the appearance of life will become more specific and the efficient search for it begun among those celestial bodies in the Milky Way where it most probably will be found. Nevertheless, it may be a long time before life beyond the earth is observed.
The book then critically examines supernatural phenomena. It is estimated that some of the phenomena now considered supernatural will be scientifically revealed to be natural. Likewise, the quite ordinary mistakes in the history of science may continue into the future and some existing natural laws may prove to be mistaken. Thus the book applies both general and logical criteria in its treatment of the supernatural. Also considered are the confusing influences of earthly religions.
The cosmological principle also means that defining something as supernatural on earth does not mean that it is supernatural throughout the universe. Perhaps the ability to communicate experiences as rough versions will sometime be developed by living creatures on earth or even that living creatures in outer space already have it. Experiences would then be equally as measurable as length or time now, so they would become subjects of investigation by the natural sciences. Even in the future, the book concludes, these phenomena would not be considered as supernatural.
The book next analyses changes in matter. In the development of the universe, some parts of matter combine and organise suddenly in new forms of existence. This change requires specific external conditions, an ordinary example of which is the freezing of water. This favourable condition lasts some time and the change is often only possible over a certain period of time. In the change, often only a part of matter – in the development of the universe a continuously diminishing and refining part – receives a more complex form, the remaining part is a left over that in some form or other exerts an influence in the background. With the increase in complexity, the overall diversity grows and likewise their inner disposition.
The slow refining stages (phases) between the steps in the process of change randomly create different totalities. These complex combinations compete with each other and under pressure from new conditions the best combinations are selected to continue. The surplus part remains as a typical constituent of some earlier phase. The durations of the sharp changes and peaceful maturing are different, varying from a fraction of a second to a billion years. This, in the author’s opinion, is not important, as the length of the phases should not be measured according to a human scale but rather to the time spent. The phases are specified from the beginning to the present moment. In later phases the birth of random details becomes increasingly important and unseen phases are to be expected in the future. The name of the book, “megaevolution”, already characterises this process. At the present moment, the earth is on the border of two phases. The turning point is marked by the hyper-explosive development of technology.
At the end of the conclusions a number of unavoidable questions are considered that are directly linked to what has already been said. Is everything ultimately supernatural? Is science only able to explain the details, but not the whole picture? Thus we come to the question that could be considered the most fundamental. It would appear that if the particles resulting from the Big Bang or their interrelationships differ even fractionally from what they are now, the universe could not have developed in the way it has. Is this an admission that God exists?
4. The future
The last part of the book first surveys the present state of the world and the choices to be made in the near future, a period of about a century. This time is the beginning of the next phase. Two possible scenarios are offered for this period.
The first scenario is the one the author feels will probably be implemented. It is not a pleasant one, but logically follows the principles of development up to now. Unrestricted growth and economic concentration continues, likewise the uncritical exploitation of technology and the conquest of space. Less attention is paid than it should be to global conditions and the long-range future. Within a few decades this process leads to an impasse.
The second scenario is an unrealistic and idealistic dream. In it, mankind realises it is living at a turning point and focuses on solving the most fundamental questions. Many grandiose dreams are postponed and many less brilliant but more important objectives are executed. The book presents many practical goals and actions necessary for the salvation of the world.
The end of the book offers a super long-range vision of a future divorced from everyday life, a fictional continuation of the happy scenario. Two broad fields receive prominence: biotechnology and the conquest of space. Details lose their meaning completely, only the gently rolling seas have any carrying capacity. a future of opportunities, lying beyond the horizon.
Link to the BookPlus page.