E. O. Wilson, Darwin and Dover

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The Biologist E. O. WilsonRock-star biologist E. O. Wilson in the studio [Brendan Greeley]

The Biologist E. O. Wilson sketch of an antHis sketch of an ant for Katherine, on her show script [Brendan Greeley]


The grand living master of life sciences Edward O. Wilson didn’t need Judge Jones’ decision Tuesday in Dover, PA’s “second Scopes trial” to persuade him of Charles Darwin and evolution.

But we will count Wednesday evening on Professor Wilson, a field biologist who did as much for ants as Jonah did for whales, to interpret the sweeping dismissal of the “intelligent design” alternative to Darwin–first by the Dover voters last month, and now by the Federal trial court.

Not just the pseudo-science but also the political manipulations and misrepresentations of the ID movement have been heaved decisively out of the courts of both law and public opinion.

Could it be that the long American war on Darwin is over?

Judge Jones writes:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

Judge John E. Jones, from his ruling December 20, 2005 in Kitzmiller et. al. v. Dover

In Professor Wilson’s general introduction to Darwin’s four monumental books, now in one volume as From So Simple a Beginning, you can sample two marvellous stylists in high-scientific prose, first Wilson, then Darwin:

Great scientific discoveries are like sunrises. They illuminate first the steeples of the unknown, then its dark hollows. Such expansive influence has been enjoyed by the scientific writings of Charles Darwin. For over 150 years his books… have spread light on the living world and the human condition. They have not lost their freshness: more than any other work in history’s scientific canon, they are both timeless and persistently inspirational…

The revolution in astronomy begun by Nicolaus Copernicus in 1543 proved that Earth is not the center of the universe, nor even the center of the solar system. The revolution begun by Darwin was even more humbling: it showed that humanity is not the center of creation, and not its purpose either. But in freeing our minds from our imagined demigod bondage, even at the price of humility, Darwin turned our attention to the astounding power of the natural creative process and the magnificence of its products.

E. O. Wilson, general introduction, From So Simple a Beginning

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859

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  • kel

    I just don’t get it. What’s next for creationism? And why is there such a need for creationists to infiltrate biology. As has been said many times, science deals with natual explanations for natural phenomena. Creationism posits a supernatural cause. Religion is a system of belief with many strong adherents, why can’t they leave the rest of us alone!

  • bft

    I think you may have meant “Charles Darwin” rather than “Charles Dickens” . . . although Charles Dickens is also a fine prose stylist.

  • Potter

    Wow- I really look forward to this show. Here is E. O Wilson’s essay Intelligent Evolution in Harvard Magazine. These are the introduction and afterword of the book.

  • nother

    In the conclusion of Mr. Wilson’s chapter on Religion from his book “On Human Nature,” his writing seems to address the reoccurrence of attacks on Darwinism. Concerning “scientific naturalismâ€? he writes – “While explaining the biological sources of religious emotional strength, it is unable in its present form to draw on them, because the evolutionary epic denies immortality to the individual and divine privilege to the society, and it suggests only an existential meaning for the human species. Humanists will never enjoy the hot pleasures of spiritual conversion and self-surrender; scientists cannot in all honesty serve as priests.â€?

    We all love a good story; movies, books, theater, the more dramatic the story the better. Maybe Darwin’s story just isn’t exciting enough for some people. Darwin’s “Tree of Life,� simply lacks the scintillating mythology of Adam and Eve’s “Tree of Life.� It hard to imagine a congregation in Dover singing halleluiah in response to a sermon about our evolution from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens. Although, it is fun to imagine!

    If by chance the conversation evolves from the hoopla of ID, my question of digression would be about Mr. Wilson’s writing on “cultural evolutionâ€? in his book “On Human Nature” (p.79) He writes that biological evolution is far slower than cultural evolution, “biological evolution is always quickly outrun by cultural change. Yet the divergence cannot become too great, because ultimately the social environment created by cultural evolution will be tracked by biological natural selection.â€? He cites slavery as an example of this gap. I would love to know any subsequent examples he feels apply to this lag in evolution. Moreover, with our relatively recent foray into the information age i.e. the internet, what biological aspects are on our trail?

  • Potter

    I would say that Radio Open Source with it’s blog has really evolved since it began only a few months ago. Thank you Chris, Mary, Brendan Katherine, Robyn, David, everybody ( including the cameramen) for the care you put into this venture and the results, a consistently high level of discourse on the show that draws inspiiring comments in the blogs. What a great way to end this year: E.O Wilson! I wish you all a good holiday.

  • avecfrites

    If God created everything, then he created the scientists. Who are we to get in their way?

  • A little yellow bird

    Humanity is in its turbulent adolescence. Religion is an illusory “safe car”, sort of a Volvo for reality. Once one accepts the wisdom that a burning bush hath delivered to a lost desert wanderer (who was clearly missing a few yogurt raisins from his trailmix–how the criminey do ya get and stay lost for forty years in a place where the sun rises every day in the east and sets in the west…?! And what kind of numbskulls follow a guy with a track record like that…) as fact, one needs not think anymore–the way Volvo drivers act as if the are in a physics-nullifying force field/bubble/womb where nothing bad ever happens. Humanity needs to wake up, grow up, and stop imagining that the mommy in the sky likes me better than you, poopyhead. We have real tools in our heads to actually effect change, and I neither know nor care who or what put the reason-engine in my noggin, but it’s undeniably there. In “Childhood’s End”, Arthur C. Clarke had this technologically wise alien race observing humanity and marvelling in despair at the “prime aberration of the human mind”–mysticism. Let the idiots worship rocks–only stay away from public policy, and don’t ask the reality-based for help when your god fails to come through with manna.

  • Nikos

    Right on, little yellow bird. And well said.

    As to following that guy who lost his noggin out in the desert, I can’t help but wonder why Joshua’s subsequent lot followed a god of war who, after razing city after city and utterly slaughtering the inhabitants, couldn’t defeat some other dudes in iron chariots. This is the Lord Thy God to whom our senators and reps pray in Congress? No wonder they bungled Iraq!

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: For all my froth about comforting fantasies, if people actually read the New Testament now and again, and tried a little harder to follow it, the world would be a different place. But as is said, the devil can quote scripture to serve his own ends; and to paraphrase comedian Chris Rock, “[people] LOVE not to know! Nothin’ makes a [person] happier then not to know! Wanna keep your money safe from a [person]? Hide it in a book! Books is like KRYPTONITE to [people]! I think people made up the these religions as guides for living and as ideals to aspire to, many of which seem wonderful and worthy. But everyone thinks, geez, who am I to have and enact great ideas? But, hey–if an all-powerful god said it–well! That’s different! (Especially if yo’ butt gonna roast in hell for not listening…) The trouble is that somewhere inside, we know it’s a lot of balloon juice, so we resist; and throw out the good ideas along with the imaginary god. That is like tossing the whole orange just because the skin is inedible–the greater part of the fruit is useful and a delight. It’s OK, though, ’cause humanity is just learning to walk, and if we can just parent ourselves a bit and not dive nose-first down the stairs, we might just grow up. Dictators, oligarchs, and the violent simply need to be given a time out, and maybe go hungry for a few hours. So, back to the believers: they must remain free to believe; but they mustn’t be allowed to make America even less competent in the world market than it already is by making schoolchildren “study” the Flying Spaghetti Monster instead of the 3 R’s and science ‘n’ stuff and geography and REAL economics.

  • Nikos

    Lil yellow bird: I agree. More germane to this thread: you don’t actually need a supernatural enitity to validate the New Testament’s message of unconditional love and forgiveness any more than you need one to explain Earth’s self-generated and ever evolving life. The problem, of course, is that even with the specific sanction of a world-dominant supernatural entity, the powerful only pay lip service to the New Testament while modeling themselves after the murderers and genocidal terrorists populating the Old Testament in books like Joshua. Sigh. At least the ID train has been derailed for the moment. Let’s just hope that the nation’s increasing gullibilty to superstition doesn’t ultimately render yesterday’s outcome a Pyrrhic victory.

  • Potter

    One court victory does not win the battle. This is after all about evolution.

    I agree with ” a little yellow bird” and Nikos very much but this little poem by Czeslaw Milos really got to me:

    If there is no God,

    Not everything is permitted to man,

    He is still his brother’s keeper

    And he is not permitted to sadden his brother,

    By saying that there is no God.

    ( translated by Robert Hass)

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: I’m afraid that it takes a nation of millions to keep us stupid and inclined toward superstition and demagoguery. The axis of public anti-education and television serves the worldwide oligarchy (what I like to call the warligarchy) very well to keep the consumer/cannon fodder docile and malleable. In fact, the hullaballoo over ID is really just a distraction from larger issues–the schools are already so destructive of everything good in children, and so indoctrinating and stultifying that whatever they do there will hardly make a difference in the current outcome of twelve years of non-teaching.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Potter”: I agree that there’s no good reason to try to crush someone’s happiness, and many of the people I most admire are quite religious Christians, and even a Muslim family I know. I actually call myself an agnostic, because to “believe” either that there is, or is not, a god are the same stance–one cannot actually “know”. Plus, as George Santayana said: “That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions, and, were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions.” And I am sorta my brother’s keeper–but not at too great a cost to myself; especially if he refuses to wear a seat belt because he’s “free”, but when he goes freely through his windshield, I am forced, not free to pay or not, for his liberty to be an idiot at my expense. I think he should be free to smoke his lungs to bacon bits and I should be free not to subsidize his stupidity. Laws have a way of infantilizing people. If the Dep’t. of Health and Human Services or the Dep’t. of Ed. ever began to regulate and license early childhood, no one would ever learn to walk–I guarantee it.

  • Jon

    Professor Wilson will recall a time, not so long ago, when different points of view brought some separation between the traditional biologists and the new breed of molecular biologists. He must be delighted that the synthesis between these disciplines is now so highly integrated.

    Little by little, “irreducible complexity” gives way to deeper scientific understanding of highly complex problems. Having faith in the slow, but honest, scientific process is faith well placed.

  • Nikos

    Potter, in other threads of the Open Source site, you and I have established a very pleasant blog relationship. So please forgive my next couple of sentences: Although the Milos poem is truly lovely in its own way, its last two lines bring to mind the Santa Claus problem. And if Little Yellow Bird is right that we’re a species in its childhood (I’m not so sure myself, but this isn’t the place for that), then when do we get to tell our siblings that Santa/God is a fable? I, for one, think it’s well overdue. Thank you nevertheless for the poem. 🙂

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: I think CHILDREN should be allowed to live in fantasy worlds–my brother and his wife completely go along with their six-year-old’s belief in “gnomes” leaving him things and building funny little “houses” out in the back seven (acres) overnight while he’s asleep. Children should be allowed a rich fantasy life. And so should adults–especially inventors of tech, the arts, and those engaged in loving–which means touching. Please let the children play. Jung said, “Wiyhout this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”

  • Grumpy

    Aren’t you guys tired of preaching to the choir? And so self-rightous, I just gonna puke… Talk about bigotry 🙁

    Ok, ID is _not_ a science, not that I want it to be. How about economics? Doesn’t look like science to me. History? Just forget about it. Political scince? On, my… Psychology? Still can’t agree about basics.

    And nobody bothers, everybody’s just so proud of “modern scince”, I just can’t believe it.

  • A little yellow bird

    Typing while drunk is only dangerous if Christopher Hitchens is doing it, ’cause he’s smart and twisted and too many people take him seriously…so I guess we’ll just have to put some more citronella lanterns up and hope for the best.

  • cheesechowmain

    “Gravity is a harsh mistress.”

    —The Tick

  • A little yellow bird

    “cheesechowmain”: And a stern taskmaster!

  • cheesechowmain

    Works for me either way. I just wanted to be true to The Tick.

  • A little yellow bird

    Is the duck-billed platypus an example of intelligent design or evolution?

  • nother

    A few Darwin quotes:

    “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

    “But when on shore, & wandering in the sublime forests, surrounded by views more gorgeous than even Claude ever imagined, I enjoy a delight which none but those who have experienced it can understand – If it is to be done, it must be by studying Humboldt”

    “The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an improved theory, is it then a science or faith?”

  • nother

    What would Darwin think about cloning?

  • A little yellow bird

    “nother”: That’s a true scientist–questioning even his own work.

  • A little yellow bird

    Science and its discoveries and tools and medical cures isn’t thrilling enough? Yipe–how exciting is it to die of diarrhea or tooth decay?

  • Nikos

    Thanks nother. Lovely stuff.

    And see Grumpy? We actually LEARN new stuff from our ‘bigoted’ exchanges. Imagine that. 😉

    more later ya’ll.

  • nother

    Very Cool! – Goose bumps!

  • cmryle

    “The Origin of Species” the most influential book in history? More influential than the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, the Koran, the Baghavad Gita, etc. etc.? What an amazingly stupid thing to say.

  • nother

    “I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion”


  • A little yellow bird

    “cmryle”: Did he say in history or in scientific history?

  • A little yellow bird

    Does Herbert Spencer merit mention in this discussion?

  • nother

    That was an hour? That felt like ten minutes! The next passion show should be a passion for conversations between Lydon and Wilson.

  • Nikos

    A Little Yellow Bird: I finally have time to answer your comments about children and play. Of course you’re correct, but I have to bicker a bit over your comparison.

    If you and your children were sailing the Caribbean on a sunny day, and it was placid enough to let the little ones man the tiller, would you let them steer the boat toward that growing dark smudge on the horizon? Even if they insisted that they’re God’s favored children, and that he’s granted them dominion of the sea, and therefore won’t let that little grey hurricane destroy you all? Well, if the hurricane is climate change and the boat our biosphere, and if all that talk about God is the madness that’s really steering the boat’s course…well, you’d have to disabuse them of their God-fantasy, wouldn’t you?

    In this unprecedented era of human degradation of the world’s environment, religion is an unsound source for informing our species’ course. The biblical paradigm that ‘God granted his favored children earthly dominion’ is woefully obsolete and manifestly dangerous. So yes, let the kids believe in gnomes, but don’t let that belief lead them into dark caverns and the fatal injuries awaiting them therein. And mostly: for the sake of your neighbors, don’t let their childish beliefs lead all the rest of us to disaster.

    I don’t want to go down with the ship. I want to save it. And from reading your many excellent posts here, I know that you do too.


  • Grumpy

    A few thougths:

    1. Seem to be the debate is between those who sees religion as science (as providing all the necessary answers) and those who sees science as religion (as undoubtfully true and whole knowledge of the world). Science is not perfect, guys, and a lot of what passes as science has in fact nothing to do with it. Theory of evolution is not perfect either, it has its own problems, as any field of knowledge, and we better admit them, just to be true to scientific method.

    2. You ever wonder why this particular contradiction is so prominent in our political (cultural, etc.) discourse? Read Noam Chomsky, guys, it’s because power structures don’t really care one way or another. So let’s spend all our time on this one, especially because it solves nothing.

    3. Similar to previous one, darwinism is just great to power structures, survival of the fittest, no intelligence or guidance needed, everything just “evolves” to perfection, very like free markets. etc. In the meantime we are being fed increasing amounts of Prozac/Ritalin/Viagra/etc., but that’s fine, evolution (and science) will take care of this too. Don’t believe it? Then you are a bigoted dumbhead.

    4. For me it’s the same, to be brainwashed by ID or any other pseudo-science, like Ayn-Rand’s “objectivism”, economic “neo-liberalism”, or in fact any theory taken without critique as a fixed doctrine.

    Good luck “evolving”. And I’ll go drink some more 🙂

  • Nikos

    ps to lil yellow bird: your Hitchens reference gave a belly laugh. Thanks!

  • Grumpy

    Not so to me 🙁 It’s strange how trigger happy some people are.

    My critique is from the left, “lil’ yellow”, not from the right.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: You won’t believe me, but I don’t know how to answer you, and it’s not due to the screenhead sclerosis I’m developing by not having gone for my multi-mile strut in this bracing solstice air yet today. Actually, I’ve often wished for a comet to hit the earth and wipe out the human leprosy that is sloughing off chunks of the earth, and leave the rats and roaches to duke it out (or mate–oy, vay, Mr. Darwin! Survival of the most insufferable?!). How do you propose to convince the “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” crowd to become reality-based instead of swimming in sewage since they’ll be raptured out of the fragrant muck soon anyway? You can’t persecute them in good conscience. Ever read the 1951 short sci-fi story “The Marching Morons” by by C. M. Kornbluth? Quite prescient.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Grumpy”: Geez, it’s hard to tell where you’re coming from–you sounded like a total ditto-tard on your first go- ’round earlier! Do you think that you may have some responsibility for how others respond to you? You’re the one who came gunnin’ …

  • Grumpy

    Maybe, I’m not perfect either, in fact, very far from perfect 🙁

    Maybe evolution doesn’t work for those who don’t believe in it 🙂

  • Brendan

    Whoah, guys. Argue whatever you like, but “ditto-tard” is a little personal. Try “ditto-head,” if you must.

  • Grumpy

    And I don’t “believe” in evolution, just like I don’t “believe” in general theory of relativity, etc., that’s just theories, in lack of better ones.

  • Grumpy

    That wasn’t personal, it was more like a praise, like, you are not one of these 🙂

    On the other hand, “these” might be offended 🙁

    Well, calling names is bad, I personally don’t mind, but others might.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Brendan”: Sorry, coach! And “Grumpy” is exactly right–that’s just what I meant: that he ISN’T a fan of nothingheadedness, judging by his last few posts, but he came on a little heavy in his first post. Anyway, yeah, Grumpy–“belief” and “knowing” are two different things.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: Hitchens is a pisser, ain’t he? Man, what happened there, hunh? Us Yiddish would call him a “dybbuck”, maybe–one possessed by the restless spirit of a one deceased.

  • Grumpy

    You mean on this Ritter-Hitchens debate?

  • A little yellow bird

    “Grumpy”: Assuming you’re addressing me, I mean on ANYTHING. Hitchens has been dain-bramaged for a looong time; a few martinis past his expiration date. He is differently-moraled, a bit challenged; he stumbled on a curbstone outside a pub and crushed his compass and now it reads true north no matter which way he’s going–and it does all this in stereovision. He’s a neocon whore on his last legs–it would just be sad if it were a novel; but it’s dangerous because he’s a cheerleader for the international brotherhood of empire-builders’ union.

  • I will remember, forever, Judge Jones’ phrase, “breathtaking inanity.” And I’m sure it will be the title of many papers and books in the future on the topic of whether the supernatural has a place in the natural. Judge Jones Has a Posse in PA, for sure. Thanks for the show.

  • what a great show. Exciting program. I enjoyed EO Wilson immensely, but seems to have a conflicting worlds view. Even though society ought to be pluralistic, individuals must choose between science or religion. Mr Lydon seems to have (and correct me please!) a same or different world view. Where science seeks the answers to “how” questions and Religion seeks to answer “why” questions. I may be naive to think that my same worlds view is less in conflict with conflicting world view fundamentalists (I reject the name “Evangelicals” – since my faith is evangelical as well!), but fundamentalists like to cite “Darwinist materialism” as a faith in conflict with Christianity.

    I like Judge Jones comment – the supernatural may be true, but it is not science.

    but the views Dr. Wilson, where science is on conflict with religeon one must choose between religeon or science as an

  • ignore fragement at bottom of previous post! (oops)

  • wow. it seems my npr feed is 2 hours off 🙁 To join the discussion real time I would need to leave work early and stream….

  • Nikos

    John: out here in Washington State we have to wait until 9PM pacific, so I feel your pain, brother. But I often fill in the hours between each show’s eastern broadcast and our tardy delay-cast by reading the blog — which is often more informative than the show turns out to be! hang in there.

  • Nikos

    Hi Grump. First, I want to extend an olive branch, but since ‘fool me twice shame on me’—no more ‘dumbhead’ and ‘bigot’ insults please. ’Kay?

    Olive branch no.1: Darwinism, just as you imply, is used conveniently by the powerful to justify their grip on the rest of us. Yet this is a distortion, and here’s why.

    ‘Survival of the fittest’ is only one ‘mechanism’ of evolution. Sexual selection – ‘survival of the handsomest/prettiest’ is the more normal influence, and social Darwinists prefer to ignore this. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is more of an emergency mechanism, following environmental changes such as the invasion of an ecotone or habitat by invasive predators or parasites.

    The peacock is the classic example of the supremacy of sexual selection: his feathers are a notable survival liability. Yet peahens select their mates based on plumage. (Kinda reminds me of high school: when the girls fell all over themselves to date the wildest guys, even though these dudes regularly risked their lives and the lives of their dates in idiotic automotive stunts (I grew up in the Detroit area during the 60’s and 70’s).) The point is that mate-selection by females in many species is NOT influenced by ‘survival pressures’.

    Which brings up another frequently misunderstood point: females, not males, select. Rape is rare in nature. And the stereotype of the brutish caveman fighting for his woman before dragging her back home by the hair is belied by one incontrovertible biological fact: the sensitive female clitoris, and the greater chance of fertilization following the female orgasm. All you social Darwinists and male chauvinists ought to ponder the wide implications of THAT tidbit for a while.

    So yes, Darwin is misrepresented by the powerful, but that doesn’t negate the validity of his theory. The current international caste of super-elites uses misrepresentation continuously, and to great effect. But it doesn’t have to be permanent. Just as in the Russia of 1918, the super-elites might one day soon find themselves in deep doo-doo when the disenfranchised rise up and discover that their overlords have grown such profuse peacock feathers that they’re easy pickin’s for the firing squad or guillotine.

    Hmmm…‘Survival of the furious’?

    Olive branch no.2: you’re not the only Chomsky reader here. This debate over ID isn’t a mere distraction, however. It’s a fight against the resurgence of superstition. Chomsky is nothing if not rational; and rationality is our best defense against kooks like Fallwell and Roberts, and their political operatives such as Bush and DeLay. Evolution is a rational explanation for life on earth, while the bible and its kin are products of an ancient humanity lost in a sandstorm of superstition and benighted by an archaic version of social Darwinism.

    Finally, I object to the premise that “the debate is between those who see religion as science (as providing all the necessary answers) and those who see science as religion�.

    These are not two sides of the same coin, a yin against a yang. Religion is a product created and fostered by those who sense an emotional need (fear of death and a desire to circumvent it) and recognize a way to make a ‘respectable’ living assuaging the fear by promising an un-provable afterlife.

    Science does nothing of this sort, doesn’t even pretend to. Science isn’t linked to religion except by historical accident: it just happened to succeed all those popes and their minions who made up reams of theology treatises to explain existence. And it succeeded not as a new set of superstitions, but as a set of disciplines founded on facts and reason.

    Surely you heard last month that the new pope did away with ‘purgatory’. Limbo, a central feature for centuries of the christian afterlife, wasn’t fact-based to begin with, and now with a few strokes of a pen, it’s dead and gone.

    Science looks at and argues over the implications of FACTS; religion can only extend its existence by faking authority over explicitly non-factual ‘issues’.

    They’re as different as plasma and dung.

    True, there are plenty of dogmatic scientists, but the Nobel Prize winners, it seems to me, are the free-thinking ‘heretics’.

    (But please, responders, please don’t dignify the supernatural foolishness of ID by claiming its proponents ‘misunderstood heretics’! Judge Jones has already quashed that ploy!)

    Your thoughts? (Or anyone else’s?)

    PS: you might be amused to learn the derivation of ‘bigot’. A Teutonic tribe (I can’t remember which one but I’ll look it up if you want) during the dark ages scorned the christian missionaries trying to convert them. They thought the friars insufferable and intolerant ignoramuses, and dubbed them by their favorite repeated phrase “By God!� = “Bie Gott!�

    ‘Cretin’ similarly derives from a French pagan tribe’s slur word for proselytizing Christians.


  • Nikos

    Little Yellow Bird: I used to adore Hitchens. USED to. Sigh. I dunno wa-happened either. Anyone else know?

  • Jotto

    E.O. Wilson suggests that the war between the dominent cultures of the world and science is winding down and that we will probably not see another challenge to Neo-Darwinism presented with as much intensity as the ID interprestation of evolution. I think he is wrong. When the general public discovers the Neo-Darwinist interpretation of human consciousness as an epiphenomenon of electro-chemical brain processes with the implication that the commonly accepted notions of free will and individual moral responsibility are basically delusions, we will see another insurgency that will make the current one a mild summer day.

  • Nikos

    Jotto: YIKES!

    Can you please refer us to some sort of further reading on this?


  • A little yellow bird

    A magnificently incisive commentary on Judge Jones’s decision on I.D., titled, “The Religion of the State”: http://www.lewrockwell.com/shaffer/shaffer126.html . (EXCERPT:) “There is an element of arbitrariness underlying every belief system, if for no other reason than the fact that our beliefs arise wholly within our minds; that they are about the world rather than of it. To condemn the theory of “intelligent designâ€? because it contravenes scientific understanding is no less an act of religious faith than attacking Charles Darwin’s work because it is contrary to the Book of Genesis.” The writer is an agnostic on religion, and an atheist with regard to the belief in a state.

  • Potter

    Jotto interesting….

    I closed my screen to listen to E.O Wilson and ( soul)searcher Chris Lydon excellent conversation. Full attention required. E.O Wilson is brilliant and I have only recently come to appreciate how much. I’ll add the word “inspiring”.

    E. O Wilson also spoke about spirituality and religion (not the same) from an evolutionary biologist’s point of view. He does not reject religion. He rather sees the need through biologist’s eyes. Wilson seems to be saying the most important thing for now is to gently, or firmly as necessary, push religion away from science. As we know from surveys, a majority in this country are uneducated and unconvinced. When science conflicts with religious doctrine and dogma people are threatened and go on the assault. So we should be thankful for Judge Jones’ decision which will be a pillar .

    “A LIttle Yellow Bird:. Regarding your response to the Milosz poem: I posted this because I feel very much the way you do but I come from a family that is quite religious and even fundamentalist ( they would argue against evolution) and I see how religion serves as a foundation. So I understand the threat posed by science to them. I know that ideally this need not be the case because there is still plenty of room for God after science but they would have to give up a lot of mythology that sustains them in the process. It’s tempting to argue that they must change some of the big blocks in their foundation. But these are substantial changes for some people. And of course the big question is how to you get people to change, to switch to metaphorical interpretations in place of literal ones.

    Nikos says:

    >>> Religion is a product created and fostered by those who sense an emotional need (fear of death and a desire to circumvent it) and recognize a way to make a ‘respectable’ living assuaging the fear by promising an un-provable afterlife.

    Science does nothing of this sort, doesn’t even pretend to>>Surely you heard last month that the new pope did away with ‘purgatory’. Limbo, a central feature for centuries of the christian afterlife, wasn’t fact-based to begin with, and now with a few strokes of a pen, it’s dead and gone.

    Science looks at and argues over the implications of FACTS; religion can only extend its existence by faking authority over explicitly non-factual ‘issues’.

    They’re as different as plasma and dung.>>And I am sorta my brother’s keeper–but not at too great a cost to myself; especially if he refuses to wear a seat belt because he’s “free�, but when he goes freely through his windshield, I am forced, not free to pay or not, for his liberty to be an idiot at my expense. I think he should be free to smoke his lungs to bacon bits and I should be free not to subsidize his stupidity

  • Potter

    (I am sorry the above post should read as below from “Nikos says” on down)

    Nikos says:

    >>> Religion is a product created and fostered by those who sense an emotional need (fear of death and a desire to circumvent it) and recognize a way to make a ‘respectable’ living assuaging the fear by promising an un-provable afterlife.

    Science does nothing of this sort, doesn’t even pretend to>>Surely you heard last month that the new pope did away with ‘purgatory’. Limbo, a central feature for centuries of the christian afterlife, wasn’t fact-based to begin with, and now with a few strokes of a pen, it’s dead and gone.

    Science looks at and argues over the implications of FACTS; religion can only extend its existence by faking authority over explicitly non-factual ‘issues’.

    They’re as different as plasma and dung.>>And I am sorta my brother’s keeper–but not at too great a cost to myself; especially if he refuses to wear a seat belt because he’s “free�, but when he goes freely through his windshield, I am forced, not free to pay or not, for his liberty to be an idiot at my expense. I think he should be free to smoke his lungs to bacon bits and I should be free not to subsidize his stupidity

  • Potter

    I will try again-I do not know why I am not seeing what I post- from “Nikos says” on down my post above should read:

    Nikos says:

    “Religion is a product created and fostered by those who sense an emotional need (fear of death and a desire to circumvent it) and recognize a way to make a ‘respectable’ living assuaging the fear by promising an un-provable afterlife.

    Science does nothing of this sort, doesn’t even pretend to”

    And here again Nikos:

    “Surely you heard last month that the new pope did away with ‘purgatory’. Limbo, a central feature for centuries of the christian afterlife, wasn’t fact-based to begin with, and now with a few strokes of a pen, it’s dead and gone.

    Science looks at and argues over the implications of FACTS; religion can only extend its existence by faking authority over explicitly non-factual ‘issues’.

    They’re as different as plasma and dung.”

    So these are emotional issues and where readiness to accept science is concerned you can’t simply bash people over the head. What you get are divisions if you do. You can be firm about what is being taught in science class. You can be firm about calling a religion, a religion. You can be firm about separation of church and state. And you can hope that people gradually let go of unsustainable, unworkable mythologies.

    E.O Wilson is not bashing. He is (from what I hear) saying this will take time. Further he is saying( it seems to me) that we need to find ways to bring religion on board for the urgent business of saving the planet. What I heard was a respect for religion and an understanding of the need for it even though he himself did not have those feelings.

    Wilson speaks of spirituality as a quality of mind.

    “a little yellow bird” you say:

    “And I am sorta my brother’s keeper-but not at too great a cost to myself; especially if he refuses to wear a seat belt because he’s “free”, but when he goes freely through his windshield, I am forced, not free to pay or not, for his liberty to be an idiot at my expense. I think he should be free to smoke his lungs to bacon bits and I should be free not to subsidize his stupidity”

    I think E. O Wilson has a lot to say about this with regard to cultural mechanisms that have evolved for survival of the tribe which now must evolve to survival of the planet. You have to be your brother’s keeper in the larger sense in order to survive. The question is what approach works best? Certainly not ones that divide us further.

    Milosz I think was religious ( I am not sure) certainly spiritual. His poem is quite touching–I mean I was really touched by it because it is a plea for peace, for us to embrace each other.

  • I’m thinking of writing a little book called “God Is Not the Question!”. The thesis would be simple: natural laws (math, geometry, physics, chemistry) are innately, inherently, self-referentially intelligent. And so is Natural Selection for that matter. Natural laws would still exist if nothing at all existed in the physical universe. The ratio of a circle to a line would still be 3.14159…. No need to posit a creator for this – Pi would still be true. Yes the universe is suffused with intelligent design, and it has nothing to do with any kind of personified creator. Worship creation, worship creativity, not God.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Potter”: Yes, of course there is some advantage to enlightened self-interest, manifested as VOLUNTARY help for one’s fellows; but my brother resents my being his keeper–he wants to scrape his knees all by himself, reinvent the wheel, and smoke ’cause he likes to cough. What advantage is there to the race as a whole if society makes the fittest babysit the witless?

  • Jon

    Nikos asks for something to read with respect to Jotto’s post above. There is in fact a marvelous, relatively short read by the Nobel laureate Sir Francis Crick (of Watson & Crick DNA double helix fame). In 1994 he published a book entitled, “The Astonishing Hypothesis”. The first chapter of this book may well be the most eloquent and concise summary of a neurobiological approach to brain function–and ultimately to the very highest brain functions–ever written. Crick addresses the conflicts he sees between a theistic and a scientific approach to biology no less poignantly than E.O. Wilson. Crick would have been a fabulous guest for Open Source, but alas he is no longer alive. This topic nevertheless would be an intriguing and engrossing one for a future Open Source progam!

  • Nikos

    Thanks Jon. I’ve requested the book from my local library.

    To Potter and Little Yellow bird: elsewhere in Open Source blog threads (mostly in the previous ID thread, I think, the 135er) I work hard to suggest a very different notion of divinity – an immanent one. A divinity that doesn’t so much live in each of us as it COMPRISES each of us. In other words, every subatomic particle is the Deity, the Tao, the ‘Force’, The Thing, or whatever you prefer to call it. So it’s not divinity per se that I scorn.

    What I object to is a divinity separate from the world: Daddy in the Sky, Daddy who fights only for me and mine (or a Daddy who fights at ALL!), Daddy who places us here from some supernatural heaven to test us before judging whether or not we’re worthy to sit at his knees for eternity. This is the dominant divine paradigm, sanctioned by millennia-old billion dollar religious establishments, and dammit there’s no pc way to put it: it’s infantile. Simply infantile. And science wasn’t required to strip the veneer from the fraud, because plenty of other cultures had immanent deities before marauding ‘Christian’ Europeans clobbered ’em with diseases, steel swords, leaden musket-balls, and the cross. (And I still can’t figure out what happened to bad-assed Yahweh in Judges 1:19)

    The dance of universal energy and space is the true Mystery worthy of our awe and reverence. More awesomely: it’s US.

    And it’s a fundamentally different paradigm than the Daddy-Santa-God.

    I suspect it has a name already too, but not a religion. And it needn’t by sullied by comparisons or associations with religion. I think its name is Deep Ecology.

    (But I could be wrong. I’d love some further in input on this.)

    Maybe I’ll try to summarize my arguments elsewhere and sneak them in here later. But dammit, I got a novel to work on too, guys! And ya’ll keep makin’ me THINK!

    (Remember Monty Python: “My brain hurts!�?)


  • Potter

    A little yellow bird: I think there is more than a little advantage to enlightened self-interest. I think it’s vital at this point. We need a more enlightened self-interest than impatience and name calling. We all need to be more enlightened. I think E.O. Wilson is a guru in that sense.

    We have problems and we have to solve them or perish. I understand the impatience. Social or psychic evolution is too slow and we are each in different stages of it. It looks like we will not all arrive at agreement about science and religion or philosophy in time to effect the changes necessary. If it were not for that urgency I would advocate much more tolerance/indulgence/patience.

    I too am impatient. Some the most militantly reluctant, the leaders, will have to be bonked over the head with court decisions. But I think the vast majority who believe will find a way to believe and at the same time accept science. The holdouts can isolate themselves. But I think you have to be more tolerant of people’s belief systems as well. There is a certain beauty to them a long with all the negatives we see so much of.

    You can feel this way, but calling those who believe (crystallized) children sounds condescending. Anyway this is ineffective. But say this were literally so, Then you also have to be interested in the best way to parent (to continue to use your metaphor). I don’t advocate indulging children so much as finding a way to trigger a transcendence. There is a place where people meet once they get beyond these divisive particulars. Once there, no longer threatened, people will let go of what they held onto to get them there. The feeling of community is very powerful. We need to focus on a having global community.

  • Potter

    Nikos- I should have addressed my above to you too.

    Jon: Thanks for the link. Very interesting branch of this discussion.

  • I am interested in this discussion of children, but I wanted to say that I loved hearing the show last night. It cheered me up. I find this CI movement alarming. However, I read a disturbing article by the journalist David Klinghoffer. Klinghoffer cited a University of Minnesota biologist P. Z. Myers, a prominent combatant in the Darwin wars who “daydreamed about having a time machine that would allow him to go back and eliminate the Biblical patriarch Abraham.” Apparently, Myers cites religion as being the great evil of our time and as Klinghoffer writes, “Some might argue for using the machine to assassinate other notorious figures of history, but not Myers: ‘I wouldn’t do anything as trivial as using it to take out Hitler.'” So. although I am disturbed by the incursions of the religious right in our classroom, I wondered what you guys thought of this level of discourse.

  • jazzman

    Nikos wrote: >>A divinity that doesn’t so much live in each of us as it COMPRISES each of us.

    >>The dance of universal energy and space is the true Mystery worthy of our awe and reverence. More awesomely: it’s US.

    I agree with Nikos – as Emerson said “I am part and parcel of God�. If God is everywhere and in everything then God must be the sum total of all things and the energy that binds them – the set of all sets in mathematical terms or All That Is (No parsing of “Is� please). Each of us is fully God in that we create everything we apprehend by translating internal and external data in to purely personal idea constructs. In Quantum Physical terms the act of observation creates the observed.

    A couple of observations (creations): E.O. says religion is hardwired into our being – by which I assume he means that we “evolved from irreligious creatures to what we are today – pretty tricky survival strategy. So perhaps the most “evolved� humans are the opponents of the mechanism that prompted them to reject evolution in the first place.

    As to E.O Wilson’s closing remarks I couldn’t help noticing that he referenced 2 tautologies that say essentially nothing. I’m paraphrasing.

    1. No matter what we discover scientifically, the phenomenon is always subject to physical laws. Obviously all physical phenomena have to obey known physical laws or the known laws will have to be revised or added to. All things are natural the “Supernatural� can’t exist. If it does then it’s a natural part of the Universe (or perhaps Multiverse)

    2. The Origin of the Species by means of natural selection. This is another way of saying the selected ones were selected naturally (the only way possible as stated in point 1) or as I stated in my belated Dover/ID post #134 – Survivors survive

  • A little yellow bird

    “Potter”: I don’t think we need to focus on a global community. I don’t even know what that is–are you going to be the arbiter of the parameters of such a community? How about to each according to his needs, etc.? No, wait a minute: let’s let everyone print all the cash he needs! I think we should forget about we and focus on me–all of us “me’s”. Nobody can ever tailor things en masse, and “one size fits all” is a textbook Orwellism. I cannot control your decisions but I can mine. I must grow at my own pace, not sit and twiddle my thumbs. The next step in evolution is anything but group, herd, or tribe: it is the evolution of the individual, the evolution of human nature, which isn’t nature at all–it’s a kind of meta-nature if you will. Just encourage your own “transcendence”, whatever you mean by that, and your tacit example will more than serve your fellows who you seek to “help”. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  • Nikos

    Potter eloquently wrote:

    “I too am impatient. Some the most militantly reluctant, the leaders, will have to be bonked over the head with court decisions. But I think the vast majority who believe will find a way to believe and at the same time accept science. The holdouts can isolate themselves. But I think you have to be more tolerant of people’s belief systems as well. There is a certain beauty to them a long with all the negatives we see so much of.�

    Allow me please to respond.

    You know already how fervently I share your impatience. And I genuinely respect your call to be patient with the zealots. But I just don’t trust the fundies to isolate themselves, let alone to play fair. They haven’t in the past, and not because they’re ‘bad people’ but because their beliefs REQUIRE intolerance. They are COMMANDED to convert the world. Intolerance of other religions (or of no religion) is an integral part of their creed, and not just by priestly fiat.

    More fundamental — and problematic — is the psychological/emotional need to convert, because any fact-based analysis of the world and universe repudiate the very foundation and therefore the validity of their beliefs. They HAVE to convert the rest of us, or live with knowledge that the rest of us think them child-like. The ominous sentiment behind the hymn ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ is no joke.

    It’s not pc to say any of this, but I’m sick and tired of waiting for fact-based rational thought to win the day. While we wait, the fundies multiply. And once they’ve got the majority, you can say a forlorn goodbye to tolerance and pluralism. If you doubt me, look up what happened in the Roman Empire after Constantine elevated Christianity to the state religion. It was brutal and bloody beyond anything remotely moral. As it is, today’s Christians claim they’re being persecuted by ‘the government’ and Hollywood, and ‘liberals’ like progressive little ol’ me. I dread the inevitable witch-hunts should they ever erect the theocracy they’d like us all to live under.

    So how can we help fact-based paradigms prevail over absurd yet thriving beliefs from ancient Palestine that were born from superstition?

    Well, court decisions certainly help, but courts are vulnerable to political pressures. This will only worsen as the nation’s demographic becomes ever more fundamentalist.

    We need somehow to midwife a new paradigm that attracts positive attention not only because it’s based in fact and rationality, but also appeals because it’s profoundly moral, and because it evokes that elusive prize we (problematically) dub ‘higher consciousness’.

    Here’s a starting point, from the conclusion of Phillip Lieberman’s Eve Spoke —

    “But the time of Eve is long past, in terms of both human life and of human culture. And the question that currently faces us is, What use will we make of speech and language? Evolution itself has no direction. The old creation myths will not suffice. We are not the lords of creation, made in god’s image because we talk, masters of the birds and beasts, which cannot speak. The purpose to human life is surely that we must use the gift of speech, language, and thought to act to enhance life and love, to vanquish needless suffering and murderous violence—to achieve a yet higher morality. For if we do not, Eve’s descendants will reach their end, marking another brief, failed “experiment� in the long evolutionary history of our planet.

    And no other creature will be here to sing a dirge or tell the story of our passing, for we alone can talk.�

    This is both beautiful and haunting. It’s effective precisely because it implies that empathy, not surrender to a supernatural entity, is the key to our salvation as a species.

    Now, as far as salvation of the individual goes, the new paradigm must make it plain that no individual can persist beyond her or his lifetime, and, moreover, that wishing for such a salvation is immorally egocentric, because the only important ‘salvation’ is the unhampered evolution and reproduction of the whole of Earth’s life.

    The new paradigm must make plain that Earth’s life individuates in each of us, experiences itself through each of us. We aren’t separate and eternal egos unaccountably stuck in temporary bodily vessels, but unique and fleeting expressions of the Earth’s life. We each get one turn to grow, frolic, and suffer before being subsumed again into the greater earthly whole. That, I think, is plenty satisfying—but only in a culture that scorns selfishness and self-absorption instead of venerating it as we do now.

    So, my friend Potter, to wrap up this admittedly truncated attempt to respond to your eloquence: I see a whole lot more beauty is this sort of nascent paradigm than in the Christian biblical one.

    (For that matter, I much prefer the beauty, vague theology, and internal consistency of Tolkien’s fantasy world to ANYTHING I find in the bible. And neither of them is any more fact-based than the other! Funny, that, don’t you think?)

    Your thoughts? (Or anyone else’s?) (Our blog conversation ever forces me to hone my muddy thinking, thank you very much!) 🙂

  • Potter

    “A little Yellow Bird” You say you have to grow at your own pace. So does everybody else. So in condescending you contradict that. It’s always been about the evolution of the individual. But it’s also about the group. I don’t know how much or how fast human nature itself has evolved, I don’t know what you mean by “meta-nature” Explain if you will. If one encourages their own transcendence through religion, that is fine with me. By transcendence I mean not getting stuck in the means that gets us to a place where we can connect and exchange. I have no use for the final platitude. Other than that I enjoy reading your less defensive ascerbic mor creative posts.

  • Potter

    Nikos Once I liberated myself from the religion that I was born into I began to be able to see it and understand many things. For years I fought it like a rebellious teenager about to be choked or chained. Then I stopped rebelling no longer feeling threatened. This growth allowed me the freedom to see the beauty (for instance in the Bible and in religious services) and understand why people follow the religious paths that they do. They are getting something that I have given up in return for my “freedom”: a feeling of being embraced by community. I am approaching tolerance. No one is coming after me any longer, no one can; I have gown a shield. No fundies will ever get me. And I can allow them their space.

    At the same time I do worry about the public space and the planet. The young have to be protected in the public schools from religious dogma of one kind or another. Science must be taught and respected. As I said above you can be firm about what is being taught in science class. You can be firm about calling a religion, a religion. You can be firm about separation of church and state. And you can hope that people gradually let go of unsustainable, unworkable mythologies when they are ready. And when zealots intrude on your space or the public space, they need to be pushed back firmly.

    There is a threat I agree, maybe more than we realized. With the re-emergence of this “controversy” we are waking up to it again. The results of surveys showing a majority in this country ignorant or rejecting of science are a real shock.

  • Nikos

    Jazzman: thanks — I very much liked the second paragraph of your 6:39 PM post. So rational, and yet not at all dry! (You must be a teacher of some kind.)

    And thanks Potter for reminding of my manners: I too very much enjoy (and envy!) the wit and style of A Little Yellow Bird. I Nominate her/him the offical Open Source comedian!

    Chagor: I’m pondering your query, but my first reaction was mortification. More later, though.

    Michael M Ross: write that book!

    Grumpy? You awake yet? Sober? Haven’t heard a peep outa ya since last night. Just wonderin’… Drop us a line.

    I’m forgeting to thank some of you others for your interesting contributions…I’ll have to start at the beginning and read down again…if I have time. sigh. Peace, everyone.

  • Nikos

    Potter: I have to confess, I enjoyed in my youth the Greek Orthodox Easter service. It was unaccountably mystical. Only later did I learn that it’s actually a truncated version of the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries, central to the Goddess Demeter and Her paritial offspring Dionysus. It made a whole lot more sense then (especially its pagan beauty).

    So yeah, I can appreciate some facets of religion. But not its claim to all morality and eternal life, etc…

    Anyway, I don’t want you to feel defensive over that, nor do I want to argue it any more. I’d much prefer your reaction to later parts of my 9:41 PM post. Thanks (if you have time, that is.)

  • Nikos

    uh…duh. I ought to have mentioned that the second part of my 9:41 post was in part stimulated by A Little Yellow Bird:

    “How do you propose to convince the “God said it, I believe it, that settles itâ€? crowd to become reality-based instead of swimming in sewage since they’ll be raptured out of the fragrant muck soon anyway?”

    Credit where credit is due… Sorry ALYB

  • A little yellow bird

    “Potter”: You clearly misunderstand what I’m saying. What ABOUT everyone else’s growth? BTW, I’m not being defensive, and if the truth feels “acerbic”, well, that’s exactly what I mean about people being left to grow in a non- “one size fits all” way. The best way for the smart, the motivated, and the able to help the weak and addled and the makers of crappy choices is for the strong to go about their business unfettered by excessive restraint imposed by force from a supposedly do-gooder government or other coercive group. If Edison had been born a century later he would have been suffocated in his endeavors by the legislative/industrial complex, not to mention the PC movement. BTW, the PC movement, at least on campuses, is dying. Almost makes me GET religion.

  • Potter

    Nikos: Thanks. I think the new paradigm has to come from the old. First because there is wisdom and beauty there that we should not throw out. Then because we need to know where we are coming from trhough the history of our earthly existence as much as is possible and also because this is psychic software already installed. Empathy is part of it. Perhaps we need to emphasize much more of our connection to or oneness with nature. Also the new paradigm has to be a new way of seeing the past.The new paradigm has to recognize elevate and honor contemporary voices of wisdom.

    A little yellow Bird: I don’t think we are in disagreement with regard to your above post for the most part. If your truth feels acerbic, to me it’s less of a communication than it might be. I guess that’s my point. On the other hand your writing is very amusing and creative.

    I wish you all good holidays, a new year of health, love, happiness, and growth.

  • Nikos

    Loose ends:

    1. In answer to ‘cmryle’, yes, Chris did say ‘when all is said and done, (the Origin of Species) might be the most influential book in history.’

    And, yes, ultimately it might, IMHO, since it has overthrown the biblical myth of creation—well, it will in the end, hopefully.

    2. I’m a bit surprised that no has yet mentioned the controversy surrounding E.O.Wilson and sociobiology. So (sigh) I’ll have to do it, I guess. (Sorry, everyone.) Here’s an easily accessed link:


    I for one found Wilson fascinating on the show—an hour well spent. But none other than Steven Jay Gould (and others) set up Harvard’s Sociobiology Study Group specifically to debunk the claims of Wilson’s followers, and for good reason. Sociobiology is something of a devil’s spawn—an offspring, however disavowed, of Social Darwinism.

    Since “every experience takes place within a vast background of cultural presuppositions� (Lakoff & Johnson), the same can be said for ‘every human behavior’. Any attempt to determine which behaviors are genetically ‘hard-wired’ is not only fraught with peril, but, I think in the end, futile.

    Because we AREN’T machines, Mr. Wilson, even though the metaphor is o-so-common and o-so-easily comprehensible. Attempting to study a collectivity of organisms as complex and diverse as humankind through mechanistic/deterministic paradigms is nearly equivalent to trying to foster a theory of forests by studying the growth of a single sapling. You miss the critical influences of soil, bacteria, fungi, climate, precipitation, etc, etc. It can only yield a result about as satisfying as shining a flashlight at the night sky in order to study the behavior of stars and planets. The impulse to study is admirable, but any attempt to model the subject must take into account the ‘vast background of cultural (influences)’. Sociobiology, it seems to me and to its many more learned critics, fails at the outset by its prejudice that something as complex as human behavior within culture can be understood in a evolutionarily deterministic way, ignoring the ineffable influences of human creativity that give us art, lore, fantasy, and dozens more facets of culture than I can name off the top of my head.

    Worse, sociobiology is terribly abused. I know a woman whose husband justified his brutal terrorism of his wife by quoting sociobiology. Any purportedly ‘scientific’ discipline that lends itself to such appalling justifications must be rethought.

    Anyway, Wilson sure knows his Darwin, and that alone was certainly worth the listen.

  • Nikos, thank you for bringing this up, that sociobiology is problematic. There was a personal feud between Gould and Wilson, as well, wasn’t there? How could there Not be, I suppose.

  • Nikos

    chagor: I’m ignorant of the personal feud (and of most other things, ftm). Regardless — both men made an impression on science, to say the least. And I’m still gonna reply to your query btw, later today probably.

  • Nikos

    loose ends no.s 3 — for a simultaneously amusing and moving example of GENUINE religious bigotry, have a listen to last week’s This American Life: the story of Carlton Pearson.


    & 4 — Diane Rehm’s Wednesday 10:00AM hour is very much worth an internet listen too: ‘Science and Anti-Science’. http://www.wamu.org/programs/dr/05/12/21.php

  • Nikos

    Chagor: directly to your question: I guess I think that level of discourse pointless.

    And yet, I found myself pondering it much more than I should have. Because despite its pointlessness, the notion of an Assassination-Time-Machine (hereafter called the ATM) is as arresting as video-footage of an imploding domed stadium.

    For example, Would Hitler and Nazism have ever had a place to spawn and fester without the elevation of Christianity (and the subsequent suzerainty of Abrahamic religion) by Constantine? So is Constantine then the better target for the ATM?

    The Romans, by any standard, were murderous barbarians, but for the most part they preferred to add vanquished cities to their involuntary trade’n’tax empire-economy, rather than wiping out entire peoples (poor Carthage being one notable exception, of course). By contrast, the followers of Abraham (like Joshua) were unapologetic genocidal terrorists.

    And yet – is Abraham even worthy of consideration? What about those hundreds of proto-Indo-European warlords whose emergence from their barbarous homeland caused the first notable inter-civilizational dark age?

    What about the seemingly endless waves of Turkic horse warriors pouring off the Asiatic steppe to slaughter and enslave the peoples of cities both east and west?

    So many worthy thugs!

    It’s pointless because it’s not merely hypothetical but ludicrous. It’s appealing, however, because the ATM would have so much righteous work to do we’d probably end up wiping out humankind before we ran the batteries down.

    Thanks for the idea! It was fun.

  • jazzman

    Stephen Jay Gould (undoubtedly soundly disabused in the afterlife) sought to explain some of evolutionary theory’s problems (why there are no intermediary forms in the fossil record) by propounding the theory of punctuated equilibria. (Cataclysmic changes occur in so few generations that the intermediary forms are not likely to be fossilized.) I am reminded of the geocentric theory propounded by Ptolemy and the epicycles that were added to make the theory fit the observations. If the evidence isn’t adducible then create a complex explanation as to why. (God created all things in situ – replete with enigmas and just the right balance of decayed radioactivity to give the illusion of great age.) Occam’s Principal of Parsimony needs a stringent application to these theories.

    Kidding aside, I’m sure he was on the right track on the matter of sociobiology – a pseudoscience based on another pseudoscience IMO: Darwinism (however I think sociobiology is more akin to Lamarckism.) In the nature v. nurture sociobiology debate, I’m firmly in the learned behavior (nurture) camp – Noam Chomsky’s theories notwithstanding. (Imagine, human beings are actually innately hardwired with an affinity for Language!!!)

    Chagor: Your reference to P.Z Myers opinion that religion is the great evil of our time struck a chord as my son holds that opinion as a core belief despite my arguing that religion is neutral – it’s people’s application and one’s reaction to that application that make it negative or positive. It had great value as the “opium of the massesâ€? to some and I would argue that the world would be far more chaotic absent the “Moral Imperativeâ€? supplied by religion. Imagine total amorality – not a pleasant prospect. People’s religion is their operating system (Stained Glass Windows?). Input and output are processed through the filter of each person’s world view which is formed by their philosophy (religion by another name.) Humans create God in their own image. I did not expose my children to formal religious dogma as I was skeptical of their powers of critical thinking at a young age. (if there’s brainwashing to be done – I’ll do it.) They are all adults now and I believe competent critical thinkers. I attempted to instill (inculcate) the “Ethical Imperativeâ€? and it seems to have worked.

    Nikos: Where is the Moral Imperative as regards the appeal of the ATM (They’re convenient aren’t they)? Is it justified to assassinate anyone because there is the POTENTIAL for saving more lives (shades of Bush?) In your Tolkien world, as Gandalf predicted, the Gollum redeemed himself in the end. Had he been killed, the ring would probably have not been destroyed. Also who knows what good comes from ramifications of the deeds of “evil doers�. They are just mirrors of human’s “less than ideal� aspects. As my grandmother was fond of saying, “Bad people serve as examples of how not to be for the rest of us.�

  • Nikos

    jazzman: hey, don’t ask me about the moral usage of the ATM! It weren’t my baby to begin with. I thought the premise ludicrous and yet fascinating, and enough so to play with it. Is it amoral? uh, YEAH! To say the LEAST!

    As for Tolkien, — well, as much as I loved it, it was, in the end, a gigantic ‘just-so story’, wasn’t it?

    As for your other thoughts, thanks for the illuminating S J Gould feedback, and I’m mulling the rest of your post too. Good stuff! Gracias!

  • Nikos

    Jazzman: you got me thinkin’. (Darn you.) Here’s a reply in two parts.

    Part 1.

    Would you say that the destruction of a unique sample vial of a potential plague virus is moral, amoral, or immoral? Once destroyed it can’t be studied. Nor can it kill anyone. I think—although admittedly perhaps unclearly—that such a destruction would be neither moral nor immoral but amoral.

    Now, before I can ask the next question, I have to lay a bit of foundation:

    Assyria, Athens, Sparta, Alexander and his army, Rome, the Huns, the Goths, the Seljuks, the Franks, the Mongols, the Ottomans, Spain, Portugal, England, Germany.

    All of these are reckoned mighty powers, at least for a time, in history. Some historians extol their virtues while excusing their…their…uh…murderous dark sides.

    Not me. I think each of them, even the oil-coated, olive-stinking Greeks from who I am descended, contemptible—for their empathetic retardation.

    My morality is founded in my personal non-macho, liberal-weenie empathy, not in any god’s mythical edict. Me? — I couldn’t rape a woman, let alone raise a sword to slice apart a thirteen-year-old boy or girl, like the ‘warriors’ (goons) of so many of these ‘great powers’ did in the names of their gods, or in the names of their national destinies, or whatever other disingenuous excuse they used.

    So, I asked myself, what peoples DON’T I hold in contempt? Well, I’m not sure, because history doesn’t extol the virtues or even the identities of the pacific, non-hierarchical victims of aggression and colonization. But just because we know next to nothing about such people doesn’t mean they didn’t exist—they’re just mute. Muted by the tragedy of their genocides and colonization.

    So jazzman, if you were a member of one of these extinct cultures, would YOU preemptively use the ATM to save your people? (Presuming the assassination of one or even of a few barbarian warlords was enough to avert the invasion, which is another problem with the premise—we just can’t know whether the aggressors wouldn’t have found another leader.)

    I think I would—just as I would destroy that vial of plague. Because even though it wouldn’t be moral, it sure wouldn’t be immoral either. Maybe amorality isn’t a bad thing at all. Maybe it’s really just neutral.

    What would you do? I don’t ask rhetorically; I’m curious. Because my morality is entirely personal, I can’t guess what yours tells you. And I’d like to know. Really.

    Part 2.

    You say Darwinism is a pseudo-science. I wonder why. Your writing is intelligent and very articulate. You’re no lightweight. What is it about Darwinism that fails to convince you?

    Before you answer, let me further the dialogue by saying that even as a young man, when I noted the remarkable similarity of the mammalian clan’s skeletons, I could see the common relationship we all share. Nowadays DNA research is essentially confirming all the same lines of descent. Moreover, how do we explain the reliable results of dog, cat, or livestock breeding except as the evolutionary biologist’s ‘artificial selection’ mechanism?

    (And where ARE you biologists anyway? What, Chris Lydon isn’t good enough for your kind? I’m just a stinkin’ writer—I’m not qualified to present the science arguments! C’mon, ya’ll! Jump in, please!)

    Anyway, jazzman , I’m not argumentative but genuinely curious.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Nikos

    ps to jazzman: I’m not sure what you mean by your Chomsky reference. But I gladly refer you to Phillip Lieberman’s ‘Eve Spoke’ for a fascinating debunking of Chomksy’s ‘language-center’ theory. Now, don’t get the wrong idea: I love Chomsky The Dissident. Chomsky the Linguist I’m not so sure about…

  • Nikos and Jazzman, thank you for responding to the Myers quote. I am a big EOWilson fan and I was so relieved by the decision in Dover. And yet, I was very disturbed to read Myers. Referring to his idea as the ATM made me laugh. And I am grateful that you took the time to talk about this kind of language. I was so glad to hear you refer to it as pointless and ludicrous. I worry that people on our side of the debate talk this way. And so, I think, (I realize now) that I wanted to warn against it as sometimes in our anger –or at least in mine–against the Intelligence people, for example, we can stoop too low. Also, I am saddened by the idea that to be pro-science is to be anti-religion. But you guys have discussed this idea enough already!

  • I really like Potter’sparaphrase of Wilson: “Wilson seems to be saying the most important thing for now is to gently, or firmly as necessary, push religion away from science.” Maybe the scientists have to do stronger pushing, since the religious folks are so intent on merger. And this does not mean the asassination of Abraham, but absolutely no discussion of Abraham. Myers should talk about biology. Not a patriarch.

  • Nikos

    double secret post-post-script to jazzman: wait a minute! What the hell is the (capitalized!) ‘Moral Imperative’? Forgive my ignorance (not that I’ve any shortage of THAT!)…

  • Nikos

    oy, chagor, I’ve had just enough inebriant and rock’n’roll tonight to rue every stinkin’ patriarch that ever lived, and to mourn every missed opportunity for a converse matriarchy of empathetic goddesses like my sister… oh, the utter rottenness of my testosterone-poisoned gender!

    (Sorry, all. It was supposed to be a jest. Well, sort of…)

    Anyway, what I really want to posit is a warning against fandom of any academic. (Not that academics aren’t worthy, but had they wanted fans they’d have learned to play guitar.) Because what do you do when the idol-academic’s life’s-work get tossed out in the next Big Scientific Revolution? It happens, you know, and more often than we jaded-former-fans care to admit. 🙂

  • Potter

    I like the term protoscience for sociobiology. It may become a science. It has that possibility. It is not a pseudoscience, based on false, non-accepted, unproven, methodology. Wilson bases his thinking on his scientific research. Astrology on the other hand is a pseudo-science (but fun).

    If “Darwinism” or the “Theory of Evolution” is not science, I don’t know what is.

    Nikos: many thanks for the link to Wikipedia…..and bringing up the conflict between Gould and Wilson. I remember Gould’s last interview with Chris Lydon. It was on the topic and religion and science. He was almost quoting Rodney King’s “why can’t we get along?”.. science does not threaten religion.

    Well it does apparently.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos” says: “[I] rue every stinkin’ patriarch that ever lived, and…mourn every missed opportunity for a converse matriarchy of empathetic goddesses like my sister… oh, the utter rottenness of my testosterone-poisoned gender!

    (Sorry, all. It was supposed to be a jest. Well, sort of…)” So you’re saying you’re not sure if you’re conflicted or not? Your “gender”, of which every single member (Oops! Unfortunate choice of word, that… ‘course, it’s all we ever think about–and all women ever think about, including the ones who never think about it) is guilty of horror beyond measure, and not redeemed by a single beneficient act worthy of note, has never been poisoned as a whole, except by acid tongues. Go thrash yourself, but don’t paint me too. Learn to recognize and reject stereotyping–especially when you do it. And if you’re so full of that awful chemical (which is also found in the blood of sexually healthy women in good measure…), then you know what to do by now, old boy: drain some of it. All women aren’t empathetic like your sister, either. You really are swooning, aren’t ya, boy. Better go TCB. Yep, it’s a collision of testosterone and PC BS. Meanwhile the women in this country are angry as hell at trying to be men and women, and guys are terrified of them, and disgusted by the thought of handing everything in court to some Jekyll-and-Hyde nun/whore complex who goes from feminist tarted-up tigress at last night’s soiree to big-Catholic-guilt-ridden damsel in distress at the league of sobbing sisters union hall today. BTW, people who are into “natural” stuff, like saving the earth, often seem to balk at the idea of nature when it comes to sexuality. WTF? Oh, nevermind–I must be losing my mind. You have no idea what it’s like to be a Jew sitting home on Christmas eve, and a Saturday night at that… here, let me bend your ear about it. I’m gonna start a movement, and lobby Congress to fund activities for my oppressed group. Churches will have to build a soundproof room made of Plexiglas where we can sit and ignore the offensive litany while not feeling isolated and excluded ’cause we can see the goings-on. Yeah! I’m gonna get on the blower first thing Monday morning and whine my representatives’ ears off. Ther! Am I funny again, ol’ buddyroo? Peace, and goodwill to self-flagellating nudniks, y’all!

  • Nikos

    watz ‘TCB’?

    btw, I got a good chuckle out of your reply.

    But I didn’t mean mine in total seriousness either, so I couldn’t take much offense even had I wanted to. (’twas the vodka talking. Well, that and the female rock band [L7] singing boisterously funny anti-cock-rock feminazi anthems!)

    (oh, I don’t do x-mas either. Hence my payin’ attention to the mimimal blog-scene tonight.)

    Thanks, ALYB. You’re a gem.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: That’s gonna be “Take/takin’ care o’ bizniz”. And phew! Ya never know how someone’s gonna take something. Your mention of L7 makes me think of hard girl groups I’ve dug. I heard a tune on left of the dial FM in Boston years ago that I have zero memory of by a band called the “5-6-7-8’s” and I bookmarked it in the dusty back stacks of my mind for that elusive someday when I’ve TCB’ed enough to do what I wanna. Gotta hear it again someday. Also, there was a band in my neck of the pavement (Boston) called “Malachite” which I saw downstairs at the renowned and defunct Rat many moons ago and they were ferocious curvaceous kitties who apparently grew fabric in place of fur. One later scored a regular gig at the (formerly) significant WBCN radio leviathan. Some girls sure do rock. Boston’s had its share–still does, probably. One of my favorite tunes by a girl in a pop genre ever is still “Rock Steady” by Aretha–keep a 7-incher of it on display, and close behind is “Tell Me Something Good” by uber-sextoy Chaka Khan and “I Hate Myself For Lovin’ You” by Joan Jett. How pathetic–memory lane is for entertainment on your deathbed. Here’s to the new–everything you love was new once, right? Like Ruth Gordon in “Harold and Maude”, I’m looking out for the new. There’s devastatingly funky electronic dance music coming out all the time. I can’t stand the Groundhog-Day repetitive drone of one hundred songs that nearly everyone of any age seems to listen to, and I never could, even when I first began to hear pop on the radio in 1971. I still listen more to the first music of my life–classical and jazz, than anything else; but there are young people bursting with ideas, energy, and tech savvy who are making life interesting and tolerable and I can’t imagine listening to a couple of hundred pop songs exclusively from “my youth” over and over for the rest of my days. That’s like a dress rehearsal for death so you’ll shine in your actual swan song on closing night. Duh.

  • Nikos

    I’m about to commit a sin, I worry, by replying to ALYB’s utterly non-EOWilson with more utterly non-EOWilson.

    i.e., music recommendations. (sorry Brendan!)

    Because lately the young of both genders are putting out rock every bit as worthy as ‘the weary old classics’ I grew up with alongside ALYB. No, I take that back: worthier. As in Better. MUCH Better.

    Here’s a full list of the female bands and singers I had blasting last night out my winamp-cpu-juke box:

    The Pandoras (brilliant but all-too-brief raw power-pop rock),

    The Donnas (awesome femi-punk-rock),

    Veruca Salt (fuzzy-guitared 90’s power pop),

    the wholly mis-named Garbage (led by the magnificent Shirley Manson),

    Angelfish (Shirley Manson’s first band),

    Sahara Hotnights (a relatively new Swedish quartet destined for eminence),

    Liz Phair (who just keeps getting better),

    Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses (who if you don’t know you should),

    The Breeders (whose Kim Deal has a voice that could command me to do just about anything),

    Sleater-Kinney (an aquired taste, but a taste worth acquiring),

    Bikini Kill (the name sez it all),

    the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who’re overdue for a new record, methinks),

    and the good ol’ Pretenders (although it was Ms. Hynde’s recent album ‘Loose Screw’ instead of the old classics).

    I recommend ’em all. Especially L7.

    Now you know the soundtrack of my gender-bash jest! (and please remember that I apologized for it simultaneously.)

    And thanks for the Malachite tip, ALYB. I’ve heard of ’em, but not heard ’em. Maybe I’ll search Amazon. And tip me further on the 5-6-7-8’s if you find a trace of ’em.

    oh, and nowadays Joan Jett dj’s a show on Sirius radio. Well worth a listen.

    double oh: Wikipedia is a great place to research rock bands you’ve heard of but haven’t actually heard.


  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: We may catch heck when Coach gets back from sponging up his semi-digested eggnog, but it isn’t really spelled out–except I guess we’re both tall enough to ride the bumper-cars, sooo… Anyway, I just asked my homepage, “Clusty” the Clustering Engine, if it had ever heard of the 5-6-7-8’s, and apparently I really am out of touch. They are anything but obscure. Of course I’m onto Boston-bred bands like the Muses and Breeders (spawn of the Pixies). Chrissie Hynde is uh, well, I’ll be kind and say that growing up (or failing to) in public is something I wouldn’t want. When Monsanto or someone figures out a way to grow me the kind of bait I’d need to go fishing for Ms. Manson, I may just stick it in the water. I’ll show her how to sing, alright. Veruca Salt totally blew it with me when they pretended that their big mid-90’s hit wasn’t a double-entendre about “that”. What !@#$%^&*!’s they were: teeheeheeeee we’re clean innocent little Brownies, tee hee…we don’t know WHAT you mean, teehee!!!! Oh puh-leez. Sickening. Liz Phair is sharp, but whining about being in exile in guyville put me off a bit–I mean, I guess the girls weren’t really buying it either, huh Liz? And I couldn’t tell how sincere she was in “Supernova”–was she condescending, or was she yowling out, “Please Please Me”? Can’t we all just be honest? I mean, no one feels embarrassed to need food, sleep, shelter, and stuff… Oh. Wait. Modern women feel guilty about food? Oh, well… I PREFER pleasingly plump–as long as it doesn’t cross the line to repulsively rotund. Peace.

  • Nikos

    I guess I don’t mind the whiners. I mean, the late 60’s Stones (who I unnaccountably still love) do it in a menacing growl, so that makes their version of junkie-rocker gender-bashing more palatable than Chrissie’s ‘Pack It Up’? That’s how the ‘rock critics’ (mostly if not all men at the time) would have you think, anyway. Doesn’t seem fair.

    I didn’t know Veruca Salt were so silly (I’ve never been able to stomach MTV/VH1 for more than 19 seconds at a time, so I’m rock-culturally illiterate), but I can report that after Nina Gordon left the scene, Louise Post did a whiny but hard rocking half-Veruca called ‘Resolver’. It got panned, but I like it. Their output was admittedly uneven not to mention abbreviated.

    Liz Phair’s last two records please me plenty, although I don’t listen to them any more than I do the harder edged stuff like the Donnas (check out their scathingly funny album ‘Spend The Night’), Pandoras, Hotnights, Garbage, and a bunch of guys I haven’t yet listed. (Don’t make me, please. I’ll be up all night!)

    Anyway, music, like beauty, isn’t always appreciated equally by all — especially lyrics, which I don’t even begin to pay heed to before the third or fourth listen to a song.

    oh, and I appreciate your mention of liking classical in the earlier post. I’ve got zillions (ok, hundreds) of cd’s of 16th, 17th, and 18th century music too. (And for someone who derides Christianity as much as I do, I unabashedly love masses from the three centuries I just mentioned. Go figure!) Jazz? I dunno wa-happened. Maybe it was all the Iggy and MC5 in my Detroit upbringing that somehow ruined my jazz palate.


    Rock on, Wayne. 😉

    And sorry again Brendan. We goin’ on probation? Hey, it’s x-mas eve! Clemency!

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: Rules are only good for how they serve us as tools, as guidelines. I LOVE Gregorian chants and church organs and church buildings themselves. And even being an agnostic Jew, I enloy and even follow some ideas ascribed to “holy books”–but I reserve the right (and honor the responsibility) to think at all times and to question all things including deeply- or habitually-held beliefs. One of the terrible effects of corruption and amoral power-seeking is that someone can decide to ignore the whole of a situation if a chunk of it is tainted; hence people who don’t even want to hear hypnotic music because it’s in a church where priests have done some undue celebrating in the rectory (badoom). Separating the wheat from the chaff, I believe the New Testament calls it… considered human discrimination is the opposite of instinctual reaction. I find it unsurprising and pleasing that you like liturgical music despite an antipathy for much of the rest o the process. And if one is a believer, one must still “Have no other god before me”: even a fellow human, in the role of a clergyman, who utterly misinterprets scripture due to his own weaknesses. “Just following orders” is no more an excuse before Saint Peter at the pearly gates than it was at Nuremberg, I’m sure. BTW, have you ever read “Demian” by Hermann Hesse? Hesse was a true Christian believer who felt much this way. If you like, or liked, “Demian”, I think you’d also like “Narcissus and Goldmund” by Hesse, too. Seeya–ALYB

  • A little yellow bird

    To Coach (Brendan): Tell you what–instead of this hypocrisy of continuing to go off the thread’s subject, then apologizing, and then doing it again; here’s the thread again! http://wired.com/ has a interview http://wired.com/news/politics/0,69905-0.html?tw=wn_tophead_15 with the guy who founded “Pastafarianism: The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” in answer to the notion of Intelligent Design, and who is writing a book for near-term release called “The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster”. He’s a physics grad who’s received an $80K advance for the book and is doing a brisk biz in mugs and t-shirts at his site http://www.venganza.org/index.htm . I think someone ought to write a perhaps more serious book entitled “Left Behind: The American Schoolchildren Who Were Taught the Physics of Clap-On Clap-Off the Magic God-Provided Electric Lights” (title based of course on the moronic but terrifyingly influential evangelical end-of-timer apocalypse series of brain-vacuum called “Left Behind”). Maybe faith has helped those who have helped themselves, but Edison still blew the incandescent bulb a zillion times before he got it right–with apparently VERY minimal help from His Celestial Laziness. Word, y’all.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: BTW, I don’t mind some whiners, if they’re witty and cute about it–like if they’re pouting a little but hinting that I could scratch ’em behind the ears a bit to make things right again–not banishing the whole of my sex to some wintry prison-planet of eternal damnation where a dull sun with a snarling scorned unhappy-face hangs in the sky around the clock. Example: the funny Ms. Stefani faux-whimpering about being “just a girl”; a poor li’l ginger snap waiting to be gobbled up by the packs of drooling wolves roaming the streets in roaring cars with “armadilloes in our trousers” as Nigel Tufnel put it in “This is Spinal Tap”. What does that talentless yob Gavin Rossdale have that I don’t, anyway… oh, yeah–I forgot: a dingdongdillion dollars and an I-don’t-care drone that attracts it.

  • Potter

    I think you both should be allowed to go beserk on Christmas. I won’t complain… but I can’t read most of it. Brendan- be kind to them!

  • A little yellow bird

    “Potter”: Praises, fair Samaritan! Yea, O Vanguardian of the Temple of Digits: neither a Grinch nor a Scrooge be! Peace on Earth and goodwill towards the Wandering Bloggers–there but for the grace of Heaven’s Sovereign goeth thou!

  • Nikos

    thanks to whomever it was for the wikipedia article on the FSM. Awesome!



    ‘Uh, coach?, Coach Brendan?’ I say courtside as he squints through the fuzzy silver confusion of the cheerleader pom-poms toward the action under the basket.

    ‘What NOW, Nikos?’ he mutters while steeling himself for another typical Nikos brain-fart.

    ‘I Got An IDEA!’

    During the sudden cheer in the instant aftermath of ALYB scoring another stylisticly inimitable slam-dunk, and through the interpersonal dead silence between me and coach, I bravely stutter:

    ‘What if you set up something like an ‘Off Topic Thread? So that poor surfing souls don’t have to waste their time in drivel about somebody’s favorite rock bands?

    ‘It would work like this: I could say in a post to ALYB that I’ve got a reply to him that wanders off topic, so if he wants to read he should meet me at the O.T.Thread.

    ‘Or we could call it the Tangent Thread, or the Digression Thread. Or the Drivel Thread.

    ‘We could even mention it in replies that mostly discuss the designated topic, like: “EO Wilson sure helped me see the mistakeness of my fundamentalist disdain for Darwin. Thanks so much for the show! And btw, Nikos, I’ve a critique of your foolishness on the Drivel Thread.”

    ‘The Drivel, or Tangent, or OT Thread would have a disclaimer on its heading to ward off the unwary, and could be thousands of entries long, and would comprise, in part, the Open Source Pub!

    ‘Whaddya say?’

    He doesn’t answer right away, of course. But ALYB is driving again toward the hoop…

    (Go Pistons!)

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: Score!

  • Nikos

    PS to Coach Brendan. It occurs to me (although perhaps as an example of my nouveau-blogger naivette) that tangential/social exchanges on the Open Source Pub / O.T. Thread might allow your bloggers to better acquaint themselves with one another — thus lessening the chances for insults like ‘bigot’, ‘ditto-tard’, and ‘dumbhead’. I worked in an Ann Arbor Michigan bar/pub for a couple of decades & can attest that the few hostilities I ever had to broker were almost exclusively between the previously-unacquainted. (But I only ever blog here, so I don’t know the blogo-sphere norms. Still, if I’m right, maybe we can break some new ground…)

  • Nikos

    Goodness Gracious!

    If I missed someone else’s reference to this site, I must apologize! It’s a ‘must read’ for the real, original non-rock-band topic of this thread:



    (a few inches down the web-page)

  • jazzman

    My apologies for a tardy reply to this thread. I only have computer access through my work and can only post after work hours. I also have been on vacation until today.

    Nikos: As to your part 1 query. Plagues have come and gone throughout the history of the planet. They serve many purposes (as many and varied as the individual consciousnesses that cooperate in their demise.). As a generalization I would say that they rectify certain imbalances in populations (human, dinosaur, etc.). I would argue that if any plague is “wiped out� another will arise to perform a similar task. Polio, Smallpox, and many venereal diseases are “controlled� (HAH) and no longer fashionable. Now AIDS and cancer are more popular. Mad Cow disease and prionic pathogens are plagues with a bullet on the top 40 (maybe this provides a tie-in to your off topic concerns.) I make no judgment on the morality of your hypothetical destruction – I personally wouldn’t but as you note it’s neutral either way. (Aside to your pps. I define morality as religious in origin – morals are defined by dogma. I should have used the term “Ethical Imperative� to question your ATM fantasies as I define ethics as a secular based counterpart of morals. I also define 2 “Absolute Imperatives� 1.) No person shall PHYSICALLY harm other persons & 2.) No person shall steal TANGIBLE property from other persons. IMO the only JUST laws that exist flow from these principles.)

    The same could be said for human being’s historic brutality towards their fellows, environment, etc. as I stated the stories of man’s mostly fear based inhumanity to others serves as graphic examples of how not to behave. Unfortunately it is easily perceived that fear still is the main human governing factor and similar examples are rife. The Conservative Revolution is based on fear – preying on the public’s baser instincts. Fear of terrorists, epidemics, losing money to taxes, welfare cheats, freedom etc. Ben Franklin was right “Those willing to trade their freedom for safety – deserve neither�.

    Part 2.) Darwinism is a compelling story to explain life’s diversity IMO no different in content than myths or “Just So� stories. As I stated in my only post to the Darwin/Dover discussion, I believe the main reason it’s compelling is that there are essentially 2 creation myth choices. Faced with choosing between these, naturally a reasoning individual would opt for Darwinism but as has been mentioned, Darwinism has many problems. By drawing conclusions from apparent similarities in DNA structure and phenotype it is easy (too easy) to say “Of course, how could it be otherwise? – Any fool can see that embryonic gill-like structures must mean that we were descended from fish!!! Ontology Recapitulates Phylogeny Q.E.D.� Where are the intermediate forms? Evaporated in the punctuated equilibria? Why are there NO examples anywhere? Why is the natural world not littered with examples of transmogrification? Evolution is valid on a micro scale where varieties within a species dominate due to favorable niche exploitation. (Sooty moths for example were favored when coal burning was rampant; as the soot declined the less sooty variety dominated as the sooty ones were easy prey to birds.) Again I refer you to http://home.wxs.nl/~gkorthof/ for examples of alternate opinions.

    To your p.s.: I too am fond of the dissident Chomsky. I included his evolution based language theory reference as tautological humor. (IMO spoken language or generic human communication, is learned behavior (nurture not nature) – in that we can learn it, we obviously have been born with that capability.) That being said I do believe that ALL consciousness has the innate capacity for communication.

    Chagor: Religion and Science are not players in a zero sum game. For many, science is their religion (E.O. Wilson, SJG, Chagor?) and vice versa. How about Scientology the best of both worlds? Body Thetans anyone?

    Potter: I refer you to part 2 of my reply to Nikos. Hard science is derived from the principles of Physics. Soft Science is derived from principles of human psychology. IMO except for biology and the fact that the observer creates the observed, human behavior is an unlikely candidate for rigorous scientific inquiry therefore sociobiology is again IMO a pseudoscience rather than a protoscience. Plate tectonics and geology are examples of former protosciences. Perhaps Darwinism is a protoscientific form of the future Quantum-mechanical theory of creationism.

    ALYB and Nikos: The “Off Topicâ€? topic: As my handle implies I am a jazz (spontaneously improvised instrumental music – Bach played jazz) enthusiast. I enjoy Classical Music compositionally and recognize the talent required to execute it instrumentally, however the player(s) is required to follow the composer’s form with minor nuances at best usually (Lang Lang does a mean improvisation on Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody) and a sophisticated computer could be programmed to present it equally IMO. In fact a CD player is just a computer. I was a church organist for many years and enjoyed playing the hymns and oratorios at the time but now I don’t own any religious recordings. Girl rock – I enjoy Ani DiFranco and Indigo Girls. I haven’t been impressed by contemporary rock groups to the degree that I would purchase their work however I occasionally catch an act on TV that is tolerable. I miss the dinosaurs like Hendrix, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Zappa – those guys rocked and could play!!!

    BTW does Brendan really read every one of the OS posts? Brendan?

  • Nikos

    jazzman: No time for a full reply, but I gladly offer a quick thanks for the post. Many chuckles! See you later.

  • Potter

    Jazzman: There may come a time, if we are not already entering it, when sociobiology is based on hard science, not soft science. By this I mean achieving a deeper understanding chemical and physiological causes of behavior.

  • Nikos

    jazzman: I guess I have to respectfully disagree with the plague analysis of your post’s part 1., in that I can’t see plagues as anything more than opportunistic parasites.

    In this view, any useful purpose served by such parasites is purely accidental. Assigning ‘utility’ to such environmental agents comes uncomfortably too close to implying an underlying design. Now, admittedly, environmental science does this regularly, but I think this mistake is simply another conceptual accident: metaphors of construction so thoroughly permeate our language it’s nearly impossible to avoid use of the ‘life is a machine’ fallacy, with its attendant implication that ‘somebody’ must have built it. It’s true that all the environment’s agents seem to work together as a sort of unified-system-gestalt, but the limited impact of parasitism isn’t a ‘culling regulator’—not a deliberate one anyway—because disease-immunity is just as accidental, resulting directly from random genetic mutation. After all, some (perhaps many) species entirely disappear under parasitic invasion; from the perspective of those diseased to extinction, their ‘culling’ can hardly be ‘accepted’ as a mechanistic ‘regulation’.

    Now, having wasted at least ten minutes formulating this alternative view, I’m surely due an amused debunking by a legitimate environmental scientist!

    Anyway, moving on, I stand by my assertion that my own personal morals stem entirely from empathy. Having been a victim of cruelty, neglect, violence, and theft, I know how abuse feels and refuse to inflict it. I need no dogma to inform my morals. I am wholly free from religion, and yet, I dare to claim, more moral – more ‘Christian’ no less! – than most of the self-named ‘religious’ of our country. I discarded Christian morality in my youth when I shrugged off my ill-fitting Sunday-school education. Whatever morals I live by that coincide with biblical fiat are just as accidental as genetic mutation, by necessity, because these morals originated within me, not from any book or prophet.

    As for the hitherto unmentioned aspect of biblical morality that deals with sex: I think it’s all bunk at best and, at worst, a garbage pail of profoundly misguided anti-natural obsession. The massive devaluation and repression suffered by Islamic women is an extreme example of this obsession. It’s so far from ‘moral’ it infuriates me that it’s somehow conflated with ‘morality’. Yeah, it’s true that this misnamed ‘morality’ stems from well-established dogma, but so did Himmler’s gas chambers. Was Buchenwald ‘atrocious’ or ‘moral’?

    Is religious sanction of wife-beating and honor-killing ‘moral’, or ‘atrocious’?

    Finally, I have to confess ongoing confusion on your view of Darwinism. Let’s set aside the theoretical ‘mechanics’ of it for the moment. Allow me please to rephrase a question from our prior discourse: if evolution is a ‘just-so’ story, how are we to interpret the results of genetic/genomic research showing that all of earth’s life descends from shared ancestors?

    And thanks, sincerely, for your fulsome and wryly amusing input here. See ya’, pal!

  • Brendan

    Jazzman: I do.

  • jazzman

    Nikos: Work’s a bear today. No time for reply. More Later

    Brendan: You get paid for this? What a great gig!!!

  • A little yellow bird

    “jazzman”: Jazz da bomb, y’all. I’ve been to fairly few music shows in my time, but more jazz than pop. I’m sure I’ve seen McCoy at least ten times, once with Bobby Hutcherson adding vibes, in every sense; saw Elvin Jones twice–a ferocious mountain of a man even in his seventies (RIP) who talked very softly, carried a couple of small sticks, but wielded ’em like baseball bats. Seen Ahmad Jamal a few times–his drummer, Aaron Scott, has achieved orgasm every time, grunting and moaning aloud; Freddie Hubbard, with Javon Jackson’s crew backing him up; Max Roach and the So What Brass Five (yow-Eddie Henderson!); and Bobby McFerrin at Symphony Hall in Boston: he is a human synthesizer and beatbox and contortionist and lightning-fast thinker and improviser and a funny, sweet guy too. As to live pop acts, Zappa was good three times, as was the Cure and Bonnie Raitt. Brazilian Girls were very good this summer in Boston, too. Life’s short–it’s all good. Well, much of it.

  • Nikos

    ALYB: Brendan reads everything.



  • A little yellow bird

    Hee hee hee!

  • jazzman

    Nikos: I think you missed my point in my part 1 reply. I didn’t mean that the plagues were responsible (or anthropomorphic agencies) for rectifying imbalances; I meant the “victims� cooperated with the parasites (rather symbionts in this relationship) in their own demise in an altruistic way to benefit the gestalt (Jungian Collective Unconsciousness.) It doesn’t have to be microbes – any form of mass elimination will do – asteroids, war, “natural disasters�, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. These events are cooperative ventures (adventures?) and serve to affect group and individual projections. The catalyst is just a tool (neutral in itself). (e.g., The black plague occurred due to the deplorable living conditions present in medieval Europe. A third of the population was wiped out which resulted in massive labor shortages which in turn caused massive revolts which lead to reforms – 2 thirds of the people didn’t “choose� (unconsciously) to participate in the drama but were the beneficiaries of the altruism of the third who did (or in your view accidentally the lucky recipients of favorable genetic mutation – however people with “healthy psyches� have immune systems that repel pathogens very effectively) The recent tsunami and Katrina provided a global & local focus on deplorable living conditions in the affected areas and I predict reforms will occur due to these events as well (again people with balanced psyches are generally not adversely affected (physically) by such events. Admittedly if your worldview supports the belief that randomness is the prime mover and that so-called victims are innocent bystanders who unluckily find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time this makes absolutely no sense. Since you stated previously in your Deep Ecology discourse, “It’s US� (we) (anal pedantry from a former English major) and by implication (We have met the enemy and he is us – Pogo Philosophy) I believed you realized that the “victims� and the “victimizers� are we. Please don’t construe this as a personal indictment of your mentioned “victimizations.� IMO victims and perpetrators bear the responsibility for the “joint event�. You were right! The divinity is you (I, we, all)

    Now having invested at least 30 minutes formulating this alternative view – I’m surely due a debunking by probably everyone.

    Moving on: As I stated above morals are, by MY definition, based in religious dogma. I don’t generally use the “loaded� term morals for that reason even though certain moral precepts coincide with ethical precepts. As I (like you) attempted to discard formal religion in my youth. I looked for a secular equivalent and ethics seemed to fit the bill. However, I arrived at the conclusion that ethics didn’t always fit my innate sense of “right & wrong� therefore I was led to what I stated as the core Absolute Imperative. I agree that your solipsistic sense of “morals� originated within you as it does in ALL humans as they refine, supplant and justify their worldview and sense of permissible behavior, however the origination is your perception (creation) of reality based on your life experience (which includes information from books (surely, as you’re a writer) and prophets come disguised in many forms.)

    Next: The subjugation of Islamic women as permitted by the Koran (and not by self-serving interpretation) by my definition is moral. Possibly even ethical. (the Aztec’s practice of human sacrifice and religious cannibalism was both moral & ethical in the terms of their society. Was this due to accidental evolutionary mutation in their Homo sapiens sub-group (possibly chemically induced or a physiological aberration? Potter?) It’s situations like these that require the Absolute Imperative if one is to condemn or place a value judgment regarding the behavior. The roundup of holocaust (or any pogrom) participants was sanctioned at least tacitly by the majority (bandwagon fallacy) in those atrocities. I’m not sure how many were consciously aware of the actual events that were taking place in that context.

    Nikos wrote: >> Is religious sanction of wife-beating and honor-killing ‘moral’, or ‘atrocious’? >> Moral and atrocious!!!

    Now: ALL “livingâ€? beings (living is a slippery term), simple to complex have shared similarities, the “higherâ€? life forms seem to show a progression from the “lowerâ€? life forms again: Ontology “seemsâ€? to recapitulate Phylogeny. ALL living (and “non-livingâ€?) beings are composed of sub-atomic particles that form atoms which form elements then molecules and compounds etc. Is it merely some “specialâ€? combination that becomes living and/or conscious? Darwinism is a “Just soâ€? story that can’t address many (most) aspects of existence. It is a hand waving explanation (story) that says a primordial soup arose from inorganic components somewhere, some amino acids got created in a Urey-Miller reducing atmosphere, then A MIRACLE OCCURRED and voila – simple life was born. Complex organisms evolve by some mechanism (natural tautological selection) from simpler forms. It is all “look at it – it’s obviousâ€? evidence – unverifiable, experimentally untestable, and incapable of falsifiability. No scientist or genetic manipulator or “natureâ€? (ALL things are natural) has ever created life, transmogrified life from one species to another or anything approaching Darwin’s theory. Did some fish, reptile, amphibian, lay an egg that hatched a chicken? Darwin seems to think so. Micro-evolution is the only evidence we have for any sort of physical evolution (Intellectual or psychical evolution appears to exist as well, however try to find it today – talk about Devolution!!!)

    ALBY: You’ve got good taste in Jazz – check out Sculler’s schedule for this quarter – Robert Glasper, Roy Haynes, Hiromi (Talk about a female keyboard monster- I saw her the last time she was in town.) Brad Mehldau (and a host of other notables!!!)

    I can’t read or respond ‘til next week – peace all.

  • Nikos

    I like you, jazzman. I got lots of little disagreements with a few of your points (and no time now to detail ’em) but I really like you. You’ve got brains, humor, and morals (MY definition, in this case!).

    Thanks. A lot. More later, pal. Peace. (& Ramen)

    (ps: I knew, somehow, that I was commiting inconsistency-suicide with my pathogen argument. Good work calling me on it. Luckily, I think I can rectify the contradiction — but not tonight!)

  • jazzman

    Nikos: Thanks for your kind words, I enjoy your writing as well. I hope I’ll continue to live up to the idea-construct that is your current me.

  • Student

    Sorry to break the flow.

  • Potter

    Jazzman says:

    “Next: The subjugation of Islamic women as permitted by the Koran (and not by self-serving interpretation) by my definition is moral. Possibly even ethical. (the Aztec’s practice of human sacrifice and religious cannibalism was both moral & ethical in the terms of their society. Was this due to accidental evolutionary mutation in their Homo sapiens sub-group (possibly chemically induced or a physiological aberration? Potter?) It’s situations like these that require the Absolute Imperative if one is to condemn or place a value judgment regarding the behavior.”

    By my definition subjugation of Islamic women and cannibalism is IMmoral but it is a morality ( not my morality). It’s morality of Islamic men. It’s the morality of the stronger Aztec over the weaker Aztec. From that it’s easy to go to biology or sociobiology. You do not need “accidental evolutionary mutation” for your examples These are variations on similar themes elsewhere.

    Your Absolute Imperative of course is what WE are trying to impose on THEM even if I agree with it.

    Regarding Darwinism being a “just so story”, Jazzman, with all due respect, you have a long way to go.

    Jazzman you write this above:

    “It is a hand waving explanation (story) that says a primordial soup arose from inorganic components somewhere, some amino acids got created in a Urey-Miller reducing atmosphere, then A MIRACLE OCCURRED and voila – simple life was born. Complex organisms evolve by some mechanism (natural tautological selection) from simpler forms. It is all “look at it – it’s obviousâ€? evidence – unverifiable, experimentally untestable, and incapable of falsifiability. No scientist or genetic manipulator or “natureâ€? (ALL things are natural) has ever created life, transmogrified life from one species to another or anything approaching Darwin’s theory. Did some fish, reptile, amphibian, lay an egg that hatched a chicken? Darwin seems to think so. Micro-evolution is the only evidence we have for any sort of physical evolution (Intellectual or psychical evolution appears to exist as well, however try to find it today – talk about Devolution!!!)”

    This is dogmatism, in other words it’s not based on an understanding of science. One cannot argue with a dogmatist.

    With Darwin’s theory,which is proven science, something seems to snap in the human brain even a very bright one.

  • jazzman

    Potter says: >> It’s morality of Islamic men. It’s the morality of the stronger Aztec over the weaker Aztec.

    It’s the moral code of many Islamic women as well, (it’s possible (probable) that this is due to tradition, ignorance (lack of information) or a fundamentalist reading of the Koran. I can’t cite the Koran but female subjugation (they probably don’t consider it that and maintain it’s for their (the woman’s) own good, the veils, birkas and concealing garments damping Nikos’ archetypal hyper-testosterone saturated male’s lust) is sanctioned (undoubtedly contradicted elsewhere in the Koran but one sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest – Paul Simon) and the same can be said for the Old Testament. Anyway not the point, as I merely was stating by my definition Morality is religious dogma as you also imply. The Aztecs as well (and I’m no Aztec scholar) are reputed to have appeased their “godsâ€? with the aforementioned rituals (the weakness of the victims notwithstanding as I noted to Nikos, IMO victims and perpetrators bear the responsibility for the “joint eventâ€?. Again I deplore and would not countenance such events even though by my definition they are moral.

    Potter says >>You do not need “accidental evolutionary mutation� for your examples These are variations on similar themes elsewhere.

    I was questioning your assertion that by achieving a deeper understanding chemical and physiological causes of behavior (which according to Darwin’s supporters (and I presume you) had to have been caused by “accidental evolutionary mutation�) that the protoscientific sociobiology would become a hard science like physics. Again I seriously (due to a belief in Free Will and observed inconsistencies and foolish consistencies) doubt that human behavior will ever be reducible to chemicals or physiology. I doubt that any of the so called “soft sciences� will “evolve� into a true (hard) science. At best (worst?) they may provide a statistical sort of stereotypical example which may be used in fallacious arguments to persuade the unwary of their position.

    Potter says:>>Your Absolute Imperative of course is what WE are trying to impose on THEM even if I agree with it.

    I would not recommend imposing ANY imperative on anyone even if I agree with it. (If the Absolute Imperative were to be imposed it would necessarily violate its own 1st principle and likely the 2nd if history is any indication.) The only way for it to work is if it is accepted of one’s free will and practiced “religiously.â€? LOL – IMO the power of persuasion via reasoned discourse (look out for them fallacies) is the only legitimate means of achieving that end. BTW the END NEVER justifies the MEANS. A “goodâ€? (whose good?) end reached unjustly, carries Major baggage – current and historical examples are rife. Just means need no justification by definition. (More to come on the Morality: God Given or Evolved thread.)

    Potter says:>>Regarding Darwinism being a “just so story�, Jazzman, with all due respect, you have a long way to go.

    Long way? About 4.5 billion years I’d say – I started out as biology major in college was irreligious (still am as far as formal constructs go – by my definition NO One is free of dogma – me included as you point out – more on that below) and bought Darwinism (hook, line and sinker.) as I believed the textbooks and my professors. Later I switched to English but that’s another story. Gradually over the years I have reached the conclusion that I have held for at least 30 years – that Darwinism has no more validity than the Biblical Story of Creation, Greco/Roman myths, any Aboriginal creation stories, or Eastern Philosophical Positions. (Although I’d argue they are closer to apprehending the nature of reality than Darwin ever was.) As a person who is well acquainted with science and scientific method I am shocked (more appalled) that so many scientists are so tunnelvisioned in their acceptance of Darwinism. They forget their basic scientific methodological training. They disregard any evidence that calls into question the tenets of that THEORY (if it were PROVEN fact then it wouldn’t be a theory.) When confronted with the evidence that the evolutionary “Tree of Life� was not tree-like at all (no branches just a collection of discrete lines – a species appears in the fossil record, continues essentially unchanged, then disappears), Stephen Jay Gould (firmly in the “Darwin has to be correct – there is no other explanation!� camp) says: “How can we account for this anomaly? AHA! Stable populations undergo short lived events, so greatly catastrophic, that they result in such complete transmogrification of some members of every evolved species so that there are no intermediary forms to be fossilized. IPSO FACTO the epicyclical THEORY of Punctuated Equilibria. (Don’t Latin words lend cachet to complex reductions?) Why didn’t horseshoe crabs ever suffer these myriad catastrophes? They haven’t evolved in 350 million years. Because the oceans protected them. But what about oceanic diversity – one of the most diverse biomes on the planet. How about cockroaches – stable 300 million years – no oceans (or refrigerators) there!

    Crocodiles? 250 million years – the giant ones just ran out of food. These are but a small sample of exceptions that prove the rule.

    Potter says:>> This is dogmatism, in other words it’s not based on an understanding of science. One cannot argue with a dogmatist (see the referral in Potter’s Post above.

    As far as I know with the possible exception of the Urey-Miller reducing atmosphere (possibly abandoned in favor of clay based amino acid formation) and the hand waving “Miracle�, this is the scientific orthodoxy that holds sway today. The rest of the paragraph is evidential (and BTW capable of falsification), not dogmatic (incapable of falsification.) If you read my post in the Dover thread, and as you posted after it I assume you did, I don’t pretend to an answer for “the 2nd big question� I claim agnosticism until convincing evidence is adduced. BTW you can argue with anyone – persuading them to your point of view is the difficult part.

    Potter says:>> With Darwin’s theory,which is proven science, something seems to snap in the human brain even a very bright one

    Proven? (By whom?) Science? It doesn’t yet (no dogma!) pass scientific muster. With a challenge to Darwin’s Theory which is considered heresy to a Darwinologist, something seems to snap in the human brain even a very bright one. Nyah, nyah, So’s yer old man. – No animosity – just amusement.

  • Nikos

    jazzman and potter:

    I’m just dropping in (being too busy to contribute anything worth a damn of my own) and thought I should throw this into your fray, from a reply to jazzman I’ve not had time to finish properly:

    From Wikitionary:



    1. ability to distingush good and evil or right and wrong, right or good conduct

    2. ethics, motivation based on ideas of right and wrong�




    1. of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior; as in moral judgments ( see Ethical )

    2. expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior; as in a moral poem

    3. conforming to a standard of right behavior

    4. sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgment; as in a moral obligation

    5. capable of right and wrong action; as in a moral agent

    1. probable but not proved; as in a moral certainty ( see Virtual )

    1. having the effects of such on the mind, confidence or will; as in a moral victory or moral support

    morally (adverb)

    Synonyms: MORAL ETHICAL VIRTUOUS RIGHTEOUS NOBLE mean conforming to a standard of what is right and good. MORAL implies conformity to established sanctioned codes or accepted notions of right and wrong; ETHICAL may suggest the involvement of more difficult or subtle questions or rightness, fairness, or equity; VIRTUOUS implies the possession or manifestation of moral excellence in character; RIGHTEOUS stresses guiltlessness or blamelessnes and often suggests the sanctimonious; NOBLE implies moral eminence and freedom from anything petty, mean or dubious in conduct and character.




    1. the moral significance or practical lesson (the moral of a story)

    1. moral practices or teachings: modes of conduct

    1. syn: Ethics�

    Now, my American Heritage gives a much larger set of definitions for these two, replete with surprising nuance. But I’ve been a bit feversih this weekend, so I’m not about to copy it all! Wikitionary will have to suffice.

    The beauty of it is that both your prefered definition and mine are shared between the A.H. definitions and the smaller wikitionary set. Above, def. #4 under ‘moral’ is obviously mine, while def.#3 is jazman’s. So, can we agree that both definitions are valid? And that Potter, me, and many if not most others tend to think of #4 when the word ‘moral’ sounds in their minds?

    Later, guys.

  • Nikos

    because I’m runnin’ a fever, I failed to make it clear that EMPATHY is the agent in this use of definition #4: ‘moral: “sanctioned by…one’s conscience”.

    Sorry guys. Back to bed for me…

  • jazzman

    Nikos: Sorry to hear that you are ailing. I sort of EMPATHIZE with your condition (i.e., I understand it (beneficial bugs or opportunistic parasites, it maybe even a beneficial opportunity), I have compassion for your suffering, but I don’t identify with it as I am not physically ill (as Potter noted, possibly (probably) mentally) and currently do not wish to be (at least consciously) (physically or mentally.)

    Anyway to reiterate, the definitions of “Moral�, “Ethics� and “Absolute� (which I realize due to these friendly exchanges requires me to ponder anew the “Absolute Imperative� about which I would say it’s more akin to the “Law� than value judgments) that I use are to establish boundries for discussion. Again morals = religious values, ethics = secular values. The definitions could easily be switched or used interchangeably but I find generally the connotations for each term comport fairly well. (Morality has a sexual connotation which is usually derived from religious proscriptions – ethics (as you note) has a “fairness� connotation, usually derived from intrapersonal or business contracts.) As long as we separate church and state from the definition it doesn’t matter. State morals (oxymoron?) or church ethics (oxymoronic? Particularly in light of the Pedophile Priests/Ministers scandals.)

    I haven’t polled anyone as to whether your assertion that most people tend to think of your #4 definition when they here the word “moral� (which I note includes the ethical sense as well), I would think that #1 would be the common trigger.

    I intend to address the whole morality question in the upcoming thread (I see you’ve been there) “Morality: Evolved or God given� but have been too busy at work to give it a thorough opinion. Good to see you’re still at it – Jazzman.

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  • Brooke

    Creationism and science do not have to be two seperate fields, YES creationism does add a spiritual side to things but it doesn’t take away scientific fact. For God to have created the universe he created the scientific laws as well, he is not constricted to them himself, but he used them to create out world.