Friday, September 08, 2006

Darwinian Fairytales

Here is an excerpt from a book I'm reading that ties in with the last two posts. The book is Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution by David Stove. Like many critics of those with the urge to merge he works to define them by their texts and points out that when "evolution" has been defined in falsifiable ways by Darwinists the empirical evidence refutes Darwinian hypothesizing. I use terms like Darwinists and Darwinism instead of evolutionist and evolution because Darwinists have made the term evolution into a pollution of language that supposedly seamlessly merges with whatever they're currently imagining about the past. It is interesting how a pattern of purposely lacking specificity (and therefore lacking falsifiable forms of information) is fitting for those who argue that all organisms with information "fit" to live emerge out of formations of matter that ultimately form from...nothing and no form or information at all.

Stove notes that when it comes to specifics that can be verified based on empirical facts as compared to the textual model or theory, Darwinism is typically lacking. It seems that a philosopher is more interesting in the empirical evidence than biologists generally are or have been. E.g.:
Huxley naturally realized that, as examples of Darwinian competition for life among humans, hypothetical ancient fights between Hobbesian bachelors were not nearly good enough. What was desperately needed were some real examples, drawn from contemporary or at least recent history. Nothing less would be sufficient to reconcile Darwinism with the obvious facts of human life [evidence of cooperation]. Accordingly, Huxley made several attempts to supply such an example. But the result in every case was merely embarrassing.

One attempt was as follows. Huxley draws attention to the fierce competition for colonies and markets which was going on, at the time he wrote, among the major Western nations. He says, in effect, “There! That’s pretty Darwinian, you must admit.” The reader, for his part, scarcely knows where to look, and wonders, very excusably, what species of organism it can possibly be, of which Britain, France, and Germany are members.

A second attempt at a real and contemporary example was the following. Huxley says that there is, after all, still a little bit of Darwinian struggle for life in Britain around 1890. It exists among the poorest 5 percent of the nation. And the reason, he says (remembering his Darwin and Malthus), is that in those depths of British society, the pressure of population on food supply is still maximal.

Yet Huxley knew perfectly well (and in other writings showed that he knew) that the denizens of “darkest England” were absorbed around 1890, not in a competition for life, but (whatever they may have thought) in a competition for early death through alcohol. Was that Darwinian? But even supposing he had been right, what a pitiable harvest of examples, to support a theory about the whole species Homo sapiens. Five percent of Britons around 1890, indeed! Such a “confirmation” is more likely to strengthen doubts about Darwinism than to weaken them.

A third attempt is this. Huxley implies that there have been “one or two short intervals” of the Darwinian “struggle for existence between man and man” in England in quite recent centuries: for example, the civil war of the seventeenth century! You probably think, and you certainly ought to think, that I am making this up; but I am not. He actually writes that, since “the reign of Elizabeth . . . , the struggle for existence between man and man has been so largely restrained among the great mass of the population (except for one or two short intervals of civil war), that it can have little, or no selective operation.”

You probably also think that the English civil war of the seventeenth century grew out of tensions between parliament and the court, dissent and the established church, republic and and the monarchy. Nothing of the sort, you see: it was a resumption of “the struggle for existence between man and man.” Cromwell and King Charles were competing with each other, and each of them with everyone else too, à la Darwin and Malthus, for means of subsistence. So no doubt Cromwell, when he had had the king’s head cut off, ate it. Uncooked, I shouldn’t wonder, the beast. And probably selfishly refused to let his secretary John Milton have even one little nibble.

Huxley should not have needed Darwinism to tell him— since any intelligent child of about eight could have told him— that in a “continual free fight of each other against all” there would soon be no children, no women and hence, no men. In other words, that the human race could not possibly exist now, unless cooperation had always been stronger than competition, both between women and their children, and between men and the children and women whom they protect and provide for.

And why was it that Huxley himself swallowed, and expected the rest of us to swallow, this ocean of biological absurdity and historical illiteracy? Why, just because he could not imagine Darwinism’s being false, while if it is true then a struggle for life must always be going on in every species. Indeed, the kind of examples for which Huxley searched would have to be as common as air among us, surrounding us everywhere at all times. But anyone who tries to point out such an example will find himself obliged to reenact T. H. Huxley’s ludicrous performance.

There is (as I said earlier) a contradiction at the very heart of the Cave Man way out of Darwinism’s dilemma: the contradiction between holding that Darwinism is true and admitting that it is not true of our species now.
(Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity, and Other Fables of Evolution
by David Stove :7-9)

I.e., supposedly Darwinism applies to its own iconic imagery such as the Cave Man but doesn't actually apply now in ways that can be verified empirically and historically. Is Darwinism some type of religious mysticism based on faith in large amounts of time and invisible happenstances in the past*, or empirical science?

It seems that if evidence is lacking that Darwinian theory applies throughout known history then there is little reason to assume that it is a sound theoretical model for prehistory. Similarly, if it doesn't always apply to man as an organism then there is little reason to always try to "fit" all organisms to it by trying to imagine past sequences of events supportive of it. At some point one has to allow a hypothesis to be tested and refuted by facts.

Kronos [time] is a God who cannot be denied by any other God. Nor was he by the God of the Jews, since however speedy the Jewish God acted when he got busy, his work did take time. The point to be made is not that a priori it is necessary to assume any particular rate of evolution; but that it is inherently and absolutely unavoidable in order for life to be able to be present that successive events occur.
(Link, Kronos...that old Titan of the Kosmos, apparently some want to go back to the metaphorically dark gods of Nature.)

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