Archive for March, 2013

March 31, 2013

Animal consciousness and evolution

by Neil Rickert

According to a post at ENV, recent evidence for the consciousness of other animals is bad news for evolution.  This seems to be a strange viewpoint, but perhaps it is simply a case of ID proponents managing to see everything as refuting evolution.

I suppose it is possible that David Klinghoffer, the author of that post, really did intend to only criticize Darwinists, and not evolution in general.  However, my experience is that ID proponents such as Klinghoffer tend to use the term “Darwinist” to refer to any proponent of evolution, including those who have explicitly said that their view is not Darwinian.

Klinghoffer does acknowledge the strangeness of the view he expresses in that post:

According to this style of anti-Darwinian thinking that I’ve backed away from, which prefers to draw a super-sharp distinction between people and other creatures, more scientific evidence of how much we share with animals should be good news for the Darwin side in the evolution debate, and bad news for us.

March 30, 2013

Dear Granville Sewell

by Neil Rickert

It is ill becoming of a mathematician, to wear his martyr complex on his lapel.  It is well past time for you to recognize that your 2nd law argument against evolution was wrong.

March 20, 2013

The rules of right reason

by Neil Rickert

It is doubtful that there is a set of rules that can properly be called “the rules of right reason.”  However, this issue has resurfaced at Uncommon Descent (an ID blog).  The issue last arose the a little over a year ago, when Barry Arrington banned many commenters because he saw them as violating the rules of right reason.  There’s good discussion of that event in a post at The Skeptical Zone.

The issue resurfaced in a recent post at UD, when Barry Arrington questioned whether Kantian Naturalist was reasoning rightly.  Then kairosfocus, another contributor to the UD blog, added his support to the view expressed by Barry Arrington.  His post begins with:

March 11, 2013

Turning epistemology upside down

by Neil Rickert

Epistemology is a core area within philosophy.  It is concerned with questions of knowledge, information, description and truth.  And it is part of what I would like to see turned upside down.  That is to say, the way that I see questions of knowledge, information, description and truth is very different from what we find in the traditional literature.

Epistemology from a design stance

As mentioned in my earlier “upside down” post, I see traditional philosophy as based on a design stance, while I would prefer a more evolutionary stance.  So let’s start by looking at how the design stance seems to work.

March 6, 2013

How we confuse ourselves with words

by Neil Rickert

Quoting from a recent Yahoo groups post:

There is some phenom, X, that gets called “consciousness.”

Is there such a phenomenon?

A rainbow is a phenomenon.  The aurora borealis is a phenomenon.  A waterfall is a phenomenon.  But is consciousness a phenomenon?

Typically, we use the word “phenomenon” for something that we can observe.  A doctor observes his patient, and reports that the patient is conscious.  So, yes, there’s something that can be observed.  And if that’s what we mean by “consciousness”, then it is fair to call that a phenomenon.

March 6, 2013

Turning philosophy upside down

by Neil Rickert

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, but it is a hard one to address.  As luck would have it, there’s a recent post at the New York Times site by Paul Horwich, which might help (h/t Sean Wilson):

As part of that post, Horwich gives the following as an account of what philosophy is about:

Philosophy is respected, even exalted, for its promise to provide fundamental insights into the human condition and the ultimate character of the universe, leading to vital conclusions about how we are to arrange our lives. It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free, of the structure of any just society, and so on — and that philosophy’s job is to provide such understanding. Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

That seems about right, in the sense that it fits much of what is published by academic philosophers.