Page 126 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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Even Pat Robertson can find a way to accept the “evolution as a mechanism” claims:
“If you fight revealed science you’re going to lose your children, and I believe in
telling them the way it was. … I don’t believe in so-called evolution as non-theistic. I
believe that God started it all and he’s in charge of all of it. The fact that you have
progressive evolution under his control. That doesn’t hurt my faith at all.”
What the creationists often point out and the “science activists” often omit is that the
discoveries of natural selection and survival of the fittest are themselves insufficient actually
to explain all that “evolution” is somehow credited with explaining. Conway Morris (2010)
states: “The question quite simply is whether the theory is complete. At heart are the
questions as to what life is itself and the nature of the organizational principles that might
underpin it.” And Macklem’s (2008) view is that “[u]nderstanding life requires knowledge of
how the design of living creatures and emergent phenomena, appearing spontaneously in self-
ordered, reproducing, interacting, energy-consuming, nonlinear, dynamic ensembles makes
us what we are. I believe this will be the next biological revolution.” Without active
acknowledgment of the “gaps” or limitations in the current state of evolutionary theory, any
assertion that the explanation is complete is itself a proclamation of a sort of “magic.”
Evolution as mechanism answers many questions, but equally it leaves many questions yet
unexplored:
“What we do not understand is how organisms assemble as exceedingly complex
functional entities nor why they repeatedly navigate to convergent solutions.”
(Conway Morris, 2010)
“Though the ecological environment selects, it does not select on its own. Accidents
and their consequences, differential success and failure, result from the combination
of the ecological environment an agent faces and the social features that enhance
some opportunities and suppress others and that exacerbate some dangers and lessen
others. Individuals do not face the ecological filters on their environment alone, but
with others, and with the technology, information and misinformation that their social
world provides.” (Sterelny, 2007)
When the “evolution versus magic” mechanism is debated, the constructivist (again not
concerned with truth claims) will recognize that the debate is about what it means to have a
cognitive model and what the use of such models implies. Here it can help to use a specific
meaning of model derived from Robert Rosen’s modeling relation (Figure 6.1). This provides
us with a methodology for studying one system in terms of another system (the subject and
the “model”).
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