"Dissipative structures"--Stanley Salthe

Stanley Salthe has turned me on to the neat term, "dissipative structures." It updates the idea of pantheism. Instead of looking for the origins of intelligence and consciousness in matter itself it suggests looking for them in the processes by which concentrations of energy in natural systems dissipate. This appeals to me because it neatly labels a continuum of concepts from non-living matter all the way to our own conscious experience. It may not suggest any answers to how life or consciousness arose but it could furnish us with a better language in which to phrase the questions. More...

Darwin vs Galileo: dialogue on youtube

A classic dialogue, on evolution. Also an entertaining comedy of two cranky scientists jockeying for respect. I've  just posted this 8-minute trailer for my 90-minute play "What it Means We Evolved." I act as Darwin-impersonator, then play both roles. Please watch, it's fun.

Logical flaw in darwinism

How elementary could the flaws in Darwin's logic be? How's this?

Only one or two of each living creature's progeny get to reproduce and pass on their genes (natural selection). Every few hundred million years there's a huge meteor impact. Therefore, natural selection causes meteor impacts.

Compare that with the following:

Only one or two of each living creature's progeny get to reproduce and pass on their genes (natural selection). Over millions of years species of living creatures tend to evolve. Therefore, natural selection causes evolution.

I think the logic in both is the same. Both are examples of post hoc ergo propter hoc, the fallacy of assuming that because one thing happens before another it must have caused the other. More...

A joke

Therapist to new patient: What brings you here?

Patient: It’s my job. I teach schoolkids about evolution. It’s your genes that make you who you are and tell you what to do, I tell them. Evolution happens when new genes enter the gene pool--new genes come from old genes getting damaged then natural selection determines whose genes get passed on.

Therapist: That seems OK to me. So what’s the problem?

Patient: The problem is, it makes my own life seems so meaningless. I’m determined by my genes. All that seems to matter is our own species continuing to evolve. But what can I contribute to that? Getting my genes damaged through radiation, that’s all I can think of. It’s so depressing.

Therapist: Then why not get another job?

Patient: What! And give up science!

Poll results

Of 20 votes: "Welcome alternatives..." 50%. "I don't oppose criticism of darwinism," 20%. "Criticism is unwelcome," 5%. Creationism, 25%.

Please add your vote.

Evolution, bottom up, or top down? You choose.

Bottom up evolution is epitomized by Darwin and the modern synthesis (evolution is propelled by simple physical forces acting on matter that over sufficient time can alone generate agents that appear to us to have conscious volition). Top down is epitomized by Samuel Butler and his proposal that our individual personalities are instances of higher-order personalities generated in the course of the evolution of our species ("Life and Habit"). Which is better? I see that as a matter of choice. Generally, scientists seem to prefer bottom up, picturing complexity as emerging from combinations of simple purely material components, while creatives (like me) are likely to prefer top down, assuming evolution operates, as they do, through acts of volition initiated by a central conscious self able to impose form and design "downwards" onto matter. Example: a dancer conceives of a series of movements that for her express a conscious feeling (qualia), that she then executes. Proprioceptors tell her her physical movements match the movements as she imagined them. Bystanders tell her that her movements did induce in them the qualia she intended to express. This set of relationships is easier to manage if all parties see volition as due to centrally-controlled consciousnesses rather than as due to resolutions arrived at among collections of non-conscious modules.

I am once again drawing attention to the need for acceptable top-down mechanisms of evolution able to make sense of our experience of being conscious and volitional.