• IvoryBlackBishop
    290
    I find this a fascinating field, it tends to stir up controversy due to being misinterpreted, my take on it is that it is describing an "objective" phenomina, however people misinterpret it as advocating moral nihilsm (e.x. approving of rape, murder, racist tribalism, "survival of the fittest", "reducing" people to animals, and other things of that nature).

    The concepts however, are some what ubquitious and form the basis of much of ancient and modern law and philosohpical treatise on it (e.x. John Stuart Mill or Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes' writings and so on and sof forth, as well as in Eastern philosophy).

    If we use the Common Law for example, it distingushes between crimes or acts which are intentional, or rational, and ones which are motivated by "passions", or innate biological sentiments which are unrelated to intetions or even necessarily concious awareness, but rather the result of involuntary physical processes.

    For example, a premediated crime (e.x. 1st degree murder) is done rationally and intentionally, wheras a crime done in the "heat of the moment" (e.x. 2nd degree murder is treated) differently, since people when in heated or emotional states tend to act less rational and more implusive or emotional. The notion is that people may have inborn sentiments or impulses which played a role in biological evolution, however rationally society and civilization is based on some degree of self-restraint.

    (For example, the potential for physical addiction to alcohol may exist innately, however a person is held responsible if they choose to drink while driving).

    I would be interested in discussing this with others, however I'm leery to as it may be taken the wrong way, and generate controversy (e.x. such as in the Jordan Peterson threads in which similar topics were discussed).
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    I find [evolutionary biology] a fascinating field, it tends to stir up controversy due to being misinterpreted, my take on it is that it is describing an "objective" phenomena, however people misinterpret it as advocating moral nihilism....IvoryBlackBishop

    Evolutionary biology is a science, at the centre of which is the theory of evolution by natural selection. It's important not to lose sight of the fact that the main aim of this theory was to account for the development of species. I say that because in addition it to be a biological science, it also has cultural significance over and above the purely scientific. I say this because it is central to the culture wars between religion and science. In its most basic form, it's a conflict between the scientific materialism espoused by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, on the one hand, and the religious fundamentalism associated with American evangelical religion on the other.

    But there are many shades of grey. A lot of people, like myself, fully accept the science of evolution, without accepting the philosophy that often goes with it - that h. sapiens is simply another species whose aims and potentials can be proscribed in terms of the biological sciences (which is 'biologism'). There are many implicit assumptions in that outlook which I question, first and foremost the idea that life arose by chance.

    As for the specific writers - Steve Pinker I actually like, but again, I think his conception of philosophy is very shallow. But I think it's important to have a voice advocating scientific analysis and economic and technological progress, and he provides that, even if I don't accept his 'scientism'.

    Robert Wright wrote an interesting book a couple of years back called 'Why Buddhism is True', which presented Buddhist meditation in the context of a modern secular philosophy, that was quite well-received. But again, by severing Buddhism from it's soteriological framework, namely, that of transcending the cycle of birth and death, there is a crucial dimension lacking, I believe.

    Another thing you have to be careful of is 'just so' stories. There are all kinds of imaginative ways to describe how imagined 'evolutionary traits' lend themselves to 'survival'. But none of that has much connection to actual science, as distinct from pop philosophy, I think. And also, I'd be very wary of ascribing 'human nature' to the kinds of motivations that evolutionary theory could consider. It often boils down to a species of utilitarianism, i.e. whatever facilitates survival is inherently worthwhile. I'm sure there's a strong element of the naturalistic fallacy in that.

    Have a read of It Ain't Necessarily So, Antony Gottlieb.
  • Enrique
    257
    There are many implicit assumptions in that outlook which I question, first and foremost the idea that life arose by chance.Wayfarer

    This view seems to be completely absent from scientific theorizing, but many intuit it and strongly agree anyway. Is there some intellectual formulation of the idea that exceeds "mystery of faith" supernaturalism? Do you mean that life inevitably springs from non-life because of matter's essential properties, or that the universe is driven by a purposeful form-giving force? How can it be verified empirically?
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    I think it's generally assumed that in the absence of the purportedly intentional act of creation by a divine intelligence, then the alternative must be that living things are the product of physical necessity, which is usually referred to as 'abiogenesis'. This proposes that the first life-forms generated were very simple and through a gradual process became increasingly complex over the course of hundreds of millions of years of evolution.
  • Enrique
    257


    We could probably debate whether true chance even exists at the most basic level, but was the emergence of human life from inorganic chemistry relatively improbable, and what were the conditions that made it possible? Existence itself may not be a matter of chance, but what can we claim about directional necessity and purpose?
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    We could probably debate whether true chance even exists at the most basic level, but was the emergence of human life from inorganic chemistry relatively improbable, and what were the conditions that made it possible? Existence itself may not be a matter of chance, but what can we claim about directional necessity and purpose?Enrique

    I think that philosophically, the question comes down to the rejection of the possibility of intentional action at a fundamental ontological level. On the popular level this was the consequence of rejecting creation mythology, but on a philosophical level it was a consequence of the rejection of the Aristotelian concept of 'final causation'. One of the basic concepts rejected by modern biology is teleology. This is derived from the Aristotelian 'telos' which is the purpose that anything has for existence. Again on a popular level, this is represented by the much-parodied notion that heavy objects fall to the ground because their purpose is to be near the earth. Obviously physics can have no truck with such antiquated notions but I think the pervasive view that on this basis, the Universe itself can be said to be 'devoid of purpose' is an enormous over-reach. But it's an incredibly powerful 20th century meme.
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