Friday, April 6, 2012

A Never Ending Story

In a comment that I added to a recent post, I referred to the controversy over whether evolution benefits individuals only or can directly affect the survival of groups.  I noted that Richard Dawkins takes the traditional view, that evolution can benefit individuals only, and that any benefit gained by a group is coincidental and accrues through the individual benefits.  On the other side, saying that both individuals and groups can benefit from natural selection, are Niles Etheridge and the late Steven J Gould.

I was quite surprised to discover that E. O. Wilson, of evolutionary psychology fame, also believes that both individuals and groups can benefit from the process of natural selection.  A book review in this month's Scientific American magazine looks at his recent publication The Social Conquest of Earth, and makes the point.

The topic of the book actually refers to kin selection, an idea which Wilson was championed in the past, but is now rejecting. I find this particular controversy, that is, the one regarding group versus individual benefits resulting from natural selection, highly interesting.  It shows that science continues, as always, to evolve and develop.  It is this constantly changing nature of science that makes this area of human knowledge so appealing to me. I consider science as a constantly evolving mystery novel which never actually has a climax, final resolution, or denouement. The story simply keeps on evolving and changing. Each mystery solved creates new mysteries.  It truly a Never Ending Story.

Oddly, it is this very nature which so deeply offends those who are becoming deniers of science. They want answers--perfect, complete, absolute answers.  This is something which science cannot give. All science can give you is the best possible answer available at this moment in time.  The fact that this answer is almost always correct doesn't avoid the difficulty its critics perceive– –it may be correct, but it isn't absolute, perfect, and unchanging.

Absolute, perfect, and unchanging, are so important to them that they are not troubled if their answer is wrong; as long as it is perfect, absolute, and unchanging.

I have explored this problem before, commenting that it is an attitude which has destroyed many great civilizations. I remain an optimist, our civilization is not on the verge of being destroyed.  Nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind that there are forces, very powerful forces, which are attempting to do unto Western Civilization that which was done unto China, the Islamic empires, and numerous other once great societies. I am confident they will fail in their assault on our success. However, even if they fail, they seriously wish to create a world in which reality is no longer real. A world in which facts are not important.  They strive to build a world in which their dreams, fantasies, and whatever makes them feel good is accepted as the ultimate reality. They want facts that are better than facts, reality that is realler than real. They want it their way.

They have succeeded in the past.  We must not let them dismantle our achievements and bury Western Culture in the midden of history.

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