Friday, 30 January 2009

Why people misunderstand evolution

I was just reading an article in Computer Magazine about evolution and how it is central to business and to the development of computer software and this is a perfect example of confusion progress with evolution. Evolution does not have a final cause - it is not directed towards progress. It is random and then there is selection where the fittest are carried forward to future generations and the less good fade away. This does not necessarily mean that progress has been made and in most cases where ideas and businesses are involved there is no random element.

There is an element of luck or serendipity which can be confused with random mutation but this is wrong, this luck is that the current discovery, software etc. fits with the current environment. This is the question of selection and nothing to do with the process of generating the new "product". Random generations of products and selection is incredibly wasteful and Darwinian evolution is a hopeless way of achieving a good product. Business and ideas follow a Lamarckian model where better solutions are acquired during their lifetime by modification to fit the environment. We do not have random ideas that are not determined by our experiences. We see patterns and rules that Darwinian evolution can never find. In this way we make our own luck.

The supreme irony is that Darwin's view rejects progress and final causes for random change and selection and this was why there were the strongest objections as this would deny the presence of perfection and the possibility of God. Now we are in more pragmatic times but if you are going to use the term evolution for change do not invoke Darwin.

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