This post contains excerpts from Robert Pirsig's book Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.

The words are all his, the editing choices are all mine, the consequences of reading are all yours.

Table of Contents | How This Happened | Download PDF

Chemistry Professors

All life is a migration of static patterns of quality towards Dynamic Quality.

… In traditional, substance-centered metaphysics, life isn’t evolving toward anything. Life’s just an extension of the properties of atoms. It has to be that way because atoms and varying forms of energy are all there is. Historically … [this] put a strain on the Theory of Evolution … At the time of it’s origin is wasn’t yet understood that at the level of … small particles the laws of cause and effect no longer apply; that electrons and photons simply appear and disappear without individual predictability and without individual cause.

… So today we have a theory of evolution in which man is ruthlessly controlled by cause-and-effect laws of the universe … while the particles of his body are not. The absurdity of this seems to be neglected. Physicists can ignore it … they are not concerned with man … Social scientists can ignore it because they are not concerned with subatomic particles …

evolution … goes into volumes about how the fittest survives but never once answers the question of why. It’s self-contradictory that life should survive. If life is strictly a result of the physical and chemical forces of nature … then why is life opposed to these same forces in it’s struggle to survive? Either life is with physical nature or it’s against it. If it’s with nature there’s nothing to survive. If it’s against physical nature then there must be something ..[else] ..motivating it.

The second law of Thermodynamics states that all energy systems “run-down” like a clock and never rewind themselves. But life not only “runs-up”, converting low-energy sea-water, sunlight and air into high-energy chemicals, it keeps multiplying itself into more and better clocks that keep “running up” faster and faster.

Why, for example, should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen struggle for billions of years to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? What’s the motive? If we leave a chemistry professor out on a rock in the sun long enough the forces of nature will convert him into simple compounds. It’s a one-way reaction. No matter what … we can’t turn these compounds back into chemistry professor. Then why does nature reverse this process? What on earth causes the inorganic compounds to go the other way? It isn’t the suns energy … It has to be something else. What is it?

Evolutionists … simply say that in the scientific observation of the facts of the universe no goal or pattern have ever appeared … but has the question been taken up of whether life is heading away from mechanistic patterns? In a metaphysics in which static … patterns are … fundamental, the idea that life is evolving away from any laws … doesn’t make any sense.

‘No program controlled or directed this progression. It was the result of spur of the moment decisions of natural selection.’ … Dynamic Quality always appears as ’spur of the moment’. Where else could it appear? … Naturally there is no mechanism towards which life is heading. Mechanisms are the enemy of life. The more static and unyielding the mechanisms are, the more life works to evade them or overcome them.

The law of gravity … a ruthless static pattern … one could almost define life as … organized disobedience of [it] … birds fly, man goes all the way to the moon … If life is to be explained on the basis of physical laws, then the overwhelming evidence that life deliberately works around these laws cannot be ignored.

The reason atoms become chemistry professors has got to be that something in nature doesn’t like laws that restrict the molecule’s freedom. They only go along with laws of any kind because they have to, preferring an existence that does not follow any laws whatsoever. The patterns of life are constantly evolving towards something “better” then that which these laws have to offer.

“If we leave a chemistry professor out on a rock in the sun long enough the forces of nature will convert him into simple compounds.”
“Naturally there is no mechanism towards which life is heading. Mechanisms are the enemy of life.”


  1. Posted December 17, 2010 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Read your "Chemistry Professors" and think you may be a kindred spirit. I am the author of "Apocalypse When", Springer / Praxis, 2009, in which I calculate numerical probabilities for survival of Homo sapiens, and of our civilization. Warning, you may need to review your algebra.

    • iamronen
      Posted December 17, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      First – these are not my words … they belong to Robert Pirsig (see the top of the page for more information)

      I am not sure about us being Kindred spirits – I believe you may have read INTO these words more then you actually read them as they are. I see them as:
      (1) being about smart people like you (the professor) who lose faith and respect for life and analyze it to death (no pun intended, but some pun sustained) – to the point where you forget that life is the fertile ground upon which you indulge in theorizing and calculations.
      (2) describing a different outlook altogether – that regardless of anything we (that includes you) say, think or do … life has a tendency to come out on top … it's wired for it, it's what life is all about.

      I don't really care for numerical probabilities (I used to – but that got me depressed) … life is so much more then that!

      Good luck with your book 🙂

One Trackback

Leave a Reply