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Unread September 11th, 2006, 10:44 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 174
Post Re: Ann Coulter & Wm. Provine: Evolution's Odd Couple

Re: Darwinism vs. alternatives

My goal is to see the best scientific explanations, including natural selection, applied fairly to natural phenomena, and moral reasoning given its proper naturalistic foundation based on the facts of how human beings think and decide.

The arguments over whether Darwinism is immoral or equivalent to atheism quickly seem boring and pointless to me. Any concrete analysis of specific data made into an ethereal abstract and then marketed as a basis for grand answers is going to be very attractive to at least some people and then eventually become problematic as it becomes a "religion," whether it is a naturalistic religion like Marxism or one with a heaven and hell like Christianity.

It seems to me that the metaphysical plausibility argument is essentially whether nature itself is smart enough to produce and promote clever novelties, or whether it needs help from a dedicated research, design, and marketing team. Darwin's insight was the counter-intuitive idea that the R&D and marketing could be part of nature itself. My guess is that he was right. Being essentially correct unfortunately doesn't prevent the idea from being misused.

I don't think that is a mistake, nor do I think that Darwinism in its technical aspects is in any way misconceived. I do think it is almost trivially easy to misapply it as a "force" in areas where it is more important to understand the details than to simply say that the "fittest" survived.

My feeling is that meaning comes from within nature as well: our widespread convention linking meaningfulness and good human judgment to ethereal abstracts outside of nature are probably harmful in the long run because they don't reflect the biological reality of how our brain works. Biologically, our moral reasoning is probably more like growing a limb than learning a new skill. The intuitions and emotional decisions we use to judge right and wrong and determine what is sacred are pretty deeply wired into us during development. Then we associate them with our religious beliefs, but our moral sense runs much deeper than those ideas and their putative authority. Still, I don't see any easy way to abandon this widespread consensus mistake and still accomplish what people assume our religions do for us right now socially and politically.

I do think we Darwinists often get so irritated at the anti-Darwinian movement that we go overboard defending natural selection itself, and make it seem more all-powerful than we should. We sometimes set it up as an alternative to religion, and that's not good. It is just a starting place for naturalistic thinking, a powerful idea that makes it possible to postulate and test natural explanations for evolutionary change as we come up with models for filling in the details for explaining specific kinds of biological features.
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