Friday, July 31, 2009

Just a thought ...

... Certain proponents of an expanded evolutionary theory are fond of explaining all sorts of things — religion and art, for example — in terms of their survival value. But if the overriding point of evolution — if I may put it that way — is survival, that point was reached right from the start. The simplest life forms — bacteria, algae, protozoa — mastered the art of survival so well and so immediately that they continue to thrive as they did from the beginning. So development beyond them into more complex life forms would hardly seem to have anything to do with survival. In other words, while the more complex form, once it does exist, must meet the challenge of survival, its emergence as a more complex entity cannot be explained as a response to that challenge. And since its origin cannot be accounted for in terms of survival, why should survival be the sole or even principal explanation of its subsequent activity?


  1. Hmmmm, this has a familiar ring, Frank ... and I will advise you if a question is asked, and what answer is received.

    As for religion, art and evolution, I'm wondering if there may be a difference-of-opionion amongst us 'evoplutionists' ... or, if the view of evolution is, well, evolving.

    It's been 25 years since I've darkened the doorway of a college classroom ... but I recall that, back then, it was suggested certain 'humane' behaviors - caring for the seriously injured, artistic expression, ritual interment - were a by-product, as it were, of body and brain growing in size and complexity.

    What made us better scavengers, better predators, better survivors ... also opened up new paths of cognitive development - and the means to pursue those paths that might have remained forever closed to us had we remained in a simpler state.

  2. Oh, I'm with you, Jeff. I think that evolution is a correct model of biological development. But I also think it exhibits signs of what can be fairly called teleology: It is purposeful and aims at the enhancement and fulfillment of life, not merely its maintenance.

  3. The "only survival" arguments are reductionist, just as all one-point or one-value arguments are. The problem is not with the process of evolution, but what we think about it.

    The problem with reductionism is that it's simplistic. It tries to account for all phenomena via one motive or means. But it's never always been about only one motive or means. And non-reductionistic scientific disciplines ranging from the theory of complex systems, to fractal mathematics and chaos theory, to depth psychology, have all shown up the fallacies of reductionistic theories.

    "The problem is not in our stars, Horatio, but in ourselves." —Hamlet

  4. I have wondered -- while trying not to be offensive or tread on hallowed politically correct thinking -- how exactly homosexual behavior can be hard wired into genes -- or can be transmitted genetically as a result of survival of the fittest.

    In other words homosexuality, by its very nature, can't spread. So if it is genetic and genes just want to survive (pace Edmund O. Wilson and sociobiology) then homosexual genetic behavior wouldn't be transmitted from generation to generation -- it would die out.

    My understanding of this conundrum from people in the field is that the best guess is that homosexuals have a second something -- whether contributing to tribal survival as a shaman or some other concept such as caregiver (allowing others to survive that would not otherwise do so without a caregiver.)

    The second something hypothesis doesn't make much sense as the hypothesis adds mystical characteristics to gay-ness that is above and beyond genetics.

    So maybe this example shows expanded evolutionary theory isn't all...