Creative Evolution

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Personal / Writing / Letters /

from a letter: to Dr. Paul Quinnett
September 1995
author of Pavlov’s Trout
& Darwin’s Bass

I sometimes fish every day and I’ll buy a fishing book when I can, but it wasn’t fishing that made me order your books: it was the blurb about “the evolution of fishing man.” Baptized an Anglican and confirmed a Presbyterian, evolution has become my real religion (Batesonian more than Darwinian), the rest of science my hobby (one I’m handicapped in by a paralyzing phobia of math). And it’s evolution that spurs me to write.

…breeders die with a hold on the gene pool. True. A breeder with n offspring dies with less strong a hold than a breeder with n+ offspring. Darwin was first with the theory, first with the mechanism, and, by agreement with Wallace, first to publish the package. It’s been much studied and written about since. It has plenty of detractors, but none serious, none worthy of being listened to, none with an alternate theory or mechanism.

(News anchors can’t compare to the older medium’s poster boys for alpha sincere male authority. The other night Robert Stack intoned a story about a young woman, who, having fallen from her horse, developed some rare neural disorder that the standard drugs weren’t alleviating the pain of. Her mother prayed. The doctors were helpless. After months of agony, the girl suddenly got better. Our host, peer of Charlton Heston and Leonard Nemoy, with as subtle a force as that of Blackwell, reviewed the mother’s claim of a miracle, iterating the doctors’ ignorance. I don’t have to call the network to be confident that the phones were not flooded with calls pointing out that a miracle is not an explanation but remains just as firmly in the camp of ignorance as any diffidence on the part of the doctors. I don’t know why the pain left her; I don’t know why she was in pain. I don’t even know that she was in pain. The doctors know about the latter but not the former. But then neither does her mother, nor the Pope, nor Elliott Ness know why the pain left her. Rational beings are not comfortable in their ignorance; they just strive to be honest about it.)

But are we sure that evolution has no mechanisms other than that just referred to? What about memetic evolution? Can’t successful memes eventually (or even perhaps suddenly (evolution is both gradual and catastrophic) become genes? Jesus left no children. Are we really certain that he can have no effect on evolution? What about social evolution?

The mechanism is very subtle. It’s reality is not universally recognized. But then I never saw anything about it in print till 1979, with the publication of Bateson’s Mind and Nature.)
He lived long enough to add to it in Angels Fear. I’ve since read some of his sources, but not all, not even the majority. I’m an amateur.) We’ve had Darwin to digest (or find indigestible) for nearly 140 years.

The rest of this draft runs too long. It precises some of my own, apparently failed, attempts at social and memetic evolution. I also have a question about the current art of therapy. So, after one final thought, I’m going to close this and maybe send the rest as a separate letter.

I’ve fished now and then since childhood. But even tying flies in Maine I didn’t regard myself as a real fisherman. One of my college friends was a fanatic surf fisherman and I’d sometimes accompany him. Now, in Florida, I do regard myself and a fisherman. And I like to fish alone. It has to do with accepting my solitude, with wishing we were still gatherers and hunters, with believing I could feed myself after a fashion if only everyone else would please just die and go away: without destroying any more of anything else while we’re at it. (Teaching rhetoric at Colby College in ’68 or ‘9, I assigned Lamont Cole’s NYT Sunday Magazine article, Can the World Be Saved? Bucky Fuller said that year, that the die had already been cast: either we were going to make it or not, if it was too late, it wasn’t fixable. Civilized people (a bad word with me) see danger where they’ve been rehearsed to see danger. If I’d talked about the threat of communism, I might have gotten some vigorous response. My class’s response to an introduction to ecology was a major step in convincing me that we’ve missed our chance. irrevocably. Though I’d love nothing better than to be wrong, my experience since reinforces that impression.) …

See Integrity.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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