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Ellen Stuttle

History of Evolutionism

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I'm starting a new topic with a post (see) which is related to several recent threads but doesn't quite seem to "belong" to any of the stated subjects of those threads.

Ellen

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Edited by Ellen Stuttle

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Impelled by curiosity to read more about the history of the neo-Lamarckian views which came to be pejoratively mis-labeled "Social Darwinism," I ordered early a couple books I'd been planning to include in our Christmas stash: Evolution: the History of an Idea, by Peter J. Bowler, and In Search of Human Nature: the Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought, by Carl N. Degler.

One of the passages I read tonight, by Bowler, gives a neat summary of how Lord Kelvin threw a monkeywrench into late-nineteenth-century acceptance of Darwinism, due to good but incomplete reasoning based on the then-new theories of thermodynamics.

I'll type this in for its illustration of the interplay between physics and biology, and of the consequences for evolutionary theory of a mistaken calculation.

.

Evolution: the History of an Idea

Third Edition, Completely Revised and Expanded

by Peter J. Bowler

© 1983, 1989, 2003 by The Regents of the University of California

pp. 234-236

[...]s indicate omitted references.

From:

7. The Eclipse of Darwinism:

Scientific Evolutionism, 1875-1925

The Age of the Earth

Geology had initially been a source of major difficulty for the Darwinian theory. The physicist William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) used the new science of thermodynamics to undermine the credibility of Lyell's steady state view of earth history [...]. Since Darwin assumed that natural selection was a very slow process, his theory required the vast amounts of geological time postulated by Lyell. By showing that the latest physical theories would not permit the earth to remain geologically active for an indefinite period of time, Kelvin shortened the age of the earth to an extent which made the selection theory untenable. Evolution was still possible, but it needed to work much more rapidly than Darwin had supposed. The shortened time span--which even the geologists conceded--put the pressure on biologists to think of evolutionary processes that would work more rapidly than natural selection.

The strength of Kelvin's position lay in its appeal to fundamental laws of physics. Thermodynamics was based on the principle that energy always becomes less available, and hence, that hot bodies always cool down. A steady state earth is, in effect, a perpetual-motion machine and is incompatible with this principle. But Kelvin drove home this point by trying to calculate exactly how long it would take a body the size of the earth to cool down from a molten state. Here, he was on weaker ground, because he had to estimate the internal temperature of the earth and the rate at which heat is conducted to the surface. But even if his estimates were wrong, the general principle was right, and he argued that his figures were unlikely to be so far wrong that the Lyellian timescale could be rescued. By 1868 [On the Origin of Species was published in 1859] he was arguing that the total age of the earth could not be much more than 100 million years, only a tiny fraction of what Darwin's theory required.

Darwin was certain that Kelvin was wrong, but could not put his finger on the reason why [...]. Other evolutionists, however, began to give ground. Wallace proposed that evolution would work more quickly in periods of environmental stress, while T. H. Huxley, after challenging Kelvin's figures, conceded that biology had to take its timescale from geology. As the century progressed, Kelvin reduced his estimates even further, until eventually even the geologists began to protest. But within this environment biologists began to explore other evolutionary mechanisms, including Lamarckism and saltationism, that might plausibly be argued would proceed faster than natural selection.

Geologists were also aware of the weakness of Lyell's principle of absolute gradualism. The massive discontinuities at certain points in the geological record could not all be explained away as gaps in our knowledge; they were evidence of relatively sudden transformations on the earth's surface and among living things. Catastrophism as such did not reemerge, but the possibility of earth movements and vulcanism on a scale much greater than anything observed in the course of human history had to be taken seriously. Such events might trigger waves of extinction and rapid evolution that would serve as punctuation marks in the history of life.

Kelvin also applied his calculations to the sun, which (in the absence of any internal source of energy) would also eventually cool down, leaving the earth without its source of light and heat. More generally, the physicist Rudolph Clausius extended the principles of thermodynamics to predict the "heat death" of the whole universe, when no energy sources would be left. Although the Victorian period is often depicted as obsessed with the ideology of progress, these applications of the latest developments in physics suggest that there was a darker side to the Victorians' worldview [...]. Evolution might have progressed toward humanity, but in the long run, all life was doomed to decline into the darkness and the cold. Such pessimistic speculations link with Lankester's warning about evolutionary degeneration to show that the idea of progress did not go unchallenged.

Kelvin's estimate of the age of the earth was undermined by the revolution which took place in physics around 1900 [...]. The discovery of radioactivity introduced an entirely new factor which he had been unable to include in his calculations. In 1903 Pierre Curie announced that the radioactive decay of elements such as radium liberated a slow but steady supply of heat. These elements are present in small quantities throughout the earth's crust and, presumably, in its core.

[para. break] By 1906 Lord Rayleigh had shown that the energy produced by the radioactive elements should more than compensate for the heat lost into space. The rate of decay of some of these elements is so slow that the balance could be maintained over billions of years. Within a few years, geologists such as Arthur Holmes were using the rates of decay to produce new estimates of the age of the earth, which soon reached figures of the same order of magnitude as the one accepted today, that is, over four billion years [...].

[para. break] The Cambrian period lay at least half a billion years in the past. Lyell was vindicated--but not completely, because the new ideas on radioactive heating suggested that there was so much heat for the earth to get rid of that occasional episodes of massive vulcanism or crustal rearrangement would have to occur. The absolutely gradualistic model of evolution would never return.

.

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This is like talking about arcane epistemology. If you are rational why do you need digressions on induction, deduction, abduction, reduction and what-duction? Similarly, species evolve or they don't. If they don't how in the hell did we get to what we got? New species arriving from outer space? And where in the heck did they come from?

--Brant

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Brant, no one requires you to talk about subjects which don't interest you.

Ellen

As long as I can have fun ...!

--Brant

PS: Ellen, I know you are deeply interested in epistemological questions and I know they are important not just to you but generally. I apologize for posting in such a way as to denigrate your interest and efforts.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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This is like talking about arcane epistemology. If you are rational why do you need digressions on induction, deduction, abduction, reduction and what-duction? Similarly, species evolve or they don't. If they don't how in the hell did we get to what we got? New species arriving from outer space? And where in the heck did they come from?

--Brant

The Fundy Folk say god-did-it, god-did-it. Sound's like a chorus of frogs.

There is a hypothesis of panspermia, i.e. the seeds of life came to this planet from elsewhere. This is not an explanation. It just pushes the question back one step.

-All in dream, all in dream

the loading had begun

sending Mother Nature's silver seed

to its new home in the sun-

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Ellen; Thanks for starting the tread.

I would like to recommend from the ARI Bookstore Keith Lockitch's CD titled Charles Darwin- Not "Just a Theorist". He provided me with a great deal of information about Darwin and his theory.

It's two Cd's that takes less than an hour and half.

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-All in dream, all in dream

the loading had begun

sending Mother Nature's silver seed

to its new home in the sun-

Yay Neil Young! :cheer:

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-All in dream, all in dream

the loading had begun

sending Mother Nature's silver seed

to its new home in the sun-

Yay Neil Young! :cheer:

Finally! We have found common ground!

--Brant

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I would like to recommend from the ARI Bookstore Keith Lockitch's CD titled Charles Darwin- Not "Just a Theorist". He provided me with a great deal of information about Darwin and his theory.

It's two Cd's that takes less than an hour and half.

Sound unheard, I'm very suspicious of anything put out by ARI on the subject.

Point of curiosity: Does Lockitch make any attempt at reconciling Darwinism with Objectivism? If so, can you state the thrust of the attempt?

Thanks for alerting me to the existence of the lecture. I suppose I'll have to acquire it and listen to it. <groan> I'll be pleasantly surprised (or, more precisely, I'll be amazed) if I don't find hearing it a teeth-gritting experience.

Ellen

___

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Brant, no one requires you to talk about subjects which don't interest you.

Ellen

___

Ellen, Thank you for this thread about one of my favorite lifelong interests, how life arose on this planet and how species evolved.

Charles Lyell was a great geologist and the tallest mountain in Yosemite National Park which is over 13000 feet at the summit, and which offers a wonderful view of Mt Ritter and Mt Banner, is named after him. There is a portion of the Sierra Nevada Range called the Evolution Region in which are mountains named after Darwin, Huxley, and other scientists, as well as Sylla and Charibdis. I happen to love mountains and had an opportunity to explore the Sierra's one summer when I held a position outside San Francisco in my youth.

Darwin believed in natural selection but he lived before the principles of genetics had been discovered so he didn't know the actual mechanism. The subject remains fascinating and awe inspiring. To think it all happens naturally and that the universe existed for billions of years before creatures came to be which are conscious and capable of acquiring conceptual understanding and awareness.

Although Lyell was wrong about certain issues in geology he and Darwin and so many others are still heroes of mine. Mendel, Maxwell etc.

galt

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I should get the book by Bowler and the one by Degler.

Nietzsche and the biologists he found best were Neo-Lamarckian.

http://www.solopassion.com/node/4610#comment-52191

http://www.solopassion.com/node/4610#comment-52751

In my home library are these excellent works pertaining to the history of evolution:

The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought

John C. Greene (Mentor1961)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/081380390X..._pt#reader-link

Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution

Martin J. S. Rudwick (Chicago 2005)

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/me...p;bookkey=21254

The Strategy of Life: Teleology and Mechanics in Nineteenth Century German Biology

Timothy Lenoir (Chicago 1982)

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/me...p;bookkey=63178

Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of the Mind and Behavior

Robert J. Richards (Chicago 1987)

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/me...p;bookkey=66339

The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain

Terence W. Deacon (Norton 1997)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0393317544..._pt#reader-link

Biology and the Foundations of Ethics

Jane Maienschein and Michael Ruse, editors (Cambridge 1999)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0521559235..._pt#reader-link

In Objectivity we have the following for the entry Evolution

Evolution

of Consciousness V1N2 54, 69, V1N5 22, 36–42, 46, V2N2 88–96, V2N6 4–5, 36, 116, 230–31;

of Organisms V1N2 53–54, V1N5 19, V1N5 36–42, V2N1 100, V2N2 77–78, 91, V2N3 11, 17–18, V2N4 128, 131, 189–91, 197–98, 217, V2N5 71–72, 74, 76, 79–80, 101–2, 133, V2N6 20–21, 220

Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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I should get the book by Bowler and the one by Degler.

Nietzsche and the biologists he found best were Neo-Lamarckian.

http://www.solopassion.com/node/4610#comment-52191

http://www.solopassion.com/node/4610#comment-52751

In my home library are these excellent works pertaining to the history of evolution:

The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought

John C. Greene (Mentor1961)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/081380390X..._pt#reader-link

Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution

Martin J. S. Rudwick (Chicago 2005)

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/me...p;bookkey=21254

The Strategy of Life: Teleology and Mechanics in Nineteenth Century German Biology

Timothy Lenoir (Chicago 1982)

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/me...p;bookkey=63178

Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of the Mind and Behavior

Robert J. Richards (Chicago 1987)

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/me...p;bookkey=66339

The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain

Terence W. Deacon (Norton 1997)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0393317544..._pt#reader-link

Biology and the Foundations of Ethics

Jane Maienschein and Michael Ruse, editors (Cambridge 1999)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0521559235..._pt#reader-link

In Objectivity we have the following for the entry Evolution

Evolution

of Consciousness V1N2 54, 69, V1N5 22, 36–42, 46, V2N2 88–96, V2N6 4–5, 36, 116, 230–31;

of Organisms V1N2 53–54, V1N5 19, V1N5 36–42, V2N1 100, V2N2 77–78, 91, V2N3 11, 17–18, V2N4 128, 131, 189–91, 197–98, 217, V2N5 71–72, 74, 76, 79–80, 101–2, 133, V2N6 20–21, 220

Stephen, is there any topic on which you aren't read-up? You're amazing.

= Mindy

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I should get the book by Bowler and the one by Degler.

I haven't started the Degler yet, but I'm finding the Bowler a delight. As I noted, the edition I'm reading is the Third Edition (2003), which is significantly revised and expanded from the Second Edition (1989). (The First Edition was 1983.)

In my home library are these excellent works pertaining to the history of evolution:

[....]

The Strategy of Life: Teleology and Mechanics in Nineteenth Century German Biology

Timothy Lenoir (Chicago 1982)

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/me...p;bookkey=63178

[....]

That's one I'm eager to read. (I don't have and haven't read any of the ones you listed.)

In Objectivity we have the following for the entry Evolution

[...] V2N5 71–72, 74, 76, 79–80, [...]

V2N5, 67-93 is the Ronald E. Merrill article "Objectivist Ethics: A Biological Critique."

I strongly recommend that article to anyone interested in the context of biological thought in which Rand formed her views on ethics and in the interface between Objectivism and neo-Darwinism.

Ellen

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Ellen, Thank you for this thread about one of my favorite lifelong interests, how life arose on this planet and how species evolved.

You're welcome. It's a thread on which I feel I'll enjoy posting, since the subject area is one of my favorite lifelong interests, too.

I fell in love with the idea of evolution when I was in 3rd or 4th grade and first got a detailed sense of what "evolution" meant from one of my horse books. The book included a description and pictorial sketch of what was then believed to be the evolutionary history of the modern horse. I became completely fascinated imagining a sequence of creatures from Eohippus to Equus.

Charles Lyell was a great geologist [...].

Yes, he was impressive.

Although Lyell was wrong about certain issues in geology he and Darwin and so many others are still heroes of mine. Mendel, Maxwell etc.

Errors have been abundant in the history of evolutionism, among them a number of errors made on the basis of excellent reasoning in the context of what was known (and what wasn't known) at the time. One of the things I'd like to illustrate with this thread is the possibility of good contextual reasoning coming to incorrect conclusions. Another is how tumultuous the history of ideas of evolution has been.

I have very little time for posting this fall, but I'll add material as I get a chance.

Ellen

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PS: Ellen, I know you are deeply interested in epistemological questions and I know they are important not just to you but generally. I apologize for posting in such a way as to denigrate your interest and efforts.

--Brant

I just saw the PS edit in scrolling back up through the thread.

Apology accepted, Brant. And I was only a little irritated by the original remark. I figured you were on one of your late-night flings that night. ;-)

Ellen

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Ellen and Chris G,

I will be putting Bowler's book on my to-read stack. Nice, succinct treatment of Lord Kelvin and the age of the earth problem (which gave Darwin fits).

I haven't heard Keith Lockitch's CD, but I have read his recent article about Darwin in The Objective Standard.

Details of his article later.

It's a presentation of Darwin that any reasonably well informed person could have written; as such, it's much better than any of David Harriman's stuff that I've seen.

Lockitch makes very few attempts to square Darwin's work with Objectivism (a couple of putdowns of "the arbitrary" look like window dressing to me, because Lockitch never gets into the details of the Peikovian doctrine).

And the entire article never once alludes to Ayn Rand's views on evolution.

That's right, an article in TOS never refers to Ayn Rand's own views on a subject.

Interesting, no?

Robert Campbell

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I haven't been following this or the related threads, so maybe this is redundant: did Rand have any views on evolution? I've heard Nathaniel Branden's story that she was a bit ill-at-ease with the notion, but that doesn't amount to a "view" if you mean a theoretical position. If she didn't take the subject up in her published writings or at least talk about it in public, then I don't see what we have to go on. She did say more than once that philosophy doesn't take stands on questions of natural science.

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I haven't been following this or the related threads, so maybe this is redundant: did Rand have any views on evolution? I've heard Nathaniel Branden's story that she was a bit ill-at-ease with the notion, but that doesn't amount to a "view" if you mean a theoretical position. If she didn't take the subject up in her published writings or at least talk about it in public, then I don't see what we have to go on. She did say more than once that philosophy doesn't take stands on questions of natural science.

Peter,

First, the issue in regard to Objectivism vis-a-vis Darwinism (today, the neo-Darwinian synthesis) isn't specifically that of what AR might or might not have thought about the subject of evolution.

It's that of reconciling features of her philosophy with neo-Darwinism.

Prominent among these:

(1) Her particular views on "tabula rasa."

(2) Her view of a sharp disjunct between human and other-animal consciousness.

(3) Details of the supposedly biological basis of her ethics.

Again, I very much recommend the Ron Merrill article in Objectivity as a place to start.

(I think that's available on line. Perhaps Stephen could provide a link.)

In regard to what she said publicly about evolution, not much, but what she said indicates very little knowledge of the subject.

On a thread called "Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design" in the Science & Mathematics forum, I quoted some remarks she made in the next-to-last article (3rd-from-the-last issue) of The Ayn Rand Letter -- here for the full original post.

Before re-posting part of that post, including the quotes from Rand, I'll repeat a warning I've made several times. She's sometimes criticized for not addressing theories of evolutionary psychology which today are prominent. This criticism is anachronistic. Those theories didn't begin to be prominently written about in popular books until the mid-'70s (Dawkin's The Selfish Gene, 1976; Wilson's Sociobiology, 1975). She wouldn't have had a way to know about those theories at the time when she was formulating her ideas on ethics.

Furthermore, her disregard of evolution as relevant to human behavior was shared by mainstream thought, which considered that cultural factors had taken over when the big brain appeared. Where she was out of keeping with the scientific views of the time wasn't in her extreme non-nativism but instead in her rejection of every form of determinism.

[i'll leave out the post of Bob Mac's to which I was replying.]

I need to amend my statements:

"I, too, think that she was aware enough to be aware that Evolution threatened a number of her views";

and:

"That her view on the enormous gap between the consciousness types of other animals and man would be false if evolution is true, I think she had to have sensed."

I've had a "click" just today about Ayn Rand and evolution. For one thing the wording I used doesn't match my feeling of AR's sense of confidence in the rightness of her own views. It isn't that, if she sensed a disparity between her views on human consciousness and those entailed by evolutionary theory, she would have had a submerged worry that her views were wrong. Instead -- as in the case of aspects of 20th-century physics -- she'd have assumed that the scientific view was in error, with the errors resulting from bad philosophy.

So I don't think it's the case that she avoided evolutionary theory; I think she just wasn't much interested, since she didn't see its relevance to the "essential" characteristic, in her opinion, of the human, i.e., the human type of consciousness (as she saw that type of consciousness).

Second, I've had a feeling of fully recognizing -- as if with the thought, "Oh, yes, of course, that's why" -- the feature of her evolution remarks in "The Missing Link" which made me cringe with a shudder of embarrassment when I first read the piece, and which has lingered as an "ick."

Here is the key wording:

THE MISSING LINK

Part II, May 21, 1973

Vol II, no. 17,

The Ayn Rand Letter

pg. 3

The common denominator of all such gangs is the belief in motion (mass demonstrations), not action - in chanting, not arguing - in demanding, not achieving - in feeling, not thinking - in denouncing "outsiders," not in pursuing values - in focusing only on the "now," the "today" without a "tomorrow" - in seeking to return to "nature," to "the earth," to the mud, to physical labor, i.e., to all the things which a perceptual mentality is able to handle. You don't see advocates of reason and science clogging a street in the belief that using their bodies to stop traffic, will solve the problem. [Comma error is in the original.]

pg. 5-6, the concluding paragraphs

I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent. But a certain hypothesis has haunted me for years; I want to stress that it is only a hypothesis. There is an enormous breach of continuity between man and all the other living species. The difference lies in the nature of man's consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty. It is as if, after aeons of physiological development, the evolutionary process altered its course, and the higher stages of development focused primarily on the consciousness of living species, not their bodies. But the development of a man's consciousness is volitional: no matter what the innate degree of his intelligence, he must develop it, he must learn how to use it, he must become a human being by choice. What if he does not choose to? Then he becomes a transitional phenomenon - a desperate creature that struggles frantically against his own nature, longing for the effortless "safety" of an animal's consciousness, which he cannot recapture, and rebelling against a human consciousness, which he is afraid to achieve.

For years, scientists have been looking for a "missing link" between man and animals. Perhaps that missing link is the anti-conceptual mentality.

.

Here's what emerged into central clarity for me: She did not understand what the issue of the "missing link" was all about. It was basically a past-tense issue, though lots of details were still unclear, by the time she wrote that article -- had been for more than a decade. But she didn't understand what it was. You see, she so completely believed her own theory of the difference between animal and human consciousness, she was thinking of the issue in terms of a missing consciousness link. Instead, the issue was transitional forms, the gap in the fossil record. There was the search for transitional skeletons leading to the human anatomy. The gap had started to be filled in by the early 60s.

What the passage indicates is how far she was from understanding the theory of evolution, or the problems evolutionists were considering in regard to human evolution. So I think that whatever she "picked up" on the subject from readings and conversations, she must have been mostly not interested and the details weren't registering.

I hope that Anne Heller has managed to interview Robert Efron. He I think is the person who would be the most informative on how much she did/didn't know/imagine on the subject of evolution.

Ellen

___

Edited by Ellen Stuttle

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Again, I very much recommend the Ron Merrill article in Objectivity as a place to start.

(I think that's available on line. Perhaps Stephen could provide a link.)

It is here. (It's the third essay and takes a while to load.)

The link to Stephen's Objectivity is on the portal page of OL, but here is the post for ease of reference:

Stephen Boydstun's Objectivity online

Michael

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.

Evolution: the History of an Idea

Third Edition, Completely Revised and Expanded

by Peter J. Bowler

© 1983, 1989, 2003 by The Regents of the University of California

pp. 234-236

Kelvin also applied his calculations to the sun, which (in the absence of any internal source of energy) would also eventually cool down, leaving the earth without its source of light and heat. More generally, the physicist Rudolph Clausius extended the principles of thermodynamics to predict the "heat death" of the whole universe, when no energy sources would be left. Although the Victorian period is often depicted as obsessed with the ideology of progress, these applications of the latest developments in physics suggest that there was a darker side to the Victorians' worldview [...]. Evolution might have progressed toward humanity, but in the long run, all life was doomed to decline into the darkness and the cold. Such pessimistic speculations link with Lankester's warning about evolutionary degeneration to show that the idea of progress did not go unchallenged.

This idea that "in the long run, all life was doomed to decline into the darkness and the cold" by the mechanism of thermodynamic heat death lives on in the modern day big bang theory, which projects that clusters of galaxies will continue to expand outward from each other forever, eventually dying as their stars burn out and no new hydrogen is left to fuel new generations of stars.

Even though this is not projected to happen for tens of billions of years, it is still projected by the BBT as the ultimate end of our universe. In this sense, the BBT is a very bleak, depressing theory. It is for this reason that I hold out hope that the BBT is wrong, and that our universe is not ultimately doomed to this kind of death. In order for the universe to not reach this kind of death, some kind of recycling mechanism would be required, so that new generations of stars could keep being born from recycled hydrogen.

I find it a pleasant thought that the universe should live forever rather than eventually die the cold, bleak death of the BBT.

Martin

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In today's theories, has Mars been used as a possible benchmark? Earlier in our solar system's life, I imagine that it could have supported life during its cooling period. But then as the millennia passed, it cooled beyond the point of sustaining life. Just a thought.

~ Shane

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.

Evolution: the History of an Idea

Third Edition, Completely Revised and Expanded

by Peter J. Bowler

© 1983, 1989, 2003 by The Regents of the University of California

pp. 234-236

Kelvin also applied his calculations to the sun, which (in the absence of any internal source of energy) would also eventually cool down, leaving the earth without its source of light and heat. More generally, the physicist Rudolph Clausius extended the principles of thermodynamics to predict the "heat death" of the whole universe, when no energy sources would be left. Although the Victorian period is often depicted as obsessed with the ideology of progress, these applications of the latest developments in physics suggest that there was a darker side to the Victorians' worldview [...]. Evolution might have progressed toward humanity, but in the long run, all life was doomed to decline into the darkness and the cold. Such pessimistic speculations link with Lankester's warning about evolutionary degeneration to show that the idea of progress did not go unchallenged.

This idea that "in the long run, all life was doomed to decline into the darkness and the cold" by the mechanism of thermodynamic heat death lives on in the modern day big bang theory, which projects that clusters of galaxies will continue to expand outward from each other forever, eventually dying as their stars burn out and no new hydrogen is left to fuel new generations of stars.

Even though this is not projected to happen for tens of billions of years, it is still projected by the BBT as the ultimate end of our universe. In this sense, the BBT is a very bleak, depressing theory. It is for this reason that I hold out hope that the BBT is wrong, and that our universe is not ultimately doomed to this kind of death. In order for the universe to not reach this kind of death, some kind of recycling mechanism would be required, so that new generations of stars could keep being born from recycled hydrogen.

I find it a pleasant thought that the universe should live forever rather than eventually die the cold, bleak death of the BBT.

Martin

Something has to repeat or we couldn't be here. If there was a "Big Bang" there had to be innumerable ones before or there was a "First Cause"--something from nothing. A contradiction. Anyway, I agree with Dr. Arthur Robinson that humans are too intellectually puny to get their brains around reality in its totality. I don't pretend I can.

--Brant

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This idea that "in the long run, all life was doomed to decline into the darkness and the cold" by the mechanism of thermodynamic heat death lives on in the modern day big bang theory, which projects that clusters of galaxies will continue to expand outward from each other forever, eventually dying as their stars burn out and no new hydrogen is left to fuel new generations of stars.

Even though this is not projected to happen for tens of billions of years, it is still projected by the BBT as the ultimate end of our universe. In this sense, the BBT is a very bleak, depressing theory. It is for this reason that I hold out hope that the BBT is wrong, [...].

Martin,

Are you subscribed to Dennis May's "Physics_Frontier" list? (He also has several other Yahoo lists along similar lines.)

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Physics_Frontier/

I for sure haven't the physics knowledge properly to assess what Dennis and others argue, but the "smell" of it, to me, is that the BigBang theory is only being held together by ad-hoc patch and paste.

The situation might be similar to Kelvin's miscalculation.

(I would so like to have a crystal ball which could foresee the shape of scientific theory a hundred years from now -- if, of course, science is still a going enterprise a hundred years from now. The possibility of an eclipse of science is the threat which most worries me short term.)

Ellen

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