The theory of everything

“Every theory of the world that is at all powerful and covers a large domain of phenomena carries immanent within itself its own caricature. If it is to give a satisfactory explanation of a wide range of events in the world in a wide variety of circumstances, a theory necessarily must contain come logically very powerful element that is flexible enough to be applicable in so many situations. Yet the very logical power of such a system is also its greatest weakness, for a theory that can explain everything explains nothing. It ceases to be a theory of the contingent world and becomes instead a vacuous metaphysics that generates not only all possible worlds, but all conceivable ones. The narrow line that separates a genuinely fruitful and powerful theory from its sterile caricature is crossed over and over again by vulgarizers who seize upon the powerful explanatory element and. by using indiscriminately, destroy its usefulness. In doing so, however, they reveal underlying weakness in the theory themselves, which can lead to their reformulation.

This element of immanent caricature is certainly present in three theoretical structures that have had immense effects on twentieth-century bourgeois thought: Marxism, Freudianism, and Darwinism. Marx’s historical materialism has been caricatured by the vulgar economism that attempts to explain the smallest detail of human history as a direct consequence of economic forces. Freud’s ideas of sublimation, transference, reversal, and repression have been interpreted to explain any form of overt behavior as a direct or transformed manifestation of any arbitrary psycological cause. In Darwinism the element that is both central to the evolutionary world view and yet so powerful that can destroy Darwinism as a testable theory is adaptation.”

Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, The Dialectical Biologist


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