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Re: [existlist] Not phenomenology (Getting along)

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  • 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 1 of 4 , Apr 1 5:00 PM

      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.


      ----- 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
      > > not be happy, until it has taken a highly complex
      > > 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
      > FYI - Sue McPherson
      > The Sunday Times - Books March 30, 2003
      > Science: How to break Darwinism's vicious
      > Natural selection may be unpleasant, says
      Richard Dawkins, but
      > that doesn't mean humans have to be
      > 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
      > 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
      > 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
      > 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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