[lit-ideas] Re: Darw

  • From: "Adriano Palma" <Palma@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2012 09:23:48 +0200

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those of you who find it interesting to trace the source of the debates
on Piattelli&Fodor, may well profit from the series at te univ
of cal s

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ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις, ὅτι τῇδε κείμεθα τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι
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>>> <Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx> 2/23/2012 7:31 PM >>>
In a message dated 2/23/2012 11:09:58 A.M. UTC-02,  
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx  writes:

This  "pushback" has given rise to the counter-pushback:
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Darwin_Got_Wrong) ."
"For example, among the negative opinions there canvassed:
"Evolutionary  biologist Jerry Coyne describes this book as "a
misguided critique of  natural selection"[21] and "as biologically
as it is strident.",[22]  while
In a review in Science Douglas J. Futuyma concluded:
Because they  are prominent in their own fields, some readers may
that they are  authorities on evolution who have written a profound and

important book. They  aren't, and it isn't.[23]
Adam Rutherford, editor of Nature writing in The  Guardian also
reviewed it 
negatively.[24]" There is likely much more to this  than a simple
back against overly reductionist uses of Darwinism [or  neo-Darwinism].
is an underlying question of what kind of explanation  'Darwinism' is -

what we might also describe as the question of its logical  character,

including the extent to which Darwinism is 'scientific' (or 

To do that, we would need to symbolise the theory, and focus not on
the theory _states_ (the topic of the theory), but to abstract

-- observational terms/predicates vs. theoretical terms/predicates
the nature of explanation, nomological models, falsificationist 
axiomatic component
empirical support, paradigm, research-programme, the nature of the  
evidence, theory-laden observation.
and so on.

i.e. the stuff that standard philosophers of science  (Popper, Lakatos,

Kuhn, or Hanson) have been interested all along.


"The pushing back against overly reductionist uses of Darwin is
Popper's writings have long endorsed btw. Indeed his 'emergentist'
theory of 
there being irreducible Worlds 1,2&3 (and even of there being
levels within those 'Worlds') takes anti-reductionism further than
But  this pushing back is, in Popper's case, not intended as a pushing
against  Darwinism so much as against a misunderstanding of the logical

character and  empirical status of Darwinism as a form of

Well, Popper's claim to fame is indeed his falsificationism. But we
go one step earlier and reconsider how Popper's target of attack, 
inductionism,  had explained (or not) the logical character of the

We may, if we are historically concerned or interested, considered
Darwin got his ideas of scientific explanation from, in the very 
philosophical  Spencer or the more mathematical or axiomatic Malthus.
And we should of 
course  consider, while we are at, the relevance of 'synthetic a
priori'. How 
analytic  is the thesis of the 'survival of the fittest', say?

Once we have assessed how "Inductionism" or positivism explains or 
to justify the valid logical character of the Darwinian explanation can
consider whether Popper's thesis -- that Darwinism is not falsifiable,
mind verifiable. And only THEN can we go further to consider
aspects: the nature of the evidence, as per the work of Hanson, the 
'paradigm'  that Darwinism supports, alla Kuhn, and the 'research
paradigm, alla 
Lakatos  (degenerating or not, with a belt that protects against 
counterexamples), and so  on.


"On Popper's view, it is to misunderstand its logical character and  
empirical status to argue that Darwinism indicates the truth of some
form of  

Reductionism is a philosophical idea. The thesis, say, that the organic
reduces to the inorganic, or that life is not a principle
(anti-vitalism), or  
that the soul does not evolve, etc., is a philosophical valid one. 
Philosophers  like to consider these theses per se, and are free to
introduce their 
own axioms  or principles that guide their systems. It is different
when a 
_scientist_ uses  these ideas. (I'm not arguing with Popper that the 
simplistic demarcation is  between 'science' and a misconceived

E.g. Grice spends HOURS considering the topic of 'reductionism'  
(psychophysical, only) in his "Method in philosophical psychology": the
devil of  
scientism lies at the heart of it, he notes. There are ontological
involved, too, such as the individuation of entities over which  
theoretical/observational predicates range (the Ramsey thesis,
Ramsified naming,  
Ramsified description), and so on.


"As a thought on which to leave this for now: if we have a jelly that
come from a mould, we can explain the exact shape and size of the jelly
the  'selection pressure' exerted on the liquid put into the mould. We
say, in  explanatory terms, we can 'reduce' the shape and size of the
to the shape  and size of the mould. But 'natural selection' is not an

explanation of the  characteristics of organisms in quite this way -
'moulding' effect of  'natural selection' over time is not akin to an
imprint of 
positive  characteristics (as per the shape and size of the jelly) but
elimination of  negative [or maladapted] characteristics. This is a
different kind  explanation to a reductionist one - and this is even
we bring  'emergentist' arguments, or even the point that the motor of

relative  adaptability is the random mutation which itself is not
explained in any 
'moulded' sense."

Indeed. Perhaps it's FUNCTIONALISM that can be brought in too. NOT in
sense we were discussing earlier, about Turing being a 'functionalist'.
the  idea of what people have called


The idea that the lung is to breathe (J. R. Searle has written on this
his 'teleo-functional' explanation of the 'mind'), say. 

But Darwinism requires TELEOLOGICAL explanations that are (or should
incompatible with causal explanations of the physical type and the 
reductionist  (alla Patricia Churchland is right in shedding doubts on
this). At what 
level  does it make sense to speak of this feature in the wold having

While Grice does not use 'evolutionary' a lot, he came, as a
to favour 'final' arguments, or 'final causes', alla medieval theology,

even.  There's a lot of Finalism in Darwinism, but as McEvoy notes, the
are very  complex when we bring in emergentism for good measure. The 
keyword should  be:



Reductionism cannot be easily reduced.

And so on.


From: Phil Enns _phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxx (mailto:phil.enns@xxxxxxxxx) 
>Robert Paul linked to a book review by Jerry Fodor: 


Thank you for the link. A very interesting pushback against the  
reductionism of so much of sociobiology.>

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