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Darwin-L Message Log 1:157 (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.


<1:157>From John_Wilkins@udev.monash.edu.au  Thu Sep 16 18:57:11 1993

Date: Thu, 16 Sep 1993 09:21:06 +0000
From: John Wilkins <John_Wilkins@udev.monash.edu.au>
Subject: RE>Evolution and its mechanism
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Reply to:
     RE>Evolution and its mechanism
Jeremy Ahouse asked about progressionism in evolution.

I hold the view that evolutionary processes are inherently Markov Chains; that
is, the next stage of the selection process is not determined by the last
stage's selective direction. Directionality in evolutionary processes are
therefore to be explained in terms other than natural selection and random
variation. There are two alternatives in the main that I can see:

1. Directionality is a side effect of ordinary microevolution (it will
sometimes occur, sometimes not, but there is no real cause)

2. Directionality is the result of macro-level economic trends, such as changes
in climate, biotic/abiotic resources etc.

As I believe that cultural change is at least in large part an evolutionary
process, and a darwinian one at that, I therefore believe that cultural change
is neithre inherently directional nor in any other relevant sense progressive.
There are directional changes that occur in cultural change, but they are not
the result of any evolutionary tendency, just as they are not in biological
evolution. Instead they are the result of extra-cultural trends.

In particular, I hold to the view that intellectual traditions such as science
are strongly darwinian processes that tend to adapt to changes in the
intellectual resource availability -- ultimately but not exclusively processing
time in human brains.

Eldredge's _Macroevolutionary dynamics_ has a good roundup of the issues in
biology.

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