David Deutsch gives a brief talk on explanations and their role in progress.
Read more on progress: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-progress/ (Section 4. Is Science Progressive? is especially interesting).
And if you enjoy the history and philosophy of science, you should (if you haven’t already) enjoy a good dose of Kuhn: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/thomas-kuhn/.
Well, being the 200-year anniversary of Darwin’s birthday, and the 150-year anniversary of his Origin of Species, there has been a lot of Darwin, and evolution, in the spotlight:
- Just in the past few weeks I’ve watched a 3-part television series on a history of Darwin (CBC Nature of Things – hosted by David Suzuki).
- Last week I attended a lecture on evolution and embryology.
- Also, last week, the Ray Comfort version of Origin of Species (see post) was dropped at the University of Alberta (it can only be assumed that they showed up unexpectedly to avoid possible pickets of the book – and unfortunately I was unable to get my hands on a copy of it).
- And tonight I was lucky enough to attend a sold-out lecture at the University of Alberta entitled “Darwin’s Sexy Science” hosted by Discovery Channel’s Jay Ingram (a University of Alberta alumnus).
These are only to name a few examples of which I have taken part in. It’s interesting to note how Darwin’s original theory has been expanded and applied throughout the past 150 years to explain such a wide variety of natural phenomena – it serves as an integral part of our understanding of the fabric of reality. The implications of evolution are far reaching and are felt in nearly all academic disciplines (for example: the role of Dawkins’ evolution in Deutsch’s unified theory of everything).
See below for evolution-inspired links:
A quick internet search will yield even more results, showing the widespread influence of evolutionary explanations in various schools of thought (not to mention the less obvious examples of emerging theories that rely on evolution as a grounding point).
Here’s a very short clip of the famous Libet experiment on free will.
The clip gives you a quick idea of Libet’s theory, sans the crucial implications: a concept referred to as the power of veto, or, “free won’t.”
In Libet’s experiment, it is shown that the gradually increasing neuronal signal activates before the person feels the conscious “will” to act. This would imply that consciousness is a by-product of physical mental processes (that can be measured).
However, Libet does not fully commit to a world in which we have no power in decision. Through a similar set of experiments, Libet determined that although we cannot consciously control impulses, we can prevent them from being acted out. This is his “free won’t.”
There are innumerable criticisms of Libet’s theory, aiming to show the flaws of the experimentation procedure and the erroneous philosophical implications of his work. Nevertheless, it is invaluable research in a field of which everybody has a different explanation.
The Toxic Crusaders was an environmentally-conscious cartoon aimed at children. The main character, Toxie, a chemically transmuted superhero who seeks revenge on environmental polluters with the help of his super-powered mop (who had its own mind) and his crew of misfits.
This movie is hilarious – and worth the five or ten dollars it will cost you. (I found mine at HMV.) The slogans Toxie and his “crusaders” shout are almost expectedly terrible – but the funny kind of terrible.
Also: Check out other Troma Entertainment movies, such as:
- Cannibal! The Musical
- Redneck Zombies
- Surf Nazis Must Die
- Tromeo and Juliet
These films are very low-budget and will make you cringe. Don’t watch unless you like terrible movies that have cheesy effects and reused scenes. These movies are on the edge of being so bad that you have to see them – just on the edge though, so some of you will hate them. Some of you will love… like… be able to watch it with the help of a few beers.
A full-length lecture featuring Dennett on the topic of free will.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Not so fast… “What’s this? A new introduction?”
This version of the Origin of Species features a 50-page introduction by Ray Comfort – a staunch creationist.
Without intent to spoil the introduction… here is an excerpt from the end of the introduction:
To receive the gift of eternal life, you must repent of your sins (turn from them), and put on the Lord Jesus Christ as you would put on a parachute—trusting in Him alone for your salvation. (Comfort 49)
Copies of Darwin’s Origin of Species is set to be distributed to students at the University of Alberta on November 24, 2009 (and November 19 for schools in the United States).
If you can’t wait until the 24th to get your hands on a copy, you can read it online here: Ray Comfort’s Intro. & Origin of Species PDF.
I would recommend reading Comfort’s introduction – it’s always useful to understand how people think and reason, especially if you do not agree with them. I will let you draw your own conclusions from this material – but I would just like to say that this whole scheme is quite discomforting.
Read more on this at the National Center for Science Education’s website.