Joined: May 2002
The Design Revolution in Biology
To understand the design revolution as it applies to biology, we need to step back a bit from the heat and dust currently being generated by ID/anti-ID arguments about evolution and look more closely at evolutionary theory itself. Contrary to popular belief, the notion of evolution was not discovered by Charles Darwin. As I argue in Moral Darwinism, evolution is an inference from a larger theoretical framework, a particular kind of materialism, the historical roots of which can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (d. 270 b.c.). In fact, about 50 years before the birth of Christ, the Roman Epicurean Lucretius provided the first extended evolutionary account in the fifth book of his philosophic poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). All who think Darwin discovered evolution are amazed when they read it.
The poem is online here:
...it is not the kind of thing however one can absorb in a speed-read so I refrain judgement.
Anyone know of any informed commentary on Lucretius' poem? Ah here's one. So far this seems to support Whitaker's contention:
De Rerum Natura, Lucretius' great poem interpreting and extolling Epicurean thought, comprises six books in all. Each book is ordered into self-contained sections, designed to develop and drive home a major set of ideas. The first book begins with a joyous (and presumably metaphorical) hymn to Venus, and then presents an introduction to atomic theory. The universe is explained as consisting of an infinite number of atoms, small, indivisible, eternal particles, moving in a space infinite in extent, and periodically uniting into compounds. The second book explains Epicurean ethics and the infamous "atomic swerve". (This is widely considered to represent the chief weakness of Epicurean thought. In an attempt to rescue a sovereign human will from the determinism of Democritus, he postulated the strange notion of uncaused swerves in streams of atoms.) The third book returns to the more lasting insights of Epicurus. It covers the structure and essentially mortal and material nature of the soul, and the reasons why the premise of mind-body dualism is untenable. The fourth book discusses the Epicurean theory of perception and the role of sex in human behavior. The fifth provides an overview of the origin of the cosmos, of life, and of the development of civilization -- all within an evolutionary frame of reference. The sixth book offers a eulogy to Epicurus and to Athenian civilization in general, and ends with a dark story of calamitous happenings and forebodings about the future.
Edited by niiicholas on April 09 2003,00:14