THE BLOG

Why Evolutionary Biology Embraces the Bogus (Part 2)

05/25/2011 12:00 pm ET
  • Deepak Chopra CoAuthor, 'Super Genes​'; Founder, The Chopra Foundation

Evolutionary biology isn't a magic science or a privileged one. It brings a preconceived model to a problem. It applies that model without looking to the right or the left. It has a strong bias in favor of material fact instead of abstract philosophy. As I pointed out in Part 1 of this post, those very qualities have caused the embrace of bogus explanations and false truths. The following should seem obvious:

-- Cause and effect, being mechanical, apply to mechanical situations
-- Physical explanations don't automatically hold for all situations
-- Human beings do lots of non-physical things.

These assumptions are either ignored or flouted by many enthusiasts for evolutionary biology. Recently I touched on the topic of music and how it might be connected to the brain. Researchers told journalists that evolutionary biology would eventually explain why the brain developed its response to music. This is wholly bogus. What will actually happen is the same thing that happens in evolutionary biology all the time:

1. The investigators will work post hoc from a conclusion that already exists.

That is, we already know music evolved and survived. No condition that contradicts its survival will be examined, only that data which fits the model of evolution as presently understood will be acceptable. This is quite invalid reasoning, because it always winds up proving one's own preconceptions. By analogy, let's say a model of parenting holds that criminals are the result of bad child-rearing. Whenever a criminal appears, he would be blamed on his parents, not because that's true but because it fits the theory. The conclusion precedes the investigation.

2. Associations will be mistaken for causes.

Many rich people go around in long black limousines. Does this mean that black is the color of the rich? That long cars make you wealthy? That long black cars favor the survival of the people inside? Obviously not. We intuitively know how to select a cause as opposed to an association. Evolutionary biology tends to forget intuition. Since all surviving societies have some form of music, the assumption is made that cause-and-effect must be at work. This is as bogus as claiming that the color of a limo must be at work in the survival of the rich.

3. Only physical evidence will count, but a lot of fudging will go on.

As devised by Darwin, evolution depended upon physical evidence in the fossil record for its proof. Being a curious person and confident in his theory, Darwin speculated that non-physical traits might be subject to evolution. This proves to be the case if it isn't carried too far. A person who's born with the trait of being totally solitary, unable to abide the slightest human contact, won't breed and pass on his genes. But extending this to such behaviors as altruism, love, or music-making can border on the absurd. We have no possible way of knowing that a prehistoric person learned to whistle in tune because his genes prompted that ability, or that this ability ever developed competitively, or that it attracted more mates, or that once attracted, these mates passed on the gene to an entire society. The whole explanatory chain is pure fudging, and it goes on all the time in this science.

4. Competing explanations will find no valid way of choosing a winner.

Like everything else in the evolutionary worldview, explanations must compete for survival. Galen's medicine couldn't compete with Harvey's when it came to explaining the circulation of blood, Ptolemaic astronomy couldn't compete with Copernicus in explaining planetary orbits. So what if two explanations arise in evolutionary biology? Assume that the gene for music is isolated. As an evolutionary development, the cause for this is that one gene pool didn't contain music and died out, while another gene pool did contain music and survived. If explanation A holds that prehistoric women were attracted to men who whistled while explanation B holds that prehistoric men ran away from men who whistled, there's no valid way to choose. In the absence of physical data, evolution is a highly dubious model to apply to behavior.

I realize that this kind of critique frustrates and even infuriates materialists. But objectively speaking, there are good reasons for being skeptical that large areas of speculation, such as evolutionary psychology, have any validity at all. Even biologists show considerable skepticism in this regard. They can see why genes explain the appearance of hemoglobin without necessarily being as successful in explaining the appearance of Bach. In the current climate of belief, however, the model of evolutionary biology is being painted far and wide across the landscape.

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