Basing evolution on Stoicism

Stoic physics posited the existence of a fifth element, in effect a World Spirit, that first created and now maintains the integrity of the natural world. Where skepticism and Epicurean atomism inspired today’s physical sciences, Stoicism was first embraced by biologists, its World Spirit inspiring Deism, widespread throughout the Enlightenment.

The greatest impact of these philosophies on today’s “Grand Narrative”—the meaning we give our own lives--has been through evolutionary theory. Darwinism is an application of atomism—individual living creatures are identical “atoms” distinguished by their association with other atoms, characteristics, that in each generation first get sorted at random into new combinations, those combinations then being selected for how well each supports adaptation to the environment. This sorting and selection (and genetic mutation) are purely physical processes. Success of this theory has served as a powerful endorsement of physical determinism applying universally. In support of it, theories based on Stoicism or Deism are dismissed as “Creationism,” advocacy of Christianity, despite critical differences between the two “deities” involved.

My theory of evolution might qualify as the basis for an updated Stoicism. In it genomes take the place of the Stoic fifth element. I’d welcome help evaluating this proposal. See "Are You Wonderful?"

Review of Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind

I’ve long wanted an authoritative but readable account of how consciousness is thought about in a biological context, to compare my own thinking to. Peter Godfrey-Smith is a professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney. His “Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind” is what I wanted. He is the needed combination of academic philosopher and field worker; he illustrates essays on creatures and their minds ranging from microbes to humans with accounts of scuba diving amongst such creatures. In “Metazoa” I trust I come across all the ideas common in thinking about consciousness in a biological context.

My conclusion: those ideas are absurdly inadequate to the task. If we’re confused about consciousness that’s largely because we lack concepts we need for understanding it. More...

Testing purely physical mechanisms of evolution

I see the past four centuries as having introduced us to two major scientific revolutions. However, I see the first of these revolutions, involving the physical sciences, having distracted us from exploring the second, involving how we evolved, holding us back from extracting wisdom from it. How might we get access to that wisdom? More..

Re-calculating population statistics

I've come up with a critique of neo-Darwinism that, unusually for me, I express numerically. Consider a species of elephants consisting of an average of one million inter-breeding individuals evolving into a new species over the course of one million years. More...

Reasonable origins of Doubt

My doubts about modern science originate in three observations... From these observations I conclude that physical and evolutionary processes are distinct and different in nature yet equally real, neither is spiritual or supernatural. Yet despite having different natures they can interact to support and express conscious experiences. And, by interacting, they drive evolution. More...

Ontological play

Ontology: that’s arguments about what the world consists of. Here we ask questions like, is there just matter? Or is there both matter and mind? I like to compare “ontologies” in terms of kinds of processes. Are there only physical and chemical processes. Or are there in addition other kinds processes, found only in living creatures, that to some extent can defy the laws of physics.

Can we tell which of these worlds we actually live in? Not absolutely, it’s a matter of opinion, of personal judgment. More...