The Accidental Species

The Accidental Species by my friend and colleague Henry Gee is a new, and excellent, book on Human Evolution. I recommend it. I’ll even review it soon. But in the meantime, you can get a free chapter of it by clicking this link to download a PDF supplied by the NCSE.

Comments

  1. #1 Peter Kinnon
    New Zealand
    December 12, 2013

    I was relieved to find that, judging by this sample chapter, this book does not live up to the sensationalist promotion afforded it.

    This chapter is, for the most part pretty standard fare, with which few rational empiricists would disagree.

    However, Henry Gee does slip into the trap of denying the very clear directionality imparted by by selection.

    While the evolutionary process is characterized by largely random inputs, selection, as he quite rightly asserts earlier in the chapter, is a function of dynamically changing prevailing conditions, physical, chemical and biological.

    This directionality can be shown to extend beyond biology.

    An evolutionary continuum that can be traced at least as far back as stellar nucleosynthesis and extends forward to include.the evolution of technology in the collective imagination of our species which is so evident today.

    It is interesting that Gee remarks “The invention (one is tempted to say “evolution” )of staining techniques… indicating that Gee is tacitly aware of this phenomenon.

    For it It can be argued, with strong evidential support, that we do not, invent or create artifacts or systems but that , rather, these are more properly viewed as having evolved within the collective imagination of our species.

    To quickly put this counter-intuitive view into focus, would you not agree that the following statement has a sound basis?

    We would have geometry without Euclid, calculus without Newton or Liebnitz, the camera without Johann Zahn, the cathode ray tube without JJ Thomson, relativity (and quantum mechanics) without Einstein, the digital computer without Turin, the Internet without Vinton Cerf.

    The list can. of course be extended indefinitely.

    It may be seen that fine tuning (an effect which extends well beyond the values of the physical constants) does not require the assumption of any kind of “designer”, merely the full appreciation of the observable fact that selection is a function of dynamically changing prevailing conditions which are themselves subject to evolutionary processes such that they are sufficiently often “just right”. This seemingly an intrinsic property of the machinery of nature..

    This very broad evolutionary model (extending beyond biology) is expanded upon very informally in “The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?” which is a free download in e-book formats from the “Unusual Perspectives” website.

    A refutation of Gould’s “wind-back argument” and other related issues will be provided in the new, much more formal work “The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry Uphill, planned for release early next year.

    I should have my copy of “The Accidental Species” very soon and will perhaps comment further here when I have read it.