Publication 5157

Diettrich O. (1992) Darwin, Lamarck and the evolution of science and culture. Evolution and Cognition (First series) 2(3). Fulltext at
What is being discribed as differences between organic and cultural evolution (for example that one is Darwinian, the other, Lamarckian in character) depends on the implicit agreements made on what are analogue issues in culture and life. A special consequence of the definitions used is that opposite causal mechanisms are attributed. The development of empirical scientific theories is seen as an internal adaptation to external data. Organic evolution, however, is seen as an external selection of internal modifications. Seeing science as a special cognitive tool in the sense of evolutionary epistemology (EE) which then has to evolve according to the same principles as evolution of organic tools does, would require some notional realignments in order to level the established organismic/cultural dichotomy. Central to the approach used here is the notion of reality and adaptation. The EE declares that human categories of perception and thinking (space, time, object, causality etc.) result from evolutionary adaptation to the independent structures of an ontological reality (Campbell: “natural-selection-epistemology”). Here a “Constructivist evolutionary epistemology” (CEE) is proposed which goes one step further and considers also the category of reality itself to be a special mental concept acquired phylogenetically to immunize proven ideas under the label of “reality.” According to the CEE, the evaluation criteria for strategies and theories are the consistency with the previously and phylogenetically acquired organic and mental structures, rather than the adaptation to external data. A similar view can also be held in organic evolution where the various metabolic processes and higher strategies modify the external data according to their previously established own requirements rather than changing those requirements in adaptation to external data. Thus cognitive and scientific as well as organic evolution is an enterprise of conquest rather than of discovery and reality will lose its role as a universal legislator and evaluator. The CEE implements this thought, by considering all regularities perceived and the laws of nature derived from them as invariants of mental or sensory operators. The extension of human sense organs by means of physical measurement operators leads to the completion of classical physics if the experimental and the inborn cognitive operators commute. Otherwise non-classical (i.e. “non-human”) approaches are required such as quantum mechanics, which are based on the invariants brought about experimentally. As the set of possible experimental facilities (and therefore of new invariants) is not closed it follows that evolution of science will not end in a definitive “theory of everything” but in basically endless co-evolution between experiments and their theoretical interpretations. The same applies to organic evolution which can be considered as coevolution between genomic structures and their interpretation by the epigenetic system which itself is subject to genomic modifications. This may lead to non-stable recursive processes described here as nonlinear genetics. Some general evolutionary strategies and principles are discussed with a view to being applicable in organic evolution as well as in cultural and social evolution. Special consideration is given to the view that the need to master the physical world (mainly being done by scientific efforts) may be superseded in the long run by the need to master our social environment.


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