Re: [asa] Darwin only biological evolution? (can anything exist without evolution?)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Thu Jan 15 2009 - 04:38:24 EST

Hi Iain,

I quite agree with your remarks in the below. Particularly, I agree that defining evolution as "change over time" is just too vague to be useful.

The only response I'd make is to urge the observation that I'm not claiming that evolution SHOULD be defined this way, I'm merely seconding Greg Arago's oft made point that when one uses "evolution" as a theory of everything then it's hard to see how such a vague definition can be avoided. In fact, I'll say that I think most people think Greg guilty of semantic pedantry on this point - but see where ignoring it has gotten us? When one makes evolution a theory of everything, one can't even use the term without laborious qualifications and inevitable misunderstanding.

Another way to put this is simply to observe that as the compass of the notion of "evolution" expands, so to must the breadth of definition. Stretch it far enough, and it inevitably becomes so thin as to be transparent.

If one then wants to make "evolution" a useful term, then one has to introduce unwieldy qualifications. But why talk about "the evolution of mechanical systems governed by Newton's laws" when - as you point out - we already have a perfectly good descriptive in the term "physics" - which discipline itself seems to get by fine without invoking "evolution" as a working concept.

All this you know, of course, and I rather suspect we're on the same page in thinking that the differences between the formation of pigs and of Volkswagens are significant enough that use of a single overarching concept to describe them is not particularly helpful.


Iain Strachan wrote:
> Murray,
> Could I suggest here that the definition of "evolution" as "change
> over time" seems to me to be just a little too vague. The very fact
> that time exists and has a direction (the arrow of time) necessarily
> implies that things change. A universe in which nothing changed at
> all would be timeless. So, IMHO, to say that evolution is an
> overarching concept, as I (so I understand) Bernie wants to make it,
> is no different from saying that time is an overarching concept. Is
> the study of Newton's laws of motion the study of evolution? In one
> sense it is, but it is more specific to suggest that we're studying
> physics here.
> Regards,
> Iain

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Received on Thu Jan 15 04:38:58 2009

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