INTRODUCTION to CHAPTER TWO
This chapter outlines the basic argument and explains what is meant by generalizing Darwinian principles. Instead of the vague, extremely broad, and ambiguous word “evolution” we start from the basic ontology of the general kind of system that we are addressing. This ontology is described in section 2.1. Such worlds are given the name “complex population systems.”
Among its important features is a population of entities, each of which has the capacity to store and pass on information relevant for its survival. These entities face (at least) locally scarce resources, and have to struggle to survive and minimize degradation. We claim that this ontology applies to both biological and social reality: just as there are populations of organisms, in society there are populations of organizations.
We then interpret the Darwinian principles of variation, selection, and inheritance (synonymous with replication) as explanatory requirements: the facts of survival, variation and information transmission must be explained. Our next step is to argue that such explanations will inevitably involve a combination of generalities and attention to specific mechanisms. So explanations at the most abstract level are necessary but insufficient.
What would make this argument inapplicable? Critics could argue that the ontology of complex populations systems does not apply to social reality. Another objection would be that the argument does not help us very much. But we are not claiming that it is a complete explanation. It is more a meta-theory, or a way of organizing theories and raising questions that require further theories and explanations.
1. Is social reality a “complex population system” as described in Section 2.1?
2. What is meant by the Darwinian principles of variation, selection and inheritance?
3. What are the roles of general and more specific (auxiliary) theories in the explanation of complex phenomena?