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Darwin-L Message Log 1:61 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<1:61>From BROWNH@CCSUA.CTSTATEU.EDU  Tue Sep  7 18:24:21 1993

Date: Tue, 7 Sep 1993 19:25:36 -0400 (EDT)
From: BROWNH@CCSUA.CTSTATEU.EDU
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: re: Tom Clark's statement on ordered change

That directed or teleological processes imply a subjective criterion
of measurement is a point make eloquently a long time ago by Gaylord
Simpson.  But I don't know if it is true.  I believe that systems theory
some time ago managed to show that self-steering systems behave as if
directed, but this does not imply a metaphysical Telos outside the pro-
cess itself.  The climate, for example, is a self-steering homeostatic
process that does not imply a Telos.

My second post is that cosmic increase in entropy means that directed
change is inherent in all things.  A century ago we had vitalistic
theories that deservedly received subsequent criticism.  But when we
define things in a way that places them in a causal relation with
their environment, then we are defining them as processes.  No vitalism
as all.  And since the universal process is increasing entropy, we have
a universal measure of direction, just as we do of time, which is either
increasing or decreasing entropy.  No subjective judgement here in the
sense above.

My third point is that an important school of scientific philosophy
urges that we start with the world of experience and devise terms that
enable us to understand that world, rather than start with metaphysical
categories and then struggle to reconcile the world with those categor-
ies.

Haines Brown (brownh@ccsua.ctstateu.edu)

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