David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Biology and Philosophy 21 (1):41-70 (2006)
Modern biology is ambivalent about the notion of evolutionary progress. Although most evolutionists imply in their writings that they still understand large-scale macroevolution as a somewhat progressive process, the use of the term “progress” is increasingly criticized and avoided. The paper shows that this ambivalence has a long history and results mainly from three problems: (1) The term “progress” carries historical, theoretical and social implications which are not congruent with modern knowledge of the course of evolution; (2) An incongruence exists between the notion of progress and Darwin’s theory of selection; (3) It is still not possible to give more than a rudimentary definition of the general patterns that were generated during the macroevolution of organisms. The paper consists of two parts: the first is a historical overview of the roots of the term “progress” in evolutionary biology, the second discusses epistemological, ontological and empirical problems. It is stated that the term has so far served as a metaphor for general patterns generated amongst organisms during evolution. It is proposed that a reformulation is needed to eliminate historically imported implications and that it is necessary to develop a concept for an appropriate empirical description of macroevolutionary patterns. This is the third way between, on the one hand, using the term indiscriminately and, on the other hand, ignoring the general patterns that evolution has produced.
|Keywords||Biological autonomy Complexity Directionality Epistemology Evolutionary progress History Macroevolution Trends|
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Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo & Alvaro Moreno (2012). Autonomy in Evolution: From Minimal to Complex Life. Synthese 185 (1):21-52.
Bernd Rosslenbroich (2009). The Theory of Increasing Autonomy in Evolution: A Proposal for Understanding Macroevolutionary Innovations. Biology and Philosophy 24 (5):623-644.
J. M. Fritzman & Molly Gibson (2012). Schelling, Hegel, and Evolutionary Progress. Perspectives on Science 20 (1):105-128.
Emmanuel D'hombres (2012). The 'Division of Physiological Labour': The Birth, Life and Death of a Concept. [REVIEW] Journal of the History of Biology 45 (1):3 - 31.
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