Half-assed thoughts on order and beauty
got me thinking.... What would happen if you tried to set up a moral code based on the 'Grand Blueprint' notion? (The hypothesis that all potential abilities of living things are present in the main genome, coded as purposes
or goals instead of end-user physical implementations.)
You'd start with an axiom mainly
based on observation:
The purpose of every living thing is to create order... and beauty.
The 'order' part is observable and measurable. Beauty is a stretch, but I think it's justifiable as a purpose of the original design. If beauty was not intended to be perceived, we wouldn't have sensory tools to perceive it.
This is what distinguishes living from non-living things. Non-living objects don't create order or patterns. They may move or change or deteriorate under the operation of wind, water, gravity and living things, but they never create.
I'm inclined to distinguish four stages or types of beauty, in a hierarchy from most common to least common:
(1) All cells create order internally.
They have an unspeakably complex set of internal pieces and interactions, continually operating to bring in raw unordered
elements and convert them to forms needed to maintain the internal order. When elements are no longer wanted, the cell excretes them. All multi-celled plants and animals add extra layers of internal dynamic order, from cells to tissues to organs to organism.
(2) Most multi-celled plants and animals use their bodies to create externally observable
order and beauty. They emit patterns of light and sound and chemical signals and electrostatic signals and magnetic signals. Plants build flowers and fruits to emit color and smell and static fields, chiefly to attract pollinators. Plants emit chemicals to repel competitors and predators. Animals emit all sorts of visual or auditory or olfactory signals to attract mates and repel competitors and predators.
(3) Many animals create order outside their bodies, building structures that continue to exist when the animal is dead or absent. At the simplest level, corals and tunicates.
In the arthropod world, webs and hives and nests of all sorts. Among birds and mammals, nests and beaver dams and houses.
(4) A few animals create structures or signals that are not automatic, not solely for utilitarian purposes,
presumably for the pure joy of creation. At the moment this category seems to include cuttlefish, some birds, and humans, though it will probably turn out to be much larger when we start looking.
= = = = =
Given that we have this unusual ability to create structures and systems and signals that are not completely pre-programmed, can we call some of these outputs good and some bad?
Restating the axiom: The purpose of life is to increase order and beauty.
The assigned task of all living things is to produce patterns that make sense.
Therefore: If you are increasing order and beauty (beyond what your cells and tissues do automatically), you are doing good. If you are destroying order and beauty (beyond what is needed for your survival), you are doing bad.
I might use a gradient
to further quantify good and bad. If you live in a situation that already contains plenty of order and beauty, then your creation of order is a lower type of good. If you live in a situation where order and beauty are rare and hard to produce, then your creation
is a higher type of good.
If you are blessed with a special talent or a special authority, and you use the talent and authority to destroy order and beauty, or use it to create chaos and ugliness, you are Satanic.
Labels: Grand Blueprint