Two New Publications Differ on How Evolution Could Help the Humanities

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Any theory of evolution offered to resolve the "Crisis in the Humanities" should account for consciousness and free will

For the humanities, coming up with new theories of evolution isn't rocket science, nor need it involve creationism. It's figuring out how creatures like us, with conscious free will, could have evolved.

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Two publications, both launched in 2010, represent alternative ideas on how evolution could bring new vigor to the humanities. One idea, popularized by the biologist Edward O. Wilson in his 1998 book "Consilience," is to reinterpret the humanities in terms of Darwinian evolution. This idea is taken up in the print journal "The Evolutionary Review" launched early in 2010. The other idea, that the humanities should come up with new theories of evolution of their own more suited to their particular needs, is the principle behind the other new publication, "Take On Darwin," launched November 2010.

"Take On Darwin" is the fifth "book" published by science writer and web publisher Shaun Johnston under the imprint Evolved Self Publishing. It's a "book" in the form of a website, http://www.takeondarwin.com, that readers update with their own contributions. Each of the site's pages consists of a document to the left, with space for readers' contributions to the right.

The documents are selected or newly written to help humanities practitioners and students get up to speed with the subject and appreciate what's involved in coming up with new ways of thinking about evolution.

Johnston invites the reader to travel back in time to when evolution was first discovered, before Charles Darwin arrived at his theory of natural selection, and come up with new theories better suited to the humanities. On the site's home page he points out that almost all the early pioneers in evolutionary theory were humanities-trained (except, notably, for Lamarck).

To get the ball rolling Johnston offers an update on Lamarck's theory--the genome itself evolved to become intelligent, and that intelligence can literally think the specifications for new species back into its "brain," creatures' genes. Eventually it "thought" intelligence and conscious volition into us. "For the humanities, coming up with new theories of evolution isn't rocket science," says Johnston, "nor need it involve creationism. It's figuring out how creatures like us, with conscious free will, could have evolved."

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SHAUN JOHNSTON
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