The middle way of evolution

 Abstract

This essay provides a critical review of two recent books on evolution: Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth, and Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True, as well as a critique of mainstream evolutionary theory and of natural selection. I also suggest a generalization of sexual selection theory that acknowledges mind as pervasive in nature. Natural selection, as the primary theory of how biological change occurs, must be carefully framed to avoid the long-standing “tautology problem” and must also be modified to more explicitly include the role of mind in evolution. A propensity approach to natural selection, in which “expected fitness” is utilized rather than “fitness,” can save natural selection from tautology. But to be a productive theory, natural selection theory should be placed alongside sexual selection – which is explicitly agentic/intentional—as a twin force, but also placed alongside purely endogenous factors such as genetic drift. This framing is contrary to the normal convention that often groups all of these factors under the rubric of “natural selection.” I suggest some approaches for improving modern evolutionary theory, including a “generalized sexual selection,” or "generalized agentic selection," a panpsychist extension of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection that explicitly recognizes the role of mind at all levels of nature and which may play the part of a general theory of evolution better than natural selection theory.

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Pages
408 - 421
doi
10.4161/cib.20581
Type
Opinion Article
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The middle way of evolution