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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Not a good start

After reading Tom Wolfe's unstinting praise of EO Wilson, I decided I need to read the man's work. Who could fail to be interested after this sort of billing?

He could be stuck anywhere on God’s green earth and he would always be the smartest person in his class. That remained true after he graduated with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in biology from the University of Alabama and became a doctoral candidate and then a teacher of biology at Harvard for the next half century. He remained the best in his class every inch of the way. Seething Harvard savant after seething Harvard savant, including one Nobel laureate, has seen his reputation eclipsed by this terribly reserved, terribly polite Alabamian, Edward O. Wilson.

Fantastic. But as I am insufficiently learned to read his scientific work critically, I elected to begin with his philosophical work, specifically, The Meaning of Human Existence. And I was unexpectedly disappointed on only the second page. To say that it does not begin well for a man of supposedly superlative intelligence would be an understatement.
In ordinary usage the word “meaning” implies intention, intention implies design, and design implies a designer. Any entity, any process, or definition of any word itself is put into play as a result of an intended consequence in the mind of the designer. This is the heart of the philosophical worldview of organized religions, and in particular their creation stories. Humanity, it assumes, exists for a purpose. Individuals have a purpose in being on Earth. Both humanity and individuals have meaning.

There is a second, broader way the word “meaning” is used and a very different worldview implied. It is that the accidents of history, not the intentions of a designer, are the source of meaning. There is no advance design, but instead overlapping networks of physical cause and effect. The unfolding of history is obedient only to the general laws of the Universe. Each event is random yet alters the probability of later events. During organic evolution, for example, the origin of one adaptation by natural selection makes the origin of certain other adaptations more likely. This concept of meaning, insofar as it illuminates humanity and the rest of life, is the worldview of science.
What? All right, hold on just one sociobiologically-constructed minute. No one, literally no one, ever uses the word "meaning" that way. Even less so can this usage be excused in the case of an author who is writing in the intrinsically philosophical context of attempting to explain the significance of Man's existence. Let's reference the dictionary.

MEANING, noun
  1. what is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated; signification; import
  2. the end, purpose, or significance of something
Hmmm. He has at least a superficial excuse. It appears that Wilson is playing a little fast-and-loose with the definition of "meaning" here. He is clearly using it in the sense of "what actually is". That is (unexpectedly) fair enough, except for the fact that by selecting that specific meaning of the word,(1) he reduces both his statement and the thesis of his book to basic tautologies.

Consider the title: The Meaning of Human Existence. Now let's incorporate this second, broader way the word meaning is used, according to Wilson: The Actual Is of Human Existence. What, one wonders, can we derive from Wilson's bold statement that humans actually exist? Are we to assume it is a catalog of facts about humanity rather than a statement about the significance of humanity's existence? It's more akin to a bad comedy routine than a genuine philosophical statement.

"What do you mean by that?"
"What it is. What it actually is."
"I know what you said. But what do you mean?"
"What I said. What else could I mean?"
"Don't you mean what else could I actually is?"
"Don't you?"

In fact, I even suspect Wilson of cherry-picking this definition in order to beg the question he appears to be feigning to propose given the fact that it does not appear in other dictionaries, such as the Oxford online dictionary.

MEANING, noun
  1. What is meant by a word, text, concept, or action.
  2. Implied or explicit significance.
  3. Important or worthwhile quality; purpose.
But the definition provided is even worse than the self-parody it appears to be. Remember, Wilson didn't directly state that meaning is that which actually is, he declared the second way the word is used to be is that the accidents of history "are the source of meaning". So, he's actually using the word meaning in his own definition of the word meaning. This is either intellectual incompetence or intellectual shadiness, and while I cannot say which is the case yet, I am now on high alert to the probability of either... or both.

Given this shaky - or shady - foundation, I do not have very high hopes for the philosophy that Mr. Wilson has constructed upon it. I completely understand why some find my intellectual arrogance to be unseemly and offputting, but honestly, can you not in turn understand how I come by it, given how often this sort of thing happens?


(1) One can legitimately groan at that one. It does nicely underline my point, though.

Labels: , ,

120 Comments:

Blogger pyrrhus November 25, 2017 12:39 PM  

E.O. Wilson is more of a midwit than a genius, though he has shown integrity and dedication that is rare in Academia. Hence Stephen Jay Gould's attacks on him in the Harvard faculty, which failed.

Anonymous Man of the Atom November 25, 2017 12:42 PM  

Sounds like Dr Wilson should stick to ants rather than Philosophy of Science and Metaphysics. He is only a stamp collector, after all.

Blogger exfarmkid November 25, 2017 12:54 PM  

"specific meaning of the word"

"Get thee to a punnery!" Alan Alda

Blogger OGRE November 25, 2017 12:55 PM  

I was already actually groaning just from reading his second paragraph. He needed no aid from you to purpose such a result.

Blogger Rosabie November 25, 2017 12:59 PM  

Every time, and I mean every single time I read Materialists trying to do philosophy, they pull this same type of sleight of hand.
And when you call them on it, they double down, and then start calling you names.

Anonymous Just another commenter November 25, 2017 1:00 PM  

Sometimes when I try to read an "intelectual-ish" book, I wind up looping back, paragraph upon page, trying to figure out what they are trying to say. It's just not clicking. The book has rave reviews and I know I'm not a dunce, but... This might be why - it's really word salad, and I'm smart enough to realize it's "off" and not put the pieces togother because they don't fit, but not just smart enough to put my finger on what exactly is wrong with it. It may be that I don't know enough about the subject to catch their errors or lies, or it may be like this sort of word game when I'm not expecting it to be played straight.

Blogger Mountain Man November 25, 2017 1:01 PM  

I'm very familiar with EO Wilson. He's considered the founding fathers of conservation biology. CO is nothing but a blunt hammer for controlling the human population under the velvet guise of " sound science". Its basic premises is that in order to prevent the collapse of fully intact natural ecosystems we must preserve large core groups of land, not as islands, but as interconnected and seamless...crossing states, regions and even entire continents. the premise is that only by doing this can our currently at risk flora and fauna truly be protected. Well having spent my entire career as a forest land manager, I think he's full of crap. Conservation Biology is the underlying foundation that gives Agenda 21 its " scientific" credibility. The massive federal land grabs here in the States is nothing but the implementation of the theory of conservation biology. Wilson is nothing short of " watermelon marxist"...a major architect of the "science" used to implement totalitarianism and destruction of private property rights.

Blogger Dave November 25, 2017 1:02 PM  

But as I am insufficiently learned to read his scientific work critically

Puhlease, we know better. I mean, it's biology, and sociobiology, and biodiversity, and island biogeography, and blah, blah, blah

Blogger VD November 25, 2017 1:08 PM  

Looks like we may have enough material for TIA 2....

Blogger Howard Stone November 25, 2017 1:10 PM  

More Super-Myth. Those paragraphs r as almost like a passage from a religious text. He is writing his own gospel where God has been replaced with an assumption. In the beginning was an assumption, etc.

Blogger Johnny November 25, 2017 1:25 PM  


Just taking that snippit of writing that you present, my way of thinking about it is to focus on its apparent purpose. What argument is he trying to sell? The apparent purpose is to suppose that events commonly supposed to be chance event by most people as there is no ultimate or divine purpose, non the less do ultimately have meaning. As giving a meaning to life is one of the reasons people buy into religion, most commonly this would be part of an overall text that argues against religion as necessary for their to be a meaning to life, and thus an argument against religious belief.

While I don't belief giving meaning to life as we humans choose to frame it is proof of a God, only proof of a collective opinion should we hold it. But on the other side, if there is no God, than all that is left is Darwin and survival of the fittest.

The logic of this stuff gets real thin when they try to sell a moral code that is more than just survival.

Blogger Howard Stone November 25, 2017 1:26 PM  

Now Jordan Peterson has written some really interesting Super-Myth, he rigorously engages with Christianity in a very honest and creative way, and I don’t think that this Wilson guy is in the same league as Peterson, though to be fair they come from different disciplines, but still, Peterson has been accused of wrong think and therefore he will not be given proper credit by the establishment academia. And that’s really how it goes, the so called intellectuals who get exposure really aren’t the best and the brightest.

Anonymous BanjoStrap November 25, 2017 1:30 PM  

"It is that the accidents of history, not the intentions of a designer, are the source of meaning."

But if it has a meaning it didn't happen by accident, that's why they're called accidents and not purposes.

Blogger Howard Stone November 25, 2017 1:36 PM  

Well that’s another thing, I mean a guy like Ravi Zachariah would tear that argument to shreds just by simply pointing out the obvious flaw in his logic; So either way according to his own flawed logic, whether you assume a there is a creator and a purpose, or assume there is not one, you are still operating ultimately from an assumption, but Wilson is so blind to his own arrogance to realize his own ignorance. It’s just as much of an assumption to say that there is no creator and therefor no purpose as it is to say there is a creator and therefore purpose.

Blogger Johnny November 25, 2017 1:37 PM  

@7 I'm very familiar with EO Wilson. He's considered the founding fathers of conservation biology. CO is nothing but a blunt hammer for controlling the human population under the velvet guise of " sound science"

I take it as a given that reasons are justifications, what you say to get your way. As as what they want is control over social policy I take it as a given that control is what they are after. (Just restating your argument in a more general form.)

Blogger IM2L844 November 25, 2017 1:44 PM  

Jordan Peterson is not a materialist. I've noticed him trending toward the metaphysical. I think he's just not finished thinking about it yet. He'll come around.

@5 Rosabie:

Since we know materialists have no qualms about stretching the envelope with fantastical explanations that suit their worldview, the only thing I can figure is that, however virtuous they might be in their everyday endeavors, they are fundamentally dishonest, if only with themselves, when it comes to admitting the intrinsic reasonableness of a God/Creator explanation for our experiential observations.

Blogger Howard Stone November 25, 2017 1:44 PM  

Well you know, when people start advocating for more strict land use laws it’s people like Wilson who will be touted as experts. When someone has an agenda, a motive, you can’t expect honesty.

Anonymous TS November 25, 2017 1:46 PM  

"So, he's actually using the word meaning in his own definition of the word meaning."

So Wilson is using the word "meaning" in a recursive sense?

Blogger Arthur Isaac November 25, 2017 1:50 PM  

Is this midwittery or a place on the spergotron scale? It reads to me like further evidence of Vox's autist hypothesis.

Anonymous Looking Glass November 25, 2017 1:57 PM  

@19 Arthur Isaac

It's normally arrogance. Good or even great scientists spend years focusing on being very good at a hyper-technical skill that doesn't translate anywhere else. However, they are "intelligent" and it has a bad tendency to remove the way they would operate within their own field.

Or, a Ph.D is a legal right to be an idiot in court. Take your pick.

Blogger Lazarus November 25, 2017 2:04 PM  

The Meaning that can be meant is not The Meaning
- Lazarus-tse

Blogger Solaire Of Astora November 25, 2017 2:08 PM  

Sounds like he wants science to supplant religion but realizes people want meaning and is making a rationalization for why science can solve that problem too. He's not being particularly original in that. It might not be intentional so much as he may have ignored any niggling doubts in the back of his mind. Just the sense I get from the excerpt.

Anonymous TS November 25, 2017 2:12 PM  

Definitional recursion

Blogger Mocheirge November 25, 2017 2:15 PM  

((lambda (event) ((lambda (meaning) (give accident meaning)) event)) everything)

It's not really recursive, but it does make meaning meaningless by assigning meaning to everything. Superstition gone wild.

Blogger Howard Stone November 25, 2017 2:18 PM  

And speaking of assumptions, most people reading this sort of thing automatically assume the sincerity of the author, and that would be a mistake of course. Wilson for instance, does have sinister motives I believe, and it should be concerning when someone like him begins to play with the meaning of the word meaning given that he seems to be an eco warrior who, and I’m assuming, advocates for some form of population control (Inwonder what his views are on the current immigration crisis in Europe) will he ever tell?

But as a theists we believe that God created all life and gave life meaning, and that he deserves to be the one decides the span of our lives. To God every life is sacred. Take God out of the equation, then who gets to decided what meaning or worth a life has and whether it is worthy to continue toward its natural end. Who decides these things and one what basis or criteria do they decided. If my life no longer meets the man made criteria for having meaning do I have to die?

In Genesis people are commanded to go forth and multiply, we are given possession of the earth, all the plants animals and resources; these things exist for us.

But according to thinkers like Wilson this is not so, to thinkers like Wilson we are a sort of pest that are engaged in and infestation and ruining the earth. Therefore, he would call for, in his word salad intellectual style, a sort of pest control. Well, I have a message for Wilson to quote Kent Hovind, if you are calling for a reduced population, “You first!”

Blogger Reno Chris November 25, 2017 2:30 PM  

Even the very wise can be wrong about some things. After all, it takes a VIQ individual to fool a VIQ individual - even if the person he is fooling is himself.
It is a standard rhetorical trick of the left to change the meaning of words to make their arguments. If one feels free to assign what ever definitions one likes to a word, communication is damaged. It can be part of why it makes it hard for others even of high IQ to understand, because the mutually accepted meanings of words are what makes communication possible.

Anonymous europeasant November 25, 2017 2:33 PM  

I actually have his book "Sociobiology". I skimmed thru some chapters but concentrated on the chapter about humans. I can see why he got into trouble with the Lewontins and Goulds of the academic world.
We cannot have people going around claiming that "Free Will" is what guides us. In Soviet Russia they would have sent him to the re-education Gulags.

Anonymous Eduardo November 25, 2017 2:35 PM  

@9

Vox, we have material for TIA X: Now in Space!

If you collected all the angry emails from years ago... It would be a great comedy book XD.

Blogger Cloom Glue November 25, 2017 2:38 PM  

It helped me to realize "what actually is" from the dictionary, is from my simplification of the entire first dictionary sentence, to this:

"what actually is expressed". ie. "meaning"


I enjoyed the comments and I enjoyed VD spending time to untangle a knot.

A dictionary could became a cargo cult if put into the wrong hands.

Blogger pyrrhus November 25, 2017 2:48 PM  

Greg Cochran regards Wilson as strictly a mediocrity, at best..But what people need to understand is that a mediocrity with integrity is a rare jewel in modern academia...I agree that most of Wilson's work looks either obvious or probably wrong, however.

Blogger Koanic November 25, 2017 2:57 PM  

The mark of a true philosopher is to render the word meaning meaningless.

Blogger Matt Davis November 25, 2017 3:01 PM  

"What do you mean by that?"
"What it is. What it actually is."
"I know what you said. But what do you mean?"
"What I said. What else could I mean?"
"Don't you mean what else could I actually is?"
"Don't you?"

Heh, thanks for the chuckle.

Blogger Howard Stone November 25, 2017 3:13 PM  

What you mean what do I mean?!

Blogger Metric November 25, 2017 3:15 PM  

I don't see the problem. I take the second quoted paragraph to imply that "meaning" is ascribed to events on which much is contingent. I'm reminded of a Gary Larson cartoon with the caption "great moments in evolution" -- it was funny because of this intuitive type of meaning. I know nothing about E.O. Wilson, or how the rest of the book is, but I wouldn't gripe about this particular use of the word.

Anonymous Simon in London November 25, 2017 3:19 PM  

"as I am insufficiently learned to read his scientific work critically"

It's usually possible for an intelligent layman to read popular science works and tell if the author is bullshitting or not. Usually they obfuscate rather than tell direct lies. Although the Marxists pretty much lie.

Anonymous Stickwick November 25, 2017 3:21 PM  

The unfolding of history is obedient only to the general laws of the Universe. Each event is random yet alters the probability of later events.

In other words, it's all still going decidedly in a certain direction, as determined by the coding of the universe. How does this not imply design?

Looks like I need to add Wilson to my Biggest Dinks of Modern Philosophy list.

I'm finally getting around to reading modern philosophers, and I'm less than impressed. Most of modern philosophy seems to boil down to finding clever excuses to evade the two most obvious but uncomfortable conclusions of genuine thought, that either Christianity is true and we have some tough decisions or it's all pointless and who gives a crap.

For instance, we are admonished by Camus that though life is meaningless, we are to make our own meaning in the world -- as long as it's not Christianity or nihilism (the two things that make the most sense), and as long as it's within some arbitrarily narrow yet Christian-esque confines.

If these dinks had any intellectual integrity, every one of them would be God-believers or nihilists.

Anonymous Mr. Rational November 25, 2017 3:21 PM  

Consider the title: The Meaning of Human Existence. Now let's incorporate this second, broader way the word meaning is used, according to Wilson: The Actual Is of Human Existence.
(hoping this will actually post, damn Google...) You're playing semantic games here by deliberately selecting a nonsensical phrase, Vox.  "The Significance of Human Existence" makes perfect sense, and yes, random events in human history are perfectly understandable in that context.

This is another example of your need to have a First Cause for everything.  It's just a more advanced version of the animism of savages.  You can't not see intent and agency in everything because it makes you insecure, and like the left's search for racism in society what you need to find will be found... somehow.

E.O. Wilson is one of the greatest minds of our age, and you reduce yourself to paraphrasing his book title in a silly fashion.  Talk about ankle-biting.

Anonymous fop November 25, 2017 3:22 PM  

'Your life is a purposeless accident, a deterministic blob of mediocrity in a vast, pitiless universe.

But wait... YOU HAVE MEANING!'

Fuck off Wilson, you pathetic cringing sophist.

Anonymous Mr. Rational November 25, 2017 3:25 PM  

Moderators:  please check the spam queue, Google is being particularly persnickety today.

Anonymous JAG November 25, 2017 3:28 PM  

Once I said to a scarecrow, “You must be tired of standing in this lonely field.”

And he said, “The joy of scaring is a deep and lasting one, and I never tire of it.”

Said I, after a minute of thought, “It is true; for I too have known that joy.”

Said he, “Only those who are stuffed with straw can know it.”

Then I left him, not knowing whether he had complimented or belittled me.

A year passed, during which the scarecrow turned philosopher.

And when I passed by him again I saw two crows building a nest under his hat.


Kahlil Gibran

This poem comes to mind whenever I read newly minted philosophers such as Wilson.

Blogger #6277 Hammer November 25, 2017 3:46 PM  

VD- "Looks like we may have enough material for TIA 2...."
Yes please, TIA was the first book of yours that I have read, would love to read a TIA2

Anonymous Mr. Rational November 25, 2017 3:49 PM  

@13 Now you're tautologizing.  An accident can have significant consequences even if there was no intent involved.  Your thinking is how accidents lead to witch burnings in Africa.

Blogger Thursday November 25, 2017 4:06 PM  

First, most famous scientists, despite their intellectual gifts, are truly terrible philosophers, and they tend to be arrogant enough not to know what they don't know.

Secondly, people like Wilson and Dawkins are essentially gifted popularizers. Nothing wrong with that, but the real intellectual work in their area was done by people like Hamilton, Williams and Trivers. Tom Wolfe apparently doesn't realize that the people who are the public face of these ideas are not the people who came up with them.

Blogger Thursday November 25, 2017 4:10 PM  

Wilson on biology: populizer in an area he actually knows something about.

Wilson on philosophy: populizer in an area he knows know nothing about.

Anonymous b November 25, 2017 4:43 PM  

The commencement of wisdom is the fear of Yehoweh, And a knowledge of the Holy Ones is understanding.

Blogger Paul, Dammit! November 25, 2017 4:49 PM  

I've crossed paths with Dr. Wilson a few times. As an undergrad, I published a paper on the integration of sensory input and odor tracking behavioral output in lobsters that he gave me some serious flak for... because he hated my department head and that I used empirical data based on my department head's prior work.

So, my second ever publication, and I got bullied by the most famous evolutionary biologist of our time. That sucked, but I held my ground.
Three months later, I was at the Harvard Club having lunch with Dr. Wilson and my aunt's boyfriend, who was an optical physicist and chair of physics at Tufts at the time, as well as David Mountain, who was running the autonomous robotics lab at MIT. To say I was out of my league was an understatement. I was very much an experiment in my department, to make a marine scientist out of a local lobsterman.
The only things the pointy heads at the table could agree on was that they all couldn't stand Stephen Hawking (cheated on his lovely wife and belittled anyone he worked with), that Larry Summers (president of Harvard at the time) was a prig and a socialist pussy, and that NASA was not worth working for anymore.
The only thing I learned was that the Real Housewives on TV have nothing on a passel of spoon-fed Ivory Tower scientists. After lunch, my aunt's boyfriend (who invented the digital camera and designed the Hubble telescope (and never forgave whoever changed the design to save money and screwed it up)), said to me that the best job he ever had was painting houses as an undergrad, because the illiterate monoglot immigrants he worked with were much better human beings than his peers.
Wilson started to go off track in his book 'Consilience," which is where he started to converge population dynamics and the evolution of social dynamics. It's a brilliant work, but starts to make some tenuous connections based on a 'best fit' basis... and which may be right, but trend towards subjective explanation.
After that, he's just spreading out the dimensions of his lawn, and screaming at anyone who wanders on it.

Anonymous Sidehill Dodger November 25, 2017 4:56 PM  

"In ordinary usage the word “meaning” implies intention, intention implies design, and design implies a designer."

This is the kind of thing you get when a specialist--who may be outstanding in his field--attempts philosophy. Typically, he will have no idea that the study of Philosophy is itself a demanding specialization, and that his ideas have been ground to bits and digested by generations of previous philosophers.

What's interesting is that Wilson begins his statement with an appeal to the "ordinary usage" of the word. As an Ordinary Language Philosopher (probably the last one left alive) I do believe that all philosophy should begin by explaining its terms in ordinary language. That is, when a philosopher starts a work, he ought to ask how the words that are central to his endeavor are actually used by speakers of the language in common discourse. He may then explain in what sense he is using the word, and we will have that most rare of experiences--actually understanding what a philopher has said.

As Vox noted, Wilson failed to think very much--if at all--about how people use the word "meaning", and proceeds to blithely substitute his own meaning for "meaning"--a meaning that is weird, hair-brained, and easily seen as unintelligible by the ordinary language test.

Blogger spacehabitats November 25, 2017 4:58 PM  

"Sociobiologists believe that human behavior, as well as nonhuman animal behavior, can be partly explained as the outcome of natural selection. They contend that in order to fully understand behavior, it must be analyzed in terms of evolutionary considerations." SJW's hate sociobiology. It is intellectual kryptonite to the tabula rasa theory of human behavior. I graduated from college with a B.A. in biology in 1973 believing all of the basic premises of sociobiology even though I had never heard the term or been taught that human behavior was shaped by genetic selection. When E.O. Wilson "popularized" sociobiology in 1974 I was frankly surprised that it had not been widely known or accepted before that. It just seemed an inevitable conclusion based on the mechanism of natural selection. There was an almost immediate backlash, however, especially among the cultural Marxists. I still have a copy of "Biology as a Social Weapon" (1970) in which the leftist academics attacked sociobiology because it predicted innate behavioral differences between human sexes and among human racial groups. Heresy!

E.O. Wilson became a pariah and was only able to rehabilitate his reputation by coming up with some ridiculous rationalizations to explain why the politically correct myths were still "scientific". I feel sorry for him. Is it any wonder that his "philosophy" is shaky? His science wasn't.

OpenID markstoval November 25, 2017 5:03 PM  

“There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”

― George Orwell

I think we should all realize that modern "intellectuals" are not really the sharpest knives in the drawer. They only think they are.

Blogger Doom November 25, 2017 5:04 PM  

I'm not in shape to dig extremely deeply, or even put solid rigor into a wind-up and release. I can give some things a look, especially at what I perceive as a request, more so from some even if not really... included. I, in this rare one, only with what is presented here and how it is offered, do not agree with your take. I see you as being too literest. Further, as often as you develop your own terminology I don't get what you don't grok. From my understanding, ignoring a dictionary, I fully understood his notion. I see literal, virtual, and comedic notes in his bit. I didn't want to, either. I generally despise academics. I don't want to like them or their works (sic).

Sorry, Charley, either way I call it as I see it. I get the butthurt notion. And really hate when my crew, especially those barely tolerated, don't back my call. I've raged from such. Still, it is how I see it.

Blogger tuberman November 25, 2017 5:15 PM  

spacehabitats wrote:"Sociobiologists believe that human behavior, as well as nonhuman animal behavior, can be partly explained as the outcome of natural selection. They contend that in order to fully understand behavior, it must be analyzed in terms of evolutionary considerations." SJW's hate sociobiology. It is intellectual kryptonite to the tabula rasa theory of human behavior. I graduated from college with a B.A. in biology in 1973 believing all of the basic premises of sociobiology even though I had never heard the term or been taught that human behavior was shaped by genetic selection. When E.O. Wilson "popularized" sociobiology in 1974 I was frankly surprised that it had not been widely known or accepted before that. It just seemed an inevitable conclusion based on the mechanism of natural selection. There was an almost immediate backlash, however, especially among the cultural Marxists. I still have a copy of "Biology as a Social Weapon" (1970) in which the leftist academics attacked sociobiology because it predicted innate behavioral differences between human sexes and among human racial groups. Heresy!

E.O. Wilson became a pariah and was only able to rehabilitate his reputation by coming up with some ridiculous rationalizations to explain why the politically correct myths were still "scientific". I feel sorry for him. Is it any wonder that his "philosophy" is shaky? His science wasn't.


Whatever, Darwinism and Neo-Darwin Natural selection for humans does not work, too many conflicts within the explained evolution of Humans. Also, other animals, the fossil records just cannot find any in between or progressive change states. There are just huge jumps, that cannot be explained time and time again.

I'm not going against genetics here, as obviously there are differences as defined by genetics and gender. Natural Selection as in Darwin or Neo-Darwin accidental mutations are the problem

Anonymous Sidehill Dodger November 25, 2017 5:20 PM  

Reno Chris wrote:It is a standard rhetorical trick of the left to change the meaning of words to make their arguments. If one feels free to assign what ever definitions one likes to a word, communication is damaged. It can be part of why it makes it hard for others even of high IQ to understand, because the mutually accepted meanings of words are what makes communication possible.

I call this the "changeling maneuver" (note that I do not call it an "argument"). The writer selects a very special meaning for his words, and then it becomes impossible to argue with him because his arguments may well be valid. (Valid in the structural sense; a valid argument is an argument whose conclusions must be true if its premises are true.) The problem, of course, is that in such a case the premises are neither true nor false, but meaningless. Meaningless terms are often used to trick naive thinkers.

I don't think this is a case of impaired communication; it's an attempt at polemic. It's a dishonest trick.

Blogger SciVo November 25, 2017 5:20 PM  

Huh. All this time, I figured that the disproportionate praise lavished on him was because he was an early figure in systems science, but now I wonder if it's just because atheists are desperate for heroes.

Blogger tuberman November 25, 2017 5:22 PM  

Reading Wilson's view on "Meaning," I would suggest that he is doing a sort of academic "virtue-signaling," as in he is trying to save his status in that community, and he could care less about any truth. This is a careerist goobly-gook. He may have other secret feelings about this, or he just does not care at all, but he is CYA, and the "Truth" is not important to him.

Blogger tuberman November 25, 2017 5:25 PM  

52. SD

"I don't think this is a case of impaired communication; it's an attempt at polemic. It's a dishonest trick."

A couple of top Physics people I have read call this, "Playing False," and it is a specific kind of dishonesty.

Anonymous Mr. Rational November 25, 2017 5:26 PM  

spacehabitats wrote:"Sociobiologists believe that human behavior, as well as nonhuman animal behavior, can be partly explained as the outcome of natural selection. They contend that in order to fully understand behavior, it must be analyzed in terms of evolutionary considerations." SJW's hate sociobiology. It is intellectual kryptonite to the tabula rasa theory of human behavior.
Which is why I can't understand the antipathy of the actual Right to evolution.  Calling out the left on their insistence that evolution stopped at the neck and quoting actual scientific papers on recent evolutionary changes in human populations is major REEEE material for the left and red-pill for normies, but it largely gets ignored.

Or maybe that's too highbrow for most normies, who are rhetorical thinkers.

NB:  Thanks for the rescue, mods.

Anonymous Mr. Rational November 25, 2017 5:29 PM  

<sigh> Mods, rescue services needed again.

Blogger VD November 25, 2017 5:33 PM  

I suggest you stop quoting, Mr. Rational. It appears Blogger is dinging you because you quoted too many spammed comments.

Blogger VD November 25, 2017 5:35 PM  

Which is why I can't understand the antipathy of the actual Right to evolution.

Because most of it obviously is not true. And it DEFINITELY has not been proven the way the science fetishists claim it has. As I've demonstrated in the past, they can't even answer simple, basic questions that logic dictates MUST be answerable within a certain range IF their contentions are true.

Blogger kh123 November 25, 2017 5:40 PM  

@31 "The mark of a true philosopher is to render the word meaning meaningless."

EO certainly wins a cigar for his "What is the definition of 'is'" efforts.

EO: "It is that the accidents of history, not the intentions of a designer, are the source of meaning."

Can we learn from events? Sure. This somehow is conflated with "There is no Creator."

Ah, wait: Flightless birds and beetles. Fortuitous "accidents" happen. Because we are the arbiters of deciding which result is accidental or unintentional with the machinery of nature. "It's not operating at optimum! Quick, throw God out of the drafting room."

Even if you can see that birds and beetles once had these features and lost them, just assuming there is no teleology still requires an assumption that we know what the optimum or a God-created state of perfection would be. Even assuming "desirable" on a purely naturalistic level is... assuming. And since we don't see what we can imagine or think should be.... Poof. He's gone.

Rather than accepting the possibility that maybe it's never a binary situation. Aprevistan, as Vox has coined and described before.

If evolutionists were a bit more honest - starting with St. Charles - they'd just come right out and say "People live and die horribly from things far beyond their control; therefore it's likely there is no purpose or God." I.e., that it's anecdotal (but deeply personal) experiences of theirs that drive their world view. At least that would resonate a bit more with folks on a rhetorical or ground level, and would be directly observational on the researcher's part, rather than getting lost in pseudo-dialectic weeds tracking and interpreting minute changes in long dead taxa, and then extrapolating the grandest of schemes.

But I guess the latter, as Mountain Man pointed out, is how folks justify the meaning of their aims and departments. The grinding of the millstones have a life all of their own once they get going.

And maybe that's why EO sees meaning arising from a seemingly conflicting, senseless, overly-complex and ill-planned environment. He's a creature of academia.



Anonymous Sidehill Dodger November 25, 2017 5:50 PM  

VD wrote:Which is why I can't understand the antipathy of the actual Right to evolution.

Because most of it obviously is not true. And it DEFINITELY has not been proven the way the science fetishists claim it has. As I've demonstrated in the past, they can't even answer simple, basic questions that logic dictates MUST be answerable within a certain range IF their contentions are true.


But...but...the science is settled!

As a Christian, I usually don't argue with evolutionists; I take the minimalist approach: if something like you say happened, then these events were a consequence of God's will. If you assert that "evolution" occurred as a result of mechanist, materialist causes, then this is a consequence of your lack of belief in God. Your picture of the universe fails to include God. However, you can believe in evolution and the Christian God at the same time. You just have to accept God as the ultimate cause of all things.

Anonymous Sidehill Dodger November 25, 2017 5:57 PM  

tuberman wrote:A couple of top Physics people I have read call this, "Playing False," and it is a specific kind of dishonesty.
I like "changeling" because it calls forth an apt image: elves stealing babies from their cribs in the middle of the night, and substituting their inhuman spawn for the baby.

Blogger MendoScot November 25, 2017 6:04 PM  

Evolution is still a case of butterfly collecting looking for it's physics. The problem is that every time someone points out that physics, chemistry and even biology is inconsistent with the theory, they have hysterics and call down the scinquisition on their critics.

I think it will take Kuhn's rotting corpse murdering them all before we see Evolution 3.0.

Anonymous Killua November 25, 2017 6:40 PM  

There are just huge jumps, that cannot be explained time and time again.

Yeah.

Some smart evolutionist like Stephen Jay Gould actually ackowledge this, and thats why you get theories like "Punctuated Equilibrium".

And that is without talking about things like abiogenesis (a self replicating molecule arising randomly out of amoniacids), which is statistically impossible.

Blogger Howard Stone November 25, 2017 6:53 PM  

I wasn’t familiar with Wilson before today, and to be honest, I’m disappointed if not surprised. It’s getting predictable and boring because as ground breaking, intellectual or whatever these figures are said to be, they always seem to be promoting Globalism in the end, and their big ideas grand schemes always seem involve millions of people dying. Well in the case of Wilson’s Half Earth model, billions of people would be displaced or liquidated.

Blogger pyrrhus November 25, 2017 7:30 PM  

While I enjoy some of Tom Wolfe's work, and he has certainly been prescient about cultural trends, I'm not aware that he knows much about science....This tends to confirm that.

Blogger pyrrhus November 25, 2017 7:32 PM  

@64 Yes, jumps like the long necked giraffe. Evolution from the short necked version would have required thousands of mutations, some of them simultaneously. That appears to be impossible within a time frame of 12 million years or so...

Anonymous Magna Carta November 25, 2017 7:43 PM  

Meaning: What you intend to design.
Intention: What you design to mean.
Design: What you mean to intend.

Socrates: “To be is to do”.
Jean-Paul Sartre: “To do is to be”.
Frank Sinatra: “Do be do be do”.

Anonymous Magna Carta November 25, 2017 7:57 PM  

My favorite line from E.O. Wilson is when he called Richard Dawkins a just journalist and trashed his book, The Selfish Gene.
https://youtu.be/oqb-zRCFLbU?t=1m19s

Wilson teaches group selection rather than individual selection. Hmmm, may be the Evolutionary basis of identity politics?

Anonymous Ryan G November 25, 2017 8:13 PM  

It puzzles me how otherwise intelligent people cannot seem to see the blatant contradiction between making philosophical assertions while simultaneously denying the existence of their basis. If someone believes we are nothing more than matter in motion, why should I listen to anything they have to say (or buy any their books)?

As for evolution, the thing that made me a skeptic was one simple question: under what conditions is evolution falsifiable? At first I thought the question was silly; it was like asking what conditions the theory of universal gravitation was falsifiable. Then I realized that all you had to do in that case was demonstrate that an object could have a non-zero mass and not possess a gravitational field. So, then I tried to do that with evolution. The closest I could come was what Darwin himself posited: find an organism, or feature of an organism, that could not possibly have evolved by chance. But then I realized that that reasoning was circular and thus wasn't sound at all. Then I noticed that every single solid scientific theory, like gravity, was very narrow in scope and had precise metrics that could be tested. Evolution, on the other hand, explains *everything* : if an organism is big, it's because of evolution. If it's small, it's evolution. Species are constantly evolving except for all the ones that don't. Evolution is directionless and random except for all times where creatures from disparate taxa all develop the same features via "convergent evolution". Evolution removes features that no longer serve a purpose for an animal except for vestigial organs. The list goes on for miles.

Anonymous E Deploribus Unum November 25, 2017 8:19 PM  

This. https://philosophynow.org/issues/88/The_Meaning_of_Meaning

Blogger Groggy November 25, 2017 8:22 PM  

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Anonymous Rocklea November 25, 2017 8:43 PM  

Brawndo philosophy
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-Vw2CrY9Igs

Blogger Snidely Whiplash November 25, 2017 9:03 PM  

Mr Irrational said:
You're playing semantic games here by deliberately selecting a nonsensical phrase, Vox. "The Significance of Human Existence" makes perfect sense, and yes, random events in human history are perfectly understandable in that context.

Speaking of semantic games,sliding effortlessly between two meanings of the word 'significance' Mr Irrational commits the exact same sin as Wilson.

Yes, random physical events can be "significant", in the sense of having a large effect on oeople's lives, or subsequent events, or even just being large. That is not the same as being "significant" in the sense of carrying meaning or signifiers, of themselves.

And earthquake can be significant because it kills thousands, or because it's a message from an angry deity.

These are NOT the same thing.

In other words, he's stupid or lying. I don't think he's stupid.

As someone said above, every single time Materialists address Philosophy, they play this exact Sophistic word game and think they're clever enough to fool Theists.

Blogger dienw November 25, 2017 9:43 PM  

The unfolding of history is obedient only to the general laws of the Universe.

EO Wilson places the first definition meaning within the laws of the Universe and uses the second meaning for human existence; yet the meaning of the laws of the Universe has no impact upon the accidental is of human existence. Why is he capitalizing universe; is it to somehow deify the universe as one deifies capital N nature; what will be this new Gaia, Super Gaia?

Wilson term laws of the Universe is vague and therefore meaningless unless the next step is to declare that the laws of the universe are what is after an infinite series if accidents; yet, this leaves open the thought that it only requires one major accident to change the laws of the Universe.

What is obvious is that Wilson having denied God exists follows upon that with the belief that human existence has no real meaning; having said that, he cannot state that the universe has any real meaning: Wilson acquired a reprobate mind as St Paul declared all do who deny God.

Blogger James November 25, 2017 9:48 PM  

Have you noticed that there are so few "intellectuals" that are actually intelligent? An intellectual is, according to the definition, a person possessing a highly developed intellect. And I believe when they first started to categorize people as "intellectuals" they did so because they demonstrated high levels of intelligence, either in word or deeds. But, the modern "intellectuals" are invariably "academics", not "intellectuals". "Intellectual" has become a title, like Doctor of Philosophy. The sources that pass out such accolades give them to those that toe the party narrative. Old school intellectuals were both well-versed in logic and capable of applying it to their reasoning. Today's "intellectuals" are mental masturbationists that have developed some facility in parsing words, deconstructing reality, and lying with no shame. They may be articulate and have highly developed verbal skills, but they do not use these skills for anything besides muddying the waters.

I do acknowledge that there are always those so brilliant that they are head and shoulders above the "intellectual" posers. They speak the truth and do so clearly enough that you do not have to have a high IQ to understand them. However, they are not the ones the media trots out when they need an "expert" to explain things, like why it is preferable to allow unlimited immigration of non-Whites into the West. Academia has become poisoned and those within it can no longer be trusted to serve as spokesmen that can be trusted. Usually the "experts" trotted out are either from the Humanities or the Social Sciences (which aren't sciences). These are the areas where the most indoctrination occurs and those that graduate in these fields learned to parrot what their teachers taught them (for the test, natch), not how to think.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine November 25, 2017 9:54 PM  

Demeaning.

He's saying that the meaning is whatever he says it is, only more abstractly and with more words.

I can smell the Atheism from here.

Blogger tuberman November 25, 2017 10:14 PM  

The question is not, "How can you believe?" The question should be, "With any depth, in any way, how can you not know?"

Because we have no strength, and no depth, we must have faith. Just my view.

Blogger kurt9 November 25, 2017 10:16 PM  

Gregory Cochran has no regard for EO Wilsom. Among other things, EO Wilson is enumerate. Worse, EO Wilson recently claimed that mathematics capability was not necessary to be a great scientist. This, of course, flies in the face of those of us who believe that the reality test of good science is useful engineering.

Your guy's mileage may differ on this.

Anonymous Mr. Rational November 25, 2017 10:20 PM  

MendoScot wrote:The problem is that every time someone points out that physics, chemistry and even biology is inconsistent with the theory
The problem is that the people claiming this have no idea what they're talking about.  It's as silly as making a bad substitution from the dictionary and claiming the whole body of work is nonsense.

Killua wrote:that is without talking about things like abiogenesis (a self replicating molecule arising randomly out of amoniacids), which is statistically impossible.
Case in point.  People who can't calculate large numbers and don't understand the 2LOT particularly.

Ryan G wrote:If someone believes we are nothing more than matter in motion, why should I listen to anything they have to say
Because their insights on evolution both of biological and sociological systems are ammo for YOUR side.

under what conditions is evolution falsifiable?
Find ONE rabbit fossil in a Cambrian sediment.

Widely Headgash wrote:random physical events can be "significant", in the sense of having a large effect on oeople's lives, or subsequent events, or even just being large. That is not the same as being "significant" in the sense of carrying meaning or signifiers, of themselves.
Seems that ONE random failure of chromosome 21 to partition properly has had a highly significant effect on your life.

Something similar happened in the history of human development.  Two chromosomes which are separate in great apes fused to form human chromosome 2; it has 2 centrioles, telomere sequences in the center and the arrangement of genes matches the corresponding parts of the ape genome.

How does this make humans different from our great-ape relatives?  AFAIK nobody knows yet, but if you deny that it means anything you'll never be able to learn.

every single time Materialists address Philosophy, they play this exact Sophistic word game and think they're clever enough to fool Theists.
... says the guy who plays the fallacy of ambiguity with the word "life".

Blogger Snidely Whiplash November 25, 2017 10:42 PM  

Mr. Rational wrote:Seems that ONE random failure of chromosome 21 to partition properly has had a highly significant effect on your life.

Again, the definitional bait and switch. Can you not stop yourself? Define your use of the word "significant", and immediately anyone will see that the word does not carry the significance you want us to assign to it. It does not signify.

Perhaps you really are too dumb to see the discontinuity. More likely, the question of meaning hits too close to home and you can't bear to look at it. I'll lay it down. Nothing in a Materialist universe can be significant, in the sense Wilson is trying to claim, because it cannot carry meaning. Meaning carries with it the intent to transfer ideas or information, and there can be no intent to convey information in a random event. This is the sort of meaning that humans instinctively seek, the one you and Wilson want us to assign to random physical events.

And frankly, the reference to my daughter's Downs was both a cheap shot and a complete misreading of my personality. It only makes me, and any normal human, despise you the more, and does not begin to cover your semantic dodge.

You're abysmally ignorant, incapable of even seeing the important questions of life, let alone trying to work them out. Instead of using your reason, you pose as a paragon of rationality, on the basis of conclusions you emoted yourself into decades ago.

To the extent that you are even capable of reason, you refuse to use it.

Blogger tuberman November 25, 2017 11:10 PM  

SW,

"Perhaps you really are too dumb to see the discontinuity. More likely, the question of meaning hits too close to home and you can't bear to look at it. I'll lay it down. Nothing in a Materialist universe can be significant, in the sense Wilson is trying to claim, because it cannot carry meaning. Meaning carries with it the intent to transfer ideas or information, and there can be no intent to convey information in a random event. This is the sort of meaning that humans instinctively seek, the one you and Wilson want us to assign to random physical events."



Excellent.

Anonymous Scott November 25, 2017 11:16 PM  

Mr. Rational:
"Something similar happened in the history of human development. Two chromosomes which are separate in great apes fused to form human chromosome 2; it has 2 centrioles, telomere sequences in the center and the arrangement of genes matches the corresponding parts of the ape genome."

This is false. The supposed site is on the DDX11L2 gene. The similarity to Apes is 800 base pairs. When they sequenced 614,000 base pairs around the alleged fusion site, none of the 613,200 base pairs were found in either 2A or 2B.

Blogger Howard Stone November 25, 2017 11:27 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous Killua November 25, 2017 11:28 PM  

"under what conditions is evolution falsifiable?"

Find ONE rabbit fossil in a Cambrian sediment.


They would just redefine "rabbit" or "Cambrian" in order to make the theory fit the facts.

Blogger tuberman November 26, 2017 12:01 AM  

This new revelation of evil by Globalists, and Globalist Leaders in particular will stress our meaning structures.

Now that the globe is so close, how will the nuances be developed between Good and Evil? Christian biblical standards will the only way short term. Yet, that's the exact reason why VD's demographics wars is likely to happen, as most so-called Christians (the Churchians), will have to be forced into Identity beliefs for multiple reasons. If they simply understood the differences between low-trust and high-trust societies or had some way to think accurately about what this means in terms of pathologically altruistic with people who look at you as prey, the problems could be dealt with short of all out war.

The full revelation of how some can be so "other' and with a sense of superiority be cruel, and revel in their evil cruelty, especially to the totally innocent children, will wake a few people up in a whole different way.

There is no redemption for people like the Podesta's or Hillary or many of the other top people in this Cabal. There is not one chance in a thousand or more of them even seeing that they did anything wrong. They are self-serving and that is their law.

Altruism is great among other people who are also mainly altruistic, but intelligence requires one to be aware of even subtle predators, using mental and monitory trickery, instead of physical violence.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash November 26, 2017 12:13 AM  

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Blogger Snidely Whiplash November 26, 2017 12:26 AM  

Killua wrote:They would just redefine "rabbit" or "Cambrian" in order to make the theory fit the facts.

c.f. Clovis culture

Blogger wreckage November 26, 2017 12:33 AM  

@25 there is a pretty decent argument that current materialist formulations must either accept that there is no such thing as Mind in any way shape or form, or accept pan-mentalism. Edward Feser addresses this in some detail.

Blogger wreckage November 26, 2017 12:46 AM  

Let's put it this way: as soon as you apply any form of abstract meaning whatsoever to a material event - any at all, even in retrospect - you've let teleology in and before you know it Edward Feser is on your couch banging your wife. Without contraception, because he's Catholic.

Blogger Nate73 November 26, 2017 1:03 AM  

Scientists tend to say the goofiest things when they talk about philosophy.

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit November 26, 2017 1:56 AM  

I completely understand why some find my intellectual arrogance to be unseemly and offputting, but honestly, can you not in turn understand how I come by it, given how often this sort of thing happens?

Hubris.

It is because overweening intellect is not wisdom, so that even the brilliant linguist imagines he is an economist or the brilliant biologist imagines that he is a philosopher.

You have an advantage over both men I'm referencing, because you have the fear of the Lord. It does not make you immune to hubris however, which is where the unseemliness comes in.

Blogger Freddy November 26, 2017 2:00 AM  

Nate won't even help this fellow Alabamian out this nonsensical Ivy League dogma. Young, starry-eyed future Fortune 500 students politely clapping, heads bobbing up and down to his lectures. And then those sadomasochistic Greek Life oath-taking rituals of Kappa Beta Phi, couldn't resist the big Raves at the VanCouver pig farm hosted by mass serial killer Robert Picton in which women were put into wood chippers before the drugged and drunk revelers. At this point many wanted to leave but it was too late, many politicians were in the audience as well, besides, Hell's Angels ran security and your car was a 10 mile shuttle ride away. The audience contained the future DC swamp, always plenty from Georgetown. Collectively trapped and witness to gruesome murders. What a bad trip. It gets worse. They were all videotaped with facial recognition software implicating every future blackmailed swamp dweller.

It appears Trump's Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross was blackmailed into working for Serco (formerly RCA GB 1929),an investment banker at NM Rothschild, and the pay-to-play recoded deaths were gamed on at a disposable war room on the 47th floor of WTC1 so St. Regis (Starwood) guests could track Serco shareholders including agents for the Teachers pension fund (TIAA) and Saudi Arabia gov't, with Demon face-recognition software and ensure theirsilence or consent to "the first live-broadcast mass snuff film in human history" on 9/11.

Wilbur Ross? What do they have on Trump?

It's diabolical but makes sense. Infiltate the Greek Life Society fraternities, blackmail them and ensure they're swamp pawns.

abledanger.org

Blogger Arthur Isaac November 26, 2017 2:31 AM  

"Meaning" bothers atheists. It would bother me. I recall one in something I read going on and on about "proximal meaning" as the idea of ultimate meaning is defeated by the limited nature of our existence. The question they resolutely refuse to face is what is proximal meaning without ultimate meaning? I stand at the proximal end of my life's meaning while an all devouring monster waits to consume all that I ever will be at the ultimate end of everything. If there is no meaning, then there is noe meaning. Then what?

Blogger Groggy November 26, 2017 2:42 AM  

Vox I think there is an error above.

Hmmm. He has at least a superficial excuse. It appears that Wilson is playing a little fast-and-loose with the definition of "meaning" here. He is clearly using it in the sense of "what actually is".

Vox, carefully parsing the dictionary definitions above which you provided, "what actually is" is not a valid definition to extract.

what is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated; signification; import

It does NOT say that meaning can be "what actually is".

It says that meaning can be:

* what is intended to be expressed or indicated

or,

* what actually is expressed or indicated

Blogger kh123 November 26, 2017 2:54 AM  

Forget rabbits hanging out with trilobites on the bottom of the ocean, let's get humans and dinos together.

All we need is a kilted Scotsman on the green and we can deny that he exists as well.

Blogger tublecane November 26, 2017 2:54 AM  

@1-There's a fascinating book on the "sociobiology wars," or whatever you fancy it, called Defenders of the Truth. I end up hating all the principle characters, including Wilson and Gould. At some point it's like watching a debate between neocon interventions and progressive globalist interventionists. They're both wrong.

But Gould is definitely more wrong. I want to like sociobiology, because I'm fascinated by evolutionary theory and Darwin and Malthus, and even the dull period between Darwin and the birth of neo-Darwinism when they got hold of genes. Very much into HBD as well. Evolution must be at work on the social level, and there simply must be such a thing as social Darwinism (I won't capitalize "social" because that phrase has been corrupted beyond repair.)

But there's something about writers like Wilson and Dawkins. As of they're always talking in metaphors. And it's all just-so stories or idle abstract deduction. Which leads them to believe ridiculous things, like the idea that no one's actually *really* altruistic, despite the fact that some obviously act as if they are. On subjects like explaining away homosexuality or suicide, they're no more scientific than you or me, even with "inclusive fitness" and the like.

I've only read Wilson's On Human Nature, which is a short book. I couldn't be bothered to finish.

Blogger Groggy November 26, 2017 2:54 AM  

(Note the position of the semi-colons which appear to be used to separate the alternatives, and there is no semi-colon after 'actually is'.)

Blogger Groggy November 26, 2017 3:14 AM  

Mr Rational:

You're playing semantic games here by deliberately selecting a nonsensical phrase, Vox. "The Significance of Human Existence" makes perfect sense, and yes, random events in human history are perfectly understandable in that context.

Wrong.

Online Oxford dictionary:


significant
ADJECTIVE
1) Sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention; noteworthy.
2) Having a particular meaning; indicative of something.


Wilson did not use the word 'significant' he used to the word 'meaning' therefore this rules out 1) and locks in 2).

Random events are not meaningful.

Blogger kh123 November 26, 2017 3:16 AM  

@70 "Under what conditions is evolution falsifiable?... Evolution is directionless and random except for all times where creatures from disparate taxa all develop the same features via "convergent evolution"."

Spot on, and this cannot be stated enough.

I enjoyed looking up Cladistics in Wikipedia and seeing: "Although traditionally such cladograms were generated largely on the basis of morphological characters and originally calculated by hand, genetic sequencing data and computational phylogenetics are now commonly used in phylogenetic analyses, and the parsimony criterion has been abandoned by many phylogeneticists in favor of more "sophisticated" but less parsimonious evolutionary models of character state transformation. Cladists contend that these models are unjustified."

Followed by a [Why?] in the reference notes.

If the real world is rarely binary, evolutionists have made sure to construct a gordian knot of an hypothesis that will keep the millstones running til the grant system runs dry. The point of the journey is not to arrive, so it would seem.

Blogger Groggy November 26, 2017 3:22 AM  

random
ADJECTIVE
Made, done, or happening without method or conscious decision.

Blogger tublecane November 26, 2017 3:32 AM  

@47-I noticed a few years back the I Effing Love Science crowd of popularizers were writing books redefining nothingness. Probably because they realized "ex nihilo nihil fit" is a palpable hit, and the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" cannot go unanswered.

I don't remember if these authors were specialists out of their element, but they certainly played the redefinition game. The big one was to treat apparently empty space and Nothingness as equivalent, then demonstrating that there are more things in empty space than we thought. Uh, nothing is nothing; it's not empty space.

One guy proposed a scale of nothingness, with absolute nothing on one end and--I don't know--removing one object from a room on the other. As you take away more and more things you get closer and closer to nothingness. Or something. I don't remember clearly. But it was sophistry.

One book played in the meanings of nothingness, nothing, and no-thing, like a punster. It was embarrassing.

Blogger Groggy November 26, 2017 3:33 AM  

Perhaps events can be random at one level of analysis and not at another.

For example if somebody falls asleep in their and it rolls down a hill, the motion of the vehicle could be said to be 'random' because there is no conscious decision behind what is happening. (According to above defition).

However the motion of the vehicle could also be said to be non-random in that it is following Newton's laws of motion.

The concept of randomness is a tricky one. Just because something is predictable does not mean there is conscious decision behind it, and just because something is unpredictable does not mean that it is random, unless consciousness can be ruled out. For example a madman might be very unpredictable (the Las Vegas shooter for example) yet there is conscious decision behind it.

Blogger kh123 November 26, 2017 3:35 AM  

@97 "I want to like sociobiology, because I'm fascinated by evolutionary theory and Darwin and Malthus, and even the dull period between Darwin and the birth of neo-Darwinism when they got hold of genes. Very much into HBD as well. Evolution must be at work on the social level, and there simply must be such a thing as social Darwinism."

Likely goes for most everyone here as well. It (evolution) of some sort happens, it's just to what level that has been in debate ever since Darwin essentially took Blythe's (and several others') work, and I think oversold it as a creative powerhouse, rather than as the (more likely conservative) economy of nature. Which is probably what gives rise to the likes of folks like Gould or Dawkins: Instead of reading Aesop Tales out of nature, we're getting Fat City BS.

Though at least, Dawkins at one point weakly recognized the dysgenic nature of Sweden's favorite house guests.

Anonymous Benjamin November 26, 2017 3:35 AM  

It is instructive that you DO NOT apply your fancy term, "midwit" to your one-sided interlocutors.

Wolfe is a better writer than you.

Wilson and Wolfe are greater Intellects than you.

Blogger Groggy November 26, 2017 3:58 AM  

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Blogger Snidely Whiplash November 26, 2017 4:15 AM  

Benjamin wrote:Wilson and Wolfe are greater Intellects than you.


Assertion contrary to evidence.
Wolfe thinks Wilson is an incomparable genius. Wilson is literally incompetent at the one thing a great intellect should be able to do, reason.
Wilson is a unliterate goob, and Wolfe is his herald.

Blogger Groggy November 26, 2017 4:38 AM  

Wilson is a unliterate goob, and Wolfe is his herald.

There is no Goob but Wilson, and Wolfe is his messenger!

Blogger Azure Amaranthine November 26, 2017 5:29 AM  

"They would just redefine "rabbit" or "Cambrian" in order to make the theory fit the facts."

Indeed. Exactly this sort of thing is happening almost constantly.

"let's get humans and dinos together."

Last I checked, they were trying to claim that some sort of saurian had convergently evolved to have perfectly human-shaped footprints. Next they heavily implied that the footprints must have all been fabricated, as an excuse for how obviously BS that idea was.

"It does not make you immune to hubris however, which is where the unseemliness comes in."

Frankly hubris and vainglory are those points at which someone's self-opinion or posturing do not match reality. I've been around people that I instinctively thought were braggarts before (very few though admittedly) who could actually deliver in full on their claims... and did. I can't call that hubris, because it matches reality, and really, I don't have the slightest problem with that.

It's the overstep that will bite you in the posterior.

Blogger Lazarus November 26, 2017 5:54 AM  

Nate73 wrote:Scientists tend to say the goofiest things when they talk about philosophy.

“I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.”

---Richard Feynman

Blogger wreckage November 26, 2017 9:01 AM  

@105 and they both inadvertently admit teleology in nature, as does Mr Rational's "Random is meaningful except not, but it is, but it isn't, but it is. So really, it is."

And as soon as you do that, you get cuckolded by Edward Feser, Thomas Aquinas, and Aristotle. Simultaneously.

Blogger Stan Erickson November 26, 2017 2:24 PM  

Some of these posts are quite difficult for a new reader to understand. I was curious about the purpose of this post. Why point out someone's error unless it is important for some more general process? The world is full of errors of all kinds.

Blogger IreneAthena November 26, 2017 4:27 PM  

Mr. Rational. I have something to say to you about your remarks to Vox Day @37, and Mr. S. Whiplash (aka Headgash) @80 about his little maid who was born with an affliction. (And maybe I will vouchsafe you some advice about getting your cat to stop walking on the keyboard –apparently that feline typed (randomly, the way the Universe came together in your sadly impoverished worldview) some cruel nonsense about apes, and it may have escaped your notice???)

Mr. Rational wrote:
This is another example of your need to have a First Cause for everything...You can't not see intent and agency in everything because it makes you insecure...


Random events (be they the genes a child ends up
Mr. Rational wrote:Widely Headgash wrote:random physical events can be "significant", in the sense of having a large effect on oeople's lives, or subsequent events, or even just being large. That is not the same as being "significant" in the sense of carrying meaning or signifiers, of themselves.

Seems that ONE random failure of chromosome 21 to partition properly has had a highly significant effect on your life… [ape remark omitted…because…cat]



God is much more than a First Cause. He continues to create, he acts in real-time, here and now as well, reacting to the choices people with free will have made, and working around the havoc the Evil One wreaks in nature.

So a little girl is born with a disease. Mr. and Mrs.Whiplash haven’t wasted much time (I hope) wondering if God was the Cause of that disease, and if so, why did he cause it? If they are like other people of faith who rise to the occasion when life presents a challenge, they look to God to overlay the difficult circumstance with meaning. Every new day and every challenge hey face helping that little girl is an opportunity to see God at work in and among the people they count on for support. God works ALL things for good.

It was the same situation with Viktor Frankl who developed and tested, during his imprisonment in a concentration camp during World War II, the concepts described in his Man’s Search for Meaning. What did God mean by all the suffering God caused? That’s the wrong question. The right question is how is God going to work with me to find meaning -- to make meaning – in the challenges presented. (Hint: it has to do with service to others.)

The hallmark of a great scientist is his curiosity. You don’t have enough curiosity, Mr. Rational. That’s your problem.

Blogger Doc Rampage November 26, 2017 9:37 PM  

Vox, your rewrites are confusing. I think it is because you are parsing definition 1 wrong. "Actually is" is not one of the definitions. Definition 1 is actually equivalent to

1'. what is intended to be expressed or indicated; what actually is expressed or indicated; signification; import

Blogger wreckage November 27, 2017 4:55 AM  

@113 and before, Mr Rational doesn't understand what First Cause means. God isn't a malevolent or benevolent fairy magically popping into the universe to do good or ill, rather he is that from which To Be, rather than nothing down far past the level of quantum vacuum, derives its impetus for existing.

Anonymous Post Alley Crackpot November 27, 2017 6:05 AM  

This reeks of some of the attitudes behind architectural constructivism, but with a little bit of Paul Virilio's philosophy of "original accidents" thrown in for good measure ...

As you've noticed, this attempt doesn't pass the sniff test: if the idea was that he was going to try to present an ontological argument by first constructing the definition of a term through an aesthetic argument, he somehow got lost along the way by trying to bless this odd creation with Lewis Carroll's wand of making words mean what the author wants them to mean.

Having done this first bit of intellectual injustice, he then attempts to construct a more analgesic version in parallel that sounds an awful lot like Mies van der Rohe's catchphrase that "God is in the details", but as a similar aesthetic argument with a lambda function (or random function) at its centre.

Let's have some fun then with this: if the possible world of "meaning" that Wilson intends to issue into existence comes from the superposition of intentions and gaps between intentions, then how was it possible that the possible world he created didn't actually include that "meaning" itself?

I'll refer to Korzybski, but only in jest: whatever he says it all is, that is what it is not!

Insofar as his secular view of an organising lambda function that he conflates with randomness goes, let's stick with Einstein: God does not roll dice.

Blogger IreneAthena November 27, 2017 10:34 AM  

@115 Thanks for that, Wreckage. God invites highly developed organisms like human beings to cooperate with him in his work in the world. But as you say, he's also at work -- vitally -- at the micro- micro- level. He's in the details, as the French say, but he's not just in the details. Without him, there would be no details.

Anonymous Travis Bickle November 27, 2017 12:51 PM  

Meaning carries with it the intent to transfer ideas or information, and there can be no intent to convey information in a random event. This is the sort of meaning that humans instinctively seek, the one you and Wilson want us to assign to random physical events.

If meaning carries with it the intent to transfer ideas or information, then there can be no meaning without such intent. Circumstantial forensic evidence at crime scenes is left without intent, and often with specific intent to corrupt, hide or erase it. By your reasoning, such evidence cannot be used to prove criminal acts or identify the actors. It follows from this that all convictions based on such evidence must be vacated, the convicts freed and given compensation for their unjust imprisonment.

That's what you get when you posit that the "end" or "significance" of something relies on intent. It follows inescapably from your premise. It is obviously not what you meant, but there it is.

Do you know who else presumes that good intentions automatically make their actions virtuous? SJWs.

Blogger SirHamster November 27, 2017 6:30 PM  

Benjamin wrote:It is instructive that you DO NOT apply your fancy term, "midwit" to your one-sided interlocutors.



"Midwit"

"Fancy term"

They're not sending their best ...

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