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Ontogeny recapitulates cosmogony?

The Grey Man

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A particular idea has been haunting my brain for the past year or two years, and I want to hear what some of the clever members of this forum have to say about it.

Ernst Haeckel's well-known formula is "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," meaning that the development of an individual specimen may resemble the development of its species in some way. I don't know the specific details of Haeckel's naturalistic theories, but there is reason to believe that he was at least generally right. We speak of species using words that we would normally use to speak of their specimens (e.g., man was in his infancy when he was stalked by the saber-toothed tiger), and write about individual lives in terms would not be out of place in an historical account (e.g., Mark won a battle with depression); and such analogies are often justified by frank similarities between the literal meaning of the message and its metaphorical one.

My query is whether the development of a man (or mankind) may not also resemble the development of the universe as a whole or, if change cannot justly be attributed to the universe, at least what it is essentially, notwithstanding all the temporal accidents of observation by which we paradoxically distinguish between 'I' and 'I'. Does our direct experience of the will and intellect of the observer tell us something about the observed, matter and space? Can we say something fundamental about the universe by drawing an analogy between it and the life of man?

Obviously, such an analogy would be cosmological rather than zoological, theological rather than naturalistic, and would lie at the intersection of science and religion, perhaps expressing the essential core or distillation of human knowledge, precisely as God or matter is supposed to be the 'Hypostasis' or unconditioned 'absolute' substantial to the phenomenal world of relativity. What think you?

I think there is an element of human experience that science does not recognize, something that Goethe (who, tellingly, was both a poetical genius and a first-rate naturalist) understood, though he could never convincingly communicate his insights to the civilized world. I mean the demonic. I mean tension—not physical tension, but personally felt anguish, abandonment, the dark night of the soul. Science must needs look at things like this through the screen of cool, impersonal observation, enmeshing suffering within a latticework of actions and reactions that can be analyzed and correlated in abstracto. But such calculations always fail to account for a residue. The most insidious experimental error of all is the experimenter himself who, invariably, must put down his tools, go to bed, and receive nocturnal visitations of hope and fear, as we all do.
 

ApostateAbe

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Well, unfortunately your broad cosmological thesis is off the proper rails from the start. Haeckel was wrong about developmental biology. Ontogeny does NOT recapitulate phylogeny. That is because there is no logical relationship between anyone's embryonic development and evolutionary change along the line of descent. We can find some atavisms in our embryos indicating the ancestral past, such as long tails, but it is only random mutational chance that decided that a tail should exist only for the embryo in place of no tail at all from the beginning, and if the tail disappeared at any other age in the womb then it would be just as likely. A mutation can effect any stage of embryo (or adult) development. The lack of causal relationship seems to be even worse for your cosmological hypothesis. It may seem beautiful, but it does not seem to have grounding in any actual facts. A good theory needs to both build on existing established theories (or else overthrow the bad established theories) and follow from the set of established facts. I expect you can salvage your theory only by expressing it as a poem and putting it to music.
 

The Grey Man

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If you think I'm trying to salvage Haeckelianism, you haven't been paying attention. In fact, I haven't proposed any theory at all. I have posed very general questions about the possibility of understanding man as microcosm and expressed what I take to be a limitation of the scientific method. This thread is an attempt to stimulate discussion, not resuscitate antiquated biology.
 

The Grey Man

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Here, I'll put the question another way: given that 20th century physics (both quantum mechanics and relativity theory) emphasize the dependence of natural phenomena upon our manner of observing them, is it possible that we are on our way to cosmology that does not presuppose an impersonal, essentially spatial, dynamical universe of which the human race is a mere local anomaly, but leaves room for personal agency?
 

Animekitty

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From one agent to another. I know I am.
I never came from anywhere I know of.
I know not where I go in the end of physical form.

I am told I lack free will but it is a contradiction.
How can I know that I am and at the same time believe I know not that I am.
Sometimes people do bad things and Know they were bad. There is culpability there.

Agents such are were are can reason. Why in this universes? How can we ask why?

"what if"

Why touch, why smell, why taste, why hearing, why sight. (why qualia) why why. I need no evidence I just know, I am it.

I am it. You know it. I know it. because we can reason. All principles build on it.

You are it. You are just you, no questions asked. you are you to you.
 

DoIMustHaveAnUsername?

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Here, I'll put the question another way: given that 20th century physics (both quantum mechanics and relativity theory) emphasize the dependence of natural phenomena upon our manner of observing them, is it possible that we are on our way to cosmology that does not presuppose an impersonal, essentially spatial, dynamical universe of which the human race is a mere local anomaly, but leaves room for personal agency?
The person can be reduced to a story imputed over interconnected impersonal elements. But yes, we can go towards a more "participatory sort of realism"
 
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