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. I did. Are you saying you understand the question in the OP? Are you saying any of the offerings itt are indeed things which don’t evolve?

    This weird fixation with dissociating the evolution of life from the root word evolution in order to deny a particular hypothesis the right to propose a particular causal relationship to the most basic fact of existence is bizarre to me. Life evolved. That is the basic fact of existence. Nothing can avoid evolving. Systems evolve and any ‘thing’ can be described as a system and vice versa. That is kinda the definition of a ‘thing’. How it evolved, what rules seem to pencil out the difference between data points and create the most successful model in terms of predicting future data and accounting for existing data is always up for grabs. Random mutation and natural selection are Darwin’s hypothesis. But the idea that life evolves can only be questioned if you change the definition of evolve.

    What various stages in the evolution of life might have looked like in terms of how we model it is up for grabs. What rules seem to make the best model is up for grabs. What data we are trying to model is not up for grabs. We are dealing with the measurements of living creatures, dead creatures, fossils, and the environment we are modeling.

    Life evolves and as it does so it changes. Simple drift is apparent in the fact that children do not look like their parents. Continued through eternity, with no constraints, that change could not be predicted. If there are proposed constraints, say, natural selection, then that is a question of modeling and the constraints will allow us to make predictions. The models which do the best job of predicting new data and accounting for existing data are the best models.

    Maybe Neo darwinian evolution as a model is flawed. In fact, there is no question that it is flawed because models compress experience and they are, by necessity, lossy compression when we are talking about the physical world. But that inherent property of the model, that we know it is flawed, does not mean that it isn’t the best model we have. It seems to account for existing data and predict new data better than any other currently so it is the best to use if you want to predict something within its domain. Say, disease resistance in a population or where certain kinds of fossils might be found.

    It would be foolish to use an alternative model which is inferior at predicting those sorts of things. It would also be foolish to assume that there was any sense of ‘this is right and the truth the light and the way’ to the ToE. It is simply the most successful model currently available. If you think you can make a better model, go for it. If it works better, people will use it instead because it would be foolish not to.

    If you think that somehow using the most successful model makes some other part of life suffer I submit you are trying to solve a different problem and are suffering from the dissonance of incompatible models. When that happens, we build kludges to bridge the divide. That is an appropriate thing to do. If one of your models fails to account for the existing data and to predict new data like disease resistance in a population or where to find a certain kind of fossil, then that model is inferior in that domain. If other parts of that model still appear to be successful in accounting for experience and guiding decisions, then only the part which fails need be discarded.

    ID may turn out to be a better model. Who knows? Currently it is not. That is a brute fact. It does not account for the existing data and predict new data at all. It simply asserts. That doesn’t mean it never will. Paradigms do shift. But to shift the paradigm which says that evolution is existence, that change over time is the most basic observation, will indeed be monumental.

    And the effects of that paradigm shift will not at all be constrained to our model of biological evolution. It will change our relationship to the universe entirely.

  2. petrushka:
    You are being as silly and obstinate as Gregory to pretend that evolution can only have one meaning.

    That would make it rather unusual among words.

    Fine. I am happy to be wrong. Can you give me those variety of definitions? Even just two? I am not being obstinate. Just that for such a simple claim, evidence is either easy or the claim is wrong. Go ahead. Find one exception. I will be gracious about being educated.

  3. Steve Schaffner: Sorry, but you’re completely wrong. Unless by “the standard way” you mean “your way”, then you’re in no position to pronounce upon the standard usage of “evolution”. It’s used in quite different ways by different people in different fields, as a simple reading of this thread should illustrate.

    I see your assertion. Can you give me one example? I read the thread and can’t find it used in any way but as change over time and as the root word of an ism or three. Now there are two people telling me I am silly for saying it only has one definition. But I still only see one definition.

  4. The ‘ism’s’ are Gregory’s. He is a social scientist of indeterminate stripe who is going to save society from us bad evolutionismists. Or something.

    edited to correct grammar mistake

  5. BWE:
    I did. Are you saying you understand the question in the OP?

    If you’ve read the thread, you should already know the answer: no. I recently asked for clarification about the meaning of the OP.

    Are you saying any of the offerings itt are indeed things which don’t evolve?

    Yes. I’m saying that the two things I listed (in the thread you’re read) as not evolve are things that don’t evolve.

    This weird fixation with dissociating the evolution of life from the root word evolution in order to deny a particular hypothesis the right to propose a particular causal relationship to the most basic fact of existence is bizarre to me.

    I have no idea what this sentence means. The only weird fixation here seems to be yours, with the idea that words have single meanings, or that your own take on how to slice up reality is shared by every human.

    Life evolved. That is the basic fact of existence.

    Well, I agree that life evolved. Why that is the basic fact of existence, as opposed to one of many facts, I have no idea.

    Nothing can avoid evolving. Systems evolve and any ‘thing’ can be described as a system and vice versa.That is kinda the definition of a ‘thing’.

    How does a system that consists of a single electron evolve? How does any single electron evolve?

    But the idea that life evolves can only be questioned if you change the definition of evolve.

    Since no one has questioned the idea that life evolves on this thread, I don’t know what point you’re trying to make here.

    Life evolves and as it does soit changes. Simple drift is apparent in the fact that children do not look like their parents. Continued through eternity, with no constraints, that change could not be predicted. If there are proposed constraints, say, natural selection, then that is a question of modeling and the constraints will allow us to make predictions. The models which do the best job of predicting new data and accounting for existing data are the best models.

    Maybe Neo darwinian evolution as a model is flawed. In fact, there is no question that it is flawed because models compress experience and they are, by necessity, lossy compression when we are talking about the physical world. But that inherent property of the model, that we know it is flawed, does not mean that it isn’t the best model we have. It seems to account for existing data and predict new data better than any other currently so it is the best to use if you want to predict something within its domain. Say, disease resistance in a population or where certain kinds of fossils might be found.

    It would be foolish to use an alternative model which is inferior at predicting those sorts of things. It would also be foolish to assume that there was any sense of ‘this is right and the truth the light and the way’ to the ToE. It is simply the most successful model currently available. If you think you can make a better model, go for it. If it works better, people will use it instead because it would be foolish not to.

    Since you’ve read the thread, you’re aware that I do genetics, including evolutionary genetics, for a living. Thus I’m sure you have some reason for giving me a potted summary of what I already know.

    If you think that somehow using the most successful model makes some other part of life suffer I submit you are trying to solve a different problem and are suffering from the dissonance of incompatible models. When that happens, we build kludges to bridge the divide. That is an appropriate thing to do. If one of your models fails to account for the existing data and to predict new data like disease resistance in a population or where to find a certain kind of fossil, then that model is inferior in that domain. If other parts of that model still appear to be successful in accounting for experience and guiding decisions, then only the part which fails need be discarded.

    ID may turn out to be a better model. Who knows? Currently it is not. That is a brute fact. It does not account for the existing data and predict new data at all. It simply asserts. That doesn’t mean it never will. Paradigms do shift. But to shift the paradigm which says that evolution is existence, that change over time is the most basic observation, will indeed be monumental.

    And the effects of that paradigm shiftwill not at all be constrained to our model of biological evolution. It will change our relationship to the universe entirely.

    Not to be impolite or anything, but what the heck are you talking about? How does anything you’ve written in this post respond to anything I wrote?

  6. BWE: I see your assertion. Can you give me one example? I read the thread and can’t find it used in any way but as change over time and as the root word of an ism or three. Now there are two people telling me I am silly for saying it only has one definition. But I still only see one definition.

    Evolution = change over time caused by changed allele frequencies. Specifically excluded are changes over time that do not have genetic causes.
    Evolution = gradual change over time. Excluded are changes over very short time scales. The gradual increase in the sun’s diameter is an example of stellar evolution; a solar flare is not.
    Evolution = non-cyclic change over time. The change of the Earth’s position as it orbits the sun is not an example of evolution.

  7. petrushka:
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/evolution

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evolution

    ev·o·lu·tion (v-lshn, v-)
    n.
    1. A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form. See Synonyms at development.
    2.
    a. The process of developing.
    b. Gradual development.
    3. Biology
    a. Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of new species.
    b. The historical development of a related group of organisms; phylogeny.
    4. A movement that is part of a set of ordered movements.
    5. Mathematics The extraction of a root of a quantity.

    Each of which is a specific application of ‘change over time’. I did go to the dictionary first when I was told that evolution might not mean change over time in all cases.

    The evolution OF anything is its change over time. Seriously, what is this? I know it seems heretical to say that a word has one basic definition but in this case, and especially relating to biology, the word means change over time.

    Find me anywhere the word evolution used, but, as gregory wrote, ‘divorced from time and change’. You know what? I don’t think you will be able to. I am making a simple claim to refute. One white raven and all. But especially to the idea of biological evolution. You can argue with the model but not the fact.

    The current or modern theory of evolution in science is only a description of the mechanisms. That there is change over time is a given and forms the foundational assumption for any and all knowledge no matter how you want to define knowledge. Being able to use a schematic model to manipulate a system is science. That model has no connection to the thing it models other than that it allows us to make predictions which inform our actions. We navigated lots of our Mediterranean world just fine using ptolemy’s system. It was true by the exact same logic that anything is true. It’s predictions allowed one to make choices and the experience matched the prediction. There is no other sense of something being true which we can justify with evidence. Experience is the front door. Models are the furniture.

  8. Well assuming the word evolution has only the root meaning of unfold, biological evolution is front loaded. A popular meme at UD.

  9. BWE:
    Each of which is a specific application of ‘change over time’.

    Of course they are. It’s not that complicated: evolution always means some kind of change over time; not all changes over time are evolution. Which changes over time are considered evolution depends on the context, i.e. on the specific definition of “evolution” that is in play.

  10. Gregory has exhibited a talent for stirring up progress free discussion. Would that it were rare.

    Was it Mark Twain who pointed out that there is a difference between lightening and a lightening bug?

    Gregory has pretended that the word evolution has some meaning that is independent of context.

    Call me cynical, but I do not anticipate any tying together of the various strands of this thread.

  11. Steve Schaffner: Evolution = change over time caused by changed allele frequencies. Specifically excluded are changes over time that do not have genetic causes.
    Evolution = gradual change over time. Excluded are changes over very short time scales. The gradual increase in the sun’s diameter is an example of stellar evolution; a solar flare is not.
    Evolution = non-cyclic change over time. The change of the Earth’s position as it orbits the sun is not an example of evolution.

    So each of those changes over time show that evolution is not change over time? So the evolution of Earth’s position wrt the sun is not the change over time of Earth’s position relative to the sun?

    Actually, that sounds snarky and I don’t intend any. But you would talk about the evolution of a thing. A thing is pretty easy to define as a system. All your examples were of systems. You gotta push back if you’re gonna pop to a different resolution for your language. The system of Earth’s position wrt to her star may be the position of Earth along the elliptical path we model and call her orbit which does indeed evolves in terms of change over time. If you define the system as closed, that is, divorce it from experience, abstract the model to repeat the identical ellipse around the identical mass in a mathematical relationship, the system evolving is the one busy running the model of the idealized repeating motion. At some point, that system evolves into something which no longer runs that idealized abstraction but our measurements of experience, that is, the sun’s position relative to Earth as measured by instruments, does indeedy evolve constantly. SLoT and all.

    See what I did there? I inserted a model to explain the evolution which observation dictates is a brute fact. In any example you need to specify what change over what time is being modeled, but you will find, at least so far we have found, that we are always talking about change over time.

    I’m not trying to be difficult and I am happy to discuss and try to learn. That is why I tried to make my position clear enough to make a clear refutation obvious.

  12. BWE: So each of those changes over time show that evolution is not change over time?

    No, they’re examples of changes over time that are not evolution — which is the subject of the thread. Right? That was what Gregory asked for, and that was what you suggested doesn’t exist.

    Actually, that sounds snarky and I don’t intend any. But you would talk about the evolution of a thing. A thing is pretty easy to define as a system.

    Okay, I’m willing to define a thing as a system.

    All your examples were of systems. You gotta push back if you’re gonna pop to a different resolution for your language. The system of Earth’s position wrt to her star may be the position of Earth along the elliptical path we model and call her orbit which does indeed evolves in terms of change over time.

    No. Its position changes over time, but that’s not evolution. That’s not what the English word “evolution” means, as used by most competent speakers of the language, including most speakers who specialize in the study of things like orbiting planets.

  13. Change implies over time, so over time is unnecessary word bloat. Evolution = change makes the word evolution unnecessary.

    For evolution to be a useful word it must have some meaning or connotation not implied by the word change.

    Examples of value added by evolution are “gradual,” “progressive,” “diverging,” “guided,” and so forth. All of these are dependent on context. Without context it is futile to respond to the OP.

    If the OP had asked fo things that do not change it would be a different question.

  14. Steve Schaffner: Of course they are. It’s not that complicated: evolution always means some kind of change over time; not all changes over time are evolution. Which changes over time are considered evolution depends on the context, i.e. on the specific definition of “evolution” that is in play.

    Well, you have to define your system when you use the word. The evolution of an idea is not the evolution of a car battery over its life nor is it the evolution of life forms over time. But the idea of a system which does not evolve is what I am challenging. Systems evolve by their very nature. The entire landscape of experience evolves and nothing is left out. We don’t really have a language which reflects that but it is a brute fact of experience.

    While words as abstractions create the illusion of permanence, experience offers no examples of that permanence. It is wrong-headed to deny evolution of any system. It is also wrong headed to consider a model to be truth. Models are what we use to create truth. Truth is always a prediction which matches experience. It is true to say that the modern variant of the ToE is the best model of the physical evolution of life that we currently have. It is not true to say that the ToE is true. The ToE allows us to say that we will never find an exception to nested hierarchies in multicellular organisms (and prokaryotes too but again, the resolution must be defined). So far, that prediction is true.

    Etc.

  15. petrushka:
    Change implies over time,so over time is unnecessary word bloat.

    Yeah, I’ve thought about pointing that out. But there are contexts in which it does make sense to talk about change across some spatial coordinate, so I’m not sure it’s completely redundant.

  16. BWE,

    If you are using the term as a biologist would, then ‘no’, hydrogen atoms do not evolve. Nuclear fission is as close as it gets, but there is no passing of genes or the creation of a new generation. It’s analogous to taking a rock and breaking it into two. The rock did not undergo binary fission, but merely split into two smaller components equal to the original whole.

  17. BWE: Well, you have to define your system when you use the word. The evolution of an idea is not the evolution of a car battery over its life nor is it the evolution of life forms over time. But the idea of a system which does not evolve is what I am challenging. Systems evolve by their very nature. The entire landscape of experience evolves and nothing is left out. We don’t really have a language which reflects that but it is a brute fact of experience.

    Essentially, all you’re doing is repeating your assertion that all change is evolution. Generally, the generic word for change in English is “change”. “Evolution” is used for specific kinds of change, which is why it has multiple definitions. You can keep using “evolve” for any and all change, but you won’t be speaking standard English, and you won’t be communicating effectively.

    While words as abstractions create the illusion of permanence, experience offers no examples of that permanence. It is wrong-headed to deny evolution of any system.

    Are you at least aware that one can agree with your first sentence here and disagree with the second?

    It is also wrong headed to consider a model to be truth. Models are what we use to create truth. Truth is always a prediction which matches experience. It is true to say that the modern variant of the ToE is the best model of the physical evolution of life that we currently have. It is not true to say that the ToE is true. The ToE allows us to say that we will never find an exception to nested hierarchies in multicellular organisms (and prokaryotes too but again, the resolution must be defined). So far, that prediction is true.

    No relevance to the current discussion.

  18. Steve Schaffner: No, they’re examples of changes over time that are not evolution — which is the subject of the thread. Right? That was what Gregory asked for, and that was what you suggested doesn’t exist.

    Ahh. I see what you are saying. I disagree but it’s purely a matter of definitions and it’s immaterial to the op. You define a system and talk about change within it. The revolution of Earth relative to the sun doesn’t change if you don’t go to a bigger resolution to look at it. It does change -evolve- if you dynamically model the system from the solar system level, but at the level of the system itself you always discount the system’s evolution. Evolution is universal in a view from above. Not from a view from inside. My view of this thread can only be seen to have evolved from a view of m y view from outside. Only the systems you observe are seen to be evolving and that is how we talk about it. All of your examples are themselves modelable as evolving systems or are abstractions which are exempt by their resolution as inside the modeler. The modeler evolves and with it the models themselves evolve. But in the spirit of the op, there is no system which can be said to not evolve. The orbit of Earth is an evolving system. Because the system being modeled is the orbit, not the planet. But if you start with the orbit as your highest level, then the completion of an orbit does not constitute an evolving process but rather a repeating process (of which there are none so far discovered in the physical world. Lots of mandelbrot sets, no cartesian circles.) So models can be said to not evolve but in nature, in the world we call physical, all things evolve.

    Which is why I said that things can be translated into systems and then they all evolve. It is a matter of how we set up the problem.

    Okay, I’m willing to define a thing as a system.

    No. Its position changes over time, but that’s not evolution. That’s not what the English word “evolution” means, as used by most competent speakers of the language, including most speakers who specialize in the study of things like orbiting planets.

    Evolution still always means change over time. Without a subject, the what that changes over time, it is only an abstraction. And if the system is not a system but rather a bit view of a schematic model, evolution is the wrong word to use.

    But in terms of things, physical systems, all of them evolve. And that means that they change over time.

    Does that seem better?

    I am just mystified as to what the OP hopes to accomplish by removing change and time from the word that means change over time. It is of course possible to describe change over time in such a way as to ignore the error bars, to idealize some part of a system, and not be talking about the evolution of that part but rather the mechanics of that part. That is not reflective of anything in the physical universe however.

    Right?

  19. I’m rather naive in the realm of philosophy. I assume by change in spacial coordinates you mean movement, and movement implies time.

    My interpretation of evolution is a subset of change, the particular subset depending on context.

    Biological evolution. Darwinian evolution Lamarkian evolution. Social evolution. Language evolution. Chemical evolution. And so forth. If Gregory had meant simply change, the challenge would had taken a different turn.

    I suspect he has some process of change in mind.

  20. BWE: Ahh. I see what you are saying. I disagree but it’s purely a matter of definitions and it’s immaterial to the op.

    On the contrary, it appears to be central to the OP, which asked for things that don’t evolve, given the use of “evolve” in our language. To an evolutionary biologist, rocks do not evolve.

    But in terms of things, physical systems, all of them evolve. And that means that they change over time.

    Which takes us back to my previous question: how does a system that consists of a single electron change over time? How does a single cesium atom change over time?

  21. I suspect Gregory has in mind some double secret kind of change.

    The one true kind of change.

  22. petrushka,

    petrushka:
    Change implies over time,so over time is unnecessary word bloat. Evolution = change makes the word evolution unnecessary.

    For evolution to be a useful word it must have some meaning or connotation not implied by the word change.

    Examples of value added by evolution are “gradual,” “progressive,” “diverging,” “guided,” and so forth. All of these are dependent on context. Without context it is futile to respond to the OP.

    If the OP had asked fo things that do not change it would be a different question.

    I think time is important because evolution involves direction. It is what we notice in change over time, to see it is to model it with time and form as the simplest axes. To consider the evolution of mammals, for example, you start with a timeline and put the various mammal fossils on that timeline and note the changes over time based on the changes and the time.

  23. BWE,

    gradual change, or development. The sense is of “unrolling” or “unfolding”, as in a parchment (from the Latin “evolutio”), so it doesn’t apply to cyclical systems. The term also doesn’t apply to any binary configurations (e.g. switches, electrons going from one energy state to another).

  24. Steve Schaffner: Essentially, all you’re doing is repeating your assertion that all change is evolution. Generally, the generic word for change in English is “change”. “Evolution” is used for specific kinds of change, which is why it has multiple definitions. You can keep using “evolve” for any and all change, but you won’t be speaking standard English, and you won’t be communicating effectively.

    Change is different from change over time. The latter implies direction. Direction implies causality. Causality is modelable. Evolution is modelable. Change by itself is simply a data point. Evolution is a record of the change in the system. The evolution of Earths orbit is a model of the change in the orbit. The evolution of life on Earth is a model of the changes in life on Earth. The evolution of an idea is a model of the changes in the idea over time. You can pick a theoretical spot in time and if you know how a system evolves, use that spot in time to determine what the system looked like at that point.

    Which is also why, when I first started this little crusade, I pointed out that the definition of things is indeed important. Once a thing becomes a system, it evolves. Until then, it is a unit. A single variable in the equation which models a larger system.

    Are you at least aware that one can agree with your first sentence here and disagree with the second?

    of course.

    No relevance to the current discussion.

    Well, the reason I included it is because the OP says it seeks to ‘challenge the ideology of evolutionism’ or something like that and I was trying to point out the futility of the attempt. You can challenge a model with a better model or with an observable flaw in an existing model. But to change the fact that we model systems as the primary means of even being aware of them by challenging the assumptions that the universe is consistent and that it is in perpetual flux is quite a proposition and the implications to the ToE are statistically zero compared to the implication to existence itself.

  25. davehooke:
    BWE,

    gradual change, or development. The sense is of “unrolling” or “unfolding”, as in a parchment (from the Latin “evolutio”), so it doesn’t apply to cyclical systems. The term also doesn’t apply to any binary configurations (e.g. switches, electrons going from one energy state to another).

    Yeah. I figured out the objection. We don’t consider an act or a repeating pattern we use as part of a schematic model to be evolution. Everything external evolves because we can only understand the external as systems, but we break down those systems into parts which we abstract from physical data or time spans which change the system being modeled to a subsystem and the referent is no longer subject to the term because we aren’t looking at it at a systems level anymore.

    Like a hydrogen atom wouldn’t be subject to evolution if it were divorced from the system of interacting atoms in an idealization. The system is what evolves.

    And, since we really don’t have any way to model a universe inside a hydrogen atom, it is pretty tough to consider it evolving individually even though if we had the resolution capability we probably would be able to say it evolves. But lacking that resolution, we are left with the bits of an atom only viewable as mechanical processes even though, curiously, we cannot measure it mechanically the same way we measure things at our scale mechanically. But we do very much talk about the evolution of a quantum system.

    At any rate, you can’t challenge a model by telling us not to model. You have to challenge the act of modeling itself and that would be big news in the science community.

  26. petrushka:
    Biological evolution does not imply direction or causation.

    Yes it does. It implies direction that individual organisms within populations will change over successive generations such that they will either have features which can cope with corresponding changes in their landscape or there will be no successive generations. It implies causation in genetic expression and heritable changes at the gene level. Any model implies direction and causation.

  27. I’m rather naive in the realm of philosophy. I assume by change in spacial coordinates you mean movement, and movement implies time.

    I suppose one could be talking, for example, about a gradation of color over spatial coordinates.

  28. Neil Rickert: I suppose one could be talking, for example, about a gradation of color over spatial coordinates.

    Yes, that’s the kind of thing I mean: change of pigmentation with latitude, or change of flowering time with increasing altitude. I don’t think I’d express it that way, but it’s at least possible.

  29. Steve Schaffner: On the contrary, it appears to be central to the OP, which asked for things that don’t evolve, given the use of “evolve” in our language. To an evolutionary biologist, rocks do not evolve.

    Which takes us back to my previous question: how does a system that consists of a single electron change over time? How does a single cesium atom change over time?

    Well, a specific rock does indeed evolve. ‘Rocks’ do not evolve when they are units within a larger system. They change. The change over time of a rock is quite appropriately called the evolution of that rock, but it is a different system than, say, mammals, so it would be inappropriate to combine the two unless you were talking about the evolution of the planet, in which case, the change in species as well as the change in a rock are both bits and we only would include the biota as evolving in that case out of custom since ‘evolution’ as a phantom word is traditionally referring to biological evolution.

    A single cesium atom is not viewable at a sufficient resolution nor does it exist unentangled long enough to be viewed as a system alone. It’s always interacting and we would talk about the evolution of its eigenstates or the evolution of the quantum system within which it is entangled measured using schrodingers equations and tracked as quantum decoherence or as individual readings of the collapsed waveform depending on which school you are willing to kill for. An electron is not measurable separate from a larger system except by its proxy, its spectrum. For that matter, neither is a cesium atom but that ends up being a definitions game and I don’t have a dog in that race so you are welcome to use whatever description you are comfortable with in terms of what we measure in quantum systems.

    To any one systems view, the evolution of that system is modeled independently for convenience’s sake. But I am unaware of any fully independent systems in the physical universe so a higher view is always possible. My point is that at none of those higher views is there something which does not evolve. If we define the system and then break it apart by function, we are not looking at the evolution but rather the mechanics of the system. But those mechanics, when brought into the next higher level view, are indeed part of the way we will predict the evolution of that system.

    The shop manual of a car explains how the parts function in relation to each other. A higher level view, tracking the evolution of the system which is the car, would include those relationships as well as more general physics and schematics about the qualities and mechanics of the materials involved and the specific forces which that car is subjected to in its existence and the material beyond the conglomeration which was the car.

    There is no way to look at an instance of physical system and say it does not evolve if that is what the OP intends. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of a system, of the modeling process, and of the concept of evolution which is the change of that system over time.

    You can propose a different model to use and if it accommodates the data better and makes better predictions, it will be a better model. You can redefine the system so that the part whose evolution you previously tracked is now a schematic part of another system and effectively create an axiom from the assumed hypothesis. Or you can deny the power of modeling altogether which means last thursdayism. We can know nothing about anything, including intelligent designers.

  30. So you can reduce everything to mere change, but not without loss of meaning. Biological evolution and chemical evolution and cultural evolution are all change, but not in the same sense.

    I’m sure Gregory has something in mind more specific than change.

  31. Sorry for what I did to this thread but the topic is just fascinating to me.

    Just like the ideology of ‘naturalism’ claims that *everything* is ‘natural,’ the ideology of ‘evolutionism’ says that *everything* ‘evolves.’

    Those aren’t ideologies. Those are definitions that underpin the scientific paradigm which says that whatever can influence our universe can be modeled and what can’t isn’t a part of our universe. You are free to use whatever paradigm you like but I suggest switching to the scientific paradigm before doing electrical work on your house wiring.

    The idea that there is ‘something wrong’ with those definitions, actually axioms of a particular system of modeling, is not new. I personally think the definitions do propose a defacto materialism which gets the whole thing ass backwards. I think an inevitable conclusion of that thinking is that all things which are real are reducible to a material landscape and therefore all fixes to problems can be done at a material level. I think that is a hazardous idea. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe remote controls work or that there are non-physical realms which interact with physical realms and leave no trace whatsoever. Once a physical claim is made, it is modelable. Whether that claim is angels or syphilis. Evolution involves change in physical systems. Defined as physical systems. Everything modelable is natural because the two words have become synonymous. Everything evolves because that is the most basic fact of observation.

    Your whole program seems flawed to me because you don’t seem to understand the structure of the ideas you are thinking about. Whatever is, is. There are probably an infinite number of ways to define and model experience. We could do all our geometry using non-euclidean geometry if we wanted. It would just be tedious. But there is no reason we ever need to see the plane as flat. Just, if we do, we are bound to using euclidean geometry if we want our bridges to resist falling down. The only priority we can assign is utility.

    The ID hypothesis is also a model of evolution. Do you disagree with that?

  32. petrushka:
    So you can reduce everything to mere change,but not without loss of meaning. Biological evolution and chemical evolution and cultural evolution are all change,but not in the same sense.

    I’m sure Gregory has something in mind more specific than change.

    Not ‘change’. Change over time. That means we can move the dial and see the system in a different configuration at a different point in its evolution. Gregory has only a category confusion in mind I suspect. The question is ill formed and basically asks for a resolution error to be handed to him to be used as an aha! of literally no import. Like saying that Earth’s tendency to rotate does not evolve. It’s a chase the subject game. The paths and periods and whatnot of the rotation itself evolves as a system but the cyclical day/night pairing doesn’t evolve. The length of the days and nights evolves, but rotation itself is a schematic element with a mechanical quality and it’s abstracted and so doesn;t evolve.

    Whatever he comes up with will not challenge whether life evolves over time. It does. The ideology of evolutionism is in no danger from this line of questioning.

  33. petrushka:
    I suspect Gregory has in mind some double secret kind of change.

    The one true kind of change.

    that sounds like the sort described in Ecclesiastes

  34. Evolution can be:

    unrolling a scroll (original sense)

    change over time with selection (biological)

    change over time with feedback (popular)

    change (vague)

  35. BWE,

    For additional context on what the h*ll Gregory is driving at, see the “What is Science” thread and the discussion in Sandbox (from ~Sept 5 onwards) that immediately preceded this OP.
    He’s trying to make a sociological point by equivocating “evolution”.
    At least I think that is what he is trying to do.

  36. Just an aside on that note, “The Value of Science” by Henri Poincare is now a free e-book from google. It is the best book on the philosophical consideration of science I have ever read. If you could only ever read one philosophy of science book, that should be it. If it were the only content of high school science, we would have students prepared for college science classes.

    I will try to find that thread.

  37. I found this quote from Gregory over there:

    What needs to be rejected, however, is the exaggeration of evolutionary theory into non-natural scientific fields, into ethics, into art and aesthetics, into economics and politics, into literature and music, into philosophy and human-social sciences under the guise of evolutionism.

    I agree. So? You can’t reduce social sciences to physical sciences. But evolutionary theory is misused in that quote. Theory refers to a specific system. The Theory of evolution of species is a schematic of evolution of species with mechanisms and established data and all the rest. That “evolution theory” is not transferable to, say, Einstein’s theory of relativity because the systems are different. The same is true in reverse. We shouldn’t be importing relativity theory into social sciences either. Only because it’s ridiculous to do so. But, say, game theory might have some application.

    It may be possible to map some concepts from evolutionary theory to say, ethics or art analysis but it isn’t a given and would require justification. If this topic is related to that quote, it really has nothing to do with evolutionary theory because that involves biology, not social sciences and humanities. Evolution and evolutionary theory are different things just like sports and soccer are different things.

    I would never have gotten that from reading this thread BTW. Lacking that context, this thread makes no sense including the responses.

    With it, perhaps I will learn something about what is happening in some corner of the sociology world. And hopefully Gregory can educate us or me at least on some potential error of thinking in the humanities and I will studiously avoid it whenever possible.

  38. ok. I can see it as a matter of concern if you were in an affected field. Just becoming aware is enough. I just went to a presentation about body language and reading people and the lady gave all kinds of “evolutionary reasons” for what we observe in micro expressions and other behavior. Ranging from it reminds us how wonderful the nipple was to “developed when we were constantly in danger from predators.” Irritating.

    I can see the habit grating on my nerves if colleagues did that all the time.

  39. Gregory did state, “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.”

    My emphasis. As I read it, the sense of “evolve” intended in Gregory’s challenge is that of “evolutionary theory,” not the more general/colloquial/historical senses discussed above. In that context, ‘replication with heritable changes coupled with selection’ is therefore a minimal description of the phenomenon he wishes to claim is overgeneralized. Obviously, many here do not overgeneralize “evolve” when used in that sense, and Gregory’s prediction has failed.

  40. Reciprocating Bill 2:
    Gregory did state, “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.”

    My emphasis. As I read it, the sense of “evolve” intended in Gregory’s challenge is that of “evolutionary theory,” not the more general/colloquial/historical senses discussed above. In that context, ‘replication with heritable changes coupled with selection’ is therefore a minimal description of the phenomenon he wishes to claim is overgeneralized. Obviously, many here do not overgeneralize “evolve” when used in that sense, and Gregory’s prediction has failed.

    if that is the meaning he intended then he failed. I can name the 5 things sitting next to me. That also makes a little more sense although, I am reading the what is science thread and now I am again not sure what this thread proposes.

    Oh well. Long time no see RB. Hope you are well. I lost my log in to AtBC and don;t have that email address anymore so I haven’t commented there in a long time. Do you comment here much?

  41. BWE: Oh well. Long time no see RB. Hope you are well. I lost my log in to AtBC and don;t have that email address anymore so I haven’t commented there in a long time. Do you comment here much?

    Hey, I’m OK. I’ve been very preoccupied with my 93 year old dad and funding two private college tuitions (K-strategy and all.) It’s down to one now and in about a year I’m done. (*Whew*.) I post here when I think I have something to contribute. Very much now and then at AtBC.

  42. Well I think “evolutionist” is a silly word, coined by ID/Creationists to characterize those who disagree with them. It’s certainly not part of my regular vocabulary, much less my ideology. If someone chooses to invent such an ideology and label others with it, you really ought to be asking them about it.

  43. Reciprocating Bill 2: Hey, I’m OK. I’ve been very preoccupied with my 93 year old dad and funding two private college tuitions (K-strategy and all.) It’s down to one now and in about a year I’m done. (*Whew*.) I post here when I think I have something to contribute. Very much now and then at AtBC.

    I’m funding 2 and a half. 2 are state schools. One is not particularly less expensive in my case but the other is on a full tuition scholarship which cuts the cost by about half. It’s weird how they just keep costing more as they get older, I’m going to have to sell plasma to pay for any potential wedding expenses. I guess it doesn’t help that I got sick last fall and had to quit most of my work. I am improving though and hopefully will be returning to some sort of working capacity soon. That’s good news. 🙂

  44. I prefer it to “evilutionist”. 🙂

    Sure there’s usually a pejorative subtext (not that sub, often) – ditto materialists, determinists, atheists.

  45. I think this is part of the heartburn that Gregory isn’t relating to us. When Darwin promulgated evolution by variation and natural selection, racism was endemic to humanity. It was perfectly natural to see evolution as involving direction and of course white Europeans were at the top. And after anthropologists adopted an evolutionary model it was also perfectly natural that the white Europeans weren’t just the peak of a physical evolution but that white European culture was the peak of a sociological evolution. Overcoming both the racial bias and the evolution=direction-towards-perfection bias has been a famous challenge in science.

    petrushka:Biological evolution does not imply direction or causation.

  46. Overcoming both the racial bias and the evolution=direction-towards-perfection bias has been a famous challenge in science.

    Gregory seems to have missed out on the last 50 years of commentary on ethnocentrism.

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