03 August 2011

How Faith in Neo-Darwinism May Be Holding Us Back

Do you believe in Neo-Darwinist evolution? New-Darwinism is often used as something of a shibboleth to separate the scientific cognoscenti from the flat-earthers and creationists. But is such a "test of scientific rationality" justified? Only if there are no alternatives to Neo-Darwinism which better fit the observed facts. But what if there were better alternatives? Who would be the flat-earthers then?

Lynn Margulis is a prominent thorn in the side of institutional neo-darwinism, and one of the foremost promoters of the theory of Symbiogenesis. On occasion, Margulis can seem like something of a flake, but it is just that quality which allows her to stand up to the pressures of conventional thinking and make her own way against the crowd and its political consensus.

Faith in any conventional form or ideology will hold humans back from discoveries that may seem to contradict those forms and ideologies. We live in an unfortunate age when academic and intellectual thought has been largely taken over by one general ideology -- which actively suppresses debate and open epistemological inquiry into topics which may be too near and dear to the hearts of the thought leaders within the uber-dominant ideology.

Even the so-called "skeptics" today are often nothing better than papered-over consensualists. "Skeptic" Michael Shermer has written a book called The Believing Brain, in which he attempts to explain human belief using game theory, neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology. But as skeptics go, Shermer tends to be something of a credulous skeptic, as he tends to accede to "consensus" a bit too easily. Like many writers and historians of science who are not actually scientists, Shermer relies on second- and third-hand anecdotes and clever phrasing a bit more than he perhaps should. One can learn nothing about the next level from "skeptics" like Shermer, who is a fashionable and consensual kind of skeptic, always safe and well far behind the cannon fodder.

Fortunately, Neo-Darwinism is only peripheral to the central political issues that drive the dictators, critics, and pseudo-skeptics of modern academia, media, and politics, so it is still permissible to question some aspects of neo-darwinian theory as long as one is not too threatening to the status quo. For example, scientists are learning that some "acquired characteristics" of parents and grand-parents can be inherited by children and grandchildren, via epigenetic means. We are likely to discover many more contradictions to conventional genetic and evolutionary theory as we go along.

But none of these piecemeal discoveries are likely to be as liberating as the potential explosion of knowledge which might arise from a real-world demonstration of controlled symbiogenesis in action.

Neo-Darwinian evolution may be the best theory we've got to explain evolution -- or there may be something better. There are still many profound discoveries waiting to be made, using the mental framework of neo-darwinian theory. It will always be useful in the sense that Newtonian physics will always be useful -- within specific limited domains.

Who is going to come closer to the global optimum, the path to rapid expansion of knowledge in evolution and biology? The rational gadfly who is unafraid to question popular convention, or the uber-conventionalist who hides behind a faith in crowd consensus?

Things can change very rapidly when radical theories and tools are discovered. Modern hierarchies of ideas and power can be overturned almost instantly in the face of the type of discoveries which are possible. Which societies are capable of withstanding radical change, which is bound to occur sooner or later? A society whose women are increasingly choosing not to have children because children cramp their style? Or a society of people who welcome change, even as they continue the eternal cycles of love, family, child-raising, birth, death, and continuation in the face of all odds and challenges?

It can be frightening to step outside the mainstream -- particularly if you do so by yourself without the support of a group. But if you take a look at the state of the modern world, it should not take you long to see that the mainstream has very little to offer a conscientious seeker or a driven pathfinder. In fact, the mainstream appears to be taking an express train to the Idiocracy.

In basic rescue and resuscitation, we first look at the ABC: airway, breathing, and circulation. Then we proceed to the finer points of diagnosis and intervention. In your lives, you need to take a similar prioritised approach. But try not to get so caught up in basic survival issues that you do not keep one eye on the sky, for falling sacred cows and orthodoxies.

Just one, small and seemingly insignificant scientific or technological discovery could overturn almost all the conventional wisdom and hierarchical power structure of your society. And there are a lot of discoveries in the pipeline at this time. Not all of them will be developed to their potential -- particularly in our modern age of faux environmentalist energy starvation and a general aversion to disruptive technologies by the ruling classes and thought leaders.

But in reality, it is not up to them any longer. They just do not realise it yet.

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Blogger neil craig said...

Increasingly I think we will see inventions developed to their potentiam. The factor restraining this in the far east has been the general backwardness of the developing countires - why go for new untried technology when you still have to catch up with proven tech why go for the unroven. However S Kirea and Taiwan are now among the developed countries and Hong Kong and Singapore among the nery wealthiest so being at the cutting edge is natural.

The western countries could do the same, or better, if our political "elites" wanted it but it will happen without them, so long as we don't have a world government to impose Luddism.

Thursday, 04 August, 2011  
Blogger al fin said...


In the western world we have an increasing neo-tribalism from top down multiculturalist policies. That plus the natural turning away from governments with insane debt and misplaced priorities, leads to the gradual formation of small scale shadow government organisations.

I am not referring to black or grey markets, which are also springing up necessarily, as government-distorted markets continue to sink under debt and demography.

I am referring to effective, loosely associated persons of competence who recognise the need to do things which no other entity in society appears willing to do.

Thursday, 04 August, 2011  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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