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Fred Kohler Evolution and Human Destiny

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The fact that it is possible at all for life and especially intelligence to exist in our universe seems to be built
into the laws of nature and in addition appears to depend on a very narrow range of
values for the fundamental constants of Physics.

How did such appropriate laws and these life-friendly constants arise? Is there a purpose
involved which explains why the universe has given rise to life and intelligence? These
are extremely difficult questions to answer now, perhaps for a long time to come and
possibly forever. I shall now express my very personal views on this highly controversial

Religions are gradually getting around to accepting evolution, but assert that evolution is
either directed by God, or if not directed by God, they may retreat to just calling it the
Creator-god’s method of creating. Taking the latter approach seems to me to be their
better choice, because it solves the historical theological problem of why there is so much
misery, evil and injustice in the world. If evolution is God’s method of creating as well as
of achieving a specific purpose, and if the creator either does not intervene, or intervenes
only infrequently, the existence of what from the human standpoint is cruel and unjust
cannot really be otherwise.

The theologians should be quite happy with the theory of evolution, because it solves one
of their most intractable problems. Indeed in a certain sense they may have anticipated
this solution when they proclaim that the occurrence of injustice and cruelty is only
apparent, because we do not see the total picture the way God can. It is ironic that the
godless scientists have provided a scientifically acceptable solution of this bothersome
problem for the theologians.

The cosmologists who are also mostly godless have an answer to how it all began. They
claim it started from nothing, because that “nothing” is unstable. If time and space are
truly infinite, then there should be an infinite number of universes, each one with
different constants and regularities. Life could only have developed in those universes
that had the appropriate constants.

These values and conditions will happen in only an infinitesimal number of universes, but
mathematics assures us that infinity multiplied by any number no matter how small will
still be infinity. Or if there are merely an astronomical number of universes, the
probability that some will be suitable for life can still be quite high.

The emergence of intelligence and even more so high technology and science requires a
physical environment that seems to me, to be quite improbable. That environment must
be stable, but not too stable and these conditions must persist over time periods of billions
of years for evolution to function for a sufficiently long time so that intelligence has a
chance to develop. We can live only in a universe that meets all these conditions. The
requirement that all these pre-conditions must be right is known as the Anthropic
Principle, which comes in a various versions. The weakest version merely states that a
universe meeting all of these requirements is the only universe that could have produced
creatures asking these questions. The strongest version claims that the universe could not
have come into existence without the parameters making intelligent life possible, because
according to the laws of Quantum Physics all physical objects, and this includes the
universe, need observers to exist.

In my opinion the weak Anthropic Principle is necessarily true, while the strongest
version is an absurdity, as the universe did exist unobserved for billions of years, before
we came along.

So we start out with either nothing, or with an almost unimaginable intelligence with the
executive power to create matter and energy from nothing including the finely tuned
constants. The cosmologists’ version, which also starts from nothing, lacks empirical
evidence and is contrary to a all human experience which cannot imagine that absolutely
nothing can become something. The concept of a God seems to me to invite a question in
need of an answer. Or to put it even more plainly, little Johnny asks in Sunday- School,
“Who made God?” Soon enough Johnny will learn that you don’t ask such questions.

You can also choose the conjecture that the universe was always there in some form and
had no beginning in time. This hypothesis, as do the two previous ones, obviously invites
the questions of how did it beget these life-friendly constants and laws? Why is there
anything at all instead of nothing, and that gets us back to square-one. These questions
have perplexed philosophers for millennia, but they have not found satisfactory answers.

Finally you can equate the totality of physical laws and all that exists with the concept of
God—a form of Pantheism, but also the publicly expressed view of scientists and
philosophers such as Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and Baruch Spinoza,
who wrote some three hundred years ago Deo sive Natura (God or Nature).

Choose as you prefer, just don’t kill one another over how you choose, because if you
destroy civilization in the process we will end up never knowing. My personal conclusion
is that answers to these questions are not possible at this stage of human development. At
this time we probably don’t even know the right questions.

Let me posit a simplistic example illustrating the nature of this dilemma: People are
known to have killed each other arguing what came first, the chicken or the egg? The
question as stated has no answer and no meaning. However today we know enough to ask
the meaningful question: “How did the chicken and egg reproductive system develop?”
Evolutionary biology provides a good answer. As recently as two hundred years ago the
appropriate form of this question could not have been posed. Our ancestors of just a few
thousand years ago were in the same position as the “chicken and egg contestants.” They
could not conceivably have asked meaningful questions as to what causes lightning and
thunder, because their knowledge of the laws of Physics was non-existent.

Could anyone have predicted that the descendants of creatures similar to slime molds will
some billions of years later decode their own genome and land on the moon? These
accomplishments, from the time when slime molds were among the most complex living
organisms to the internet, only took about one and a half billion years; so be a little
patient! We may not have to wait that long. Our insights are currently increasing
exponentially. Even though we are currently increasing our knowledge at a dizzying speed,
the question of how it all began and whether there is a hidden purpose may never be answered.
I can live with not knowing, rather than accepting dubious answers from either theologians or cosmologists.

It is in our time that a product of evolution has discovered its own evolution. That it is
possible for a minuscule part of the material of the universe to become knowledgeable of
the structure, composition and history of the entire universe and of its own evolution
including the details of its genome far transcends the miracles claimed by the world’s
religions. That a process starting from a volume smaller than the nucleus of an atom, of
nearly infinite density and temperature (to the best of our current knowledge) was able to
give rise to such self-reflective organisms as we have become is absolutely mind-

I like to think that the human phenomenon may be of deep cosmological significance.
Perhaps we are an extremely improbable accident, but if so, what an accident!!!

What seems to me of extreme importance is that we preserve and advance such a unique
occurrence, despite of all our failings and horrible misdeeds, which continue to this day.
We do not know if we are the only form of life in the universe that has reached this level
of consciousness—I suspect there are very few. It is entirely possible that we are alone in
the galaxy and, though far less probable, in the total universe. Readers may have heard of
“Drake’s Equation,” a formula which attempts to estimate the number of technological
civilizations in the Galaxy or in the entire universe. It starts out using such relatively
known numbers as, the number of galaxies in the universe, the number of suns per
galaxy; the poorly known number of how many earth-like planets there are in existence
per sun; the unknown number of earth-like planets with life and the totally guessed at
number of how many of those with technological civilizations. (I left out a few additional

The number that I would assign for earth-like planets and the number denoting the
probability of life on these is much lower than guessed at by the conventional wisdom of
most scientists. My estimate of the fraction of planets harboring life with high
technological civilization is far lower than the estimates of most cosmologists. I am not
all alone conjecturing that we may be the only form of life that has achieved our insights,
our science and our technology in our galaxy and perhaps anywhere in the entire
universe; there are some scientists who favor the “Rare Earth” theory. (Wikipedia, the
on-line encyclopedia, features excellent articles on “Drake’s Equation” and on “Rare

Whatever the number of high-level technological societies turns out to be, and all
estimates including my own are wild guesses, any measures promoting the survival of
human civilization should be an absolute priority. The survival of other species, plants or
animals is also important, but this should be secondary to the survival and scientific
advancement of human civilization, because that civilization, which uniquely represents
the tiny, tiny portion of the universe that has become conscious and self-aware, once
destroyed, might never arise again. That does not mean that we should thoughtlessly trash
nature, because other species are also unique, even if they are not self-aware and unlikely
to reach the human level, at least as long as we are around. Many—perhaps most—of
these other organisms are necessary for our own existence. We understand only poorly
the web of life that sustains us.

The human phenomenon seems to me to be a stupendous event; letting it lapse would, in
my opinion, constitute the greatest cosmic crime imaginable. Whether the human
phenomenon is based on highly improbable, singular accidents, or inevitable, or
somewhere in between these two extreme formulations, I do not know. To me, the human
phenomenon is the most amazing and significant occurrence in the universe, at least since

the origin of life on earth and perhaps even transcending that interesting period of time. It
is in our time that a product of evolution has discovered its own evolution, as well the
history and makeup of the universe.

That product is human society and having achieved that insight we will change, at the
very least, the further development of that product. Our evolution will in the foreseeable
future not be the same apparently mindless process which has brought us to our present
stage of development. To an increasing extent we will control our own evolution and
perhaps eventually the evolution of other forms of life, as well as create life never seen
before in nature. A change beyond all expectations of only a hundred years ago, but a
change that is becoming reality!

Again, let me remind the reader that there is no way of denying that a minuscule part of
the universe has become conscious in terms of every meaning assignable to this word.
Does this imply that the entire universe is a conscious being? Perhaps for some New Age
pundits, but I see no current basis for that belief.

Finally, I want to mention briefly, how the growing realization that my predictions about
the evolutionary transformation of humanity are probably correct has affected the way I
feel about my own life. As I am currently ninety-three years old and I have at this
point in my life minimal ego-needs. As an adolescent I tended to read the word
posthumous as post-humorous; I still think that seeking posthumous fame is a bit of a
joke and a last vanity. I suspect that the reader of this essay has by now spotted me as a
non-believer in regard to religion, but I am also skeptical of far-out cosmological theories
when they are devoid of any empirical evidence. I do relate to one of the statements of
Albert Einstein, namely: “All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and
childlike, and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”

I do not believe in any form of personal survival after death. To the extent that we
survive in the remembrance of other human beings, which one of us will be remembered
a thousand years from now? It is my opinion that very few humans alive then will have
the slightest notion that most of us ever existed. Being dead for an hour feels the same to
those no longer alive as being dead for a year, a thousand years, a billion years and for all

I was the only child of my parents, had no children of my own and have no close relatives
who might propagate my genes. As human beings share 99.75 % of their genes, and the
variable 0.25% of my genes is selectively carried by other human beings, I do not
consider the failure to propagate my genes as a great loss to the world. In human society
one can have effects on the future without transmitting one’s genes. All of us affect the
lives of others as we function in our own way in human society. In that sense I am
confident that my life will have some effect on the human future.

I am glad to have lived and like to think that having been able to arrive at some insights, I
consider myself as having been exceptionally privileged. Although the concept of
comparing human society to an organism goes back to at least as far Thomas Hobbes’
Leviathan, it is my belief that I may have been the first person who recognized and wrote
about the evolutionary roots of this development. No doubt, had I not done so, someone
else would have been the first. Gregory Stock in "Metaman" certainly understands that evolutionary
connection and wrote about it some twenty years ago; I am quite certain that he had never
heard of me, nor read my book. Alison Jolly’s more recent book "Lucy’s Legacy" mentions
that something entirely unprecedented is currently happening in the evolution of the
human species. Furthermore since I wrote "Evolution and Human Destiny" over 60 years ago, many
additional books have been written about the Global Super-Organism.

"Evolution and Human Destiny", with all its flaws, was used in Anthropology courses as
reading material at a few colleges, so the book may have had some marginal influence. It
does not really matter—human society will evolve independent of my own and most
probably the predictions of others.

At times I feel grateful to a universe, which I know does not care, is not capable of
caring, is not conscious, and is a dubious substitute for the God of most religions. Yet
silly and contradictory as this may be, I still feel very thankful for having been able to
lead a life that mixed making a decent living in an enjoyable way, and with still enough
time for study, contemplation and achieving certain insights. I believe that I have also
been able to contribute in a minor way to the advancement of human technology. In the
past few years I have come to the realization that what I do not understand today, l will
never understand. This realization makes the certainty that my rather long life will end
relatively soon more acceptable to me.

I shall end this essay by quoting Einstein once more: “The most incomprehensible thing
about the universe is, that it is comprehensible.” To which I would like to add: We are
that infinitesimal part of the universe which does that comprehending and I am a tiny
speck of that infinitesimal part. This insight has made and still makes life worth living for

This is a truncated part an essay I published in "Open Library" on the internet because the book I wrote
more than 60 years ago was getting some recognition from historians of science and badly needed up-dating.
If you enjoyed reading this last part of my essay and you wish to read all of it (only 12 pages) you can
access that essay by typing into your Google search "Fred Kohler" + reflections, or you can paste ark:/13960/t88g98k71
into your browser. You will also learn something novel about evolution.