The question of an evolution paradigm shift is something that biology has been on the verge of since….before Jacques Barzun… the original paradigm shift actually came after Alfred Wallace realized the descent of man couldn’t be as simple as he had thought. And we have to suspect he was the originator of the original theory, not Darwin (See The Darwin Conspiracy, with selections on this blog: search). This suggests an institutional issue, beyond the issues of science, that is, the issue of paradigms as such. Scientists in biology show signs of moving away from a reasonable evolution project to one of a hard paradigm from which they can’t escape.
They missed two great innovators: Kant, and Lamarck. The former produced the teleomechanists and the latter the first genuine proto-theory of evolution, one with two levels, the ancestor of the macro/micro distinction. And then they missed Wallace’s correction, after ripping off his original contribution and calling it Darwin’s. We need not be surprised that such a profession is still stuck a century and half later. Failed scientists and, apparently, failed human beings. It must be that social darwinist ‘tough guy’ syndrome brainwashing the whole profession. Poor wretches these darwinists, good fellows from good homes forced to mutant adaption in the presence of a social darwinist theory.
Biologists are confusing themselves.The origin of life was proto-genetic, so maybe ‘evolution’ is meta-genetic. Evolution is pronounced random, but a look at the whole record could just as well be claimed to be directional, cells, multi-cells, plants/animals, primates, humanoids, man…the arch heresy. Here Lamarck pronounced the obvious: this setup is operating on different levels: something is moving toward greater complexity, and something is dawdling as it tests, proliferates and adapts that higher level. SJ Gould stumbled on it with the perfect metaphor, punctuated equilibrium, something punctuates on one level and the result equilibriates in some fashion. A closer look shows that the history of life fits this as well as or better than other forms of explanation, very generally. We can spot the obvious high level actions and the plateaus they reach, temporarily. Punctuated equilibrium as a pure terminology is little more than a restatement of the principle of sufficient reason, and/or some force/impetus jargon from physics. But it contains an obvious characteristic of what the obvious random record might actually just as obviously show, a non-random process at work. Lamarck’s two levels shrank to one after Darwin: the lower level of adaptation. Since no force factor (punctuation) could be found, the whole science tried to claim that pure random genetics was the answer. But this was exposed as inadequate over and over again, to no avail. It is a puzzling situation. The first thing to consider is that in the name of ‘science’ biologists eliminated the higher level and tried to explain everything with half the answer.
There can be no doubt that biologists have made dramatic advances, but the issue of evolution eludes them. Evolution we suspect is not reducible to science, in the usual sense. The reason should be deducible from what we have seen: evolution associates with generation of complex machines. To say this is random is a counterintuitive claim with no proof. Wrong, no? The only other alternative is construction according to a plan. This is similar to a trend toward higher complexity, and an independent starting process, the birth of life, that was metagenetic: the overall process shows directionality, and, gasp, teleology. Consider how inescapable this is, we suspect. It doesn’t make sense as random evolution. A hybrid seems to be the case.
The problem here then would seem to be that evolution is meta-genetic while the whole subject is focused lower. But, to be sure, speculations about higher levels doesn’t seem promising, a kind of teleological philosophy science has rejected. But playing ostrich is not the answer either.
So a theory of evolution needs a teleological commentary on biology and a revisionist science that can handle such a possibility. But there is another possibility: science clings to the lower level because that’s all they have. Further this could bear fruit: two levels must interact and it could be that the higher level has a representation embedded in the lower. Where would we find it? We could hardly know but we should ask if biological systems show signs of two-level anything. Mirabile dictu, they do, genomics and epigenomics. We won’t pursue that further but the idea of a representation of the higher level in the lower is intriguing.
We have an actual example of how such a two-level system actually works in the macro effect of WHEE, an invaluable demonstration of non-genetic evolution arising in history. This is worst case for science, no genetics, pure evolution in the meta sense, yet very clear: invisible forces, directionality, high level phenomena, operations on values, language, art, consciousness. The hardest case of all. But intelligible as a teleological system. We have to be suspicious here: this process interacts with genetic evolution at the dawn of man (we guess), and we might find the solution of the one in the other, someday. The later case shows higher level evolution, but not genetics. The former shows low level evolution, with genetics, but no high level evolution, or not quite.
We suspect suddenly that the macro effect in WHEE gives an example of high level evolution without genetics, hence the missing factor in all evolutionary theories (but specialized to its own circumstance).
This at least suggests a few hints: meta or ‘macro’ evolution shows driver operating intermittently via discrete transitions (punctuations all over again). Those transitions remember their steps and add up to directionality (like feedback devices) as they realize a plan. So where does that directionality come from and is it a matter of ‘higher dimensionality’ in some sense?