Evolution of Universal Darwinism

Darwin's biological theory of evolution by natural selection, published in 1859, was the greatest biological breakthrough of the 19th century and has become the central organizing principle of Biology. The discovery of DNA in the 1950's was the greatest biological accomplishment of the 20th century and added immense support and breadth to Darwin's theory.

Religious thought, outside of American Fundamentalism, as well as intellectual thought has largely given up on the argument from design in the biological realm. In the past couple of years even the Pope has acknowledged Darwinian biological evolution as a true theory, although he insists that some unexplained magic occurred in the evolution of man whereby we acquired a soul.

Scientific attempts to extend Darwin's theory to explain design outside of biology were limited until the 1970s although many unscientific attempts, such as Social Darwinism, were made. An explosion of fecund thinking in the mid 1970s founded several schools of evolutionary thought applied to human behaviour and culture. Evolutionary Epistemology, the study of the evolution of knowledge, was founded in 1976 with D.T. Campbell's critique of the work of the 20th century's leading philosopher of science Karl Popper. In 1975 E.O. Wilson published Sociobioloby: The New Synthesis relating social behaviour to genetic evolution. In subsequent works he developed a theory of cultural coevolution tying human culture to both genetic and cultural evolution. Richard Dawkin's 1996 work, The Selfish Gene, devotes its last chapter, Memes: the new replicator, to an introduction of the theory of memetics. Memetics, explains cultural evolution in terms of memes; cultural Darwinian replicators. It has grown to be an especially active area of research.

Since the establishment of these seminal works the use of Darwin's Idea to explain the evolution of human affairs has mushroomed. Today memetics, cultural coevolution, evolutionary psychology, evolutionary archeology, evolutionary epistemology and evolutionary economics are but a few of the many active areas of research. 

Still many prefer the argument from design in realms at the edge of science. The God of the Gaps has been displaced from the biological world and increasingly from the world of human affairs but has taken a stand in the area of cosmology. This new gap for God has recently been uncovered by science and quickly exploited with unjustified claims by the faith based community. Science has found that it's best cosmological theories are stunningly accurate in predicting the physical universe if the theories are supplied values for 35 basic physical parameters, such as the mass of the electron, having the exact same values as those given by experiments. If any of these parameters had values only slightly different from those they actually have our best physical theories predict the universe would contain no greater complexity than hydrogen gas. The fact that we are in a just right or Goldilock's universe has come to be known as the Anthropic Principle.

Some in the faith based community have seized upon this scientific finding as evidence of design by God. A quick Google search on the Anthropic Principal will bring up all kinds of links to religious groups excited about this area of ignorance. Unfortunately ignorance about something does not add logical weight to any explanation, though some seem to conclude that if science displays ignorance in an area that is where God must be.

Science is an evolving body of knowledge and for those subjects of which we were ignorant yesterday we may have explanations today. At least one complete scientific theory has recently been advanced to explain the Anthropic Principal. Cosmological Natural Selection explains cosmological design as the consequence of a Darwinian process.

We stand at a time when Universal Darwinism has risen to all challenges and produced falsifiable scientific theories to account for all design encountered. Doubtless, with science's relentless search through design space, new unexplained design will be found. When that next occurs, let us be content with our ignorance until a credible explanation evolves.