I present the homunculus theory of animal anatomy to you without much in the way of critical analysis because I believe that its validity is self evident on the basis of common sense. I will, however, briefly elaborate by way of suggesting that as grotesque as this observation may at first seem to you, you can't deny its intuitive appeal. After all, if the head is to supervise the satisfaction of the body's needs, it is hardly surprising to find that it consists of a representation of the body. Clearly there is a literal sense in which the head represents a body of constituents.
Furthermore, in terms of verifying the relationship between head and body the host model and the homunculus theory mutually corroborate each other. In this case an analogy can be drawn between the two structures which says that the British Isles is to the rest of the world as the human face is to the body. Now, you may find that my usage of these terms is confusing, so let me try to clarify. It is my intention to liken the British Isles to the head of the planet, but I don't think that the comparison is as simple as this. There are other features of European topography, such as Denmark and the Skagerrak Strait, which I believe are unambiguously associated with the anatomical structure of the head, and which preclude the British Isles from having an exclusive claim to this identity. I am therefore inclined to compare the likeness between our face and body, as depicted by Magritte's painting, with the relationship between the British Isles and the rest of the world. It is possible, on the basis of this comparison, to think of the British Isles as the 'face' of the planet, its representation of self in the context of global discourse, while it follows as a matter of corollary that the face represents an abstraction of the body. This may also be unsatisfying to you so let me point out that there are several interpretations of the evidence which deserve mention, and I will introduce these to the discussion at a later stage.
I might also mention, although somewhat teasingly, the curious reciprocal inversion you will observe occurring between the ears and the arms when raised horizontally on either side of the body. The inversion is as if the ears were open to a sense of the inner space within while the arms sense the outer space beyond the body, and this comparison gives our spatial regression a certain visceral quality. While I have little more to say about this symmetrical correspondence I'm sure that you will find it curious to observe, and it may appeal to your intuitive sense of the relationship between the head and body.
I will also briefly comment on the association between the planetary head and the depiction of parental relations which Ireland and Great Britain seem to indicate. I believe that an axis of symmetry will help to explain this representational context. Axes of symmetry are very common in the assemblage of matter; the celestial Ecliptic defined by the path which the Sun and planets follow is an example of one, as is the terrestrial Equator. On opposite sides of the Equator the planetary adult and foetus exhibit a regression which is similar to our infinite spatial regression provided that we are able to incorporate a parallel extension in time.
If material existence regresses to a point of infinity, and space and time are inseparable, then both dimensions must be depicted in its subsequent representation. In the case of the planet the beginning and the end of time are depicted on either side of the equator by the planetary adult and foetus, and the relationship is one of temporal symmetry. This symmetry must be expressed on every level of organisation in order for representational continuity to be maintained, and so we see Ireland and Great Britain express it in their representation of the planetary head. Perhaps not surprisingly we find ourselves involved in the depiction of this symmetry, and so parent and child represent a temporal axis, but there is another aspect of this relationship which may surprise you. Not only do parents and their children represent opposite ends of time but because of the relationship between Ireland and Great Britain we may now implicate parent and child in the symmetrical correspondence between our two cerebral hemispheres.
I will return to the subject of symmetrically polar fields a little later in this discussion, but for now I would like to emphasise the significance of representation, not only in the limited context of the host model itself, but also more generally in terms of answering the pithy question of why the universe exists. I will attempt to make clear to you that the material universe is organised according to a regression of representative summaries, a recursive diminution of abstractions which represent the universe, and which proceed from one end of the dimensional scale of existence to the other. The regression of abstractions is a theoretical construction which will probably be new to you, but one which allows that all of material existence occurs in the context of representation. Representation is thus a very general term, and in view of our preoccupation with various political representations one which should already be very familiar to you. Nevertheless, let me point out several features of such representations, and show you how they are relevant to our discussion of the host model of Earth.
I will begin with a representation which will be very dear to many of you, not because it is an icon which will have been familiar to you from quite early in your life, but because it is one whose abstraction is so acute that it's meaning is very nearly obscure. I am referring to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve the subject of which we may now discuss because we live in an age of considerable liberation, but when it was written in those modest days of old it was a subject which was too delicate for much discussion which is why the story is so obscurely phrased. Even today many of you will be surprised to hear that it is a fairly coy explanation of the role which sex plays in the genesis of time and space, so cloudy is the representational imagery. As children we are introduced to the foggy symbolism associated with an artful snake and forbidden fruit, but it is then left to the discretionary wonder of individuals and their personal accumulation of experience to clarify these obscure references.
But this coyness is itself perhaps our best clue to deciphering the meaning hidden behind these guarded words. There's only one subject the author could want to address with such oblique innuendo. Given the delicate pattern of deception sewn into sexual representations, and in view of the utter selfishness of sexual motivation, it is a fair reflection of our impact on this world to suggest that the original sin concerned reproduction. Take a look around you. It's an easy bet that there are too many humans on this planet. And besides, by way of corroboration what may not have occurred to you is that sexual proclivities constitute knowledge of good and evil. Since courtship involves the selection of a partner on the basis of attraction goodness will be attractive to you, while evil will be repulsive. So, the story of Adam and Eve is not so much about the ascent of humanity over the course of ages, although this is undoubtedly an implication. But perhaps even more importantly it is the story which parents tell their children in order to explain to them the difference between childhood and subsequent maturity.
You may be wondering what this has to do with the host model. Well, for a start, you will probably agree that the host model compels us to re-examine our relationship with the planet, and I'm sure it will be clear to you how the Garden of Eden story represents some of our most sincere sentiments in this regard. But there is an aspect to this story which has a bearing on the regression of abstractions in so far as Adam and Eve are themselves abstractions, stick figure chalk board sketches which summarise the experience of human cultures long ago. Indeed, the symbolism is so minimal because the story represents a very early theory of our relationship with the world, and also because the original story tellers wanted to ensure that the protagonists would remain memorable throughout the ages. My point is that when we think about such minimal imagery we each visualise something vaguely different. Our individual mental associations will vary considerably, and this is why the meaning behind the Genesis story is subject to confusion. My vision of the Garden of Eden is as idiosyncratic as yours is.
While you could argue that perhaps the Genesis story could have been a little more verbose, clearly some editing is required in the telling of any story. Were it possible to include all the jolly trivia associated with some story, then its intended meaning would soon be lost among the endless detail. Stories are therefore selective constructions, they summarise the subject they refer to. Indeed, there is such a dependence on the summarisation of information in a world of increasing complexity, that the same can be said of representations in general. A baby born in the treetops during a recent flood in Africa became symbolic of the plight of an entire nation, just as a politician summarises the experience of his or her constituents. The numerous icons of modern pop culture are examples of this representational modelling, and the modern science of statistics embodies a representation of the process.
It is a comparison between this representation of experience in society and the location of the British Isles in the larger global environment that is perhaps the most compelling insight provided by the host model's discovery. According to this view organic evolution is found progressively objectifying summaries of its cosmic experience. The British Isles represent an abstraction of the entire planet, itself an abstraction of the Sun and Solar System, and human anatomy in turn embodies a summary, not only of its immediate location in space, but ultimately of memories spanning the universe itself. A system of representation which is recursive suggests that creatures like spiders, jellyfish, elephants and single cells represent summaries of the attempt to define cosmic identity. Each individual creature is itself an island universe, a rudimentary model of the unfolding of time, while playing a dialectical role in the planet's long history of biological interaction. If it is reasonable to characterise the lives of individual creatures in this way then we may implicate the universe in the act of thinking, and individual creatures in the portrayal of roles which bring the universe closer to an achievement of understanding.
Representations both organise our thinking and give meaning to our lives. We endlessly conduct an internal dialogue about the world in terms of representations, and it is likely that creatures of any sort will wrestle with them just as incessantly. In general terms representations may be of a personal nature or they may be shared within the group. This is by no means a trivial comparison because it is the basis on which two of the most venerable institutions in society are distinguished. Representations can be either artistic or scientific depending on whose interests they serve. Artistic expression satisfies an individual's need to externalise personal perceptions, while scientific enquiry provides the group with a view of natural phenomena common to all individuals without exception.
While the rivalry between the institutions of art and science is just as much one of camaraderie as of professional jealousy, there remains a distinct sentiment in the community that scientific representations provide us with a more accurate depiction of our lives. Yet scientific representations of nature are not intrinsically different from artistic ones; the test of verisimilitude applies to artistic expression no less critically than it does to the products of scientific enquiry.
Antagonism is, however, rarely so constructive. Art and science amalgamate in the drama of public life. This is no more apparent than with respect to a kind of conventional representation, electoral representation, where ideological ingots such as free trade or social justice are forged under the hammer of a rigorous economic pragmatism.
That a head of government could represent the community, perpetuating its values unsupervised yet with confident predictability, is perhaps not surprising. But the location of such individuals within a recursive system of abstractions which involves material existence on a grand cosmic scale may well be. You will already be aware of the sense in which I liken humans to other creatures in the universe, but I also want to draw your attention to the sense in which other creatures are as capable of representational abstraction as we are. You may think that we are uniquely endowed with a certain intellectual capacity, but I think you'll find that animals are no less entangled in a web of meaning. They are undoubtedly represented by leaders just as we are, but this may not be the most intriguing aspect of our comparison with them.
In our case political leaders represent their electorates in the parliamentary discussions which concern them, but this cursory description of their function fails to identify the most crucial aspect of what they do. A corollary of political representation which is usually taken for granted is that our leaders embody our consciousness. Not only do they act on our behalf, but they are in possession of a vision of the community they serve which is used to model the consequence of any action they may be required to undertake. It is this inextricable association between representation and consciousness that I want to draw your attention to now, because if they are inseparable as I believe them to be then we may expect consciousness to be an attribute of every individual particle of matter from one end of the dimensional scale of existence to the other.
To put my argument in terms of the regression of abstractions, if form is fundamentally abstract, and it is true that abstractions constitute information then form implies the simultaneous existence of consciousness, since information only occurs in the context of an organism's experience of awareness. The body is thus a body of knowledge, and evolution the physical register of a creative and reflective contemplation.
If this turns out to be a valid inference, then it is reasonable to suppose that galaxies, stars, microbes and atoms have consciousness in the same sense that we as humans do. While philosophers may have dreamed of being able to suggest this possibility I believe that it is only in the context of the present discussion that people will ever find it acceptable. Of course, acceptance of this conclusion may not be universal because for a lot of people doubt is a necessary part of their thinking. So, for those of you who are conscientiously sceptical, let me tempt you with the following argument. If an abstraction inherits from its prior form those attributes which make it a faithful summary, then the abstract representation of a conscious being necessarily includes the attribute of consciousness. Since the argument applies to the reverse case of a progressive elaboration, it follows that if any part of material existence is conscious, then every other part must possess this attribute as well. This is a fairly robust argument in spite of whether you agree with it or not. But, if you still harbour doubts about its validity, then let me put it this way.
Imagine for a moment that we are all microbes living off the back of Planet Earth, a living host assumed to be a planetary being. If the planet is a being, and the ultimate purpose of being is knowledge, then the planet must exist as a being in possession of this faculty. Furthermore, because we may infer from our resemblance to the planet that the recursive depiction of being is likely to be extensive, I don't know how you can avoid the conclusion that consciousness is universal. Irrespective of the dimensional scale of matter trumpeting between spatial infinities, material form cannot be removed from the context of knowledge and meaning. Saturn, for example, is no coincidence of physical materials, but a point of self conscious reflection undertaken by the ancestral Solar Being. To say that consciousness is the exclusive domain of human beings against this background is, I think, both petty and small minded. It is absurd to suggest that, out of thirteen billion years of evolutionary history, consciousness only emerged with the development of humanity some two million years ago. It is, however, consistent with a rigorous verisimilitude to suggest that matter is inherently representational, and therefore concerned with knowledge, and that this will likely be the case at any infinitesimal point in the course of material existence.
This sort of talk may seem vaguely repetitious to some discerning readers. I'm sorry, but I'm sure you'll agree that it will likely be so alien to some human beings that it deserves a little judicious reinforcement. It allows that consciousness need not be associated exclusively with the behaviour of the brain, dissolving to an extent the traditional distinction between mind and body. The human body is thus a population of constituent cells and atoms, some 100 trillion independently conscious cells, or about a thousand trillion trillion atoms, a population in which the mind is distinct from the body only in its constitutional representation of the body as a whole. The body is a mass of individual particles and the mind is the Premier of these. But, in so far as this Premier is able to achieve consciousness on behalf of the body, then any particle is capable of the same and can also be said to be in possession of the faculty of mind. Surely the homunculus theory is based on a valid interpretation of the physical evidence; body and mind are merely adjacent components in an endlessly regressing representational continuum.
The somewhat frenzied image of a vast empire of independent beings working together, springs readily to mind at this point, since a comparison between the body and the political constitution of nation states is, in this case, as natural as it is correct. While it is a matter of simplicity to locate the mind at the apex of this empire, a further comparison between the midbrain and the apex of a pyramid, is not only natural but, in the context of an endless regression of abstractions, even more dramatic.
Now, I'm not saying that the average somatic cell has consciousness on a scale equal to the consciousness of the body as a whole, just as the average member of society has a view of the world which is less than the view of those chosen few who represent us all. But I do believe it is reasonable to attribute fundamental particles with a capacity for knowledge, however limited this capacity may be, knowledge, for example, of the distinction between self and other, and of how the self interacts with its immediate environment. After all, particles behave in an orderly manner, they are bound by the same physical constraints we are. And, because they are so small, whatever they do they do independently of our knowledge or involvement, just as we exist without supervision by more elaborate representations of being such as the Planet, the Solar System or Galaxy.
This discussion may seem fairly reasonable up to this point, the language is at least correct, and you probably sense that I'm committed to the validity of it. But, I bet you have trouble believing there is any life in a lump of rock, or in the atoms of which it is composed. Such things are, according to convention, unquestionably inanimate. No offense chum, but you probably have a fairly restrictive way of looking at the world; you simply don't have the sort of volatile imagination possessed by one who has been immersed in this thinking for more than a few short years. You balk at the necessity that if every particle of matter represents some spark of consciousness, then there must be worlds within worlds, and countless beings who populate them.
If you are uninclined to adopt this view then you may rest assured that you are in good company. Physicists are among those who believe that matter is fundamentally inanimate. While they recognise the equivalence between work and energy they refuse to allow an association between what objects do in a physical context with the work which most of us engage in on a daily basis. They distinguish the work which animals do in the course of either defending themselves, or providing for their nutritional needs, from the energy which is contained in the substance of their being. In Physics work is defined as the length over which an object is accelerated times the product of its mass and its acceleration, and is measured in joules which is the same unit according to which energy is measured. The total energy of an object was made famous by Einstein who proposed that it is equal to its mass times the speed of light squared, so that even very small amounts of matter contained really quite a phenomenal amount of energy.
Physicists have always been careful to distinguish between an object's ability to do work and the social behaviour we engage in because of the inextricable implication of volition in what we do as economic participants in society. In society work is a matter of considerable deliberation, it is goal oriented and well planned, and so it necessarily implies the existence of a conscious perceiver who coordinates the completion of the countless sub goals which an economic enterprise will usually require. Presumably scientists have been reluctant to attribute fundamental particles with this sort of consciousness because they have not been in possession of a paradigm which allowed them to draw this conclusion. But they may now be persuaded to adopt this view because of the host model of Earth, and the continuity of representation which it necessarily implies.
If all these particles represent beings who are entangled in a system whose purpose is to obtain knowledge of the universe in which they live, and together they constitute a means of storing energy, then inevitably they must be implicated in its practical utility. I therefore suggest that such creatures are workers who think constructively about what they do, and who labour to arrive at the ultimate goal of their existence which is to represent their experience of the mystical world whose devious ways they are unavoidably a part. Such creatures are both the workers and the work. They are the means by which knowledge is obtained, and having obtained this knowledge they endeavour to store it in representations which give substance to the containment of energy itself.
In our case we use energy to create representations of ourselves, and of our relationship with the world, which satisfies our fundamental need to express ourselves, and which is consistent with the ultimate purpose of our being. But because our creativity is so fundamental we may infer the possession of this faculty by any creature, in spite of the scale of its existence, including the planetary being who hosts us.
I want to show you how the planetary consciousness has affected the shape of continental outlines, so I will now briefly discuss the behaviour of three morphological factors which affect the planetary crust, and which vary according to changes in the thermal energy in its vicinity. The three factors are sea level changes which are due to dramatic changes in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, erosion due to temperature extremes, wind, rain, and pounding seas, and most importantly continental drift.
Let me begin with the suggestion that there are several factors affecting the temperature of the planet in the vicinity of its crusty surface where the landmasses undergo transformation. The temperature of the planetary core is some five or six thousand Kelvin, but this drops off to between 1000 and 1500 Kelvin close to the planetary surface where magma is ejected from volcanos. The crust provides insulation for the lower atmosphere where the temperature is, of course, room temperature, and this drops off to just above absolute zero on the dark side of the planet as you leave the planetary atmosphere. On the sunny side of the planet it is still very warm outside the atmosphere, but much of this heat is reflected back into space, so that the surface is within a range which is tolerable to most of the creatures who live there. With so much thermal variation close to the planetary surface it seems likely that a planetary host who is determined to undertake work would find the manipulation of surface temperatures a matter of considerable simplicity.
In the case of the first morphological factor sea levels rise and fall with the tides on a daily basis without affecting the shape of continental outlines. But over the course of much longer periods of time sea levels change as global temperatures cycle between periodic highs and lows. Polar ice sheets advance during infrequent periods of extreme cold, absorbing water from the oceans, then retreat as warmer weather returns. There have, however, been only three major glacial episodes over the last half a billion years or so, each of which lasted no more than a few million years. During this time coastlines will have undergone substantial morphological transformations, and so it is unclear whether sea level changes figure much in either the planet's perception of continental outlines, or its generation of these topographical figures.
Erosion, on the other hand, is a more significant factor which is caused by the weathering of the rocky materials in the environment. These materials fracture when exposed to temperature extremes, and the wind drives abrasive particles into them which wear them down during a process which is very similar to sandblasting. In the case of coastal erosion the factors are identical with the exception that the abrasive particles are made of salty water which can also chemically interact with the rocky materials, but the wind is the factor which does most of the work. The creation of wind requires the transformation of thermal energy into mechanical energy and accounts for most of the energy involved, although the wind is also affected by the rotation of the Earth.
The density of the air in the lower atmosphere varies with the distribution of temperature so that as warmer air expands there will be a reduction in density in that region, and cooler air will contract leading to an increase in atmospheric pressure. Because of differences in pressure the wind will tend to follow the isobars which are drawn on weather maps, and the distribution of thermal energy in the atmosphere is ultimately responsible for this. My point is that in a system where work and energy are equal, and where electromagnetic radiation is to be found in abundance, the distribution of thermal energy on the surface of the planet could easily become a matter of deliberation. I therefore suggest that it is at least conceivable that coastal erosion may not be as haphazard as people usually assume it to be.
I would like to compare a couple of cases of coastal erosion, but the comparison depends on an understanding of plate tectonics and continental drift, so I will now turn to a discussion of this subject.
The theory of continental drift says that the history of the continental forms we know today began about 200 million years ago. The geological record suggests that at this time the continents of the world were joined together in one large supercontinent, called Pangaea, before being broken up by tectonic forces and slowly moved into their present positions. 200 million years may seem like a long time by human standards, but it is a fairly brief interval compared to the age of the universe, or even the 4.5 billion year age of the Earth. Fossils show that single celled organisms lived in the primitive oceans as early as 3.2 billion years ago, so that by the time Pangaea began breaking up, nearly three billion years later, evolution had progressed to the Triassic Period when Earth was populated by dinosaurs and an abundance of other life forms.
Prior to the breaking up of Pangaea about 200 million years ago the west coasts of Africa and Europe were joined to the east coast of the American continents, before being separated by the Atlantic Ocean during a process of sea floor spreading. This adjacency provides a means of evaluating the magnitude of coastal erosion, since it is fair to expect a degree of linear correspondence between the two coastal outlines. As it happens the match is far from perfect, indicating that erosion has indeed taken place, but not enough to alter the overall fit between the African and American continents. Continental outlines seem to be fairly resistant to this geomorphic factor, and at an age of some 200 million years or so the present configuration has well and truly withstood the test of time.
Now, I want to draw your attention to a comparison between coastlines on either side of the Atlantic Ocean and those drawn around the British Isles. In the case of the Atlantic coastlines erosion has evidently been a relatively minor factor in the shaping of these coastal outlines, especially considering their monumental length. This contrasts quite sharply with the case of the British Isles where erosion has evidently been the only factor involved in the shaping of what amounts to a very intricately drawn coastal outline. On the basis of this comparison it is reasonable to infer that erosion can be a very selective geomorphic factor. Evidently the wind is subject to considerable morphological deliberation, and so I propose the following. If all those molecules of air are subject to the manipulation of atmospheric temperatures by a being whose intention is to store information, then it is hardly surprising to find some semblance of order emerging over the course of several billion years. I dare say that each and every particle of matter assembled here on Earth exists to achieve a goal which is ultimately identical, and the coastal outlines which we observe today are merely one of many interlocking threads woven into a rich fabric of carefully measured representational intentions.