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http://human-nature.com/dm/chap4.html pages 102-104

Charles Lyell was among Darwin's friendliest critics. It was one of Darwin's greatest hopes that his mentor would finally accept the theory, but Lyell vascillated and held back for ten years after its publication. His reservations about evolution were not confined to the difficulties which he had encountered in the Principles of Geology in reconciling it with his uniformitarian, equilibrium theory of the history of the earth. Like many others (some of whom objected to his geological theory on the same grounds), he was concerned about the implications of evolution for the special status of man. He had made it very clear that the advent of man's moral nature was not a part of the ordinary course of the history


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of nature. It's worth recalling that he further guarded himself in saying that even if evolution could account for the history of life, the analogy could not be extended to include man. Lyell's general position was close to Darwin's on many matters, but his reservations about Darwin's theory were characteristically focused on the special status of man. He wrote about this to Darwin in 1859, and Darwin's reply begins with a reference to Lyell's worries.

"Must you not assume a primeval creative power which does not act with uniformity, or how could man supervene?" - I am not sure I understand your remarks which follow the above. We must, under present knowledge, assume the creation of one or a few forms in the same manner as philosophers assume the existence of a power of attraction without any explanation. But I entirely reject, as in my judgment quite unnecessary, any subsequent addition "of new powers and attributes and forces;" or of any "principle of improvement," except in so far as every character which is naturally selected or preserved is in some way an advantage or improvement, otherwise it would not have been selected. If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish, but I have firm faith in it, as I cannot believe, that if false, it would explain so many whole classes of facts, which, if I am in my senses, it seems to explain.

He goes on to argue that the intellectual powers of man could, according to his theory, have evolved gradually, just as corporeal structures could. The entire argument of The Descent of Man is devoted to this point. Darwin's strategy is the same as it is in the Origin - to explain away apparent discontinuities by a judicious mixture of anecdotage, rhetorical questions, and appeals to the uniformity of nature. This approach on Darwin's part was not unusual in the nineteenth century; nor, for that matter, are current writings in biology and psychology fundamentally different. It is difficult to see how they could be.

Darwin also attempted to neutralize Lyell's objection by allowing a role for God behind the laws.

One more word upon the Deification of Natural Selection: attributing so much weight to it does not exclude still more general laws, ie the ordering of the whole universe. I have said that Natural Selection is to the structure of organised beings what the human architect is to a building. The very existence of the human architect shows the existence of more general laws; but no one, in giving credit for a building to the human


notes Edit

Darwin meant natural preservation with natural selection. As the creatures engaged in a Malthusian 'natural competitive selection(preservation,survival) process' one of them will dominate the ecology.


http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/Natural_preservation

Darwin replied:

"Must you not assume a primeval creative power which does not act with uniformity, or how could man supervene?" - I am not sure I understand your remarks which follow the above. We must, under present knowledge, assume the creation of one or a few forms in the same manner as philosophers assume the existence of a power of attraction without any explanation. But I entirely reject, as in my judgment quite unnecessary, any subsequent addition "of new powers and attributes and forces;" or of any "principle of improvement," except in so far as every character which is naturally selected or preserved is in some way an advantage or improvement, otherwise it would not have been selected. If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish, but I have firm faith in it, as I cannot believe, that if false, it would explain so many whole classes of facts, which, if I am in my senses, it seems to explain.


This summarizes the tautological essence of the concept of natural selection:

...every character which is naturally selected or preserved is in some way an advantage or improvement, otherwise it would not have been selected....

Those preserved had an advantage. Obviously they must have an advantage or they wouldn't have been preserved, now would they?

The tautology masks the underlying assumption that there was a point in time where the attributes as expressed by the creature didn't exist in the past: this begs the question(Circular reasoning). From observational data we only witness a creature express its attributes. We observe birds flying, we have no data that their ancestors couldn't fly at a point in time.

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