Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Next Evolution

The Next Evolution 5

Some clarifications

To begin with, I am to say that, I am not a scientist, not a biologist, though my search and research is as a student of Philosophy, with a special emphasis in the Philosophy and Teaching of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother [Mira Alfassa]. I am a humble seeker of Truth, and that is the reason why I have read some scientific literature, as much and as thorough as possible, as required in the search and research of Philosophy. It is aptly said, Philosophy begins when Science ends.

In The Next Evolution 4, I wrote :

"From the scientific viewpoint, now man is at the apex of Evolution.

"This statement was commented by someone in barinchaki.sulekha.com as follows :

“I have never heard any serious scientist make a ludicrous claim like that. Would you cite research publications that arrive at that conclusion. This is a popular myth that most scientists try to correct.” The comment is quoted below.*

I am making some references below which will demonstrate that serious and real scientists are / were there on earth who holds / held the same view, as that of mine.
1. Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975), a Russian geneticist, said in his famous 1973 essay Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution :
“A biologic species does not say to itself, "Let me try tomorrow (or a million years from now) to grow in a different soil, or use a different food, or subsist on a different body part of a different crab." Only a human being could make such conscious decisions. This is why the species Homo sapiens is the apex of evolution [Note by Evowiki : Dobzhansky is not suggesting humans are the purpose of evolution….]
2. Edward L. Crisp, Ph.D., Professor of Geology, West Virginia University at Parkersburg, writes in his essay ORGANIC EVOLUTION :

“Classification of Organisms: classifying organisms into groups based on their similarities. A formal classification of organisms into major groups was devised by the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1798) during the late 1700s. The Linnaeus system of classification is a hierarchical scheme, as one proceeds up the classification ladder the categories become more inclusive. Obviously Linnaeus used similarities of shared characters to relate organisms into groups, however, he believed in the immutability of species and thought his classification reflected God's plan, from simple primitive organisms to complex organisms with man at the apex.

3. Constance Areson Clark writes in his essay "Evolution for John Doe** : Pictures, and the Scopes Trial Debate " in Journal of American History, 87 (March 2001), 1275-1301 that man is the culminating point in Evolution :

“Many of the diagrams designed by Osborn and his colleagues at the American Museum of Natural History resembled Darwin's diagram in their bushiness, especially those illustrating the concept Osborn named "adaptive radiation," the diversification of related organisms as they adapt to different environments. Darwin's branching concept of evolution was not, however, the primary image offered to the public in diagrams of the 1920s. A characteristic example is the tree (figure 4.) in Benjamin C. Gruenberg's The Story of Evolution, a highly stylized, conventionalized rendering, including no information about time or extinction, conveying the impression that there is a single "main line" of evolution, culminating in "man" (in a suit!).

Thus we find that some scientists of worth and fame accept and state that man or the Homo sapiens is the apex of evolution.

No more, then, is this statement Man is at the apex of evolution is ludicrous, as scientists, including geologists are sayimg so.


The comment referred to Stephen Jay Gould :
“This centuries most noted evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould spent a large part of his career decimating what
he called the idea of the "Ladder of Progress" citing evolution as a progressive march from the worms , culminating in

Thus, Stephen Jay Gould had the main objection with the idea of Ladder of progress. I have never used the idea of the Ladder of progress, for that was / is not the purpose of my essay.

Anyhow, there were / are several scientist who totally disagreed with Gould. Professor John Maynard Smith, (6 January 1920 – 19 April 2004), a British evolutionary biologist and geneticist, was one of them. About him, let me quote from Wikipedia :

“Maynard Smith thought that Gould trivialized the role of adaptation, and criticised Gould's periodic invocation of large scale mutations. In a review of Daniel Dennett's book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Maynard Smith wrote that Gould "is giving non-biologists a largely false picture of the state of evolutionary theory.

“One reason for such criticism was that Gould appeared to be presenting his ideas as a revolutionary way of understanding evolution, which relegated natural selection to a much less important position. As a result, many non-specialists inferred from his early writings that Darwinian explanations had been proven to be unscientific (which Gould never wanted to imply). His works were sometimes used out of context as a "proof" that scientists no longer understood how organisms evolved, giving creationists ammunition in their battle against evolutionary theory. Gould himself corrected some of these misinterpretations and distortions of his writings in later works. "

Another such Scientist is Clinton Richard Dawkins (born March 26, 1941), who is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.
Dawkins writes in his book Human Chauvinism :
“To evolution: is it progressive? Gould’s definition of progress is a human-chauvinistic one which makes it all too easy to deny progress in evolution. I shall show that if we use a less anthropocentric, more biologically sensible, more ‘adaptationist’ definition, evolution turns out to be clearly and importantly progressive in the short to medium term. In another sense it is probably progressive in the long term too…xxx xxx xxx xxx
“Gould is wrong to say that the appearance of progress in evolution is a statistical illusion. … To be sure, complexity, braininess and other particular qualities dear to the human ego should not necessarily be expected to increase progressively in a majority of lineages – though it would be interesting if they did…. But if you define progress less chauvinistically – if you let the animals bring their own definition – you will find progress, in a genuinely interesting sense of the word, nearly everywhere.
Now it is important to stress that, on this adaptationist view (unlike the ‘evolution of evolvability’ view to be discussed shortly), progressive evolution is to be expected only on the short to medium term. Coevolutionary arms races may last for millions of years but probably not hundreds of millions. Over the very long timescale, asteroids and other catastrophes bring evolution to a dead stop, major taxa and entire radiations go extinct. Ecological vacuums are created, to be filled by new adaptive radiations driven by new ranges of arms races. The several arms races between carnivorous dinosaurs and their prey were later mirrored by a succession of analogous arms races between carnivorous mammals and their prey. Each of these successive and separate arms races powered sequences of evolution which were progressive in my sense.…
“Ironically for such an eloquent foe of progress, Gould flirts with the idea that evolution itself changes over the long haul, but he puts it in a topsy turvy way which has undoubtedly been widely misleading.… For Gould, evolution in the Cambrian was a different kind of process from evolution today. The Cambrian was a period of evolutionary ‘experiment’, evolutionary ‘trial and error’, evolutionary ‘false starts’. It was a period of ‘explosive’ invention, before evolution stabilised into the humdrum process we see today. It was the fertile time when all the great ‘fundamental body plans’ were invented. Nowadays, evolution just tinkers with old body plans. Back in the Cambrian, new phyla and new classes arose. Nowadays we only get new species!
“Gould expects us to be surprised. Why? The view that he is attacking - that evolution marches inexorably towards a pinnacle such as man - has not been believed for 50 years. But his quixotic strawmandering, his shameless windmill-tilting, seem almost designed to encourage misunderstanding (not for the first time: on a previous occasion he went so far as to write that the neo-Darwinian synthesis was ‘effectively dead’!). The following is typical of the publicity surrounding Wonderful Life (incidentally, I suspect that the lead sentence was added without the knowledge of the credited journalist): "The human race did not result from the ‘survival of the fittest’, according to the eminent American professor, Stephen Jay Gould. It was a happy accident that created Mankind" (Daily Telegraph, 22nd January 1990). Such twaddle, of course, is nowhere to be found in Gould, but whether or not he seeks that kind of publicity he all too frequently attracts it. Readers regularly gain the impression that he is saying something far more radical and surprising than he actually is.”
Quoting all these extracts is, no doubt, have nothing much to do with The Next Evolution, excepting that I have to take necessary steps in order to clear off the mist created in the atmosphere by the reference to Gould. We find above, in the quotations from Smith and Dawkins, that in Evolution, there may not be any Ladder, but there is Progress! Evolution is progressive.

Besides Science, even in Philosophy and Mysticism, there are schools of thought which speak of the human being to be the apex of evolution. Let us see what Julio Savi has written in his book on Bahai faith — The Eternal Quest for God :

“When we study the phenomena of the world of creation, we will see how `... all phenomena of being attain to a summit and degree of consummation, after which a new order and condition is established'. This concept applies also to the world of creation as a whole: man is the apex of the evolutionary process of the world of creation, its `fruit', its `degree of consummation'. But since the evolutionary process must necessarily go forward, in man `a new order and condition' must appear, and such is that condition which Bahá'ís call spiritual, others metaphysical.”

What I wrote in The Next Evolution 4 is not “a re-iteration of the popular belief of what science is all about.” That was / is the comment that has been made, an insignificant comment which itself is ludicrous, baseless and unfounded. My essay is not about what is Science, rather it is about something which is beyond Science, but not against or contrary to Science. Nor do I accept the popular belief about Science to be the real Scince. The difference is well known to me.
The person commenting said : Real science is...well...different.

This is not the definition of Science. Science is not mystic poetry, so that you can describe it as something which is indescribable. A real student of Science should be specific and definite, not vague, poetic, mystic.

Wikipedia describes Science as follows :

Science in the broadest sense refers to any system of objective knowledge. In a more restricted sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method, as well as to the organized body of knowledge humans have gained by such research. There are different points of view regarding the scientific method: Methodological naturalism maintains that scientific investigation must adhere to empirical study and independent verification as a process for properly developing and evaluating natural explanations for observable phenomena. Methodological naturalism typically, therefore, rejects supernatural explanations, arguments from authority and biased observational studies. Critical rationalism instead holds that unbiased observation is not possible and a demarcation between natural and supernatural explanations is arbitrary; it instead proposes falsifiability as the landmark of scientific theories and falsification as the universal scientific method. (This approach has been generalized to pancritical rationalism.) Instrumentalism rejects the concept of truth and emphasizes merely the utility of theories as instruments for explaining and predicting phenomena. Fields of science are commonly classified along two major lines:
Natural sciences, which study natural phenomena, and Social sciences, which study human behavior and societies.


The purpose of this series of essays by me is neither to define or describe Science nor to state that Man is the culmination of Evolution. The aim is to speak of the Next Evolution, definitely after and beyond Man. I had to post these clarifications today on the face of the comment made, so that what I am to present as the Next Evolution is not misunderstood. As I have said, the Leaders of the Next Evolution are Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and I am presenting things here inspired by Them and in Their light.

[* It was commented by protobion on The Next Evolution 4 in barinchaki.sulekha.com, as follows:

"From the scientific viewpoint, now man is at the apex of Evolution."

With all due respect, I have never heard any serious scientist make a ludicrous claim like that. Would you cite research publications that arrive at that conclusion. This is a popular myth that most scientists try to correct. This centuries most noted evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould spent a large part of his career decimating what he called the idea of the "Ladder of Progress" citing evolution as a progressive march from the worms , culminating in Humans. I do not blame you, not do I which criticize, but much of your post seems a re-iteration of the popular belief of what science is all about. Real science is...well...different.

Dare I say, that you are no scientist, or at the very least, certainly no biologist?]

[** The name John Doe is typically used as a placeholder name for a male party in a legal action or legal discussion whose true identity is unknown A female who is not known is often referred to as Jane Doe. A child or baby whose identity is unknown can be referred to as Baby Doe, or as Precious Doe. Additional people in the same family may be called James Doe, Judy Doe, etc. Commonly used in the United States of America, though rarely used now in developed countries.
The Doe names are often, though not always, used for anonymous or unknown defendants.]

[Simultaneously published in barinchaki.sulekha.com. and in barin.zaadz.com.]

Barindranath Chaki

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