An Alternative Tree of Species of Life

Temporal evolution is bidirectional: Something better can be produced from something worse and something worse can be produced from something better. Sometimes the better comes before and sometimes it comes after. A temporal evolution puts that which comes after lower in the tree of life. But since the reverse can also happen, evolutionary accounts will have to invert the order. An evolutionary account can never produce a consistent tree of life because what is above and what is below in the tree will keep changing over time. Nor can it complete the tree of life because species in the past or in the future cannot be seen at present. An evolutionary tree of life is both inconsistent and incomplete which makes an alternative tree of life essential.

A living form of a species of life is a class of entities. However, because there has never been a good definition of a class in Western thinking, therefore, classification of species suffers from a grave problem of not knowing what a class is and yet trying to create classes and classifications. We have to begin with a class definition.

A class in the Vedic system is defined by two words, namely, guna and karma, or qualities and activities. This definition applies to everything, not just species. For instance, a car has to be defined by its qualities and activities. Something that just looks like a car (quality) but doesn’t work like a car (activity) is not a car. Something that works like a car (activity) but doesn’t look like a car (quality) is not a car. A car is only that which has a specific set of looks and behaviors. Anything else is not a car.

Similarly, someone who just looks like a man but doesn’t behave like a man is not fully a man. If he behaves as an animal, then he is man by qualities and animal by activities. In one modality of quality, he is a man. In another modality of activity, he is an animal. Likewise, someone who just wears a thread of a Brahmana (quality) but doesn’t teach the perfect truth (activity) is not a Brahmana. Someone who teaches the perfect truth (activity) but doesn’t follow what he is teaching (quality) is not a Brahmana.

Apart from guna and karma, there is a third modality called dravya, used in Vaiśeṣika. It pertains to the inheritance of properties from an original dravya which represents an ideal of that class. Through the use of dravya, we can say something belongs to a class because it was derived from or produced by the ideal of that class and bears similarity to the ideal. Together, guna, karma, and dravya form a “space” in which the most ideal is at the root, successive branches are less ideal either in terms of guna or karma or both, and the periphery is the least ideal in terms of guna or karma or both. For instance, a son of a man can be called a man because he has descended from an ideal man although he doesn’t exhibit his ancestor’s ideal qualities and activities.

Finally, even if a man has the ideal qualities and activities of his ancestor, he may presently be in a situation where he is unable to exhibit those traits. The situation may be forcing him to hide his qualities and activities and exhibit situation-apporpriate qualities and activities, although the ability to exhibit these is still present.

Thereby, the class definition is a very complex process: (a) there is an ideal source defined by some ideal qualities and activities, (b) from the ideal, many non-ideal descendents are called by the same word due to similarities to the ideal, although they are not exhibiting those ideals, and (c) the ideal qualities and activities may exist as potentials but may not be exhibited under constraints of present circumstances. Each ideal is also best suited to a given environment where all its qualities and activities can be exhibited to the fullest extent as they are relevant to that environment.

Once we have defined a class clearly, then we can talk about the classification of species based on the above nuanced definition of a class. The first important thing we must note here is that since the non-ideal is produced from the ideal, therefore, we have to begin with the ideals. This means rejecting the evolutionary account of species where something better is produced from something that was worse previously.

Evolutionary accounts do not explain how something better is produced from something worse because there is no ideal toward which the evolution is headed. When the ideal doesn’t exist, then the goal doesn’t exist. When the goal doesn’t exist, then evolution cannot be directed. Evolution will then be a like a group of bumbling aimless people not knowing which way is forwards rather than backwards. Any statistical calculation will show us that the probability of order being created by random action decreases rather than increases with time. Therefore, if order did not exist to begin with, then order is exponentially more unlikely to be produced over time. At the very minimum, the idea of the ideal must be exist for an progress to occur.

This leads us to the question: What is ideal? In Vedic texts, the ideal is called mahat tattva or the essence of greatness. In present time, we call these moral values. There are four basic moral values in this universe, called kindness, truthfulness, austerity, and cleanliness. From their combination, arise many other values such as integrity, responsibility, focus, commitment, loyalty, openess, camraderie, leadership, trust, long-term thinking, empathy, respect, perseverence, gratitude, curiosity, adjustment, humility, family-orientedness, courage, justice, determination, patience, confidence, politeness, and so on. This is a sample list of values, not an exhaustive one.

Different human cultures and societies uphold different values. For instance, in most Western societies, leadership, courage, confidence and justice are emphasized while politeness, humility, long-term thinking, emphathy, and gratitude are deemphasized. In contrast, in Eastern societies, family-oritentedness, camraderie, loyalty, long-term thinking are emphasized while justice, openness, curiosity, and confidence are deemphasized. We can classify different cultures based on these qualities.

Similarly, the moral values of a tiger, a deer, and a jackal are quite different. A tiger will eat what he has killed and never scavenge like a jackal. A deer will neither kill nor scavenge; it will feed on fresh grass. They uphold different kinds of ideals. Lions live in small packs while elephants in large groups. Lions are more individualistic than elephants. Cats are loners while like to live in groups. Small birds live in very large herds while eagles fly alone. Every species of life can be classified based on the choice of their values. This is the most basic classification in Vedic texts.

From the mahattattva comes an individual ego when a person prioritizes a specific set of values found in a class over others. For instance, men generally prioritize courage, leadership, and justice while women generally prioritize family, security, and trust. Similarly, different individuals in each species prioritize some values over others. Thereby, there are individual variations within a broader class of individuals. From the individual ego, arise different kinds of judgments rooted in varied belief systems. For instance, those who value security will judge those things that create security as the true nature of reality and those that create fear as the aberration of reality. This process of expansion continues through the mind, senses, sensed properties, and the body types, and then manifests in different perceivable qualities and activities. The body shape and bodily behaviors are byproducts of the deep-seated mahattattva.

The modern biological system of classification is based on genes, DNA, organ design, and chemistry. The Vedic biological system of classification is based on mahattattva. The value system is given the greatest importance. The individual prioritization is less important. The beliefs are given even lesser importance. Finally, the body design, organ design, DNA, and chemistry are the least important. Therefore, the Vedic system of classification is the inversion of the modern system of classifying species.

A biological tree of diversification of species can also be built by studying the qualities and activities based on mahattattva. For instance, those who value curiosity will naturally ask many questions, explore things that they don’t know about, and spend a lot of time in contemplation. Those who value courage, pride, and leadership will be seen trying to conquer the world, shape it in their image, and define themselves through success in such endeavors. This method of studying human variety is not limited to humans. It is extensible to all species because each species has a different moral value system different from the human value system. Variations occur within this value system by prioritization and by constraints of the environment. Even if a human is not curious, he can be curious, so the ability exists. He has just deprioritized curiosity. An animal, however, can never be as curious as a human. Even their curiosity will be confined to their habitat and cannot be extended to the broader world. Hence, curiosity in non-human species is very limited compared to the human species.

The most ideal traits are truthfulness, kindness, austerity, and cleanliness. All lower value systems are produced by (a) limiting these values, and (b) combining the limited values. For example, by limitation, kindness becomes emphathy for some and disregard for others, love within the family but not outside it, frienship with those with common interest but enmity to those with different preferences. Similarly, by limitation, truthfulness becomes limited amounts of curiosity about the immediate surroundings without a deep interest in the whole truth. A limited idea of cleanliness is used to keep one’s immediate surroundings clean while dirtying other places. It manifests in limited clarity in few areas and great confusion in others. In this way, by limiting and mixing values, numerous value systems are created. These value systems are the foundation of all life, including plants, animals, birds, and humans.

When the tree of life is drawn based on the value systems, then we will see similarities where we presently see differences and we will see differences where we see similarities. For instance, the Vedic texts talk about 400,000 species of humans. In modern biology, scientists have trouble identifying even a few species. But this is not a problem if we look for wide variety in human values rather than their bodies. Similarly, the Vedic system talks only about 900,000 types of forms living in water, which is less than twice the number of humans. If humans were just one species then forms of life in water would be less than two! But the Vedic system classifies speices in a different way. It seems far greater variety where modern science does not, and it sees far less variety where modern science sees a lot of variety. This is an alternative system of species classification by which we can construct an different tree of life.

The modern system of classification keeps discovering species in between species. They don’t know which branch a species belongs to because the newly discovered species could be a leaf of other branches, or it could be a branch of which the other species are leaves. This is because it doesn’t have any absolute reference to designate a root. In fact, it puts the lowest life forms (bacteria and viruses) as the root of the tree of life. Now your tree is constructed based on what intermediate forms you can find between the virus and a bird, beast, tree, fish, or human. If the biologies doesn’t find an intermediate form, he doesn’t know if it means (a) that the intermediate never existed and hence alternative evolutionary pathways have to be constructed, or (b) that intermediate form existed but just hasn’t yet been discovered. Upon new discoveries of species, the whole tree of life is often reorganized to change the meaning of trunk, branch, twig, or leaf of the tree. This process is logically never-ending because nobody can ever say that we have discovered all the species there are to discover.

This problem doesn’t exist in the Vedic system because we can construct a tree of diversification of values without observing the world. The world observation simply tells us which species is on which trunk, branch, twig, and leaf. The tree is a priori fixed. But the placement of a species on some trunk, branch, twig, and leaf has to be determined through careful observation of their qualities and activities. We are therefore not constructing a tree of life. We are rather populating the tree of life.