27 Oct 2009

Evolving Science. Baldwin. Development and Evolution. p.330

by Corry Shores
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Evolving Science

James Baldwin

Development and Evolution (1902)


In the first chapter's "Transformism" section in Creative Evolution, Bergson refers to James Baldwin's Development and Evolution. Bergson wants to illustrate this point: while something is evolving, we cannot predict its next development.

Baldwin writes of the irreversibility of a genetic series. By this he means that physics and chemistry can explain a genetic change after it happens. But they cannot predict it. This is because "Each stage exhibits a new form of organization." Evolution produces things that are original; hence, they cannot be determined by applying mechanistic rules to given conditions. In a sense, new mechanisms emerge. We can only be there observing and describing the process. And only after can we use quantitative and analytic science to explicate what happened.

The following quotes from p.330 of Baldwin's text:

What the biologists need to do is to recognize the limitations of one method, and the justification of the other in its own province. In the life processes there seems to be a real genetic series, an irreversible series. Each stage exhibits a new form of organization. After it has happened, it is quite competent to show, by the formulas of chemistry and physics, that the organization is possible and legitimate. Yet it is only by actual observation and description of the facts in the development of the organism, that the progress of the life principle can be made out. The former is quantitative and analytic science; the latter is genetic science. [Baldwin 1902:330d]

Below is an image from the page [click for enlargement]:

Baldwin, James. Development and Evolution. London: MacMillan Company, 1902. Available online at: http://www.archive.org/details/developmentevolut00bald

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