2. The Evolution Controversy

The Science of Freedom 


Section 2.3.5

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

   2.3.5 The Science of Freedom


From Newton to the period of Kant we see a full cycle of a dialectic that resulted in the distinction of human and natural sciences. This period seems lost to us and we live in the secondary downfield arising in the emergence of scientism as a universal discourse. The Science Wars, and the Two Cultures debate, are really echoes of this period near the climax of the Enlightenment when a deeper dimension to rationality was explored against the backdrop of the Romantic movement, and much else. The point for us will be in something like Kant’s distinction of theoretical and practical reason. Whatever we think of his formulation something like it is always present, as a challenge to the reductionist monism ambitious to mechanize all explanation. This distinction is not hard to find in current science. That said, the original formulation of the eonic model consisted of studying systems theory, quantum formalism, artificial life and computer concepts, with Newtonian mechanics in the background. The transition to Kantian ideas and the philosophy of history is a subsequent stage. To complete the project of science would require a science of freedom.

We should acknowledge a certain irony in the use of this phrase. This ‘science’ is, of course, the great storm-tossed vessel of Romantic Naturphilosophie, visible in the metaphysical continuations to Kant seen in a figure such as Hegel, with his classic thematic of an ‘evolution of freedom’, ‘evolution’ a term he did not use. We might think this vessel was lost at sea, and the collapse of Hegelianism in the period of Comte signals the onset of a positivistic era that swings to an opposite extreme, a reduced methodological naturalism deaf to its inherent dilemma. We might be counseled to bypass Hegelian mysteries, but take with us a preposterous question. If one were so Hegelian as to rewrite foundations armed with Spinoza, then does not the grand opera of Idealism constitute a form of methodological naturalism? Like the smile of the Cheshire Cat this joker in the deck lurks in the reshuffled tarot of modern science, if that be a transient episode of scientism, with its recurrent, muffled cries of ‘Back to Kant’, maybe even Newton, the real one.

Modern science is an attempt to derive the unity of nature in the context of fundamental laws, working upward in a kind of ‘bootstrap’ that is itself reminiscent of the evolutionary. This attitude is as essential as it is misleading. Bootstrap is an historical ‘subhistory’ interacting with general history. We are left with a haunting question. Does physics really apply to reality, to human reality? Reductionism is an essential part of our own argument. And yet we are left to wonder. Look at the desert of theory left behind by the whole initiative of science in the cultural realm.

From Newton to Quantum Mechanics, theoretical bootstrap proceeds on the majestic subtleties of the differential equation, and then, at the threshold of life, squawks like a radio moving between stations. Are we really sure reductionism can do evolution? In general, the means of explanation is both evolving inside a larger system and being used to explain that system. Should culture adapt to each paradigm change or wait until the end times of theory to draw its conclusions? One trap is that a teleological system might evolve anti-teleological sciences teleologically and then find the result wrongly applied to the whole. The deficit between the latest upgrade to the definition of reductionism, and out of date explanations, is already a force to be reckoned with in the consideration of any kind of theory at all. Social science is out of sync with the evolution of physics, and ended up negating the surer insights of our transitional figures, and their careful groundwork for the human sciences, to coexist with the natural sciences.

It is important to remember the history of this reductionism in physics, where, for example, the phenomena of electro-magnetism were ‘reduced’ only after they were first discovered as independent empirical realities. Therefore, our first search is in the field of phenomena. Further, each ‘small’ step sees a tailor-made addition of mathematical methods, with an exotic change of character in the fundamentals as the mathematics of Quantum Mechanics is discovered, at a deeper level of ‘reduction’, voiding the previous set. The issue of reduction is then quite unclear, and does not preempt the nature of phenomena very ‘distant’ from these sources. Finally, one should wonder if the new world of mathematical logic discovered by Kurt Gödel, with its issues of consistency and incompleteness do not impinge directly on the issues of evolution as it ‘stretches’ to encompass the vast domain of separate things. We can detect the failure of bootstrap in the sudden decompression as substandard mathematical foundations in population genetics (despite the great interest in this subject). The plug-in ‘force’ argument is absent, and ad hoc substitution of randomness is all we see. Sight unseen we suspect the failure to observe deep time is misleading theory.

Although the attitude of modern ‘bootstrap reductionism’ in the best sense of seeking the unity of nature on the bedrock of physical laws should be our starting point, or at least a reference point, in practice, issues of evolution are doomed to be empirical mapmaking before they can aspire to being theoretical derivations of first principles. It is often assumed that the application of the causal determinism implied by the use of differential equations in such fields as population genetics or the macro-economic model are ‘scientific’ whilst all other approaches are subjective. The truth is probably very far, if not the reverse, from this. In a nutshell, we will discover that science can as yet claim no generally viable theory of evolution. The confusion over history and the descent of man is but one gray area where the assumptions of reductionism produce pseudo-evolutionary theory.

It is the distinction of facts and values that returns to haunt all theories of evolution , as does the so-called ‘naturalistic fallacy’, whereby the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’ are to endure mutual quarantine. The charge of metaphysics is laid against the claims of all violators of these protocols. But then no theory is possible, for the elimination of values may fail to account for the phenomena observed, here the association of religious evolution and periodicity, and the parallel exploration of a spectrum of values.

Systems, Selves, Self-organizations The category beyond Darwin needed has been found, self-organization. But the actual use of this category never seems to succeed. The resemblance of the eonic data, our turning points, to patterns considered in theories of self-organizing systems is too close (and yet too hopelessly fuzzy) to reject and one is drawn into an immediate inspection of their content. We cannot adapt current theories of ‘self-organization’ to the eonic effect in any rigorous fashion, and yet at the same time this category, taken if necessary as a mere metaphor, is the only one open to us. There is also a pronounced tendency to confuse or collate these theories of self-organization with the ‘self-organization ’ of economic systems. That is not at all our usage. Culture does not self-organize in the fashion of economic systems.

Indeed it is at the point of seeing the limits here that we can retreat and devise a new type of model, but as a form of bare periodization. It is possible, in a pinch, to produce a block diagram of a refrigerator or an automobile without understanding the foundations of mechanism. In the same way we can devise an ‘eonic model’ to see ‘how history works’ in the sense of what it does, at a high level.

Computer Mice The realm of computer science shows us the most obvious example of something like our coming distinction of mixture histories, ‘system’ and ‘free action’. Thus science is already tackling this question in its hybrid systems of computer mechanics, and the code for a computer mouse  is most provocative in this sense.

Something like the functionality of a computer mouse must be involved in any genuine statement of historical law in the sense that one system idles while another acts, and must match coordinates, on the computer screen, with events to receive input ‘geographically’. It is interesting that the programming tactic for a computer mouse is a ‘do…while’, or ‘wait until input’ statement that does not execute except in relation to free activity. The computer mouse is clearly evident in the macroeconomic study of the economic cycle, as data from ‘just before’ is recycled into ‘free action’ modification of a system in motion. This system of agent and machine is worthy of reflection, because it contains the seeds of a new approach to science.

There is a symbolic significance to this humble situation. Two circumstances, the physical and the human, are given at the start of a session of interaction, without the derivation of one from the other. In the same way, human psychology is an historical given. We cannot safely derive it in advance from a theory of evolution on the basis of selectionist theory. In general, we wish to derive consciousness from some prior system in a scheme of absolute reduction. But is that possible? We are better off taking two independent realities, as given, at the beginning of our discussion. In the process we look at the history of man’s attempt at self-understanding, and that includes the ‘present of theory’.

System Action/Free Action This is but one of many examples where we deal with tandem systems uniting the operation of that system , and a field of options in the context of that system. Such a system may or may not be deterministic, at a higher level, but the point is that within the system context, optionality is a given. This ‘freedom’ factor requires us to examine the field of realized choice against the backdrop of the system operation. As we examine the eonic effect, this kind of analysis is our best strategy of explanation.

The Newton Riddle We should note that modern scientists would not find Newton , strictly speaking, one of their number, given his interest in the argument by design, and his realization of the limits of his subject. As one historian of eighteenth century biology notes, the foundational Newton at the threshold of modern physics exempted the human will from the laws of momentum, and found divinity implicit as the sensorium of space as a necessary adjunct to cosmic function.[i]

And it was the philosopher Kant, among others, who moved to bring a theory of stellar evolution into this void where the argument by design was, as in the era of Darwin, still entangled in the deliberations of the new science. A similar resolution of the question of human will has never been successful. We should note at least that the real Newton is almost a foreigner in the era of successful scientific worldviews, and concerned himself with the full spectrum of questions from the theological to the occult and alchemical later discarded as irrational in the coming worldview.

The scientist Kant is forgotten, and the philosopher Kant (next to Rousseau) is little appreciated for his effort to ‘model’ the aspects of the ‘will’ that Newton found intractable. Newton at least knew his business and grasped the nature of the limits of his subject. The complexity of the Kantian response is thus seldom seen in its clear echoes of mechanical explanation in the context of the rising physics. We should note the fact that Newton is almost out of character as a founder of his own subject, while we will rapidly discover that he makes better sense as the hero of our own enquiry. Thus we may proceed, since the scientist has so little use for this inspirational figure seen as better suited to our own. Thus the main chance must a foundation in science, thence to proceed, if we may, to a science of freedom.



   Web:  chap2_3_5.htm

[i] Peter McLaughlin, Kant’s Critique of Teleology in Biological Explanation (Lewisten, New York: Edwin Mellen, 1990).




Last modified: 09/21/2010