BW: I'm not sure how to approach this chapter. Although you roundly condemn NeoDarwinism [ND], everything you describe is part of the ND concept. For the most part, you fault multiple statements of obscure people who aren't even NDs. As with preceding chapters, you fail to define terms, which leads to extreme complexity and vagueness.
BW: It's not obscure at all. Evolution applies to both, but in slightly different ways. In general terms, the word "evolution" refers to ANY "process of change in a certain direction".
BW: Everything changes, sooner or later, more or less. Every change is either beneficial to the persistence of the object, detrimental, or irrelevant. That's evolution, in a nutshell.
As applied to biology, evolution is the observation that organisms change; some changes are beneficial to survival, some are detrimental, others irrelevant. Obviously, every aspect of the environment affects the success or failure of every organism. That's natural selection. The only thing added by NeoDarwinism was changes to genetic material, which simply keeps a "record" of successes through generations. Nothing you've written here refutes or even mitigates the merits of ND.
BW: Generic evolution is and always has been a universal concept. Biological evolution focuses on changes in the proximate influences (environment) on organisms, but it certainly doesn't deny or ignore changes within the organism itself. Because biology is primarily interested in *successful* species over time, it has to focus on successful reproduction and the genetic variables that control the changes in every living thing's essential characteristics.
BW: Nevertheless, a few notes on a smattering of topics:
It's a little strange that you start the chapter with a quote from L.J. Henderson, who is either a solipsist or a teleologist: "The biologist ... may now rightly regard the universe in its very essence as biocentric."
BW: ... but you echo his sentiment:
TSW: "The universe inevitably and periodically contains within it matter that contemplates itself. The concepts of progress, change, and evolution grow along with thinking beings as they evolve from nonthinking matter."
BW: This statement is teleological: the end result is the cause of all prior effects. That's mysticism, not causality or determinism. Yes, consciousness is an invaluable tool of biologic survival in some environments, but 99% of the universe apparently *forbids* such a development. So, consciousness was "inevitable" only in the sense that it DID happen, not that the universe "wants" it to happen, nor requires it. If we're going to anthropomorphize nature, it apparently "likes" almost everything to be dead; it doesn't "care" whether humans exist or not.
TSW: "Lamarck attempted to boost his case by claiming that acquired traits could be inherited within the first generation."
[GB: Almost every discussion of ND includes reference to Lamarck, who was one of the foremost biologists of his time. He was the first to doubt the immutability of species, invented the word “invertebrate” and, according to Stephen J. Gould, he was the "primary evolutionary theorist." He recognized the importance of fossils as evidence for evolution before Cuvier, the anti-materialistic paleontologist who collected them. Remember that he wrote in 1800—a half century before Darwin. We are a bit unfair in hanging the “acquired traits” rubric on him, as he was much more than that.]
TSW: "... natural selection saw the object of concern at the mercy of its surroundings."
BW: Some biologic changes foster survival in an environment, others don't. Nature isn't "unmerciful", it just does what it does. Some specie variants conform with natural changes, others don't.
TSW: "Natural selection still begged questions. Why was there anything to select from in the first place?"
BW: Your formulation doesn't answer the biogenesis question any better, it just says it was a messy process. Remember that natural selection is only *half* of Darwinism; the prior half is changes in the organism. It's only a third of NeoDarwinism, which adds genetic changes.
BW: I won't offer my view of biogenesis, since you don't discuss it further.
TSW: "Anyone who rigidly believes that genes are absolutely necessary for evolution is unlikely to believe that all things evolve."
BW: That's silly. All sane bioevolutionists also believe in the generic evolution of everything in the universe. Because they have a particular interest in the proximate natural environment of particular organisms doesn't mean that they deny other animate and inanimate changes in the universe.
TSW: "... increasingly obvious that evolution is not confined to biology. We know that stars evolve. Do stars have genes?"
BW: More silliness, as a consequence of your failure to define generic terms and their application to specific kinds of investigation. Granted, the term "evolution" has acquired a normative reference to bioevolution, but no sane scientist would deny that everything - animate or inanimate - evolves.
TSW: "This new mechanism, Univironmental Determinism, simply states that the evolution of a microcosm is dependent on the motions of matter within and without."
BW: Nothing new here, except your use of the subjective "microcosmic" terminology. Rocks erode when exposed to sunlight and waterfall - that's evolution. The degree of erosion is dependent on the atomic composition of the rock (within) and the energy of erosive factors (without). This is not a revelation.
TSW: "... This evolution, this motion of the microcosm, is in all cases in only one direction, toward univironmental equilibrium."
BW: Of course. That's just causality and Newton's Law: things only change when they're changed. If there's no interaction causing a change, no change happens. You can call that "a tendency toward equilibrium", but it doesn't explain anything more than causation does. However, "equilibrium" implies something that isn't always true. A nugget of pure gold in a container of liquid water will never reach "equilibrium" with its environment, even though they are in constant contact. In most cases, specific measures of entropy apply, which has always been considered "unidirectional".
TSW: "No two necks are identical..."
BW: ... but all necks are necks. Your exposition on Samotherium adds nothing novel, but ignores something critical: the genetic changes are the only thing that made it possible for Samotherium - as a species - to adapt to a changing environment. You bounce between changes in the individual (calcium consumption) and the species (eating leaves) with no regard for the effects of successful reproduction, which determines which genetic changes succeed in any particular environment.
Next: Univironmental Determinism, Part 2 of 2