Not Throwing Up My ‘hand in defeat … or reduc[ing] everything to contextual complexity’: A Short Response to Lynch’s Counter-Criticisms, Peter Taylor

SERRC —  April 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

Author Information: Peter Taylor, University of Massachusetts Boston, peter.taylor@umb.edu

Taylor, Peter. “Not Throwing Up My ‘hand in defeat … or reduc[ing] everything to contextual complexity’: A Short Response to Lynch’s Counter-Criticisms.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 4 (2016): 65-66.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2SL

Please refer to:

Loch Tay

Image credit: spodzone, via flickr

Bill Lynch is clearly more accepting of using the explanatory form of natural selection for evolution than I am.[1] He wants, moreover, to discourage readers from exploring my account of Darwin, from which my criticisms flow, by claiming that these criticisms play into the hands of intelligent design exponents,[2] fall into the STS temptation of blowing up all explanations,[3] and “conflate … the issue of whether a proposed explanation can explain a particular phenomenon and whether we can know it to be true given the limited tools at our disposal.”[4] 

How should I respond to these challenges? I concede that artificial selection, as I conceive it, needs to be qualified so that it is clear that what is being referred to is deliberate selection based on some explicit criterion. The 1998 paper of mine that Lynch cites at many points argues that, to the extent that the theory of natural selection is modeled on deliberate selection based on some explicit criterion, it is a restrictive form of explanation of evolutionary change.[5] If I were to elaborate on this argument, I would try to show how, in the 30 years since I gave the talk on which the paper was based, I have not (or, at least, not always) been throwing up my “hand in defeat … or reduc[ing] everything to contextual complexity.”[6]

Indeed, I always saw my criticisms as “clear[ing] space for richer, social accounts of change and function.”[7] To elaborate in this forum, however, would be to hijack the original topic, namely, Fuller’s 2008 book. In my initial comment, I noted “that Lynch is generous to Fuller in taking his ideas seriously enough to compose a lengthy critique.”[8] His response to me confirms my sense that Lynch’s “view of Darwinism is what drives his taking on of Fuller and so it would be difficult for him to satisfy a reader like me.”[9]

References

Fuller, Steve. Dissent over Descent: Intelligent Design’s Challenge to Darwinism. Cambridge: Icon Books, 2008.

Lynch, William T. “Complexity, Natural Selection, and Cultural Evolution.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 3 (2016): 64-72.

Taylor, Peter. “Natural Selection: A Heavy Hand in Biological and Social Thought.” Science as Culture 7, no. 1 (1998): 5-32.

Taylor, Peter J. “Questioning the Darwinism that Lynch Presents as a Viable Basis for Humans to Pursue Science.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 2 (2016): 85-87.

[1] William T. Lynch 2016.

[2] Lynch 2016, 64.

[3] Lynch 2016, 70.

[4] Lynch 2016, 69.

[5] Taylor 1998.

[6] Lynch 2016, 70.

[7] Taylor 2016, 86.

[8] Taylor 2016, 86.

[9] Taylor 2016, 86.

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