Bourgeois Science-How about Darwinism?

Greg Schofield g_schofield at dingoblue.net.au
Sun Dec 2 02:52:24 MST 2001


--- Message Received ---
From: nemonemini at cosmiverse.com
To: marxism at lists.panix.com
Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2001 18:32:37 GMT
Subject: Bourgeois Science-How about Darwinism?

Sorry for referring to you as Nemo, previously, I am a bit slow on the uptake - so now I will address you properly as John. I will look at your webpage soon on Malthus.

"That leaves the bottom line question. Must we accept the theory as
science, or is the theory suspect? Is it or isn't it? It is suspect,
in my opionion, and therefore we are all caught with our pants down,
ideological sleight of hand on a stunning scale, truly stunning, a
civilization breaker at this point. The theory, as the Malthus
history should have warned us, is partly scientific, and yet rank
with ideological motives, but in a less outrageous way than the
Malthusian. Please note, I speak of the theory of natural selection,
not of the fact of evolution, which is beautiful, and well confirmed."

Darwin's concept, which in shorthand, is no more than the conception of Natural History as a subject matter, necessarily had to make evolution its main focus to order that history.The organic-historical nature of the idea had to find within nature a mechanism which would move it forward (I do not talk here of ladders of development, nor towards greater complexity - but the pressure to move itself - its self-movement).

Selection was the way humanity changed the form of living creatures (unconscious and conscious selective breeding - the secret of Laban in the Old Testment being an example). In a word Darwin needed to find how nature suceeding in doing the same type of thing within its own logic - hence natural selection.

But what is it in reality - Darwin a child of the high bourgeoisie simply filtered through all the social mechanisms he was familiar with and by analogy settle on those which seemed to best fit the role. They were sufficient for his purposes - that is I think the main point, but no-where developed enough for the science that would follow.

The problem is that while in the main they remain true and an integral part of the entire conception, people are constantly mislead by the orginal analogies used to describe the actual mechanisms, when the mechanisms themselves are looked at the analogies become less and less useful. To me this is not unexpected and entirely in keeping with the nature of the original conception.

The problem we keep butting up against is that the analogy is seen as the theory and riotously misapplied (Social Darwinism and all sorts of other misconceptions - such as Dawkin's selfish gene - mechanicalism as explanation which in the end simply becomes a new form of mysticism).

Likewise the method of organising diverse primary facts (arranged in a ladder of development) becomes the end product of the theory, Darwin himself gets caught up in this but not as much as first impressions would suggest. The ladder of development (which everyone approaching the subject for the first time has to construct) is a necessary illusion, it is the the category of understanding which has to be negated in order to find the real logic, which shows no-ladder of progressive development, but a tree exploiting diverse niches determined by prior undirected developments. It only becomes again a ladder of development when we take our place in it, but one with no designer and no necessary logic propelling it towards us (we just become a possiblity amongst many and dependant of the contigencies of history to arise).

In short, what I am saying is there are levels upon levels of misconception and possible ideological intrusions, but at the same time there is that conception of natural history which is a unique expression of biological history a reflection of its reality.

John, we do have a problem here, though I don't believe despite our differring expressions of it that we are necessarily in dispute. In this you seem to be saying look at all this science and see the ideology within (I do not dispute this), I am trying to say, look at all this ideology and see the science within. In either case the point seems to be the same a) primitive understandings of science overlook the ideology b) primitive understandings of ideology overlook the science.

You may not agree with this formulation, but there does seem to be common ground, which we would best try and locate. Darwin is a particular good example of this, but the real example is of course marxism itself (all the same arguments hold).

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

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