A series of essays outlining my current book-in-progress, Darwin, Dada, Dalí, Duke, & Devadevàya: Extending the New Synthesis.
There are several theses within this book. The over-arching one is that all progress operates along similar rules, that human innovation, progress, artificial intelligence and biological evolution all follow some of the same patterns. Because we understand evolution the, biology can help inform the others. But the reverse is true as well. Other forms of progress can shed light on evolution.
To reach that conclusion, we will reconsider and extend some biological ideas, among them the concept of ‘the fittest’ as well as the essential role of ‘the weakest’; speciation/taxonation, the processes which generate disruptive innovation; evolutionary pressure, i.e., how the struggle to survive can (and cannot) influence evolution and taxonation; the underestimated importance of random chance (‘drift’); opportunities to expand the ‘New Synthesis’, the early 20th century biological advances which amalgamated Darwinian evolution, Mendelian genetics, and statistics; the limitations of statistical probability; and how biology creates new problems and opportunities for epistemology and the practice of science.
Follows is a tentative outline, which will undergo constant updates. The current order, titles, and summarized content only lay out a rough overview of the published and upcoming essays.
Both academic publishing and the book industry have severe drawbacks. For 5D, I will publish essays laying out the basic ideas here, and in various academic and social media. The full treatment will appear in the finished book.
Progress can be destructive in the short term, a concept that biologists immediately understand. All progress is evolution, and it conforms to certain patterns of organic evolution. One such biological theory that is of pressing importance today is the ‘bourgeois strategy,’ the drive of the advantaged to maintain their privilege at all costs. These insights demonstrate the need for biologists to become active in many new areas, including public policy.
All living things make decisions, which generally conform to economic principles. Working together, biologists and economists’ can expand their success in predicting both human and non-human choices.
Life can produce great complexity by using very simple decisional processes. Humans often provide complex explanations and models for our behavior, when often, simple biological processes are at work.
Language evolves along many of the patterns of organic evolution. Which is an important insight, because the evolution of our language documents the evolution of our thinking.
Language Changes: Language Ecology
Languages & words compete and change in much the same way that organisms & species do.
Language Evolution, Intellectual Evolution
What is the connection between the words ‘angle’ and ‘geneaology’ in several unrelated languages? A conjecture. But the central point is that language evolution is a record of our intellectual evolution. In effect, language is the ‘phenotype’, and our ideas are the ‘genotype.’
Table of Contents continued below.
Astronomical numbers are unimaginably huge, but biological numbers are larger by a factor of over a quintillion. The real difference between biology and physics, however, is that biology innovates, it constantly produces things that are unprecedented in the universe. And biological numbers are critical for understanding that process of innovation.
The universe does not contain sufficient matter and energy to create the primates necessary to randomly type out the complete works of Shakespeare. Random production of the human genome would require numbers unimaginably larger than those needed to type out Shakespeare.
So exactly how were Shakespeare and the human genome produced?
The first law of biology is Darwin’s first postulate: Malthusian superfecundity. Life produces many more offspring than can possibly survive. Most will die, and most of those who do, will be the young. Including children.
Nature is beautiful until you realize it’s all a lovely deathscape. Suffering and struggle are everywhere, and only the trees die of old age.
The Deadliest Animal vs the Best Predator
Without predators, living things can crash and go extinct.
The Too-Large Matrix
Even larger problems.
Between a Rock and a Soft Space
Hard vs Soft Sciences
Knowledge vs Uncertainty
As progress accelerates, the past becomes less and less useful for predicting the future.
The Last Science
Will biology be the last science?
Darwin, Dawkins, & Daydreams
Genes, Memes, Oneremes.
Check back for periodic updates.
Picture of Lord Shiva courtesy of Wikipedia.