“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, November 03, 2013

the evolution of ghosts

It has long been my contention that there is no story about life on earth that does not boil down to an evolutionary story. The creationist version of life on earth has, since the 19th century, made large use of the notion of intelligent design – but anybody who knows anything about design knows that it evolves. The intelligent design argument is a mess, since the standards it uses to critique Darwinism are, of course, entirely absent when it tries to construct the meaning of intelligent design. Just as we can trace the evolution of the design of the watch by the material left behind in its wake – diagrams, tools, etc. – so too, if intelligent design were true, we would be able to see the material left behind in its wake – proto-humans, for instance. At this point, intelligent design simply gives up the intelligent part and opts for supernatural design, a design that defies the same physical laws that, on its critique side, intelligent design uses to try to de-legitimate Darwinian evolution.
Of course, creationists aren’t the only ones to ignore the evolutionary nature of all accounts of design. Philosophers, much to my distress, often assume things like zombies without having any sense that a zombie has to come with an evolutionary story, and that has to be packed into their account that a zombie doesn’t sense like a human being. This simply proves that philosophers are bad intelligent designers – something I think Wittgenstein spotted long ago.
At the same time, not all evolution is Darwinian evolution – that is, the statistical effect of selection, while definitely having some effects at the cultural level, does not play the role it plays in Darwinian evolution.  Evolution on the cultural level often takes the form of assemblages that bring together different developmental paths as overlapping associations.
All of which is the wordy and way too wordy intro to what I want to do for a lark: understand the evolution of the ghost shape that one sees, in paper cutouts and cartoons, on Halloween.

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