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A friend asks if there is anything “evolution” can’t do

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He is thinking of this book:

The Punisher's BrainWhy do we punish, and why do we forgive? Are these learned behaviors, or is there something deeper going on? This book argues that there is indeed something deeper going on, and that our essential response to the killers, rapists, and other wrongdoers among us has been programmed into our brains by evolution. Using evidence and arguments from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, Morris B. Hoffman traces the development of our innate drives to punish – and to forgive – throughout human history. He describes how, over time, these innate drives became codified into our present legal systems and how the responsibility and authority to punish and forgive was delegated to one person – the judge – or a subset of the group – the jury. Hoffman shows how these urges inform our most deeply held legal principles and how they might animate some legal reforms.

Of course, if the author were remotely right, the very concept of legal reforms would be meaningless; we would simply be carrying out an evolutionary program for which the concept of reform is meaningless.

Do cats “reform” their attitude to mice? Why or why not?

Meanwhile, he tells us, a look-alike luminary informs us how “evolution shapes our loves and fears”:

Snakes, Sunrises, and ShakespeareOur breath catches and we jump in fear at the sight of a snake. We pause and marvel at the sublime beauty of a sunrise. These reactions are no accident; in fact, many of our human responses to nature are steeped in our deep evolutionary past—we fear snakes because of the danger of venom or constriction, and we welcome the assurances of the sunrise as the predatory dangers of the dark night disappear. Many of our aesthetic preferences—from the kinds of gardens we build to the foods we enjoy and the entertainment we seek—are the lingering result of natural selection.

Not only that, but chimpanzees build 98% the same types of gardens!

So is there anything “evolution” can’t do? No, because, as it is now used, the term doesn’t really mean anything except “I want/have tenure.”

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6 Replies to “A friend asks if there is anything “evolution” can’t do

  1. 1
    Barb says:

    …our essential response to the killers, rapists, and other wrongdoers among us has been programmed into our brains by evolution.

    This reminds me of a debate I had on this site with somebody named Proton, who argued that serial killers should be given leniency because many of them came from bad backgrounds and therefore could not do anything but become serial killers.

    The existential knots people tie themselves up in to avoid the concept of free will is most amusing.

  2. 2
    jw777 says:

    Evolution:

    1.) How many total combinatorial permutations of variant bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and prions are there?

    2.) In what year will resistance-survival have yielded all possible combinations?

    3.) Will the immune system of infected organisms yield one more combinatorial permutation of antibody, one less, or the same?

    4.) In what year will infected organisms reach this point?

    This is merely microevolution, which we know is the observable underling of factually-proven macroevolution, so we should have all the answers we need to establish predictive indices for all four questions and their subheadings.

  3. 3
    jw777 says:

    Evolution:

    5.) In what year will humans achieve the technology to produce in lab a replicating organism from inert elements without applying intelligence, mind, foresight, design?

    a.] predict its year and manner of kingdom and phyla divergence
    b.] map its predicted cladistics

    6.) Given the intense mutation and unnatural selection applied to drosophila melanogaster:

    a.] on what day will it evolve into a separate genus (describe the genus)?
    b.] in what week will it evolve into a separate family (which one)?
    c.] in what month will it evolve into a different order (which one)?
    d.] in what year will it evolve into a different class (which one)?
    e.] in what decade will it evolve into a distinctly separate phylum (which one)?

  4. 4
    jw777 says:

    Evolution:

    7.) how did you produce neurochemical reproductive desires?

    8.) how did you produce neurochemical reproductive desires for non-reproduction with objects which cannot reproduce?

    9.) how did you accomplish #8 while ensuring that neurochemical pathways could never be reestablished to #7?

  5. 5
    Jehu says:

    If we like sunrise because day time is safer, why do we like sunsets also? Also, I am not really into sunrises but I do like salsa, can evolution ‘splain that one?

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    Evolution cannot predict the future.

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