Evolution as Religion: Mary Midgley. Review.

As we back away from the modern synthesis (see www.thethirdwayofevolution.com) and join the early pioneers in looking to evolution for new meaning, we will need adult help in reigning in our natural enthusiasm for all-encompassing theories of everything, based usually on very little. Fortunately, in Mary Midgley’s book (published 1985), we have it. More...

Open letter to Institute for Cultural Evolution

I am impressed by the intelligent treatment of issues in the ICE Evolutionary Worldview document of December 2012. I like the grounds for discussion, I don’t agree but I have no specific changes to suggest. I write merely to give feedback, because the issues matter to me, too.

I see your policies and philosophy as those of Hegel, who you credit.... [But] To me you seem to accept postmodern values without any justification, merely because they appear to succeed “modern” values. More...

Modern evolutionary theory is mythical

"...So I regard the modern synthesis as not theory based on science, but an origin story based on mythical entities. Then the most appropriate questions are, what natural philosophy is being supported by the story, and what is its relation to our other origin stories?"  More...

New section--"Genie"

I am developing a talk for the general public and students in the humanities in which I urge them to demand new theories of evolution (besides creationism, that is) able to account for the evolution of "folk psychology"--consciousness, creativity and free will. To accommodate expressions of interest I've created a section in this site titled "Genie" project. See the section title at right. Click on that to see a couple of articles describing the new theory.

Want to comment? Send me an email, "genie" at evolvedself. com-

Edge question 2014: Coyne "Free will is dead"

In an answer to this year's EDGE question comes an authoritative call for the abandonment of the term "free will." This call comes from Jerry Coyne, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago; Author, Why Evolution Is True.

"Among virtually all scientists, dualism is dead. Our thoughts and actions are the outputs of a computer made of meat—our brain—a computer that must obey the laws of physics. Our choices, therefore, must also obey those laws.... scientific experience... shows no evidence for a mind separate from the physical brain.... In short, the traditional notion of free will... is dead on arrival.... When pressed, nearly all scientists and most philosophers admit this. Determinism and materialism, they agree, win the day.... So why does the term "free will" still hang around when science has destroyed its conventional meaning?"

No if ands of buts here. He places me, as a dualist, outside the pale of scientific discussion.

"The illusion of agency [free will] is so powerful that even strong incompatibilists like myself will always act as if we had choices, even though we know that we don't. We have no choice in this matter. But we can at least ponder why evolution might have bequeathed us such a powerful illusion."

To me, this sounds like someone with a limited grasp on reality. How can we ponder anything about evolution if we have no choice in the matter? Does he realize how little sense he makes?  A comment.

Modern synthesis invokes supernatural aid

Puzzle--how to get around these apparent dependencies of the modern synthesis on supernatural powers?

Natural selection works by whittling down the number of less-fit variations. As fast as it does so some agency must add new variations, otherwise natural selection would run out of variations to select from and evolution would cease. Failure to find a non-supernatural agency able to account for the creation of new variation led to natural selection being almost abandoned after Darwin's death.

But did the addition of genetic mutation help? Genetic mutation by itself leads to harmful mutations that, accumulating generation by generation, would lead to rapid extinction. Natural selection's effect, being so slight, can do little to slow that accumulation. But according to population statistics, when that slight effect acts in favor of beneficial mutations it can increase their incidence to make them the dominant form of their gene, although that would take millions of generations. For that time to be availalble something must be suppressing the accumulation of the harmful mutations that would otherwise lead to extinction in just a few generations. That can only be supernatural powers in the beneficial mutation.

Illustration: Take two species competing in the same niche. Both suffer genetic mutation but the second one has a perfect repair mechanism so no mutations survive into its phenotype. Until beneficial genes appear in the first species it accumulates harmful genes and extinction threatens. But once a beneficial gene appears, all that accumulation of harmful genes must supernaturally disappear and only beneficial mutations will increase in incidence, leading after millions of generations to eventual evolution and dominance in the niche. Without this supernatural power of the beneficial mutation, how else how can one account for mutations helping species evolve?