Bourgeois Science-How about Darwinism?

Greg Schofield g_schofield at
Sun Dec 2 18:33:44 MST 2001

John just read your reply to Stan and I can see some confusion about Darwinism which should be addressed.

Natural selection cannot explain consciousness, nor does it intend to. Natural selection makes available the biological presuppositions of consciousness, but consciousness cannot be explained via it. I think you have mistaken some severe over-extensions of Darwinism for Darwinism proper.

To have large brained, co-oporative animals (proto-humans) is perfectly within the ambit of evolution as made known by Darwin. To have such animals capable of basic speech and grammar (both of which appear to be hard-wired into our brains) is likewise explicable, along with hard-wired facial communications and some other tendencies. Natural Selection is not only adequate for such things it is indispensible.

The next step, steming from these biological advantages and linked with a long history of social behaviour (of the animal kind), was made possible by selection and I hardly think there is a reasonable dispute on this. However, consciousness itself has no such logic.

Natural selection acts on individuals, even when these are social-animals, but a fully socialisied animal (distinct fromm animal-like social behaviour), severely blunts this biological force, what becomes dominant is the evolution of that society which no longer follows the main forces of biological evolution, natural selection of individuals (which continues but with much less force) does not effect the society - social development is a result of social history and is by nature a collective (natural selection has to work on individual animals to effect breeding success, changes in the collective form - the specieis - is a by-product, but selection never touches a species just the individuals within it).

The origins of consciousness lie within the history of society, biology provided a large associative brain, the means of organising it via language but developed them not for the prupose of consciousness, but for more immediate advanatages (complex language allowing complex social responses, a complex brain to hold it all in).

Ironically without social development this path in evolution was doomed. The excessive growth of brain size is actually a deficit (needing much energy to feed it and not being as useful as we normally expect - much of it being dead wieght doing nothing but eating up energy). There was at some point in a biological history some enormous environmental stress, something so novel that an excess of brainy matter was a small price to pay for the flexibility it gave - if we had not developed socially, then this biological advantage would have soon turned into a severe disadvantage, small brained off-spring would be far more successful otherwise (better tailored for survival - trading large unused and expensive to maintain grey-matter for a brain designed specifically to be no larger than required).

This ironic twist seems to go unnoticed, so convininced are we that biological evolution leads to us. It does not, biological evolution actually points away from socialisied consciousness for the biological form needed to contain it makes very little biological sense based on natural selection of individuals (we tend to be big-brained biased in our reading of natural history - it is a mistake - being big brained with no particular purpose is a deficit - nervous systems are espensive to maintain, animals which adapt well to their environments tend to narrow down and specialise it as an advantage - eating less and doing more rather than feeding to pump energy into something that sits in permanent neutral).

Being social animals and by luck for some temporary reason (these things are relative) we ended up with a large flexible brain and a hard-wired ability to vocalise in complex patterns (even when the vocal ability is absent the hard-wired patterning remains in all but some unfortunates).

Before consciousness, we were made ready for it, but the key is demanding social organisation which preserved individuals who would otherwise fall by the wayside of natural selection and allowed them to further contribute to the social whole. The biological success of social organisation virtually brought to an end the biological evolution (I would point to the different and superficial race differences, all the major varieties of which are explained by environmental extremes where a mild form of natural selection and genetic drift changed appearances  - the harsh sun of the tropical grasslands, the dark forests, the semi-artic, none of which are rich environments - existing there was a hard won battle of social organisation against biological forces).

Social articulation, the completely different and so far virtually unexplored forces of social evolution are a negation of biological selection, but within this rests the growth of consciousness as a social product. The tendency of Darwinists to reduce this to biological imperatives is a typical case of the reductionism involved when a science strays from its subject material and applies the wrong logic to the wrong example.

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

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Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2001 19:44:50 -0500
Subject: Re: Bourgeois Science-How about Darwinism?

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