INTRODUCTION to CHAPTER THREE
This chapter deals with some prominent criticisms of the idea that Darwinian principles apply to social evolution. First we address the claim that Darwinism is inappropriate because it cannot deal with human intentionality. On the contrary, Darwin accepted that some species – including humans – were capable of reflecting on their circumstances, setting goals, and actin intentionally. But Darwin insisted that the evolution of intentionality and the development of intentions were caused, and subject to causal explanation.
Second we address the possibility of artificial selection. This is where some agent carries out a form of selection on a population. A misunderstanding here is to see it as a rival to selection more generally. Artificial selection is one form of selection. If it occurs in the social domain then that does not overturn Darwinism. On the contrary, Darwin used examples such as pigeon breeding to illustrate the more general idea of selection.
Third we address the phenomenon of self-organization, which is important in nature and in human society. Some authors have claimed that self-organization can serve as a general framework for understanding evolution. But self-organization addresses the emergence or development of a single entity, not a population of entities. Consequently it is an important but inadequate concept for dealing with evolution in complex population systems.
Fourth we address Ulrich Witt’s “continuity hypothesis”, which is a claim that nature grounds and constrains social evolution. We fully agree with this proposition. And it is entirely consistent with generalized Darwinian principles. So it would be a mistake to pose these two sets of ideas as mutually exclusive rivals.
1. If some evolutionary biologists have downplayed deliberation or intentionality in their study of nature, does that mean that Darwinism necessarily excludes them?
2. How does the concept of artificial selection relate to selection per se? And how does the actual process of artificial selection relate to other processes of selection?
3. If self-organization is important, is it a sufficient organizing principle? If not, why not?
4. What is the relationship between the “continuity hypothesis” and generalized Darwinism?