Sunday, 4 March 2012

Evolutionary philosophy versus specific applications of evolution


Evolutionary philosophy - the application of evolution by whatever mechanism as the primary metaphysical reality - is false.

False because it is self-refuting nonsense (since it destroys any possibility of knowledge, including knowledge of its own truth), and wrong because it is anti-Christian (therefore anti-Truth).


But it is also false to say that evolution cannot happen anywhere, ever.

Indeed we know by ordinary common sense that evolution really happens - the dispute is whether evolution happens in such and such a circumstance, and how far or fast it can go.


The main common sense knowledge of evolution comes from animal and plant breeding - evolution gradually became common sense from the 1700s onward as ordinary people purposefully began to change the functional properties and appearance of crops, farm animals and pets such that these changes were inherited by future generations.

Animal breeding provides the major example of evolution in the Origin of Species precisely because it was - by that time - a matter of undeniable common knowledge that the properties of some living things could sometimes be shaped by artificial selection.

Darwin's primary argument was that if this could happen due to human purpose it could also sometimes happen without human purpose.

Which, once stated, seems obviously correct.


Darwin's secondary argument was that if obvious but quantitative change could be produced in human lifetimes, then vastly greater and qualitative change could be produced over a much longer timescale (time now available to theorists as the estimates of the age of the earth became much greater).

But this secondary argument is not a matter of common sense or common experience - nobody in primary reality has seen qualitative change happen or experienced the age of the earth - it is instead an extrapolation, an assumption.


That all complex adaptations (functionality) in biology and all the diversity of species, and indeed the reality of species differences could be explained by natural selection is a metaphysical assumption, logically incoherent and un-provable by common sense.

But also: that such and such a breed of pig or dog - with a relatively specified appearance and behavior and functionality transmissible by heredity - was produced by the breeding experiments of Farmer Giles or Mr Smith... this is a matter of appropriate knowledge: common experience evaluated by common sense.


So evolutionary philosophy - e.g. the assertion that evolution is always and necessarily happening, or the assertion that adaptations are always and necessarily due to natural selection or chance variation - is false; but evolution as a specific phenomenon is true because humans have seen it, done it and continue to do it.

Science properly works in this area of specific and local - constructing simplified models that are understandable and have consequences and 'checking' these models by using them in interacting with the world, to attain human purposes.

Indeed, I would assert that, since the capacity for human deception including self-deception is so very great, the understandings of science are ultimately worth nothing unless or until they are brought to the level of evaluation by common sense and common experience.


Once we step away from common sense and common experience, reality can be constructed - and these constructions may be utterly false. 

However, evolution passes the test of common sense and common experience - therefore it has potential validity in some situations.

Therefore evolution cannot (and should not) be ruled-out altogether. 


We operate in the space between these bounds: on the one hand evolution is not intrinsically true because it is not the ultimate reality; but on the other hand evolution may sometimes be true with respect to certain situations.