History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Idealism and materialism….

December 1st, 2014 · No Comments


This is another good article from Scientia Salon: the issue of reductionism has been discussed many times here. In the study of world history we confront something that is like an ‘island in the sky’ and which doesn’t reduce to anything, even as we attempt to apply the term ‘evolution’ to the developmental logic of the emergence of civilization. The suspicion arises that our use of the term ‘evolution’ (qualified to ‘evolution x’, ‘civilizational evolution’, ‘eonic’ or ‘macro’ evolution, etc,…) is really the ‘evolution’ that we see with the emergence of man, or even evolution in general. We cannot prove that and make no claims. But the point is that we can define a clear pattern of ‘evolution’ in world history which doesn’t spring from genetic substrates.
It is as if ‘evolution’ ‘evolved’, not via a genetic trail, but in a combination of ‘culture’/’organism’, the two being complementary, with the possibility of genetic mutation being correlated with the overall high level process. That, again, is far beyond our ability to prove anything, and is simply mentioned in passing. But the assumption that the higher level is determined by a lower genetic level seems to be a conjecture, to say the least.

There are all sorts of ways to reconsider ‘reductionism’. The ‘fundamental’ could be ‘life’ and the emergence of the physical universe could be a down-dimensioning of life. Speculation. Or… The relationship of materialism and idealism could be intrinsic with a dynamical relationship between ‘material’ and ‘ideas’. Speculation, but….If we examine the model in WHEE we see a striking relationship between ‘dynamics’ and ‘free agency’ and in general the one idea that is capable of being matched with a substrate is the idea of freedom: the antithesis of ‘freedom’ and ‘causality’ is so direct, and so symmetric we begin to suspect they are part of a basic ‘dyad’ that can express itself in multiple ways. We don’t need to go that far: the relationship of ’caused’ and some other kind of event is something we already know exists, etc…. In general the gateway between the two realms is suspiciously the canonical ‘duality’ of ‘freedom’ and ‘determinism’ and their variants. The striking symmetry of the two ideas has to suggest a hidden lore of some unknown mathematics.

The claim of idealists was always that the ‘idea’ was fundamental, and it might be the case. We are supposed to conclude that genetic reductionism can spawn the whole structural ‘idea’ of a living form. But it might be the other way around: a ‘dynamical’ idea might emerge and spawn a genetic functional realization.

Still underground (read catacomb) arch heresies in a world of reductionists….

Looking at history the obvious suggestion is a dramatic metaphor: the reduced level, the stage, has no direct relation to the ‘idea’ or drama being stage. There is no way to reduce the play to the physics of the stage.

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