Response to "Big Questions in Free Will" project

We’ve set up two rooms, one with zombies in it, and a second one with scientists. We’ve asked both groups the same question—do the members of your group have free will? The test is, from the groups’ conversations, can we tell which is the one consisting of zombies.

Actually, there aren’t any zombies, there’s just the scientists, part of a $4.4 Templeton Foundation's four-year project titled “Big Questions in Free Will.” We can eavesdrop on their conversation in “FREE: Why Science hasn’t Disproved Free Will,” a report on the project for the general reader by the project director, Alfred R. Mele, William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. More...

Re-thinking What It Means We Evolved: review

I'm taking advantage of being the publisher of this website to "review" the book I've written and that I feature to the right on every page, in the Classic Book Review section. Actually, in place of a review I've listed just the ideas in the book, first in reverse order so you can judge the merits of my conclusions first, then in  forward logical order so you can judge my argument's plausibility. Warning: this argument is radically unlike the modern scientific theory of evolution. More...

Humanities' project: a new natural philosophy

Let’s give “natural philosophy” a new meaning. Let’s have it refer to a basic account of what the world consists of and how it’s put together. This would be the basic understanding we’d want our children to have before we go into details. Each particular science or detailed body of wisdom would expand on some part of this natural philosophy but stay consistent with it and keep referring back to it, so all our understanding would fit together smoothly.

Of course we already have something like this that we offer strangers to our culture, such as our children or Martians or people from other cultures. But it’s nothing more than a jumble of ideas left over from history or the separate developments of modern sciences. Better would be to start over, from scratch, to come up with and maintain a new natural philosophy.

I see this as a project for the humanities. I will attempt such a project. More...

Introduction to "Evolution & the humanities"

What's the premise of this site? That it's time for the humanities to take over defining what it means we evolved. With science's abandonment of "the modern synthesis" attention can shift to the experience of being evolved, how knowing we evolved may affect the development of conscious thinking over a lifetime, the humanities' traditional subject matter. This golden opportunity is spelled out in a new "Introduction" to our "Humanities and Evolution" section. A summary of the resources gathered in this site is linked to from the menuitem "About" at the top of each page. 

Lamarck "book review"

I am grateful to Michael Ruse for permission to reproduce sections from his book "Monad to Man: The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology" to fill a glaring omission in my coverage of the pioneers of evolutionary theory. I'd been baffled by how to cover such an inscrutable figure. Ruse covers not only Lamarck's 1809 book, but also explains why the association of evolutionary theory with Lamarck gave the subject such a bad name. Review.

Review: Sean Carroll, The Big Picture

big picture smallOne of Carroll's goals in "The Big Picture" is to reconcile the laws of physics with the poetry in how we talk about ourselves in everyday life? How does he do that? He does it by drawing on the concept of emergence.

"We find it natural to use a vocabulary of 'causes' and 'reasons why' things happen, but those ideas aren’t part of how nature works at its deepest levels. They are emergent phenomena."

Here is an example of Carroll deliberately misleading us. To make naturalism more appealing he changes the meaning of words. It begins with his use of the word “emergent.” In his text Carroll defines emergence very gingerly and cautiously, and I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. I understood it better from the interview with him conducted by Robert Lawrence Kuhn and posted online at Kuhn pointed out two meanings of “emergent.” “There's a difference between something that's emergent that can be predicted from the laws at the fundamental level, and something that's emergent from the fundamental level that in principle that could not be predicted.”  Carroll replied: “I would call those the sensible and the silly notions of emergent. I'm using the sensible notion.” It’s this “sensible” meaning that Carroll gives the word “emergent” in his book.  Recall that for him the laws of physics are merely manifestations of solutions to Schrodinger’s equation at another scale. But because they appear at a different scale he says they’re “emergent” at that scale. He applies the same logic to our everyday way of talking. When he refers to that as “emergent,” he means it will be just as determined as the laws of physics are as a result of their concordance with the Core Theory.

Essentially, Carroll’s argument consists of a syllogism:

  • The poetry of everyday talk is just another way of describing what happens.
  • Everything that happens must always accord with the Core Theory.
  • Therefore everyday talk is emergent, just like the laws of nature.

Huh! Everyday talk is like the laws of nature! How can he justify that? More...