Are there Limits to Evolutionary Explanations?
Alexander J. Werth

In the 150+ years since Darwin published On the Origin of Species, evolution by natural selection has gained such traction that it is now used to explain, in theory, all aspects of living organisms, including physical, biochemical, and behavioral traits. Some scholars renounce the purported ability of this causal, mechanistic framework to explain everything, positing that its explanatory power is limited. This paper considers potential scientific and philosophical limits to the epistemic utility of evolutionary explanations, including historical and contemporary criticisms. Lack of sufficient information appears to provide the most common constraint; the problem lies with limited data, not underlying theory. To the extent that evolutionary explanations follow scientific guidelines, there may be no inherent limits beyond those imposed by the observer‘s worldview (specifically, acceptance or rejection of ontological materialism). Adoption of a teleological stance produces the greatest objection to evolutionary explanations; posited curbs stem from resulting moral or religious objections and inevitably involve one species: our own.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jpesm.v4n2a1