Revisiting Evolution Again
May 06, 2020
Darwin on the ship Beagle travelled to The Galapagos Islands in 1835 where he made the observations on flora and fauna there which began his thinking about the theory of evolution.
The Galapagos Is. are what is termed geologically-speaking as an 'island arc'. This means that they are a result of a series of volcanic activity over the course of considerable time.
Darwin could not have known this – since the theory of plate tectonics and of subduction of plates was first accepted generally by geologists in the early 1960s – and first floated as an idea that sank in the early years of the 20th century and post Darwin's death.
The idea is that the crustal plate whereon sit the Galapagos Is. has over many years moved in an arcing direction. At the same time earth crustal materials immediately below this movement have been subducted – that is drawn or forced under another crustal plate at a place where two separate plates clash with one another. So that the subducted materials being now at greater depth and thus subject to greater heat and pressure, have become molten and been forced upwards and out into earth's atmosphere in sporadic volcanic eruptions.
As the earth's crustal plate moves in a curve, the eruptions occur on the plane of that curve and sporadically; thus the volcanic expulsions of magma forming a chain of islands in the plane of the arced movement happening below them.
This genesis of Galapagos means that the islands were never joined together – could never have been - were always separated – since their creation – and hence for species to have inhabited them those species would have had to travel along the line of the island arc to do so. The important points here are 1. that of logical necessity species (and in some variation?) would have had to travel from island to island in order for islands to have become inhabited by them – 2. that there was no opportunity via a total isolation of species on islands for species variations to have diverged by way of absolutely segregated evolutionary paths – i.e. via nil communication between islands.
These considerations mean that there has to have been communication routes between islands for species; and that unless these routes ceased at some point for some reason; reasons for diversification of varieties and of species there remain unresolved by any thesis of absolute segregations of island life; since unless communications routes ceased, and how they should have ceased is not easy to understand, how might such diversifications (by way mutation, natural selection, of variations of segregated species) have occurred?
(Darwin's colleague and rival in Evolutionary study, Alfred Wallace, it is true did assume that there were groups of islands in Malay Archipelago, whereabouts he spent years as an observer of Natural History, which were the outcome of a series of volcanic eruptions. These series of islands were laid out geographically just as were the Galapagos, in arcs – yet Alfred Wallace did not go, could not have gone, much further geologically in explaining their genesis)
There is again an island off the coast of Yemen and called Socrota. Wikipedia gives this description as part of its short resume of the island:
“While politically a part of Yemen (an Asian country), Socotra and the rest of its archipelago geographically are part of Africa, thus making Yemen a transcontinental country.
The island is very isolated, home to a high number of endemic species; up to a third of its plant life is endemic. It has been described as "the most alien-looking place on Earth.
It lies some 240 kilometres (150 mi) east of the coast of Somalia and 380 kilometres (240 mi) south of the Arabian Peninsula"
This is odd. Clearly there are empirical reasons for this island being as it is. Perhaps prevailing winds do not aid, or hinder in fact, species, their fruits and seeds etc being swept towards and/or away from the island? But the essence is that for some reasons this island has been and remains isolated so much so that its flora and fauna have become and have remained in substantial part significantly unique
And another case is of South Island New Zealand between precipitous mountain chains in deep steep-cleft valleys, wherein thrive animals and plants unknown elsewhere - some of which are called loosely 'living fossils'. That is – they are thought to be survivals of species from geological times hundreds of millions of years gone by. Yet however evolutionary processes, them being active, would certainly have caused to alter considerably at least part of this flora and fauna surely? Even in their isolation from a wider world? The isolation of the South Island valleys from the outside world has apparently enabled this so-called 'freezing of time passing' to occur.
These places such as the Island of Socrota and these South Island valleys are, if they are going anywhere, 'going their own ways' in their courses of evolution. Their species being so different and unique because these species have evolved along separated isolated paths and so have grown to become different than those species whose paths followed more generally accessible varieties of environment. Environments that are not, have not been, sealed off from the rest of the world.
But maybe this prognostication is a mere misapprehension? Since is not every environment in some way 'sealed off' from others; even if sealed off by small gradations of changes of environment; and not by say the barrier of a mountain range or by an ocean seaboard, or arid desert - any of which would I guess cause abrupt divisions between environments?
So is it better to argue that these South Island and Galapagos 'wonders' are anomalous instances of what generally goes on? I guess so.
(I am aware that geology tells us that North America at Newfoundland etc has rocks and rock structures which marry up excellently well with those at the other side of the Atlantic on the Western Highlands of Scotland. I am aware that the fossil finds in these rocks also match up extremely well on either side of the Atlantic . Yet because of the historical interference of mankind over millennia, the fauna and flora of Western Scotland and of Newfoundland have been by man's presence, so strongly deviated from what might, for convenience be called their natural states, and deviated according to diverse sets of human influences, so that a proper assessment is hardly possible of the actual progress of any 'unassisted' evolutionary action on this flora and fauna since the separation of The East Coast of North America from the West Coast of Scotland hundreds of millions of years ago.
This being the case it appears to me in this context that the changes attributed to evolution, if any, observed during this period of human impact are not valid observations. Changes that have been recorded concerning the divergent evolutionary paths of a once single set of species now split by their separation into two sets by the interposition of the Atlantic Ocean. And further it seems to be reasonable to claim a similar 'foul' concerning the influences and effects of mankind on species in many similar and analogous cases. For there is today and has been for centuries, maybe for many millennia, little in the natural world which has not been heavily modified by way of the predations,and distortions placed on it by mankind.
For a natural historian to argue that mankind being part of nature means that these interferences - made by humans - with any evolutionary paths, makes them natural interferences – this is a sophistry. Even were such a natural historian to claim that the argument suits appropriately with the general genealogy of The Descent of Man as Darwin propounded it. It is sophistry because it is abundantly clear that mankind as a creator and user of technology and of technical procedures in methodical and foresighted ways, right back from the first flint to have been napped, is a force and influence of a different kind to the force and influence of any and all other species,
The argument here will boil down eventually to one between upholders of freedom of the will as against upholders of materialist determinism – but even here the very persons who hold to materialist determinism almost to a soul do not practice their belief in day to day affairs. This is because it is close to impossible to live a life without having an inherent unmoveable assumption of the truth of freedom of the will. c'est la vie, que sera sera, let it be, are the prayers of The Lotus Eaters.)
As regards the Galapagos, they offer then something representing a halfway house between severe isolation and general intercommunication between environments. Literally island-hopping, and so a series of staggered changes of environments, but with overriding overlap?
But the mystery of its noted, notable, flora and fauna varieties remains open, since there are other island arcs – such as Hawaii and some chains in The Philippines where these kinds of biodiverse effects are not recorded in such an accentuation
I was reading just the other day a reflection made by Darwin in his old age. It was added into a book of text and criticism of Charles Dickens' novel 'Hard Times' about industrial England in the 19th century. In his reflections Darwin was lamenting that he had, he felt, in his old age, lost all his youthful enjoyment and appreciation of poetry, music, and pictorial art.
He considers his psychic life impoverished by the loss. He regrets not having kept up his youthful following and interest and engagement and enjoyment of these things. Shakespeare he says he cannot now read a line of without becoming restless and uninterested. Music he said was now for him an 'irritant'.
His own conclusion had been that his having devoted his mind so long to statistical and empirical reasoning and to a lifetime in pursuit of evidence for his theories, had been the effective cause of the atrophy and loss of aesthetic joy in art in his old age. It's a sad story.
Whether his self-diagnosis is accurate or not is beside the point to the fact that he felt it was accurate. The French literary critic Boileau once wrote memorably that Rene Descartes, the French Philosopher of the early modern age, had in the course of his philosophical specialisations 'cut the throat of poetry'.
By this startling image Boileau meant that after Descartes had written his oeuvre no one who was aware of Descartes works could any longer with good faith enjoy the imaginative aesthetic world of poetical fancy in the same free and abandoned way it had been available to be enjoyed in ages before Descartes wrote.
Here may be an alternative clue to Darwin's malaise? That Darwin's loss of joy in art had arisen not out of lack of use of the aesthetic facility he had had as a youth – or not just out of this omission – but also out of his long almost exclusive study, and exacerbated by the nature of that study, to which he devoted his life?
Descartes ideas were claimed to have 'silenced imaginative joy' in several channels – if this claim has any credence then cannot the parallel claim be made with equal credence concerning the elderly Darwin?
Indeed Tennyson, another poet, contemporary to Darwin, and an Englishman, had, it is considered, coined the phrase “Nature red in tooth and claw” a generation before Darwin published his findings, when he used it in his poem on the death of his great friend Arthur Hallam; however the phrase cannot be read today appropriately except in the context of the influence of Darwin's works upon English Victorian society.
Indeed the whole trend of nineteenth century artistic activity was an attempt at an escape from industrialisation, machinery and mechanistic philosophies, as well as from theories such as Marx’s empirical analyses of society, and from Darwin's Big Idea, and from those incursive ideas incubating at that time in minds such as Freud's.
Nineteenth century non-artistic thought in Britain displays largely a reductive abasement of the wellsprings of day to day behaviours in men and women. Reducing people's dearest feelings from being those of a 'spirit' into scientifically explainable, usually gross, involuntary urges . These nascent sciences acted, whether rightly or wrongly, truly or erroneously, to reduce to their common denominators as much human life and conduct as came before their lenses. Darwin's central ideas possessed perhaps some of the most astounding abasements; and his work has become in the biological canon today probably the most widely promulgated and accepted natural history statement – accepted even by present day lay persons everywhere.
This reductive approach to men and women. So as to fit them for the age of machines and machinery, was baulked against by artists, and artists fled to themes of pastoral beatitude, and to the ages of knights errant and chivalry, and to absinthe and opium and to dystopian nightmares like Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde. The grotesque met with fable; and so a heavy cloud of morbidity shows in Byron's Manfred and in Tennyson's The Lotus Eaters, and in his Maud; and even in the distant and aery themes of King Arthur and his Idylls, of the German and the Norse Pantheons; of The Gothic Revival and in the OCD of a Pugin, or the pathology of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, even in the diversionary intricacies of pattern which was The Arts and Crafts Movement. All these movements in arts represented an attempt to keep oneself and the nation spiritually alive in the face of crumbling hallowed beliefs of millennia falling around one's ears.
Darwin was not the sole victim of his life's attention to the evolutionary The Descent of Man – in combination with the works of authors like Bentham and Malthus, Ricardo, Engels and Mill, and Scots like Dugald Stuart and the critic Jeffrey; in the cumulus of effects within the considerable sway upon audiences of their views and writings, are seen many psychopathologies prevalent across British society, both then, and into the ages that followed.
The cult of childhood began proper in those days – almost as a reaction to the intellectual spiritual wilderness of those times – and as if parents were providing for their children a semblance of a world enchanted they themselves had felt they had lost forever. There was aligned with this a delicate chasing after flowers and fairies, a rash of drunken sentimental songs, and an immense number of melodramatic sobbing dramas, and heavy handed stories with a mortifying moral pointing up salutary behaviours which acted as their anchor to propriety – these polarisations between the intellectual rationalising forces and the intellectual spirit of imagination grew to be sources of psychic divisions; fraught and impossible to reconcile in many people's hearts and minds.
Today we have not yet fully, properly, 'got over' this dilemma created and loaded upon people so forcefully back then. Our movies and arts, and especially our post-modernist critical theory, still struggle to find a compass other than an outright rebellion against a 'dull and constrained' tradition and so exploding historical continuity. Our liberal society is yet not settled again – but restlessly seeks, seeks, seeks, new things, novel things, strange things, the next hit, a further pushing of the envelope, no direction home.
For all Darwin's endeavours, he is not beyond making what seem to me glaringly circular arguments in his writings. Sometimes an argument comes back around and so bites its own tail in stark contradiction. I am not meaning here the misapprehension of the concept of Survival of the Fittest and it being upheld as fact by way of the conceptual reinforcement of Natural Selection .
(For those of you new to this misconception I will explain here briefly. If a plant or animal survives it is said to survive because it is the fittest. How do we judge it is the fittest? - because it survives. Clearly a circular argument that gives no sound conclusion. It is saying no more than says a statement such as: “ this is a bendable spoon because it is able to be bent.”
Natural Selection a concept which depends on the concept of Survival of the Fittest for its own legs; thus also falls down)
Darwin in his book The Origin of Species has written thus:
When a deviation appears not unfrequently, and we see it in the father and child, we cannot tell whether it may not be due to the same original cause acting on both; but when amongst individuals, apparently exposed to the same conditions, any very rare deviation, due to some extraordinary combination of circumstances, appears in the parent—say, once amongst several million individuals—and it reappears in the child, the mere doctrine of chances almost compels us to attribute its reappearance to inheritance. Every one must have heard of cases of albinism, prickly skin, hairy bodies, etc., appearing in several members of the same family. If strange and rare deviations of structure are truly inherited, less strange and commoner deviations may be freely admitted to be inheritable. Perhaps the correct way of viewing the whole subject, would be, to look at the inheritance of every character whatever as the rule, and non-inheritance as the anomaly.
Now this is a strange passage!!? So strange it is like one of the anomalies to which Darwin refers. In the first place I find very difficult to attribute the object of the word 'same' in the phrase 'same conditions'. Is it 'the same conditions as were 'the father and child' of the first line exposed to? Or is it the 'same conditions' 'amongst individuals'? Is it then surprising that the passage remains unclear in other ways?
Those phrases 'very rare deviation' and 'extraordinary combination of circumstances' and 'once among several million individuals' – each of these is a very limiting statement; very narrowly so delimiting in the first item – thus excluding almost everything, and the second and third items very broadly excluding nearly everything of their kind. The example is worded so as to set up a situation that emphatically allows only the most minuscule chance of an event occurring. Yet is it likely in fact then that 'everyone must have heard of' such a remote chance? Everyone? Or even widespread, given the excruciatingly narrow set-up of the example posed?
The very rare deviation in the example is claimed to have a descent from parent to child as an inheritance. The appeal towards verification of this claim is to seeing 'several members of the same family' being affected. Just how very rare, 'one in several million individuals' is this deviation then?
But leave this – maybe I am picking holes needlessly.
Darwin's argument is very strange. In the first place he says it is not possible with very common deviations seen in fathers and in their children, to say that these deviations have been “due to the same original cause acting on both” - by which – let me be generous – Darwin may mean, or include in this phrase's scope, 'inheritance'?
Yet his conclusion is the opposite position: posed as a rhetorical flourish that “commoner deviations may be freely admitted to be inheritable”. The nub here rests with the word 'commoner'. Is Darwin actually deliberately, consciously, avoiding referring us back to his recent use of a tortuous synonym for 'commonly' earlier in this passage? Where he had written: “When a deviation appears not unfrequently,..”
Does 'commoner' as used here mean as common as that 'not unfrequently” he began with? Or is the comparative case 'commoner' used here to be taken to mean not common, but relatively common when set against that “one in several million?
For a scientist and a man of reasoning Darwin is either overrated or else - and this is worse – he is carefully playing with his vocabulary and syntax so as to couch his arguments in a certain amount of 'window-dressing'.
We can ask legitimately: did he use the term 'not unfrequently' so as to avoid the word 'commonly' – thereby aiming at avoiding the likely echo backwards to his postulations beginning his argument??
Besides Darwin beginning his argument by saying that common deviations are not straightforwardly and easily attributable to inheritance [my own words] and then him ending his argument by cajoling his reader and hoping for assent to his asserted appeal: commoner deviations may be freely admitted to be inheritable” - besides this jiggery-pokery with words – Darwin draws a massive conclusion – asking assent again to a suggested generalisation that he clearly wants to be the case:
Perhaps the correct way of viewing the whole subject, would be, to look at the inheritance of every character whatever as the rule, and non-inheritance as the anomaly.
Note – he suggests 'the correct way' for “the whole subject' to be viewed “would be” - (note 'would' not a more tentative 'could') – that “inheritance of every character whatever” - a big, big claim - “ as the rule,” - hard and fast, no exceptions - “and non-inheritance as the anomaly”. Indeed!
Shades of the legerdemain in 'Survival of the Fittest'?
Thus by some magical illogic the anomaly (“deviation”) which was “one in several million” has spawned another, an inverse “anomaly“, which is always and ubiquitously present. Here is inductive logic gone berserk. One swallow bringing a whole century of summers.
Now Darwin seems to me to have been at least slightly dismissive of 'theorists'. To show my evidence for this claim I am making, I cite from The Origin of Species:
No breeder doubts how strong is the tendency to inheritance: like produces like is his fundamental belief: doubts have been thrown on this principle by theoretical writers alone.
It is clear that, at least in this instance, Darwin felt theorists to be less qualified to speak on inheritance than are breeders of fauna and flora. He seems to be showing a hearty and firm belief in tactile evidence and observations made by the empirically experienced being above theory in their value.
Yet Darwin created a theory, albeit it seems based on and bolstered by huge amounts of hard evidence, the fruit of a lifetime's research. Yet theory is vital to any investigation, to any set of postulations, and factual evidences and experiences behind it. Theory draws all these disparate items together for good or ill, more truthfully and less truthfully, and one theory generally is better or worse than are others of the same vein.
The point being that to an observer being the accumulator of experience who has a clear eye; what she collects and records in the main will be closely identical to that which the next observer collects who like her also has a clear eye.
Theories are different and quite often compete, oppose, jostle – and the essential differences between them are sources - of opposition, division, and for the clustering of acolytes. Less of this happens with what may be termed 'good' observers who work hard trying to observe only.
Nonetheless theory and theoreticians are necessary evils if we are to make sense – sometimes in the wrong way – of things - so that sets of empirical observations can be put to generalised use technically.
But Darwin's strength one can say lay not in theorising. Nor in reasoning. I believe I have said enough here to demonstrate this is the case.
His dismissal of theorists in preference of people of hard experience and their observations – let us say this represents a general outlook in him – may be no more than aversion to people who 'build castles in the air in armchairs' – in which case we may allow him some traction.
I'd say then that without reference to experience, or to observations had in the course of that experience, for anyone to formulate a theory which deals with empirical evidential studies would almost certainly be wasted effort
But some legitimate studies have nil or little empirical evidential content. Philosophy, psychology, pure maths, and there are boundary studies like particle physics and quantum physics, which work at the very borderlines between theory and empirical science.
Darwin in his times was working at what was then a borderline of science – a place where much evidence like prophesy remained unfulfilled and without a theory attempting to draw it all together. It remains quite possible then that our own descendants will move on from Darwin's work – and it will be seen to have been not the full and final revelation that it is considered to be today. To believe otherwise than that we shall move on is a sign of simpleton arrogant pride
I want now to move to running past you some rational posers which concern issues about the Theory of Evolution as I understand we have it today. Yes I'm going to be that noisome theorist in my armchair, picking open threads without much reference to empirical evidence.
First off I want to write a little about terminology and words used by Darwin and by men and women in the field still today, and in this area of Evolutionary Theory. Even the words “evolution” and “theory” have certain aspects to their make-up and usages that need to be unpacked before a better grasp of their meanings in biological use is to be hoped for.
Let's look at “evolution” and “evolve”. 'e' as a prefix in words like 'education' and elicit' normally signifies a meaning close to the idea of 'drawing out'. The remainders of the words 'evolution” and “evolve” once their initial 'e's have been removed have close cognates in their construction and meanings with words like' “revolve” and “volute” - a helical and rotating movement - just like so many visualisations of evolutionary time are presented in elementary books on the topic
And the whole word “evolve” is elucidated by its comparison with the word 'devolve”. The idea of movement is essential in all these words – so “evolution” - “a movement drawing out”. Speaking in Darwinian usage this movement drawing out might be said to be a movement of time, or mutability, or of nature, which draw out, or are enabling to be drawn out - from their existing states - living things into states subsisting as new or novel or as different, changed, states.
As I noted earlier about how hard it is to live life and to use language without acknowledging a presumption for acts of will and for freedom of intention, it is the case that in regard to evolutionary studies, interventions of intent, choice, action, deliberation, participating in these drawings out of evolutionary change, are either optional to be applied, or else to be held in abeyance.
Their acceptance or denial tends to depend on which side of the spiritual fence one resides; so I'll let this one ride - at least for the moment.
The word 'natural”. At its broadest extremity “natural” is a word that can encompass all existence, everything – the cosmos – and beyond? - since nothing that exists can be said to have been – in its component materials, nor in its foundational operations – to have been wholly fabricated by men and women. Men and women use raw materials and operations as they find them existing, and they embellish upon them by way of manufactures, and also they add superstructures to them.
Even these manufactures and superstructures are entitled to the label “natural” in so far as they are the productions of a natural phenomenon: mankind – just as spiders produce webs and female mammals milk.
It's important to be aware that this is a possible argument, if not a very sound one, since the term “Natural Selection” and the range of potential confusions which are able to arise in its usage is clarified by such an awareness. Questions such as: “has mankind lost touch with nature?”; or else “is the trajectory of the history of mankind truly a natural phenomenon?” can thus begun to be considered and looked into.
But when everything in existence is labelled “natural” what might be the use and need for a word like “unnatural”? When all things existent are “natural” what meaning might the word “natural” be able to take on distinctively?
These two questions are very important for Evolutionary Theory. Especially when transposed and applied to the common terms used in Evolutionary Theory: “Random Mutation” “Rule” “Law” “Survival of the Fittest” etc. More on this to follow.
“Unnatural” carries an undertone had from everyday life of a certain abhorrence, ghastliness, alien behaviour, or presence; and we should bear these undertones in mind and try to quarantine them from our understandings, when and as we read the word 'unnatural' being used in contexts like scientific and clinical ones, which do not encompass their ambits. “Unnatural” is a word that has to be supported in its usage by heavy abundant contextualisations in science, and in those other areas which are not from everyday. The power of that everyday repugnance built into a word such as “unnatural” is easily spilt over into uses of the word perhaps meant to be non-prejudicial. Darwin is no exception in his prose to this lack of care in choosing and using words which carry too much extraneous baggage, or else which are bearing down with overmuch rigidity . We have seen this in the instances of 'not unfrequent' and 'commoner' and in those gratuitous absolute uses of “whatever” and “every” and “the rule” and “the correct way” and “wholly”.
Any word prefixed by “un” is one that acts to or intends to exclude some other concept or grouping or person(s). This essentially negative indication inherent in such words is also important to be noted before you choose to use them. Words such as 'unfeeling', 'unsentimental', 'unlikely'.
Now the word “Selection” - as used in the term “Natural Selection”. “Selection” to my mind cannot easily, if at all, be separated altogether from the notion of 'election' and 'choice' and so of 'volition'. And so its drawbacks in its usage in orthodox Evolutionary Theory are, have been, remain, and probably will be, tremendous.
This is because the bedrock to evolutionary theory is seated very solidly upon a non-volitionary premise – at least I think this is what most orthodox scientific circles, and eminent people among them, who study and use it, consider to be the case?
This observation then means that use of the word “Selection” in combination with “Natural” when one considers also what I have tried to point out about usage of the word “Natural” - its tendency toward ubiquitous meaning– and then about the word ”Selection” - its tendency to imply volition and choice and so an act of will being involved – one can see and say that clearly the term “Natural Selection” being in wide usage by those who study evolution is an inappropriate, almost clumsy, one.
I hope by now you my readers are seeing why I have appeared to 'stall' the germane arguments specific to evolutionary theory and their discussion in order to interrupt with this lengthy pre-discussion about terms and terminology.
The fact is words are not mere blanks of a certain shape like jigsaw pieces that can be fitted one to another in an exact match to create a full picture. And choice of words matters immensely; although such an idea of a 'perfect choice' of words is probably not a feasible conception.
Just as some mutations in living things are claimed to be more useful to and better fitted to proser their owners than are others – so too with choices of words, of terms and terminology, there are better and worse words available for selection.
There are repercussions arisen from there having come into common usage in evolutionary studies the term “Natural Selection”, and which are exacerbated greatly by the great prominence of the term as foundational bastion at the centre of evolutionary studies. It has become very easy for learners and maybe for others, even though the accepted authoritative teaching is that there is no volition involved, for many people to ascribe, to a greater or lesser conscious extent, an amount, more or less, of presumed volition to the working out of the concept in the course of the changes to living things.
To have ascribed such an ascription as 'Natural Selection' would have caused the Rev. Awdry to have remarked: “You,,,,have caused confusion!” Note I am following the line of orthodox studies here and my own views on volition and evolution are not in play.
In addition the word “Natural“ as an appended epithet to “Selection” being capable of holding ubiquitous, universal meaning, confounds the possibilities for confusion. It means, in this ubiquitous capability of its meaning, that there is no exception in existence. Thus it is not being used in its evolutionary context, to state the kind of rule which may be allowed to have exceptions – as in the adage that 'the exception proves the rule'.
And this fact of there being no room for exceptions seems to me to be taking evolutionary theory into another realm – into the realm of metaphysics – or into the realm of ideology – or into both?
Firstly one can reasonably object that allowance of no exceptions necessarily precludes any means or opportunity to test the hypothesis (or, as the term “Natural Selection” is perhaps mistakenly gathered under, the evolutionary theory?) I owe this observation to the philosopher of science, the late Karl Popper, whose books taught me how very reasonably he saw that evolution is not a theory because some of its basal tenets cannot, are not able to be, tested. Karl Popper consider these tenets rather to be hypotheses.
And hypotheses rest at the very least at the boundaries, if not within the confines, of the study of metaphysics. Ideologies also subsist at a similar level of removed abstraction.
It can be difficult in some situations to separate or distinguish, to untangle, an ideology from a metaphysical system. Both are frameworks of belief which aim to be overarching so as to take the full weight of explanation for the often copious, even a whole shooting match, of sublunary detail held within their extension. Perhaps it is best to say that ideologies generally are a type of metaphysical system?
The most-developed ideologies and metaphysical systems tend to carry within them more than mere non-falsifiability; in fact it is this their characteristic of non-falsifiability which allows to be present in them a further attribute; of them having a capability that absorbs, turns around, and embraces all objections able to be raised against them.
Marxism is the classically cited instance – and another is psychoanalysis. Terms such as 'petit- bourgeois conformism' in Marxism, and, in psychoanalysis, a term such as 'resistance' – are both useful at, and are used in, taking in for absorption in the entrails of their complexes of ideas, objections aimed at defending – in the first instance – a liberal individual autonomy – and in the second – an allowance to scoff at and oppose heartily any Freudian-type analysis.
'Resistance' as a psychological trait was hardly a new idea. Hamlet's mother Queen Gertrude in order to hide here true and contrary feelings is said by Shakespeare to 'protest too much'.
The term “Natural Selection”, along with some others, is a working element in evolutionary theory – let's keep the common parlance – which acts to shift the study towards being another compound set of ideas that similarly aims to be all-absorbing of ideas being outliers beyond it.
While we are at his juncture, and talking about non-falsifiability and about all-absorption of outlier concepts and attitudes, we might discuss, at least in preliminary fashion, a little about the evolutionary term 'random mutation'. “Random mutation” is perhaps to be considered as being held to be the driving force behind evolutionary change; and “Natural Selection” acts upon it rather like a filter works on search results from a database, picking out certain ones from others, as they accord to certain already-stated preferences – search terms..
A specimen, meaning a single instance of an organism belonging to a wider species, is reproduced by sexual or others means of reproduction, and it carries – unaccountably – in regard to the idea of randomness – a feature or characteristic not seen before, or maybe not seen in such emphasis before in any specimen of the species. By the way, this feature not seen before - is it the 'mutation', the 'random mutation', or is the organism member of the species the actual mutation; the 'random mutation'?.
Before I go on, let's do our usual detour for a few moments and look at the terminology that was chosen to indicate this kind of event or organism happening. Firstly the word 'random'.
To my mind the word 'random' is one which is extremely occluded with inherent paradoxes – maybe contradictions? I am informed by my friend who knows about these things that in doing Information Technology work such as cryptography, wherein randomly generated numbers etc are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, that that shangri la of randomness is not (yet? or perhaps is never to be) able to be achieved
Our online banking services rely on cryptography for their security from attackers intruding and stealing our and our banks' money. They rely on what might be called an ability of software to generate unlimitedly and consecutively, streams of as-good-as-random numbers. This act of generation sits behind all our online security for doing transactions of money and valuables with solid confidence.
This generated as-good-as-randomness allows the numbers as they arise in a consecutive generation to be very very probably unpredictable – to an extent that is – in human terms and – to date - in terms of Automated Intelligence - as good as foolproof. They provide for us a security that in practical terms cannot be broken.
There are two chief points I want us to take away from this diversion into randomness in cryptology. The first is the impossibility in practice for humanity to create utter randomness. The second is, that it follows from the first point, that utter randomness has never been seen in fact, and so is only an idea, an ideal, in the mind.
I ask – how then a) do evolutionary scientists know, establish, prove, with any good faith and level of certitude that in organisms mutation is always random? Always and Random. Remember mutation is the Only Driver for evolution – Natural Selection is only the filter of it – so this randomness – qua randomness – is, has to be, in action every time there is a mutation – always.
And b) this randomness – how can it be proven or falsified as being in action? We as a sentient race do not even know what utter randomness looks like in fact. How might we actually decide that a generated succession of any kind is in fact really being generated utterly randomly, or as random quantities or whatever? We do not know even whether such a thing is possible, neither by human design, nor in the course of existential circumstances.
And again, every time? How can such a claim begin to be verified, tested? And wholly random every time??!!! What a whopper of a claim! – and no evidence - nothing can bolster it up – except an aery metaphysic and ….as I shall be looking into... a salting of ideology?
And so this emphatic essential postulate of randomness as present in the central evolutionary concept of “random mutation”; which is the very driving wheel of the whole shooting match – is no more than a massive presumption resting on another massive presumption of every time.– it is not even a Darwinesque unwarranted Inductive Leap – it is infinitesimally less sound, even than this.
There is a point of philosophy worth adding in here. Since mankind tries so hard to produce as-good-as-random flows of numbers (and admittedly fails in generating complete randomness) does 'evolutionary nature' need for it actuality to enjoy utter randomness; does it need in fact A Guiding Hand that would ensure that randomness to be always utter?
Put otherwise the question is - without such A Guiding Hand being present in existence, can a natural world be expected to be able to generate on its own this utter randomness? – is this reasonable to assume? Utter randomness is not chaotic generation of say numbers – far from it -it is a thing, an idea, that is not easy to get one's head around how it might be done as a natty party trick?
So what does this word this terminology 'random' mean as used in the term 'random mutation'? Does it merely mean 'unpredictable', which is a much watered-down account of things. Does it mean that every mutation that occurs is different to every other mutation? This would be a hard one to verify or to test. Does it mean merely that evolutionary scientists simply don't know what mutations are coming next? No sweat there – who knows what tomorrow will bring?
It appears to me that the word 'random' is being bandied about somewhat for effect here – the army adage – bullshit baffles brains.
The ironic paradox that one might need A Controller, A Guiding Hand, somewhere in order to get the real effect of utter randomness is not to be lost – and to myself it appears to be a possible, even plausible, Truth.
Let's look a little more into randomness as a philosophical idea. Does randomness depend upon or imply either a deterministic universe or else a universe with elements of freedom of volition in it. Or perhaps the concept of randomness is not relevant to either stipulation?
This is a minefield. My own views are thus. Randomness as regards the mindsets of the mainstream of evolutionary theorists and practicians, I believe would have to accord with a world view of materialist determinism, since this is the common majority view current among this group unless I'm mistaken?
Materialist determinism presupposes that every event anywhere everywhere is in some way, usually as an effect, unalterably linked to another event or set of events; the causes. The crucial word here is 'unalterably'.
That is: only fixed outcomes are lined up being necessities to arise from all the similarly fixed sequences of events that have occurred in the past. Likewise events in the present are those which have been predetermined by the events of the past which also arose as predetermined. All events can only transpire in a fixed - and 'if we had a big enough machine' in a theoretically forecastle way.
Present events are are lining up as the knock-on effects from past taking us into the future. Set and fixed outcomes always and everywhere. This is determinism. Materialist determinism avers that only fixed and material actions occur; no non-material events, no acts of volition, exist or happen.
Add into this recipe just a single action arisen from a free-volition – out of autonomous unconstrained choice and expression of will - and the whole game changes unrecognisably. Determinism - and with perhaps more unpacking needed, materialism - come seriously into disrepute.
In such a wooden clockwork world where, what, might be traced, traceable, back so to be showing as being the original uncaused cause? Or is this an existence without a beginning? An infinite past?
We are not far from a hopeless incapacity to move forwards or backwards with any credibility. Let's move on.
Now in my own view actual true randomness would need a modicum of freedom in which to operate. Or are we to say that this is a randomness in which is envisaged as including a possibility of duplication (say of a number) amongst the randomness (of the numbers) generated? Substitute for numbers mutations. Would this allowance for duplications still be truly random or not? A hard nut to crack
Certainly I believe the randomness sought after in cryptography aims at and hopes for non-duplication. To my own mind duplication is possible in randomness. And so it appears clear to me that for a randomness without duplications one has to require an umpire, an arbiter, a mind dispensing it.
If duplications are included as allowed – say the same mutation exactly serendipitously arising twice – maybe together or across time and or space – then is the randomness is forfeit? I'm not certain about this?
An enclosed space containing a gas may experience – according to quantum thinking – a rush in which all the gas molecules would congregate in one area of the enclosure – and this is said to be – just in the nature of things as things are presently understood. So transpose this idea to that of randomness and ask whether a duplication might be OK or not? If 'reality' is truly accordingly as like the gas is said to be able to behave?
Random mutation in a materialist deterministic framework appears to me to involve clear contradiction. For one is in fact saying that guaranteed mutation will always everywhere be random, yet in theory, by some large computational mind, electronic or flesh, is entirely forecastle without doubt. So we have the weird paradox that utter randomness is always and everywhere but yet absolutely forecastable??
Quantum science also delves into realms of this nature I believe – and in this neck of the woods there the jury remains very much out also.
Perfect randomness, I conclude this digression by saying, has to be worked for and by a (The?) Supreme Intellect.
Let's now look at the word, the term, 'survival' as in 'Survival of the Fittest”. Survival is a word with strong colours and resonances especially in its everyday usage. To survive is more emphatic than to merely 'live' or 'exist'. The very word survive implies strenuous struggle, or else an effort or ordeal to have retained one's life.
When the word 'survive' is coupled with the word 'fittest' arises the idea of competition; of being pitted against obstacles to be overcome so as for one to succeed. Maybe other organisms, maybe weather, or climate, environment or chance occurrences – or all - are active obstacles to survival? Are these sets of obstacles in total to be considered random, unpredictable, thrown up ad hoc in no particular ways by which an organism or specimen is able to be forearmed or prepared to meet?
Well the theory is that the mutation event itself acting on the organism is the unwonted preparation and the quasi-anticipatory item regarding forewarning. Indeed it's no more than a lucky match sometimes, possibly always? – cometh the flower, cometh the rain.
The important thing is that the unpredictability of the mutation and thereafter of the actual kind of competition(s) the organism mutated (or having the mutation?) will be called upon to endure and pull through – the matching of these two unpredictables, both potentially random, so as happily to allow survival to the specimen organism, belies use of the word 'competition' and also use of the word 'fittest'. Just 'lucky' is a better formulation!
Why are the words 'competition;' and 'survival' and 'fittest' used then? Why are these challenging epithets, bearing – to be generous – their 'leftovers' of intention very strongly from their human usages - not toned down by choice of better wordings, so as to reflect a truer nature of the case? Well, they were coined and grew to common acceptance first in Victorian times; which was an era of High Capitalism – just like are nowadays. More on this in a minute.
The choice of terminology by Darwin, which scientists today follow needlessly, reflects in the first place his carelessness in choosing words and in pursuing arguments – as we have seen – and also I believe they show that distrust of theory, which Darwin displayed -as we have seen – and show thus that he didn't properly and carefully think through in the abstract the upshots of his choices for terms and indicators in his works and postulations. Not a scientific scientist.
As for that era of High Capitalism in which Darwin brought to birth his strange fish, one cannot ignore the fervent pursuit of laissez faire economic activity when contextualising Darwin's terminology, which was developed in that background by him for use with evolutionary theory. And Capitalism is a voracious quasi-ideology – quasi because it is a shambles, a free-for-all phenomenon and a muster of incongruous and self-conflicting ideas, rather than it being any set of reasoned principles for acting upon or for applying in the world.
Voracious because materially and psychically Capitalism and its adherents are ever seeking to grab and absorb transform and so deaden, squeeze out the vitality and spontaneous joie de vivre from, any event or trend or venture which rises independently and spontaneously, so as to be, at least initially, a threat to Capital's hegemony, if even only in embryo.
This predation is inbuilt into the world view of Capitalism 's Capitalists; a view of of veni vide vici going to work across the globe, especially in the areas of means of supply and of production. It is itself at bottom 'red in tooth and claw', and has been used to fashion and still is used to fashion into its own grotesque image, certain 'scientific' and other ideologies and hypotheses which thus - as if Darwin's own views on inheritance were at work – are formulated to reflect its uncouth and stubbornly aggressive grasping enthusiasm within their frameworks. The abstract trend of Capitalism is for it to operate all-pervasively – affecting our minds and our hearts - it in our porrage. Whilst it is in operation its implications can be as difficult to get beyond as is that more benign and inherent presumption for volition and free will which is embedded in our language.
But I must calm down and remain coolly reasonable if I am to win your persuasions.
Certainly, maybe in better times, and certainly had it been in better hands, the terminology which fixes the theory of evolution as a system, could have been chosen and expressed far more accurately and appropriately.
When is a mutation a mutation? What qualities delineate one species from another? Why do flora and fauna nearly universally not mate successfully between species? What determines, determined, the formation of the various shapes, structural presentations, of species? How do species in general 'know' or 'recognise' their own kinds?
Just some questions for you to mull over at this point.
As for what is a mutation? the answer might be said – it's as long as a piece of string.
In his telling of The Parable of the Sower Our Lord Jesus Christ remarks how some seed fell on the path and was trodden down; some among weeds and was choked; some on shallow soil and was parched; and some on good ground which produced thirty, sixty, one hundredfold harvest.
Mutations are perhaps well viewed after this manner? Contrary to casual belief, it stands to reason that not every mutation that might occur will a) have a use b) finds a use c) be useful d) be applied e) prosper the organism – in so far as any mutation matching happily with a niche opportunity can be said to have 'found a use' or 'to have been used'.
Because of the generous insistent reiterations made continuously on the truth of evolution and on its broad application and efficacy, one might forgive so many enquiring students assuming that every last detail of their own lives and experience has to have an evolutionary purpose – whatever that term might mean – if it means anything at all.
The basal concepts of evolutionary theory I have shown are normally couched in terms that are infeasibly intentionality-loaded or purposefulness is presupposed – which misconstruction can be understandingly viewed, yet still rebuked as having been a projection transferred-over clumsily from the intentional and purposeful world of men and women – and these misapprehensions are alive and thriving so well simply because these volitional elements are embedded so pervasively and deeply in our language and psyches.
Nonetheless a more careful consideration might have made a far better selection of vocabulary with which to describe evolution.
Darwin uses the word 'deviation' - I think most usually as denoting the manifestation of a particular instance of 'mutation'? I'd suggest he uses the term “anomaly” to mean an area of thought lying somewhere inbetween the general meaning of “mutation” and one of its actual iterations of manifestation
The word “deviation” is usually used to mean “a straying from a set out path” whereas “mutation” commonly means “a change which is unlike what might have been expected, based on what has gone before”. “Anomaly” is generally simply any item “which does not properly belong in a given set”. So each of these words has its more precise and particular shade of meaning; and so each of them when used as it were, close to interchangeably, is in fact bringing into play its own discrete shades and ranges of meaning.
Thus Darwin maybe chooses to use, and perhaps not wholly consciously, the term “deviation” alongside his chosen examples of “prickly skin” “albinism” etc because these examples are somewhat outlandish and so to some sensitive people even perhaps repellent? Of his three near-synonymous terms, is it merely accidental or is it psychologically telling on him, that Darwin uses here the word “deviation” ; the word which in common usage carries the most pejorative impact of the three?
Of course it is hardly possible for an organism to be culpable for possessing or being a mutation. The word 'anomaly' itself carries little if any pejorative associations, but rather it implies fortuitous but discernible difference. But the word “deviation” has carried, perhaps still carries, in everyday use, morbid sexual and other behavioural resonances.
What is important and comes out of this discussion of the three words 'deviation' 'anomaly' and 'mutation' is the fact that no clear boundaries between their usages appear to be provided by Darwin. One time it seems some of them are being used by him, as general abstract terms, and at another, one or more of them is being used to refer to a particular instance of that general abstraction.
This is commonplace usage in everyday writing and speaking; yet in a study upon which so much hangs, has hung, and out of which such a huge following has emerged, a vocabulary more carefully chosen and handled might have proven more useful?
Even a glossary of terms would not have been an item out of place for Darwin to have considered having made' so that the might have used it to hone down carefully his meanings and usages and applicability of his terms?
“Chance” is a difficult word; and Darwin uses it in the passage I cited earlier hereabove. Its use by him clearly ties in with the concerns I've only lightly discussed about fatalistic determinism and randomness and freedom of volition. I would merely say that the word “chance” seems to me to bear at least a compromised or attenuated meaning, in cases where a person using it is a professed determinist, and so she denies freedom of volition. This is not to say I know enough about Darwin to say whether or not he was a determinist.
Likewise with the word “certainty”. The philosopher Wittgenstein wrote a short monograph titled: On Certainty – in which he skirts around the idea of certainty and comes like Socrates came, to a same conclusion. Socrates had sought out Athenian persons whom he hoped might know something; knowledge being analogous to that Wittgensteinian certainty – what might be called bedrock knowledge – and he resolved eventually that knowledge is a rare, if not a non-existent, commodity.
The idea of chance tends to belie, interfere with, the idea of certainty; and any chance or random or probabilistic consideration concerning an event certainly throws certainty of knowledge into severe doubt.
Then there is the word “theory” vis a vis the word “hypothesis”. I've written briefly earlier above about the two words and their discrete meanings in common usage; although I would add here that the words are quite often used loosely and so interchangeably in lay conversations. In more scholarly circles their usage is generally more discriminatory.
Simply put, the difference between them is that a theory is considered by the relevant cognoscente to be more commensurate with other cognate items within their set, and in the study discipline concerned. Theories also are seen to “work with” and to fit together, one with another, to a tolerable extent, into a larger and a largely consistent holistic framework.
On the other hand an “hypothesis” is less well-established within its discipline of study. It is more doubtfully held to be plausible, or capable of fitting-in, with the more solid theory surrounding any topic or subject matter.
Hypotheses tend usually to be broader in their scopes and are attempting enclosure of a greater grasp of understanding than in general are theories. They can be used as foundation stones on which the edifices of ideologies are found to have been reared upon. Hypotheses can, and frequently are, what I'd call 'open-ended' in their exactness and grasp of the explanatory power within their scope.
By “open -ended” I mean that they can carry loose-ends more happily than can theories – which rep[resent larger uncertainties - and in particular, maybe allow less essential areas to be left non-committal and so amorphously hanging.
Hypotheses in some cases, in some parts of their formulation, will usually use wholly abstract reasoning, without making reference to empirical observations as an evidential burden. And this characteristic of theirs is related to their being less definitely accepted, acceptable, into the canon of a discipline of study, unlike theories whose credibility tends to be felt greater.
Of course, in practical terms the line between theories and hypotheses is not definitely able to be drawn; and an amount of interplay exists between use of the two terms. Scholars may sometimes use either in pinning down certain set of ideas.
There are clear instances of each though, and some hypotheses over time transition into theory. On the other hand some hypotheses, like some of the seeds of the sower, fall by the wayside. Others I expect sit in abeyance and await their futures – and these I would hazard – carry among them as a group rather more of those abstract, empirically barely-supported types of hypothesis?
Again this is discussion is aiming simply to clarify words meanings and usages -and it bears on Darwin and on Evolutionary studies – I hope shedding some little light on such work and disciplines
We've used the word “evidence”, often coupled with the word “empirical”. Darwin himself in his preface to the copy of the edition of The Origin of Species I possess, has confessed that he published in some haste, and that as a consequence he could give/was giving only little more than an overview of his life's work on these studies.
Again one of the reasons for his haste, he tells us, had been the approaching publication of Alfred Russell Wallace's own book The Malay Archipelago which Darwin admits anticipates or comes to many of the conclusions he himself had come to in the course of his long career. Darwin also says he has other pressures upon him – some concerning the Scientific Society of his professional peers which was, it appears, in the middle of bringing together for publication writings by various of its members and concerning the topics of Darwin's studies.
In his introduction Darwin, almost apologetically for his haste , and also for his cursory approach, goes as far as to say:
I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived
This statement again is a two-handed sword that can swing to the left or to the right for his purposes. Since Darwin might be thought to have been 'hedging' here against reviews and criticism of his work, by him pleading this concern (excuse?) as a catch-all escape-hatch, by which he is able to save grace and faith by pointing it up later in response to criticism?
This interpretation of his caveat or apology here subsists over-above a more straightforward one which does acknowledge that more closely delineated detail taken from his studies, observations, and analyses, had they been included, would have supported his theses much more solidly.
Nonetheless for such a book, a book which is held still today to have been seminal and game-changing; it having such an unequivocal and global 'non-liability' clause worked into its opening lines, in the Introduction in fact, and pleaded by its author, a book enjoying such a reception and lionising, and obtaining for Darwin a very sudden placement up with The Glorious Worthies of History, itself among the masterpieces of scientific milestones of the world – such a reception, and such a stature for it still today, is surprising if not puzzling?
It is not as if Darwin had been writing before the tools of scientific method and criticism had been very well developed. (They had been very much so not least by the Biblical exegetes earlier in the century). Darwin had every facility of careful scientific approach available to him were he to have chosen to study and to have adhered to them. I do think his disrespecting theory active on its own without use also of hard evidence, somewhat detracts from his work in this regard of method and exegesis.
There is no ill-will in me stating this; and since I have laid out several other legitimate difficulties with Darwin's inductive leaps, and with some of his certainly dubiously chosen wordings – my claim is not wholly unfounded, and my criticism at his ready rise into a Select Pantheon of Natural Scientists has some substance to it.
My next word to discuss – and perhaps the final one – at least for the time-being – is the word 'observation”.
I have noted that observations by scholars aim to be carried out 'without prejudice' – as objectively as the observer feels he or she can bring their minds to become.
Let's skip over the general truth that historical and cultural milieus are seen to be able to colour almost everyone's cast of mind in some special localised fashions; that one's upbringing, social class, education, social circles and perhaps natural bents – all these make us what we are ourselves, and also me what I am myself.
That possibly no person ever escaped these things completely – only The Lord Jesus who being 'no respecter of persons' saw and sees always, all things, with 'a single clear eye'.
The remaining bias in a person – if there be any – is perhaps to be accounted to self-generated enthusiasms or aversions, the play of the day to day passions on the heart, intruding into the scientific eye and other senses?
Thus 'observations', the word in itself carries an aura of dispassionate but dedicated neutrality, because of its usage so regularly and frequently in scientific writings and dialogue, as it were been 'inoculated' by its own 'ready-santised' usages in the scientific world. I mean by this, that by its use a person speaking or writing is able, if he or she so desires to do so, or else unwittingly does so – and like in the Radio Quiz Show – to 'smuggle untruths' in amongst the scientific verbiage of discussion.
Perhaps a person might not be aware of having done so; and sometimes maybe there is an opposite extreme of him doing so with full awareness – and normally, for much of the time, somewhere inbetween?
Then again, another person, another observer, having her own personal foibles, and her own upbringing and milieus etc, might cast her eye – likewise not quite singly – over another’s works which were produced likewise not wholly singly-eyed
A cat can look at a king – and so such an observer observing another's observations is able in varying degrees to 'bring forth things new and old' from those items; similarly after the manner Lord Bacon wrote of in his essaie: Of Books:
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
And any small critical observer's observations might contain an iota of sweetness and light which before had been otherwise, by others' eyes, overlooked.
On the other hand it is said that Dr Samuel Johnson retorted to the idea of a cat being allowed to look at a king – in his case his organisms were a fly and a horse – and had asserted; “Yes, but a fly is still a fly and a horse is still a horse”.
Darwin might be considered by my readers to be a horse and myself an irritating fly; nonetheless I claim for myself, as much and as little single-eyed vision as any other ordinary person might claim in trying to toe a line and to suffer himself to be objective.
“Observations” can be as basic as an analogous bag of winter mixture assortment bought in the sweetshop by a child's pocket-money. Uncollected and various, unsorted, undistinguished, unclassified, - a ragbag of mere notes on what was seen to have happened
These raw notes are able to be worked up into a connected narrative having a beginning, a middle and an end which hang together as a tale. I don't mean they can be fictionalised – rather that any truth able to be gotten out of them by turning them into narrative will be at best truth in part - more and less.
And this is how history is written. And in one sense everything written as non fiction is history of a sort. These workings-up themselves might also be termed 'observations' by the fact that they strike or struck an observer, who has been rummaging through this mixed bag of raw data? These are observations upon observations, which take place mostly within the mind and without direct reference to on-hand evidence come from the five senses. Only accrued experience and an amount of computational power corroborating any of the actual subject matter of the observations on observations.
It is in that storehouse of experience held by inwardly by an observer amongst which these inward observations rummage for their endorsements of soundness or dubiety. And granted, the experience of a cat or a fly is not that of a king or a horse.
These pages of observation of mine may be viewed and interpreted 'as the scientific world sees them' – which is to say according to the status quo among the appropriate audience – this appropriate audience being self-appointed, and a rather closed community, which admits, and controls admissions into it, as it sees fit.
A scientist such as Robert Sheldrake, once a member of the status quo establishment of science, forfeited that status by moving into areas of science felt by that establishment to be hocus-pocus. His expulsion went hand in hand with his volitional exit. How far this extradition and voluntary exile will bear of the estimated truth value of his scientific writings, only future history will tell.
To the victors the spoils.
And so, for another person to seek to intrude, or to have the temerity to think to intrude, and shake up things, like as if “an upstart crow”, and therefore begin mixing things with those who see 'as the world sees it': this is felt in such circles to be effrontery and high presumption.
Thus are 'observations' coloured somewhat by way of that element of truth inherent in Marx's understanding that:
It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.
“Observation” then is a tricky concept – not simple at all. Besides the straightforward fact that one is not able always to rely of one's senses, and on what they offer to one as empirically 'there'; there are other less recognisable 'interferences' going on everywhere all the time and acting on anyone, everyone.
Should you have been following my words with any sort of alert engagement you might be beginning to feel that there is very little left available that is solid enough for a person to rest a judgement upon – and for almost any item in question?
Should you have reached this apparent impasse I am gratified and I feel my efforts have yielded an amount of good fruit. Please do not take this as if it were my valliance triumphing at your situation of perplexity. It has begun a groundwork, a laying of a ground level, by the levelling out of some assumptions and some misapprehensions. I hope so, and that the building site is now cleared and rather more ready to be a foundation on which to begin building something new and old.
I hope, and so I ask you, to bear with me and see where this goes; to what, to whom, I make appeal. My purposes might seem hopelessly grandiose and ridiculous, which desire maybe just to start you off, giving you a pack lunch and a pair of hardy shoes for your first steps in a direction of, and on journey to, a far more plausible, sound and solid place, and possibly within sight of its distant destination, a place where “as the world sees it” is foreign, and where all are invited to rest and to settle themselves.
I hope also that by now you are beginning to question words and what they mean and how they are being used from day to day -words like the terms we have found in use and have been bandied about somewhat carelessly - and that you are becoming aware of their power over persons. So become critical; because you are not necessarily one of those persons who has not had offered to them, or not inhereited, the equipment to have become critical.
Consider on words – on where and how they are being used – words such as:
In his great novel “Ulysses”, the 20th century author James Joyce made a very emphatic point, stated a veritable truth about the usages made of words and received carelessly, offered sometimes disingenuously, or else rapturously, unthinkingly, or deceptively, optimistically, or hopefully, even yearningly - by many of us. These are words of largesse – my phrase - which batter on, batten on, our to our hearts sonorously with a resonance, having meat and power to elevate, move, convince, soothe, pacify, inflame - in short persuasive words able to work us, play upon us, and jerk us around dreadfully, especially when the intentions and/or the thinking and clarity behind their use have not been addressed as they ought, intellectually nor spiritually.
James Joyce put his perturbations on the usages of such words into the mouths of his story's characters:
Mr Deasy laughed with rich delight, putting back his savingsbox.
—I knew you couldn’t, he said joyously. But one day you must feel it. We are a generous people but we must also be just.
—I fear those big words, Stephen said, which make us so unhappy.
Mr Deasy stared sternly for some moments over the mantelpiece...
Mr Deasy's conception of and use for what might be 'justness' and 'generosity' has prompted Stephen to remark he fears such words; that they “make 'us' – he maybe means the Irish, maybe mankind, certainly in fact both – “so unhappy”. Also probably more than merely their uses and usages – possibly with Joyce the very conception of 'justness' itself? This is whereabouts some thoughtful people have ended up – or rather, I suggest with hope and faith – where they have so far reached...?
Among scientific writings, and Darwin's are our present case, the 'big words' with power to trouble men like Joyce's Stephen because they are seen to cause so much unhappiness, are also present in Darwin's works, although maybe none among them even in Darwin's writings has the massive scope of a word like 'justness'; but yet still within themselves are retaining lesser but still very great causes for perturbation, fear and unhappiness?
I remind you of how it was said of Descartes that he had 'cut the throat of poetry”. Darwin maybe did not foresee or even hope for the great prevalence of renown that his name has acquired since he published his work? He could not have foreseen, envisaged, the general universality of the espousal of his theory, nor the tremendous amounts of work and effort, thought, time, money, resources, being spent on preferring his ideas and their development within every nation in the world dedicatedly right now.
“Our beginnings never know our ends”
However, Darwin, akin to Descartes, might be said to have 'cut the throat (the grounds) of religious belief” in as far as a sense of, and an acceptance of, such as loss which very many responses to his works have concluded upon. And for so many millions upon millions of persons. My own claim is that this dreadful loss of ground was achieved unnecessarily - and for a bevy of several reasons, which had clouded the air at the time of Darwin's activity. Some I have already offered to you.
The scientist – in the image of the Calvinist antinomian authoritative doctor – cites the primacy of Truth over sentiment – that great and fearful word “Truth” which causes so much suffering and unhappiness – Truth – wielded like a battleaxe by those who feel they hold it in their hands - used to brain dissenters and doubters, and to concuss those plain persons whose place has not been eminent, and who are happy to lie low and so acquiesce in the general campaign of its promulgations.
The major weapon of this offensive is the scientist's' appeal to the necessity of his following The Scientific Method. No matter to where it leads, that is inexorably the case. It's a renascent appearance of Legalism – that same bludgeon by which the Teachers of the Law rejected and reject still Jesus the Christ – by them preferring The Mosaic Law over above the Law of The Supremacy of Love which Jesus re-established by his blood as de facto and de jure Eternal and All Truth.
Big words you accuse - and fearful – the cause of much unhappiness – yet as the Jesus story goes it is within the narrative and so legitimate to say, like Aeschylus, that one should “call no man happy until he is dead”.
“Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before.”
Is it not reasonable to consider an item on its own merits and drawbacks – at the least before you begin considering from one's own viewpoint?
The narrative attached to Darwin's Theories and to the rigour of The Scientific Method carries no such mitigating legitimisations like as does Christ's. But, you will say, wishful-thinking is no excuse for Truth.
Yet what have all these long divagations been for with us passing through Darwin's theses; but having been inquiries on a trail of discovery of uncertainties, misconceptions, doubts and slip-ups - and few, none, of any trivial consequence, but some of game changing magnitudes
To the misnamed Theory of Evolution then, as this is declared by Darwin, there are elements vital to its good standing which continue to be and historically have been assumed, mistakenly, to be self-evident.
It is unclear what 'random' might be and mean in general, as likewise more particularly when it is used in Darwin's theory. The survival of the fittest argument is wholly circular. Darwin's vocabulary for his concepts, even some of these being crucial concepts, is questionable, and prone to a looseness which entangles actual comprehension of meanings. There's no clear glossary of definitions; nor is one even kept to by Darwin.
His works have coloured our vision of existence and of ourselves in such strong colours, so that for many of us to find the correct lenses by which to see our way clear from them has been unsuccessful. Is this acceptable when it is , and I believe I have expounded this fairly, that his works are simply not as scientific by any means, as scientists (and lay persons) generally, worldwide, assume and accept them to be.
Just as Descartes having cut the throat of poetry was in fact a temporary temporal accident which has passed into history and so has become moribund in its effects; it is my prayer that the deleterious effects which have occluded a clear view to so many persons of The Way of The Lord Jesus as being The Definitive Path for each and every life; that these nefarious and nugatory effects of the common acceptance of the terms of Evolutionary theory shall likewise become moribund - and soon