Subject: Stephen Gould, Darwin & Hegel

From: (Annette Schlemm)


From: Lau Kam To <>

But allow me to raise the question of the compatibility between Darwin and Hegel. As far as I understand Darwin (mainly based on Stephen Gould's book "Ever Since Darwin - Reflections in Natural History" ), there are two points that are relevent to Hegel and a dialectic of Nature:

Oh, Gould writes his books to disprove Darwin and therefore he doesn´t interprete Darwin very carefully! In biology it is "modern" to refuse Darwin - but most people did not read him! I like Gould, when he discoveres new knowledge and he did. But his interpretation of Darwin isn´t good enough.

My problem of this discussion is: I cannot repeat the 240 pages of my book, in which I discuss all of these problems. Gould has a good critique to the common biology evolution-modell: He criticize the modell of staircase and suggests a tree with branches. Mammals and reptils and fishes are the tops on the branches. But each branch is a "evolution-way" from their anchestors. Organisms near the top are "higher-developed" and the "relative targets/purposes" in the viewpoint of the "lower". Criterions for "higher-developed" are discussed as: higher autonomy, higher "closeness".

I emphasize the "posibility for new evolution" as an criterion for development.

2) there is no direction in evolution. Variation in species is not towards some higher form of being in terms of structural complexity. Living beings strive to adapt to their environment, so it is not suitable to say some organisim is "more advanced" or "less advanced". The enivronment may so changed that an organisim needs a less complex structure to survive, but that does not constitute "devolution" or "regression". (The association of "evolution" with "progress" belongs to Herbert Spencer and not to Darwin).

Oh, I read another interpretation. Darwin: There is a "gradual progress of organisation" (Darwin 1980, S. 135), but we can not "prove a law of necessary perfection" (Darwin 1980, S. 405). Darwin had criterions for biotical development:

Other biologists summarize:

... and so on.

Gould in opposition to Darwin emphasizes that devolopment to a higher stage is "very rarely" - but occurs! (Gould 1994, S. 54)

1) there is no purpose in evolution. The only purpose there is but to enhance the chances of survival of the speices. The order as found in nature is a result of each individual organism seeking to maximize one's interest, somewhat like Adam Smith's liberal economy.

Oh no! Its not right!!! The main princip of evolution is Co-Evolution!!! Darwin knew:

"You can say, a plant in a waste would fight with drought for its life. But you can say in the same way: The plant DEPENDS ON dampness." (Darwin 1980, S. 76).

In the new biology this is a thesis, which much people AGAINST Darwin stress. And I found out that it is not such a new discovery, Darwin knew it too!

Therefore Darwin AND the modern biologists are united: Evolution is mainly Co-Evolution. (see also:

Dialectic involves a higher synthesis between opposites and in case of a dialectic of Nature, that would imply a purpose in Nature which is not acceptable to materialists.

We can interprete "relative purposes" - but maybee philosophy of that died with GDR.

Yes, the organisms dont know any purpose. But by living and interacting they change themselves and their environment irreversibly ... like Hegel describes changing of conditions for things... The co-evolving organisms can be interpreted as "moments" of a "evolving unit". The evolution has "measures" - like Hegel says and than new units (with new and "higer" characteristics") emerge and evolve and evolve...

I often say: If Engels would live today - he would study the new science and write a new "Dialectis of nature" (more and better as I can...).

Therefore, Hegel and Darwin are, at least from the above two points, are incompatible with each other.

If Hegel would not be compatible with modern biology and other sciences, I would never read him... (like much scientists unfortunately do)

(quoted literature: Gould, S.,J.,: Die Evolution des Lebens, In: Spektrum der Wissenschaft - Special: Leben und Kosmos 1994 = Scientific American; Darwin, Ch., Die Entstehung der Arten durch natürliche Zuchtwahl, Leipzig 1980).

Ahoi Annette