Re: The evolution of "evolution"

From: Derek Gatherer (
Date: Wed 26 Oct 2005 - 08:49:17 GMT

  • Next message: John Wilkins: "Re: The evolution of "evolution""

    At 09:31 26/10/2005, John Wilkins wrote:

    >But of course most speciation now is in fact thought to occur through
    >random variation and random fixation rather than by selection as
    >Darwin thought. There's good reason to think that some speciation is
    >due to selection, but not much. I worry that we think only that
    >Darwinian evolution is about selection (natural or sexual), when in
    >fact another really deep aspect of his view is common descent, and
    >this is not tied now to selection.

    At the moment I'm re-reading "Descent of Man", having dug up a first edition in the university library. One thing that really sticks out is how Lamarckian Darwin had become by the 1870s (there's repeated reference to habits becoming hereditary), and how group selectionist he was as well (regarding tribes "supplanting" each other). He's also quite eugenical in places, but he makes it clear that he is not advocating culling of the inadequate, merely restrictions on their breeding. From a memetical point of view, the interesting thing is that despite a few analogies drawn between species and languages, there is no indication of any belief that culture has a separate evolutionary dynamic - it's all about superior mental faculties allowing better inventions. He underlines this with an anti-diffusionist statement that most aspects of primitive culture were probably separately invented within each culture. It's all quite similar to what Pinker has said recently about the brain
    "secreting" culture like the stomach secretes acid.

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