O fato, Fato, FATO da evolução é, na verdade, um axioma aceito a priori...

segunda-feira, outubro 18, 2010

Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
Volume 10, Issue 6, pages 199–203, 2001

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident


Evolutionary biology rests more deeply on axioms than we may wish to believe. What are they and how sound is their logical standing?

Evolution is a pervasive cultural as well as scientific metaphor of our age. An evolutionary worldview is as fervently held by biologists today as were the prevailing views that evolution displaced. Ultimately everything is credited to genes, and given a genes for evolutionary explanation: genes for upright posture, dominance hierarchies, language, IQ, heart attacks. We’ve seen a century of spectacular progress in biology but this does not mean the foundations on which evolutionary explanations rest are unambiguously established. It is not entirely clear how well some of our venerable concepts jibe with new genetic and developmental data pouring out of laboratories today.

I thought it would be timely to try to identify aspects of traditional ideas that still hold up well and areas that don’t do as well. Crotchets & Quiddities will attempt to do that. Crotchets are eccentric or idiosyncratic opinions, and this will certainly reflect mine. A quiddity, a term I first learned from W.V. Quine 1 (1987), is a philosophical essence or trifle, from the Latin quid, or ‘what.’ It can refer to the sometimes-intangible quirks, or niceties, of a thing or idea (which I hopereaders will not equate dismissively with today’s “Whatever!”). I hope not to be too crotchety, but “the intensity of the conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not” (Medawar, 1979). In this column I want to examine some of our assumptions, to stimulate thought about them. 2 

The prevailing cosmology that greeted Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859 rested on the theologically based assumption that the universe was created at a single point in time by a purposive intelligence who selected a bestiary of species designed to be adapted to their environments. This was assumed to be given truth rather than something one had to infer from observation. 

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By comparison, in biology we believe we are practicing a rigorous, objective, empirical method-ofknowing that does not rest on wishful thinking. Yet much of our work rests on axioms—conventional wisdom or laws of Nature, if you will—that we assume to be true, but cannot actually prove.