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EVOLUTIONARY THEORY DEVELOPING

On the question of the fecundity principle, which sits behind the process of natural selection, in effect "driving" the struggle for existence, or the striving to fill the economy of nature, as seen from Matthew's (1831/1971) own words, he clearly expressed it in the 1830's, and also appeared in Chambers' (1844/1969, p. 367) best-selling Vestiges when he said that "[t]he aim [of evolution] seems to be to diffuse existence as widely as possible, to fill up every vacant space with some sentient being...". It is further worth noting that while Darwin, who cites Malthus for stimulating his thinking in this area, is often credited with taking Malthus's struggle for existence and generalizing it to the living world as a whole from human social systems, in fact, Malthus had already argued that the struggle for existence was a general property of living things and then applied it specifically to human systems (Malthus, 1803/1992; see also Gilson, 1984). In addition, the struggle for existence had also been "clearly expressed" in the writing of Buffon, among others, the century before (Osborn, 1984, p. 136). The expression of the fecundity principle is way older than any of these eighteenth and nineteenth century sources, however.

It was Leibniz (e.g., 1697/1925; 1697/1969; Blumenfeld, 1981), some 200 years prior to any of those already mentioned, who advanced the idea that the actual world that exists is the consequence of the selection of the fittest from among a population of striving possibles in a struggle for existence. What motivates the struggle or the striving towards existence according to Leibniz is the fact that nature works inherently to maximize the magnitude of existence given the constraints-this is the fecundity principle writ large as a universal principle (which would make the biological or Darwinian extremum a special case). Leibniz' principle, in turn, can be seen as the development of the most fundamental metaphysical principle of the Platonic-Aristotelian tradition, what Lovejoy (1936/1978) has called the "principle of plenitude". In Plato's system it is expressed as the "urge of the Demiurge" to produce order out of disorder, and in Aristotle as the motivation for the inherent striving of nature to turn potential into actual so as to fill out the sphere of being (see Swenson, in press-c, for further discussion). There is a direct line of descent from Leibniz through the evolutionism of Schelling and the search for symmetry or unifying principles to the discovery of the first law of thermodynamics by Robert Mayer, and the thermodynamic principles discussed later that provide the basis for understanding spontaneous ordering today. This lineage, which would certainly include Spencer, is distinct from the lineage stretching from Descartes through the teleo-mechanism of Kant (Lenoir, 1982), and through Darwin and Dawkins to Dennett.

The Idea(s) That Evolution Is An Algorithmic Process, Or That We Are All Descended From Algorithms , Or That All Agency And Meaning Comes Into The Universe With Algorithms Was (Were) Not Darwin's Idea(s)

With Dennett's (1995b, p. 206) idea that "your great-great-...grandmother was...a macro.." or that we all descended from macros we see clearly the category error, and illigitimate teleology on which his idealist reductinism is grounded. This and the claim that all agency comes into the world with little scraps of program or algorithms, as noted above, were not Darwin's ideas, and it is to put words in his mouth that he did not and, from everything we know of his thinking, could not have uttered to say otherwise. The main source of these ideas is Dawkins not Darwin, and Dennett and Dawkins, not surprisingly, enjoy a mutual admiration society, complimenting each other in their respective texts (Dennett complements Dawkins in Darwin's Dangerous Idea, and Dawkins Dennett in his newest book River Out of Eden [1995], and on the cover of Dennett's book which he calls "surpassingly brilliant").

Dawkins' idealist genetic reductionism, selfish-gene theory, or selfish replicator theory is almost ready-made for Dennett's attempt to justify the world-as-computer, or mind-as-computer view of AI. According to Dawkins "[t]he genetic code is strictly digital," (1995, p. 12), and over evolutionary time it is the basis for a digital river of selfish genes or "replicators" that "flows through time, not space...a river of information...of abstract instructions for building bodies" (1995, p. 4). "Life", he says (Dawkins, 1995, p. 19), "is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information", and "[w]e and that means all living things, are survival machines programmed to propagate" it (Dawkins, 1995, p. 19). Life, in different terms, is the production of selfish digital replicators towards the end of their own perpetuation and replication. "Computer programmers," says Dennett (1995b, p. 156), call such "fragmented coded instructions...'macro[s]'", a term which he then adopts for Dawkins' genetic replicators-"bits of program or algorithm ...remarkably like...computer viruses".

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