When it comes to evolution, there is a choice. No, it's not between creationism (which virtually all serious scientists dismiss as wishful thinking) and evolution. Yet there is a serious debate among evolutionists with evidence marshaled on both sides. The issue is: Is evolution going any place- bigger, better, wiser - or is it a haphazard process in which whatever shows up as more adaptive survives.I never knew there was an issue. What little I understood of evolution came largely from reading the marvelous works of Stephen Jay Gould, a proponent of the haphazard school. As far as I knew, there was no debate; haphazard was how it all happens; it's just by chance that we humans are here.
Now comes David Prindle's Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution in which Prindle grounds Gould's position not only in his research data but also in his democratic anti-elitism politics. Gould's position takes us humans down not just a peg or two but all the way down. There is nothing particularly special about us; had events gone just a bit differently I wouldn't be writing this and you would be here to read it.
Why do I care about this issue? Because, all data aside, I confess to my own version of wishful thinking - that, somehow, evolution must be heading somewhere. Given the terribly stupid, blind, hurtful, and murderous things members of homo sapiens do to one another, this can't be the best there is.
I am casting my lot not exactly with, but in the vicinity of, Teilhard de Chardin who attempted to reconcile his scientific and Catholic sides with a view of evolution as moving toward greater spirituality, closer to God. My wishes are somewhat less ambitious. I am placing my hopes on the emergence and superior adaptive capacities of homo systemicus, whose members survive through their understanding of themselves as systems creatures, and their avoidance of the terrible costs of system blindness.