[Marxism] Re: human origins

Paul H. Dillon illonph at pacbell.net
Wed Aug 10 08:57:21 MDT 2005


The idea that Darwin had no "idea" as to what accounted for natural 
selection is somewhat misleading since the process of "breeding" was very 
well known and the key "fact" that individual traits are passed from parent 
to child.  What wasn't undestood was that these small changes to individuals 
might be connected differences between species.  If he didn't know it was 
DNA, or even the "chromosome" as it was understood from the 1890s through 
1950s, he did know it was in the sperm and ovum .  A plant breeder (Mendel) 
is the one who figured out the pattern of inheritance but of course didn't 
connect it to Darwin's theory.

If Gould is right, about the level of selection, then the supposed 
efficiency of the genetic cause will come to be seen as something like the 
apparent position of the stars and planets as seen from earth, with a 
correspondingly large shift in the paradigm for accounting for species. 
Good for socialist ideology, bad for capitalist ideology, all of which is 
well known.

Paul Dillon



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "David McDonald" <dbmcdonald at comcast.net>
To: "Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition" 
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2005 7:00 AM
Subject: RE: [Marxism] Re: human origins


> It is not true, as John Enyang writes, that "new species, by definition, 
> can
> only arise
>> from "significant change" in a population of an existing species, for
>> otherwise the terms themselves are rendered meaningless."
>
> This is not about definitions, but about the most significant challenge to
> Darwinism since it became the generally accepted theory of evolution. New
> species can arise, for instance, when some portion of a species  is cut 
> off
> from the main population for whatever reason.
>
> The CORE of Darwin's argument for natural selection as the main driving
> force in evolition is that natural selection proceeds by a unending series
> of small changes in individual organisms, each specific change conferring 
> a
> selective advantage for that organism and leading to its differential
> reproductive success and thus eventually the "fixing" of the particular
> change in the population. This explanation works well for some things, 
> like
> the evolution of vision, where even the smallest evolutionary change
> allowing an organism to respond to contrast confers an enormous advantage.
> The problem comes about when it is realized that evidence for a chain of
> small changes, each conferring a selective advantage, is exceedingly rare 
> in
> nature. (Darwin himself, an exceedingly honest scientist, acknowledged 
> this
> difficulty with his theory). Hence Gould's hypothesis of punctuated
> equilibrium, which at the very least describes the data.
>
> This is the esssence of his fight with Richard Dawkins. For, if some other
> process it as work beyond the gradual accumulation of changes that reach a
> qualitative point, as it must be for punctuated equilibrium to be 
> accurate,
> that process must be identified and the theory of evolution must be 
> adapted
> to encompass it. So far, Gould and people who agree with him have 
> described,
> but not explained the higher order mechanism they assert is happening
> ("higher order" meaning not spiritual, but evolution operating on a level
> other than that of the individual organism). If evolution proceeds by a
> gradual accumulation of individually small changes, for instance, why 
> would
> there be the observable "rigor" or "liveliness" of evolutionary change in
> the beginning of the historical run of a genus or family, which suddenly
> peters out into "equilibrium?"  Dawkins asserts flatly that Gould's 
> approach
> abandons Darwin, while Gould's "Structure of Evolutionary Theory" is a 
> very,
> very extended argument that his insight into punctuated equilibrium
> preserves the "core" of Darwinism while adapting the theory overall to fit
> the observed facts.
>
> It appears to me that things are at approximately the point that the
> discussion of continental drift had reached when I was in college.
> Continental drift was, at that time, considered a quaint theory based on
> observations about the way the continents would seem to "fit together" if
> smushed and on otherwise unexplained continuities of animal and plant
> distribution in far-flung parts of the world. It was dismissed because no
> evidence existed for any mechanism that could push the continents around.
> Then along came plate tectonics and suddenly continental drift became a
> satisfactory explanation for the facts. It is not at all unusual for facts
> to precede adequate theorizing. One of the amazing things about Darwin's
> work is that he got so far without the slightest hint at what caused
> variation, which was not understood until almost one hundred years after 
> the
> publication of The Origin of Species.
>
>
>
>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu
>> [mailto:marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu]On Behalf Of John Enyang
>> Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 7:29 PM
>> To: marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
>> Subject: Re: [Marxism] Re: human origins
>>
>>
>> Carrol Cox writes:
>> >
>> > Repeat: Most species, very nearly all of multi-cellular species, remain
>> > biologically stable, with no significant change, during their whole
>> > existence. See the passages in Gould's work that argue "absence is
>> > data."
>> > Carrol
>> >
>> While I agree with the general thrust of Carrol's argument, the statement
>> above is close to tautological: new species, by definition, can only 
>> arise
>> from "significant change" in a population of an existing species, for
>> otherwise the terms themselves are rendered meaningless.
>>
>> Is the way around this to say that populations of species generally 
>> remain
>> biologically stable over time, change being punctuated?
>> je
>>
>>
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