The Limits of Evolutionism: ‘Things That Don’t Evolve’

Just like the ideology of ‘naturalism’ claims that *everything* is ‘natural,’ the ideology of ‘evolutionism’ says that *everything* ‘evolves.’ As you have seen recently, I am questioning the ideology of evolutionism openly and directly here at TSZ.

As such, I have a simple challenge for people here:

What are examples of things that don’t ‘evolve?’

It’s a very basic and straightforward question. But it’s one that shows itself to be very difficult for people who are or consider themselves evolutionists to answer due to the ideological exaggeration of evolutionary theory (biological, cosmological, cultural or otherwise) into the belief that everything evolves, i.e. into ‘evolutionism.’ Those who are not ‘evolutionists’ (whether theists or atheists) usually find it easier to answer and thus to circumscribe the meaning of ‘evolution.’

For the more philosophically minded (in case they would like to nit pick the question), please don’t get caught on arguing about what is a ‘thing.’ Alternatively, the question can inquire the reader to tell us about “that which does not evolve.”

Two qualifications:

1) Don’t waste energy doing disciplinary dancing. It’s meant as an interdisciplinary question re: evolutionism, as broadly interdisciplinary as imaginable. It could be humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, applied sciences, performance arts, music, sports, cuisine, dancing, religion, politics, language…whatever you can imagine in the realm of knowledge. Please just state clearly and coherently what it is that you think “does not evolve” in a given realm.

2) It is not an acceptable response to ask me to define ‘evolution’ as a prerequisite for you before you can possibly give an answer. I know what I mean by ‘evolution.’ What I’m interested in is what you mean by it and if you limit its linguistic usage in *any* ways. Thus, what I’m looking for is what you think “does not evolve,” according to your language.

In case there might be a theist or two commenting, let us also take off the table the belief that “God doesn’t ‘evolve’,” because some people here don’t accept that as being important one way or another and because this is not about an intra-theology dispute.

Context: This question is posed with the assumption (based partly on TSZ’s raison d’être against UD) that *everyone* here is actually an ‘evolutionist,’ with the exception of the IDists who occasionally visit. Those who would wish to openly deny being ‘evolutionists’ are welcome to do so. It should likely be easier for them to answer the single question of this thread.

The easiest way to disprove my claim (which does obviously seem outlandish to some) that the ideology of evolutionism is indeed problematic is to come up with many examples of that which does not evolve and thus to prove that evolutionary theory actually is *not* exaggerated, as I am claiming it is. I’m predicting that no more than 5 significant examples of “things that don’t evolve” will be contributed on this thread. A more likely result would be less than 3.

Evolutionists tend to be very weak on this question or avoid it entirely, so there is a decent chance that nobody at TSZ will even respond to this thread with positive examples. That, of course, would also prove a point about the ideology of evolutionism being problematic.

Thanks for your participation TSZers,

Gregory

p.s. if you are clearly not interested in answering the question and simply seek diversion, your post will likely not remain in the thread; otherwise all people of good will are welcome

286 thoughts on “The Limits of Evolutionism: ‘Things That Don’t Evolve’

  1. Because the word evolve does have some constraints. Like for example, it has to involve, well, evolving. It is absolutely right and proper to talk about the evolution of cars because cars have changed over time. The idea that it makes any difference about anything at all to say that the circumstances relating to the mechanics of how we could model the conditions which contributed to that evolution is the source of the ideological impurity you are noting I think.

    It does not make sense to say that an an individual evolves at the species level of evolution. You are missing the concept of what a model is and what it is used for. There are inappropriate ideas to describe with the word evolve. Just like it is inappropriate to talk about the smell of a sound without a higher level subject involving the potential smells of sounds in some specific context.

    I do understand what you are saying and think you just don’t understand what you are really asking.

  2. Gregory: Repeat answer:

    People make cars. This involves purpose, plan, goal, aim; teleology (notice I didn’t even use the word ‘design’?). Not the same kind of ‘process’ as biological evolution. Not among the range of events that ‘evolution’ can properly be thought to explain. Cars are not ‘naturally’ selected. They are ‘human-made.’ Category difference.

    That was wrong when you first posted it. And it is still wrong when you repeat.

    When people talk about cars evolving, they are probably talking about the change from say a Model T Ford to a Tesla Motors Model S rather than the change from pre-car to car. Still, it would not be wrong to use the term “evolution” for the unrolling of the design that you would see if you followed a car through the assembly line.

  3. “It is absolutely right and proper to talk about the evolution of cars because cars have changed over time.” – BWE

    ‘Absolutely’?? Is this intentional exaggeration?

    BWE, please just stick to simple issues and stop wandering all over the place. You’ve contradicted yourself already by saying “everything evolves” and then conceding that some things don’t evolve. This is easily seen in your posts above.

    Let’s be specific: What makes you so (absolutely) *sure* that ‘evolution’ is the *only* type of change? What would it take for you to accept that there are ‘non-evolutionary’ types of change, as others and myself have identified in this thread?

    If you’re simply going to insist and continue to tell me that I don’t understand “what a model is and what it is used for”, then we’re likely not going to get very far. Go deeper than that and you might find some new knowledge about ‘non-evolutionary’ change-over-time. That’s the main point of the thread.

    Just because “cars have changed over time” does not necessarily mean that ‘evolution’ is the best paradigm to describe or explain that ‘change.’

  4. Gregory: Just because “cars have changed over time” does not necessarily mean that ‘evolution’ is the best paradigm to describe or explain that ‘change.’

    What does “paradigm” have to do with anything?

    “Evolution” is a perfectly ordinary word used by ordinary people. Exactly how they use it varies from person to person.

    You seem to be insisting that the use of the word “evolution” implies that there is some kind of theory. It doesn’t.

  5. I did not say that evolution is the only type of change. I limited ‘things to mean ‘system because ‘thing is not as specific a word as ‘evolution. For example the change between off and on does not constiture evolution because we are not describing the state from a systems view. Really because you can just move the implied subject around anywhere you want in the statement. There would an evolution of the possible states of the system if quantities and qualities of that system changed over time.

    If I led you to think I meant other than that I am sorry I was unclear. If I changed my mind during that period then apparently I changed my mind. Or I suppose ifyou went at it with enough resolution, you could say my thinking had evolved. If you were unable to model the system of my developing thought with enough information to include intermediate stages, then you really could only say it changed.

    All I can really say to your addressing whether I contradict myself is that I am attempting to clarify so you now can know what I mean now incase you are confused which side of the apparent contradiction you should assume as my current position. Hope that helps.

  6. Obviously you don’t seem willing to change your mind about “things that don’t evolve,” Neil. That’s your prerogative, of course. But the evidence stands against you.

    There is massive evidence already that supports the view that non-evolutionary change occurs in human societies. I’ve been pointing out here in this thread (and in the Sandbox exchanges that led to it) that artefacts are not ‘evolutionary’ products. Others have indicated “things that don’t evolve” too. Simply standing in denial of this doesn’t change the fact that an alternative paradigm to ‘evolution’ is more appropriate regarding ‘change-over-time’ (including origins) of non-natural read: artificial objects.

    “Still, it would not be wrong to use the term “evolution” for the unrolling of the design that you would see if you followed a car through the assembly line.” – Neil Rickert

    Yes, it would. Cars built in assembly lines are an obvious example of non-evolutionary change by human intention (and/or machine production). Keeping records of receipts at a company, taking statistics at a baseball game, documenting trades and exchanges in a stock market, etc. This is all ‘non-evolutionary’ change-over-time.

    Neil, you don’t honestly believe that you ‘evolve’ the computer programs that you personally program, do you? Your intentionality overides the simply ‘natural’ processes that are occuring around you and in you. Engineers and programmers, such as yourself are operating in extra-evolutionary ways.

    What’s the difference? Purpose, meaning, plan, goal, aim; teleology. This is not ‘neo-Darwinian’ evolution. It is something else; a different category of change.

    All it takes, Neil, is for you to accept that there is an alternative category to what you have thus far allowed. That will be enough to overcome the evolutionism that you are displaying by insisting that ‘cars evolve’ simply because they ‘change-over-time.’ Such a view is out-dated in our current way-post-Darwinian epoch.

  7. There is massive evidence already that supports the view that non-evolutionary change occurs in human societies. I’ve been pointing out here in this thread (and in the Sandbox exchanges that led to it) that artefacts are not ‘evolutionary’ products.

    What you are doing, is attempting to impose your own very rigid ideology on all speakers of the English language. Language doesn’t work that way.

  8. Gregory, are you saying that something terrible is happening in academia because engineers talk about the evolution of the automobile or a sociologist talks about the evolution of a society in their own contexts with their own models of the system which evolved?

    Because, if that’s so, well, I think I can only say I don’t see it as a problem. If you mean people say that “the darwinian evolution of the automobile” means something then perhaps, given the specific circumstance in question I might have a different answer.

  9. Neil, you don’t honestly believe that you ‘evolve’ the computer programs that you personally program, do you?

    That would be a misuse of the verb “evolve”. However, computer programs evolve nonetheless. And that can be true even when there is only a single programmer.

    Your intentionality overides the simply ‘natural’ processes that are occuring around you and in you.

    This is nonsense. Those ‘natural’ processes inform the programmer, and if he is any good, he will modify the program to cope with those ‘natural’ processes.

  10. The reason you keep using the word “darwinian” is because it modifies the word evolution. Else you could just use the word evolution. Even if you just imply it you are using a modification of the teneral term by applying it to a specific syxtem or type of system in which natural selection and random mutation generally form the central mechanics of the nature of the system being modeled.

    At any rate, it seems as if I haven’t been clear enough because your responses don’t seem to recognize what I thought I meant. I will think about it and try to get back to this thread.

  11. Gregory:
    Wrt “geological features,” “stars and astronomical objects,” I know people who disagree, based on theories of geological evolution and cosmological or stellar evolution. So, you’d have to take it up with them.

    I doubt there are any geologists who attribute to geological processes evolution in the sense of my definition. Ditto vis astronomers and astronomical objects, with the exception of Lee Smolin.

    When you say the following, there is much to discuss…

    As I said, it is an analogy, and an imperfect one. But not entirely without merit, IMHO, particularly when considering technologies and ways of making a living (e.g. agriculture). In addition to “the ratchet effect,” the cumulative result of generations of human intentional activity can include attainments that no one pre-conceived, purposed or intended, yielding results that, at that level, reflect a strong element of unpurposed, selectionist causation that is significantly analogous to the role of selection in biological evolution. Cultural change at that level does not trigger your category error.

    As you say, there is a lot to discuss.

  12. The concept of gradual change steered by selection was in part inspired inspired by Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

    Perhaps Gregory favors central planning and socialism, as it is analogous to design.

  13. the teleological nature or not of a process is unrelated to whether we can point to an evolving system. It really is a general term. That’s why we need to modify the word with “darwinian” when we want to talk about “darwinian evolution”.

  14. I think I’m agreeing with you when I say that the concept of evolution is orthagonal to purpose, intention, planning or design. That was Adsm Smith’s insight.

    That the invisible hand works regardless of intention. Darwin might have added a less sanguine note, that the hand doesn’t always work for the benefit of individuals.

  15. Well, kind of. But more that you can still talk about the evolution of a system even if it is only teleological change. I mean, you can talk about the evolution of an idea. That involves the information integrated over time and the evolving conclusions drawn from the evolving information set. Or whatever.

  16. But I do think a legitimate criticism of darwinian evolution can be made on a similar issue. Well, maybe not a criticism, more of an addendum, but it does address the teleological question that ID’ers want to get at.

    In terms of human evolution, we don’t include the nature of the sorts of influences that considered choices by individuals have on the system. But then, humans haven’t been evolving very long as humans and its pretty tough to get into the heads of non-humans to consider how non humans consider.

    And it’s not really any sort of refutation or anything. More like another vantage point.

  17. The learning metaphor subsumes biological evolution and human behavior. Populations of organisms are “replaced” by populations of neurons.

    But there is a level and a time frame in which the plans and desires of humans is erased by time. Ozymandias.

  18. Yeah. I recognize the objection. I just mean, in terms of traction, going where it’s at least possible to get a little is better than none.

    In some of my more medicated momemts I have wondered whether you could eframe the model as choices made by individuals and maybe get at some new perspectives which might emerge from using a different lens. Mostly, at least a case could be made. ID has been poor at that part of science in the past and I just wanted to be friendly and offer some potential assisstance. they’ve been the butt of a lot of jokes because they aren’t able to figure out how to formulate a scientific hypothesis. At least its possible to formulate a hypothesis and pursue their belief from that framework question.

    Eho knows, maybe they could actually contribute something scientifically valuable?

  19. No. more that the decisions we make influence the process and the feedback loop is influenced by our desires which can be quite influential and even directional in terms of the model and what it looks like at future points. Those decisions can be described in an entirely different language than darwinian.

  20. Ii’m still waiting after more than a week for Gregory to explain what the problem is. What earth shattering discoveries are being suppressed by evolutionism? How many children are starving?

  21. I suspect if there were something to be gained by reframing the question of choice, marketeers would be on it.

  22. petrushka:
    But is that alternative language useful?

    I dunno. It might be. I guess you would need to work that part out if you felt strongly enough about it. I was just trying to help.

    It may indeed be that a model seems to work so well that we have imported its language into other domains and are limiting ourselves somehow. It also may be that a variety of models might be a solution or partial solution to that limitation if it exists.

    I had what basically amounts to a stoned insight not too long ago and offered it where it might be useful. If you were an id proponent for whatever reason and were seeking an alternate language to talk anout evolution, the complexity of wants and the expression of those wants in decisions might be a candidate. It’s certainly more poetic.

  23. I think most of human history has been the history of expressing phenomena animistically. Trees and mountains had spirits that expressed themselves. We still have a little homunculus inside us that wants and chooses. Sometimes it is inside us and sometimes it is non-material, but it is something other than the body.

    No I would like, arguendo, to declare myself to be Gregory’s worst nightmare, a total evolutionist. Let Gregory tell us why I am bad or evil or whatever it is that he doesn’t like.

  24. wow. Weird you would bring that up. The utility of thinking about small gods, the homunculii of each object I guess is how you put it, is able to provide information which a mechanical understanding simply cant. I count small gods as among the very most utilitarian models in existence.

    Lizzie has heard it from me before but when when I get a chance i’ll explain. I need a bit more time

  25. The utility of thinking about small gods, the homunculii of each object I guess is how you put it, is able to provide information which a mechanical understanding simply cant. I count small gods as among the very most utilitarian models in existence.

    I’m trying to figure out how the invention of little gods is useful (or even what it means).

  26. Still waiting to find out what is wrong with evolutionism. Gregory has time to post everywhere but on this thread.

  27. Alan Fox,

    Evilutionist is at least honest, in that we have a pretty good idea of the intent behind the usage. “Evolutionist” is being used here to mean something far beyond the context of biological evolution, and we are somehow “not allowed” to have a better definition of that it is supposed to mean? I call b*llsh*it.

  28. I call category error and so not somethinb to wotry about. Gregory has given up for the time being I guess.

    He almost had me on the ropes admitting to some dastardly truth about something. Why didn’t he press his advantage I wonder?

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