Re: [asa] Darwin only biological evolution?

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Mon Jan 12 2009 - 03:02:38 EST

"...actually the only evolution we can attribute directly to Darwin is biological." - Gordon Brown
Upon reading Darwin's "Descent of Man," such a statement as the above becomes less tenable. In fact, Darwin in it wrote about morals, values and reason, about psychology, anthropology and ethics. One can argue, of course, that Darwin didn't take the word 'evolution' out of thin air, i.e. he didn't coin the word - it has a past as well. One could credit or debit Darwin with importing 'evolution' into biology or for giving systematic shape to biology in which the term 'evolution' came to have a significant use. Or one could suggest that Darwin wrote about human beings more like a zoologist than an anthropologist. As far as I remember, Darwin didn't even use the term 'evolution' very often in "On the Origin of the Struggle for Life." What one cannot do, however, is divorce the person (qua scientist) entirely from his very real non-biological thoughts, which are part of his worldview on display in his writings; one cannot (better to say
 should not) dehumanise Charles Darwin in order to paint him as biology's genius. Not even Darwin's evolution is biology-only.
Likewise, picking and choosing from Dawkins by accepting his concept/percept of 'memes' is ridiculous. What it shows is that the person who wants Dawkins' 'memes' but not his agnosticism/atheism simply doesn't understand the connection between the two. Rejecting 'memetics' in philosophy and social-humanitarian thought is common because the term 'meme' is absurd. However, one might ask the same thing about 'evolution,' which has in fact been rejected by a good many, while being accepted by others (witness Gordon suggesting that language and knowledge 'evolve'). Once one asks questions such as 'when is something not a mimic?' or 'what are examples of things that don't evolve?' they will see the limitations and boundaries of the concept/percept in question.
Does Gordon have any evidence to back up the following statement?:
"each of these has a theory that was developed mostly independently of the others, and it is difficult to find major features that all of them have in common beyond that they involve evolution."
For example, was Herbert Spencer's evolutionary theory 'developed mostly independently' of Darwin's or do they somehow overlap and borrow from each other? Or how about Karl Marx's?
I would contend that 'change-over-time' is a major feature common to them all; that to take away 'change' is to be left with no evolution. Would anyone on the ASA list disagree with this? __________________________________________________________________ Looking for the perfect gift? Give the gift of Flickr!

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Received on Mon Jan 12 03:03:29 2009

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