A Though Experiment on Spiritual Evolution

Two aquatic critters swimming in the primordial seas of Earth; one has experienced a mutation resulting in its having a rudimentary photosensitive cell or cell cluster; the other has not.

They exchange greetings.

The first says to the second, “Hey! Did you know that light is pretty cool?”
The second says, “What?”

“Light, man! It’s groovy.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Well, with light, you know if you’re upside down or right-side up relative to the surface of the sea. It’s a bit easier to find food. It’s tremendously beneficial.”

“This is nonsense. We’ve got a pretty good idea of how our environment works. You’re using meaningless terminology.”

“It’s light, I tell you! I see it! It’s a good thing! Come to the light!”

“Look: if you want to believe in some imaginary power called “Light” that helps your life, that’s your business. Just don’t ram it down MY throat. Nobody’s ever seen this “Light” shit. It’s unmeasurable and can’t, therefore, be proved scientifically. I. for one, think you are delusional, fanatical, and more than a little scary. Fuck off.”

And they both swim away, and both are a little disturbed.

Is another rudimentary human sense developing gradually? Mutationally, some have it, while others in the population do not? Remember that human evolution is barely underway, given the timescale of evolution.

Thoughts? Rip it to pieces.

First of all, what sense do you wish to discuss, and what specific information can be demonstrated to be obtained from it?

We know that magnetism exists even though we don’t have organs to sense it directly.

If some sort of “spiritual energy” exists, we’re much more likely to discover it through technology than through evolution. The fact that we haven’t discovered “spiritual energy” through technology (when we’ve discovered lots of other things that we can’t sense directly) is strong evidence that it doesn’t exist.

It’s more the other way round, no? Historically, everyone believed in supernatural things. It’s mostly in modern times that some have cast off those beliefs. I honestly think your idea is beyond silly, but if anything, the “mutation” is to not believe in imaginary things.

There are problems with the light=spirituality idea.

We can objectively detect and measure light by means other than our eyes. Even a blind person, who is unable to detect light personally, can use instruments to measure its effects. And a person can enter a room and measure an amount of light in that room. Another person can then enter that same room and, without knowing what the first person found, measure the same amount of light and obtain the same result.

These things are evidence that there is a real thing that we call light and it exists outside of our minds. There is no similar evidence for spirits; nobody has ever been able to consistently detect of measure supernatural forces. This is evidence that these supernatural forces are not real and only exist in people’s imaginations.

Is this that “witnessing” I’ve heard about?

In your example you say that this new ability is beneficial because it makes it easier to find food-it can be tested. What spiritual aspect are you comparing it to, and how do you propose we test it?

How could the blind swimmer determine rationally and reasonably whether the non-blind swimmer is making it up (or deluded) or telling the truth?

#3, #4, and #5 nailed it. Our senses are directly linked to understanding the world only at a relatively primitive level of evolution. At the human level, our most importantly evolved organ is the brain, and most of what we know about the universe is gleaned from evidence far beyond the capabilities of our senses and assembled by logical inference into coherent theories. It’s kind of ironic that just hours ago, the first evidence of gravitational waves was announced – an incredible scientific breakthrough. Not exactly something we can see or feel with our senses – detection required measuring perturbations in 4-kilometer long laser beams that were 10,000 times smaller than a proton.

In the spirit of the hypothetical the dude that can see light cannot describe it precisely or measure it. If I were writing the hypothetical, I would have said the source of light makes it so I can experience something that is not easily measurable…


Got it, “this source of light makes it so I slightly enjoy urinating and/or defecating.” How are you going to argue with that?

I’m color-blind. I always have a sneaking suspicion that everyone is playing an elaborate joke on me, but I act as if there are distinct colors that other people can perceive, because they all manage to get on the same page about whether a given object is “purple”, and, hey, if it’s a trick, that’s a danged impressive trick.

The spiritual analogoue apparently falls short of that. Like, spectacularly.

The eye is a physical object. Where is the spirit detecting organ? Descartes thought the pineal gland was the seat of the soul. If it’s not a physical origin then how did this awakening evolve? Is there a spiritual third eye? How do humans access it? You run into the spirit-body interaction problem.

When people look at something there’s a consensus. Everyone agrees a table is a table. If you have poor vision you’ll see a blurry or blob-shaped table. Religious visions follow some common tropes, but there is little consensus. Some people see Jesus, others see Quetzalcoatl.

if you mean a fuzzier spiritual realm then I’d ask what this implies, exactly. Some have claimed spiritual powers such as ESP, telekinesis, clairvoyance, speaking with the dead, seeing auras, astral projection, and so on, but none have withstood empirical inquiry.

If you mean an even fuzzier sense of oneness and interconnectedness with the world, I’d say that is readily available through the ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs like mushrooms and LSD or more traditional methods like fasting for long periods of time while meditating in a cave or desert or viewing impressive spectacles of nature or art.

It would help the argument if all those receiving “spiritual signals” were receiving the same “spiritual signals”-if there was some sort of consistency that could be verified.

All this signal harshing is killing the OP’s primordial sense buzz, man.

This is fighting the hypothetical. The organism in the OP has no instruments to measuring light and no prospect of making such instruments. Gravitional waves either exist or do not. Apparently before today scientist have no way of perceiving them, but now they do. Things exist outside of our ability to perceive them. If there are things in the world that we are not built to perceive and do not have the technology to build things to perceive we would have no way of knowing.

Once again, the hypothetical made the claim that this new ability made it easier to find food, which is testable.

Read about N-Rays to see the difference between real and imaginary phenomena.

Even if you’re blind and can’t detect light, you can easily make a test to determine if the people who are claiming to see this thing they call light are detecting something real or just imagining it. Just set up a room and have a person come in and tell you if they can observe light in the room. Then have other people come in one at a time, without being able to speak with each other, and ask them the same question. If they all give you the same answer, you should conclude they really are observing some objective phenomena and not just imaging it.

A light that makes you enjoy urinating, a homeopathic medicine that helps you sleep, a rabbit’s foot that brings you good luck, and the Holy Spirit that lives inside you and guides your moral life are all examples of subjective and unverifiable phenomena. You’re free to believe in their existence if you want to but don’t compare them to things which you can prove the existence of.

It isn’t fighting the hypothetical because testable claims were made. If I tell you that my light-sensing organs help me find the surface of the water, we should be able to run races to test it. If it helps me find food, let’s measure how much food each of us finds each day. Even if you wanted to deny the existence of light, you’d have to admit that I’m doing *something *different.

Now, if we change the OP and the light-sensing fish says “I will go to Heaven, but nothing you do can measure or verify that.” Well… OK, now we have an untestable claim. You can choose to believe or not, but it would be no different from the religious claims people are already making.

And I think the fact that the spiritual claims differ from each other so wildly actually weaken the case for their existence.

A third, blind critter also comes swimming up. This one has suffered a different mutation that has caused him to go insane. He steadfastly insists to the first creature that light certainly DOES exist, but unlike critter #2, he declares it to be coming from the bottom of the ocean. He is just as certain and insistent as critter #2.

How is critter #1 to decide which, if either, is correct? Blindly accepting what someone professes to be true is unlikely to lead him in the right direction (particularly if we throw in blind, insane critters #4-100, who all insist that light is coming from entirely different directions). The only way to be certain what the truth is is to check the claims against reality - in other words, science. Without knowing more about the capabilities of the critters, we cannot suggest an experiment that would settle the matter, but without solid data, it’s critter #2’s word against that of critters #3 through 100. Critter #1 would be a fool to blindly follow any of them.