2. The Evolution Controversy   

Natural Selection
And The Oedipus Paradox 


Section 2.2.4

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon





2. The Evolution Controversy  
      2.1 The Legacy of Darwinism  
         2.1.1 Debates and Darwin Trials 
         2.1.2 Evolution and Ethics
         2.1.3 The Metaphysics of Evolution
         2.1.4 Is There A Science Of History? 
      2.2 Beyond Natural Selection 
         2.2.1 The Limits of Observation  
         2.2.2 Random Evolution: Climbing Mt. Improbable?
         2.2.3 Punctuated Equilibrium
         2.2.4 Natural Selection and The Oedipus Paradox  
      2.3 Visions of A Ghostseer  
         2.3.1 Wallace's Second Opinion  
         2.3.2 Theism/Atheism: The 'God' Debates  
         2.3.3 Critique of Evolutionary Economy  
         2.3.4 The Evolution of Evolution  
         2.3.5 The Science of Freedom  

 3. Descent Of Man Revisited 



    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

   2.2.4 Natural Selection and The Oedipus Paradox 


Science in its current form claims an objectivity of social theory that is illusory. Theories are clumsy instruments in the social sciences. We are so conditioned to the triumphs of physics, and the claims for its extension into all fields that we fail to realize what a muddle the whole thing is. A theory as potentially violent as Darwin’s should demand care in its handling. A theory is taken, in the manner of physics, as a set of universal generalizations, physical laws, and, by and large, these are true throughout space and at all times, including the future of the observer, who makes the generalization. In the transition to evolutionary ‘science’ in the period of Darwin, this mindset passed into a series of tacit assumptions about the application of science to other fields, including the biological and social sciences. Darwin’s theory of natural selection was highly desirable because it seemed to cast biological evolution in terms of a ‘law’ universally valid throughout space and at all times, including that of the observer, here, of evolution. But is such an extension valid? T. H. Huxley was one of the first to get suspicious here. Why is it that we feel compelled, he thought, to contradict the ‘law of evolution’ in practice?

We confront one of the paradoxes of evolutionary theory, one in which the observer is himself immersed in evolution, where he is constructing theories that might cause his own behavior to change in the present. This paradox is relatively unimportant with respect to the vistas of deep time, but assumes greater and greater importance as ‘evolution’, albeit transforming into history by our definition, closes on the present. This results in the ‘non-linear’ self-interaction of agent and theory in the present. Consider the difference in your behavior if you believe, or disbelieve, in Darwin’s theory. Popper also indicated one aspect of this in what he called the Oedipus paradox :

The idea that a prediction may have influence upon the predicted event is a very old one. Oedipus, in the legend, killed his father whom he had never seen before; and this was the direct result of the prophecy, which had caused his father to abandon him. This is why I suggest the name ‘Oedipus effect’ for the influence of the prediction upon the predicted event.[i]

Our beliefs about natural selection contain a subtle prediction about what will happen if we ‘act out the theory’. We can see from the eonic effect that no higher culture will be the result! Quite the contrary. If the rules of the game were survival of the fittest the long term trend toward empire would go unchecked, and democracy and equalization, connected with freedom induction, would be superfluous.

If we assume that natural selection is ‘how things are’, the source of all higher complexity, we put a premium on its ‘mechanism’, e.g. competition, and the ‘acting out’ of selectionist presumption as a curiously inverted ethic. We should be wary that something is missing in our understanding! Clearly the generalization about selection must be false, somewhere. We can see this if we consider this paradox: if survival of the fittest produces altruism, then won’t more competition produce greater altruism? Shouldn’t we disregard ethics and altruistic action long enough to produce more ethically altruistic men? This contradiction takes many forms, and strongly suggests, independently of the evidence (which isn’t provided in any case) that natural selection is a false generalization, and that a ‘boundary present’ issue must be taken into consideration in theories of evolution, as opposed to theories of physics.

Physical laws are statements about carefully defined massive objects. Evolutionary generalizations are about organisms, and the character of these entities is never systematically defined, or observed, and their character changes over time. The generalization by natural selection, apparently, stretches from the beginning of life, to the emergence of man, and therefore to man’s present, and, evidently his future, since, by definition, that is the nature of a ‘law’.

Let us note the flood of fallacies that emerge here. All of these organisms show a distinct increase in their degrees of freedom (which may mean no more than the evolution of locomotion) with time, and with man this seems to cross a threshold where an ‘active will’ (which need not be ‘free will’) can select a set of options, no doubt still within the grip of physical law, that will alter or simply create the future. The extraordinary question arises here: what if he adopts a ‘theory about natural selection’ as the basis of his action?! Or even the option to negate this theory! Note the contradiction. A ‘law’ should operate at all times without choice from an observer. But man, having evolved a higher degree of freedom, could choose to consciously mimic what he thought the ‘law’ of natural selection, taking this as grounds for the abandonment of other factors in his decision, including ethical restraints. Since natural selection naturally suggests competition and conflict, he puts a premium on such conflict, with, to make matters worse, a spurious teleological expectation about the ‘future value’ of such conflict, as opposed to ethical restraint.

What has gone wrong here? Clearly in a passive organism without an active will, an ‘evolutionary law’ might apply, but in an organism with an active will, and mind, the idea of the theory becomes a thinkable idea that can influence action, and this will turn into a possibly confused bogus form of mental software: I should act according to ‘law’. The obvious answer is that ‘evolutionary laws’ don’t exist in the sense of ‘physical laws’! We need a new kind of ‘theory’ for evolution, one that can define its domain of application, the type of organism it refers to, specify the temporal coordinates of the observer and creator of a theory, and be so specified that it will apply only to the observer’s past, and never his present or future, since he always has option to ‘do otherwise’, contradict, or falsify that ‘law’. For this and many other reasons, we must suspect that Darwin’s generalization is simply false, a subtle fallacy of reductionism misapplied.

Some new kind of evolution has appeared long ago to produce mind, an active will, and, indeed, science itself. Man has, all along, passed through an ‘evolutionary process’ of some other kind that ‘evolves’ his potential to act, and act ethically. It is hard to see how natural selection could ever foot the bill here. And any generalization must take into account the ‘turning point’ after which future of prediction by ‘law’ is voided. Theories with temporal domains, and referring only to the past of the theorist/observer are not contradictory, and we will attempt to produce one for the so-called eonic effect, and its distinct species of ‘evolution’. We must produce a theory about the ‘evolution of freedom’.

We will use the term ‘Oedipus Paradox’ for this phenomenon of theories. This ‘Oedipus Paradox’, a term from Karl Popper, is a sign of an improperly constructed theory, and will be discussed further in Chapter Four. It arises from the failure to define the boundary of history (the chronicle of the ‘will to act’), and evolution (the emergence of passive organisms). In some embarrassment we wake up to the way in which the visible surface of ‘jungle life’ and the spectacle of natural selection has hoodwinked us into a false generalization about evolution.

As we discover the eonic effect, we will see this problem resolved by creating a new kind of historical model that unites in tandem the definitions of ‘evolution and history’, the one emerging from the other. ‘Evolution’ is always seen looking backwards, and never applies directly to the free potential of the present, and the agent acting out history. In the interaction of these two we see the direct appearance of ethical evolution/behavior, induced and ‘free’, or on the way to being free, its evolution and self-evolution (i.e. history) connected yet separate. It’s pretty obvious, with this new model, an ethical override arrives to induce a ‘should’ about murder and botched theories with their inducements of mayhem.

The Oedipus Paradox: Emergence Of Social Darwinism As we examine the implications of the Oedipus paradox, and consider the ethics involved in the assertion of evolutionary, and indeed, ethical theories, we see the way Social Darwinism arises as a consequence of ill-conceived theories. The option to ‘act according to the law of evolution’, survival of the fittest, natural selection (death of the competitor) informs the agent, who proceeds to violent means, sure in his rejection of ethics of the grounding in science of biological law. Unscrupulous warmongers are handed a gift of legitimation by Darwin’s shortsighted theory. To inject the theory of natural selection into the culture of his time without any specification of the domains of its application was the source of the hopeless confusion that arose in Darwin’s wake, leading to the entanglements of Social Darwinism. Herbert Spencer is partly to blame here, but he never proposed the facts of social competition as a universal explanation for evolution.

Consider, then, the non-linear self-interaction of theory and history, a possibility current science never examines, assuming an objective observer, able to formulate laws, although he is actually time-bound, with an ambiguous present. How will a theory taken as true by induced belief alter present behavior in the agent of theory? Apply that to the idea of conflict for survival. Notice the difference between what is observed in the past among unconscious organisms and what is taken as a theory about that, in the present, given the conscious subjectivity of the observer. Here theory is suddenly an historical variable. The record speaks for itself here. The belief in natural selection tends toward a de facto revision of ethical assumptions. Its promotion can become a Machiavellian strategy.

The metaphor of a trial, hence a crime, is ironically appropriate for a subject as ridden with dangerous potential for criminal suggestion as Darwin’s theory, with its legacy of Social Darwinism , from which Darwin himself is forever being exempted, even as the subtitle of his book gives the game away, and all blame is foisted on Spencer. Lest that be gainsaid, the innuendo in that subtitle is clear. Atrocious potential contradictions lurk in all improperly defined historical theories.

With dangerous theories the result of the Oedipus paradox can be a calamity. The assumption, without verification, that survival of the fittest, hence conflict, leads to biological innovations, then applied to social evolution, induces ‘theory realization’ in the expectation of a future good. We should define the ‘coefficient of murder’ in units of ‘casualties per paradigm shift’ as the measure of the downfield consequences as mayhem in the action of those who ‘thought the theory correct’ in its paradigm span, and took the theory into their own hands as scientific law voiding considerations of ethics. Darwinism has a very high coefficient here in the emergence of Social Darwinism.

Theories of evolution are historically embedded, observations looking backward toward the past, and scramble the time domain of the theory’s application, as they assume a universal generalization that overflows into the present and future. Thus ill-conceived they might induce ‘acting out the theory’ as a paradoxical ‘should’. We could then study the historical course of the theory and measure its casualty rate.

 The point is that we should always take theories provisionally, if this self-interaction of theory and agent is based on speculative interpretations of the never closely observed evolutionary record. The confusion arises, no doubt, from the analogue of economic behavior.

Darwin on trial. Let the virtual theory trial proceed on a philosophical basis. Given its record Darwinism is certainly on trial, and we need not gush with scientific enthusiasm confronted with the real legacy of the potential ‘repeat offender’. Since Darwinists are often more ethical than the violent religionists supposed the upholders of the sacred, we may be forced to dismiss the case on the grounds of ‘theoretical idiocy’. We can proceed with Darwingate, what they knew and when they knew it, to sort the dupes from the hypocrites, and many texts here are transparently deceptive, especially once we see how peer review and the Darwin book market influence veracity. So the record speaks for itself. And the supine accessories in the social sciences bludgeoned into bad jargon by the ‘Two Cultures’ debate won’t get off lightly either. Given the legacy of eugenics and the Holocaust, we must be at all points vigilant promotion of this theory means what its adherents say it means, which means ‘genocide’ in the pursuit of population tampering in some conspiracy of evolution. The legacy of eugenics warns us these are not idle speculations. Darwin’s  theory is an accident waiting to happen. 



   Web:  chap2_2_4.htm


[i] Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism, (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 13.





Last modified: 09/21/2010