Archive | Evolution News and Perspectives RSS feed for this section

New Age Ruins Everything …

17 Dec

New Age Ruins Everything:  The Corrupting Influence of Science Mysticism on Higher Considerations of Science, History, and Philosophy

________________________________

New Age is problematic.  No sooner than you give it a pass; it co-opts you and your work.  It’s the perfect Capitalism AND Socialism, I guess. You give it an inch, it appropriates and capitalizes (or should I say expropriates?) a mile.  Lucky us! … Anyway, it’s this tendency of the NAM to do this kind of thing that bothers me. Quantum mechanics is a perfectly good branch of science.  Good enough on its own without having to be meddled with.  And, so is the Penrose-Hameroff model (as far as it goes).  But now that Chopra & Co. have appropriated it, and tailored it to their own brand of quantum-science-mysticism, we’re blown out to sea again and caught in this eddy of “quantum-‘consciousness’” talk [and all the metaphysical fluff that goes with it].  I’d much rather have a more solid discussion of the issue-at-hand (via Complexity theory and Psychological theoretical models) than the whole nine yards of Chopra nonsense on the matter.  But guess what, that doesn’t ‘sell’ in today’s day and age.  So, we’re left with Quantum Mechanics ala Chopra, and mainline scientists rightfully are questioning it and the entire basis of the model itself given its current form as theory/science.

I don’t want to see any more good ideas go out the window because of this New Age nonsense.  That’s why I’m as critical as I am of the current discussion going on over at Darwiniana.  Nothing personal against anyone.  But, where the original version of Landon’s Eonic Effect was more agnostic on all these issues, centering in on the open question of Kantian philosophy, now suddenly metaphysics is fine there [not “bunk”, mind you] and “geist is [no longer] bullshit.”

The original version of the Eonic Effect was great and well worth studying; still is.  But I’m afraid John’s work too has been co-opted by New Age and some of its major interests (that are now a major voice in his audience).  Over and above that, his legitimate points on History and Philosophy can’t get a word in edgewise there it seems to me. It’s a shame.

Where are the complexity theorists there?  Where are the historians and sociologists?  Where are the philosophers?  They’ve pretty much picked up shop and moved on by this point, leaving their space empty and ready to be taken up by others in the discussion.  So, in their place, a new age element has emerged and ingratiated itself there at John’s blog.  It’s overshadowing all the good stuff, supplanting “free action scripts” with ruminations on “free will” in the metaphysical sense; Kantian antimony with quasi-Buddhist considerations of “rebirth doctrine” and “mystical enlightenment.” Discussions, frankly, that cater to this NAM audience/element on the blog.

I’ve no problem with that.  It’s John’s blog after all and he can do whatever he likes on it, and court whomever he wants to there.  But I do have a problem when I see that element co-opting and overshadowing all of John’s other material and making hay off of it for the New Age Movement’s own advantage and at the expense of Landon’s prior consideration of World History as a template for thinking about evolutionary change and the critique of evolutionary systems of theory.

I don’t want to see the Eonic Effect suffer for its being confused with Divine Aeons, and therefore be recast and re-branded as being an Aeonic Effect of metaphysics.  It will only serve to advance the goofiness and perniciousness of New Age, gurus, and the occult while making a mockery of the Eonic Model, and completely gutting anything that was of value there to begin with.  I don’t want to see that happen, and see Landon’s work be completely trashed, dismissed, and shuffled away as a result. … Nobody else wins when that happens; just the Gurdjieff element … Just the occult new agers, whose object I expect is to do exactly that.  Gurdjieff: “1”, Landon’s Eonic Effect: “0” …

I like John for his ideas.  I like his work, and I enjoy and find his material quite useful on historical topics, evolutionary issues, and philosophy. But I don’t trust New Age nor its proponents, some of whom are being given a mouthpiece and a forum on Darwiniana. So for now, I’ll steer clear of it and only occasionally cover its posts from time to time.  They have the floor and they’re on their own there from now on. It’s better that way.  Landon can handle his own audience and its leanings.  I just hope their New Age proclivities and agenda don’t run roughshod over what he’s been attempting to do with his writings on evolution and history.  Maybe I’m wrong about it all, but I have my doubts about all this stuff there lately and where it’s all heading.

New Age ruins everything!  I just pray John’s work here isn’t its latest casualty.

(A World of) Uncreated Magnificence

24 Oct

When you live in universe of ‘chaotic’ complexity and ‘self-organization’ as science today understands these principles, you don’t need an intelligent designer to finely-tune creation. Nature and life comes to order on its own without the need for a separate designer and design.  The following two videos express this sentiment nicely.  Hope you enjoy them.

Rethinking the Language of Evolutionary Discourse

23 Apr

Evolution as a “Contentious Issue”:  Moving beyond the Darwin Debate by rethinking the Terms of Evolutionary Discourse

_______________________________

Evolution shouldn’t be a “contentious issue” but is I think for people’s talking past each other on a number of topics; the big two being (1)  the science behind natural selection and (2) metaphysical problems making philosophers and religionists think the trouble is in the process of evolution itself and/or in evolutionary biology as a means of explaining evolutionary change rather than in other factors.

My own POV is in trying to refocus the conversation on the substance of the science itself and away from sidetracked discussions over meaning; in fact by adjusting the language of evolution to better fit the science and philosophically strengthening that language to avoid misinterpretation and wrong turns in the course of reasoning about evolutionary change and forming ideas about it.  The science of evolution is not in question, absolutely not in question and shouldn’t be. What is in question perhaps is how Darwin’s theory of natural selection is presented and relayed to the public, and the language in which it’s framed as a system of understanding.

There are two parts to this I think.  (a)  The confusion of the presentation itself (concepts and ideas mistakenly couched in language that conveys other interpretations necessarily), the manner with which its presenters unwittingly embed ideological intonations onto their information and ideas, and worse, (b)  the further confusions of audiences and critics in misinterpreting an already confused scientific message on evolution and its mechanisms in Darwinian natural selection.

I agree “evolution is a fact” [with certain reservations of course].  That evolution exists is a fact; that the dynamic of evolution is real is a fact, and that its driven by the mechanism and processes of natural selection in the organismic adaptation of creatures (within nature) is established; that also is a fact.

But how far are we willing to go in this?  Evolution/natural selection/principle-and-processes in nature … all this is scientifically proven fact … and has been demonstrated to be so for nature.  But are we willing to say Darwinian theory and formulation on this material is absolutely factual beyond a doubt, and without any further need of improvement or enhancement as an epistemological system?  … So Darwin got the mechanism(s) in nature for evolution right.  But did he [and do his students today] really get his theory right in any fundamental or axiomatic sense?  In other words, is Darwin’s “theory” truly “theoria” or “scientia” in the classical epistemological sense of the concept? …  That is the question.

If he did get his “theory” right, then evolution-as-theory is also a fact just as evolution-the-natural-mechanism is a fact.  But if even the slightest bit of uncertainty abounds about the conceptual structure of Darwinian evolution and its exposition, then it’s a stretch to refer to evolution [=theory] as a fact. … In that case, then, its mistaken to be calling evolution-the-theory a “fact” since it mixes up what’s actually factual in evolution with what’s no more than a useful intellectual construction and a transitory working model for describing natural systems and phenomena.

Now maybe this isn’t anything important; however it points to the problem of truth value in Darwinian evolutionary theory.  The truth value in evolution is in the dynamic and how accurately it’s characterized, not in a supposed truth quality of its formulation.  To conflate the two only confuses the model and equates its factual character as science with its nomenclature.

In other words, it ends up confounding the Science of Evolution needlessly by saying what’s essential in it is its present language and format (how evolutionary theory is currently communicated to people as a system of knowledge and understanding about the dynamics of life on earth) rather the methods used to uncover that understanding and most importantly the said findings themselves about how evolutionary change works in its systems, processes, and phenomena.

That’s why there’s so much confusion over evolution and controversy about its position; not ignorance (willful or otherwise), not intellectual (and moral) blindness … just good old fashioned befuddlement over its exposition as a body of knowledge and the ensuing debate that comes when misinterpretation meets epistemological ambiguities.

Let me be clear:  I’m not disagreeing with the science or the idea of “evolution.”  I’m disagreeing with the foolishness of the “debate” and the silliness of its rhetoric.  The bad joke which is ID/Creationism is is matched only by the incompetence of evolution’s champions in trying to effectively refute it and ultimately failing to do that, and dispensing with Designer Creationism once and for all. Worse, now the new agers are in on the act (ala Deepak Chopra), further confusing the concept of evolution with screeds about “evolutionary consciousness”, while critics of the theory regularly undermine any sound aspects of the idea that are left (even well-established ones that there shouldn’t be any argument over, and that have been demonstratively proven time and time again & agreed upon through scientific consensus in the facts)(i.e., common descent, common morphologies, non-random selection, fossil evidence, and adaptive mechanisms in evolutionary change).

The media war/PR fight over evolution is being lost … It’s time for evolutionists to fall back and rethink their strategy in taking on the critics.  Evolution shouldn’t be a contentious issue; that it is bespeaks the problem of its development as a theory.  Time to recast it a new mold, one that separates it firmly from the ideology that is “social darwinism” and that defuses its science as an object of controversy. Newtonian mechanics doesn’t have this problem; Einsteinian Relativity doesn’t have this problem.  The question is “why.” … The answer I think:  as scientific fields, with their own unique brand of knowledge and practitioners who practice it, they’ve largely circumvented the fight making a battle over their models meaningless.

Time for evolutionary theory to do the same.

Eurocentrism in Evolutionary Discourse? … Let’s Hope Not!

27 Mar

Eurocentric Undercurrents in a Discussion of Evolutionary Belief Versus National Wealth

_____________________________

Jerry Coyne shares a fascinating graph from Calamities of Nature on his WEIT blog, “Belief in Evolution Versus National Wealth.” I know it’s being portrayed as a kind of call to arms of the peoples of the rest of the world to rise out of their religiously-minded ignorance and embrace a modern, scientific worldview and cultural mindset … and so it naturally demonstrates this as a haves and have-nots issue … But I find it, in some respects, surprisingly narrow-minded and Eurocentric.

So the rest of the world, besides Western Europe, is lower on this scale and lower on the totem pole of human worth for not embracing the Darwinian evolutionary worldview?  … I know that’s not what the stats are actually conveying here; but from the way in which this information is being described and presented, that’s what it looks like it’s saying and what follows in the implications arising from it. … That’s what it seems like this model is saying from such a presentation.

However:  You can believe in evolution and even Darwinian Natural Selection without being an enlightened, modern, well-to-do Westerner.

Non-Westerners, and Eastern Europeans, are not backwater yokels. They may or may not believe in evolution, and some of them many actually be religious.  But that does not make them second class human beings.  I’m fairly sure that’s not what’s really being said here through the post and via the original graphic; still that is what’s coming across from reading it.

These kinds of hierarchical scales of ‘betters’ and ‘lessers’ rub me the wrong way a lot of times for the way they can so easily be misconstrued and for fostering bad, ideological ideas in that light.  They may have their merit and contain a great deal of good information regardless; but they also strike me as being a bit ethnocentric if not specifically stipulated to say they are in no way condoning a so-called superiority of the West.

But without actually saying it, there’s no way to tell and this ends up looking like an implicit endorsement of a Western European, ethnocentric and indeed Eurocentric, worldview.

That’s no help at all in discussions like this of evolutionary change and how we approach the idea of it as societies  … just more bad press for evolutionary theory and scholarship.

********************

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/evolution-vs-wealth/

Evolution vs. wealth

From Calamities of Nature comes this unprofessionally drawn but most enlightening graph of the relationship between national wealth (gross domestic product) and belief in evolution, with each dot representing a country (dots from similar regions have the same color).

The points are not all independent, of course, because geographically contiguous countries have similar religions (ergo similar feelings about evolution) and similar degrees of wealth.  Still, it shows what I’ve mentioned several times before: northern Europe has high national wealth and high belief in evolution; eastern Europe has the opposite, even though many of those countries were once Communist, and the poorer you are, the less likely you are to accept evolution.

The positive relationship suggests that countries that are wealthier, and whose inhabitants are doing better, have less impetus to be religious, and hence less need to reject evolution.

Most striking to Americans is our status as an outlier: our acceptance of evolution is much lower than our GDP would indicate. This is probably the result of other factors that make American society, while wealthy, more socially dysfunctional: greater income inquality, lack of social support like national health care, and so on (see Greg Paul’s work on the strong negative relationship between societal “success” and religiosity).

I’m not a sociologist, of course, so my take is at best superficial, but more and more data show that religion takes hold when society fails to fulfill certain fundamental needs of its members, making them  less secure and more likely to grab for the supernatural.  While the U.S. is a wealthy country, it is very low on Greg Paul’s “successful society scale,” and we have inordinately high levels of income inequality, also a sign of social insecurity.

I’m not a Marxist, but data support Karl’s famous statement, ”Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.”

Passing it off on Darwin …

23 Mar

Passing it off on Darwin:  The Republican Budget Plan and the politics of saying something is Socially Darwinist.

********

I’ve been thinking about this piece by Robert Reich, turning it about in my head over and over again.  Good points? … Maybe.  But I keep wondering, is he on target with it?  Is the House GOP’s plan Social Darwinist? … Perhaps it does smack of Herbert Spencer; but on that count, it’s just as correct to say that it’s as characteristic of Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and Friedrich Nietzsche too in its political proportions as it is of the former.  So I’m left to think this is just more political mudslinging in an election year as it is anything else … Just more Democratic Party talking points here in the U.S. pure and simple as it is any honest, fair minded, and right headed assessment of the GOP.

Back to my question, is it Darwinist in a socially-framed context?  I’m not so sure it is.  Do I agree with it?  No.  Do I agree with the tenets of what is called Social Darwinism? Obviously not!  But at the same time, I’m not at all comfortable in putting this on Charles Darwin’s shoulders no matter what we think [or don’t think] of Natural Selection or the science/discourse of Darwinian biology.

To slough this Republican plan off onto Darwinian theory, in the form of so-called Social Darwinism or otherwise, is a maligning of Charles Darwin and the science he stood for.   Like Darwin or not, he doesn’t deserve to be associated with the Republicans in this instance nor with this plan of theirs.

_______________

http://darwiniana.com/2012/03/21/the-republicans-social-darwinist-budget-plan/

03.21.12 – The Republican’s Social-Darwinist Budget Plan – Posted in General at 11:36 am by nemo

The Republican’s Social-Darwinist Budget Plan by Robert Reich

In announcing the Republicans’ new budget and tax plan Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said “We are sharpening the contrast between the path that we’re proposing and the path of debt and decline the president has placed us upon.”  Ryan is right about sharpening the contrast. …  The real contrast is over what the plan does for the rich and what it does to everyone else. This would give the wealthiest Americans an average tax cut of at least $150,000 a year.  The money would come out of programs for the elderly, lower-middle families, and the poor.  So what’s the guiding principle here? Pure Social Darwinism. Reward the rich and cut off the help to anyone who needs it.

Aping Controversy

19 Mar

The Aping of Controversy:  The Non-Issue of Richard Dawkins being an Ape

**********

… What we find is that over these 40-odd years that I and others have been  studying chimpanzees and the other great apes, and, as I say, other mammals with  complex brains and social systems, we have found that after all, there isn’t a  sharp line dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s a very  wuzzy line. It’s getting wuzzier all the time as we find animals doing things  that we, in our arrogance, used to think was just human.

Read more: http://www.sweetspeeches.com/s/612-jane-goodall-what-separates-us-from-the-apes#ixzz1pZrzfcx6

And now a word on the whole “Richard Dawkins is (or isn’t) an ape” fight in the media.  Set aside the whole what it means to “be an ape”/we’re descended from apes discussion; I think the essential lesson from this story is being overlooked.  Whether ‘we are apes’ is really unimportant, whether we’re ‘descended from them’ or ‘from a common ancestor with today’s great apes’ is also of little meaning.  The real question is whether we and apes as conscious creatures have an essential dignity, or can and should we be treated ‘like dirt’?

The creationist argument in some quarters seems to be indicating that people, whether or not they’ve biological roots and are biological creatures, have an inherent spiritual dignity that raises them above the animals, and that therefore animals can be treated like chopped liver to an extent by virtue of not being spiritual.

But notice this: apes to a certain degree mirror many of the same higher characteristics that only humans as rational animals are supposed to possess.  And yet, if we look at the research of Goodall and others in the field, we see it’s not the case that mankind alone exhibits these qualities.  (Apes do too.)

So, it has really little bearing whether we and Dawkins are apes or not.  Either way you look at it, human dignity remains the same.  The only thing that changes is that, if we are apes, then what we thought of as being essentially human features are shared by our primate relatives as well.

Christians should not feel demeaned by us as human beings being apes. They’re creatures of wonder just as we are; and I half expect so is most of the world of mammals … On that count, our being apes doesn’t diminish our human dignity.  Rather it bolsters it in new and exciting ways.

But is it sound science?

15 Mar

Is Anti-Entropic Evolution Sound Science?

________

More material on anti-entropic growth from the LaRouche group’s ‘Basement‘ team.

The question is, is it really sound science?  Does it correctly interpret the data from earth’s evolutionary history? And if it does, then what are the implications we can draw out for today’s world?  My general suspicion is it isn’t.  But where it fails exactly is the question.

I’d hope someone in the field of evolutionary biology might take up this question more specifically, but in case they don’t I’ll just say this from my own lay perspective as a science enthusiast –> is evolution inherently and directly goal-driven to a higher form? … If not … if the evolutionary process is a more complex affair than just a rudimentary ‘ladder to higher lifeforms‘ and species ‘success‘, then this model falls apart.  … On that basis, I’d say this theory is mistaken.  Life’s history can’t so easily be boxed up in and upon the “progress and development” bandwagon.

Am I right here?  … If you agree, or even if you disagree and believe the LaRouche people have gotten their science right in this instance, please share that with me in the comments section below.  I’m not quite sure what to make of their points.

But perhaps by getting a number of people together to review the material, we can better assess their conclusions.

________________________________

http://larouchepac.com/node/21941

Mass Extinctions as Shadows of Anti-Entropic Growth

  1. What are the invariant, qualitative characteristics governing the history of life here on Earth?
  2. What does this history tell us about the universe in which we live?
  3. What lessons must we learn, if our own species is to survive the present threats?

——————————————————————————–

… Over the recent few years our Basement team has taken up these questions, and here I present a short but significant contribution to this ongoing investigation. … Any given stage of an ecological system is inherently bounded, and yet life as a whole has continued to progress beyond such fixed constraints – as if being pulled from somewhere beyond that initial system. (Italicized for emphasis, DNL).  It is this process of advance, as measured in the progression to higher levels of biospheric energy flux density, that defines the character of, and necessity for extinctions, even the very largest of mass extinctions, as we will see …