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A Review
Henri Louis Bergson's Book
Creative Evolution
Chapter I: The Evolution of Life Mechanism and Teleology
Topic 11: The Choice of an Example
by Doug Renselle
Doug's Pre-review Commentary
Start of Review

Chapter I II
Introduction 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 
Chapter III IV
22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45  46 47

Move to any Topic of Henri Louis Bergson's Creative Evolution,
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Topic 11...............The Choice of an Example


(Most quotes verbatim Henri Louis Bergson, some paraphrased.)

(Relevant to Pirsig, William James Sidis, and Quantonics Thinking Modes.)


"They have had no difficulty in showing that in this extremely complicated apparatus all the elements are marvelously coördinated . In order that vision shall operate, says the author of a well known book on Final Causes, "the sclerotic membrane must become transparent in one point of its surface, so as to enable luminous rays to pierce it . . .; the cornea must correspond exactly with the opening of the socket . . .; behind this transparent opening there must be refracting media . . . ; there must be a retina(1) at the extremity of the dark chamber . . . ; perpendicular to the retina there must be an innumerable quantity of transparent cones permitting only the light directed in the line of their axes to reach the nervous membrane,"(2) etc. etc. In reply, the advocate of final causes has been invited to assume the evolutionist hypothesis. Everything is marvelous, indeed, if one consider an eye like ours, in which thousands of elements are coördinated in a single function. But take the function at its origin, in the Infusorian, where it is reduced to the mere impressionability (almost purely chemical) of a pigment-spot to light: this function, possibly only an accidental fact in the beginning, may have brought about a slight complication of the organ, which again induced an improvement of the function. It may have done this either directly, through some unknown mechanism, or indirectly, merely through the effect of the advantages it brought to the living being and the hold it thus offered to natural selection. Thus the progressive formation of an eye as well contrived as ours would be explained by an almost infinite number of actions and reactions between the function and the organ, without the intervention of other than mechanical causes."

Note (1) - Paul Janet, Les Causes finales, Paris, 1876, p. 83.

Note (2) - Ibid. p. 80.

(Our bold and color.)

Bergson restarts his footnote counts on each page. So to refer a footnote, one must state page number and footnote number.

Our bold and color highlights follow a code:

  • black-bold - important to read if you are just scanning our review
  • green-bold - we see Bergson suggesting axiomatic memes
  • violet-bold - an apparent classical problematic
  • blue-bold - we disagree with this text segment while disregarding context of Bergson's overall text
  • gray-bold - quotable text
  • red-bold - our direct commentary

"The question is hard to decide, indeed, when put directly between the function and the organ, as is done in the doctrine of finality, as also mechanism itself does. For organ and function are terms of different nature, and each conditions the other so closely that it is impossible to say a priori whether in expressing their relation we should begin with the first, as does mechanism, or with the second, as finalism requires. But the discussion would take an entirely different turn, we think, if we began by comparing together two terms of the same nature, an organ with an organ, instead of an organ with its function. In this case, it would be possible to proceed little by little to a solution more and more plausible, and there would be the more chance of a successful issue the more resolutely we assumed the evolutionist hypothesis.

"Let us place side by side the eye of a vertebrate and that of a mollusc such as the common Pecten. We find the same essential parts in each, composed of analogous elements. The eye of the Pecten presents a retina, a cornea, a lens of cellular structure like our own. There is even that peculiar inversion of retinal elements which is not met with, in general, in the retina of the invertebrates. Now, the origin of molluscs may be a debated question, but, whatever opinion we hold, all are agreed that molluscs and vertebrates separated from their common parent-stem long before the appearance of an eye so complex as that of the Pecten. Whence, then, the structural analogy?

"Let us question on this point the two opposed systems of evolutionist explanation in turn—the hypothesis of purely accidental variations, and that of a variation directed in a definite way under the influence of external conditions.

"The first, as is well known, is presented to-day in two quite different forms. Darwin spoke of very slight variations being accumulated by natural selection."

(Our bold and color.)

Readers, those of you who are biologists and have read Mae-wan Ho's the Rainbow and the Worm, know of what Bergson speaks. 'Function' as use depicts a classical conceptual model of an organ. Once we erect that classical model, our organ we are attempting to describe becomes purely objective. To compare an objective model with its real biological counterpart is to compare radical incompleteness with real (local, comtextual) completeness. One is analytic. One is quantum. We hear both Bergson and Ho telling us we can learn more and make hugely greater progress if we compare organ to organ instead of model to organ or model to model.


"He was not ignorant of the facts of sudden variation; but he thought these "sports," as he called them, were only monstrosities incapable of perpetuating themselves; and he accounted for the genesis of species by an accumulation of insensible variations.(1) Such is still the opinion of many naturalists. It is tending, however, to give way to the opposite idea that a new species comes into being all at once by the simultaneous appearance of several new characters, all somewhat different from the previous ones. This latter hypothesis, already proposed by various authors, notably by Bateson in a remarkable book,(2) has become deeply significant and acquired great force since the striking experiments of Hugo de Vries. This botanist, working on the Œnothera Lamarckiana, obtained at the end of a few generations a certain number of new species. The theory he deduces from his experiments is of the highest interest. Species pass through alternate periods of stability and transformation. When the period of "mutability" occurs, unexpected forms spring forth in a great number of different direction.(3)—We will not attempt to take sides between this hypothesis and that of insensible variations. Indeed, perhaps both are partly true. We wish merely to point out that if the variations invoked are accidental, they do not, whether small or great, account for a similarity of structure such as we have cited.

"Let us assume, to begin with, the Darwinian theory of insensible variations, and suppose the occurrence of small differences due to chance, and continually accumulating."

Note (1) - Darwin, Origin of Species, chap. ii.

Note (2) - Bateson, Materials for the Study of Variation, London, 1894, especially pp. 567 ff. Cf. Scott, "Variations and Mutations'! (American Journal of Science, Nov. 1894).

Note (3) - De Vries, Die Mutationstheorie, Leipzig, 1901-1903. Cf., by the same author, Species and Varieties, Chicago, 1905.

(Our bold and color.)








Bergson's assumptions here are not incompatible with what we know about quantum reality. We assume that by "insensible variations" (he)/they mean(s) anthropocentrically insensible variations which are occurring in a massively parallel fashion in quantum reality's top ~70 octaves of her musical quantum flux score. See our description of our imagined 'self' examining itself as a quanton.


"It must not be forgotten that all the parts of an organism are necessarily coördinated . Whether the function be the effect of the organ or its cause, it matters little; one point is certain—the organ will be of no use and will not give selection a hold unless it functions. However the minute structure of the retina may develop, and however complicated it may become, such progress, instead of favoring vision, will probably hinder it if the visual centres do not develop at the same time, as well as several parts of the visual organ itself. If the variations are accidental, how can they ever agree to arise in every part of the organ at the same time, in such way that the organ will continue to perform its function? Darwin quite understood this; it is one of the reasons why he regarded variation as insensible.(1) For a difference which arises accidentally at one point of the visual apparatus, if it be very slight, will not hinder the functioning of the organ; and hence this first accidental variation can, in a sense, wait for complementary variations to accumulate and raise vision to a higher degree of perfection. Granted; but while the insensible variation does not hinder the functioning of the eye, neither does it help it, so long as the variations that are complementary do not occur. How, in that case, can the variation be retained by natural selection? Unwittingly one will reason as if the slight variation were a toothing stone set up by the organism and reserved for a later construction. This hypothesis, so little conformable to the Darwinian principle, is difficult enough to avoid even in the case of an organ which has been developed along one single main line of evolution, e.g. the vertebrate eye. But it is absolutely forced upon us when we observe the likeness of structure of the vertebrate eye and that of the molluscs."

Note (1) - Darwin, Origin of Species, chap. vi.

(Our bold and color.)

We think a quote of David Bohm is apropos here:

"We are led, instead, to a new point of view, based on [an] idea that [] quanta connecting object and environment constitute irreducible links that belong, at all times, as much to one part as to [an] other."

See Chapter 8, Sec. 24, Quantum Theory, by David Bohm, Dover, 1979 (originally published by Prentice Hall, 1951). (Doug's brackets to remove thelogos.)

Mae-wan Ho suggests variations can only happen via quantum cohesion of disparate biological comtexts.

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To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
1950 East Greyhound Pass, Ste 18, # 368
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2009 Rev. 15Nov2007  PDR Created: 20Sep2000  PDR
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