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SPONTANEOUS ORDER, EVOLUTION, AND NATURAL LAW

While the theoretical problems with these ideas will be discussed in the next section, the simple problem here with respect to Dennett's claim that these were Darwin's ideas is that there were no such "scraps" in Darwin's ontology at all. Setting aside the fact that he was neither an idealist nor a genetic reductionist, both facts sufficient in their own right to disqualify Darwin from being associated with Dennett's theory, Darwin's view of heredity ("pangenesis") precluded such a digital view. In addition to the Lamarckian idea of the use and disuse of parts, Darwin's theory of pangenesis specifically invoked blending inheritance not discretized units such as those that are at the core of selfish replicator theory with its conception of replicators as digitized pieces of program. It was Mendel's non-blending, discretized, or "digital" if you like, theory of inheritance, in contrast to Darwin's blending theory, that was re-discovered by biologists around the beginning of this century, and that provided the basis for reviving the idea of natural selection which was then in disrepute (e.g., Bowler, 1988).

In fact, the importance of Mendel's theory of inheritance versus Darwin's prompted Waddington (1975, p. 168) to propose that neo-Darwinism (contemporary "Darwinism") might more accurately be called "neo-Mendelism" ("Mendelism"). The point is that even if Darwin were an idealist in the sense of Dawkins (which he was not), he never would have asserted anything like the idea that we have all descended from macros or that bits of program are the basis for all agency or intentionality for the simple reason that a digital, discretized, or non-blending, conception of heredity was not part of his theory. To suggest otherwise is extremely misleading. If this is the key idea of Dennett's book then the title if not Dennett's Dangerous Idea should more accurately have been Mendel's Dangerous Idea although even this would have been an extreme act of eisegesis since Mendel was certainly not an idealist reductionist like Dawkins or Dennett either. Neither Mendel nor Darwin ever suggested that living things were constructed as survival vehicles for the benefit of the hereditary "instructions" which were said to build and program them, and even more radically, were said, precisely like Cartesian "mind", to exist in time, not space.

Darwin Did Not Say 'Give Me Mere Order And I Will Give You Design'

The "difference between Order and Design," according to Dennett (1995b, p. 64), is that "Order is mere regularity, mere pattern: Design is Aristotle's telos, an exploitation of order for a purpose, such as the cleverly designed artifact." As noted above, Dennett (1995b, p. 38) holds that according to the laws of physics (viz., the second law of thermodynamics) the world is moving from a more to less ordered state. With respect to the evolution of life, Dennett (1995b, p. 65) says, "Darwin jumped into the middle with his proposed answer to the question of how Design could arise from mere Order." "Give me Order, he says, and time, and I will give you Design."

The problem with this assertion like the ones in the preceding sub-section is that Darwin never said, or said anything like, "give me (mere) order and I will give you design". Understanding the problems with this claim points the way to recognizing some of the real, and insurmountable, limitations of Darwinian theory, and Dennett's illegitimate ad hoc smuggling by which he tries to get around them. First, even if Darwin had said something like "give me order" he would have been asking for plenty. Real-world living things presumably are part of or live in a physical world (although how the ideal entities at the core of the Dennett-Dawkins scheme connect with it, the old problem of Cartesian interactionism, is another problem), and Dennett has already said that the world according to the second law of thermodynamics constitutes a process of disordering. If this is true, then for Darwin to have asked offhandedly for order (really "spontaneous ordering") would have been to ask for something that, in effect, "defies" the laws of physics, as living things and evolution, in general, according to Dennett do. If this were true, things would be bad enough, but this is not what Darwin said. What he did say, in fact, makes the problem a whole lot worse because what he asked for was a whole lot more.

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