Dialogue on Darwinian Immaterialism

A: We are both Darwinians, though.

B: Right, which is what makes all your talk about souls and gods so confusing.

A: But aren’t we agreed that we should explain the features of living things as adaptive? 

B: Right. We replace the old idea of providence, where god made chicken beaks and then put worms in the ground for them to find with the idea that the beak itself is an adaptation to worms that were already there.

A: And so adaptation involves some beneficial interaction between a feature of a living thing and its environment?

B: Right.

A: But what are the most adaptive powers of the human being? It’s hard to argue against the idea that numbers, abstractions, logical forms, and other things like this have been extremely adaptive.  No account of the human domination of its environment could get by without pointing to these things.

B: I think I see the point you want to make: abstractiosn are adaptive, therefore abstractions are features of the environment.

A: I was thinkign something like that, yes.

B: But claws are adaptive without the claw being a feature of the environment.

A: That’s true, but no one is confused about how the claw interacts with the environment. I furrows, kills, and otherwise makes helpful distinctions -er, divisions – in the matter of the world. There is a clear interface between them. But so long as we see abstractions, mathematicals, and logical forms as adaptive, we have to introduce a similar sort of homogeneous interface.

B: Okay, but what does that mean?

A: We have to find some way to make the environment mathematical, characterized by logical necessity, and abstract as opposed to concrete.

B: The adaptability of ideas shows that the world somehow is an idea.

A: I don’t have any doubt that the world is not an idea, or at least that it is also not an idea.

B: But this is the old Platonic mistake of thinking that a thing known and a knower need something in common, and so the abstract character of the thing as known has to belong to the thing.

A: Right, but we’ve added a problematic premise of insisting that adaptation is crucial for explaining the features of the living thing. I could accept different modalities for a knower and known, but how can there be different modalities for one thing that is adapted to another? Adaptation consists precisely in the interaction or interface between power and environment.

B: So you want to place a science in things.

A: Exactly. The science we have might well have a different modality from the science in things, but the interface is between one science and another, one idea and another.

B: So you want our science to be an adaptation to the environmental fact that…what?

A: That God thinks the world into being. This seems to be a better account of some of its features than, well, what is the other adaptive account of it?

B: That’s a god I guess. What about soul?

A: Soul is whatever it is in us that is so adapted.

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