Thursday, October 28, 2010
Interestingly, Prof. Alexander noted in dialogue with a residing biology classmate that the term for this form of evolution by natural selection: 'group selection' has become not just a debated concept, but almost dismissed by many of the sciences and social sciences.
As a psychology major, I have had the opportunity to raise the question within the contexts of Evolutionary Psychology - which pulls explicitly from a Darwinian perspective - but have so far not found much support for it. My current textbook for the course dedicates 1.6% of the content on the subject, and notes in the introduction of the subject that the brunt of research died out in the 1960's.
Similarly, cultural psychology is equally dismissive, but they do so in a much 'nicer' off hand way. In office hours conversation, I was given the reasoning: 'Of course we will never say that evolutionary pressures do not have an affect upon our behavior now. That is blatantly fallacious, however the types of behaviors that they influence and the strength of that relationship is tenacious at best and much better explained through current paradigms.'
Again, not overly supportive - but I am concerned if this is because Bruce's argument was mainly taken from 'the Descent of Man' and not 'the Origins' and thus less popular and therefore less known? Or perhaps it is like art, where only passage of time will show us the value of a work? Hopefully a (future) better understanding of these arguments will help.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Doctor Bruce Alexander’s discussion of Charles Darwin during Thursday’s class was enlightening to say the least, but still open for interpretation. Alexander discussed three areas which Darwin struggled with during his life time, including free will, morality and that humans are not a creation of God, but instead small changes from much simpler organisms. Even with these areas laid out, the section that I found most interesting was about morality and specifically the individual species and group species. Alexander stated that individual organisms go through much slower variation changes then those that live in groups. This is likely due to the fact that in groups animals, and humans, can identify advantageous characteristics, which would be especially important in Darwin’s sexual selection. There is a struggle in humans, according to Alexander, for individual selection, being the biggest and toughest, and group selection, being caring compassionate and so on. Groups of cooperative people are also continually at war with one another, according to Darwin through Alexander.
Even though there is truth to this statement, it has a tremendous impact on variation in humans. If one group is able to exterminate another group of humans, their veritable traits are removed. As well humans, especially in the nobility, wanted to have as pure a bloodline as possible in their offspring. These two situations cause problems as it has been proven that pure breeding of humans can lead to genetic problems. This posses the question then of why do humans still insist on pure breed dogs, horses, cats, and other animals of value. As a group we understand what pure breeding can do as to why we still request that in animals. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and just because humans think that something is advantageous does not mean that it necessarily is. There is also only so much pure breed mating that can be done until you do run into a multitude of problems, because no matter how many members are part of the population if you are trying to get as pure as possible you will run into issues.
In the last lecture, guest Professor Bruce Alexander mentioned many things about Charles Darwin. He said that Charles Darwin was a great person because he was not only a great biologist but also a great psychologist. He claimed that many later social Darwinists believe that social Darwinism is a pitiless and merciless ideology; however, Charles Darwin himself did not mean it that way, and in Darwin’s works, he actually shows sympathy for human being. However, in Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, he actually claims that “one law cover all organic species multiplies strongest survival and weakest die.” In the other words, Charles Darwin did not see human as a higher species compared to other living things.
People cannot deny that Charles Darwin had provided a new angle for us to explore the origin of species. It also means that he pointed out a new way for his followers to do further researches. In his followers’ minds, they of course tend to agree with everything that Charles Darwin said, and they also make efforts to find excuses to explain or cover Darwin’s failures. When people look at the core area of Charles Darwin’s theory, they can find that even today, we still cannot fully understand the human genome, and that the current scientific understanding of genome only touches the surface of this topic. For instance, in the article “Misconceptions about the Human Genome project,” the author states that Darwinist-Materialist are delivering misconceptions about the human genome projects with misleading messages that promote "genetic similarities" between human and chimpanzees and hiding the fact that these are subjective interpretations which do not provide any evidence for the theory of evolution. The Darwinist-materialists like to claim that the discovery of the gene map suggests that “the fate decreed by God can be challenged.” This is a great misconception and deceit put forward by certain circles. In fact, the mapping of the human genes does not show evidence of evolution, not to mention that there are human genes with unknown origins. Therefore, this new angle which Darwin provided may be a misleading one.
One day in the future, scientists may find evidences to prove Charles Darwin’s theories are correct, but at least today, there is not yet any evidence to support that Charles Darwin’s theories are correct.
Ps: for further information about how the Human Genome project may be misleading, people can check the following website: http://www.harunyahya.com/articles/70misconceptions_sci10.php
Sunday, October 24, 2010
To extend from this idea, I can see how religion, in addition to culture and morality, is a human practice that is the result of our evolutionary path. Religion obviously has a social function, and it works alongside both culture and morality. In many ways, I can see how religion evolved as a logical extension to and development of an evolved cultural and moral sensibility. Thoughts of how the individual relates to the community grow into thoughts about right and wrong, good and evil, and the earthly and the transcendent. The territory of morality becomes encompassed by the territory of religious thinking.
As Darwin and Dr. Alexander both demonstrated, the fact that morality is an evolved characteristic does not demean the meaningfulness and importance of it. Just because it cannot be called 'innate' (insofar as it developed for social reasons and not because humans were born moral creatures) does not mean morality does not define who we are as a species. Perhaps this same logic should apply to religion as well. If religious thinking was also a practice that evolution brought about instead of something innately true for humans, maybe this shouldn't demean its meaningfulness. In other words, maybe thinking that there is divinity in the universe because we have evolved to think that way, instead of because there really is divinity in the universe and we are privy to that knowledge, should not necessarily make religious thinking invalid. If it evolved in us, it clearly evolved for a reason. If it wasn't useful and meaningful, then would it not have died out as a disadvantageous characteristic?
Perhaps that is what is happening to us as a species now. Atheism is on the rise, and religious fundamentalists are (rightly) considered to be lunatic outliers. Religion must have been useful enough for it to have developed in our species to the point that it did, but is it still relevant and useful to us today, or is it being selected against somehow?
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Science can figure out how something works, but not necessarily why it works, the reason for which it is in being, or how it got there. However, in trying to do so, what we have done is limited the story of our origins to our own understanding. The fact remains that there are phenomena within our world (and beyond) that cannot possibly be understood or explained. Furthermore, even Darwin attributes these phenomena to something he cannot explain the origins of or the reasons behind its motivating factors – natural selection.
Moreover, are we committing the genetic fallacy here? If we attempt to understand something incomprehensible, we call it fact because it is science. We understand Evolution – but does that make it true? We refute other means of our origins because they do not make sense or are not understandable, but does that make them false?
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
This section actually plays into our class in a number of different ways. First of all, selective breeding is an interesting terms of Ebert’s view on Darwin. His view of “survival of the fittest” by winning the race is an issue as it is humans deciding what are the best traits to have for horses, not nature. This is not natural selection, as horses are designed by humans to run for a specific race not nature. Humans have handed these horses a task, not by nature in trying to compete for scarce resources. If the horse gets injured or loses it may not be a return to the field to graze, but instead likely a trip to a manufacturer to make goods for humans utilization.
Monday, October 18, 2010
However, this war also came to overload the human mind and body. Thousands of men returned home with shell shock. This is a physical demonstration of the mind’s inability to cope and rise above the pressures of the war. Some men would never be the same again.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRv56gsqkzs A short video on the physical detriments of shellshock
Shaw questions “whether the human animal, as he exists at present, is capable of solving the social problems rasied by his own aggregation, or, as he calls it, his civilization” (9). It is evident that Shaw doubts that humankind has reached ‘civilization’ or not. Shouldnt we, as higher, thoughtful, rational human beings have overcome the need (or arguably, the desire) for war? Obviously not. Instead of enhancing ourselves to be above the need for war, we have simply enhanced the methods and medium of war itself.
This leads me to the question of self improvement. Shaw recognizes that within Darwinism, such progress is not possible “because improvement ca come only through some senseless accident which must, on the statistical average of accidents, be presently wiped out by some other equally senseless accident” (14). Has humankind improved? If the answer is yes, then plainly, Darwin is wrong because there is no hope according to his theory. If the answer is No, then we as a human society is in despair and there is no hope for us. Personally, I hope the answer is yes.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
On the first page of preface to Shaw’s text, he gives the reader extensive material to mull over. He speaks on the progress of science and gives a small outline on enlightened thought; “For the pre-Darwinian age had come to be regarded as a Dark Age in which men still believed that the book of Genesis was standard scientific treatise, and that the only additions to it were Galileo’s demonstration of Leonardo da Vinci’s simple remark that the earth is a moon of the sun, Newton’s theory of gravitation, Sir Humphry Davy’s invention of the safety-lamp, the discovery of electricity, the application of steam to industrial purposes, and the penny post” (7-8). This sentence is packed full of the narrative of human development of scientific theorem. What intrigues me is not the history of science, but the history of human thought within this science. In the Dark Ages, men were sure of the Bible’s authenticity in its description of human origins. As time went on, we began to see the critiques of this and men like Galileo, Da Vinci and Newton gave humanity more to think about. In the time of these intellectuals, how much more did they know than those in the Dark Ages? And how sure were they during their own lifetimes, that what they believed or discovered was true? Likewise, the same can be applied to us today. How much more do we know now than sir Humphry Davy? Similarly, how much are we sure of ourselves, in what we believe, that it is the absolute truth? How much of this will be discounted in another 100 years?
Science is an evolutionary concept just as we ourselves are continually learning, adapting and adopting new habits. Can we ever reach the end and figure out all the answers to the all the questions? Or do we merely think that we do, when in reality we are not even close?
Shaw addresses these questions however he does not begin to answer them. He establishes that “the power that produced Man when the monkey was not up to the mark, can produce a higher creature than Man if Man does not come up to the mark. We must beware; for Man is not yet an ideal creature” (13). According to Shaw, we will never fully be finished changing – there will never be an end point. And should that be the case, I would like to argue one step further that neither so shall we ever come to the full realization of our origins
However, in 2005 a survey was taken regarding acceptance of the theory of evolution: the United States placed 31st out of 32 countries. Just behind Lithuania, Latvia & Cyprus; but ahead of Turkey. Nearly 40% of Americans surveyed responded “FALSE” as to whether they personally accepted the theory of evolution.
This is the failing of Darwin, and in turn: the theory of evolution via natural selection. Darwin was, whether he meant to or not, a reductionist. He was able to reduce vast amounts of inconceivable histories, data sets, biology’s, anthropologies into a single homogenous theorem that he could explain in a succinct paragraph. From this Darwin or Darwinism became synonymous with natural selection, as natural selection did with evolution and such that over a century later nearly 40% of a sample of the American population are able to answer with ONE WORD (‘false’) their entire view of what is a mind-boggling complex, and much disputed, theory. Not Law, not fact but theory.
It is here from this over-simplification, this reductionist, this universal-law type idealism that is attributed to Evolution via Darwinism via Natural Selection via the author that we are able to, and will, criticize Darwin from a pluralistic platform that extends beyond the gist.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I do not wish to disagree with Butler; on this point, I find his argument quite strong and convincing, not to mention logically sound and irrefutable. However, in regards to Darwinism, I do wish to explore or at the very least point out that even Butler acknowledges that in order for the first steam engine to be developed (by way of “intelligence and design”), there was first the man who made the kettle. While this is a metaphor used to point out Butler’s arguments, if he does not show me where the kettle came from (except that it was invented by man), I am unable to take the rest of his arguments on Darwinism as holistically intact. I understand his reasoning, and furthermore, I enjoy it – I find it very enlightening to refute Darwin’s Origins on its own terms. And in Butler-esque fashion, I would like to do the same thing to him.
Butler clearly makes his argument that there is “far too much evidence of design in animal organisation to allow of our setting down its marvels to the accumulations of fortunate accident, undirected by will, effort and intelligence.” I agree. Just as the steam engine was not fully conceptualized until the dawn of its invention, and neither did it invent itself, nor so did the human species – as we know it today – come into being. Archaeological evidence testifies to this; Olduvai Gorge as the “Cradle of Mankind” is renowned for having been the site of the first discovery of homo habilis remains. While it is debated as to whether or not the fossils found in this East African Gorge are direct ancestors of our present day genus, it is still evidence as to how species have evolved throughout time. Dating back to the Pleistocene era, homo habilis had less distinctive facial features, were shorter and had a smaller cranial size and their appendages were disproportionate to their body size (long arms). Tracing these attributes through Homo Erectus and then Homo Sapiens, this logic of the teapot to steam engine is made divinely simply.
But the answer to the age-old question – where did we come from – remains.
Butler takes sweeping advantage of the givens that Darwin has established, most importantly in this case, that things exist. Butler has taken up the theory of evolution in mid-span, given his critique (and in his opinion, improvement) of the argument and then dropped it. Yes it makes sense that human beings evolved. But something imperative is missing and that is, where did we evolve from? Yes the steam engine is a direct descendent of the tea kettle, but where did the tea kettle come from? These are aspects that Butler has not addressed, and debates that from his side of the room remain silent.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
However, according to the Augustans, Alexander Pope points out that Reason is the rule of nature; in his “Essay on Criticism” he states that one must “First follow NATURE, and your judgement frame / by her just Standard, which is still the same” (ll 17-18). He goes further to contend that “True Wit is Nature to Advantage drest, / What oft was Thought, but ne’er so well Exprest...” (ll 41-42). So we see that there must be a balance between logic and wit and furthermore, that these two are interconnected via nature and traditional vies of the ‘Great Chain of Being’.
In this point of view, Nature is not something that can be extracted or put under the microscope for close scrutiny. Rather, Nature is something that every human being has and must abide by. When one does not follow reason, this turns into a political statement. This is indicative of the continuous battle between the arts and the sciences; Bacon is accused of reducing nature to nature, Goethe puts forth that by naming and quantifying certain elements, the life is taken out of them. Swift encapsulates this in that “Such constant irreconcileable Enemies to Science are the common People” (137). And what is it in the human being that causes them to be an enemy to science? It is nature. In the ‘common human being’ nature unites us all. And we recognize – according to swift – that science doesn’t care about us. Yet we keep demanding that it obey our human limits and our common morality.
So where does Darwinism fit in?
There are aspects of this argument that Darwinism cannot and does not account for. This would be the reason and logic that human beings have – and our ability to disobey the same. Take the example given in lecture on Thursday; a college student commits suicide after extreme privacy violation (from his roommate) in which his conduction of sexual relations was streamed over the internet without his knowledge or consent. Where is the rational logic in either of these actions? The student who took the videos of his roommate? It can be argued that his use of technology demonstrated his indifference to his friends’ privacy. According to the Augustans, science does bad things and technology is problematic. In this case, his use of technology superseded the rational of his logic and thus he committed this horrendous act leading to the disappearance of his roommate. As for the man himself who committed suicide, this refutes Darwin’s survival of the fittest. Not all human beings have this desire to live at all costs – as is demonstrated by this suicide, and countless others throughout our times.
Furthermore, as Darwinism cannot seek to answer these questions of logic, wit and rational, can Nature answer them? Is the natural instinct proposed by Pope enough to account for the actions of human beings? Where does the emotional aspect of the mind fit in? Is there more or less at stake that govern the human condition?
Friday, October 1, 2010
Proponents of Tory-ism charachterised nature in a much more wholistic way, as a "great chain of being" in which every organism had a place and played a part, where the persuit of knowledge was tempered by reason and a moral "common sense." In this view, a heavy emphasis is placed on tradition and the past: what is worth knowing is the wisdom gleaned from hundreds of generations of trial and error: if it ain't broke why fix it?
From today's perspective it's obvious which team won: science reigns supreme. However, it also seems apparent the pendulum may have swung too far, that technology has run amok and that a balance conducive to human happiness has yet to be discovered. In this author's mind notions such as these make studying the debates of previous generations both fruitful and fitting.