Saturday, May 17, 2014

Darwin: All or None

We received an interesting comment on THIS POST that I think is worthy of discussion:

From parabarbarian

I think you may be taking Wade's thesis too far. The last thirty-odd years of evolutionary biology have shown that the majority of evolutionary change is not adaptational. Most of what happens at the genome level is, in fact, not adaptive but is, at best, neutral. Wade does demonstrate that current science indicates there are measurable genetic difference in populations that can be called "race". What he does not do is demonstrate how this matters at the individual level where natural selection actually happens. Ultimately I think the genetic evidence renders evolution fundamentally anti-collectivist. Groups -- whether called race or religion or whatever, are just a survival tool for the individuals that make them up, not a useful classification tool.

BTW, I found, "You have to have all of Darwin or none of him." in juxtaposition with a quote from Vox Day to be amusing. I assume you do know he rejects all but the wimpiest version of biological evolution. He invokes Darwin when it is convenient but leaves the dance with Ken Ham.

This confuses me a bit, and I'd be glad if parabarbarian would elaborate. I may be punching above my weight here, but my concept is that when mutations occur, the adaptive ones tend to spread through the population, while the maladaptive ones tend to die out. And neutral ones may or may not spread, randomly. And I do think the math would indicate that only a tiny percentage are adaptive, but I don't have an instinct for the relative percentages of maladaptive and neutral. I'd think the vast majority would be maladaptive, but someone needs to enlighten me about that.

And I'd say there's clearly a distinction between adaptive and desirable. In certain welfare states, irresponsibility would seem to be adaptive, as the irresponsible are cared for and encouraged to reproduce by the government, but that's hardly desirable. 

And, to clarify, I do know that Vox Day is dubious about evolution, but when I said we have to take all of Darwin or none of him, what I meant was that you can't accept the fact of evolution for everything else, but deny that it takes place with modern humanity. And that's what egalitarians do. If you accept the process of evolution through natural selection, you can't just turn it off when it doesn't fit your ideology.

Also, while it's valid to say that evolution takes place at the individual level, but not at group level, nevertheless I think it's fair to say that there is an emergent evolution at the group level, made up of the sum total of individual evolutions. Taking the popular idea that harsh winters in Europe caused individuals to become more cooperative and capable of gratification-deferral in order to survive, this resulted in groups of that sort, with such an ethic, and the culture that developed tended to intensify selection on the individual level for those characteristics. 

And I would indeed like to hear more from parabarbarian about this.

And, while we're on the subject, more reviews of Wade's book here:

Finally, parabarbarian's comments interested me, so I looked up his blog, Atheist with a Gun, and added it to my blogroll, though it seems to be inactive. What's the deal, parabarbarian? If you've moved the blog or something, let us know.
Quibcag: Carlos Wu is a fictional character from Larry Niven's work. And there's Rika Shiguma (志熊 理科) again, from Haganai (はがない), this time in chibi form.


  1. Small group cooperation remains an evolutionary strength of modern humans.

    What is divisive is unseen cooperation. The idea that the individual is part of a 'nation' of individuals with whom they share a bond. People they've never met, might have wildly different lives than, and might even have contempt for... are their kin.

    People seem to accept this premise when they benefit from it, and deny it when they don't. The extremely small 3rd option is altruistic benefactors. The evolution of this third group is almost certainly maladaptive and a luxury of the modern era (as one could argue the first group is.)

    1. So much depends on who the pack leader is, and just look at us now.

    2. I wonder how well the pack works if two wolves decide to argue about who gets to run the pack and they bth start rallying other wolves of the pack to advocate for them as full-time jobs.


    (If it gets through this time...)