Re: [asa] social evolution for Jon Tandy

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Mon May 11 2009 - 17:29:44 EDT

Bernie wrote
>Evolution defined my way means “to get to point c you have to travel from point a through point b.” Things just don’t pop-out of thin air.<

In biological and social evolution, it's rarely the case that you have
to go through point b rather than d or maybe e through g. There is a
continuity of intermediate points, but the scientific evidence for a
fixed progression in a particular direction is rather rare.
Obviously, in both cases one ultimately starts with simpler starting
points and gets some increased complexity, but this may not be always
statistically distinguished from a truncated random patten. E.g., a
few billion years ago there were just essentially single celled
organisms. Today we still have lots like that but also have lots that
have multicellularity. However, you can't exist as an organism with
fewer than 1 cells, so random variation in cellularity will lead to an
increase in average cell number.

> In social evolution all of the advanced social traits can be traced backwards.<
> Slavery vs. freedom.  Freedom is a superior thought, and that it why it took awhile to arise and be predominate in advanced civilizations.  Lower forms of life practice and condone slavery, as well as racism (unequal rights based on race).<

This conflates evolution with progress. Current social traits can be
traced backwards (though there is the possibility of innovation, it
interacts with the existing frameworks), but whether they are more
"advanced" can be problematic.

There is no reason to assume that superior thoughts would arise later
rather than earlier. If they are superior in some functional way (as
opposed to being perceived as closer to some ideal but not
implemented), then they will tend to prevail over inferior ones. 20th
century history doesn't give good grounds for assuming that things are
getting better, though many people assume they are superior to those
who came before. The possible role of God's influencing the course of
things to favor a particular outcome is of relevance, though it's also
true that God's laws are basically good for you and for
society-they're not just arbitrary tests of conformity.

The erroneous idea of a fixed course of social progress is especially
associated with Marxism. However, it is also found in a lot of
liberal biblical criticism, in which it is claimed that a particular
theological or social development could not be present at a particular
time. E.g., it is claimed that true monotheism could not develop
until the Exile. This is silly. Any primitive tribesman who believes
in such things can easily think that his god is the one true god of
all the universe. Displacement, the close contact with other peoples,
etc. certainly would prompt thinking about the issue, but it can exist
before. Similarly, it is claimed that Edom couldn't have kings when
the populace was still primarily nomadic. Why not?

Likewise, much in extreme skeptical criticism about the text of the
Bible or the history of Christianity contains the implicit assumption
that prior views are all naive and delusional or willfully dishonest.
E.g., the odds that Bart Ehrmann has noticed numerous legitimate
contradictions in the Biblical text that no one ever noticed in the
previous couple thousand years, for example, is rather low. In
reality, if there is any real discrepancy (some have merit), it's
probably been discussed voluminously.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Mon May 11 17:30:09 2009

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