[lit-ideas] Darwiniana

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2012 12:31:51 -0500 (EST)

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 profoundly 
misguided critique of  natural selection"[21] and "as biologically uninformed 
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 suppose 
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 pushing 
back against overly reductionist uses of Darwinism [or  neo-Darwinism]. There 
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  testable)."
To do that, we would need to symbolise the theory, and focus not on what  
the theory _states_ (the topic of the theory), but to abstract considerations 
-- observational terms/predicates vs. theoretical terms/predicates
the nature of explanation, nomological models, falsificationist  models
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 something  
Popper's writings have long endorsed btw. Indeed his 'emergentist' theory of 
 there being irreducible Worlds 1,2&3 (and even of there being irreducible  
levels within those 'Worlds') takes anti-reductionism further than many. 
But  this pushing back is, in Popper's case, not intended as a pushing back 
against  Darwinism so much as against a misunderstanding of the logical 
character and  empirical status of Darwinism as a form of explanation."
Well, Popper's claim to fame is indeed his falsificationism. But we should  
go one step earlier and reconsider how Popper's target of attack, 
inductionism,  had explained (or not) the logical character of the 'Darwinian' 
We may, if we are historically concerned or interested, considered where  
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  fails 
to justify the valid logical character of the Darwinian explanation can we  
consider whether Popper's thesis -- that Darwinism is not falsifiable, never  
mind verifiable. And only THEN can we go further to consider 'sociological' 
 aspects: the nature of the evidence, as per the work of Hanson, the 
'paradigm'  that Darwinism supports, alla Kuhn, and the 'research paradigm, 
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 
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 'metaphysics', 
E.g. Grice spends HOURS considering the topic of 'reductionism'  
(psychophysical, only) in his "Method in philosophical psychology": the devil 
scientism lies at the heart of it, he notes. There are ontological problems  
involved, too, such as the individuation of entities over which  
theoretical/observational predicates range (the Ramsey thesis, Ramsified 
Ramsified description), and so on.
"As a thought on which to leave this for now: if we have a jelly that has  
come from a mould, we can explain the exact shape and size of the jelly by 
the  'selection pressure' exerted on the liquid put into the mould. We might 
say, in  explanatory terms, we can 'reduce' the shape and size of the jelly 
to the shape  and size of the mould. But 'natural selection' is not an 
explanation of the  characteristics of organisms in quite this way - the 
'moulding' effect of  'natural selection' over time is not akin to an imprint 
positive  characteristics (as per the shape and size of the jelly) but the 
elimination of  negative [or maladapted] characteristics. This is a profoundly 
different kind  explanation to a reductionist one - and this is even before 
we bring  'emergentist' arguments, or even the point that the motor of 
relative  adaptability is the random mutation which itself is not explained in 
 'moulded' sense."
Indeed. Perhaps it's FUNCTIONALISM that can be brought in too. NOT in the  
sense we were discussing earlier, about Turing being a 'functionalist'. But 
the  idea of what people have called
The idea that the lung is to breathe (J. R. Searle has written on this in  
his 'teleo-functional' explanation of the 'mind'), say. 
But Darwinism requires TELEOLOGICAL explanations that are (or should be)  
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 this  
While Grice does not use 'evolutionary' a lot, he came, as a metaphysician, 
 to favour 'final' arguments, or 'final causes', alla medieval theology, 
even.  There's a lot of Finalism in Darwinism, but as McEvoy notes, the issues 
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.>

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: