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Friday, July 25, 2008

Why humans are, and need to be, special

Historian of the Nazi era Richard Weikart explains:
Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who endured the horrors of Auschwitz, astutely commented on the way that modern European thought had helped prepare the way for Nazi atrocities (and his own misery). He stated, "If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone. I became acquainted," Frankl continued, "with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment--or, as the Nazi liked to say, of 'Blood and Soil.' I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers."

[ ... ]

A few modern thinkers specifically criticized the "anthropocentric" view that humans are special, made in the image of God. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the famous German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel, for example, blasted Christianity for advancing an "anthropocentric" and dualistic view of humanity. Today the famous bioethicist Peter Singer, along with the atheistic Darwinian biologist Richard Dawkins, argue that based on the Darwinian understanding of human origins, we need to desanctify human life, divesting ourselves of any notion that humans are created in the image of God and thus uniquely valuable. An evolutionary ecologist at the University of Texas, Eric Pianka, fights overtly against anthropocentrism, even expressing the wish that 90% of the human population will be extinguished, perhaps by a pandemic.
But remember, the Texas Academy of Science distanced itself from Pianka's ravings (oops, views). So then it's all right, apparently.

Oops, no, wait. The "we're just animals" view is obviously raving wrong. For one thing, once we believe that, mass murder ensues. Otherwise not. So there must be something wrong with the story.


British physicist asks, How much of evolutionary theory needs fixing? Maybe everything.

David Tyler notes,
In 2005, Massimo Pigliucci, in a book review for Nature, wrote: "The clamour to revise neo-darwinism is becoming so loud that hopefully most practising evolutionary biologists will begin to pay attention. It has been said that science often makes progress not because people change their minds, but because the old ones die off and the new generation is more open to novel ideas." This clamour has not diminished in succeeding years, and one recent evidence of this was a private meeting in Altenberg, Austria, on 10-13 July 2008. This event was publicised in March by Susan Mazur, and her recent comments on the meeting are linked here.

However, this blog is to draw attention to a piece in Science from Elizabeth Pennisi. According to Pigliucci, the attention created by Mazur's write-up "frankly caused me embarrassment". The reasons for this are not altogether clear, because there is no doubt that the Altenberg meeting was designed to address the problems of a failing theory. Scientific advances have revealed blind spots in the neo-darwinian synthesis and it is time for a change. “More than genes pass on information from one generation to the next, for example, and development seems to help shape evolution's course. "Many things need fixing," emphasizes one invited speaker, Eva Jablonka of Tel Aviv University in Israel. "I think that a new evolutionary synthesis is long overdue."
My sense is that the whole theoretical whack - as presently constituted - would collapse, but read the rest here.


Podcast: Early intelligent design pioneer Charles Thaxton

Here's Part One and here's Part Two of "The Mystery of Life's Origin: An Interview with Dr. Charles Thaxton"
This episode of ID the Future features part one of an interview by Casey Luskin with CSC Fellow Charles Thaxton, co-author of The Mystery of Life's Origin (1984), a foundational work for the intelligent design movement.

Listen in as Dr. Thaxton takes us back to the first stirrings of the modern intelligent design movement and discusses the chemical challenge to naturalistic origin of life theories.

Charles Thaxton is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Scientific Affiliation and a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemistry.
Yes, indeed. I recall him from By Design or by Chance?, where I wrote,
In the early 1980s, a group of English-speaking, mostly Christian, scientists and intellectuals, including Charles
Thaxton, Walter Bradley, and Dean Kenyon, would meet to talk about how best to understand the origin and development of life, in view of the new discoveries of barely fathomable complexity. In their view, the old arguments for design were too bound up with an old-fashioned kind of theology that sought to prove that all design was perfect. Still, the "no-design" option was increasingly unbelievable. They began to construct modern arguments for design.

[ ... ]

A complex form of information that we experience in our daily lives, such as a book, is created by an intelligence-ours. Rather than search for a means by which complex information would somehow organize itself by chance, Thaxton, Bradley, and their colleagues decided to assume that the information was not organized by chance, but by a designing intelligence. Apart from that, they would follow the evidence wherever it led.
And do still.

Warning to Darwinbots: Do not listen to the podcast if your brain is full. It isn't really, of course, but you have doubtless spent many thousands of dollars on the type of education that would lead you to believe that it can be full. So you may feel the need to spend the rest of your life defending nonsense. I won't tell you to resist. You should, of course, but I won't tell you to.


Just up at The Mindful Hack

Creating belief systems IS more essential to our humanity than making tools? Archaeology seems to suggest that.

Neuroscience: How complex is your brain? More than you can easily imagine!

Hunting, herding, hiding, and hustling - that explains our social relationships?

Psychiatrist Jeff Schwartz speaks on what drugs can do for you - and what you and your mind must do for yourself

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