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Introduction
& Prolog
Part 1.
Metabolic Metaphysics
Part 2.
Star Larvae
Part 3.
Space Brains
Addenda
Epilog

The Star Larvae Hypothesis

Nature's Plan for Humankind: Beyond Darwin and Intelligent Design


The Hypothesis:

  1. Stars constitute a genus of organism.
  2. The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase.
  3. Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.


Elaboration
The hypothesis presents
a teleological model of nature, in which

 

UPDATE: Reconceptualizing Evolution as an Instance of Development.

Phylogeny is its own Ontogeny; Start with the Zygote
.

During the development of a complex organism, a fertilized ovum, or zygote, divides in two, then again into twice as many cells and eventually into all the cells that compose the organism's body. As the cells proliferate, they differentiate in form and function into the various cell types of that particular kind of body. This differentiation into skin, stomach, nerve, and other cell types occurs even though the cells of a developing body all share a common genotype, that of the original zygote. The paradox of one genotype yielding many cellular phenotypes has been resolved, in a general sense, through the mechanisms of epigenetics. A relatively new branch of molecular biology, epigenetics addresses issues related to gene regulation and gene regulatory networks. The new discipline aims to explain how, during development, genes get turned on and off and when (as in larval or adult forms of organisms) and where (as in spleen or kidney) they do.

The new discipline is an upstart. Epigenetics would seem to demote DNA from being the cell's chief executive to its merely utilitarian, dumb server. DNA is an archive of messenger-RNA templates (and the messenger RNA molecules transcribed from the templates still pass through an editing suite before being escorted to the ribosome, where they get translated into proteins). The molecular machinery of epigenetics, through normal chemical bonding, excites or inhibits DNA "expression" or "action." The countless combinations of sections of DNA that can be expressed and repressed here and there in sequence or in tandem produce multiform phenotypes from the highly conserved DNA of the original zygote. From a complex database a skilled operator can extract many kinds of reports, by slicing the data this way then that. DNA is such a complex database, responding to many and diverse calls for data. The creatures of the Earth are reports summoned from DNA, not expressions of any executive talent that resides in the DNA. This is the new view of things from the world of epigenetics.

But epigenetic mechanisms do more than regulate cellular differentiation during development. What is particularly significant, from the perspective of the star larvae hypothesis, is that epigenetic mechanisms also are implicated, increasingly, in the diversification of species from a conserved genome during evolution. "Conserved genome" is taking a liberty, admittedly, but how much of one? As statistical genomics continues to reveal, the conservation of DNA across species is far more extensive than anyone had expected. Because genomes differ among species far less than had been anticipated, some commenters even have coined the phrase, "universal genome" to underscore the striking commonalities among genomes shared by diverse species. Evolution increasingly seems to be an instance of development, the two processes of development and evolution sharing a reliance on epigenetic mechanisms to pull forth diverse forms from a shared database. Even though development and evolution differ markedly in scale, they grow increasingly mechanically similar as research proceeds. The star larvae hypothesis suggests the term ontophylogeny to designate biology's generic process of differentiation/diversification (an appropriation from J- J. Kupiec).

Let the chips fall, but the star larvae hypothesis continues find encouragement in new discoveries in molecular biology that pertain to "descent with modification," whether the descent is of tissues during development or of species during evolution. The hypothesis watches for new breakthroughs in this area, because the trend line continues to dovetail with its prediction that evolution will come to be recognized as an instance of development.

That's when things get interesting. That's when the hypothesis directs attention to an elephant in the room. Namely, if evolution becomes mechanically indistinguishable from development, or at least so dependent on the same mechanisms that issues of spatial and temporal scale become the last refuge of defenders of the old paradigm, then potentially troubling issues arise for normal science. (These troubles don't pertain in the context of the star larvae hypothesis, however. Just saying.)

One: Development proceeds in a preferred direction. Given an accommodating environment, an adult chicken, and not an adult penguin, will be called forth from a chick embryo. Development has a teleological character. If evolution is an instance of development, then it, too, must have a teleological character, a preferred direction. This will be a tough pill for science to swallow.

Evolution coming to be seen as a process that depends on endogenous factors as much as does development raises the challenge of applying the new understanding. What might it say about evolution on exoplanets? Theorists of evolution should have something predictive to say about questions such as these: Given an Earth-size planet in some solar system's "habitable zone," i.e., at the requisite distance from the system's central star, or sun, and which planet finds itself steward of some viruses and bacteria, what exogenous contingencies will influence the descent of phenotypes and to what extent and in which directions? And to what extent will endogenous physiology influence the descent of phenotypes and to what extent and in which directions? The star larvae hypothesis predicts that endogenous gene regulatory networks will generate phenotypes along the lines of the general types of body plans that have evolved on Earth. The "tree of life" on exoplanets that bear complex life will include essentially the same major divisions, classes, orders, and phyla as those seen on Earth and probably a few platypus-like oddball assemblies as well. Incorporating the assertions of panspermia, the star larvae hypothesis assumes that diverse planets will share in the "universal genome."

Two: Development, or ontogeny, typically is characterized as advancing through the stages of a life cycle, with the post-reproductive adult occupying the terminal stage. If evolution is an instance of development, then what is the adult form of the organism that's developing? And what events constitute a complete reproductive cycle of that organism?

Conceiving of life on Earth as being engaged in a process of development, a planetary ontogeny, might seem less crazy if the sceptic appreciates that the bodies of complex organisms are themselves ecologies. Most cells in a human body, for example, are bacterial cells. Each human body is a constantly evolving ecosystem of microbial symbionts, parasites and stowaways. The fellow travelers constitute the "microbiomes" that compose human bodies. Development is ecological and evolution is developmental. The same relationships seem to pertain at all scales.

The strain that humankind is putting on the Earth; particularly in light of nuclear mishaps, geoengineering, weaponized microbes, and the seemingly suicidal sociopathy of the various factions of would-be global oligarchs; might tempt observers to render a harsh verdict against humankind, to liken humans to a deadly, havoc-wreaking, ecosystem-wrecking, cancer. But such a condemnation would be misguided.

Humankind doesn't represent a global cancer that needs to be treated, but a burgeoning new life, one, however, that can distinguish itself from a cancer only by engineering its own delivery into the weightless environment of outer space.

human evolution and intelligent designIntroduction: Beyond Darwin and Intelligent Design

The two-party system (evolution vs. intelligent design) is an obsolete paradigm. Our hypothesis synthesizes the thesis-antithesis of evolution and intelligent design into an expanded model of biology's natural history.

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one, and that . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved."
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

"Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it is an intolerable thought that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long-continued slow progress."
Charles Darwin, autobiography


Prolog: The Nature of Meaning and the Meaning of Nature
If nature is divine artifice, as religious faith supposes, then nature is of a kind with technology.

Nature is somebody's science project.


 
 

astrotheology in alchemy PART 1: Metabolic Metaphysics

"As cosmological theories advance, they will draw more concepts from biology."
Sir Martin Rees, "Rees's Law"

Complexity Theory and the Retrieval of Vitalism
The new science of complexity, or complex systems theory, retrieves the discarded doctrine of vitalism. It assigns to nature a capacity to self organize—to construct complex structures and processes spontaneously.
Entropy: Nature's Preferred Direction?
The old science of thermodynamics assigns to nature a capacity to self disorganize—to deconstruct complex structures and processes spontaneously.
Metabolism and the Complexity-Entropy Circuit
Complexity and entropy—anabolic and catabolic processes—feed each other through circuits collectively called metabolism. Nature's metabolism encompasses the organic and the inorganic in a continuum of anabolic and catabolic exchanges.
Organism and Environment
Sub-processes within nature's metabolism can seem themselves to be discrete metabolisms. But these sub-processes, organisms, cannot operate autonomously, separately from an environment.
Symbiosis
Organisms become harder to define when they extend their metabolisms through, and become dependent on, one another.
Technology, or Niche Construction
Organisms become even harder to define when they extend their metabolisms through, and become dependent on, their own artifacts.
Coincidence and Creativity in Nature: Liberal Applications of Niche Construction
Natural selection and genetic drift don't shape organisms to fit ecological niches. Organisms construct the niches they want.


astrotheology and HinduismPART 2: Star Larvae

"Good are the lights our God has created,
fashioning them with insight and wisdom."
Traditional Jewish prayer, El Adon

Teleology, the Forms of Function
Science and religion are at odds over whether nature and history participate in a programwhether any particular direction inheres in these processes.
Ontophylogeny, or Evelopment
Evolution’s Extended Synthesis dethrones natural selection as the primary shaper of phenotypes.
Anthropic Coincidence
The laws of nature in this universe are attuned precisely to the needs of biological organisms.
Cosmological Natural Selection
The laws of nature appear to be tuned to provide the universe with reproductive organs—black holes.
The Stellar Organism
Their stable disequilibria, catalytic metabolisms, periodic physiological cycles, and homeostatic feedback controls qualify stars as living organisms.
Astrolatry, Astrotheology and Astral Religion
The universality and persistence of astral themes in religious art and lore testify to humankind’s stellar calling.
Silicates and Biogenesis
Biological life is cosmic, not terrestrial, in origin and scope.
Panspermia: Seeds Everywhere
Biological life impregnates planets, where it gestates, until it returns to space symbiotic with its technologies.
The Proton Crisis and the Heat Death of the Universe
Biological life extends the life of the universe by recycling black holes into new protons (through a technology sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic).
Quantum Gravity and the Physics of Consciousness
Researchers continue to map correlations between neurological and mental events. But subjectivity per se seems to originate at a different interface—between quantum and gravitational events.

astrotheology and christianityPART 3: Space Brains

"Zero-G, and I feel fine."
John Glenn, aboard Friendship 7, 1962

Space Migration: Ascent to Heaven
Mother Earth has come to term. It's time to leave home.
Neuroplasticity and the Enrichments of Weightlessness
Bones and muscles—adaptations to gravity—atrophy in space, but brains are poised to bulk up.
Neuroplasticity and Neurological Neoteny
Weightless enrichment juvenilizes brains, extending the neotenous trend in human evolution.
Sleep, Lifestyle of the Rich and Weightless
Juvenilized brains exuberate and snooze. But snoozing threatens the enrichments that exuberance produces.
Lucid Dreams, the Great Awakening
Dreaming compensates for sleep's brain-impoverishing paralysis. Dreaming with intent extends conscious will into the unconscious.
Omnipresent Virtualities
Virtual reality releases solitary dreamers into the collective dream.
Quantum Theology
Resolving the proton crisis through oneiric intent—the universe heals itself through its own subjectivity.

neotenous angelPART 4: Addendum: Cyberfetus Rising

Technology decommissions the specialized adaptations of the adult body. The neoteny that results illustrates gene-culture coevolution. In outer space that process will deliver a posthuman form anticipated by the religious figure of the cherubic angel, or putto, the celestial infant.

"I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm president of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli."
President George H. W. Bush, to reporters, spring 1990


TimothyPART 5: Addendum: Exo-Psychology Revisited

Brain circuits juvenilized by weightlessness will mediate a concomitantly juvenilized subjectivity. The psychedelic, or entheogenic, experience provides a preview of the de-differentiated consciousness likely to characterize the juvenilized minds of extraterrestrials.

"If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite."
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

 


Conspiracy_New World OrderPART 6: Addendum: The Sociobiology of the New World Order (and the Conspiracy of Sociobiology)

Sociobiology explains social organization in naturalistic terms, but it remains taboo to apply it to humans, because that would imply that human society is stratified genetically. Conspiracy theories step in to concur that the ruling class indeed is an inbreeding elite. Anyone uncomfortable with the notion is free to dismiss it as "conspiracy theory." Nonetheless, genetic stratification sets the stage for speciation.

"I shall attempt to show that what observers in the Progressive Era called 'the Invisible Government' has now become quite visible; and that what is usually taken to be the central content of politics, the pressure, and the campaigns, and the congressional maneuvering, has, in considerable part, now been relegated to the middle levels of power."
C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite

 


Epilog: The Meaning of Purpose

To spare humankind the hell of a technocratic,fundamentalist hive, humanism needs to mount a postmodern revolution—a revolution that rejects the alienation of a plotless history. The star larvae hypothesis lays the foundation for such an essential revolution.

 

 

 

astrotheology and catholicism astrotheology and pop culture
"Thus he spake, and once more into the cup in which he had previously mingled the soul of the universe he poured the remains of the elements, and mingled them in much the same manner [. . . .] And having made it he divided the whole mixture into souls equal in number to the stars, and assigned each soul to a star; and having there placed them as in a chariot, he showed them the nature of the universe, and declared to them the laws of destiny, according to which their first birth would be one and the same for all,-no one should suffer a disadvantage at his hands; they were to be sown in the instruments of time severally adapted to them, and to come forth the most religious of animals [. . . .] He who lived well during his appointed time was to return and dwell in his native star, and there he would have a blessed and congenial existence."

— Plato
The Timaeus

 
 

 
 
 

The Star Larvae Hypothesis:

Stars constitute a genus of organism. The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase. Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.

Elaboration: The hypothesis presents a teleological model of nature, in which    

 

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