Saturday, February 14, 2009

Can You Guess Who Wrote This?

 
Yet how the former led to the latter, how it was that complexity emerged and is sustained even in that near-miracle of a chemical factory we call the cell is still largely enigmatic. Self-organisation is certainly involved, but one of the puzzles of evolution is the sheer versatility of many molecules, being employed in a myriad of different capacities. Indeed it is now legitimate to talk of a logic to biology, not a term you will hear on the lips of many neo-Darwinians. Nevertheless, evolution is evidently following more fundamental rules. Scientific certainly, but ones that transcend Darwinism. What! Darwinism not a total explanation? Why should it be? It is after all only a mechanism, but if evolution is predictive, indeed possesses a logic, then evidently it is being governed by deeper principles. Come to think about it so are all sciences; why should Darwinism be any exception?

But there is more. How to explain mind? Darwin fumbled it. Could he trust his thoughts any more than those of a dog? Or worse, perhaps here was one point (along, as it happens, with the origin of life) that his apparently all-embracing theory ran into the buffers? In some ways the former possibility, the woof-woof hypothesis, is the more entertaining. After all, being a product of evolution gives no warrant at all that what we perceive as rationality, and indeed one that science and mathematics employ with almost dizzying success, has as its basis anything more than sheer whimsy. If, however, the universe is actually the product of a rational Mind and evolution is simply the search engine that in leading to sentience and consciousness allows us to discover the fundamental architecture of the universe – a point many mathematicians intuitively sense when they speak of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics – then things not only start to make much better sense, but they are also much more interesting. Farewell bleak nihilism; the cold assurances that all is meaningless. Of course, Darwin told us how to get there and by what mechanism, but neither why it is in the first place, nor how on earth we actually understand it.

To reiterate: when physicists speak of not only a strange universe, but one even stranger than we can possibly imagine, they articulate a sense of unfinished business that most neo-Darwinians don't even want to think about. Of course our brains are a product of evolution, but does anybody seriously believe consciousness itself is material? Well, yes, some argue just as much, but their explanations seem to have made no headway. We are indeed dealing with unfinished business. God's funeral? I don't think so. Please join me beside the coffin marked Atheism. I fear, however, there will be very few mourners.
The answer is at ... Darwin was right. Up to a point.


[Hat Tip: RichardDawkins.net]

4 comments :

  1. Simon Conway Morris isn't exactly a creationist, but he is as certain as any creationist that God did it. His Boyle Lecture (PDF), titled "Darwin's Compass: how evolution rediscovers the song of creation", is a manifesto for teleologists who can't quite swallow the "intelligent design" nonsense of Phillip Johnson and company.

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  2. "Of course our brains are a product of evolution, but does anybody seriously believe consciousness itself is material? Well, yes, some argue just as much, but their explanations seem to have made no headway."

    Consciousness is what the brain does. It is not "material" just like swimming is not material and burning is not material. They are all processes. Even the "unfinished business" that Simon Conway Morris talks about is a process. I wonder who would argue otherwise.

    And did birds evolved four times?!??

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  3. Of course our brains are a product of evolution, but does anybody seriously believe consciousness itself is material? Well, yes, some argue just as much, but their explanations seem to have made no headway.

    Arguments? We don' need no steenkin' arguments, we have observation. When the brain dies, consciousness disappears and we have absolutely no instances of consciousness existing apart from the material brain. What more does he want for Mog's sake?

    We are indeed dealing with unfinished business. God's funeral? I don't think so.


    That's true It's a bit pointless holding a funeral for something that was never alive in the first place.

    Please join me beside the coffin marked Atheism. I fear, however, there will be very few mourners.


    Just another example of wishful thinking, I fear. To quote a famous atheist: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated".

    Of course, we have to admit that holding such religious beliefs while conducting good scientific research is a tribute to the multi-tasking skills of the human brain - a bit like walking and chewing gum at the same time.

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