Archive for April 10th, 2015

Cultural Evolution: More Intelligent Than “Darwinian”

April 10, 2015

A dangerously entitled paper in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Series B, Biological Sciences). Here are the first 4 lines:

How Darwinian is cultural evolution? By Nicolas Claidière , Thomas C. Scott-Phillips , Dan Sperber (31 March 2014).

Darwin-inspired population thinking suggests approaching culture as a population…”

(My comment to Scientia Salon elevating the debate was censored.)

The supposedly proven idea that the scientific philosophy known as “Darwinism” rules humanity is exactly why we ended up with Hitler. Hitler and his friends were penetrated by “Darwinian” ideas. Explicitly. For the Nazis, Darwinism, the Selection of the Fittest, was “science”. Nearly a century later the most prestigious scientific society in Britain is still pushing the notion, with a devious title.

Peul Gentleman In Formal Attire.

Peul Gentleman In Formal Attire.

[There are 30 million Peuls, with their own languages, through 20 countries, in the Sahel and its neighborhood.]

The ideology of “Darwinism” as the end-all, be-all, is bad science, and bad philosophy. But of course an excellent mentality for vicious oligarchies. A century ago, it brought us Nazis, more recently it brought us Neo-Conservatism, and now “Austerity” and plutocracy.

Darwinism, A Philosophy Of Force, Chance, Heredity As Necessities:

At some point, around the 1960s, from some experience of Medawar on mice, some scientists thought that biological evolution was only driven by chance and selection. Thanks to haphazard variations in genetics, new organisms would differ from their ancestors. Among some of these new organisms, some would survive better, and thus (probably) reproduce better. That “adaptative” mechanism driven by chance was supposed to explain everything.

A philosophy of sorts evolved from that view of evolution, according to which everything evolved by chance, and survival determined worth. “Intelligent Design” was removed, not just from religion, and the view of the world, but from society itself.

This explanation and its philosophical extension, came to be known as “Darwinism”, or “Natural Selection”.

The Connection Between The Crisis Of The West And Neo-Darwinism:

If culture is due to chance and survival is what determines its value, why to try to make an intelligent, fair and moral society? Would not that be against nature? If we were led by genes, and genes were selfish, was not the Neo-Conservative model more natural?

In the 1960s and 1970s an argument was made that we were our “genes”, and that our genes were “selfish”. The ideas became ubiquitous in the Anglo-Saxon world, and were, truly a new philosophy, a sort of Jihadism without god.

Unsurprisingly that culture of chance, force and selfishness facilitated the not-so spontaneous creation of a new generation of selfish politicians and ideas promoting selfishness, force, and the chance heredity provides with (namely, if you inherited your position in society it was just because this is how nature is).

Societies of note tend to prefer cultural traits which they believe will promote their survival. A society not endowed with that meta-belief, and meta-practice, will not long survive.

Societies tend to be “Darwinian” in that sense. Beyond this, the notion that chance drives culture is of limited utility, because culture is anything but haphazard.

***

Natural Selection Is Not What Evolution Reduces To. Natural Selection Is Just One Of Three Evolutionary Mechanisms:

Unfortunately for the “Darwinists, they did not get their science right.

Selection was not really new. “Artificial Selection”, aka, selective breeding, was not just known, but long practiced. Aristotle relates that in “free” roaming cattle of Epirus, weak cows, or cows with traits viewed as undesirable, were culled to prevent them from breeding.

Beyond selection, artificial or natural, Lamarck, the scientist who first established evolution, suggested two new evolutionary mechanisms.

It turns out that modern quantum physics offers plausible mechanisms to check Lamarck’s suggestions. Experimental efforts are under way to check them (one grant proposal heading that way is $49 million!) Preliminary results are already in.

The bottom line is that Quantum Mechanics is intrinsically TELEOLOGICAL (it computes from the ends). This is why the Quantum is so baffling. It offers mechanisms for driving genetics from environmental influences directly (without going through the selection of the carrying organism).

Such mechanisms do not contradict natural selection. Far from it: they just accelerate it, while bending it towards more intelligent solutions. (Yes, the Quantum is clever: it was hinted since Fermat’s Principle of Least Time.)

Conclusion: Cultural Evolution Is Not Darwinian, It Is Much More Than That, And, First Of All, Teleologically Intelligent:

Culture is history, but much of that history was developed with ends in mind.

For example, a cultural trait such as executing Muslims who are deemed not to obey “Islam” has contributed to the survival of Islam. And it was, literally a clever strategy (it was established by a general, strategos). Islam started as an army at war. Quitting an army at war means execution.

Thus cultural evolution is teleologically driven. Cultural structures never seem to originate haphazardly. When we think that a cultural trait evolved haphazardly, further examination generally reveals that the trait evolved at a time and place when and where it made sense.

As I have argued in the past, inheritability does not reduce to “genes”: we are not our genes. Nor are our cultures just the survivors of selection. All and any of their bits and pieces were invented with some purposes in mind, which functioned as mental attractors.

Culture, and evolution are both smart. Intelligent Design has become an insult, so we are ending with increasingly stupid social organizations. Stupidity and oligarchy are two notions which go together well, supporting each other.

Patrice Ayme’