marxism-digest V1 #4220
mikedf at amnh.org
Sun Dec 2 03:41:56 MST 2001
I haven't been following this thread, but if this is representative, boy are
you off in the clouds somewhere. The theory of natural selection is NOT
"partly scientific", not if you understand in the least how science is done
and accept that scientific theory does not "spring from the facts", but is
inescapably conditioned by its social context. Note that this doesn't imply
some ulterior ideological motive (notice how conspiracy theory creeps in
here, too). There is the famous discussion of paradigm shift, when changes
in epochal world views give rise to new hypotheses and new theories, all
based on the same factual basis. The classical example is the shift from the
Ptolemaic to the Copernican view of the solar system. I should point out
that what is today known as the 'scientific method' does not attempt to
discover an unknowable, metaphysical "truth". And 'facts' don't dictate
theory, rather, theory guides our assimilation of facts and enables us to
make predictions that can be tested and falsified (in the sense of proving
false). That Darwin relied on Malthus is trivial. But, that doesn't make the
theory of natural selection wrong. Marx recognized the validity of Malthus'
theories, in the context of the capitalism of his day. As a heuristic
starting point for understanding natural selection, they have done a
tremendous service for all biology and -- I have no problem stating --
humanity. Marx' own theories, detailed in Capital, have a time stamp on
them. Does that make them wrong? Also, note that the theory of natural
selection is also well-confirmed (except for creationists). It's my area of
research, and I see it every day in concordant color patterns between model
and mimic snakes, as well as in gene frequencies among these animals.
Virtually every working biologist accepts the validity of natural selection,
based on "real, existing" research (unlike armchair critics), although most
recognize that it is not the only causal mechanism in evolution. You also
conflate Darwin's theory with social darwinism, as do the capitalists.
Nowhere did Darwin suggest that natural selection is applicable to human
society. That came after his death. That others sought to apply it in no way
discredits the theory. Stalinists have applied Marxist concepts in twisted
ways, but that hardly refutes Marx.I should also point out that Darwin did
not claim to have discovered evolution and neither did Lamarck. Both
formulated theories to explain the mechanism behind it. Darwin did unfairly
get credit where he and Alfred Russell Wallace both should have received
credit (Wallace was correct in places where Darwin was not). But, Lamarck
was wrong where Darwin was right. Period. As for the rest of your diatribe
about social darwinism, sociobiology, etc., all of these latter-day debates
are irrelevant as far as Darwin was concerned. I should point out that
biologists are not monolithic in terms of sociobiology and theories that
claim to take Darwin as their point of departure. One thing we virtually all
agree on, whether we are Marxists or republicans, is the validity of the
theory of natural selection.
Department of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History
> resemblance of Darwinism and its debate, although far more
> sophisticated, to that debate is striking. And noone is denying some
> elements of science to Darwin research.
> 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 theory is also wrong.
> generation of Malthus, the Reform Bill, and the rest. Darwin's theory
> is deeply conditioned by that cultural politics, and succeeded
> because the Whigs of that period were conservative-progressive.
> Lamarck, we have forgotten, was a bit radical, deserves the real
> credit, and died blind and forgotten. Darwin, with a claim on the
> idea of evolution that he didn't discover, gave the fact of evolution
> a bogus theory, which made it take off (and also gave it a good
> research basis, etc...). We simply don't get it. Darwin's theory is a
> half-truth claiming to be the whole truth, that is convenient for a
> capitalist society because it suggests that conflict, competition,
> and dysethical behavior, economically and otherwise, is the SOLE
> mechanism of real biological, hence cultural, evolution. It is good
> for a bad conscience, and that's the way the bigwigs think behind the
> scenes, and why Bill Gates pays his dues, and finances Dawkins.
> It is essential that this propaganda be seen at all times and at all
> places as SCIENCE, and that values of all types be eliminated from
> the theory. This requires showing that natural selection alone has
> produced ethical behavior, that is, that selfishness is the sole
> source of ethical behavior. How manage that piece de resistance?
> Surely the public will wise up, no? They found a way, sociobiological
> kin selection (and Darwin's group selection). A miracle. Altruism is
> an illusion, and springs from natural selection, as selfishness.
> Using mathematics, the theory of games, modelling, experts of all
> kinds, this is now science. And the public simply limps along, yes,
> yes.. All the nobel prize winners, not a peep. All the nasa folks,
> not a peep.
> So, is it Science or not? One thing is sure, if they change their
> story now, they have a problem.
> PS. since we are into bashing New Agers, I should note Madame
> Blavatsky figured out Darwin in one week, and snorted, "Baboon".
> Madame Blavatsky's Baboon. I am not one of her fans, that's for sure.
> But someday history will record that she took one week, and all the
> scientists, to this day, can't seem to get it.
> So, again, is selectionism the sole mechanism of evolution?
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