EVOLUTION: the cosmic process facilitating nature's strategy for creating increasingly intelligent food

From the most general of perspectives... be it cosmic, natural, social or conceptual... evolution is the process that a structure undergoes in response to external forces and influences that are able to provoke change to its intrinsic design. Change alone is not evolution. Changes involved in the decay of a radioactive element are not evolutionary changes. Neither are the changes that occur during the various phases of an entity that is subject to a pre-determined life-cycle. Although the structural code of the genotype of a plant may be obliged to change and hense be thought of as 'evolving', the changes evinced by a particular plant phenotype during its life-cycle are simply growth patterns. Many structures go thru their life-cycle under the direction of a plan, blueprint, set of instructions or design documents, whereby deviations are prohibited or at least minimised. A glass-house, an apple cake or a butterfly are all more or less constrained by the rules specified in the drawings, recipe and genetic code associated with each respectively. A structure that evolves, on the other hand, may aspire to fulfil an ultimate function, but over time, willingly or otherwise, diverse influences will induce modifications to its intrinsic form when its survival depends upon it. During negotiations for instance, a draft treaty must evolve in response to the pressures brought to bear by the various parties involved, or the document will never become a treaty. The sailing ship, as a technological design, evolved over the centuries to accommodate the demands of engineering, materials, war and commerce, but an individual boat would not normally 'evolve' much whilst it was being constructed. Of course no structure can exist without it being modified from its intended plan in some manner... by the grim random determination and ingenuity of the universe... but the more significantly it has been modified, the more one would be inclined to say that it had 'evolved'.

At the cosmic level, evolution is the complexifying process facilitated by intrinsic linking mechanisms and existential intrusions. Galaxies and stars and planets spiral thru their life-cycles, are blasted by unpredictabilities, disintegrate, and provide the material for further restructuring. On a geological scale, continents, oceans, volcanoes and rivers mutate and change under the influences of the tectonic forces, water and the atmosphere.

At the biological level numerous influences are in evidence, Nature, in eating itself, stimulates an internal tension to eat or be eaten, and so progressively favours whatever can evolve intelligent strategies for acquiring more food or avoiding being consumed. A memory structure that triggers an alert at the scent of a predator that ate its progenitor, has at least the potential to react in a manner that might result in interim self-preservation and the opportunity for copulation. Any brain that acquires the capacity to process its stored information will rapidly enhance its survival strategies if it can develop the ability to deceive. Secrecy and deception augment and reinforce the potential for its own survival and sexual propagation. In unravelling the evolutionary record, the influence of such conceptual simplifications as scavenging, parasitism and predation, are clearly significant and yet essentially ignored by traditional accounts. It would seem that as well as the intrinsic capacity of the elements to form complexified entities like the amino acid alanine, mutual benefit associations must have been a significant factor in the development of such structures as cells and lichens.

Myth and religion say very little about the the process of evolution. The often colourful simplifications of traditional story-telling may be useful as structures for diverse cultural works of art, but credibility is tautened to very high pitches when they are presented as incorporating the complex patternings of evolution. It is possible that the folk-lore perspective will themselves be subject to the evolutionary pressures of scientific discovery and education, but their most likely fate is to be confined to scholarly historical archives.

Many humans are inclined to view themselves as some sort of evolutionary pinnacle with ecological privileges. The natural reality however is that they are simply amongst some of the most intelligent food within the biosphere. They have managed to work out how to render just about anything digestible and reproduce well before becoming food themselves. Countless viruses, microbes, protozoa, insects, fish and the occasional crocodilian however, will still have cause to celebrate the ready availability of the hominid biomass for some time yet.