Evolution and Metaphysics
Copyright © 1996 by John Wilkins
[Last Update: August 22, 1996]
he claim that evolution is a metaphysic equivalent to a religion is related to the issue of chance in evolution (see the Chance FAQ). The distaste mentioned for randomness comes from a metaphysical view of the nature of the physical world as being fundamentally purposeful. To attack evolution, these critics feel the need to present it not as just a scientific theory, but as a world view that competes with the world views of the objectors. Therefore, I discuss the metaphysical implications and complications of evolutionary science.
"When we discuss creation/evolution, we are talking about beliefs: i.e. religion. The controversy is not religion versus science, it is religion versus religion, and the science of one religion versus the science of another." (Ham 1983, cited in Selkirk and Burrows 1987:3)
"It is crucial for creationists that they convince their audience that evolution is not scientific, because both sides agree that creationism is not." (Miller 1982: 4, also cited in Selkirk and Burrows 1987: 103)
Conclusions of this FAQ
Evolutionary theory is a scientific theory dealing with scientific data (Berry 1988:139), not a system of metaphysical beliefs or a religion. It does, however, set the sorts of general problems biology deals with, and also acts as a philosophical attitude in dealing with complex change.
Introduction: What is Metaphysics?
Metaphysics is the name given to a branch of philosophical thought that deals with issues of the fundamental nature of reality and what is beyond experience. It literally means "after the physics", so-named because Aristotle's book on the subject followed his Physics, which dealing with the nature of the ordinary world, which in Classical Greek is physike. It is defined in the 1994 Webster's as
"a division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being and that includes ontology, cosmology, and often epistemology: ontology: abstract philosophical studies: a study of what is outside objective experience".
Metaphysical systems come in three main flavors: philosophical systems (overall systems such as Kant's or Hegel's, or more recently Whitehead's or Collingwood's); ideologies, which are usually political, moral or other practical philosophical systems; and religions which in their theologies attempt to create comprehensive philosophical structures.
A metaphysic is often derived from first principles by logical analysis. Aristotle, for example, started with an analysis of "being" and "becoming" (ie, what is and how it changes); Kant, with an analysis of knowledge of the external world; Hegel, from an analysis of historical change. Religious metaphysics often attempt to marry a philosophical system with basic theses about the nature and purpose of God, derived from an authoritative scripture or revelation.
In some traditions, metaphysics is seen to be a Bad Thing, especially in those views sometimes called "modernisms" (see below, "Kuhn's and Popper's views"). The great 18th century Scottish philosopher Hume once wrote that any book not containing reasoning by number or matters of fact was mere sophistry and should be consigned to the flames (he exempted his own philosophical writings, apparently). This distaste stems from the excesses of the medieval Scholastics, whose often empty formalism was applied to Aquinas' theology based on Aristotle's metaphysics. Early science arose in part from the rejection of this vapid quibbling.
No-one can deny that views such as Luther's and Marx's rely upon metaphysical assumptions and methods. If these views come into conflict with science, then there are four options: change the science to suit the metaphysics; change the metaphysics to suit the science; change both to fit each other; or find a place for the metaphysics in a "gap" where science hasn't yet gone. The last option is called the "God of the Gaps" approach (Flew and McIntyre 1955), and of course it has the disadvantage that if (when) science does explain that phenomenon, the religion is diminished.
Historically, evolutionary science grew out partly from natural theology such as Paley's and Chambers' arguments from design, which defined the problems of biology in the early 19th century (Ruse 1979: chapter 3). These writings ought to find evidence of God in the appearance of design in the natural world, yet, only a century later, when the evolutionary biologist JBS Haldane was asked what biology taught of the nature of God, he is reported to have replied "He has an inordinate fondness for beetles", since there were so many species of beetle. Other than that, he couldn't really say. Evolutionary science removed the ground from underneath natural theology. Arguments from design for the existence of God were no longer the only conclusion that could be drawn from the adaption of living things (Dennett 1994).
The Real Objection
All the furore generated about the nature of chance in evolution is based not upon challenges to the scientific nature of the theory, but upon the need to find purpose in every facet of reality (cf Dennett 1994). Often, this comes from religious conviction, but sometimes it arises from a more abstracted philosophical view.
Metaphysical theories tend to fall into two kinds: those that view everything in nature as the result of Mind (idealisms) and those that view Mind as the result of mechanisms of Nature (naturalisms). One may take a naturalistic approach to some things, and still be an idealist in other domains; for example, one may accept with equanimity that minds are the result of certain sorts of physical brains and still consider, say, society or morality to be the result of the workings of Mind. Typically, though, idealism and naturalism are held as distinct and separate philosophical doctrines.
Idealists, including creationists, cannot accept the view that reality cares little for the aspirations, goals, moral principles, pain or pleasure of organisms, especially humans (cf. Dawkins 1995:132f). There has to be a Purpose, they say and Evolution implies there is no Purpose. Therefore, they say that evolution is a metaphysical doctrine of the same type as, but opposed to, the sort of religious or philosophical position taken by the idealist. Worse, not only is it not science (because it's a metaphysic, you see), it's a pernicious doctrine because it denies Mind.
Christian creationism may rest upon a literal interpretation of Christian scripture, but its motivation lies in the view that God's Mind (Will) lies directly behind all physical phenomena. Anything that occurs must take place because it is immediately part of God's plan; they believe that the physical world should, and does, provide proof of God's existence and goodness (extreme providentialism). Evolution, which shows the appearance of design does not imply design, is seen to undercut this eternal truth, and hence they argue that it must be false. In the particular (actual) demonology of fundamentalism, it follows as a corollary that evolution is the work of the devil and his minions.
Science and metaphysics
Philosophers of science mostly conclude that science is metaphysics neutral, following the Catholic physicist Pierre Duhem (1914). Science functions the same way for Hindus as for Catholics, for Frenchmen as for Americans, for communists as for democrats, allowing for localised variations that are ironed out after a while. However, science does indeed rule out various religious etiological myths (origin stories), and often forces the revision of historical and medical stories used in the mythology of a religion. And when cosmologies are given in ancient scriptures that involve solid heavens, elephants and scarab beetles, science shows them to be unqualifiedly false as descriptions of the physical world as it is observed.
Science can rule out a metaphysical claim, then. Is evolutionary science therefore a metaphysical Weltanschauung (a nice pretentious German word meaning world-view)? I don't think so. Many things claimed by metaphysical views such as fundamentalist Christian biblical literalism are not themselves metaphysical claims. For example, the claim that the world is flat (if made by a religious text) is a matter of experiment and research, not first principles and revelation. If "by their fruits shall ye know them", false factual claims are evidence of bad science, not good religion.
Many of those who do hold religious views take the approach that they get their religion from their scriptures and their science from the scientific literature and community. They therefore treat the factual claims made in those scriptures the same way they treat the metaphysical views of scientists: as not germane to the function of that source of knowledge (Berry 1988). Does the fact that Stephen Jay Gould admits to learning Marxism at his father's knee or Richard Dawkins to being an atheist mean that evolution is either Marxist or atheistic (as so many immediately and fallaciously conclude)? No, of course not. If it were the case that these views defined the results of scientific work, then the broad range of metaphysical views of practising scientists would mean that -- at the same time -- science was Christian, Hindu, Marxist and probably even animist, as well as agnostic or atheist. While some extreme cultural relativists do try to claim that science is no more than the sum of its cultural environments, this view fails to explain how it is that science gets such consistent results and acquires such broad agreement on matters of fact. Nevertheless, this does not stop idealists from sometimes disingenuously claiming that science is what you want (or "will") to make of it.
[Note in passing, that Gould is not a Marxist, although there are a number of prominent evolutionary biologists who make no secret of being so. Also note that there are many liberal and conservative evolutionary biologists. Political affiliation does not specify what sorts of theoretical views one must have. Darwin was a Whig (middle-class liberal) while Huxley and Wallace were radicals. Spencer and Haeckel could only be called conservatives, and a number of Haeckel's views were influential in the rise of fascism. Yet these political views did not determine agreement on matters of theoretical biology. See below, "Evolution outside biology".]
Are Theories World Views?
There is a tradition in modern Western philosophy, dating at least from the Romantic philosophers of the 18th century, that treats overall theories of the natural world as self-contained and self-validating systems of belief that are beyond criticism from other such systems. Many Christian and some Jewish philosophers and theologians have claimed that Christianity (or any religion) is indeed a self-contained Weltanschauung, and that it is immune from attacks upon its claims by scientific research. This takes several forms. One theologian, Rudolph Bultmann, once said that even if Jesus' physical remains were found, Christianity (as he interpreted it) would still be true. Others hold that all of science is just a religion, in the sense that it is a self-contained belief system, and therefore it cannot objectively disprove or challenge the claims made by another system (ie, Christianity). This is the approach often taken by creationists.
In the final analysis, this boils down to an "anti-science" prejudice, for science is not, in this sense, a metaphysical system. Since science is not a system of thought deduced from first principles (as are traditional metaphysical systems), and that it deals precisely with objective experience, science is not, nor is any theory of science, a true metaphysical system. Moreover, science lays no claim to ultimate truth. Instead, it takes a very pragmatist view of truth: scientific truth is what works out, repeatedly and continuously. It is fallible, and often-changing, but it works better than anything else in explaining, predicting and manipulating the physical world, by many orders of magnitude.
Kuhn and Popper's views
Two philosophers in particular have recently made claims that global scientific theories are metaphysical systems, and one made this claim of evolutionary theory. Thomas Kuhn, in his highly influential book (1962) and elsewhere claimed that when a global theory is successful in the scientific community, it brings along with it the necessary assumptions, methods and concepts it requires to function. A revolutionary change of theory means that the new theory is "incommensurable" (uses different measurement criteria and terminology) with earlier theories, and that it is therefore not possible to establish that the new theory is an advance over the earlier one. It is, in effect, a conversion to a new way of looking at the world, a paradigm. Kuhn's views are popular among scholars in the humanities and social sciences, but are less so now among philosophers of science. As early as 1970, the criticism was made that Kuhn's catastrophic revolutions were getting less radical as new studies of the historical examples were undertaken, while those "gradualists" who saw science as a simple progression were forced to admit that the path of science was bumpier than they at first thought. The case of continental drift is a case in point. While some (eg, Ruse 1989) see it as a paradigm shift, it is clear that it was accepted within the geological on the basis of physical evidence and explanatory power, which is very different to Kuhn's initial story.
Karl Popper (1974) claimed that evolutionary theory was a metaphysics not a scientific theory, but the specifics of his claim need to be closely examined (Popper later retracted his claim in a rather weak fashion, cf the full review and discussion of Popper's views in Stamos 1996). Popper developed his view of science in reaction to the extreme views of a movement known as Logical Positivism in Vienna in the 1920s. These philosophers thought that a scientific theory was verifiable, and all else was metaphysics (which they thought was a Bad Thing). However, it was eventually pointed out that the Verification Principle, as it was known, was itself unverifiable, and was therefore metaphysics. It followed that the attempt to eject metaphysics from proper knowledge failed, and that the objection to it was of no real account.
Popper reversed the Verification Principle, and came up with a falsification principle: something is scientific if it is liable to falsification given the right observations, otherwise it is metaphysics (which wasn't a Bad Thing, so much as just not Science). This is known as Popper's Demarcation Principle. So Popper thought that evolutionary theory was not falsifiable, and was therefore metaphysics that set problems that did have solutions that were falsifiable and thus scientific.
The problem with this view of science, for all that it has been influential with many scientists, is that it implies simple ("existential") observations of the kind "an A sort of thing has property X or does Y when in Z conditions", the very stuff of scientific research, are not falsifiable. They are therefore metaphysical claims. Something has gone wrong when the basic tool of science -- observation -- is a metaphysical statement.
Moreover, the objection was made that strictly speaking nothing is really falsifiable. If you want to hang on to a theory, you can, even in the face of strong counter-evidence. Just eject some other view, or ancillary assumption, that is part of the argument you first put. For example, if you do not find the planet that your theory predicts is in a certain orbit, you can find fault with the observation process, or posit some other physical hindrance (eg, a nebulous cloud) to save the theory. This is known as the Quine-Duhem Thesis, and the point is that at some stage the move becomes unreasonable. One just can't stipulate in advance when it does. So Popper's claim applies to any theory in science, and not just evolutionary theory, and many philosophers would say that his views are not really good representations of science.
However, the claim is sometimes, and more plausibly, made that evolutionary theory, along with some other scientific theories, functions as a kind of attitudinal metaphysical system (Ruse 1989). It is (in my opinion, rightly) thought to influence the kinds of problems and solutions dealt with by science. There is no problem with this, since in order for a discipline to make any progress, the field of possible problems (essentially infinite, to use a Holdenism) must be restricted to some set of plausible and viable research options. The theory of evolution as now consensually held acts to narrow the range and limit the duplication required. This is harmless, and is true of any field of science.
Ruse also notes what he calls "metaphysical Darwinism" (Ruse 1992), in contrast to "scientific Darwinism", which is indeed a metaphysical system akin to a worldview, and which has expressed itself in numerous extra scientific philosophies, including Spencer's, Teilhard's, and Haeckel's. These must be held clear of the scientific theory, and are often in contradiction to the scientific models.
Evolution outside biology
A number of other critics see the use of selection theory in other than biological contexts as requiring malign political and moral commitments. A prime example of this is sociobiology, which is supposed to result in such things as eugenics, racism, and the death of the welfare state. Sociobiology, and the more recent evolutionary psychology movement, seeks to explain human behaviour in terms of the adaptations of human evolution. Gould especially has been vitriolic in his attacks on sociobiological explanations. It is thought by some to result in a completely selfish ethic known as rational egoism. Another such view is "social Darwinism", which holds that social policy should allow the weak and unfit to fail and die, and that this is not only good policy but morally right. The only real connection between Darwinism and social Darwinism is the name. The real source of social Darwinism is Herbert Spencer and the tradition going back to Hobbes via Malthus, not Darwin's own writings, though Darwin gained some inspiration on the effects of population growth from Malthus.
These views suffer from the ethical fallacy known as "the naturalistic fallacy" (no connection to naturalism in explanations and the study of knowledge mentioned above). This is the inference from what may be the case to the conclusion that it is therefore right. However, while it is certainly true that, for example, some families are prone to suffer diabetes, as mine is, there is no licence to conclude that they should not be treated, any more than the fact that a child has a broken arm from a bicycle accident implies that the child should have a broken arm. David Hume long ago showed that "is" does not imply "ought".
In fact, diverse political and religious opinions characterise social musings based upon evolutionary biology. For example, the 19th century Russian anarchist aristocrat Pyotr Kropotkin wrote a book called Mutual Aid (1902, cf Gould 1992) in which he argued that evolution results more in cooperation than it does in harsh competition, and his views are echoed in recent use of games theory to show that, in some cases at least, cooperation is a stable strategy for certain populations to adopt (Axelrod 1984).
The reluctance to extend evolution to humans and human society and psychology was there from the beginning. The codiscoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, for instance, never accepted that the human mind could be the result of natural selection alone. Gould objects stridently to the use of selectionist models of social change. In my opinion, this reluctance arises from lingering idealism; from the belief that there is something intentional and irreducibly special about human mental faculties and society. I think this assumption will be shown false, but others, far better qualified in biology and anthropology than I, think it will not. For now, there is plenty of room for disagreement.
Evolution and Purpose
I think it cannot therefore be plausibly held that evolutionary theory removes the need in a scientific explanation for Purpose from Life, although it does remove the need for purposive design from a lot of the living realm (ie, all but the genetically engineered bit of the living realm). This apparent confusion is resolved if we ask of evolutionary theory two questions: one, is there a design evident in the structure of living organisms? Two, is there a universal purpose to life in general? Science answers No to the first question. Design is not directly evident in living things, although there is a marvellous complexity and adaptivity of life to its environment. To the second question, science of any kind answers: Insufficient Information. That kind of answer you get elsewhere. [Berry 1988 has by far the clearest discussion of these issues I have encountered, and comes from a Protestant Christian who is a practising geneticist.]
A similar issue arises from consideration of whether the universe taken as a whole shows evidence of having been designed. This is discussed under the heading of the Anthropic Principle. It holds in its strong version that the universe was set up in order that intelligence would result. The weak version holds merely that if the universe did not have the physical laws it has, then intelligence would not have resulted. This is in effect to say that if the universe wasn't suitable for intelligence to arise, then nobody would be around to observe the fact. There is a great difference between things being arranged so that something must result and things being arranged so that something may result. Evolutionary theory argues that things are set up so that intelligence is a possible outcome, but few modern biologists think that intelligence had to evolve.
Metaphysical lessons from evolution
Nevertheless, metaphysical conclusions are there to be drawn from evolution, of a very limited and restricted philosophical kind. A brief handwave is in order. M T Ghiselin and D L Hull (a philosophical biologist and a philosopher of biology) have argued that evolutionary models result in an understanding of species as the lineages created by reproductive populations (refs in Hull 1988). Species are, in philosophical terms, individuals not classes. That is, they are not eternal "types", or kinds (or the ersatz "baramins" sometimes mentioned by creationists) which any given individual organism more or less purely approaches. This is the kind of view expressed implicitly when a creationist says that such and such a change represents "devolution": a movement away from "pure type". The great evolutionary theorist Ernst Mayr has, following the philosopher Karl Popper, called this "typological essentialism", the opinion that species have essences in some Aristotelian fashion (Mayr 1988). While the "kinds" mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 1:21-23) are merely observations that progeny resemble parents, that is, that some principle of heredity is active in reproduction, Aristotle held rather that living things are generated in an approximation to a "form" of that species. There is something that represents the perfect dog, for example. This view found its way into Christian theology through the rediscovery of Aristotle from the Islamic tradition in the middle ages, primarily through Thomas Aquinas.
Against this typological essentialism, Mayr sets what he calls "population thinking", seeing species as populations of more or less unique constellations of individual features and genotypes. A biological species is thus the "pool" of traits that inter-reproduce, with the majority of individuals sharing the majority of traits, but with variation at the extremes for every trait, whether it is height, weight or length of beak or leg. Hull and Ghiselin interpret this to mean that any one species is a historical individual. It is not a universal class, that is, it is not something about which universal laws can be formulated, any more than one could formulate a universal law about George Washington. A species has a beginning, causal antecedents, unique properties, a history, and to the highest degree of certainty, an end. They are contingent; that is, they are not necessary outcomes but depend on historical happenstance. They are lineages, that is, they extend through time. And they change; they do not exist in some eternal Platonic heaven.
Other than this, the "metaphysic" of evolution by selection is primarily a research-guiding mindset that has been extraordinarily fruitful where no others have been. A nice essay could perhaps be written on the influence of the Naturphilosophen movement (Gould 1977, and recent examples include D'Arcy Thompson and the Bauplan movement, cf Bowler 1983, and perhaps the Complex Adaptive Systems models coming out of Santa Fe, cf Weber and Depew 1996) on biology, but this does not take away from the fact that the selectionist theory predominates and that, as a metaphysic, evolutionary theory is fairly limited and poor. This is what should be true of a scientific theory; the range of conclusions beyond the empirical evidence that can be drawn is unlimited. Any theory that committed itself to a metaphysical conclusion as a logical inference would be almost certainly false.
Scientific Darwinism does not preclude a metaphysical system that makes no false factual claims, and does not function as a religion or world view beyond the realm of objective experience.
Thanks to Peter Lamb, Tom Scharle, Loren Haarsma and Larry Moran for criticism, comments and suggestions.
Axelrod R The Evolution of Cooperation Basic Books 1984
A discussion of the results of famous "round robin" computer tournament and the "Tit-For-Tat" strategy, and how cooperation results in many cases from iterated Prisoners' Dilemmas.
Berry RJ God and Evolution: Creation, Evolution and the Bible Hodder and Stoughton 1988
By far the best discussion I know (from an orthodox Protestant perspective) of the development of creationism, its heretical nature, its antiscientific bent, and it includes a pretty good discussion of evolution, and the history of the science. Berry is a professor of genetics.
Bowler PJ The Eclipse of Darwinism: Antievolutionary Theories in the Decades Around 1900 Johns Hopkins 1983
A fascinating account of the way Darwinism was largely abandoned at the turn of the century, especially showing how many of the objections from antievolutionists today to Darwinism were first raised then and how they were dealt with.
Dawkins R River Out of Eden Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1995
Dawkins reprises some of the arguments of his previous books and in the final chapter discusses the "Utility Function" maximised, either by God or blind selection, in the biological world. He plumps again for the centrality of genes, but in this book, the voluntarism of the Selfish Gene is muted. By far one of the most readable of a very readable author's popular works.
Dennett D Darwin's Dangerous Idea Penguin 1994
A sustained and controversial philosophical treatment of Darwinism. Dennett argues that critics of selection theory are motivated by the desire to find "skyhooks" rather than "cranes", that is, to find mechanisms that are not just the result of natural selection but which are more based upon creative motivation built into the structure of the natural world.
Duhem P The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory, Princeton UP 1914 (English trans. 1954)
Written to defend the metaphysical neutrality of (physical) science. His arguments are well accepted (as well as anything in philosophy of science can be).
Flew A and MacIntyre A eds New Essays in Philosophical Theology SCM Press, 1955
The classic set of essays on the topic. Introduces the term "God of the Gaps".
Gould SJ Ontogeny and Phylogeny Harvard University Press 1977
Traces the history of the recapitulation theory (ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny) and in the process narrates the ideas and history of biology other than the strict Darwinian variety. Gould argues for a Darwinian reinterpretation of recapitulationism towards the end of the book.
Gould SJ "Kropotkin was No Crackpot", essay 13 in Bully for Brontosaurus p325, Penguin 1992 (ref from Peter Lamb)
In which SJG argues that Pyotr Kropotkin was no crackpot in his claim that cooperation is an evolutionary outcome.
Ham K "The relevance of creation. Casebook II" Ex Nihilo 6(2):2
Hull DL Science as a Process: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science U Chicago P 1988
A complex and interesting pot-pourri of matters evolutionary. The central thesis is that science is itself an evolutionary process driven by a Hamiltonian "conceptual inclusive fitness", or desire for credit. Has an insiders' view of the cladist/pheneticist debates of the 60s and 70s.
Kuhn TS The Structure of Scientific Revolutions University of Chicago Press 1962, second edition 1970
The classic book in which Kuhn argues that science changes rapidly, not unlike more extreme versions of Punctuated Equilibrium Theory. Kuhn softened his approach later when his views were overextended by Feyerabend and others.
Mayr E Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist The Belknap Press of Harvard UP 1988
Mayr's main arguments have to do with the nature of teleological explanation in biology and the nature of species. He also presents a case that evolution presents a new philosophical and methodological mindset (just as Newtonian theory had for Kant) which he terms (dysphoniously) "population thinking" (there has to be a pretentious classical or German neologism for this: I suggest "demoticology").
Miller K "Answers to standard Creationist arguments" Creation/Evolution 3:1-13
Monod J Chance and Necessity Collins 1972
This is well-known and thought-provoking, but ultimately overdrawn, as so often is the case when a scientists steps outside the specific discipline from which their reputation proceeds. The theme is that we are thrown into some sort of Sartrean void because there is no meaning to evolution.
Popper KR Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography Fontana/Collins 1976
Section 37 "Darwinism as a Metaphysical Research Programme" contains Popper's only extended discussion of evolution. Interestingly, he claims to be most influenced on the subject of evolution by the author Samuel Butler, of Erewhon fame, who objected strongly to evolution by natural selection (cf Bowler above) and posited instead that evolution was a process of purposive acquired characteristics, ie, Lamarckism.
Ruse M The Darwinian Revolution: Science Red in Tooth and Claw University of Chicago Press 1979
A good, if somewhat idiosyncratic, account of the social, religious and philosophical movements that underlay the time before, during and immediately after the Darwinian revolution of 1859.
Ruse M The Darwinian Paradigm: Essays on its History, Philosophy and Religious Implications Routledge 1989
A series of essays on Darwinism as a philosophical and historical movement. I don't always agree with him, but he is acknowledged as a leading expert on the topic, especially the history of Darwinism.
Ruse M "Darwinism" in E F Keller and E A Lloyd eds Keywords in Evolutionary Science Harvard University Press 1992
The articles in this collection, including Ruse's, are excellent starting points to understanding the historical and current usages of problematic and basic terms of evolutionary science. Recommended, if a bit technical in parts.
Selkirk DR and F J Burrows eds Confronting Creationism: Defending Darwin New South Wales University Press
Stamos DN "Popper, Falsifiability, and Evolutionary Biology" Biology and Philosophy 11: 161--191, 1996
This is the most extensive discussion of Popper's views on evolution I have yet seen, and it he proposes that Popper should have accepted the "common sense" view that observation statements are scientific not metaphysical, and therefore that evolutionary theory (and indeed all historical theories) can be scientific, not metaphysical.
Weber BH and Depew DJ "Natural Selection and Self Organization" Biology and Philosophy 11: 35-65, 1996
A review of the new theories of self-organisation in complex adaptive systems and the impact on Darwinism. Includes a good historical review.
Copyright © 1996 by John Wilkins. Please obtain permission before reproducing.
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