What to account for PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 14:00

What must a theory of evolution account for? Mulling over that I had a brief attack of vertigo. What are living creatures? Dizzyingly complex somethings, of which I know next to nothing. Yet that I must know before I can say how they evolve. Bodies are structured increasingly precisely down the the nano scale. They routinely grow from single cells to trillions of cells in tissues precisely structured over distances of up to dozens of feet. The matter in those tissues is turned over several times a year even as those tissues continue to function, without impairment of that function. Living creatures can manifest volition, can become conscious, and express their conscious thoughts in their behaviors. Can these various capabilities be imagined evolving separately, or should they all be accountable for in terms of a single process? Darwin's example won't help us here, he was concerned only with the origin of species. We are condemned by how much more we know to tackle much more daunting questions. So many centuries of study will it take even to begin to understand life that I feel like no more than a tiny ant questioning the origin of the solar system.

I hope I feel better tomorrow. Can anyone help me?

 
A physicalist or a dualist theory of evolution? PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 07 July 2014 11:37

As someone who in his early manhood was a physicalist, I know how it feels, that rapture of seeing everything as purely physical, even ourselves, even how all of nature evolved. But in middle age I settled for the common-sense view of ourselves as “volitional” creatures, so now I’d prefer a theory of evolution in accordance with common-sense dualism. We can account for evolution with either a physicalist or a dualist theory, the choice is really one of temperament. But when the temperamental divide is as wide as that between physicalists and dualists it’s hard to reach agreement. So I propose we negotiate. Like this:

 
Majority welcomes alternatives to Darwin PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 22 June 2014 14:36

In our poll to the right, 22 responding welcomed alternatives to Darwinism and creationism, 9 voted for Creationism, 3 shunned any criticism of Darwinism.

 
Evolution as Religion: Mary Midgley. Review. PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 22 June 2014 14:26

As we back away from the modern synthesis (see www.thethirdwayofevolution.com) and join the early pioneers in looking to evolution for new meaning, we will need adult help in reigning in our natural enthusiasm for all-encompassing theories of everything, based usually on very little. Fortunately, in Mary Midgley’s book (published 1985), we have it. More...

 
Open letter to Institute for Cultural Evolution PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 10:39

I am impressed by the intelligent treatment of issues in the ICE Evolutionary Worldview document of December 2012. I like the grounds for discussion, I don’t agree but I have no specific changes to suggest. I write merely to give feedback, because the issues matter to me, too.

I see your policies and philosophy as those of Hegel, who you credit.... [But] To me you seem to accept postmodern values without any justification, merely because they appear to succeed “modern” values. More...

 
Modern evolutionary theory is mythical PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 24 February 2014 19:00

"...So I regard the modern synthesis as not theory based on science, but an origin story based on mythical entities. Then the most appropriate questions are, what natural philosophy is being supported by the story, and what is its relation to our other origin stories?"  More...

 
New section--"Genie" PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 23 February 2014 19:19

I am developing a talk for the general public and students in the humanities in which I urge them to demand new theories of evolution (besides creationism, that is) able to account for the evolution of "folk psychology"--consciousness, creativity and free will. To accommodate expressions of interest I've created a section in this site titled "Genie" project. See the section title at right. Click on that to see a couple of articles describing the new theory.

Want to comment? Send me an email, "genie" at evolvedself. com-

 
Edge question 2014: Coyne "Free will is dead" PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 16 January 2014 13:00

In an answer to this year's EDGE question comes an authoritative call for the abandonment of the term "free will." This call comes from Jerry Coyne, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago; Author, Why Evolution Is True.

"Among virtually all scientists, dualism is dead. Our thoughts and actions are the outputs of a computer made of meat—our brain—a computer that must obey the laws of physics. Our choices, therefore, must also obey those laws.... scientific experience... shows no evidence for a mind separate from the physical brain.... In short, the traditional notion of free will... is dead on arrival.... When pressed, nearly all scientists and most philosophers admit this. Determinism and materialism, they agree, win the day.... So why does the term "free will" still hang around when science has destroyed its conventional meaning?"

No if ands of buts here. He places me, as a dualist, outside the pale of scientific discussion.

"The illusion of agency [free will] is so powerful that even strong incompatibilists like myself will always act as if we had choices, even though we know that we don't. We have no choice in this matter. But we can at least ponder why evolution might have bequeathed us such a powerful illusion."

To me, this sounds like someone with a limited grasp on reality. How can we ponder anything about evolution if we have no choice in the matter? Does he realize how little sense he makes?  A comment.

 
Modern synthesis invokes supernatural aid PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 12 January 2014 16:24

Puzzle--how to get around these apparent dependencies of the modern synthesis on supernatural powers?

Natural selection works by whittling down the number of less-fit variations. As fast as it does so some agency must add new variations, otherwise natural selection would run out of variations to select from and evolution would cease. Failure to find a non-supernatural agency able to account for the creation of new variation led to natural selection being almost abandoned after Darwin's death.

But did the addition of genetic mutation help? Genetic mutation by itself leads to harmful mutations that, accumulating generation by generation, would lead to rapid extinction. Natural selection's effect, being so slight, can do little to slow that accumulation. But according to population statistics, when that slight effect acts in favor of beneficial mutations it can increase their incidence to make them the dominant form of their gene, although that would take millions of generations. For that time to be availalble something must be suppressing the accumulation of the harmful mutations that would otherwise lead to extinction in just a few generations. That can only be supernatural powers in the beneficial mutation.

Illustration: Take two species competing in the same niche. Both suffer genetic mutation but the second one has a perfect repair mechanism so no mutations survive into its phenotype. Until beneficial genes appear in the first species it accumulates harmful genes and extinction threatens. But once a beneficial gene appears, all that accumulation of harmful genes must supernaturally disappear and only beneficial mutations will increase in incidence, leading after millions of generations to eventual evolution and dominance in the niche. Without this supernatural power of the beneficial mutation, how else how can one account for mutations helping species evolve?

 
Zoonomia, by Erasmus Darwin: Review PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 03 December 2013 18:28

I have read two texts published only 50 years apart, and experienced passing from the science of our time into the science of the previous age, and it’s been exhilarating. I began with “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation” written by Robert Chambers and published in 1844 (see my review in the "forum"), perhaps the first attempt by a professional science writer to summarize all scientific knowledge for the informed public. Now I have read “Zoonomia” published in 1794, written by Erasmus Darwin, Charles’ grandfather. Between the two, science fell into the order we are familiar with today. Here's a sample from Zoonomia:

Laying the ground for natural selection: “Every individual tree produces innumerable seeds, and every individual fish innumerable spawn, in such inconceivable abundance as would in a short space of time crowds the earth and ocean with inhabitants…. This arguments only shews, that the productions of nature are governed by general laws…” How much more of a clue could young Charles have had!

I heartily recommend reading first “Vestigies of the Natural History of Creation,” edition 11 or later if you can find it, and then “Zoonomia.” A lot of our present mentality got created in the intervening half century. Here's my review of Zoonomia.

 
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