Darwin's Black Box - Michael J. Behe and Intelligent Design

I have finished reading Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson. It's from 1993, so pretty early among the books we've talked about here, but it covers a lot of ground, and it's clear that even back then the problems with Darwinism were abundantly clear to those who cared to pay attention.

Johnson is a lawyer, and his goal is to analyse the soundness of arguments for evolution. This is an interesting approach and is somewhat close to Stove in that he focuses more on the logic of the arguments than biology.

So he looks at what arguments the Darwinists present to support their theory, strips them of all the biases, irrationality, circular reasoning and so on, and exposes what's left.

I really liked this book, and I was impressed with how many things he covers even though the book isn't all that long. Here's the contents:

Chapter One: The Legal Setting
Chapter Two: Natural Selection
- As a Tautology
- As a Scientific Hypothesis
- As a Deductive Argument
- As a Philosophical Necessity
Chapter Three: Mutations Great and Small
Chapter Four: The Fossil Problem
Chapter Five: The Fact of Evolution
Chapter Six: The Vertebrate Sequence
- Fish to Amphibians
- Amphibians to Reptiles
- Reptiles to Mammals
- Reptile to Bird
- From Apes to Humans
Chapter Seven: The Molecular Evidence
Chapter Eight: Prebiological Evolution
Chapter Nine: The Rules of Science
Chapter Ten: Darwinist Religion
Chapter Eleven: Darwinist Education
Chapter Twelve: Science and Pseudoscience


Near the beginning, he relays a kind of anecdote where somebody asked an audience of experts: "Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing... that is true?" And every time he asked this a different group of experts, there was only silence. This might be pretty useful because while most people are totally convinced evolution works, they're kind of short on facts when asked to present any. So just asking people this might be a good start.

The book is easy to read, as you don't need any particular knowledge of biology. You just need to be able to think logically, which, as most of us have discovered already, is enough to take the Darwinian story apart with ease. I would even recommend this book to those who are still looking for an introduction to the topic and don't want to learn about nucleotides and amino acids.

Here are some quotes:

When domesticated animals return to the wild state, the most highly specialized breeds quickly perish and the survivors revert to the original wild type.
In other words, the reason that dogs don't become as big as elephants, much less change into elephants, is not that we just haven't been breeding them long enough. Dogs do not have the genetic capacity for that degree of change, and they stop getting bigger when the genetic limit is reached.
The prevailing assumption in evolutionary science seems to be that speculative possibilities, without experimental confirmation, are all that is really necessary.
In short, if evolution means the gradual change of one kind of organism into another kind, the outstanding characteristic of the fossil record is the absence of evidence for evolution. Darwinists can always explain away the sudden appearance of new species by saying that the transitional intermediates were for some reason not fossilized. But stasis - the consistent absence of fundamental directional change - is positively documented. It is also the norm and not the exception.
Descent with modification could be something much more substantial than a tautology or a semantic trick. It could be a testable scientific hypothesis. If common ancestors and chains of linking intermediates once existed, fossil studies should be able, at least in some cases, to identify them. If it is possible for a single ancestral species to change by natural processes into such different forms as a shark, a frog, a snake, a penguin, and a monkey, then laboratory science should be able to discover the mechanism of change.
If laboratory science cannot establish a mechanism, and if fossil studies cannot find the common ancestors and transitional links, then Darwinism fails as an empirical theory.
Much confusion results from the fact that a single term - "evolution" - is used to designate processes that may have little or nothing in common. A shift in the relative numbers of dark and light moths in a population is called evolution, and so is the creative process that produced the cell, the multicellular organism, the eye, and the human mind. The semantic implication is that evolution is fundamentally a single process, and Darwinists enthusiastically exploit that implication as a substitute for scientific evidence.
The task of science is not to speculate about why God might have done things this way, but to see if a material cause can be established by empirical investigation.
The fossils provide much more discouragement than support for Darwinism when they are examined objectively, but objective examination has rarely been the object of Darwinist paleontology. The Darwinist approach has consistently been to find some supporting fossil evidence, claim it as proof for "evolution," and then ignore all the difficulties.
Although some components of living systems can be duplicated with very advanced techniques, scientists employing the full power of their intelligence cannot manufacture living organisms from amino acids, sugars, and the like. How then was the trick done before scientific intelligence was in existence?
... creation by Darwinist evolution is hardly more observable than supernatural creation by God. Natural selection exists, to be sure, but no one has evidence that it can accomplish anything remotely resembling the creative acts that Darwinists attribute to it. The fossil record on the whole testifies that whatever "evolution" might have been, it was not the process of
gradual change in continuous lineages that Darwinism implies. As an explanation for modifications in populations, Darwinism is an empirical doctrine. As an explanation for how complex organisms came into existence in the first place, it is pure philosophy.
If empiricism were the primary value at stake, Darwinism would long ago have been limited to microevolution, where it would have no important theological or philosophical implications. Such a limitation would not imply acceptance of creationism, even in the least restrictive definition of that term. What it would imply is that the scientific establishment after 1859 was carried away by enthusiasm, and thought it had proved an entire creation story when it had only filled in some minor details. If Darwinists accepted the primacy of empiricism, they could still hope eventually to find a naturalistic explanation for everything, but for now they would have to admit that they have made a big mistake.
That admission has not come, because empiricism is not the primary value at stake. The more important priority is to maintain the naturalistic worldview and with it the prestige of "science" as the source of all important knowledge. Without Darwinism, scientific naturalism would have no creation story. A retreat on a matter of this importance would be catastrophic for the Darwinist establishment, and it would open the door to all sorts of false prophets and mountebanks (at least as naturalists see them) who would try to fill the gap.
To prevent such a catastrophe, defenders of naturalism must enforce rules of procedure for science that preclude opposing points of view. With that accomplished, the next critical step is to treat "science" as equivalent to truth and non-science as equivalent to fantasy. The conclusions of science can then be misleadingly portrayed as refuting arguments that were in fact disqualified from consideration at the outset. As long as scientific naturalists make the rules, critics who demand positive evidence for Darwinism need not be taken seriously. They do not understand "how science works."
We can only speculate about the motives that led scientists to accept the concept of common ancestry so uncritically. The triumph of Darwinism clearly contributed to a rise in the prestige of professional scientists, and the idea of automatic progress so fit the spirit of the age that the theory even attracted a surprising amount of support from religious leaders. In any case, scientists did accept the theory before it was rigorously tested, and thereafter used all their authority to convince the public that naturalistic processes are sufficient to produce a human from a bacterium, and a bacterium from a mix of chemicals. Evolutionary science became the search for confirming evidence, and the explaining away of negative evidence.
If critics are sophisticated enough to see that population variations have nothing to do with major transformations, Darwinists can disavow the argument from microevolution and point to relationship as the "fact of evolution." Or they can turn to biogeography, and point out that species on offshore islands closely resemble those on the nearby mainland. Because "evolution" means so many different things, almost any example will do. The trick is always to prove one of the modest meanings of the term, and treat it as proof of the complete metaphysical system.
We've heard most of this in one form or another, but it doesn't hurt to see the arguments again, especially from somebody who's really good at formulating things clearly. And remember all of this was in 1993! We're pretty slow...
 

Windmill knight

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A rare sight! Today, Google News threw at me this article which argues that consciousness could not have 'evolved' as per Darwin. It doesn't go as far as denying there is any evolution at all - in fact it does say that we have 'every reason to believe in evolution'. I guess you have to swear your adherence to the party line before you can say anything and appear on Google News. But still, the fact that the author says evolution can't explain consciousness represents a huge slap on the face of darwinists and materialists alike. Nice.

 

hlat

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I thought it was interesting that in Hostage to the Devil, the second possession (Father Bones and Mister Natch) occurred because both the possessed priest and the exorcist believed in the lies of evolution and materialism. Belief in evolution and materialism became a new religion for the possessed priest.
 

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Back on November 25th, 2019, Behe put up this first lecture of 10 (the introduction is only 12 minutes) for a continuation outlined in a course that he started, found here. Hopefully this was not put up already (had a look). It is a prepaid enrollment course, yet it does not seem exorbitant.

This the first 101 type lecture video outlining where he is going in the course. There are 10 modules with sub lessons, for a total of 41 video lessons/quizzes:

Unit 1: Introduction
Unit 2: Intelligent Design
Unit 3: Evolution
Unit 4: Neo-Darwinism
Unit 5: The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis and Beyond
Unit 6: Molecular Machines and Intelligent Design
Unit 7: The Limits of Darwinian Evolution

Unit 8: Criticisms and Rebuttals
Unit 9: New Discoveries
Unit 10: The Reality of Mind



Course Description
Join renowned biochemist Michael Behe as he investigates the amazing evidence in biology for intelligent design and the growing evidence that challenges the modern theory of biological evolution known as Neo-Darwinism. In 41 short and engaging video lectures, Behe tackles topics ranging from the history of biology to the latest biological discoveries. Each video lecture is accompanied by a short quiz, and a special digital certificate of completion is offered for those who finish the course.
Note: Upon enrolling in this course, you will have 365 days to complete it. After 365 days, your course access will expire.

 

Joe

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Hello H2O

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Unsurprisingly arch atheist Dawkins has come out in support of eugenics.

Somebody's mask slipped a little bit. That's been happening a lot lately. :cool2::whistle:
 

Approaching Infinity

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And did you notice his tweet back on the matter - "But heaven forbid that we should do it"

Invoking heaven, now that is an interesting word for a 'atheist' Neo-Darwinist. What a robot guy. :nuts:
I think it's just evidence that Dawkins is all intellect and very little emotion. I'm not convinced he's a psycho, but he's definitely on the "systematizing" end of the "empathizing-systematizing" spectrum (Simon Baron-Cohen's idea in which to place forms of autism). So he sees nothing wrong with saying, "Eugenics may be bad morally, but that doesn't mean it won't work", or words to that effect. Even IF true, most people with empathy just wouldn't say that these days. And the thing is, it probably isn't even true. Humans aren't dogs, or any of the other animals he cites. And someone needs to choose which traits to eugenically 'select'. Will they choose the right traits? And is it even possible for it to go according to plan? Probably not, but Dawkins doesn't even consider that, because he sees humans as solely meat machines.

ADDED: Which actually makes me think that he really DOES think eugenics could be a good idea, i.e., he does support it because he thinks it would work, but he's smart enough to tag on standard, "but heaven forbid we should do it" just because he knows it's an unpopular opinion, to put it lightly.
 
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ScioAgapeOmnis

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I think it's just evidence that Dawkins is all intellect and very little emotion. I'm not convinced he's a psycho, but he's definitely on the "systematizing" end of the "empathizing-systematizing" spectrum (Simon Baron-Cohen's idea in which to place forms of autism). So he sees nothing wrong with saying, "Eugenics may be bad morally, but that doesn't mean it won't work", or words to that effect. Even IF true, most people with empathy just wouldn't say that these days. And the thing is, it probably isn't even true. Humans aren't dogs, or any of the other animals he cites. And someone needs to choose which traits to eugenically 'select'. Will they choose the right traits? And is it even possible for it to go according to plan? Probably not, but Dawkins doesn't even consider that, because he sees humans as solely meat machines.
Oh good let’s start with Dawkins. All neo-Darwinists to the chopping block! Oh he wouldn’t like that would he?
 

luc

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ADDED: Which actually makes me think that he really DOES think eugenics could be a good idea, i.e., he does support it because he thinks it would work, but he's smart enough to tag on standard, "but heaven forbid we should do it" just because he knows it's an unpopular opinion, to put it lightly.
I think he's just a narcissistic has-been trolling for some attention. But I also wouldn't put it past him to have eugenic fantasies based on a feeling of superiority like probably all the other eugenicists in history...

And to reiterate what Stove put so eloquently: all of this has nothing to do with Darwinism or evolution, because either Darwinism works, which means it's a natural process that sorts out all the "wrong" genes anyway, or it doesn't work (i.e. it's false) and requires the "help" of the eugenicists. Or, it used to work, but then we humans somehow stopped it, which means it's not a universal theory, which undermines the whole thing.
 

luc

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Just wanted to give a plug for Thomas Nagel's book "Mind and Cosmos - Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False", which drives another few glorious nails in the coffin of Darwinism.

Nagel knows the ID literature and knows that Darwinism can't work, but the value in his book is that he shows that even if we accept the whole Darwinian story, it still leads nowhere. It's a short (but sometimes demanding) read and I highly recommend it for some additional ammunition against the materialist religion.

A taste and exercise in formulating some arguments in my own words:

Let's say we accept Darwinism and materialism, and even physical determinism (there is no free will). How then do we explain consciousness? The materialist answer usually is that consciousness is a "by-product" or epiphenomenon of complex organisms. At one point in the evolutionary history, organisms and their nervous systems got so complex that an illusion of consciousness came to be, i.e. that we experience things/developed an inner life.

Okay, this could theoretically work, somehow. But such a "theory" still doesn't explain consciousness. It just says it suddenly popped into being. It is like saying: we found an empty, uninhabited planet in the galaxy, except that there's a huge, complex skyscraper on it. Asked how it came to be, we answer "oh, it's a byproduct of the planet's evolution". Well okay, that could be true. But it doesn't explain why it is there: surely we want to know more, for example about a civilization that was once on the planet but got wiped out by a flood, except this skyscraper on this big mountain or something. That would be an explanation. Without such an explanation, the "byproduct" theory amounts to nothing.

But we also have to look in detail at what features define consciousness. (This echoes Roger Scruton's criticism that Darwinists never actually define the things they try to explain with their far-fledged speculations in detail.) For example, humans have cognition/reason. Darwinism uses this very thing to come up with its theory, so reason must be prior to the theory. It's not enough to say that reason evolved because it supposedly enhanced fitness, because this itself is a statement that uses reason.

Another way of putting this last point is this: Darwinists never tire of saying that we can't trust our intuitions because they have evolved in prehistoric times and therefore could go wrong (such as giving in to lust or feelings of revenge), and that we should override them. But they never make this point about reason - if reason supposedly evolved in prehistoric times as well, it could be spectacularly wrong itself, because it may be just an adaption to conditions in the distant past. But Darwinists never claim that, because reason/cognition is obviously the foundation of their own theory. (Note that our ability to reason is something different from sense perception.)

Then there's value, which is still another thing. Good or bad, even at the basic level of "pain=bad" and "pleasure=good" is inexplicable in materialist-Darwinist terms (origin of life problem). What's more, Darwinism commits oneself to moral relativism or social constructivism, as those Darwinists that are smart enough to think about it acknowledge themselves. Nagel is a moral realist, i.e., he believes that there is moral truth, although it has no separate metaphysical existence. The way he puts it is that Darwinists claim that moral realism is wrong because it's incompatible with Darwinism, whereas he (Nagel) reverses this and says that Darwinism cannot be true because there is such a thing as objective moral truth. Well played, sir!

And this moral realism leads Nagel to question the totality of the materialist-Darwinist story, because (as he shows) they are mutually exclusive. His sketchy alternative is that there must be "teleological" natural laws in addition to the laws of physic that somehow influence the probabilities of certain material states to manifest. He hopes that this solution can leave out any notion of a "designer". What I like about this thought is that it forces us to not think about a designer in naive physical or "God in the sky" terms. Perhaps the intelligence of "higher beings" manifests in shifting probabilities? If we assume that there is no time on the higher planes, could a slight shift of probabilities over time literally create stuff? Are those "teleological laws" what defines higher realms? I think we can never know or define such things from where we are, but it's useful to find a variety of angles from which to think about it.
 

Gaby

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This is fascinating! The research on bug's gears goes beyond the stuff described in the book. It's really marvellous!



"Gears...in a bug? I thought humans invented gears," says the always charming Lehigh University biochemist. Indeed, the planthopper bug has gears in its legs that permit it to jump what in human terms would be like vaulting the length of two football fields at one go. Evolutionary theory asks you to believe such a thing arose through chance mutations sifted by purposeless natural selection. Episode 3 of Secrets of the Cell, "The Power of Evolution," invites us to wonder if Darwinian thinking has underestimated the "mechanical marvels" in the design of insects, so wonderfully "precise and purposeful," to which "nothing we humans have ever built even comes close." To look at such things and not say "Yeah, that was intelligently designed" requires a supreme effort to deflect our own intelligent intuition. That's not true just of planthoppers but of bees, fleas, flies, butterflies, spiders, cockroaches — insects and other livings, of all species.

But as Darwinists would have it, isn't the case for design just an argument from incredulity, a common logical fallacy? Darwin and his immediate successors could confidently assure themselves that such marvels were simply a product of blind natural churning. But that confidence began to really unravel with a modern scientific revelation: that "the changes in a species that we can see are driven by molecular changes in genes and DNA that we can't see." How the hidden reality of coded biological information in the cell fatally upset the case for unguided evolution is the subject of Episode 4 in the series.
 

Approaching Infinity

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I finally got around to starting JG Bennett's "Masters of Wisdom", his last book, which he was in the process of finishing when he died in December 1974. For those unfamiliar with him, Bennett was a student of Gurdjieff's, considered a maverick by the "official" Foundation, but in my view he was a lot cooler than the Foundation people. (He was the author of the talk on negative emotions posted by Joe back in October.) I haven't read much of his stuff, so I was surprised to find out how many areas of interest he had in common with us here: history, epochs of time, catastrophism. He also had some very interesting views on evolution. I'd say that so far, his take on it is closer to ours than any of the other ID-friendly writers out there, plus he has some pretty original related ideas. Here are some excerpts to give an idea, including some bits unrelated to ID, but which are still interesting. (Keep in mind he was writing in the early 70s, so if you read the book, some of his data will be out of date.)

Those who are in power are unable to do even what is obviously needed, because neither they nor those whom they rule are more than 'machines' that can behave only as they are conditioned to do. It is useless to preach to machines, or to encourage or frighten them: they continue to function according to their own mechanical pattern. ... Some people have learned tricks that can be played with human machines and so gain power over them, but as long as they themselves remain machines, their power is worse than useless. ...

The Masters of Wisdom differ from 'experts in manipulation' by their ability to see the reality of the situation, by their freedom from egoism and by their ability to co-operate with one another. ... They are in contact with the higher wisdom that surveys life on this earth as a whole and can see whence it has come and whither it is destined to go. ...

... By tracing the origin and evolution of life and the appearance of the first men, and reconstructing the history of mankind during the last Ice Age, we can see how strongly the magnificent event [i.e., origin of man] suggests a creative genius, infinitely patient, infinitely ingenious, whose vision was realised in the coming of Adam. Then, we might fancy that this same genius decided to engage upon the hazardous enterprise of withdrawing his guiding hand, leaving his brain-child to find itself and become like himself.
He introduces the idea of "Demiurgic intelligences", by which he means intelligences between the level of man and the absolute:

Biologists, who would reject any suggestion of a divine creator, find themselves talking and writing on Nature as if she were an intelligent being. You can scarcely open a book or read a paper about the evolution of life without finding passages in which the author personifies Nature. If questioned, he would assure us that this is only a figure of speech and is not to be taken literally. Sometimes, however, our speech betrays us; we say truer things than we intend. As we come to know more and more about life, we shall certainly come to the conclusion that there is an intelligence behind it all.
The earth took its present shape more than two billion years ago. When the time came for life to appear, the Demiurge entered into the only available instrument, namely the active molecules dancing in the primitive atmosphere. The capacity for response to intelligent will was very small indeed, but it was enough to increase the chances of complex molecules arising, composed of hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen, that had the properties of self-aggregation, or polymerization.

We usually look upon the instrument that increases the probability of improbable reactions as a passive agent which we call a catalyst, or, when it comes to life, an enzyme. There is no doubt that catalysis played a decisive part in the synthesis, under the influence of the sun's radiation, of amino-acids, which are the building bricks of life. There is, however, a gap to be bridged even here because the primitive rock surfaces which acted as catalysts could not provide the required pattern to bring about the formation of self-reproducing molecules. Given enormous periods of time and great number of molecules taking part, scientists have assumed that even the most complicated and most improbable reaction could occur by blind chance. Calculations have shown that this will not work and there is, therefore, considerable justification for concluding that an Intelligence must have intervened even before life appeared.

Even if a biochemist succeeds in synthesising living matter, he will do so not by blind chance but by the exercise of a very high order of intelligence. ... All that really will have occurred is that man will have succeeded in copying, with great skill and immense perseverance, what the Demiurge accomplished on the primitive earth a billion years ago. ...

...The transition to simple life - the protozoa - was a step of staggering simplicity that simply could not have occurred spontaneously. ...
It is important to realise that evolution has not been a continuous progress towards 'higher' forms of life. There have been many promising starts that came to a dead end and some biologists regard this as evidence against any theory of guided evolution. To produce skeletal tissues required experimentation and elimination. If we look at the development of life in this way, we can see that the apparent failures sometimes made most valuable contributions to the solution of life's problems. Not all forms of life can justify themselves on utilitarian grounds. We must here look at Nature in Her other aspects. She is beautiful and playful. To disregard these features is crass ingratitude.

The Demiurge reveals to us not only the purposeful drive towards higher levels of being, but also the joy of life and the love of play. ...

Four characteristics of Nature cannot be understood without reference to intelligence. These are:

1. Progress. Life has moved in a definite direction towards the emergence of conscious creative beings. There are all the marks of intelligent experimentation to discover the most suitable forms.

2. Interdependence. Ecological science reveals the extent to which all life is interlocked in bonds of mutual dependence. The structure is so complex and improbable that it could not have come about without wisdom.

3. Beauty. This is usually explained in human terms: we see beauty in Nature because that is how we see. The explanation does not make sense. Beauty is superhuman. It is an attribute of the Demiurge. He creates beauty because He Loves beauty. Fantasy is divine: Life was not created on this earth for strictly utilitarian ends. The Demiurge is artist and poet and our art and our poetry are a gift to us that enables use to share in His enjoyment.

4. Play. Play is timeless, it has no past and no future. It does not ask 'why'? Can we associate play with so great a will as that of the Demiurge who unites Sun and Earth to create Life? We can and must do so. Without play, history would have no meaning until its ultimate consummation. Play is creation in the present moment; it is fulfilment that has no tomorrow. When we look at all that is comic, even grotesque, and all that is absurd and lovable in nature, we see the creative play of the Demiurge and we should be ready ourselves to join the dance.
... We find other onlookers than ourselves: the spirit forms of the Demiurge whose bodies are made of sensitivity and are therefore invisible to the eye of ordinary man. They are not only watching but working. They are supremely skilled in what we today call genetics and ecology. But they are also saturated with the love of beauty. They behold their work and see that it is both good and beautiful. They also have a lively sense of humour that expresses itself in form, colours and patterns of behaviour that have no 'survival value' but contribute a most needed element to the awakening sensitivity of the earth.
Referring to a past catastrophe: "Life was severely tested and most of it was found wanting." And to the arrival of Homo sapiens: "I believe that the advent of man had to be deferred until a sufficient reservoir of sensitive energy had been accumulated. ... Demiurgic intelligences made use of the rich capacity of the mammals to transform sensitive energy in order to prepare the 'mind-stuff' needed for man." Also: "[Man] did not become conscious by accident, for consciousness cannot arise accidentally." On speech:

The hypothesis I want to put forward is that this [the 'mutation' necessary for human speech] was the long-awaited moment when man could be endowed with creativity to enable him to make full use of his powers. The nature of creativity is such that it cannot be transferred from one person to another. It is an integral part of the essence, the instrument of the will and the source of freedom.
On cave paintings:

The seas were lower in those days and there were probably centres of initiation in what is now the Atlantic continental shelf. They left behind them a message that remained undeciphered for twenty thousand years, until Gurdjieff went with me to the caves at Lascaux ... He showed me that the herds of deer depicted as crossing a river represented an initiation rite. The number of antlers on the deer indicated the level of development of the men whose emblem they were.
On higher levels, and a distinction similar to OPs/non-OPs:

There is a second world, called by the Sufis the alam-i arvah or world of spirits. This world has in it different levels, three of which concern us here. There is the region of sensitivity which man shares with the animals. Until the time of Adam, men had no place in the second level of consciousness. This is where the souls of men go after the death of the physical body and there they exist timelessly. I have called this the 'Mind-Stuff-Pool' because the energies composing it provide man with the material from which his mind, as distinct from his brain, is drawn. The third is the creative level, the domain of the Demiurge and of the fully-formed souls of men. This transforms mind-stuff into soul-stuff. Creativity is the essential ingredient of soul formation.
On the Younger-Dryas catastrophe: "Those who could communicate with the Demiurge prepared for this great event."

Couldn't find it, but there's a quote somewhere about the nature of the Demiurgic intelligences being somewhat remote, i.e., they have their own purposes, and we are just their experiments. I'm not sure yet if he makes any STS/STO-like division there. Will see.
 
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