Thursday, March 10, 2011

Natural Selection and the Universal Eros: Absent-Minded Science, Part VI

I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle. I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design.
~Charles Darwin, 1860 (letter to Asa Gray)

It has now become more or less respectable to talk of purpose or directiveness in ontogeny … but it is still considered heretical to apply the same terms to phylogeny.
~Arthur Koestler, 1978 (Janus: A Summing Up)

Since the 1970s, there has been a resurgence of critiques against the mainstream Darwinian theory of evolution, which asserts that “natural selection” is the primary agent of evolution. Criticizing Darwin’s ideas and the “neo-Darwinian” framework that constitutes the modern theory of evolution is not new. What is new, however, is the fact that we seem to be in the middle of a long-overdue shift in what has become an overly dogmatic “adaptationist” view of evolution, in which all or almost all evolution occurs through the posited mechanism of natural selection.

This essay continues my extended critique of “absent-minded science,” the tendency in modern science to ignore, intentionally or through oversight, the role of mind in nature. I want to be clear up front that I am not a supporter of “intelligent design” or any religiously-motivated critique of natural selection. Rather, I approach these very difficult problems primarily from the point of view of a hard-nosed philosopher and scientist trying to make sense of it all – and finding that many mainstream approaches could be significantly improved.

Read the rest here.