Whig History and Mind Minding
lunes, 25 de mayo de 2015
A commentary to a post in New Savannah, "beyond Whig history to Evolutionary thinking":
Whig history shouldn't be entirely avoided, in the sense that a Whiggish sensibility does have some use in detecting those elements that (oh yes) eventually lead to a Whiggish disposition, which after all has not emerged from nowhere. Of course there is the attendant danger of hindsight bias etc. which has to be kept in mind. But at bottom this is an issue much resembling the question of the anthropic principle in evolution: wrong if you make highter consciousness a teleological aim in evolution, right if it forces you to reconize that, after all the whole tangled web of life, consciousness is both the most complex evolutionary phenomenon (or perhaps in a weaker formulation, one of the most complex evolutionary phenomena) and the only one where reflexive models on evolution are built (not so, e.g., in otherwise incredibly complex and refined cases of mimetism or animal/vegetable coevolution). That's one sense in which evolution IS, after all, directional, and not a mere matter of wiggling around. It is cumulative in many ways detailed both by Darwin and by population genetics, and it is also cumulative at the level of culture, which has been called Lamarckian in the sense that cultural evolution does preserve favorable acquired traits in a direct way. Now I would also say that considering that writers and reviewers are deliberate (or "Lamarckian") subjects is only the bare minumum; the intentional directionality of evolution has to take into account also the way minds make plans or make choices which direct and guide behaviour and thence evolution; I think this is in part the role of Darwin's 'sexual selection' being at all different from 'natural selection'; that is, in sexual selection it is a mind that makes the selection, whereas in natural selection it is the play of chance and the struggle for life. The role of minds has been underrated in evolutionary biology, but surely this is a mistake that evolutionary psychology is not supposed to repeat!