The Power of Darwin

Richard Dawkins has an essay in the latest Free Inquiry on “The Power of Darwin.” He says that Darwin’s theory of natural selection is “arguably the most powerful idea ever” because “it assumes little to explain much.”

His conclusion:

Twenty-first century evolutionary science, if Darwin could return to see it, would enthrall, excite, and amaze him. But he would recognize it as his own. We are just coloring in the details. For my money, the most important thinker the human species has ever produced was Charles Darwin….

Darwin raises our consciousness to the sinewy power of science to explain the large and complex in terms of the small and simple. In biology we were fooled for centuries into thinking that extravagant complexity in nature needs an extravagantly complex explanation. Darwin triumphantly dispelled that illusion. There remain big questions, in physics and cosmology, that await their own Darwins. Why are the laws of physics the way they are? Why are there laws at all? Why is there a universe at all? Once again, the lure of “design” is tempting, but we have the cautionary tale of Darwin before us. We’ve been through all that before. Darwin raised our consciousness, and we are emboldened to seek true explanations of genuine power.

Do you agree?

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  • http://alphonsuspeck.wordpress.com/ alphonsuspeck

    Evolution is one of the most magnificent concepts ever conceived. It is obvious not only in nature, but in any complex interactions. Cultures, cities, and social behaviors can all also be seen to governed by the principles of natural selection.

    If God exists, evolution is the way He runs the Universe. No need for creationism or intelligent design. Just build the concept into the fabric of the universe and let it run.

    Magnifico!

  • Dr. Kate

    While I agree that Darwin’s theory was brilliant, and acknowledge its importance to all of modern biology, I have to disagree with Dawkins that Darwin was the “…most important thinker the human species has ever produced…” True, Darwin’s theory revolutionized biology. But there were a lot of other naturalists at the time who were closing in on the same general idea. I’m pretty sure one of them would have gotten it–i.e., I don’t think Darwin had any particularly revolutionary genius. I think if he hadn’t lived, natural selection would have been “discovered” within ten or twenty years of its “actual” date.

    I’d be inclined to choose Newton, or Einstein, or even Hutton, over Darwin. (Darwin, after all, built on Hutton’s ideas.) The lack of one of those men would have set back modern science by possibly centuries. Darwin, not so much.

  • http://zlovers.blogspot.com Zabimaru

    This isn’t a very good statement. I really respect Dawkins, and I certainly respect Darwin, but I just know that this will be heavily quoted by a certain subset of the creationist crowd.

    I’ve been told so many times that “evilutionists (sic) worship Darwin!” and “Darwinism is just another religion with Darwin as a holy prophet/God!” and they use this as an argument for why creationism and evolution are equal.

    Of course we always try to patiently explain that while people still hold Darwin in high regard, it isn’t a religion. We don’t worship Darwin or take his word as law. He was just one among others who started a branch of science that biologists have since then worked on very much to expand our knowledge in. They aren’t Darwinists who only listen to Darwin.

    But when big names like Dawkins express themselves in this manner, it is surely going to be used as further fodder by that crowd to quote mine from.

    Oh well. If that annoying kind of creationist didn’t exist I wouldn’t have a problem with this statement, so I guess I won’t complain :) I don’t agree that Darwin would be the most important thinker we have produced, but of course I respect Dawkins’ right to have personal favorites.

  • Barry

    I’m not an atheist, but I still agree with the previous posters about the overreach of calling Darwin the greatest production of the human species even from an non-theist perspective. In my mind all he did was come up with a slant on theories others were already working on.

    This quotation of Dawkins also goes a long way to show why many don’t care for him, I think he speaks without thinking or at least clarifying. He seems to be saying that through Darwin all the big questions of biology have been answered and that the other sciences are still waiting for their Moses to lead them to their promised lands. But is this true? First there are many huge questions that biology still has to answer such as the origin of DNA or even how the mind interacts with the brain. Also to say that there has not been huge paradigm shifts in the areas of cosmology or physics in last 150 years is just plain silly. From even a materialist standpoint Dawkins thought in this quote is underwhelming and poorly communicated. Beyond that though, by witness of the ID contoversies, it should be noted that design isn’t a settled issue in the area of biology any more than it is in the other areas of science.

  • VorJack

    I basically agree with most of the above comments, but one question: what did you expect Dawkins to say?

    Remember, Dawkins has spent most of his life toiling in the field of evolutionary biology. He’s advanced new ways of understanding the old theory and likely put in countless hours of lab and field work. We can hardly consider him an unbiased source. Frankly, I’d be stunned if he said anything other that Darwin.

    So too, I’d expect a physicist to cite Newton or Einstein, a chemist to cite a chemist, etc.

    And for the record, I agree that Darwin was not the only one working in the field who would have advanced the theory of natural selection. However, he got there first with the most. He put tremendous effort into it, and generally nailed things down as well as he could given the limited understanding of the times. He’s well remembered for his efforts and the clarity of his thinking more that the brilliance of the thought.

  • lra364

    I agree with Dr. Kate. Darwin was certainly awesome, but I think that theoretical physics tends to attract the greatest thinkers. (and I have a Master’s degree in the biological sciences). While Darwin’s ideas are powerful, it is the scientific method and the research following that made his tenets important. Had he been wrong, then he would have disappeared from history.

    I also agree with Zabimaru that creationists like to use statements about the greatness of Darwin against us scientists. What they don’t understand is that his simple ideas have been filled in with so many complex ideas, that certainly the idea of evolution is awesome, regardless of who came up with it.

    The fact remains, though, that so much evidence across multiple scientific fields supports both macro and micro evolution whereas no proof other than a collection of parchments from a tribal group of people exists for creationism. Further, the “argument from design” put forth by the great ISLAMIC thinker Avicenna (who greatly influenced Aquinas) has many equally (if not more) convincing arguments against the notion that something that seems designed must have a designer (such as the simple argument that a rock is shaped by a river and has a design, but there is only a shaper and not a designer of that rock, which is essentially how evolution works– to shape rather than design).

    On this note, if anyone reading this post is from TEXAS, please write to your state representative or congressperson to ask that they reign in the fundamentalist state board of education. They are in the process of revising the science curriculum standards and have 3 people who support intelligent design on their advisory team.

    You could write your board representative as well. Some reps will listen, but others are so knee deep in fundamentalist agenda that they can’t see past the ends of their noses!!!

    I’m afraid they are going to put creationism/intelligent design into Texas classrooms!!!

  • lra364

    ps, Barry:

    The question of how the mind interacts with the brain is a PHILOSOPHICAL one not a SCIENTIFIC one. It is not a question that any neuroscientist would explore. They are concerned with consciousness, not the “mind.”

  • lra364

    pss, Barry,

    The “question” of design as you put it HAS been settled.

    There is NO, I repeat NO, scientifically valid controversy over evolution.

    The “controversy” is a POLITICAL PLOY on the part of creationists who claim to be scientists but have NO peer reviewed work in the scientific literature supporting such a claim.

  • http://digitaldame.wordpress.com Digital Dame

    Just as an FYI and matter of interest, this month’s Smithsonian magazine has articles on Darwin and Lincoln, as they share a birthday. It’s the cover story.

  • lra364

    “by witness of the ID contoversies, it should be noted that design isn’t a settled issue in the area of biology any more than it is in the other areas of science”

    ON SECOND THOUGHT, Barry,

    Maybe you’re right. You need to checkout the following website:

    http://www.venganza.org/

    I’m sure it will be most informative on the issue of the “controversy” over evolution!

  • Jimminy Christmas

    Barry:

    Beyond that though, by witness of the ID contoversies, it should be noted that design isn’t a settled issue in the area of biology any more than it is in the other areas of science.

    Actually, it is a settled issue among virtually all legitimate scientists. The only people pushing the “controversy” of “design” are creationists and creationist organizations who have no published research or evidence of any kind to back up their claims.

    This is not to say that there aren’t specific technical issues within various scientific fields which are controversial and hotly debated among scientists, that’s what science is all about and how we learn things. But whether the Universe, life, etc was “designed” or not is not one of the things being discussed.

    The goal of the creationist design movement is to tear down science in order to replace it with 2,000 year-old fairy tales written by nomadic desert tribesmen (as if they were the only alternative to science). The creationist design movement has nothing to offer beyond this…no explanations, no increased understanding of the world, just bible myths. Their goal is not to discover truths or advance human knowledge and understanding through many years of diligent and difficult research and experimentation…their goal is to stop it.

  • Baka

    I think the other comments here are good to keep in mind. One of the most annoying and droll dribblings of creationists is that evolution is a religion with Darwin as its prophet. So, it’s understandable to want to show as little respect as possible for the man, just to prove them wrong.

    But I am going to go ahead and disagree with the other commenters. And, before I begin, I’ll admit that I’m working on my PhD in evolutionary biology, so I’m rooting for the home team here … consider that my admission of personal interests. ;)

    Darwin’s idea really was one of, if not the, most revolutionary ideas in the history of humanity. And, we’re not just talking scientifically. Philosophically, the ramifications are tremendous, and we’re still dealing with the aftershocks today. Yes, there are seminal moments in many fields of research, and certainly there are other names that we could evoke that deserve to be considered amongst the highest echelons of respect that we have for thinkers. Furthermore, it is undeniably a fact that all of science is contingent upon the advances that came before, and it is equally undeniable that there is an element of chance that placed the great scientists in the right places at the right times to make the right discoveries before others who would undoubtably have done the same, given time.

    But none of these admissions diminish one bit the achievements of the great scientists of the past, and more importantly, none of it diminishes even slightly the power of the ideas that they first codified.

    The theory of evolution by means of natural selection has profoundly rewritten the entire understanding of biology from the ground up since its first publication 150 years ago. As Dobzhansky said, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. But, furthermore, the theory of evolution served as a “consciousness raiser” in other areas of human thought. The idea that there could be processes at work that, given even minute variations and some sort of environmental consequences on these variants, could result in increasing complexity (locally … no laws of thermodynamics were harmed during this comment), has led either directly or obliquely towards advances in many other areas of human endeavor.

    One of the other areas that creationists like to squat over is astronomy, a field which discusses the “evolution” of stars and galaxies and the universe. Biologists such as myself are always quick to point out that this kind of evolution is not the same thing as biological evolution, which is true in the strict sense of the word … but it would be equally intellectually dishonest to deny that Darwin’s ideas directly influenced the thinkers who discovered those processes of self-organizing systems amongst the stars.

    Darwin was just a man, with many flaws, including many involving evolution. My own, admittedly limited, understanding of evolutionary biology would put his to shame were a time machine to bring him forward to our era. But, I don’t for one second shy away from admitting the revolution his elegantly simple idea brought crashing into our world, a revolution that will no doubt have reverberations in our civilization for centuries to come.

    If admitting that Darwin stands among the other greats of history for having been the first to think (and more importantly, communicate) a thought that changed the world makes me a Darwinist to some people, fine. You should also refer to me as a Newtonist, an Einsteinist, a Kochist, an Aristotleist, etc. I happen to think Chuck D stands above the rest in the diversity and magnitude of his impact on our modern world … but not very far above … and I’m willing to admit there might be others (say, physicists) who would reorder my list. ;)

    @Barry I’m sorry, did you just imply that design (of the intelligent type) is somehow a serious contender in the biological and other sciences? :) There would also be a controversy if idiots were trying to teach alchemy in chemistry class, but that wouldn’t imply that modern alchemists be afforded anything other than mockery and disdain. ;)

  • http://blog.elliottcallahan.com Elliott

    I think crediting Darwin with “arguably the most powerful idea ever” is understandable. Maybe even warranted.

    If you stop someone on the street, and ask them what the greatest question of all time is, I bet you they would more than likely say “Why are we here?”

    This question is, of course, ambiguous between a question of origin and one of purpose, one of cause and one of motive.

    I would venture to say that the question of purpose may never be answered, but we can credit one man, Darwin, with solving the puzzle of origin. His alternative to the cosmic watchmaker allowed other realms of science to more thoroughly examine the origin of everything, instead of defaulting to ‘the unmoved mover’ at every impasse.

    Sure, maybe he stood on the shoulders of geniuses, but he made the breakthrough — he put it all together to give us the ultimate answer.

  • Dr. Kate

    Elliott, Darwin actually didn’t say anything about the origin of life. His entire theory (and modern evolutionary theory) is based on the assumption that life already exists. It just explains how life changes over time.

    The question of the origin of life itself is a separate matter. There are a lot of good ideas being investigated right now, but none of them have to do with Darwin. Natural selection (and other forms of evolution) have to work on something–the theory of evolution says nothing about the origins of life. (That, by the way, is a common creationist ploy–they use statistics and “chance” to argue that, for example, DNA could never have spontaneously popped into existence. But evolutionary theory doesn’t suggest that it did. It presupposes the existence of life, in the same way that the theory of gravity presupposes the existence of matter.)

    To clarify my original comment: my Ph.D. is in geochemistry. I would still argue that Newton was a greater “thinker” in the purest sense of the word; Newton’s “inventions” affect pretty much everything, after all (optics, motion, calculus…). I would argue that Newton’s first law (an object’s motion changes if and only if an unbalanced force acts on it) was at least as revolutionary as Darwin’s idea that small changes can add up to big differences (and Darwin wasn’t the first to posit that–as I mentioned before, Hutton inferred the same thing, only for rocks). If you consider that friction wasn’t really understood back then, and that frictionless systems were also pretty uncommon, the idea that a ball doesn’t naturally stop rolling is pretty strange.

    But this isn’t a thread about physics, so I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say, I disagree with Dawkins, and I agree with many others that his comments may have been ill-considered, given that they provide creationists with more fodder. But my understanding is the Dawkins has never really been overly concerned about the effects of his comments.

  • http://blog.elliottcallahan.com Elliott

    @ Dr. Kate

    Oh, I wasn’t saying necessarily that evolution explains the origins of life — notice, I never used the word ‘life’ only the word ‘we.’ Evolution explains very well why we are here, i.e. how sentient life came to arise on planet earth.

    But thank you for bringing up a good point. It’s true that we are still working out the details of biogenesis, but you are mistaken to say they have nothing to do with Darwin: it has everything to do with him.

    We may not know exactly how life arose, but natural selection tells us very simply that there will be more of things that are better at reproducing themselves in a given environment. We have observed self-replication on microscopic, and even macroscopic scales: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/saul_griffith_on_everyday_inventions.html . All selection needs to operate is replication, and replication is already there.

    Admittedly, Darwinian evolution doesn’t give us the details of the origin of life, but it elucidates the process by which it arose, if that makes any sense. This theory is raw power, yet pure elegance.

  • http://blog.elliottcallahan.com Elliott

    Btw, that TED talk is not meant to provide any sort of evidence. Obviously that isn’t how life arose, haha.

    I just found it to be an interesting example of replication.

  • http://autumnthoughts.wordpress.com/ Martian

    Why are the laws of physics the way they are? Why are there laws at all? Why is there a universe at all? Once again, the lure of “design” is tempting, but we have the cautionary tale of Darwin before us. We’ve been through all that before.

    This kind of jumped out at me. It’s always going to be a losing battle with some people, because their brains just cannot even imagine how all of this could have happened without design. They haven’t read enough, studied enough, they will never grasp it. In a lot of cases, they don’t even want to.

    The human brain looks for patterns and then draws conclusions, and some people will never learn to get past that behavior to think more logically.

  • Baka

    @Dr. Kate,

    @Elliott beat me to the punch. You are very correct, Dr. Kate, to guard against the common Creationist tactic of conflating biological evolution and abiogenesis. They are, in many ways, separate issues. However, in many ways, they are not as dissimilar as one might at first think.

    It kind of depends on one’s definition of “life”, a topic which itself can spawn a huge comment thread. If by “life” you mean a cellular entity that metabolizes, producing waste, and (of course) reproduces itself, then you’re in keeping with most of the common definitions. But, when you go below the surface, there are plenty of things that we might think of as “life” that don’t meet these criteria. Viruses, prions, and mobile DNA (my own field of study) are examples of these quasi-life forms, some of which many people would have trouble denying the label “life”, and others which seem more clear-cut.

    Now, back to abiogenesis. The following statement is false: “Evolution can’t work on something that’s not yet alive.” Evolution (by means of natural selection) can work any time there are population of replicators containing inheritable variations that alter the probabilities of individual replication events. It’s true that, so far, everything we have seen that evolves is life-ish (the mobile elements I study evolve, and reproduce, but don’t metabolize, for instance). But, you can be sure that those biologists working on abiogenesis are well aware that what they’re after is not turning a soup of inorganic chemicals into cells, but really turning those non-replicating inorganics into something that replicates.

    Whether the first replicator was born on the backs of crystals, looked a lot like RNA, or was something we haven’t even guessed yet remains to be seen. But, it was the fact that it, unlike everything that came before it, was able to replicate (preferably with imperfect fidelity), is what opened it to the force of natural selection. From there, it’s just a matter of time (and luck … hello, genetic drift!). ;)

  • Baka

    @Martian,

    I’m reminded by your comments of one of my favorite Douglas Adams quotes:

    “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

  • http://whyareyousofat.wordpress.com McBloggenstein

    @Baka

    Great Adams quote!

  • Barry

    @ Ira

    I’m sorry you have so much to fear from those irrational creationists trying to force myths into your life, let me know where you live and i’ll come down to keep them from indoctrinating you or taking over your polis. Seriously do you guys really believe that all of the people in the lead of ID movement are complete idiots that their PHD’s are simply paper ones. It’s one thing to disagree with them but its simply poor argument to simply try to discredit them by calling them names such as illegitimate and the such. If I ran into someone who said the world was flat, I wouldn’t get mad, I’d demonstrate the facts and leave it at that. But I see inate hatred of people who challenge the status quo in a lot of posts.

    Back on point though, trying to separate mind from consciousness is quite a quibble and I would be interested to see your definition of mind. But having said that, it still is more than just a philosophical problem. From a materialistic standpoint there has to be a solution to how the grey matter in skull assimilates information and memories. That would seem to be a large scientific question of biology that has not been answered yet. My point was that Dawkins seems to say that biology is all figured out, and that’s far from true.

    One last thing, you make a large assumption when you say science is philosophy free. The scientific method may not require philosophy in an actual experiment but scientists make huge philosophical assumptions everyday. The easiest way to see this is that the very notion of science assumes the knowabllity and rationality of reality. Would we do science if we thought tommorrow water would run uphill? This is what I find so fascinating about encounters of scientists with certain philosphers of despair. In Consilience E.O. Wilson attacks with viciousness people like Foucault and Derrida because they challenge the idea that reality is ultimately knowable. These men are certainly no friends of faith but are the enemies of scientists because they have the audacity to claim that modern science is just another metanarrative.

  • Jeff Eyges

    Seriously do you guys really believe that all of the people in the lead of ID movement are complete idiots that their PHD’s are simply paper ones.

    For the most part, yes. Or they are such radical ideologues that they subordinate empirical evidence to faith. Occasionally, you get one who is, presumably, neither stupid nor an ideologue, such as Berlinski, who was recently overheard saying that as long as the Discovery Institute continued to write him checks, he’d continue to cash them.

    If I ran into someone who said the world was flat, I wouldn’t get mad, I’d demonstrate the facts and leave it at that. But I see inate hatred of people who challenge the status quo in a lot of posts.

    Barry, it’s because of these people that we are the laughing stock of the other industrialized nations. The Europeans ridicule us – and they are justified in doing so. Our educational system is an international disgrace, our government has been infiltrated by right wing Christians… .
    You may not find it disturbing, but the rest of us are despondent.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com/ wintermute

    Seriously do you guys really believe that all of the people in the lead of ID movement are complete idiots that their PHD’s are simply paper ones.

    Well, their PhD’s are in library science, or Christian Education, or engineering, so whether they’re simply mail-ordered from a doctorate-mill doesn’t really say a great deal about their understanding of biology.

    From a materialistic standpoint there has to be a solution to how the grey matter in skull assimilates information and memories. That would seem to be a large scientific question of biology that has not been answered yet.

    We know rather more about that than you seem to think. That’s not to say that we’ve gotten every last detail nailed down, but we’re definitely heading in the right direction.

    As for the idea that the mind does not spontaneously emerge from the brain, I recommend you read this, and see how many of the questions it raises you can explain with a dualist model of mind…

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com/ wintermute

    If I ran into someone who said the world was flat, I wouldn’t get mad, I’d demonstrate the facts and leave it at that. But I see inate hatred of people who challenge the status quo in a lot of posts.

    And, after you’d demonstrated the facts, and they still tried to force public schools to teach your children that the flat Earth theory was a perfectly valid alternative, how would you feel? What about, if after explaining all the evidence, they continued to insist to their congregations that anyone who didn’t believe in a flat Earth was going to hell? Would you still just “leave it at that”?

    When you’re dealing with dishonest people attempting to push their religious beliefs on the rest of the country (and remember that most Christians think that Creationists are insane), who refuse to listen to the plain facts, fighting back is perfectly rational thing to do.

    The creationists are more than welcome to “challenge the status quo”, so long as they can provide some evidence, or at least an idea as to how we could, potentially, test their idea. Repeatedly insisting that transitional fossils don’t exist and that The Flintstones was a documentary is not the right way to win an argument about the way the world works.

  • http://zlovers.blogspot.com Zabimaru

    Barry says:
    “scientists make huge philosophical assumptions everyday. The easiest way to see this is that the very notion of science assumes the knowabllity and rationality of reality.”

    Science is a process that can actually produce useful results. When we use the scientific method we learn things that can be used to predict how things will act in the future. When an experiment is consistently repeatable, we assume that this is how things work.

    Of course there is always the chance that things aren’t so. There is always the chance that God created all of the universe last Tuesday and that we have been given false memories of those previous experiments. There is always the chance that only I exist and that the world is all a figment of my imagination.

    But that kind of thought doesn’t lead anywhere. It can be interesting to discuss over a glass of wine, but when everything in the world points to the scientific method giving us usable results, then we might as well continue using it.

    Maybe nothing is knowable. Maybe nothing we “know” is true. Maybe “science is just another metanarrative” but we still have lots of use out of it, and throwing it away because we don’t know if we can truly know things is just… Strange?

  • Baka

    @Barry,

    You are engaging in a logical fallacy known as the argument from authority when you hold up the PhDs of some of the Discovery Institute’s members as some sort of justification for why their ideas should be exempted from the process of scientific criticism. As others have pointed out, in almost all cases, their PhDs are in fields that have little or no relevance to the one they pretend to honestly address, but even if every single one of them had PhDs in biology, that would be no more impressive a mark in their favor (though maybe they’d at least not make trivial, careless mistakes about the basics, as they often do).

    Someone with a PhD can be just as wrong as someone without a PhD, and whether or not they have the degree doesn’t attenuate that wrongness at all. What design proponents have yet to do, despite years of babbling like your own, is produce one shred of positive evidence in support of their claims. They have produced not one peer-reviewed study that supports their claims. They have yet to even take that most tentative of scientific steps and propose a testable hypothesis.

    In short, they are charlatans and were shown to be so long ago. There may be sincere people that they have duped, and the intents behind the duplicity of those knowingly deceptive members of the movement may be seen as means justifying a noble end (to win souls for Jebus), but neither of these things absolves them of the responsibility for their lies and distortions, nor earns them the immunity from criticism that no other idea enjoys in the arena of science.

    Really, though, if all they were doing is yammering on about some vapid, vacuous, pseudoscientific idea of theirs, they’d be no greater source of annoyance than the cranks who wear tin foil helmets to keep the CIA from reading their thoughts with satellites, or the white supremacists who insist the holocaust didn’t really happen. But, they aren’t just harmless cranks, they’re well-funded, politically savvy operators with agendas that include passing legislation that (a) prevents or diminishes students’ exposure to the best science we currently have to offer on the subject, (b) reduces funding for research that leads directly to real benefits in terms of medicine and technology, (c) allows the use of public schools, and with the power and authority of the state that comes with that status, to indoctrinate children into their specific religious ideology, or (d) all of the above.

    So, while we can shoot holes in their “science” all day long, that is merely a holding action on our part to make sure their rhetorical posturing to the opposite is never allowed to go unchallenged. But, what pisses us off is the fact that these assholes want to screw with the minds of children, the education of the next generation, and the science and technological advancement of the current generation. And all for what? For ideas that have not a single shred of positive evidence in their favor. Yeah, that’s definitely something to get upset about.

    Quit being a mook, @Barry. You’re being played for a chump.

  • lra364

    Well, well, well, Barry.

    It seems as though my colleagues have taken your a$$ apart.

    Now, let me address the question that they didn’t.

    (Mind you, I have a master’s degree in neuroscience/molecular biology from Columbia where I completed my thesis with a Nobel prize winning scientist. Check out “Principles of Neuroscience” when you get the chance. He was one of the editors.)

    If you think that the ‘mind’ is a question for science, then YOU ARE WRONG!

    It is a question for PHILOSOPHY (in which I ALSO have a degree from Univ. of Texas). The illustrious history starts with Descartes. One of his critics asked him about mind/body dualism. If the mind (read Greek word psuche = psyche = soul) and the body are two different substances, then how do they interact? This question was asked again and again by materialists, idealists, and now by substance dualists like David Chalmers. You should check him out– he’s quite interesting.

    Do I seem scared? Do I seem afraid?

    Barry you are an idiot and you’re talking about things that you don’t understand, so forgive me (as christians are ordered to do) if I give you some attitude. I’m tired of people like you who have CLEARLY no education in the relevant fields here poking your nose into business you don’t understand as if you actually know ANYTHING about it.

    Now, just to support the other claims in this post, the premiere database for scientific research is PUBMED:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

    Go ahead and search for the names of your precious intelligent design people and see if they have actually PUBLISHED any research. Go ahead!

    Finally, I am a certified educator in Texas. So yeah, I get just a LITTLE upset when jackasses try to manipulate the SCIENCE curriculum in order to advance their RELIGIOUS agendas.

    Don’t pick a fight with me Barry. You won’t win. You don’t have the knowledge to.

  • lra364

    ps Barry

    Derrida and Foucault (both post structuralists within the field of literature and philosophy) were athiests. So you can’t really recruit them to your cause as they would just say that christian rhetoric is meaningless meta narrative.

  • lra364

    “Atheists” sorry for the typo

  • Barry

    @ wintermute

    http://www.discovery.org/csc/fellows.php

    Check the list out, there is more than one person on there with post doctorate work in biology. Fighting back as you say is not the problem, ad hominem attacks are. Generalizing all ID people as dishonest power hungry people is not the way to win your argument. Some people may require the rhetoric you use but not all.

    @ Baka
    I wasn’t making a fallacious argument, in the sense that i wasn’t arguing their position was correct based on their PHD’s. I was simply making the point that your not dealing with a group of people with associated degrees teaching 1st grade. They are not all a bunch of rubes playing banjos on the bridge over the river.

    @ Ira

    I’ve seemed to have struck a raw nerve with you, and usually that means there is an issue of pride or insecurity probably both. I basically said Derrida and Foucault were both atheists but you had to slant that the argument I gave didn’t you. Did I say they were design proponents, no. At least deal with the argument I made like Zab did.

    And yes the mind-body problem is something I do know a little something about especially related to the research into AI. What position are you taking though? My attack was on the monistic materialist position. If the mental is just a projection of the physical, that relationship is explained in degree that everything is answered. Are there questions for dualists to answer, yes. But which are you?

  • http://soundsfamiliar.blogspot.com Swimmy

    Like others, I agree that Darwin’s theory is among the most fascinating scientific discoveries, and if the metric is doing a lot with the minimal evidence possible, Darwin is amazingly far ahead. But Dawkins has his biology blinders on. We should come up with a list of other insights based on seemingly little evidence.

    Einstein, general relativity is the most obvious.

    Probability theory as logic. Though I don’t know who started this movement, E.T. Jaynes seems to be the go-to source for mathematical arguments on the subject; essentially all he does is take Bayes’ Theorem and apply it to everything. The applications to scientific theory are very profound when you get into them.

    Carl Menger, marginalism, equal credit to Walras and Jevons who discovered it simultaneously. But remember that multiple simultaneous discovery doesn’t make a theory any more obvious or less revolutionary. Even Darwin had Wallace to compete with.

    Wegener, continental drift. Much like biology cannot be understood without evolution, geology cannot be understood without plate tectonics. Wegener’s theory explains very much on only a handful of observations. Critics of his time argued he couldn’t explain mechanism, but his extrapolation from everyday physics to a liquidy earth mantle turned out to be correct after all.

    Here are some reflections on making powerful new claims based on little evidence:
    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/05/einsteins-speed.html

    Are there any others to add to the list?

  • lra364

    Barry-

    Yes you have struck a raw nerve and it has nothing to do with pride or insecurity. It has to do with the fact that people like you are trying to warp children’s minds and I find that disgusting and unconscionable.

    Furthermore, I did address your argument. You said:

    “In Consilience E.O. Wilson attacks with viciousness people like Foucault and Derrida because they challenge the idea that reality is ultimately knowable. These men are certainly no friends of faith but are the enemies of scientists because they have the audacity to claim that modern science is just another metanarrative.”

    You used Derrida and Foucault as enemies of science. They are philosophers who are concerned with literature and language. I understand your point, but as I said they are post-structuralists. Do you understand what that means?

    It means that they believe that the meaning behind words slips away from them. Words are essentially meaningless. Well, since you used them to support your argument, then I can assume that you don’t find any meaning in what I say. Words have no meaning. The bible has no meaning. Science has no meaning. Nothing has any meaning!!! We live in a meaningless existential world!!! boo hoo hoo!

    Add to that the fact that there are academic areas called philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. In that sense ethics and other philosophical issues are connected to science. But to say that science is a meta-narrative doesn’t do diddly squat to take away from the theory of evolution as an explanatory model for the overwhelming evidence that we have across multiple fields of research. You might as well use that argument to take away from the theory of gravity.

    So you know a little something about AI, huh? Do you work in that field? Are you actually producing technology? Are you doing research? What exactly are your qualifications?

    If you had any real qualifications, you’d understand that the mind body problem is nothing more than a philosophical discussion. You’d understand that philosophers of mind have only the Turing test at this point to prove that a computer has consciousness (mind you that is different from the concept of “mind”). You’d know that neuroscientists and AI people alike can only work within physical/material parameters because anything more than that is beyond the scope of science. They know that you can’t use science to prove things that aren’t observable and testable.

    So what I am (and I’m actually a dualist and a deist- I have simple beliefs that I recognize to be unprovable) is irrelevant to science or to the work I have done in science. What you believe is also irrelevant.

    Which brings me to your point about the discovery institute. I don’t care what sham “scientists” have signed that protest (and if you notice none of them are experts in evolution), what they believe (essentially that nature seems to have a design) is irrelevant because is isn’t OBSERVABLE nor TESTABLE. How do you test that god zapped things into existence, especially in the face of the overwhelming evidence that things evolved over time? If the overwhelming evidence shows that the life on this world evolved over time and continues to evolve (which I witnessed in the laboratory every day as I worked with viruses and bacteria in addition to mice), and you assume that god is the creator of this world, then you are essentially calling god a liar who planted false evidence all over the place just to test our faith in the bible(which would make god evil).

    So what is it Barry? Either the bible is WRONG or god is an evil liar. You choose.

  • Baka

    @Ira,

    I’ll take Door #1, please. ;)

    @Barry,

    It’s interesting that your response to me is basically, “I wasn’t appealing to authority by pointing out their PhDs!” While, in the paragraph preceding the one where you address me directly, that’s precisely what you do … appeal to their authority as PhDs.

    Play a new tune, Barry. This one’s getting old.

    The only thing even approaching substance I’ve found in your writings so far is your suggestion that some rhetorical strategies may not work with all people. Gee, thanks. I’ll keep that in mind. I’m well aware, however, that you will attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. But, at some point, it’s time to just swat the flies.

    See, I understand that the people at the D.I. are just people, and that this means they are complex beings with hopes and dreams and foibles and aspirations. But, what you’re missing from this conversation is that none of that matters. What matters is that they are people who smile at everyone they can, while -knowingly- deceiving the public, and have a specific aim for preying upon children because they are easier targets for their snake oil.

    I don’t care what sort of complex emotions and human sides they have. I can’t afford to. They seek to do harm, and they feel righteous about using deception to achieve those goals. True, I suspect that most of them sincerely believe their ultimate goals to be worthy, but you know what they say about the road to hell. If anything has been shown to be true, its that the D.I. is wonderful at playing the persecuted victim, but they also show up involved in every anti-science attack in schools around the nation.

    They was recently involved in the near-miss in Texas, and they were also involved in the hit they scored in Louisiana last year. Ira, as he has pointed out, works in education in Texas, and I happen to be doing my PhD research in Louisiana right now. So, Barry, while you’re appealing to us to consider the human side of the equation, you should also consider that we’re not disinterested observers of the D.I.’s tactics. We’re directly affected by them in our daily lives, and can witness, first hands, the fruits of their labor.

    So, please, find a different basis for your admiration of these charlatans than the number of PhDs they claim to have, and stop appealing to their delicate egos that might be bruised by our less-than-polite argument style. They have, at every turn, shown that any politeness proffered them will only be taken as an invitation to do more harm.

    Frankenstein’s monster was, indeed, a misunderstood, wretched creature. But, he was still a monster, and had to be dealt with accordingly. One can hope the D.I. fellows will realize this about themselves one day, as the monster did, and take up residence in the antarctic where they can do no more harm to innocent people.

  • Baka

    @Swimmy,

    I always like to give a shout out to William of Ockham. He may not have come up with a specific discovery or formal theory that revolutionized whole branches of science. But, his codification of that central tenet of the scientific method did contribute enormously to science itself:

    “Entia non sunt miltiplicanda praeter necessitatem”

    (translated: “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily”)

  • Rickibirder

    @barry: “Beyond that though, by witness of the ID contoversies, it should be noted that design isn’t a settled issue in the area of biology any more than it is in the other areas of science.”

    Said like a true proponent of design LMAO. ID was ripped apart years ago. Why not just accept the truth: that life evolved on this planet in much the way described by Darwin and further elucidated upon by many, many scientists since his time.

    We all know that ID is dreamed up by creationists wishing to sneak creationist nonsense into science classes by proxy. Please don’t pretend otherwise. ID is fundamentally dishonest and anybody promoting it must also accept dishonesty and be prepared to have those who admire reason and truth to call them dishonest.

    Given the number of posts here shouting down your dishonest attempt to sneak a lie into the discourse here I guess we can call your lie “exposed”.

    It’s funny that you’d try that on in a forum like this. You usually find that kind of tripe dished up for General Exhibition in a dishonest attempt to sway the uninformed over at YouTube.

  • Barry

    @ Baka, Rick

    First again I wasn’t arguing for the correctness of ID theory or even that you shouldn’t argue against it. I’m also not trying to stick up for every person in that movement. My contention was that it is shortsighted to throw around labels such as dishonest and power hungry. You have every right to think that ID is stupid,moronic but instead your judging the characters of the people that propose it simply because they disagree with you. I’ve had Christians tell me that they won’t listen to atheists because they are all evil and dishonest charlatans, I also dismiss this as idiotic. I’ve heard people attack Dawkins and Gould with the argument that they should have stuck to their biology classes and left the metaphysical questions to the philosophers. Does that seem fair to you? No because its a poor argument, and it assumes that without a formal degree in philosophy a person has nothing to add to the discussion. I may disagree with Dawkins philosophical assumptions but I would listen to him read him and see why he thinks the way he does. What’s sad is, is though I think Daniel and many posters on this blog are thinking, reflective people, some other people on this blog may well turn out to be as close minded, dogmatic, and reactionary as some Christians I’ve run in to.

  • Rickibirder

    @Barry

    I’m certainly having a go at people who dishonestly push ID, so you’re right about that. I not only have a right to think that ID is stupid and moronic, I think that I have a pretty fair basis upon which to make that judgment.

    I was also having a go at you because you were attempting to slide in a little ID propaganda there – admit it, at least to yourself :o).

    However, I don’t care who disagrees with me as neither reality, or scientific conclusions, are based on popular vote. Consensus may be an indicator that we’re on the right track but if you’re basing your position regarding any matter solely on the basis that many people agree with you then you’re on shaky ground.

    Respect for truth, hence reality, is one of the cornerstones of my life, so I’m totally, absolutely open.

  • Baka

    @Barry,

    Are you really trotting out the “people who call lies dishonest are being just as dogmatic and dishonest as those they denounce” pony? C’mon, man, you can do better than that.

    I’ve answered you, at length, several times. I’m done with it. None of the points you bring up in your most recent post are new ones. Read back through the posts that were written specifically to you by myself and others in this thread, and you’ll find the same answers I’d give you here.

    I do find it laughable that you, who have engaged repeatedly in this thread, in argument from authority, are now attempting to imply that we’re the ones telling folks to go away unless they have PhDs in biology. Seriously, Barry, you’ve been played. Someone you trusted lied to you, and for that you have my sympathy. But, it’s your life and your responsibility to decide whether to face that fact, and honestly seek the truth of things, or to close your eyes more tightly and insist that everyone else is wrong and just being big bad meany-heads.

  • lra364

    So Barry…

    You choose to ignore my detailed response?

    Who’s afraid now?

    Interesting how religious people just CAN’T defend their ‘faith’.

  • lra364

    LOSER!

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    Check the list out, there is more than one person on there with post doctorate work in biology. Fighting back as you say is not the problem, ad hominem attacks are. Generalizing all ID people as dishonest power hungry people is not the way to win your argument. Some people may require the rhetoric you use but not all.

    Program Director Stephen Meyer: PhD in History of Science.
    Associate Director John West: PhD in Government.
    Senior Fellowes:
    Michael Behe: PhD in Biochemistry
    David Berlinski: PhD in Philosophy
    Paul Chen: PhD in Biology
    William Dembski: PhD in Philosophy
    David DeWolf: No doctorate, studied law
    Guillermo Gonzalez: PhD in Astronomy
    Michael Keas: PhD in History of Science
    Jay Richards: PhD in Philosophy and Theology
    Johnathan Wells: PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology, PhD in Religious Studies
    Benjamin Wiker: PhD in Theological Ethics
    Johnathan Witt: PhD subject not disclosed
    Fellowes:
    Raymond Bohlin: PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology
    Walter Bradley: PhD in Materials Science
    J. Budziszewski: PhD subject not disclosed, is a professor of Governemnt and Philosophy
    Robert Lowry Clinton: PhD in Government
    Jack Collins: PhD in Hebrew Language
    William Lane Craig: PhD in Philosophy
    Mark Hartwig: PhD in Educational Psychology
    Cornelius Hunter: PhD in Biophysics and Computational Biology
    Robert Kaita: PhD in Nuclear Physics
    Dean Kenyon: PhD in Biophysics
    Robert Koons: PhD in Philosophy
    Forrest Mims: No doctorate
    Scott Minich: PhD subject not disclosed, but appears to be biological
    JP Moreland: PhD in Philosophy
    Paul Nelson: PhD in Philosophy of Science
    Nancy Pearcey: No doctorate
    Joeseph Poulshock: PhD in Linguistics
    Pattle Pak-Toe Pun: No doctorate
    John Reynolds: PhD in Philosophy
    Henry Schaefer: PhD in Chemical Physics
    Geoffrey Simmons: MD
    Charles Thaxton: PhD in Physical Chemistry
    Richard Weikart: PhD in Modern European History

    So, out of 40 people (four fellowes didn’t have any biographical information, so I’ve excised them from my list), 6 of them, if we’re generous*, have relevant doctorates (I’ve bolded them to make it easy for you to find them). Yes, you’re literally correct that “more than one person” has relevant education but they’re a minority when compared with the philosophers, for example. The fact remains that the majority of the PhDs that the DI boasts about have absolutely zero relevance to the topic they’re discussing. For the handful that remains, I’m perfectly willing to dig deeper, and see if we can figure out how much they actually know about their topics; Would you like to go down that road?

    Either way, I stand by my original statement that the majority of members of the DI have doctorates in irrelevant subjects, such as Hebrew Language, or Theological Ethics. Do you continue to maintain that this statement is false?

    *You could easily strike out the two biophisics doctorates, taking it down to 4 in 40. As I say, I’m being generous in this analysis.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    Sorry, there are 7 relevant PhDs, not 6. I miscounted.

    My apologies.

  • lra364

    Also strike out the guy in biochem. They work on proteins and not on genetics.

  • lra364

    I looked in pubmed for the remaining relevant scientists:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

    Raymond Bohlin produced no results, which means he is not published in the scientific literature.

    Jonathan Wells produced many results so I added evolution and got 5 hits. I compared these hits with the “publications” of the Jonathan Wells on the discovery institute’s website:

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=submitSearchQuery&query=Jonathan%20Wells&orderBy=date&orderDir=DESC&searchBy=author&searchType=all&includeBlogPosts=true

    SURPRISE SURPRISE!!! none of the articles were a match, meaning that Jonathan Wells is NOT published in the scientific literature.

    Paul Chen also got many results, so once again I added evolution to the search and got NO hits. At the discovery institute he has ONE article listed and it is not published in the scientific literature. I also typed in Paul Chen and University of San Francisco (where he works) and got NO hits. He may be published in the literature somewere, but it’s looking like he has NO publications in the scientific literature.

    I typed in Scott Minnich into Pubmed and got 13 hits. However for SA Minnich, I got 21 hits. This guy seems to be legit. BUT when you look at his research, it not only SUPPORTS evolution (micro, I admit), but he had NO articles on macro evolution. In fact his work seems to be similar to Michael Behe’s research (mainly on proteins).

    So how is the Discovery Institute legit?

  • Baka

    @Ira, I know some biochemists who wouldn’t know evolution from a hole in the ground. But, I also know plenty who are very well-versed in it. I wouldn’t feel good excluding them simply based on the fact that they are biochemists.

    @wintermute, well done. It’s always fun to actually follow the links provided and bring the information you find there back for the person who provided the links to see. More often than not, the person who provided the link didn’t really look at it closely enough to make sure it actually supports their point.

    @Barry, ad hominem attacks are logical fallacies only when they replace attacks against the subject of the discussion. You are conflating (at least) two subjects we’re discussing: First, the vacuity of intelligent design as a formal scientific theory, and second, the character of the people behind the intelligent design movement.

    You would be absolutely correct in your statement that an ad hominem attack is unwarranted and illogical as a rebuttal to the attempts to gain scientific recognition of intelligent design as a testable, supported hypothesis. But, no one has done this in this thread. In fact, you haven’t yet offered any attempt to argue that ID is a formal theory, so our rebuttals can not have been aimed at the scientific question.

    Instead, our ad hominem attacks have been quite obviously targeted at the behavior and character of those people in the ID movement (the DI being a primary, but not the only, repository). In this case, the subject under discussion is whether or not these people have acted dishonestly, improperly, or deceitfully when pushing their political and legal agenda. Look back through this thread, Barry … we aren’t haggling over assertions of fact or theory … we’re debating whether ID proponents are lying assholes who want to use the police power of government to indoctrinate children into their particular religious ideologies. If the subject of the argument is character of the men and women, then ad hominem (“toward the person”) attacks are the order of the day. How could it be otherwise?

    I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, Barry, that you’ve been deceived by others you trusted and are taking the first tentative steps towards questioning those others by coming to this blog and engaging in this conversation. But, I acknowledge the very real possibility that you are simply a troll who has no interest whatsoever in having a discussion with other people and finding out where we all might have misunderstandings, but rather simply enjoy stirring the pot and chuckling to yourself as we try to help you by pointing out where you’re wrong. If you continue to repeat your points and ignore those we make as if we haven’t addressed them, you will confirm that you are the latter, and this discussion will be over. If you are the former, then I welcome our continued dialog and hope you’ll give some serious thought about what it is about ID that has you convinced, then bring that up and we’ll talk about why we’re not convinced by the same things you are.

  • lra364

    Baka,

    Thanks for correcting me. You are right, but I wanted to point out that biochemists work with proteins. In fact of all the “scientists” above, it seemed to me that the ones that actually did research were ones that studied proteins and not genetics. For that reason I chose to exclude them from legitimacy.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    Thanks for correcting me. You are right, but I wanted to point out that biochemists work with proteins. In fact of all the “scientists” above, it seemed to me that the ones that actually did research were ones that studied proteins and not genetics. For that reason I chose to exclude them from legitimacy.

    Proteins provide solid evidence for evolution. If we excluded everyone who didn’t work directly with genetics, we’d have no palaeontologists on the list.

    And now that I think about it, there’s a curious lack of palaeontologists on the DI’s list of fellowes….

  • lra364

    Yes, wintermute, you are right! However, the proteome don’t provide direct evidence without the genome.

    Either way, we have to talk about micro and macro evolution more here. I’ll look into it a bit more and come back and comment.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    Yes, wintermute, you are right! However, the proteome don’t provide direct evidence without the genome.

    Yes they do. Molecular phylogenies can be collected independently of genetic or anatomical phylogenies, and can show the interrelatedness of organisms in exactly the same way. The fact that our cytochrome C protein is almost identical to that of chimps, slightly different from that of gorillas, and significantly different from that of chickens or frogs lets us build an accurate map of relationships without ever looking at the genes.

    As I recall, it was proteomic, rather than genetic, data that first established whales as being descended from artiodactyls.

  • lra364

    I’m sorry wintermute. I’m thinking of DNA annealing. From there you also get related proteins (in the way I organized it in my mind: DNA–> RNA–> protein), but you are right!!! As far as the whales go, I suppose you can infer the genetic link because of the protein link. But the work that the above scientists involved with the discovery institute isn’t involved in that kind of stuff. Furthermore the one legit guy has research confirming micro-evolution even as he speaks out against macro-evolution.

    That seriously confuses me!

    My area of expertise is in neuroscience, so if I make a mistake, by all means correct me! But isn’t that just the point? None of those scientists has expertise in macroevolution!

  • lra364

    Perhaps I may explain my bias toward genetic evidence a little better:

    From the website 29+ Evidences…

    http://talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section4.html

    “The molecular sequence evidence gives the most impressive and irrefutable evidence for the genealogical relatedness of all life. The nature of molecular sequences allows for extremely impressive probability calculations that demonstrate how well the predictions of common descent with modification actually match empirical observation. Common descent is a deduction that directly follows from premises based on empirically observed molecular evidence. In addition, knowledge of biological molecular mechanisms and structures, combined with macroevolutionary theory, has given very specific, novel, and testable biomolecular predictions.

    Part 4 Outline

    Protein functional redundancy
    DNA functional redundancy
    Transposons
    Redundant pseudogenes
    Endogenous retroviruses”

    You can see here that protein redundancy is one line of evidence where genetic evidence has four different lines.

    Wintermute is entirely correct in his/her assertion, I just wanted to better explain my previous statements!

  • lra364

    On that same website, this was also said:

    “The genetic information specifies everything about an organism and its potential. Genotype specifies possible phenotypes, therefore, phenotypic change follows genetic change. This obviously should be one of the areas where evolutionary change is seen, and genetic change is truly the most important for understanding evolutionary processes.”

    http://talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section5.html

  • lra364

    It took some digging, but here is the discovery institute’s list of supposedly scientific literature:

    http://www.discovery.org/a/2640

    Those people are unbelievable!

  • Dan L.

    @Ira364:

    The question of how the mind interacts with the brain is a PHILOSOPHICAL one not a SCIENTIFIC one. It is not a question that any neuroscientist would explore. They are concerned with consciousness, not the “mind.”

    This is (or at least could be) a false dichotomy. I would describe all scientific questions as philosophical questions, though I would say that it may or may not be true that all philosophical questions are scientific questions.

    Note that this is true whether you decide to make it an analytic question (i.e. dependent only on the definitions of “mind” and “brain”) or naturalistic (i.e. we have definitions to work from already and seek the actual connection between the two ideas). I would describe both these situations as scientific questions.

    Since the word “mind” is so poorly defined, “consciousness” often seems to be used as a synonym, although “consciousness” has similar problems in terms of being poorly defined. Ultimately, I think any reasonable definition of either would include a strongly qualified notion of consciousness as being a state of a mind, while a mind would be the set of behaviors and states produced by the function of the brain (I’m slurring this a little since it’s all pretty speculative anyway). Regardless, the work neuroscientists are doing investigating states and behaviors of the brain is de facto work investigating the mind/brain interaction even if we don’t know how to work out the details yet.

    In other words, mind/brain interaction is both a scientific and a philosophical question. Daniel Dennett’s opinion seems to be that the philosophical investigation (which is certainly something he knows a bit about) will gradually cede ground to the scientific investigation as the latter becomes more sophisticated. My personal opinion is that the philosophical investigation consists of philosophers arbitrarily imposing constraints on what constitutes “mind” or “thought” and then arguing with other philosophers about why each other’s arbitrary constraints are wrong. The one thing that never comes up in these arguments is the question of whether anyone’s point of view actually has any evidence backing it up.

  • lra364

    Sorry Dan L, but YOU ARE WRONG! I know because I completed my master’s thesis in a neuroscience lab for a Nobel prize winner. His name is Eric Kandel.

    NO NEUROSCIENTIST would explore questions of the mind or mind/brain duality which is UNOBSERVABLE and therefore a question for PHILOSOPHY.

    DANIEL DENNET IS A PHILOSOPHER!

    Get your facts straight. You and all the rest of the idiot christians who think that science is a philosophical endeavor.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    NO NEUROSCIENTIST would explore questions of the mind or mind/brain duality which is UNOBSERVABLE and therefore a question for PHILOSOPHY.

    I certainly do not claim to be an expert on the field, but I thought it was possible to study people who had physical damage to the brain, and see how that changed what we call their “mind”. It seems to me that this makes the subject eminently observable and amenable to science, and I thought that we had a solid understanding of where (if not how) many of the processes that contribute to our “conciousness”, “identity” or “self” were generated.

    As I say, I’m no expert, and I’d appreciate learning more about the field of play in this subject. It seems fascinating, from what little I’ve been able to pick up. Are there any sources you’d recommend?

  • lra364

    Yes, we can study how brain damage affects people’s consciousness. I’d recommend just going to pubmed and putting in the subject area you want to explore:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

    I’d recommend the textbook “Principles of Neuroscience” by Kandel, Jessel and Swartz:

    http://www.amazon.com/Principles-Neural-Science-Eric-Kandel/dp/0838577016

    It is generally considered to be the best source of neuroscientific information available. After all, Kandel won a Nobel prize in 2000:

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2000/kandel-autobio.html

    Interesting factoid about Eric, he has the funniest laugh! It is one of these deep sucking in laughs that makes him sound sooooooo dorky (and he is quite dorky– not a criticism!!!). He’s also a very kind person. He used to swim (for exercise) with one of the technicians in our lab. He wasn’t above it.

    :)


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