Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Another entry in the Public Address Medical Journal

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  • Russell Brown,

    It was The God Delusion, and it was more about how religion makes claims about reality all the time, and we should call it on it. Not quite what you're after.

    As I recall, Dawkins did give non-overlapping magisteria as expressed by Levy a right old kicking in one chapter, so that'll be the one.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    I agree Jack.

    Giovanni was arguing that :

    Since it's statistically better for the individual not to mutate (most mutations are bad for ya), it increases your chances of reproduction. Hence if it was somehow possible for a "stop mutating" mutation to develop, it would give an advantage to the carriers, and soon enough nobody would mutate anymore.

    But, as Kyle so succinctly put it :

    Until their failure to mutate led to them all dying out from their environment changing or something.

    So, the survival of species over long periods of time requires a diverse population, hence the prevalence of sexual reproduction. A "stop mutating" mutation may give a species an advantage for a time, but in the long haul they would die out when they failed to adapt to a changed environment, or competition. Hence, mutations do give advantages to species, albeit not to individuals. Although Natural Selection works on individuals, its success or failure is measured by the long term effect on the group as a whole (see Unit of Selection).

    There is no why to it. It just happens that way. Evolution is a lottery. Some species win, some do not - but buying lots of different tickets increases your chances.

    Cheers,
    Brent.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 620 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    As Douglas Adams said :

    I can imagine Newton sitting down and working out his laws of motion and figuring out the way the Universe works and with him, a cat wandering around. The reason we had no idea how cats worked was because, since Newton, we had proceeded by the very simple principle that essentially, to see how things work, we took them apart. If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have in your hands is a non-working cat. Life is a level of complexity that almost lies outside our vision; is so far beyond anything we have any means of understanding that we just think of it as a different class of object, a different class of matter; 'life', something that had a mysterious essence about it, was god given - and that's the only explanation we had. The bombshell comes in 1859 when Darwin publishes 'On the Origin of Species'. It takes a long time before we really get to grips with this and begin to understand it, because not only does it seem incredible and thoroughly demeaning to us, but it's yet another shock to our system to discover that not only are we not the centre of the Universe and we're not made of anything, but we started out as some kind of slime and got to where we are via being a monkey. It just doesn't read well. But also, we have no opportunity to see this stuff at work. In a sense Darwin was like Newton, in that he was the first person to see underlying principles, that really were not at all obvious, from the everyday world in which he lived. We had to think very hard to understand the nature of what was happening around us and we had no clear, obvious everyday examples of evolution to point to. Even today that persists as a slightly tricky problem if you're trying to persuade somebody who doesn't believe in all this evolution stuff and wants you to show him an example - they are hard to find in terms of everyday observation.

    (I recommend reading the entire speech).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 620 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Hannah,

    The major section of the God Delusion dealing with non overlapping magesteria is titltled NOMA and starts halfway down page 54. If you're curious it's at google books.

    Basic idea is that the magesteria don't overlap cos theology doesn't cover anything at all.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    I tend to view the whole why question under these circumstances as a human conceit .

    We have brains that tend to analyse, seek patterns and look for causality. It seems like a human-centric view of the universe/life/whatever to seek a reason for why we are here, or 'why does evolution occur' and that seems inappriopriate. Looking out to the stars at night I try to accept that we are here, & we are what we are, purely by chance. That of the gazillions of atoms swirling about, some of them have become arranged into us.

    And given the way that our species is treating the planet I see us as a temporary construct only.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Stewart - I'm quite well aware that in the greater scheme of things my existence is effectively meaningless. I came from nothing, and i will return to nothing, and the universe won't even notice.

    But I am human, and therefore find it difficult to look at the world in any other way than through the eyes of a human. Which means that I will take my small (and insignificant and meaningless) pleasures where I can get them. Like thinking about this stuff and asking questions.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    Hey, Rich, my somewhat garbled little post was in no way directed at or against anyone else's post or, indeed, their philosophy.

    You seem to have taken offence, for which I apologise.

    I was just 'setting out my stall' and indicating where my own personal viewpoint sits. I tend to be somewhat saddened by the throngs who think that 'we' are the pinnacle and the objective of evolution and I was explaining that I view my/our existence as a 'happy chance' rather than something pre-ordained by any religious or evolutionary force.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    That's "happy chance" for us individually, but probably more irksome for the planet as a whole.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    And given the way that our species is treating the planet I see us as a temporary construct only.

    Even if we were the best planetary custodians in the universe, there's bugger all we could do if an asteroid hit us, or the sun burned off the atmosphere. Unless we find ourselves another planet to wreck/terraform, we're toast no matter what we do. Given a long enough timeframe, that is. It's like the ad for Survivor - all of the people on this episode will die....eventually.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    You seem to have taken offence, for which I apologise.

    And apologies in return if I came across as a little more testy and blunt than I intended. I took no offence, just clarifying my own position in response.

    I tend to be somewhat saddened by the throngs who think that 'we' are the pinnacle and the objective of evolution and I was explaining that I view my/our existence as a 'happy chance' rather than something pre-ordained by any religious or evolutionary force.

    And I pretty much entirely agree. We're here, and we are what we are. Don't get too hung up on the meaning of existence, just squeeze as much joy out of it while you can.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    That's "happy chance" for us individually, but probably more irksome for the planet as a whole.

    The planet will get on just fine, plus or minus (okay, minus) a few species. Then new life forms will emerge, and evolve, and maybe one of them will become as poisonous for themselves and the others as we are, but perhaps this time they'll manage to develop the Green Party in time.

    We should probably leave a monolith somewhere etched with the Greens charter.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    We should probably leave a monolith somewhere etched with the Greens charter.

    ...and maybe a small apology for the mess?

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Well, no, we created the conditions for this other species to emerge, so no apologies needed. Plus we need all the space we an get on the monolith to explain consensus democracy. We might have to use the B side even (PTO).

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Christ. This is the most depressing thread-page in the history of PAS. :)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Christ. This is the most depressing thread-page in the history of PAS. :)


    Take it away Mr. Diamond.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    Plus we need all the space we an get on the monolith to explain consensus democracy. We might have to use the B side even (PTO).

    In that case the monolith will need to be of a size that it can be seen from the Moon.

    West • Since Feb 2009 • 794 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Here Lies
    Homo Sapiens

    Didn't Wake Up in Time

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    So you're thinking page 19 wasn't depressing enough?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    So you're thinking page 19 wasn't depressing enough?

    Only one thing to do at this point, then.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Not Billie's version! I don't need to press play to hear it...

    I think I'm going to have to take the rest of the day off now to accommodate the pining.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I say we add 'Strange Fruit' to that playlist and ponder humanity's inhumanity to itself, along with our very existence's utter meaninglessness. Rad.

    Possible documentary title: From Eczema to Existentialism: A Day in the Life of PAS

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    I find

    our very existence's utter meaninglessness

    to be really rather liberating and I'm sorry, Danielle, that it depresses you.

    That said, there's plenty of behaviour by other members of our species that depresses me...

    Perhaps we need Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show ? (I'm at work & can't access YouTube, etc)

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    to be really rather liberating

    My husband says that too. Perhaps my ego is so massive that I can't bear to accept that my life has no larger significance. Heh. :)

    You know what also bums me out? Scientists working out (for example) that music is just some weird evolutionary button-pressing, like we're all 'hardwired' (HATE that word) to like it, and it's totally predictable and means nothing. Can a sister keep just a bit of her joy and mystery while listening to an excellent Genius playlist, please? STFU, scientists!

    Thus, my scientific-discovery-meter is firmly calibrated to 'lalalalala I can't hear you' on certain subjects.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    OK then:

    The planet will get on just fine, plus or minus (okay, minus) a few species. Then new life forms will emerge, and evolve, and maybe one of them will become as poisonous for themselves and the others as we are, but perhaps this time they'll manage to develop the Green Party in time.

    Well, recent estimates suggest that the planet's CO2 levels will decrease to the point where photosynthesis is no longer possible within 600 million years, so there might be the chance for another Green Party to emerge. So I guess we should appreciate the one we've already got.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    Existence isn't meaningless. It's just that there's no external source of meaning. Things only have meaning and force insofar as we give it to them. So go on, make your life meaningful.

    (I know this sounds like annoying hippy drivel, but I do actually believe this.)

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

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