Darwinism must die?

Darwinism Must Die So That Evolution May Live

That's the title of a NYT opinion piece.

My first reaction: huh?

Searching for an explanation, I find this:

We don’t call astronomy Copernicism, nor gravity Newtonism.

Maybe not specifically, but science is filled with things named after scientists - including Copernicus and Newton. For example, the Copernican principle.

“Darwinism” implies an ideology adhering to one man’s dictates, like Marxism.

Not necessarily.

And “isms” (capitalism, Catholicism, racism) are not science.

Formalism? Adaptationism? Aneurysm? A joke, but argument-by-word-suffix seems terribly weak.

“Darwinism” implies that biological scientists “believe in” Darwin’s “theory.” It’s as if, since 1860, scientists have just ditto-headed Darwin rather than challenging and testing his ideas, or adding vast new knowledge.

That is putting an awfully heavy load of interpretation on a single word.

Using phrases like “Darwinian selection” or “Darwinian evolution” implies there must be another kind of evolution at work, a process that can be described with another adjective.

So now the reason given is that it suggests that there are more than one actual mechanisms of evolution. How about this for an alternative: that there are more than one proposed mechanisms for evolution - such as Lamarckian evolution, which has been falsified but which surely is still talked about (e.g. when discussing the history of science).

The author really does seem to be throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Notice also that we have switched from "Darwinism" to "Darwinian". It's not really the "-ism" that was the offender, was it? I wonder what the words "Darwinism" and "Darwinian" have in common...

But the term “Darwinian” built a stage upon which “intelligent” could share the spotlight.

Seems rather a stretch to blame the name for the religious assault on the theory of natural selection. The roots of the assault run fairly deep and it seems doubtful that the choice of name would have made a detectable difference in how far it has gone.

Almost everything we understand about evolution came after Darwin, not from him.

So now the attack is on Darwin himself, or rather on his place in the history of science. It is, apparently, not the "-ism" in "Darwinism" that offends, nor the "-ian" in "Darwinian", but the "Darwin" in both. The use of his name gives him too much credit, or so it is suggested.

And yet we talk about Newtonian physics and Euclidean geometry, and there was plenty of progress in these fields after Newton and after Euclid, respectively. Using the names of Newton and of Euclid here does not give them too much credit.

In brief: I was not persuaded.

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It is not the name they object to, it is the concept

Darwinism is survival of the fittest - which implies:

  • some creatures are better than others
  • that we are by our nature ruthless, selfish, and cruel to non kin that we do not need
  • that ethics is just a survival tool for a creature that needs cooperation to survive.
  • >

People have always objected to this, and always tried to weasel their way out of it - for example Gould's non judgmental evolution, where survival has no relation to merit - survival is supposedly largely mere chance, and speciation occurs merely by the accident of separation, not by differential selection - for differential selection would imply that some kinds would be better in some environments than others.

Gould is merely the latest in a long, long, long succession of people who object to the political and moral implications of Darwinism, which objections started with Darwin's closest supporters.

Implications

political and moral implications of Darwinism

And what are those exactly?

political and moral implications of Darwinism

If, for example, humans have a definite nature, the product of long evolution, then the various efforts to remake man, for example "new socialist man", are going to fail catastrophically.

I could list a long, long, long, list of similar predictions. There is something in Darwin to violently offend pretty much everyone. Darwin's writings on ethics and sex are chock full of stuff that ticked off many of even his closest supporters. Wallace did not like Darwin on sexual selection, complaining that non human sexual attraction had to be completely different from human sexual attraction.

Non-Judgmental Evolution

I don't see why you would consider non-judgmental evolution to be weaselly. I'd argue that it's obviously the correct approach to take. There's no reason to attach any particular moral significance to reproductive fitness. Nadya Suleman is exceptionally fit in a Darwinian sense, given the environmental context, but she's still a bad person.

What he means

That's not what he means by nonjudgmental evolution. He describes what he means:

survival is supposedly largely mere chance, and speciation occurs merely by the accident of separation, not by differential selection

Nothing there about attaching moral significance to reproductive fitness. It's about fitness from beginning to end.

James is talking about sympatric versus allopatric speciation and about the role played by differential selection.

"Some creatures are better

"Some creatures are better than others"

What do you mean by this? Are you talking species, or individuals? Better at what?

"That we are by our nature ruthless, selfish, and cruel to non kin that we do not need."

You'll have to expand on this. I'm not sure if you are referring to a claimed fact, in which case one wonders why you would object to true belief. There's the issue of normative vs. descriptive.

That ethics is just a survival tool for a creature that needs cooperation to survive.

Not sure what your point is here either. I'll guess you think this makes it somehow unreal. Can't ethics be both a survival tool and real? Aren't wings just survival tools, and don't they also allow flight? Do you believe this flight to be unreal? Would "true flight" somehow involve mental levitation?

tried to weasel their way out of it

Weasel out of what?

You misunderstand Gould.

Briefly

"Some creatures are better than others"

What do you mean by this?

This is relevant to nature versus nurture arguments, and nature versus nurture arguments are often highly politically charged.

"That we are by our nature ruthless, selfish, and cruel to non kin that we do not need."

You'll have to expand on this.

Very roughly, and as a case in point: we are by nature not communists. Communism doesn't work for us as a species, though it works within human families (hence the mention of kin). More close to home, giving some people a great deal of political power over other people is generally really bad news for those other people. This applies to command economies but also to most governmental interventions in the economy. Looking to government to solve our problems involves this mistake about the fundamental nature of man.

That ethics is just a survival tool for a creature that needs cooperation to survive.

Not sure what your point is here either. I'll guess you think this makes it somehow unreal.

No, it's not anti-realism. By way of explanation, James included in his collection my own article which attempts to sketch out how it is that ethics comes from self interest. I'm not going to go into the political implications of this right now - but I think it has political implications.

Darwin: Constant, Why Did You Reply?

I was asking James what he meant, not you.

I don't think the Theory of Natural Selection necessarily has all the implications that were posited by James. Simple economic and moral truths mean that natural selection will be gentler and kinder in dealings between organisms which have evolved to use ethics, trade, specialization.

Survival of the fittest does NOT mean we have to be at each others throats.

James made it sound like the implications of natural selection are so bad that, Gould et. all are hiding them and that we should therefore reject the truth of the theory. Either that or like we should wallow in our depravity. Can't tell really. It was hard to interpret the comment.

"James included in his collection my own article ..."

Did he? Where? I don't see it.

It's my entry

Constant, Why Did You Reply?

Who wrote this blog entry? Yeah, that's right, I did.

It's my party and I'll reply if I want to. :)

Did he? Where? I don't see it.

I linked to the copy of it in his collection.

But he didn't

"I linked to the copy of it in his collection."

Yeah, I saw that, but he didn't. BTW, I hate Gould with a passion.
I'll wait for his clarification of his position.

Not sure what you mean

"I linked to the copy of it in his collection."

Yeah, I saw that, but he didn't.

I am not sure what you're talking about. I accessed the copy of my essay (to know what URL to use for the link) by visiting James's Liberty File Collection index and clicking the link there for my essay.

I mean

Yeah I saw that you linked to it but he didn't link to it. So it by no means establishes for me what he meant by his comment.

BTW, I read it also.

I don't understand

Yeah I saw that you linked to it but he didn't link to it.

Yes he did link to it, and that is implied by my statement:

I accessed the copy of my essay (to know what URL to use for the link) by visiting James's Liberty File Collection index and clicking the link there for my essay.

The words "clicking the link there for my essay" presupposes that there was a link there - i.e., there was a link at his liberty file collection index, which you can find by googling liberty file collection index.

I am bothered by this failure to communicate such utterly trivial information. What, exactly, caused the confusion? If I can't get this across then what hope do I have of getting anything less trivial across? My best guess is that you thought I was saying something different from what I said. If so, then what did you think I said?

I misread "collection" as "comment" for some reason

This is the point where I normally just make a phone call.

I did not see any link in his comment that I responded to. This comment. There is no link and certainly not one to your article.

I was originally responding to that comment by James. Just because he has a link to an article written by you at his web site doesn't necessarily clarify his current comment on this article.

I want to know what he means now. Your article doesn't talk about his concept of "weasel". His list of items isn't represented in your article. Etc.

I JUST NOTICED THE PROBLEM. I misread "collection" as "comment".

"James included in his collection my own article ..."

I read that too fast and though you were claiming he had referred to your article in his comment directly.

Thanks

That clarifies things for me. The world has righted itself.

Theory of Natural Selection

I agree the article is stupid.

Besides it's not Darwinism or Evolution, it's The Theory of Natural Selection which explains the fact of evolution. That's how scientists refer to it. The guy who wrote the article didn't use the term Theory of Natural Selection once.

Evolution doesn't refer to the theory it refers to the fact that is explained by the theory. A fact that others try to explain with other falsified theories.

It is Darwinism.

Besides it's not Darwinism or Evolution, it's The Theory of Natural Selection which explains the fact of evolution. That's how scientists refer to it. That's how scientists refer to it.

Dawkins calls himself a Darwinist. Darwinism is a short word for a large collection of ideas which cannot be simply summarized in any short phrase such as "the theory of natural selection which explains the fact of evolution". If you could reference it in short phrase, Darwin would not have written two books.

For Darwins Sake

For Darwin's Sake the phrase wasn't suppose to summarize anything. "The Theory of Natural Selection" is a name, a label.

"Dawkins calls himself a Darwinist."
I'm a Darwinist also. Which indicates I believe in the Theory of Natural Selection.

Darwinism is used mostly by Creationist. As Wiki says, "While the term has remained in use amongst scientific authors, it is increasingly regarded as an inappropriate description of modern evolutionary theory"

Evolution as a label for the Theory of Natural Selection is even less acceptable.

Evolution = 1) The fact that organisms have changed over time. 2) An inappropriate term used by creationist to refer to the theory of natural selection as in "Evolution is just a theory".
The Theory of Natural Select = Darwin's theory on why evolution occurred.
Darwinism = 1) A pejorative term used by Creationist to indicate an atheistic and presumably immoral belief system. 2) A shortened term for Social Darwinism. 3) ... and so on. Look them up.

Except:

Except:

Gould is merely the latest in a long, long, long succession of people who object to the political and moral implications of Darwinism, which objections started with Darwin's closest supporters.

Those "people" didn't have to object to anything, because there should be no implications we need to be afraid of. People need to see Darwinism for what it is, and what it isn't.

Same goes for human nature. Pinker did an outstanding job in showing us how our fears are misplaced.

Gould is hit and miss. He did too much fuzzy and average work, which tended to taint the good contributions he did do.

some creatures are better than others ?

Forgive me, but the above assertion reflects a widely held misconception about Evolution. And Constance, forgive me too, for that is why I agree that a distinction between the terms Darwinism and Evolution must be made.

Firstly, evolution does not have anything to do with getting better. Thats a rubbish assertion that come from Social Darwinism, which is a Victorian Idea, that, believe it or not, predates Darwin. ( For more on this I recommend Peter Gay's seminal masterpiece "the Culture of Hatred").

This moral idea of better has no place in Evolution.

Evolution is not about getting better, which is a social value judgement, but, in fact about getting more efficient, which is a scientific observation expressed as an equation of performance over environment!

Its why the Cockroach is more highly evolved than us.

Its been at it longer, it can eat polystyrene and survive the a bomb, not bad for a creature that grew up under the bark of trees.

This pseudo-science a la religion that tells us that evolution explains our ascent, is rubbish, supported by the crazy notion that Humans are the dominant life form on our planet. We humans are no better, and in many cases, due to our recent arrival, far less efficient than many insects.

Secondly, evolution should perhaps be distanced from Darwinism and other Victorian ideas, because its applicability is better illustrated by the confirmation of genetics, which is a 20th Century discovery.

We may look like chimps, thats nothing, but that we share 97 % of our genes, and that humans are more like chimps, genetically, than chimps are like gorillas, is a resounding thunderclap of evidence for evolution.

Better

This moral idea of better has no place in Evolution.

James is talking about the mechanism of natural selection, which is how evolution works. In a given environment and a given population, some individuals will be better at surviving and reproducing than others, and their genes will tend to spread through the gene pools, replacing the genes of individuals who are worse at surviving. It's not a moral idea.

Secondly, evolution should perhaps be distanced from Darwinism and other Victorian ideas, because its applicability is better illustrated by the confirmation of genetics, which is a 20th Century discovery.

Darwin's idea that natural selection is the mechanism of evolution is as current now as it ever was. The discoveries of the twentieth century have not supplanted that, but rather have confirmed and complemented it.

better

Absolutely, but this idea of better still carries moral implications. ie Better at survival means more right to survive.

You don't have a greater right to survive because you are better. You simply survive, because you are more efficient.

Its just the way it is.

Better implies superior, but, given environments mean that you are not better, you have simply survived, even if by accident.

better?

is a creature that can survive a nuclear holocaust better or more fortunate ?

Better

Absolutely, but this idea of better still carries moral implications.

Not if we're talking about which organism is better at beating the crap out of the other with a stick and taking their mate. Not in general.

Being better at producing babies that survive to adulthood isn't about better morality either. Just ask octotuples woman. Nothing moral about the way she's mooching off the state. Yet it's likely she'll have more grandchildren than me.


ie Better at survival means more right to survive.


Not sure how you came to that conclusion. Better at survival just means that you produce more surviving offspring that your competitor.

Currency of Ideas

The idea may be current, but the point is that Darwin had a theory of Evolution. A good one, hell a great one. But the discoveries of Genetics are independent of that. They are not confirmatory, although they confirm, ( i mean this in the sense that they confirm, but that they do so independently )they are in essence original discoveries, that would have happened without Darwin.

I am a fan of Darwin, but just because we agree, doesn't mean we got there the same way.

My suggestion is simply that, Darwinism, as remarkable as it is, is not the final arbiter, that, in terms of falsification is genetics.

I will hold Darwin in high regard, only a fool would do otherwise, but when it comes to slogging this out with creation science or other detractors, the victory lies in genetics.

You cannot prove Darwin, simply because of the constraints of his research, which are historical, but you can with genetics.

I'm happy with Darwinism, but it always gives the opposition a leg up, so why not crush them with the independent discoveries of genetics.

Not to mention the numerous other discoveries like quantum physics, super gravity, and string theory which every day come closer to consilience the even e.o. wilson ever dreamed.

I'm just not into that

I will hold Darwin in high regard, only a fool would do otherwise, but when it comes to slogging this out with creation science or other detractors, the victory lies in genetics.

...

I'm happy with Darwinism, but it always gives the opposition a leg up, so why not crush them with the independent discoveries of genetics.

I don't consider creationists to be worth thinking about or doing anything about. I don't care to slog it out with creationists, and I don't care what creationists do or do not believe gives them a leg up.

Them creationists

Neither do I.

But, the art of argument, and it is an art, requires that the artist knows, the correctness of his argument, which can be tested only in the waters of disagreement.

The value of your argument is only such that your argument can prevail in.

Everyone thinks they are right, me too, I just have the simple respect to fight each argument on it merits, each and every time, because, I believe in the argument.

Who cares what one wants?

Who cares what one believes ?

Who cares if you are wrong?

The greatest sin is to think that you are so obviously right that no -one who disagrees deserves a hearing.

I believe in the fact of evolution.

I may be wrong though.

I'm ready to be proved wrong.

I'm not interested in being right.

I'm much more interested in being proved wrong.

Even if its by a creationist ( or though I hope not)

I am not so secure in my apprehension of the Truth.

Truth is for priests.

I'm into evidence.

A few quick comments... The

A few quick comments...

The art of argument means very little, in my opinion. It's one thing to win a debate, it's quite another to have the masses KNOW who won the debate.

If others can identify with one debater on a higher level than the other, the content and rationale of the speakers seems to fall in importance (e.g. the winner can lose).

Argument vs Debate

The art of argument is not about the polish of Debate. Its not about winning. Its about crafting an argument for an idea and testing it in the waters of opposition.

Its another way of saying peer review.

Eliot Gould

Gould, by the way, is at opposite poles from the undisputed Doyen of Evolution, Mr Dawkins.

Yes, he (Dawkins) describes himself as A Darwinist, for reasons of semantics, but in truth, the fantastic genetic evidence, that cannot be disputed, unlike the Victorian theory of Evolution, which can be argued by virtue of it's historically limited premises, is the home of Dawkins. The Selfish Gene is remarkable, not just for its literary value, but because each and every discovery in genetics, well thereafter, proves, and proves again the central assertion.

The supremacy of genes.

By dragging this debate away from Darwin, whose observations are credited with the first recognition of the PATTERN of evolution into the undeniable facts of modern genetics it is possible to destroy this insane opposition to what is now fact, not theory.

The theory of Darwin is now the fact of Genetics.

While Darwin may have stumbled, however elegantly, upon the theory of Evolution, the very separate fact of evolution is the province of Genetics.

Stephen Jay Gould not Eliot Gould

Stephen Jay Gould the scientist not Eliot Gould the actor.

Eliot Gould the Evolutionary Genius

I realise that !!

Its tongue in cheek !

Stephen Jay Gould, like his namesake is comedic when compared to his detractors, like Dawkins and John Maynard Smith.

Ps.. He was a paleontologist, and science writer, not a scientist, which is why he found himself at loggerheads with top scientists because he believed that there were more significant factors over and above.

Perhaps my response was too strong, but the posturing about 400 novels and counted words etc ad infinitum had a subtext... it was that very ugly subtext that prompted my response...

oops again

factors beyond natural selection, which funnily enough would be a reason to see evolution as a separate discipline from Darwinism.

Oops

Constant ..sorry.. not constance

Sorry?

You apologize for a spelling error? Meanwhile you think an insane rant in response to a perfectly reasonable post is "Perhaps ... too strong". Meanwhile Constant giving you a background is "very ugly".

Are you on medications or something? Go back and read your stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if you are the first guy to get banned from this site.

Before you go around telling people "Sorry, I had assumed you were educated." you had better make sure what you are saying makes sense. I've read stuff Constant has written for a long time too and he knows more about the topics of biology and morality than you evidence. Both verbally and in your behavior.

The reason why the word "better" has no moral connotations, is not normative, when used in the context of "Darwinism" is because behavior does not effect genetics. If someone is taller they will tend to be better at basketball, all other things being equal. Michael Jordan is better than Stephen Hawkins at basketball, and vice versa Hawkins better at thinking. It would be silly to take that as implying the moral normative statement, "Stephen you should be taller, and Mike you need a higher IQ."

Do you think people go to church to get taller and a higher IQ?

This is my last response to you unless you apologize to Constant, and start behaving better in a normative sense. I think groveling is an appropriate level of apology given your outburst. Otherwise, I'm not going to interact with you anymore. Mainly because it's no fun to have a discussion with someone you are better than while they abuse you. I think it only a matter of time before you fly off the handle with someone else, perhaps me.

I can't ask you to grow a higher IQ but I can ask you to behave in a more civilized manner.

The only reason Constant didn't lay into you is because 1) He thinks you aren't worth it. 2) He thinks you aren't worth it. I'm willing to give you one more chance.

Morals

But in any event, with respect, I think your interpretation of James' post is wrong, for he says

Gould is merely the latest in a long, long, long succession of people who object to the political and MORAL implications of Darwinism, which objections started with Darwin's closest supporters.(who cares what his wife thought)

Its a moral better, that he talks about, if not I would agree, for what is "more efficient" than a better way of saying "better" if morals are not involved,

James and I

I have been reading James's posts for about ten years, and he's been reading mine for as long. Every day for ten years I have read, let us say, five pages worth of text by James. That comes to 18 thousand pages. To be conservative, say 10 thousand pages. The average long novel is 500 pages. So it is as though I have read twenty long novels by James - not novels, though, but opinion about current affairs, scientific controversies, philosophy of language, and so on. I suspect that this is an underestimate.

I think I know something about what James thinks and how James thinks. I think I know, in great detail, what James thinks about a large number of specific topics. I'll leave it at that.

My God

Gee sorry.
I thought we were having a discussion about evolution.

Not a personal discussion of your relationship with james who ever that may be.

Listen up dimwit.

And believe me dimwit is what you are.

Perhaps you should leave these weighty matters of debate to the educated classes, and I don't mean some two bit US local community college.

Woweee!!!

You know james.

Bully for you !

Grow up.

For God sakes I thought this was an intelligent debate between two people.

Wow !!

Tell you what, you and your ego go and take a giant leap off that hill of ignorance you so happily cling to.

GROW UP!!!

Sorry, I had assumed you were educated.

My bad

Thank you

You have saved me time.

time?

From her Majesty's colonies.

Goodnight !

The totally flabberghasted

troublemaker

That was extremely trollish

Wow, now I'm sorry I bothered responding to you. I guess with a handle like troublemaker it was to be expected.

Jim's Blog?

Jim's Blog?

Jim's blog

Apparently, jim.com.

That's a good one.

That's a good one.

Jim's blog

James's blog is at http://blog.jim.com/, but most of his writing is on Usenet.