This site is supported by Nobility Studios.

Evolution and Progress

35 posts in this topic

Posted

As I've said, I'm kind of neutral on this idea.

But there are problems with saying that just because there is no actual mind behind a process, that the process cannot have a direction, a fulfillment, etc.

I tried to examine this idea in that big long post of mine earlier in the thread. But it was a casual write-up, and I admit, kind of not a great read.

However, the article that I got most of my inspiration from, is a characteristically excellent and pleasingly written paper written by no less of a luminary than Ernst Mayr. It's online here

He's basically saying that it makes sense to speak of teleology in biology, in a wholly naturalistic sense. If he's right, then, your saying that 'If evolution is naturalistic, it’s not “aiming” for anything and so progress is arbitrary', breaks down at the naturalistic->no teleology ('not aiming') connection.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Oh! And I guess... we shouldn't be saying that naturalistic implies no teleology, because of course WE can make goal-directed progressive processes, and we aren't exactly supernatural. Aliens guiding evolution would make it progressive, too.

We can thank BrianM's posts for helping me catch that one. We do tend to automatically think of 'naturalistic' as 'mindless' - and that's very likely a result of the way the evolution/creation debate runs these days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

As I've said, I'm kind of neutral on this idea.

But there are problems with saying that just because there is no actual mind behind a process, that the process cannot have a direction, a fulfillment, etc.

Well, you've cited examples of direction and fulfillment, and no doubt this is true. I mean, the gestation and birth of any offspring has a direction and a fulfillment. But is that progress?

I suppose it depends on how elasticly one wishes to define the word "progress," but for me the most natural way to understand this word is that it presupposes an aim or goal, and under this understanding, it pretty much means that there must be a sentient planner. And supposing evolution is fully naturalistic, there is no such planner to be had.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I suppose it depends on how elasticly one wishes to define the word "progress," but for me the most natural way to understand this word is that it presupposes an aim or goal, and under this understanding, it pretty much means that there must be a sentient planner. And supposing evolution is fully naturalistic, there is no such planner to be had.

I know... There are strong points on both sides. But what do you think about what I was saying about the growth and blooming of the rose: is it really totally arbitrary to define the blooming of the rose as the goal of the process of the roses growth? Can we really define the goal of that process at any other point? What point would that be? a just-sprouted seed? a still-growing sapling? Saying that this process is goal-less, or that it's goal is arbitrarily decided by us, seems kind of wrong somehow, do you think? (I ain't exactly sure myself)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I do believe that the process of evolution is one that must be interpreted; as religion can still be viewed as the ultimate arbiter of how the public en masse comes to understand and assimilate scientific truth, (though religion has certainly lost its authority on matters regarding the physical world and its ontological truths) it will be interesting to see how the religious community, particularly the Protestant community as Catholicism already has, mythologizes this process of evolution. Religiously speaking, evolution can simply be understood as God's mechanism of creation, and to answer why God would choose such a process, with all its innate dysteleology, I would imagine it would have to do with the fact that God enjoys the process of potentiality becoming actuality, akin to how a painter paints.

I see absolutely no reason why evolution should or must be viewed in naturalistic terms. Naturalism is a metaphysical, ontological commitment, not a 'scientific' one. If one does not find the mechanism by which teleology exists with the process of evolution, why suppose, as a matter of absolute truth, that we will not; we still have a lot to learn. Even if science does not or as a rule by how we define evolution/natural selection and what it constitutes (though here we would be dealing with semantics), 'discover' the mechanism by which progress comes to pass, there is still no reason to ultimately or metaphysically reject that such a mechanism exists: a thing that cannot be said is just a thing that cannot be said.

I do believe that the term 'progress' is indeed value laden; one feels that 'progress' has been made in the evolutionary scheme, from a universe consisting of single celled organisms to homo sapiens because one places more value on a human being than a single celled organism; perhaps we are anthropocentric because it is the "right" attitude to have; imagine if we adopted as an existential reality, the belief that beetles or single celled organism contained within themselves as much value as a human being, to quote Francis Fukuyama:

"If animals have a 'right' not to suffer unduly, the nature and limits to that right depend entirely on an empirical observation of what is typical for their species- that is, on a substantive judgment about their natures. To my knowledge, not even the most radical animal rights activist has ever made the case for the rights of the AIDS viruses or E. Coli bacteria, which human beings seek to destroy by the billions every day."

To say that value is a mere human judgment is not the same as to say that it does not or cannot reflect a transpersonal reality: to do so, it seems to me, would be an example of the genetic fallacy, in other words, to hold that the origin of a concept can subsequently determine its truth status.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Two works by the Christian philosopher Alexander Pruss:

The Cosmos as a Work of Art

I will sketch an argument that if we follow St. Augustine in seeing the cosmos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Evolution is one or a series of successive changes within species in response to changing environmental conditions. While the origin of the theory is biological, evolution can be extended to other physical systems, as long as its fundamental assumptions are neither simplified nor extended.

I suppose, that seems rather ambitious, doesn't it?

The first thing to notice is that the theory is Heraclitean, not Aristotelian.

There is no hint of teleology in the theory itself, regardless of anyone's opinion. The theory only relies on statistical selection from the natural diversity of a species. The selection process is due to species specific strife within the parameters of the environment. Everything, including the environment, is in flux, although at varying rates. The theory does not categorize a state of affairs, but describes how things change.

Given that almost all modern science is Heraclitean, in that it is the study of change, Is there a philosophy of science that can handle Heraclitean science?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Given that the world is most likely Parmenidian and not Heraclitean, probably not. :mrgreen:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

:D The only instrument a Parmenidian scientist needs is a coin to flip.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

My previous post on Darwin's Theory of Evolution emphasized its simple, relational logic, its reliance on the dynamics of conflict between its elements, and on its resultant possibilities of powerful theoretical generalization in natural science. This time I'd like to comment on its limitations.

Darwin's theory only covers evolution due to natural selection, there is also selective breeding. Evolution is only one special form of change. Its outcome does not affect any of the individuals or particulars, only their future generations, the form of their 'species'. Change in particulars, whether by chance, physical interaction, preprogrammed evolution (as in maturation), or by divine plan or intervention, remains unaffected. Why not permit the Divine to drive an automatic, if that is His choice?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now