Evolution, agency, and Darwinian discourse — part I

As follows are my comments on an ongoing evolution-education post over at ecobobble:

I agree 100% with the argument that ID is trying to present itself as something it’s not (science). This is disingenuous, misleading, and fraught with lameness. …

[However] What i’m suggesting is that the reason ID proponents feel the need to promote their agenda is inherently tied up with the fact that, not least through the semantic terms it uses, *science* tries to present itself (inadvertently) as something *it’s* not: a worldview expressing an opinion on where there is ‘agency’ and where there is not. Where there is ‘order’ and where there is not, where and what ‘intelligence’ is, and where and what it is not. This is not science–this is metaphysical opinion!!! This is hubristic. Subtle, perhaps, maybe indetectable for those engaged in science, but hubristic nonetheless.

E.g. by saying genetic variation is the result of copying “errors” — which is precisely the word that’s used in modern darwinian discourse — the implication is that it’s a ‘machine’ that *mal*functions occasionally. I.e. it’s imperfect and ‘tries’ to do something, but ‘fails’ at this.. because of these ‘failures’ we get variation, adaptation over generations, and voila, evolution… a ‘mindless’, ‘random’ process. This assumes ‘mind’ and ‘intention’ are *produced* by complex neural structres such as the human brain. But there are alternatives to this view–current mainstream darwinian discourse ignores this.

Conway Morris tries to account for this by inverting the whole idea of agency, consciousness, or intelligence. He posits that material structures are not ‘producers’ of intelligence/agency, but rather ‘receivers’ of intelligence/agency.

His point is that we may be mistaking the radio program as a *product* of the radio, rather than something ambient that we can receive via the complex machinery of the radio!!!

It’s like mistaking your browser for the cloud. My grandma makes this mistake all the time. She thinks all the stuff she can access via the internet is somehow stored permanently on her computer, and she has to continually ‘erase’ all the stored up data. She makes the simple mistake of thinking the browser *is* the information, not a tool for *accessing* the information.

Darwinian discourse so far hasn’t accounted for this. The Evo-ID debate could probably be somewhat defused if this was taken into account. It takes some metaphysical humility on the part of scientists, however.


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