A rhetorical analysis of the current challenges to the evolutionary paradigm

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Yanos, Susan B.
Houlette, Forrest T.
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Thesis (Ph. D.)
Department of English
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This study explores the establishment of the paradigm of evolution by means of natural selection, asserting that Darwin's theories were not scientifically revolutionary because he established rather than overthrew the existing paradigm in biology. Actually Darwin made three more important contributions than the theory of natural selection. He delivered a blow to essentialism, changing the universe from a product into a process. He established the hypothetico-deductive model of the physical sciences for natural history. And he demonstrated that teleological problems could be studied by scientists. The recent controversies in biology are continuations of the old debate over whether evolution is orderly or irregular, controlled by external or internal forces, continuous or discontinuous. The controversies can be separated into four separate challenges to neo-Darwinism: empirical, epistemological, methodological, and teleological. The study concludes that the empirical and teleological challenges do not pose serious threats to the existing paradigm, but unless the epistemological and methodological challenges can be met satisfactorily, the paradigm may be overthrown.This study also explores the differences between the rhetorical and scientific methods of inquiry. Modern science is considered as predominantly empirical, progressing because of the scientists' system of shared, rational values. Actually both metaphysician and physician ponder the same questions, embrace truth with the same assumptions, and operate with the same epistemology. Science is puzzle solving. Rhetoric deals with ill-defined problems, while science turns ill-defined problems into well-defined ones. The danger in separating the scientific and rhetorical methods is that Western man is split into two irreconcilable points of view: the moral and the scientific. The dichotomy arose because of the two fountainheads of Western culture. Plato "solved" the dichotomy by proposing two worlds of Becoming and Ideas. Darwin's solution depends on a different metaphysical pathos which is only now being realized, due to the rethinking of the paradigm as a result of the challenges. Rather than giving us two worlds, Darwin separated the forces of one, completely naturalistic world into a two-step process: chance and necessity. The problem is that many thinkers focus on only one of the processes, sometimes to the exclusion of the other.