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Re: [existlist] Not phenomenology (Getting along)

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  • Sue McPherson
    eduard, Following is your response to the extract I sent from Richard Dawkin s book. Are you being serious? Do you expect a response to that? Sue McPherson
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 1, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      eduard,

      Following is your response to the extract I sent from Richard Dawkin's book.
      Are you being serious? Do you expect a response to that?

      Sue McPherson


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "yeoman" <yeoman@...>
      To: <existlist@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 11:43 AM
      Subject: Re: [existlist] book - Darwin's Vicious Circle/Devil's Chaplain


      > Sue,
      >
      > The human brain is always looking for a pattern. It will
      > not be happy, until it has taken a highly complex process
      > like evolution and covers it with a single phrase, like
      > "natural selection" or whatever.
      >
      >
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: "Sue McPherson" <sue@...>
      > To: <existlist@yahoogroups.com>;
      > <philosophyfaith@yahoogroups.com>
      > Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 2:20 AM
      > Subject: [existlist] book - Darwin's Vicious Circle/Devil's


      FYI - Sue McPherson

      The Sunday Times - Books March 30, 2003
      Science: How to break Darwinism's vicious circle
      Natural selection may be unpleasant, says Richard Dawkins, but
      that doesn't mean humans have to be

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2102-623827,00.html

      Darwin was less than half joking when he coined the phrase
      Devil's Chaplain in a letter to his friend Hooker in 1856: "What a book a
      Devil's Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and
      horridly cruel works of nature."
      A process of trial and error, completely unplanned and on
      the massive scale of natural selection, is likely to be clumsy, wasteful and
      blundering. Of waste there is no doubt. The racing elegance of cheetahs and
      gazelles is bought at huge cost in blood and the suffering of countless
      antecedents on both sides.
      Clumsy and blundering though the process undoubtedly is,
      its results are opposite. There is nothing clumsy about a swallow; nothing
      blundering about a shark. What is clumsy and blundering, by the standards of
      human drawing boards, is the Darwinian algorithm that led to their
      evolution. As for cruelty, here is Darwin again, in a letter to Asa Gray of
      1860: "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would
      have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of
      their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars."
      Ichneumon wasps sting their prey not to kill but to
      paralyse, so their larvae can feed on fresh (live) meat. As Darwin clearly
      understood, blindness to suffering is an inherent consequence of natural
      selection. Nature is neither kind nor cruel, but indifferent. Such kindness
      as may appear emerges from the same imperative as the cruelty. Bernard Shaw
      was driven to embrace a confused idea of Lamarckian evolution (evolution
      guided by organisms striving for what they need) purely because of Darwinism
      's moral implications: "When its whole significance dawns on you, your heart
      sinks into a heap of sand within you. There is a hideous fatalism about it,
      a ghastly and damnable reduction of beauty and intelligence, of strength and
      purpose, of honour and aspiration."
      His Devil's Disciple was an altogether jollier rogue than
      Darwin's Chaplain. Shaw didn't think of himself as religious, but he had
      that childlike inability to distinguish what is true from what we would like
      to be true.
      An opposite response to the callousness of natural
      selection is to exult in it, along with the Social Darwinists and -
      astonishingly - HG Wells. The New Republic (1902), where Wells outlines his
      Darwinian Utopia, contains some blood-chilling lines that might have made
      Hitler himself blench. Wells's colleague Julian Huxley downplayed, in
      effect, the pessimism of the Devil's Chaplain as he tried to build an
      ethical system on what he saw as evolution's progressive aspects. His essay
      on Progress, Biological and Other reads almost like a call to arms under
      evolution's banner.
      I prefer to stand up with Julian's refreshingly
      belligerent grandfather TH Huxley, agree that natural selection is the
      dominant force in biological evolution unlike Shaw, admit its unpleasantness
      unlike Julian, and, unlike Wells, fight against it as a human being. Here is
      TH in 1893 on Evolution and Ethics: "Let us understand, once for all, that
      the ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic
      process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it."
      Like TH Huxley, I hear the bleak sermon of the Devil's
      Chaplain as a call to arms. As an academic scientist I am a passionate
      Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving
      force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the
      illusion of purpose that so strikes all who contem-plate nature. But at the
      same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate
      anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human
      affairs.
      If you seem to smell inconsistency or even contradiction,
      you are mistaken. There is no inconsistency in favouring Darwinism as an
      academic scientist while opposing it as a human being, any more than there
      is inconsistency in explaining cancer as an academic doctor while fighting
      it as a practising one. For good Darwinian reasons, evolution gave us a
      brain whose size increased to the point where it became capable of
      understanding its own provenance, of deploring the moral implications and of
      fighting against them. Every time we use contraception, we demonstrate that
      brains can thwart Darwinian designs. If, as my wife suggests to me, selfish
      genes are Frankensteins and all life their monster, it is only we that can
      complete the fable by turning against our creators.
      For our species, with its unique gift of foresight -
      product of the simulated virtual reality we call the human imagination - can
      plan the very opposite of waste with, if we get it right, a minimum of
      clumsy blunders. It is as though the Chaplain matured and offered a second
      half to the sermon. Yes, says the matured Chaplain, the historic process
      that caused you to exist is wasteful, cruel and low. But exult in your
      existence, because that very process has blundered unwittingly on its own
      negation. Only a small, local negation, to be sure: only one species, and
      only a minority of the members of that species; but there lies hope.
      So, the Devil's Chaplain might conclude, Stand tall,
      Bipedal Ape. The shark may outswim you, the cheetah outrun you, the swift
      outfly you, the capuchin outclimb you, the elephant outpower you, the
      redwood outlast you. But you have the biggest gifts of all: the gift of
      understanding the ruthlessly cruel process that gave us all existence; the
      gift of revulsion against its implications; the gift of foresight -
      something utterly foreign to the blundering short-term ways of natural
      selection - and the gift of internalising the cosmos.
      We are blessed with brains that, if educated and allowed
      free rein, are capable of modelling the universe, with its physical laws in
      which the Darwinian algorithm is embedded. There is more than just grandeur
      in the Darwinian view of life, bleak and cold though it can seem from under
      the security blanket of ignorance. There is deep refreshment to be had from
      standing up full-face into the keen wind of understanding.

      © Richard Dawkins This is an edited extract from the title
      essay of his book, A Devil's Chaplain, published by Weidenfeld

      Richard Dawkins will be reading from and discussing A
      Devil's Chaplain at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival on Sunday,
      April 6 at 12pm. To book, telephone 01865 305305;
      www.sundaytimes-oxfordliteraryfestival.co.uk
    • yeoman
      Sue, Of course I expect a response. What do you find difficult with it?? Afterall it is accurate as to how the brain seeks out patterns. eduard ... From:
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 1, 2003
      • 0 Attachment
        Sue,

        Of course I expect a response. What do you find difficult
        with it?? Afterall it is accurate as to how the brain seeks
        out patterns.

        eduard

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Sue McPherson" <sue@...>
        To: <existlist@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 7:47 PM
        Subject: Re: [existlist] Not phenomenology (Getting along)


        > eduard,
        >
        > Following is your response to the extract I sent from
        Richard Dawkin's book.
        > Are you being serious? Do you expect a response to that?
        >
        > Sue McPherson
        >
        >
        > ----- Original Message -----
        > From: "yeoman" <yeoman@...>
        > To: <existlist@yahoogroups.com>
        > Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 11:43 AM
        > Subject: Re: [existlist] book - Darwin's Vicious
        Circle/Devil's Chaplain
        >
        >
        > > Sue,
        > >
        > > The human brain is always looking for a pattern. It
        will
        > > not be happy, until it has taken a highly complex
        process
        > > like evolution and covers it with a single phrase, like
        > > "natural selection" or whatever.
        > >
        > >
        > > ----- Original Message -----
        > > From: "Sue McPherson" <sue@...>
        > > To: <existlist@yahoogroups.com>;
        > > <philosophyfaith@yahoogroups.com>
        > > Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 2:20 AM
        > > Subject: [existlist] book - Darwin's Vicious
        Circle/Devil's
        >
        >
        > FYI - Sue McPherson
        >
        > The Sunday Times - Books March 30, 2003
        > Science: How to break Darwinism's vicious
        circle
        > Natural selection may be unpleasant, says
        Richard Dawkins, but
        > that doesn't mean humans have to be
        >
        >
        http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2102-623827,00.html
        >
        > Darwin was less than half joking when he
        coined the phrase
        > Devil's Chaplain in a letter to his friend Hooker in 1856:
        "What a book a
        > Devil's Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful,
        blundering low and
        > horridly cruel works of nature."
        > A process of trial and error, completely
        unplanned and on
        > the massive scale of natural selection, is likely to be
        clumsy, wasteful and
        > blundering. Of waste there is no doubt. The racing
        elegance of cheetahs and
        > gazelles is bought at huge cost in blood and the suffering
        of countless
        > antecedents on both sides.
        > Clumsy and blundering though the process
        undoubtedly is,
        > its results are opposite. There is nothing clumsy about a
        swallow; nothing
        > blundering about a shark. What is clumsy and blundering,
        by the standards of
        > human drawing boards, is the Darwinian algorithm that led
        to their
        > evolution. As for cruelty, here is Darwin again, in a
        letter to Asa Gray of
        > 1860: "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and
        omnipotent God would
        > have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express
        intention of
        > their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars."
        > Ichneumon wasps sting their prey not to
        kill but to
        > paralyse, so their larvae can feed on fresh (live) meat.
        As Darwin clearly
        > understood, blindness to suffering is an inherent
        consequence of natural
        > selection. Nature is neither kind nor cruel, but
        indifferent. Such kindness
        > as may appear emerges from the same imperative as the
        cruelty. Bernard Shaw
        > was driven to embrace a confused idea of Lamarckian
        evolution (evolution
        > guided by organisms striving for what they need) purely
        because of Darwinism
        > 's moral implications: "When its whole significance dawns
        on you, your heart
        > sinks into a heap of sand within you. There is a hideous
        fatalism about it,
        > a ghastly and damnable reduction of beauty and
        intelligence, of strength and
        > purpose, of honour and aspiration."
        > His Devil's Disciple was an altogether
        jollier rogue than
        > Darwin's Chaplain. Shaw didn't think of himself as
        religious, but he had
        > that childlike inability to distinguish what is true from
        what we would like
        > to be true.
        > An opposite response to the callousness
        of natural
        > selection is to exult in it, along with the Social
        Darwinists and -
        > astonishingly - HG Wells. The New Republic (1902), where
        Wells outlines his
        > Darwinian Utopia, contains some blood-chilling lines that
        might have made
        > Hitler himself blench. Wells's colleague Julian Huxley
        downplayed, in
        > effect, the pessimism of the Devil's Chaplain as he tried
        to build an
        > ethical system on what he saw as evolution's progressive
        aspects. His essay
        > on Progress, Biological and Other reads almost like a call
        to arms under
        > evolution's banner.
        > I prefer to stand up with Julian's
        refreshingly
        > belligerent grandfather TH Huxley, agree that natural
        selection is the
        > dominant force in biological evolution unlike Shaw, admit
        its unpleasantness
        > unlike Julian, and, unlike Wells, fight against it as a
        human being. Here is
        > TH in 1893 on Evolution and Ethics: "Let us understand,
        once for all, that
        > the ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating
        the cosmic
        > process, still less in running away from it, but in
        combating it."
        > Like TH Huxley, I hear the bleak sermon
        of the Devil's
        > Chaplain as a call to arms. As an academic scientist I am
        a passionate
        > Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the
        only driving
        > force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable
        of producing the
        > illusion of purpose that so strikes all who contem-plate
        nature. But at the
        > same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a
        passionate
        > anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should
        conduct our human
        > affairs.
        > If you seem to smell inconsistency or
        even contradiction,
        > you are mistaken. There is no inconsistency in favouring
        Darwinism as an
        > academic scientist while opposing it as a human being, any
        more than there
        > is inconsistency in explaining cancer as an academic
        doctor while fighting
        > it as a practising one. For good Darwinian reasons,
        evolution gave us a
        > brain whose size increased to the point where it became
        capable of
        > understanding its own provenance, of deploring the moral
        implications and of
        > fighting against them. Every time we use contraception, we
        demonstrate that
        > brains can thwart Darwinian designs. If, as my wife
        suggests to me, selfish
        > genes are Frankensteins and all life their monster, it is
        only we that can
        > complete the fable by turning against our creators.
        > For our species, with its unique gift of
        foresight -
        > product of the simulated virtual reality we call the human
        imagination - can
        > plan the very opposite of waste with, if we get it right,
        a minimum of
        > clumsy blunders. It is as though the Chaplain matured and
        offered a second
        > half to the sermon. Yes, says the matured Chaplain, the
        historic process
        > that caused you to exist is wasteful, cruel and low. But
        exult in your
        > existence, because that very process has blundered
        unwittingly on its own
        > negation. Only a small, local negation, to be sure: only
        one species, and
        > only a minority of the members of that species; but there
        lies hope.
        > So, the Devil's Chaplain might conclude,
        Stand tall,
        > Bipedal Ape. The shark may outswim you, the cheetah outrun
        you, the swift
        > outfly you, the capuchin outclimb you, the elephant
        outpower you, the
        > redwood outlast you. But you have the biggest gifts of
        all: the gift of
        > understanding the ruthlessly cruel process that gave us
        all existence; the
        > gift of revulsion against its implications; the gift of
        foresight -
        > something utterly foreign to the blundering short-term
        ways of natural
        > selection - and the gift of internalising the cosmos.
        > We are blessed with brains that, if
        educated and allowed
        > free rein, are capable of modelling the universe, with its
        physical laws in
        > which the Darwinian algorithm is embedded. There is more
        than just grandeur
        > in the Darwinian view of life, bleak and cold though it
        can seem from under
        > the security blanket of ignorance. There is deep
        refreshment to be had from
        > standing up full-face into the keen wind of understanding.
        >
        > © Richard Dawkins This is an edited
        extract from the title
        > essay of his book, A Devil's Chaplain, published by
        Weidenfeld
        >
        > Richard Dawkins will be reading from and
        discussing A
        > Devil's Chaplain at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary
        Festival on Sunday,
        > April 6 at 12pm. To book, telephone 01865 305305;
        > www.sundaytimes-oxfordliteraryfestival.co.uk
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
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