Culture Darwinism Evolution Intelligent Design News

Massimo Pigliucci: Platonic view of evolution is just SO wrong

Spread the love

From Massimo Pigliucci at Nautilus:

Is evolutionary biology about to prove a two-millennia old metaphysical speculation? Or is metaphysics about to fundamentally change the way we look at biology? Andreas Wagner, a developmental biologist at the University of Zurich, argues for both theses. I’m not convinced.

Just read the last two sentences of his 2014 book, Arrival of the Fittest: How Nature Innovates. They come in an epilogue, titled “Plato’s Cave.” “We are shedding new light on one of the most durable and fascinating subjects in all of philosophy,” he writes. “And we learn that life’s creativity draws from a source that is older than life, and perhaps older than time.” (Italics mine.) The source of this creativity, Wagner argues, is “nature’s libraries.” It’s a metaphor for an abstract storehouse of information that we can never physically encounter. “These libraries and texts,” he writes, “are concepts, mathematical concepts, touchable only by the mind’s eye.” This is Platonism, and Wagner’s not shy about admitting it. Are conceptual truths discovered, or invented? Platonists believe the former, and “Platonism,” Wagner writes, “has the upper hand in this debate.”

We probably won’t be overwhelming readers with surprise when we reveal that Pigliucci does not agree:

This is odd because the reconciliation of genetics and Darwinism is one of the crowning achievements of 20th century biology, the so-called Modern Synthesis. It incorporates the ideas of common descent, natural selection, mutation, and recombination into a general mathematical theory of how evolution works. Harking back to De Vries would seem to be a dead-end but, undeterred, Wagner introduces the metaphor—presumably taking inspiration from Jorge Luis Borges—of “nature’s libraries” to clarify why he doesn’t seem himself walking toward a dead end. More.

<em>Coffee</em> Tins Should we tell Massimo that the Modern Synthesis is coming under fire at the upcoming rethinking evolution meet?

Aw, it’ll probably be live streamed anyway. Patchy Ausstechformen

Michael Denton’s Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis, defends the role of form in evolution as well, and is recommended reading, to get some idea what the defenders of form are referring to: Everything in the history of life is not random and directionless; life forms express innate laws of form during their development. (Otherwise, they would not develop at all.)

See also: Massimo Pigliucci on string theorists vs. “Popperazi”


It is safer for Darwin’s followers to just ignore Andreas Wagner than to pick a fight.

Follow UD News at Twitter!

2 Replies to “Massimo Pigliucci: Platonic view of evolution is just SO wrong

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    As to this quote from the article:

    “Newton’s law is actually wrong; and General Relativity, of which Newton’s law is an approximation, is in some sense wrong or incomplete in turn—it’s hardly a Platonic truth.”

    a few notes:

    Why General Relativity is empirically found to be ‘incomplete’ is interesting. One reason it is empirically found to be ‘incomplete’ is not because of any lack of empirical confirmation, seeing as the math of General Relativity is confirmed to 14 decimal points of accuracy in its description of space-time, (to the limits of how far we can accurately measure its predictions!), but it is found to be ‘incomplete’ because of the ‘spaceless and timeless’ singularities of black holes:

    Quantum Mechanics & Relativity – Michio Kaku – The Collapse Of Physics As We Know It ? – video

    Another reason that General Relativity breaks down is because there is no way of describing how space-time might ’emerge’ from the from fundamentally spaceless and timeless physics of quantum mechanics: i.e. it is found to be ‘incomplete’ because it refuses to, mathematically, be unified with quantum mechanics

    LIVING IN A QUANTUM WORLD – Vlatko Vedral – 2011
    Excerpt: Thus, the fact that quantum mechanics applies on all scales forces us to confront the theory’s deepest mysteries. We cannot simply write them off as mere details that matter only on the very smallest scales. For instance, space and time are two of the most fundamental classical concepts, but according to quantum mechanics they are secondary. The entanglements are primary. They interconnect quantum systems without reference to space and time. If there were a dividing line between the quantum and the classical worlds, we could use the space and time of the classical world to provide a framework for describing quantum processes. But without such a dividing line—and, indeed, with­out a truly classical world—we lose this framework. We must explain space and time (4D space-time) as somehow emerging from fundamentally spaceless and timeless physics.

    Indeed, quantum mechanics can, itself, also be considered “incomplete’ because it apparently could care less about the space-time of general relativity

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.

    In fact, even if it were possible to mathematically unify Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity and find the quote unquote “Theory of Everything”, any mathematical equation that described the universe will, because of Godel’s incompleteness theorem, necessarily be incomplete:

    “Clearly then no scientific cosmology, which of necessity must be highly mathematical, can have its proof of consistency within itself as far as mathematics go. In absence of such consistency, all mathematical models, all theories of elementary particles, including the theory of quarks and gluons…fall inherently short of being that theory which shows in virtue of its a priori truth that the world can only be what it is and nothing else. This is true even if the theory happened to account for perfect accuracy for all phenomena of the physical world known at a particular time.”
    Stanley Jaki – Cosmos and Creator – 1980, pg. 49

    Gödel’s incompleteness theorem (1931), proves that there are limits to what can be ascertained by mathematics. Kurt Gödel (ref. on cite), halted the achievement of a unifying all-encompassing theory of everything in his theorem that: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove”. Thus, based on the position that an equation cannot prove itself, the constructs are based on assumptions some of which will be unprovable.”
    Cf., Stephen Hawking & Leonard Miodinow, The Grand Design (2010) @ 15-6

    Cantor, Gödel, & Turing: Incompleteness of Mathematics – video (excerpted from BBC’s ‘Dangerous Knowledge’ documentary)

    “Either mathematics is too big for the human mind, or the human mind is more than a machine.”
    – Kurt Gödel As quoted in Topoi : The Categorial Analysis of Logic (1979) by Robert Goldblatt, p. 13

    Of related interest is this excellent article by Bruce Gordon:

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.

    Verse, Video, and Music:

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    (Centrality Concerns) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from Death as the “Theory of Everything” – video

    Touch The Sky (lyric video) – Hillsong UNITED

  2. 2
    hnorman5 says:

    Wouldn’t the phenomenon that we know as convergent evolution actually support some form of Platonism? Actually, the presence of similar life forms that are clearly not related by common descent could very well be separate creation. But just based on the evidence it could literally be convergent evolution – just not Darwinian evolution.

Leave a Reply