Monday, December 6, 2010

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

This is a really interesting "Ted Talks" by Sir Ken Robinson. He is an ex professor who gives a short 15 minute lecture about how school structures affect humanity today. He stresses the importance of creativity and how it is discouraged within the educational system. I believe this relates to our talks in class because he raises some good points in regards to some of the detrimental effects of focusing predominantly on the sciences. He is a wonderful speaker and definitely worth 15 minutes of your time.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Final Thoughts

As class has now ended we are left to look back on what we have learned over the semester, OR our reaction to the class as a whole. I have taken away a greater appreciation for Darwin and his work and am now able to critically analyze it from various points of view. My favorite topics we touched on were Darwin's take on sexual selection, the idea of will in evolution, the use of prose (such as Swift, Shaw, Bacon, Pope and even Darwin himself) to engage with the various issues related to scientific knowledge and evolution, and the distinction between Darwinism and Social Darwinism. I thoroughly enjoyed many of the readings and all of the class discussions that they conjured. From this class I believe I am inclined to read Descent of Man to further understand Darwin's theories having to do with humans. Overall my reaction is extremely positive. These themes and the skill of critical thinking through in depth investigation are things that will help me throughout my academic career. Thanks for reading!

-Krista :)

Dr. Alexander and Richard Dawkins agree?

I share the enthusiasm others have shown for the presentation by Dr. Bruce Alexander that we were privileged enough to experience in class. In Dr. Alexander's lecture about Darwin and his connection with psychology he answered some major questions about human society through use of Darwin as well as enlightening us on the expansive nature of Darwin's overall works. Particularly interesting was the question Dr. Alexander posed about "what is morality?". Many may answer that religious teachings gave human society morality but Dr. Alexander takes the stance that morality is an evolved characteristic of both humans and animals having to live together and co-operate in groups. "Group Selection" is still a very controversial topic but I found a very interesting YouTube clip of one Mr. Richard Dawkins talking about his book "The Selfish Gene" in the 1980s. What Dawkins is explaining sounds eerily similar to that of Dr. Alexander. So might these two great minds possibly agree on something? Take a look:

The Jumping Giraffe?

The controversial idea of WILL has come up in readings and has been discussed extensively in class. We first encountered this idea when reading Samuel Butler's scorching essay against Darwin "The Deadlock in Darwinism". In this essay Butler attempted to disprove Darwin's theory by claiming that he had simply borrowed and re-worked previous ideas from others. One of these "others" was Lamarck whose work on evolution lay in the claim that perhaps giraffes had gained their long necks from generations of the most cunning giraffes stretching their necks to get at the highest branches while the less cunning ones died off. This idea of acquired characteristics being passed on to future offspring as well as the idea willing one's physical body to change were picked up by Bernard Shaw and fully explored in his play "Back to Methuselah". Shaw is a lover of Lamarck and a proponent of what he calls "Creative Evolution", or the idea that sheer will alone can allow for adaptive physical changes. When one first encounters these claims they may seem laughable, but when put in terms of how we think about the world, don't these things make sense? How often are we told to believe in ourselves and positive things will happen? Or why do some people claim that determination and WILL-POWER are what helped them achieve a major goal? Great feats of strength in both the mind and the body are constantly used as evidence of the power of will. So did those giraffes maybe jump to gain those longer necks? Sure; if we claim to have the will power why can't they?

Pope's Religion and (Right) Reason vs. Bacon's Religion and the Hierarchy of Knowledge

Learning about the difference between the Augustan and Baconian strains of thought was definitely helpful in looking at the two sides of the argument for the advancement of human knowledge, particularly science. From what was studied it seems that both strains of thought harnessed the use of God for very different means. In Bacon's "New Atlantis" the society he describes uses the teachings of God to lead them to the institution of the "Houses" to find out the pure nature of all things. Through the explanation of this society Bacon puts forth his idea of knowledge being owned by those who discovered it and it being their responsibility to disseminate their knowledge wisely. Or in other words keep the knowledge from getting into the "wrong" hands. In this hierarchy of knowledge Bacon is placing knowledge at the top of the pyramid right underneath God. In this way it would seem that Bacon wishes to have all of the knowledge possible next to what God knows. He stresses the importance of "morality" and "purity" in nature and knowledge yet his ambitions toward ultimate knowledge do no take into account all aspects of "morality" such as thinking about the consequences of his actions.
In opposition to Bacon, we read a few poems by Alexander Pope criticizing man for attempting to be as knowledgeable as God about nature. In Pope's interpretation nature is an all powerful force that man should respect and work alongside of, rather than try to harness. In the main argument within Augustan thought being the importance of "right reason", Pope would have thought Bacon's views to be irrational and disrespectful. In thinking that just because something could be done, it doesn't mean one should always do it, the Augustans are asking for moderation and forethought in the endeavor for knowledge. I would agree with the Augustans, on the side of rationality and forethought, but is obvious in science today that the Baconians won the battle. There are constant questions of morality that come up in modern day science, but since God can no longer be "rationally" conjured, scientists must use their personal discretion as well as the standards of the society in which they live.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Response to "Bacon's argument against science"

I would just like to quickly respond to a misleading blog post from a fellow classmate. In the above mentioned post the author attempts to claim that Bacon's writing of "New Atlantis" was a critique of the state of science and society during his time, when in actuality this writing is known to be Bacon's own utopian dream of society. Bacon believed in everything he wrote about science and knowledge needing to be hierarchical and how the pursuit of knowledge needed to be a (religiously) moral and but ever expanding quest. It was in this train of thought that Bacon came up with his scientific method and it is in no way "ironic" that he is considered one of the fathers of modern science.

What about Swift?

In perusing the other blogs I have come to notice somewhat of a hole in the story that is being created about the class content. No one seems to have touched on the important distinctions between Baconian and Augustan trains of thought that the reading of Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels has given us. This text was one of my favorite this semester because of my natural love of sarcasm and satire. When you first think of Gulliver's Travels you do not think about the comment it is making on the politics and society of the time, but once inferred there are many extremely funny examples of this in the text. In the section "A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms" when Gulliver is living with the Houyhnhnms (rational horses) he is very content to live without "the Treachery or Inconstancy of a Friend...[a] Physician to destroy my Body, nor Lawyer to ruin my Leaders or Followers of Party and Faction" (Swift 258) and he enjoys hearing how the horses concentrate their thought on "Friendship and Benevolence...the visible Operations of Nature...[and] the unerring Rules of Reason" (259), ideals which Swift obviously shares. Through prose Swift gives a perfect example of the type of situations and issues of morality that the Augustans were arguing against. They felt that "right reason" and a balance between nature and man was necessary for a morally correct society. Swift turns nature on its head by inventing an island where the horses are civilized and reasonable and the humans are amoral and simple to show how far from these ideals his society had drifted. In using deadpan humor and imaginative situations, Swift extends the Augustan philosophy of respect for nature and knowledge to a different and artistic level.

Source: Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver's Travels. Ed. Claude Rawson and notes by Ian Higgins. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Darwin and Sexual Selection

Darwin's theories of sexual selection were primarily covered in his book The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex but was briefly discussed in class. The idea that males within species are stronger in order to compete with one and other and have distinct characteristics of their sex to display to females is a perfectly sound theory in and of itself, but where the problem lies is in the interpretation that because of these characteristics males are somehow superior. Yes it is absolutely true that males (including human males) are on average physically stronger and bigger than females but this fact is where this theory must stop. Darwin suggests that females are inferior because of their lack of need to develop characteristics such as strength, cunning, and courage. This interpretation is extremely problematic for humans as there are so many biological and societal factors that affect males and females differently such as age, education, marital status and cultural norms. As a feminist it is obvious that I would take offense to the idea that males are superior to females, but I do see the extent to which Darwin was a product of his time. The gender roles in Victorian England are vastly different from those of today and it is easy to see how Darwin would draw from that in considering females inferior. My problem is with how this sexist interpretation of sexual selection in humans can be taken out of context and used to bolster arguments against equality between the sexes. So as I do think Darwin's basic theory has some merit, I do not think enough factors are taken into account when concerning the complexities of human society.

Duh DUH DUN! Social Darwinism in Modern Culture

The concept of Social Darwinism was bound to come up eventually and it finally did in talking about Darwin's theory of Sexual Selection. In Darwin's construct males of a species are stronger and have different physical traits than females because of the competition with one another geared toward getting chosen by a female and being able to pass on their genes. (I feel I need an entirely different post to address my reactions to this theory itself and so it shall follow.) Both this idea of sexual selection and the idea of Natural Selection have been twisted into Social Darwinism which attempts to attach these biological theories to societal constructs such as politics, war and poverty. Though Darwin's theories can be seen to be influenced by his Victorian upbringing and Whig affiliations, they were never directly connected to or supposed to be used to explain competition within human culture. This YouTube video perfectly explains the conclusion we have reached after many class discussions and readings:

Please check it out and let me know what you think!


In reading E.O. Wilson's article "Intelligent Evolution", my first reaction is skepticism and slight repulsion, as he takes his belief in Darwin's theories to an extreme level. In both language and content Wilson reveres this great unmasking of nature that Darwin has given mankind as a gift. hmm. In class it was discussed how Wilson uses language reminiscent of the Bible (similar to Darwin's in Origin) when encouraging Darwinism and openly bashing religion. The difference between this use of language is time and context. In Darwin's time writing in this style would have been beneficial to him in creating interest in his text while Wilson is purposefully using it to antagonize those on the other side of the argument. No where in Origin does it mention anything about religion, but the obvious atheistic connotations of the theory have been mis-used and placed as both an argument for and a main point against Natural Selection. Wilson's attack on religion in his paper seems somewhat petty for a man so well-educated, but he surely gets his point across. He even refers to Origin as "history's most influential book". So much praise of Darwin causes one to become suspicious of intent and also brings about the question of Darwin's own religious affiliations. I will admit that before the inception of this class I had assumed Darwin to be an atheist, but in learning about his life and writings that is clearly wrong. Other sections in this blog have pointed to Darwin's letter to Asa Gray as the perfect insight into Darwin's views on God and I would have to agree. As Darwin considered the "subject too profound for human intellect", I would suggest for people to attempt to separate Darwin from the question of religion before making any decisions on its validity. Everyone has their biases, but critical thinking allows for one to attempt to peer around those biases in order to find their true beliefs.

Initial Reaction

It was extremely interesting coming into a class based around Darwin as everyone has preconceived notions and assumptions about the author and his subject matter. Myself in particular, coming from learning about Darwin in high school biology, assumed to know what his theories were about and some of who he was as a man. As can be seen now near the end of the class, there was so much to be learned simply from reading the first hand text. I was very surprised to learn that it was not Darwin who coined the term "Survival of the Fittest" and his political and class associations as a Whig. One of the biggest revelations one comes away with is the fact of how, when certain ideas are so deeply entrenched within society, just how easily there are ignored in critical thought by the majority of people. Since Darwin's theories are accepted as true, why question them? As the different readings and conversations within class have shown, many have and will to continue to question them on grounds of understanding the biggest questions life has to offer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

some thoughts on G.K Chesterton

Chesterton suggested that the reason why Darwin's idea of natural selection has quickly gain popularity is due to the fact that people has this "worship to science" it is in our natural that we fear sense of uncertainty. We as a rather intelligent specie possess this need of knowing, we feel unsecured if there is certain phenomenal in the natural world that affects us all the time, and we have no understanding it what so ever. For example, in the past, when we have no idea why weather changes and or why lighting strikes, we would refers them as result of actions preformed by superior Being( God). Now since we have an scientific explanation to such phenomenal, explanation regarding things like light is an act of mythical power is nowhere to be seen.
Therefore the same story happened to the effort of explaining how evaluation works. Starting as early as 16s there was an explosion of scientific explanation to natural phenomenal around us. It is true that science has explained lots of things perfectly, however it might not be the case for the reasoning behind how evolution works, and Darwin's theory might merely be a pre-matured reasoning on how evolution works. Using natural selection to explain it might be just as good as saying that earth is not the center of the universe, but the sun is. Therefore we should not take it as granted and treat it like form of truth in our education system. And in fact that's the very reason I took hum321 at first place.


I always asked myself this too...

Katelyn's post on dogma has asked a very interesting question: " How much Darwinist theory is dogma" As I mentioned in my own evaluative response assignment, the reason why I find it is hard for me to accept those critiques on Darwin's theory is simple because, I have been taught in a society where such theory is generally accepted. Therefore it is influence on me has deeply rooted in my general understanding of the world.
After the introduction on the whole historical background on Darwin's family and the era he was lived in by doctor Ogden, it does makes me think that the sudden popularity of the evaluation through natural selection does somehow fits the interest of the politicians back then. The idea of fittest survival does to certain degree legitimize their will of overpower the rule of the traditional upper class. Therefore it makes me wonder if there is certain part of the theory is just simply some sort of embedded political propaganda to help the whings to gain even more popularity among the people. But then again since there isn't any better theory to explain the process of evaluation, so I would still believe in the idea of natural selection

Very interesting video! well done Bijan

After watching the video posted by Bijan "evolution isn't always perfect" It helped me a lot in term of understanding why some specie who carries certain rather inefficient trait can still survive the natural selection and past on their genes to the next generation. It is quite clear that lots of evolutionary trait we would consider as very "in-efficient" today could be some sort of compromise for other trait on that particular specie. When we pick out certain trait out off the contest and exam it individually, then it is quite easy to say, which would have been a "better" design. However if we put the factor of time and all the other environmental changes all into the equation, then it seems like asking for "too much" if we try to look for a perfectly efficient design. In fact they way I see the term "design" is that all specie is designed to change and adapt through time, rather than a fixed blue print. In this sense I would say a design is perfect if it managed to survival for millions of years in this ever-changing environment


thoughts on "Environmentalism and Darwin"

It is very thoughtful of Paige to bring up the environmental issue we human raised on this planet as specie. There is no doubt that we are mostly responsible for many extinctions of specie in the past few hundred years, especially after the industrial revolution.
Many species which have survived for thousands of years in our eco system has extinct during the past two hundred years. The reason is quite simple. Specie can keep survives by going through gradual changes and modifications which takes long period of time. There is one prerequisite to this evolution process that is the change in environment which the specie tries to adapt must also be a gradual process. Now lots wild is suffering from human's dramatic and rapid alternation of nature world, it is quite clear that if we do not slow down our so call economy advancement and spend more effort into protect the natural environment, then there will be a day when we have to face the consequences of our ignorance today.


thoughts on the post"G. B. Shaw and Natural Selection: His Desire to Improve Human Kind “

In this post I will further develop the conclusion of the post" G. B. Shaw and Natural Selection: His Desire to Improve Human Kind "
As the post mentioned Shaw's believe that in the process of evolution, human is that human have a choice that will help shape and influence future generation to come. In a way it is similar to what Darwin has proposed that species going through small modification over time in order to better adapt to the ever changing environment. However, using human as an example, the key differences is that from Darwin's perspective, human's self-consciousness has no bearing on physical Changes occurred on our specie. therefore is not a product of our attention; in other word what we want does not affect what we get. In Shaw's opinion on the other hand, it is quite opposite. The changes overtime on one specie is a result of constant strive for one particular trait, and it is those endless effort of bettering our-self which eventually lead us to the change.


Some thought regarding the Post “Shaw and WWI “

Some thought regarding the Post "Shaw and WWI "
Ava has brought out an excellent point by pointing out that the connection made by Shaw between Darwin's theory and the WWI. i find such connection was very strange myself as we. I honestly do not think it is the introduction of Darwin's theory all of sudden "enlightened" leaders around the world, and then they realized there is nothing better to do than expanding through invasion. If we look at the history that the conflict between either two competing nation, religion or any other kind of social group has been stopped. Therefore instead of saying the theory triggered the WWI, I would rather say it is merely explains why would such conflict occur, other just WWI but all the wars took place in the past as well as many more that will come in the future.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Napoleon and the Oracle

One of the scenes acted out today in lecture that I found particularly intriguing was chapter three where the character Napoleon went to visit an oracle to find out how he could reign for longer because a previous ruler got advice from the oracle that was positive and caused him to receive votes and stay in power for a long time. Napoleon asked to be shown the oracle but the woman who he asked said that she WAS the oracle. Napoleon wants to see the woman’s face and she tells him that he doesn’t want to because he won’t be able to handle it and also she is 187 years old. She finally agrees to unveil herself and Napoleon is scared and begins to scream in fear and pain. The woman/oracle puts her veil back on and Napoleon apologizes for his outburst and they keep talking. After Napoleon wastes more of the oracle’s time, she gets impatient and gets a gun and shoots at him. He falls but rises again because she misses. Napoleon leaves and returns later on with a group of people and he has disguised himself. This time the oracle tells him that he should just die before his reign is over but Napoleon does not like this advice so he decides to go back to his people and lie about what the oracle told him so that he can be re-elected and so that the people will idolize him. I think that possibly the oracle gave the same advice to the previous ruler and the previous ruler also lied to the people so they would think he was more powerful that he actually was. It is easy to fool people when you are in a position of power because they assume that you are smarter than they are. This relates back to a previous post of mine that says that Baconians feel that knowledge is property and that it is their option to disseminate it however they please in an elitist fashion which is exactly what Napoleon did in this scene. When he got back to his people he gave them knowledge in the way that he wanted to. Baconians also feel that the world has to deal with the information that they are given, exactly in the way that the people that Napoleon was ruling over did so I guess that means that in this scene of Back to Methuselah by Bernard Shaw.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

I have here a short and most interesting video discussing human nature and the most effective means of production within our current economic/political situation. I believe this video ties into our discussion on several levels. (1) It comes from an economic perspective which relates directly to neo-liberal free market ideologies (notice the use of language throughout the video) and thusly Whiggism. (2) It incorporates the idea of the dialectic in that it suggests an alternative reality to what was once considered common sense. And (3) finally we see that people on a cognitive level are motivated by purpose rather than incentive which ties in to the practical beliefs promoted in Chesterton's Orthodoxy. It also seems to point towards the missing aspects of modern day society that Mary Migdley suggests is a problem in her essay "Against Humanism". Interestingly their means of developing the idea, sampling the participants and the other assessments are tested by the scientific method!
Take a look at the link and see for yourself:

Picking at the Baloney: A Reaction to the "Baloney Detection Kit"

Just a couple of points to make in regards to the "baloney detection kit" that was posted on this very blog not long ago. The short video goes through a series of ten rules to follow in order to verify whether something is worthy of consideration or not. Although I do believe the narrator makes a number of good points, he fails to meet the mark in some respects. For example test number 10, "are personal beliefs driving the claim?", states that if a person/entity is trying to claim something as truth and is driven by their beliefs they should scrutinized. I believe that everyone is driven by their beliefs to a certain degree, this scientist included. Here's why: It seems clear throughout the video that this particular sceptic has a bias. His bias is in favour of science. When discussing rule number 2, whether "the source makes the same claim" he uses 'new-age' types as an example of people who believe in not one but ALL of the following; ghosts, haunted houses and spirituality. Talk about a broad generalization! Not only that but he goes and to say that these new agey types believe in heretics for the sake of heresy. I'm not saying that this can't be true in some of the cases, but come on! Would EVERYBODY who believes in 'heresy' do it solely to maintain images? It's not very likely. He concludes this section by summarizing that "the point here is to have your brain open enough to accept radical new ideas, but not so open that your brains fall out". This is an interesting metaphor to attach to a concept that was not such much explained conceptually, but solely by use of an example. Under these circumstances these 'new age' types, or spiritualist are essentially shamed into being brainless, unthinking types who don't deserve any attention. The other rules for the most part were sound of mind and a reasonable set to adhere to when trying to regard something critically. However his concluding this little clip by saying that "science is the best tool ever devised for understanding how the world works and everybody knows that because they all go to doctors", which is both a statement filled with absolutist word choices and doesn't do justice to science in that it assumes that science is the best choice only because it is the most popular choice.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Butler VS. Darwin

While reading Samuel Butler’s “Deadlock in Darwinism” a few weeks ago, it was easy to see the arguments he was making against Darwin and it made me wonder if he had a personal grudge against Darwin or if it was purely about his work. After finding out the history between Darwin and Butler it is easier to understand the arguments. Butler had some issues with The Origin of Species and had tried to contact Darwin to discuss it but Darwin ignored his requests which most likely made Butler mad so Butler decided to write expansively about Darwin’s work in a negative way because of him being ignored. Butler makes an argument that Darwin did not publish original work and that he stole the ideas from other sources which seems legitimate at first but after looking deeper we realize that Darwin was just stating what other scientists had said but failed to publish and make public to the world. Darwin wanted the fame and the money so he wrote about evolution and natural selection in a very convincing way so people would not go against him. Butler argued that evolution and natural selection are common sense and Darwin kind of took the idea and stated it in his own words and people obviously accepted it because there is no way to deny evolution which I think was great. If you can publish work that nobody can deny then isn’t that the goal of all scientists and theorists?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Semantic Attachments to Science

When discussing scientific fact and scientific theory it is important to recognize the adjective attached to the nouns 'fact' and 'theory'. In my last post I mentioned that our class had come to a consensus after much deliberation regarding the definitions of scientific fact and scientific theory. What was interesting was that the distinction had to be made in the first place. Consider the general understanding of 'fact' and 'theory' without the adjectival attachment. A fact is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as "something that has actual existence" or is "an actual occurrence". In other words it is "a piece of information presented as having objective reality". A theory on the other hand is defined as an "abstract thought: speculation" and "an unproved assumption", among other things it is a "belief, policy or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action". Here both theory and fact are represented as being different albeit related words, each holding different semantic meanings. What's interesting is how the meaning of both fact and theory becomes blurred when attaching the adjective 'science'. The necessity to define and clarify the different meanings between the two terms indicated to me that the addition of the adjective 'science' gave more credence to the other terms associated with it.

The important thing to consider is the semantic 'weight' the word science carries along with it. It is true that the scientific method is vigorous and thorough, and today enters into almost every facet of our lives, but to what degree is it justified? Our means of regarding 'scientific theory' with considerably more validity then other 'theory' could exemplify a type of glorification of science. Considering that it has entered into almost every facet of our lives is all the more reason to criticize it objectively. I think we should recognize and appreciate the perspective science offers us however it is also important to understand that it is only just that: one perspective.

On Science Theory and Science Fact

On Science Theory and Science Fact

The following is a link to a video of Michael Shermer summarising Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit. I believe that it is relevant to our discussion of scientific theory.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Theory vs. Fact

In class we discussed what is a scientific theory and what is a scientific fact and how are they different? I think that a theory is something that you think and maybe want to prove or disprove and a fact is something that is already proven. I also think that theories become facts once they are proven. Also, a theory is an idea and a fact is experiences. A theory is a precursor to a fact because in order to do the research to create a fact, you must first have a theory or idea about what you want to research.

We also discussed that if you have two theories that lead to a fact you should choose the simpler fact. I think that you should choose the more sensible theory though. The simpler one may be easier to understand but i feel like the more sensible theory, even if more complicated, would be a better option, but this is just my personal opinion.

It is only experience that allows us to know things and infer things was also a topic brought up in lecture and I feel like I completely agree. Without the experiences in our lives we cannot even imagine things to theorize about. Without experiences we are not going to be open to other ways of life or possibilities of pretty much anything unless we can see with our own eyes how it works for other people or how it could work in other situations.

Another Take on the Fallacy of Affect

Last class we discussed the difference between a 'scientific theory' and a 'scientific fact'. The class consensus was that in order for something to be considered a scientific fact it must manifest within reality (i.e. be an observable phenomenon). A scientific theory on the other hand is a means for expressing the potential factors and course of action taken in order to produce the phenomenon observed. Scientific fact is a truth, scientific theory is but one possible set of rules designed to express the necessary course of action taken.

I suggested that the fallacy of affect could be imposed onto scientific theory in order to recognize the potential weaknesses therein. When we first considered the fallacy of affect it was defined as: something (a theory or ideology) that is considered irrelevant or untrue if it doesn't work in practice. I suggested that the fallacy of affect could be applied to the relationship between 'scientific theory' and 'scientific fact'. Rather than justifying the illegitimacy of something (a theory or ideology) due to its ineffectiveness in practice, under these circumstances the fallacy of affect would recognize that just because something is effective in practice doesn't justify its inherent 'truth' and rightness. Dr. Ogden used the example of water boiling at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He suggested that one day water could not boil under the specific conditions we've documented thus far. This example parallels my take on the potential fallibility of scientific theory. Under these circumstances the fallacy of the affect occurs not in the observable phenomenon (the affect), but in the explanation of how the phenomenon has come to be.

Science has created a means by which we can predict the steps taken to produce different phenomenon. The information gathered is particularly convincing because it can often be manipulated by humans and applied in different ways that work in practice. However it is also important to recognize that life is in flux and that we as humans are doing the best we can to understand the dynamic world around us.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ockham’s Razor

Ockham's razor has been mentioned several times in class. In class Ockham's razor has been said to be "plurality should not be posited without necessity." This is the quote of William of Ockham for which Ockham's razor is based on. It has also been said to be interpreted as "the simplest explanation is the correct one." This is not at all a faithful representation of two grounds. First, Ockham's razor is not accurately represented by the simplest explanation. Second, this representation makes it out to be absolute; that being simple is sufficient for a theory to be true. This is a gross misrepresentation of Ockham's razor. This article will demonstrate why this interpretation of the principle of Ockham's razor is not entirely accurate.

While the term Ockham's razor does indeed find its origins with William of Ockham's sentiment "plurality should not be posited without necessity." However, William of Ockham did not come up with the term Ockham's razor, this was done 500 years later, and the specific phrasing of the principle as "entities are not to be multiplied unnecessarily" is credited to John Ponce. This demonstrates that Ockham's razor is not owned by one individual; many people have added their insights to shaping the principle over the centuries. As a result, one cannot take some purist interpretation which only looks at the ideas of William of Ockham when considering the scope of Ockham's razor, for not only has the razor evolved, but Ockham is not even the creator of the razor, merely the inspiration.

My understanding of the principle "entities are not to be multiplied unnecessarily," is that if one is presented two theories, both of which can equally explain and predict a specific phenomenon (i.e. all things being equal), then the one which introduces the fewest new assumptions (multiple entities) is preferred. This makes sense, for if all things are equal, that is, if the two competing theories can both predict and explain equally well, then assuming the existence of multiple entities becomes unnecessary, for the competing theory is just as successful yet without relying on an appeal to an unknown entity. You will find that this is not the simplest explanation. To say that it is the simplest explanation could mean a lot of things. Having one single answer for everything would be very simple; for instance "X is caused by magic" is a very simple answer in some sense, particularly when compared to explaining a phenomenon such as magnetism, however this is not favored by Ockham's for it requires the introduction of an unknown entity, namely magical powers. Thus Ockham's razor IS NOT the simplest explanation, unless your understanding of simplest in this context is the theory which introduces the FEWEST NEW ASSUMPTIONS. This is an important distinction because while the one which introduces the fewest new assumptions (multiple entities) can be seen as the simplest, the simplest can be seen as being many things other than the one with the fewest new assumptions. As a result, it is not entirely accurate to say Ockham's razor is the simplest.

With the distinction between the simplest theory and the one which introduces the fewest new assumptions made clear, this article will now consider the charge that Ockham's razor argues that "simplicity" is a sufficient condition for a theory to be true. Ockham's razor is not an absolute, nor does it maintain that a theory is necessarily true by virtue of its simplicity. Ockham's razor maintains that the "simpler" (again, simpler meaning the one which introduces the fewest NEW assumptions) is PREFERED. It is not a rule of logic, rather it is a heuristic, meaning that it is by definition does not necessitate truth, but only acts as a tool to help find a preferential theory, between two competing ones.

In conclusion, Ockham's razor is not accurately interpreted as merely the simplest explanation is the correct one. This is false on two grounds. First, it is not just the simplest, but more specifically, the one which introduces the fewest new assumptions. The second is that Ockham's razor does not necessitate truth. It makes no claims that "simplicity" is sufficient for truth. It is not a rule of logic, and makes no claims to. It is however, a helpful tool in preferring one otherwise equal theory over another.

Here is a short video on Ockham's razor; I encourage you to check it out:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Darwin was a Plagiarist...So What?

The charge that Darwin is unoriginal, or even a plagiarist, is one which has been made frequently in class in one form or another. There is ample evidence to support such a claim, and this article will not burden itself with the task of disproving the claim of Darwin's unoriginality, for it is plain to see that Darwin's ideas were not entirely novel . Rather, this article will explore the consequences of this charge for Darwinism.

First we will consider some other instances where individuals have been wrongly credited for the development of an idea, in order to draw some parallels between these other instances and that of Darwin.

An instance of an invention which is often credited to the wrong individual is that of Henry Ford and the automobile. Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. Nor was he the first to mass produce cars; in fact, he wasn't even the first to bring mass production of cars to north America, Oldsmobile was producing and selling cars to the American public before Ford. The automobile is not even an American invention, to the extent which it can be called an invention. It is true that the automobile is an assemblage of many different inventions, and that there are horseless carriages which utilize internal combustion and transmissions, and yet were not cars. Cars as we know them are a specific design for mechanised personal transportation, one of many at the time of its inception. The idea for how cars ought to be laid out was a novel idea, as appose to strapping an engine on to a carriage. It has become an enormously successful design for this purpose, and has proliferated throughout the world. However, the design of the modern automobile was indeed an invention, while it is perhaps not as fundamental as the internal combustion engine, it still an invention. If this invention can be attributed to anyone, it seems that Karl Benz was most instrumental in it development of the form of the modern car.

Not only did Henry Ford not invent the automobile, he also did not invent the other invention credited to him, the assembly line. It took many different individuals working for Ford to create the model T assembly line, and not simply Ford. Moreover, there had existed assembly lines well before that of the model T. In fact Oldsmobile had the first auto assembly line, as well as the first American auto manufacture.

Ford is not the only such misappropriation of credit for an invention, invention of the telephone has been credited to Alexander Gram Bell, when he did not invent the telephone; there had been several working telephone patents before his. Similarly, Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb. There were patented light bulbs before his, however, Edison did develop a design for a light bulb which was more stable than predecessors and was consequently more successful.

There are many examples of inventions and discoveries which have not been credited to their true source. However, in each of the examples I have presented, the person who is credited was able to popularize the invention or discovery far better than the proper inventors. This is likely why it is so often the case that credit for inventions and discoveries are not ascribed to their true source, for the novel idea gets branded to its populariser, and not its discoverer. It seems as though Darwin has also been misappropriately credited to the theory of evolution, and natural selection in a very similar way as Ford to the assembly line or Edison and the light bulb.

It seems as though Darwin has been unjustly assigned credit for the theory of natural selection. What are the consequences of this for the theory of natural selection? Do light bulbs work any less because they may not have been invented by Edison? Did telephones stop working the moment you first heard that it was not Alexander Gram Bell who invented the phone? Of course the answer to these questions is no. While it is indeed an injustice to the proper discoverers/inventors in these cases of misappropriated credit, and they ought to be celebrated belatedly once it has been discovered. Moreover, I suspect that we will continue to learn of common inventions and discoveries in which the person we ascribe credit for it, is in fact not the actual inventor.

As a result, the issue of whether or not Darwin's work was original has little bearing on the merit of the theories he argues for. It is a very interesting point of history, but not particularly relevant in terms of the strength of the theory itself. The theory of natural selection and sexual selection must be judged on their own merits, and not that of its creator/populariser.

Not All Experiences Are Created Equal

In class Dr. Ogden put forward the notion that there are ideas (theory) and experience (fact), as his concluding remarks on the theory/fact distinction. While I agree that the distinction is a fair generalization, it seems to me that not all experiences are equal. Our senses our deeply flawed, anyone who has ever encountered an optical illusion can attest to this, for even when you know the mechanism for how the illusion works, you still can't even force your senses not to be deceived by it. I have a personal anecdote to offer which can shed light on the inequality of experience. I have personally witnessed, with my own eyes and in person up very close, Lance Burton levitate three stories into the air. I did not take from that experience that it is a fact that humans have the ability to levitate. I was not able to experience this in a controlled setting. There could have been many possible explanations for this experience, besides Lance Burton can fly in the air. I think that in order for me to derive FACT from such an experience, one would need to remove any other possible explanations for the experienced phenomenon. For instance one would need to control for the possibilities of cables from the ceilings (an explanation I find far more probable, than everything we know about human biology and physics is wrong, and people can will being lighter than air). I've also seen Penn & Teller shoot each other in the face with .357 magnums. Penn & Teller have never shot each other in the face with .357 magnum revolvers, I am convinced of this. I talked to Penn after the show, and he didn't appear to have a fatal gunshot wound to the face.

What i hope my example illustrates is that not all experiences are equal in their ability to derive facts. To do so one must control for other possible explanations or biases. This is why medical trials are ideally done in a double blinded and controlled fashion, as it allows for the testing of the single variable. The demand for control and replication makes "scientific" experience a fact generating mechanism. Conversely normal every day experience is not at all controlled, we have all had our senses deceive us at times, we all have biases, and by not controlling for these, normal experience does not generate facts, only anecdote.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Darwin is not a Social Darwinist

Two weeks ago we had a lecture by Dr. Bruce Alexander. I felt that this was one of the more interesting lectures I've seen in a long time. As a Darwinist, Dr. Alexander explained some of the views of Darwin in response to many of the critiques of Darwin that we’ve seen to date in our class. He went on to explain some common mistakes people make when referring to Darwin or trying to understand Darwin. One of his most important points was that Darwin was not a Social Darwinist which, at first, I found surprising. I did not realize that Darwin himself could not be a Darwinist because a Darwinist is someone who promotes Darwin and he cannot promote himself. I found this concept a bit confusing but once I understood it I found it to be very interesting.
I really like the idea of group selection which was one of the topics that Dr. Alexander brought up. He said it was almost dismissed by most scientists and social scientists. Groups of cooperative people are constantly at war said Dr. Alexander. This seems contradictory since cooperation means getting along and war means not getting along I suppose. If one group of humans selects to eliminate another group then traits are still being extinct. Why would we want to eliminate some qualities that only exist in some groups? Why would we want pure bred things? If we are so concerned with being the best and most powerful and smartest, why wouldn't we want to have certain traits from different groups and breed them together to combine their assets.

A Reaction to a Dawkins Reaction

In a response to the blog "Evolution's not Always Perfect" posted by the scientific approach blog team I think it's interesting to point out some of the terms that Dawkings' uses in order to express the notion of the non-existence of a 'designer'. Within the blog there is a video of Richard Dawkins narrating and assisting in a dissection of a giraffe's neck. Here we see an 'overly' long, 'inefficient' laryngeal nerve. We see that the nerve must travel a considerably longer distance then would seem 'economically feasible' as the nerve's starting point and end point are only a few inches apart. Dawkins suggests that "this is not an intelligent design" due to its inefficiency. He directly equates a designer to an engineer, saying that unlike an engineer "evolution can't go back to the drawing board" and thusly that "evolution has no foresight."
I think it is very important to mention here that although he does raise a good point in the fact that the laryngeal nerve is 'seemingly' inefficient, that is about the only valid observation that he makes. The problem with his argument is that he defines designer as engineer, when in reality it is the other way around. An engineer is a man, who follows man's cycle of invention through innovation and who does so through the use of design. Although he is a designer, an engineer still possesses all the other human qualities that a nurse, a doctor and a carpenter share, and with those the potential to err. As a means of remedying their errors, engineers go back to the drawing board. This is not only how engineers create greater, more efficient and more effective structure, but also the reason why there continues to be an improvement.
Evolution on the other hand is not man. We've understood it thus far through man's perspective by observing it and expressing our observations through speech and experimentation. It is not so much that evolution/the designer has no foresight, but not foresight that likens itself to that of human foresight.

The Dialectic and Different Discursive Methods

Something I haven't been able to shake since we've started these discussions revolving around Darwin is the prevalent themes of (1)the dialectical exchange of ideas and (2) the use of language in expressing one's intentions.
By the dialectic I am referring to the cycle of thesis-->antithesis-->synthesis and how ideas take shape by following this model. In essence it allows for the introduction of new realities and the squashing of old ones. Here we've seen an interesting exchange between a few men of upstanding academic accreditation react to the idea(s)that Darwin has offered to the world.
Not only do each subsequent author suggest that they do not agree with Darwin be it, Darwinian though, his methods, or Darwin's personal motivations, they also introduce a different manner(discursive method) in articulating their ideas. First consider Pope who through the use of analogy and metaphor rebuts Darwin's ideas. Then Butler comes along and literally scrutinizes every aspect of Darwin's delivery. Following Butler, Shaw synthesizes the information Butler reasonably handed out by the use of irony.
These different uses of languages are important to recognize as they set the cadre for the information each author introduces to us and thusly shapes our understanding of the potential reality they propose.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Response to “Religion, E. O. Wilson, and Darwinism”

In Intelligent Evolution, one of the arguments which E.O. Wilson presents, argues that scientific humanism, and by extension Darwinism, is a better solution to the question of our origins than that offered by religion. Religion, he argues, has had a heavy cost. The heavy cost Wilson is alluding to is the countless immoral acts which have been justified by way of appeals to religious texts. In an article entitled "Religion, E. O. Wilson, and Darwinism," posted in the Criticism group, Krisha argues against Wilson, and maintains that Darwinism has also had a heavy cost, and is therefore, no better on those grounds than religion. This post will critically analyze Krisha's post.

Krisha's article, argues that Darwinism has been responsible for terrible crimes of its own. In it, she argues that Darwinism is the cause of eugenics and eugenics is considered by us to be a violation of the rights and freedoms which are of paramount value in the Western World. While there is no question that eugenic programs are a violation of an individual's rights and freedoms, at least those offered to citizens in Canada and the United States, and would indeed be considered immoral by most in any society which has such values. Indeed, I too very much value said rights and freedoms. However is it a truth that Darwinism is responsible for the use of eugenics? The answer is clearly no. Darwinism does not make any claims about what ought to be. It is not a theory of ethics, and has no opinion on the matter of public policy. Darwinism's limits are to providing a possible account for the mechanism by which we experience diversity of life on earth, and is not a treatise on how to govern a society. As a result, it is most certainly not responsible for the application of eugenics. Darwinism does hold that a eugenics program would likely work, but that is entirely different from arguing that it ought to be done.

The failure to make this distinction is why Krisha's argument fails; one is not responsible for all the possible applications of one's theoretical work. Darwinism is no more responsible for eugenics, than Niels Bohr's contributions to atomic theories make him responsible for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or Nikola Tesla's theories of alternating current making him responsible for use of electrocution in the application of capital punishment. Such theories are concerned with the processes of nature, and what is possible. They are not theories of ethics, and make no claims as to what ought to be done. One must distinguish between discovering a mechanism in nature, developing said mechanism into a potential application, and the decision to utilize said application. Understanding this distinction is critical if one is to justly ascribe moral blame to an individual, this is especially true if one is to ascribe the utmost moral blame to an individual. Krisha has ascribed such a profound immorality to Darwinism, for she does not merely hold Darwinism responsible for eugenics, she also holds him responsible for the Holocaust, by extension from eugenics. I find the argument that Darwin is responsible for the Holocaust to be offensive, precisely because it fails to ascribe blame where it is due. Individuals such as Adolph Hitler and Herinrich Himmler are responsible for the Holocaust, for they are the ones who were at the level of moral decision making, while Darwinism is at the level of purposing the mechanisms of nature. Consequently, even though Darwinism may be considered a necessity for eugenics programs, it is clearly not sufficient for them, and certainly not for the Holocaust. This means that Darwinism does not necessitate eugenics, or any system of ethics, even though eugenics may necessitate Darwinism, they are not biconditionals.

As it has now been shown that Darwinism is not responsible for eugenics nor for the Holocaust, this paper will now consider whether Darwin made any ethical arguments concerning eugenics. While the theory of natural selection does not, in and of itself, argue for nor necessitate eugenics, could it be that Darwin himself made ethical arguments concerning eugenics, and if so, what would that support the claim that Darwinism is responsible for eugenics? If we look to primary sources, we can see Darwin making an argument in The Descent of Man which has strong implications for the practice of eugenics. In it he states that, "if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil" (p. 162). The sentiment expressed by Darwin in this passage is that while allowing for the weak to die would be beneficial to the "stock" of humanity over subsequent generations, that it would necessitate a profound evil to accomplish, and would thus be immoral and unacceptable. We see in this that Darwin has a deep respect for the dignity and liberty of the individual, placing its import above that of the biological strength of the species. This passage maintains that it is unacceptable to even neglect other individuals who may be weak; let alone actively sterilizing or murdering those perceived as "weak". As a result, not only can we conclude that Darwinism does not necessitate Eugenics, and is therefore not responsible for it, it has also been shown that Darwin himself did not endorse the practice; in fact, he found that even neglecting the weak was immoral.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Dialogue with Bruce Alexander on Richard Dawkins

During Bruce Alexander's presentation he had mentioned that he found Richard Dawkins to be deplorable because he was a social Darwinist. To my understanding he was not, and so I engaged Dr. Alexander in a dialogue concerning the matter. He gave his consent to it being posted on the blog, and so the following is the exchange between us:

in class, you mentioned that you despise Richard Dawkins because he is a social Darwinist. could you please identify for me where Dawkins has identified himself a social Darwinist, or anything that he has said that necessitates social Darwinism?


Hi Brock,
Thanks very much for your comments. I am including a short
snippet from the draft copy of my next book which shows both why I
hate Richard Dawkins and why I think he is a Social Darwinist. It is
based on his 1989 book. I have not even thought to follow his recent
work. Do you think he is not a Social Darwinist?


Social Darwinism finds its recent scientific support in the biologically sophisticated writings of "Sociobiologists" or "Evolutionary Psychologists" who call themselves neo-Darwinists. An extreme example would be Richard Dawkins' famous book, The Selfish Gene (1989). Writing in a clear and forceful style, Dawkins summarises his powerful perspective on psychology on the first page of his book:
...We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes (Dawkins, 1989, p. v.)
Later he adds two extensions of this doctrine:
...I think "nature red in tooth and claw" sums up our modern understanding of natural selection admirably. (Dawkins, 1989, p. 2)
Hi Brock,

Here is the snippet that I meant to include in my previous email.


...we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes...I shall argue that a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness. This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behaviour. However, as we shall see, there are special circumstances in which a gene can achieve its own selfish goals best by fostering a limited form of altruism at the level of individual animals. "Special" and "limited" are important words in the last sentence. Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and the welfare of the species as a whole are concepts that simply do not make evolutionary sense. (Dawkins, 1989, p. 2)
Dawkins expresses his doubt that culture can restrain the impulses of selfish genes as follows:
...Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something which no other species has ever aspired to. (Dawkins, 1989, p. 3)
Although Dawkins acknowledges that Darwin did not directly state any theories like these, he confidently attributes his views to Darwin:
The selfish gene theory is Darwin's theory, expressed in a way that Darwin did not choose but whose aptness, I should like to think, he would instantly have recognised and delighted in. In fact it is an orthodox outgrowth of neo-Darwinism... (Dawkins, 1989, p. viii)
Although Dawkins' sanguine view of innate human selfishness may be a reasonable deduction from the Origin of Species and an "orthodox outgrowth of neo-Darwinism" [i], it is definitely not "Darwin's theory" of human psychology as expressed in Darwin's two psychology books. In fact, Darwin's perspective on human morality is much more complex, and in large measure contradicts Dawkins and many other sociobiologists or evolutionary psychologists.
If Social Darwinism does not come from Darwin, where does it come from? I wish I could find some ancient expression of it, but as yet I have not. At this point, I can trace it back no further than the Calvinist theology of the Reformation (Weber, 1920/1958) with its veneration of uncompromising, entrepreneurial individualism in the service of God's design that His earth should be made to flourish, a view that was translated into a more secular form within Hobbes', Hume's, and Adam Smith's writings. From these secular writings, Social Darwinism entered into the political doctrine of the 19th century Whig and Liberal parties (Desmond & Moore, 1991; Hobsbawm, 1962; 1975; 1989)

[i] ...Richard Dawkins' reflective of neo-Darwinism's preoccupation with the...Victorian conception of evolution as a prolonged and bloody battle (Margulis & Hinkle, 1991, p. 15).


Forgive me but I fail to see how you have demonstrated Dawkins to be a social Darwinist. Perhaps I am mistaken on the meaning of social Darwinism. For your clarification, my understanding of social Darwinism is the belief that the most fit in society ought to prosper, and that the weak ought to be let to die. Is this not essentially what social Darwinism entails? It is, then it seems to me that one must make the distinction between arguing that social Darwinism would work (that is it would succeed in it fostering desired traits in human populations) and actually arguing that social Darwinism ought to be practiced. Is this not a fair distinction to be made? And if it is, are those who merely argue that social Darwinism could work, i.e. those who are merely purposing a mechanism of adaptation, also to be called social Darwinists? I was under the impression that one had to argue that society ought to embrace social Darwinism, and allow the week to die, or actively sterilize or kill them in order for one to be a social Darwinist. Am I mistaken? Does merely arguing that "if a society allowed for the week to die off, then the week would not perpetuate week traits in future generations", make one a social Darwinist? If the weaker definition is all that is required, then it seems clear that dawkins is a social Darwinist, however, if the stronger definition is used, I have never heard him endorse the killing off of the week. In fact I have heard him specifically state that while he believes that if there existed a mad dictator who wished to create a nation which would have the worlds best high jumpers, and to do so, he enacted a breeding program, or only allowed the tall and athletic to breed, that such a program would most probably work, this Dawkins says, is fundamentally different from the question of whether one ought to do such a thing. Here is a quote from Dawkins "it would be a very unpleasant thing if there were a sort of government organized breeding program in which the smart people were encouraged to breed and encourage the dull people not to. I think that would be a horrible thing. That's different, however, from saying that it wouldn't work" from Penn radio show 2006/10/25 27minutes in (available free on itunes, podcast)

So am I mistaken in what is required to be a social Darwinist? Is the distinction between arguing that it is possible, and arguing that it ought to be done, significantly different? The distinction is between oppenhimer and Truman, between theory and action, between what is and what ought to be, and is a difference which is of fundamental importance when ascribing moral blame to another individual.


Hi Brock,

Thank you for making me think more precisely about this issue. I personally agree with your definition of "Social Darwinism", although my quickie wikipedia search showed me that the term can be defined in various ways. I think therefore that you are right that the little Dawkins quotes that I sent do not prove that Dawkins is a Social Darwinist. I still think that he is one, however, on the basis of political comments that I recall from reading The Selfish Gene, but did not write down. If it were not a terrible busy time for me, I would re-read the Selfish Gene to see if my recollection is correct, but I just cannot do it now. Also, it is not fair to label him a Social Darwinist -- definitely a pejorative term -- on the basis of something he wrote two decades ago. I know I am not going to read his more recent stuff. There is too much, and I find it offensive. Therefore, I am not going to be able to settle the issue either to my satisfaction or yours. I agree that I should be more careful about labelling people with pejorative terms unless I am completely sure that they fit, and I will be more careful about Dawkins in the future, thanks to you.

The more interesting question is why some people like me, hate Dawkins, and some people, like you I am guessing, find him inspiring. Perhaps it is simply the difference between modern day Romantics and Whigs. But then the question becomes why are some people Romantics and some people Whigs. There is a lot of psychology to be worked out here. Perhaps,when we both have time we will have a cup of coffee together and you will tell me your take on Dawkins' philosophy (or science, if you like). I would be very interested.

Thanks for the stimulating comments,


Monday, October 18, 2010

Common misconceptions of Darwinism: Part 1

-Darwinism is not synonymous with evolution. Evolution had been accepted long before Darwin published his books, long before he was even born. Individuals such as his own grandfather Erasmus Darwin, and Jean-Baptist Lamarack had purposed accounts of evolution long before Darwin.

-Darwinism (and evolution,) are not theories which purport to account for the origin of life. Rather, Darwinism and evolution are theories which purport to explain the origin of species, i.e. the origin of biodiversity or the reason for variety amongst and within species. This is a different question from the origin of life itself. Abiogenesis, or the primordial soup theory, is a possible explanation for the origin of life on earth, see Carl Sagan video excerpt from "Cosmos":

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Technology, where are you leading us to...?

After the lecture on discussion about the Baconian and Augustan, it puts me into doubt about where our "technology orientated" is going. Initially back in the 1800s I have to say that the rise of science did managed to allow human to make a great leap forward as the introduction of modern machinery has redefined our perception of time and space. However as the time moves alone, know I realised something rather dreadful. Every once in a while we will hear "great" news from the science world announcing that they have find a alternative energy source for cars so we can reduce co2 emission and stop globe warming, all a new medicine has been invented to combat diabetes. All sounds very promising indeed. But the problem is no of this issue that we are currently focused on to resolve was a big problem back in the old days. If it wasn't for the fact machines which powered by fossil fuel were invented, then we won't have globe warming problem. If it wasn't for the fact that modern food industry makes highly sugar concreted item so access , we wouldn't have these may cases of diabetes or obesity.

Some people say technology is the problem and the solution. I personally couldn't agree more. Our society might moving towards a direction where invention is no longer out of free will, but desperation of solving problem which was created by the old technology. In other world we might eventually be enslaved by technology for it is own "need" of existence.

Words on butler's writing.

To be honest I am quite amazed by how well Butler's argument were written. Some people says he wrote all this out of his person desire of seeking for revenge on Darwin for his ignorance. If this is indeed the reason, then I have to say he did a great job. It is quite cleaver that in the beginning of the book, he did not attack on the theory darwin brought up, instead he was trying to discredit Darwin for being a honourable scholar. He talked in detail about how Darwin used other peoples work as if it was his own. In a society which values honour above all, this was indeed a very powerful punch. If it wasn't for the fact that Darwin took his friends advice and not to response to Butler, if the general public did turn their attention towards Butler's criticism, I have to say it is quite hard to say if Darwin would still ended up with all the glory he got.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Darwin Thoughts

I was just thinking how we said in class that if Darwin were writing today we would consider him to have plagiarized but there never used to be plagiarism. If you could write something better or distribute it to more people under your name then it was considered to be yours. A great example is Shakespeare because he didn't come up with the idea for Romeo and Juliet, he stole it from someone else and tweaked it and gave it to the public as his own.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Baconian vs. Augustan

Baconians act in a way that feels that knowledge is property. They feel it is their option to disseminate it however they wish in an elitist fashion. The world just has to deal with what they are given. Technology is inevitable and we just have to go along with it.
Augustans believe that technology is fine as long as we monitor how it is used
. It is being used improperly when we cannot escape it and use it in situations when it is inappropriate (like texting in class or going on facebook when homework needs to be done).
Today's society is given vaccines and medicines that we don’t know if we even need but scientists tell us that we need it so we believe them because we assume that they know better than we do. Sometimes vaccines are made and then the illness is made up. We are also given medications to control and help our ailments instead of being given a cure which makes us rely on technology and scientists. We are then given a “better” medicine but we are not told how it is better, just that it will help but we are also unsure of how it effects our bodies/minds. We are forced to trust the science, technology and intelligence of doctors and researchers because there is no way for the public to find out these things for themselves.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some thoughts in regards to our talk earlier...

Charles Darwin’s proposal of natural selection in The Origin of Species has both been scrutinized and embraced by people upon the moment of its introduction to society. The stance one takes, be it scrutiny or embrace, often depends upon from where one is looking. Be it from a religious stand point, a biological stand point or a political philosophical stand point, one can devise many points of contention to as well as much evidence in favour of natural selection.

Our group’s focus is to evaluate and scrutinize some of these particular reactions to the theories introduced in The Origin. In order to recognize whether the points made by our peers from each successive group are valid, we must recognize and compare the differences amongst the 4 groups in relation to external research and literature that spans all different ideological spheres. Ultimately our efforts as “The Reactionaries” will be to decipher whether the differences in stand points affects the quality of the information and if the evidence suggesting the truth in one theory disproves the validity of another. In other words is one stand point more reliable in reviewing the credibility of natural selection? All while comparing their research with other credible sources.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Influence of Culture on Charles Darwin

In order to be able to fully evaluate Darwin’s theory on the origins of species, the influence of culture must first be explored. Darwinism, or Biological Victorianism, was created in England in the 19th century. Charles Darwin was born into the upper-middle class. He lived in a culture which promoted the idea that success can be achieved through determination; a culture which rejected the premise that we are limited by our social hierarchy. Most importantly, he lived in a culture where males flirted or fought for female mates. As a consequence of his cultural influence, he suggests that similar to the majority of all other species, female human beings procreate with the males who are the most fit. However, I propose that Darwin neglected to evaluate cultures which differed from his own in his theoretical research.

The knowledge of Darwin’s social status, culture, and accompanying ideals illuminate the ulterior assumptions regarding human nature in On The Origin of Species. While Darwin boasts that his theory is relevant to humans, he lacks any empirical to support of its applicability. Rather, He claims that male humans will flirt or fight to entice females to procreate with them. This theoretical proposition of survival of the fittest imitates the Victorian manner of relations between mingling singles: women sat passively while men fought or tried to romance them, resulting in the girl selecting the most impressive mate. However, as a consequence of altering dating relations since the 19th century, Darwin’s theory does not encompass modern behaviour. I personally think that there is now equality between males seeking female mates and females seeking male mates. Both preen, strut and speak for attention from the opposite sex. Both equally fight competitors; either physically or emotionally. Furthermore, both sexes attempt to seduce mates through intellect.

Because of Darwin’s neglect to take into account the different dating and mating rituals among the cultures in other societies, his theory does not apply to dating and mating relations that differ from that of the 19th century Victorians. Darwin unconsciously includes a cultural influence in the formation of his theory, accepting his own assumptions as fact.