A psychiatrist in Toronto, Canada, in defense of swamidass’ fellow secular methodological naturalist and atheist partner in provocation over at PS, Nathan Lents (Human Errors), just said something I find quite curious, in case he is serious in his claim. It had appeared to me that this person who said it promotes ideological evolutionism. Yet this claim establishes at least some kind of important knowledge ‘boundary’ or ‘limit’ that ‘evolutionary’ thinking does not and cannot cross by definition. Perhaps he will come here to try to explain his terms in an effort to help clarify this difficulty.
Dr. Faizal Ali says,
“The truth is that evolution largely proceeds by accident and luck, both good and bad, and rarely if ever arrives at a solution of the sort that would be found by careful advanced planning.” https://betterrightthanhappy.com/nathan-lents-on-our-imperfect-body/
Is Dr. Ali not either aware of or in any way familiar with the sub-fields of evolutionary economics, evolutionary political ‘science’, evolutionary sociology, evolutionary anthropology, and closer to his home field, evolutionary psychology? If not, does he seriously think scholars in those fields believe “evolution” differs substantially from “careful advanced planning”? Haven’t those sub-fields succeeded with subsuming ‘mind’ & ‘agency’ into ‘evolutionary’ approaches by now (much more than 3 generations after Darwin)? At the very least, the questions: “Which evolution?” and “Whose evolution?” should be addressed on the table to minimize misunderstanding, especially regarding this term that is drenched in ideological usage in the Literature.
Which kind of “evolution” largely proceeds by accident/luck, rather than purpose/goal/aim, or carefully advanced planning according to Dr. Ali? Just “evolution” as meant by (mostly) ideological naturalists, using methodological naturalism as a form of anti-supernaturalism in natural-physical sciences. That is the portion of scholarly thought he is referring to, right?
If he just intended that specifically “biological evolution largely proceeds by accident and luck”, then at least the door would be closed on ‘evolution’ being seen as a ‘generalist’ or ‘universalist’ theory acceptable in human-social sciences too. We know that some people exaggerate and misuse the term “evolution” in different ways (e.g. David S. Wilson, Bret Weinstein) outside of natural sciences, that might be best discarded due to the very confusion that Dr. Ali rightfully raises in the quote above, which seems as almost a blip in his otherwise broadly evolutionistic message.
There are indeed limits to usage of ‘evolution’ as a term of ‘knowledge’, obviously yes. Dr. Faizal Ali seems to be pointing to one of the limits here (implication: “careful advanced planning” differs from “evolving”). This could be helpfully clarified further, as part of an ongoing discussion constructively involving agency in science, philosophy, theology/worldview, even if that doesn’t happen here at TSZ.