RE: MD Chance and natural selection

From: Ian Glendinning (
Date: Sun Aug 17 2003 - 20:25:13 BST

  • Next message: Ian Glendinning: "RE: MD Chance and natural selection"

    Jonathan, Scott, Steve,

    I had already responded to Scott before noticing this thread had developed
    thanks to Jonathan's defence on this busy Sunday.

    Obviously I agree evolution and Darwinism are not literally the same thing -
    the latter being a subset of the former. But I do believe the essence of
    (neo-)Darwinism is a good metaphor for pretty well all progress in the world
    (genetic or memetic) - enough to stop me looking for some transcendent
    source of "purpose" or "direction".

    Yes, chance is massively at work in the world, but it's not the chance, it's
    the selection that tends towards "betterness" as Jonathan said, or "fitness"
    as I said. (Quality if you like.)

    Steve, you said ...
    the MOQ says that evolution aims for quality.

    Ian says ...
    "aims" is metaphorical
    Neither MOQ nor Evolution can aim for anything literally.


    -----Original Message-----
    []On Behalf Of Steve Peterson
    Sent: 17 August 2003 14:36
    Subject: Re: MD Chance and natural selection

    Jonathan, Scott, Ian,

    > Steve
    >>> I believe evolution is the best model of any kind of reality.
    >>> MOQ layers are a good summary of just such a reality IMHO - stable
    >>> building dynamically on layers over many generations.
    >>> I see no conflict or paradox between MOQ and Darwin.

    It was actually Ian who said that.

    >> You seem to be equating "Darwinism" with "evolution". Darwinism is
    >> by chance and natural selection. I reject that (and I think the MOQ does
    >> too). Quality is not chance.

    > I strongly disagree with Scott - he needs to be careful where he puts the
    > word "chance" in the above sentence. Darwinian evolution proceeds by
    > mutation and selection. The mutation part has a random direction - or as I
    > have said before, its only direction is AWAY from what came before.
    > selection has a very definite direction - towards greater survivability,
    > to put it in quality terms, towards BETTERNESS.

    I agree with Scott's point that Darwinism does not mean the same thing as
    evolution. Darwinism describes a specific mechanism for evolution, as
    Jonathan said, of mutation and natural selection which is more consistent
    with observation than other theories. I agree with Jonathan's
    reconciliation of biological evolution and the MOQ, but I don't think that
    the usage of the term Darwinism generally implies any place for quality and
    in everyday usage usually means without purpose, without value, without
    meaning, and by chance.

    Rorty said:
    "If Darwin is right, we can no more make sense of the idea of
    such a tribunal than we can make sense of the idea that biological evolution
    has an aim. Biological evolution produces ever new species, and cultural
    evolution produces ever new audiences, but there is no such thing as the
    species which evolution has in view, nor any such thing as the 'aim of

    See, he says that evolution has no aim, whereas Rorty also talks about
    chance and luck. I think Rorty
    sees the role of chance in evolution in the same way that Scott suggests
    that he does. He says there is change and there are new species and
    cultures and new ideas, but he wouldn't want us to say there is evolution
    toward betterness because he would think to say that we would need a "God's
    eye view" from which to judge it all which he says we can't have.


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