Evolution

One item left out of my last essay complaining about delusions that have taken over political debate is the concept of evolution. It is such an assumed part of life that even I assume it as a given that it is a useful concept. Everything from a single cell to the most convoluted questions of mind and body and of social and cultural states of affairs are described as having “evolved” or as the result of evolution. Except in esoteric areas of analytic philosophy dealing with epistemology and philosophy of science and among very abstract theoretic biologists and chemists, no one bothers to question why such a concept serves as a truly universal explanation of almost everything in life: the reason evolution is a god that can explain everything and anything is because the concept of “evolution” is a tautology. Tautologies are aesthetically beautiful and powerful because they are always necessarily true explanations of everything and can be used as premises in any argument because they will always be a true premise.

 

However, in science, tautologies are bad conceptually because they cannot be falsified. By any definition of science, something that cannot be falsified is not and cannot be a science regardless of its truth: i.e., “all bachelors are unmarried males” is undisputedly and clearly true, it is not science. Real scientists such as physicists are keenly aware of this problem. So for example, there is an ongoing dispute in physics presently as to whether the universal constant “c” that is the speed of light is a tautology. The present protocol for measuring time and distance are based on atomic oscillations within the cesium atom. The unit of time is defined by the frequency of atomic transitions in cesium atoms, and the unit of space is defined in terms of the distance traveled by light in that same unit of time. So, therefore c is essentially defined “one light-year per light-year”, i.e. The Physics Detective. Some philosophers of science have been making this argument since Newtonian physics were discovered or created (depends on your metaphysics). Since we measure the universe by distance and time with both measurements requiring parameters measured visually, the nature of vision must be a constant? Resolution of this issue is above my pay grade. But, this serves to exemplify the need to be aware of tautologies if one wants to call a concept “science” or to be a science.

 

In its humble beginnings, evolution was tautologically defined by “natural selection” in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Because “natural selection,” “preservation of favored races”, and “struggle for life” all reduce to the same concept once we accept that “struggle” includes reproduction as well as survival — as everyone does and must do for evolution to be an explanation. These humble beginnings were quickly forgotten as evolutionary biologists have tripped over themselves for decades trying to find a non-tautological definition of evolution including perhaps a workable recursive one but have failed miserably at these attempts. Popular attempts at doing so these days always include elements from formal logic to give them credibility. A typical attempt:

The Principle of Natural Selection: For all reproducing entities x and y, all environments E, and all generations n: if x is fitter than y in environment E at generation n, then probably there is some future generation n’, after which x has more descendants than y. — Godfrey-Smith, Peter. “Philosophy of Biology”. Princeton University Press: Princeton, N.J. (2014) p. 34.

 

Sounds good and no doubt such acceptable writing will help one get tenure in academia worshiping evolution, but the obvious question is how does one determine “fitter” — especially in humans. In the animal world, one can say that the “fitter” are those who survive and reproduce the most but this brings us back to a tautology. In the human world, even this definition of “fitter” fails miserably. Socrates, Alexander the Great, Jesus Christ, Julius Caesar, and on to Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and many more x’s were all fitter than the average y’s in any E by most definitions yet they had no descendants or none beyond their first generation n. In the human world, one can make an good argument that the actual principle of natural selection is that the less fit not the “fitter” are “probably” the ones with the most descendants.

 

The fact is that if the word “evolution” disappeared from biology including genetics, all of which are now based on the statistical and probabilistic analysis founded upon Mendel’s statistical studies, nothing would change or be lost pragmatically — only a secular god would be lost from the pantheon of secular gods we now have.

 

Instead of acknowledging this reality, the worshipers of the god of evolution deal with it by the common technique I call “assuming the contradiction”: they simply create another concept that assumes evolution as a truth under a different name so that the tautology and any contradictions it may cause nominally disappear. The present fad conceptualization is called “hyperadaptationism” or “Panglossian hyperadaptationism” that differentiates between serious evolutionary theory and comic evolutionary theory. The practitioners of this fad have their own conventions and blogs where they laugh at comic theories and of course take serious the serious theories, i.e.Panglossian Hyperadaptationism and Survival of the Funniest . How do they differentiate between comic and serious evolutionary theories? The same way psychologists differentiate between delusion and reality: they vote on them. If a majority agrees a theory is serious or real, then it is. If not, it is not. Pretty much as scientific as psychology or evolutionary theory can get.

 

So, again, if you want to hold or run a political office, get real:

Even if we took the most optimistic view possible, and assumed that in general men’s consciences have been approximately molded by evolutionary forces, the best we could hope for is that they should lay down principles which have been useful. Unlike the God it has replaced, natural selection cannot be supposed to possess or to embody foreknowledge.

If the human race perishes in a nuclear war, it may well be (although there will be no one alive to say it) that scientific beliefs did not, in a sufficiently long time scale, promote “survival”. Yet that will not have been because the scientific theories were not rationally acceptable, but because our use of them was irrational. In fact, if rationality were measured by survival-value, then the proto-beliefs of the cockroach, who has been around for tens of millions of years longer than we, would have a far higher claim to rationality than the sum total of human knowledge. — Putnam, Hilary. “Why Reason Can’t be Naturalized”. Synthese Vol. 52. pp. 3-23 (1982) at p. 5-6.

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