The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1304  Monday, 13 May 2002

From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 11 May 2002 10:06:08 +0100
Subject: 13.1290 Re: Issues
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1290 Re: Issues

Gabriel Egan responds to (I think) Marcus Dahl:

>Yours would be an objection to the entire theory of evolution, since it
>obviously requires increasingly orderly systems.  (The human eye is more
>complicated that the light-sensitive spots on photophilic bacteria.).

Oh oh oh! The old chestnut!

Darwin's theory of natural selection does not "require increasingly
orderly systems". Neither does it "require" increasingly disorderly
systems (although Newton's laws of thermodynamics certainly do, and we
must assume that biological systems, in the long term, follow those
laws). Natural Selection is about "fitness", to use Darwin's term. The
human eye is only more "orderly" than the light-sensitive spots on
bacteria in terms of its adaptation to the environment in which humans
live. If it were more "orderly" in itself, then light-sensitive bacteria
would have been selected out for extinction. They have not been selected
out because their light-sensitive spots are best suited for the
environment (or niche) in which they live.  These spots are much simpler
they human eyes, and in some sense or other one could equate simplicity
with order. But looking for relative values inherent in biological
systems occupying different niches is misguided; relative values only
exert evolutionary pressure on organisms occupying the same niche,
competing for the same resources.

It's nice to think that Darwin's theory singles humans out as more
sophisticated or "orderly" than other organisms. But in fact, as those
who objected to it in 1859 and still do now, "The Origin of Species"
tells us precisely the opposite. There is no progress or regression in
the natural world.


PS -
An illustrative example:
The SHAKSPER niche clearly exerts evolutionary pressure on its members
to develop an advanced knowledge of Shakespeare and his times; we should
not be surprised that it does not select for an equally advanced
knowledge of biology, epistemology, or any other branch of human
learning. However, it would be silly of us to assume that knowledge of
Shakespeare as opposed to science was evidence of higher evolutionary
(or intellectual) status.

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