Evolution is heating up again

[From Rick Marken (2009.12.01.1650)]

Professor John Dupré is going to give a talk at UCLA this Thursday on “Postgenomic Darwinism and Human Nature” and the blurb sounds really interesting:

In this talk, Professor Dupré will look at some of the ways that recent developments in molecular biology, especially within microbiology and epigenetics, have transformed the way we think, or anyhow should think, about evolution. For example, there are major difficulties with the standard view of the Tree of Life; overemphasis on competition may need to be balanced by much more serious attention to biological cooperation; and even the ultimate Taboo in recent evolutionary thought, Lamarckism, may need to be partially rehabilitated. Thus, contrary to some popular presentations that suggest that the broad outlines of evolution are entirely settled, Professor Dupré will argue that major issues about both the pattern and processes of evolution remain wide open. An immediate consequence is that detailed arguments about human nature based on evolutionary theory are premature. In addition, some very widely promulgated attempts to derive accounts of human nature from evolution, notably Evolutionary Psychology, are flatly inconsistent with our best current understandings of the science.

I think the E.coli “reorganization” model of evolution can be considered somewhat Lamarckian inasmuch as it assumes (as I understand it) that the rate of mutation in a population varies in proportion to the degree of “error” in individuals in the population (where error is the difference between reference and actual states of intrinsic variables) with the purpose of reducing the level of error (developing a phenotype that can better control the intrinsic variables in the environment in which the organisms now happen to find themselves). The last sentence of the blurb sounds almost as brazen as something I might have written. I hope I’m able to get over there and hear the lecture. If not, I think one of us PCTers who understands the control theory model of evolution (I think that would be either Bill Powers or Gary Cziko) should try to get in touch with Professor Dupré and see whether he’s a kindred spirit.




Richard S. Marken PhD