Wednesday, April 24, 2013

psilocybin and natural intelligence


realitysandwich | Although the concept of natural intelligence is pretty much unknown (a humble attempt by me to put up a definition of natural intelligence on Wikipedia was summarily rejected) and although the notion that evolution is bound up with intelligence might make some people uneasy, there is undoubtedly room for such a new way of thinking in the collective human psyche. After all, despite the passage of one and a half centuries since Charles Darwin first formulated the theory, evolution is still very much a hotly debated topic and of great interest to people from all walks of life. To be sure, the issue over the veracity of evolution as an explanation for the tree of life's existence has become markedly polarised of late. On the one hand you have the religious approach which either flatly denies biological evolution or else sees natural selection as being incapable of explaining certain complex features of bio-logic (the latter sentiments belong to the proponents of Intelligent Design, a growing movement in the USA which is basically Creationist at heart). Either way, supernatural forces are invoked to explain our existence (i.e. forces lying wholly outside of Nature). On the other hand you have the orthodox scientific approach as formidably evinced by people like Richard Dawkins. For Dawkins and his growing army of atheists, evolution and Nature are devoid of intelligence, purpose and design. Evolution just happens. Why Nature should be endowed with the potential to grow a tree of life to the point of conscious minds is not raised.

In light of this vociferous debate, I believe that the paradigm of natural intelligence represents a reconciling point of view. It does not deny what science tells us about living organisms. Rather it reinterprets the data gathered by science and views evolution as a clever and sensible process that weaves together clever and sensible systems of bio-logic. In this light, the biosphere is more than a simple label for all life on Earth. The biosphere can be seen as a global network of interlocking natural intelligence whose collective acumen has been honed over three and a half billion years. DNA can be seen as the means through which natural intelligence, in its bio-logical expression, is recorded, a gene pool being akin to a kind of organic hard-drive of learned information. The virtue of substances like psilocybin is that they allow one to directly perceive natural intelligence. Phenomena like living things that were previously overlooked, suddenly reveal their compliment of natural intelligence. Plants, for instance, come to life more under the spell of psilocybin. They are no longer inert bits of greenery but rather they radiate organic intelligence, organic purpose, organic design, and organic sophistication. The same thing happens with insects. An insect viewed under the influence of psilocybin transforms itself into a kind of futuristic micro-aircraft. In either case, intelligence of some natural yet highly refined kind is readily apparent.

So what happens once you begin to grok life in this way? What happens when you begin, as Aldous Huxley wrote, to perceive the world with non-utilitarian eyes? The answer is that you begin to see the tree of life in more objective terms, its branches and shoots made not simply of genes and cells but of natural intelligence. Just as we can view the human mind's intelligence as a flow of informational objects in mind/brain space, so too can we view natural intelligence as a flow of informational objects in 3D space. In this dazzling psychedelic light, a plant is like a living idea, or theory, underscored by DNA and constantly being tested by the rest of Nature so as to ascertain whether it makes contextual sense or not. A deciduous Oak tree represents a manifest expression of one kind of naturally intelligent theory, an evergreen pine tree represents an alternative theory. Both theories make good sense and both have withstood the test of time. The point is that life is clearly smart. Genes contain hard won wisdom, a genome being a library of such wisdom which is acted out through the medium of bio-logic. Thus, Nature authors life and Nature edits life and by so doing reflects itself, or mirrors itself, or knows itself, in evermore subtle ways. Nature is clearly not dumb and mindless as science might have us believe but rather the epitome of an ever-active intelligence. The trillions of frenetically metabolising cells that make up, say, the body and brain of Richard Dawkins, pay ample testimony to the orchestrational natural intelligence that must perforce be inherent in all living things as well as the natural forces that brought them into being.