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Non-biological evolution [WAS Re: Evolution is bigger than biology???!

John Wilkins john at publications.ccc.monash.edu.au
Tue Nov 5 21:26:03 EST 1991

In article <1991Nov01.192602.22454 at convex.com>, petelev at convex.com (Pete Levinthal) writes:
> > L. Moran:
> > Pete, if you wish to include such ideas in your DEFINITION of evolution
> > then let's see a clear statement from you to that effect. Then we can
> > discuss whether it is reasonable. Are you saying that the evolution
> > of societal behaviour is an example of biological evolution? Are you
> > claiming that climatic changes are examples of biological evolution?
> My position is that evolution is a metaphor for describing changes over large
> periods of time which has one manifestation in the realm of biology.
> Therefore, evolution of societal behaviour may contain similar patterns as
> biological evolution.  They have different low level mechanisms, but both 
> contain modes of transfer, differentiation, and survival.
> So.....There are multiple tracks for evolution.  There is the local
> (biological, societal, climatic, geologic, ...) path, as well as higher levels
> where these trails cross and merge.  The highest level is what we see
> day-to-day, or what we could see if we merged our data for genetic, fossil, 
> geologic, archeological, etc...
> Most of these ideas come from the work of Allen Wilson, and from conversations
> with evolutionary biologists and semioticians at Purdue (with my own
> interpretations and probable misconceptions :)
> My greatest interest lies in linguistic evolution.  Since so much good work 
> has been done with genetic/biological evolution, I try to learn as much as I 
> can about it, and borrow ideas.  I feel that by building a higher level 
> framework for describing evolution all disciplines can benefit.
> Regards..
> Pete
The philosophers Hull and Ghiselin have done a fair bit to build on
Richard Dawkins characterisation of eveolution by selection processes.
Hull sums up: evolution requires *interactor* entities which form
*lineages* through *replication* to a variable degree of copying fidelity.
Hull has applied this to the evolution of science, and I am trying to 
generalise this to any intellectual tradition for my Masters.

Boyd and Richerson have applied evolution to social change (with
questionable success IMHO), and Cafelli-Sforza (sp?) and Feldman as well.

However, if any progress is to be made in this area, it will only be if
semiotics is banned from all involvement 8-)

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