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Meaning of art and music not found in genes, says philosopher

Writer and philosopher Roger Scruton hasn’t much use for the lit crit fad known as “literary Darwinism”, popularized by the Denis Dutton. At Big Questions Online, he asks, “Only Adapt: Can science explain art, music and literature?” (December 9, 2010).

My sense is that a respectable science would not try, and the evolutionary psychology he quite properly deflates is not a science anyway, it is an artifact of a materialist culture and fully understandable as such. Scruton notes,

Over the last two decades, however, Darwinism has invaded the field of the humanities, in a way that Darwin himself would scarcely have predicted. Doubt and hesitation have given way to certainty, interpretation has been subsumed into explanation, and the whole realm of aesthetic experience and literary judgement has been brought to heel as an “adaptation,” a part of human biology which exists because of the benefit that it confers on our genes. No need now to puzzle over the meaning of music or the nature of beauty in art. The meaning of art and music reside in what they do for our genes. Once we see that these features of the human condition are “adaptations,” acquired perhaps many thousands of years ago, during the time of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we will be able to explain them. We will know what art and music essentially are by discovering what they do.

[ … ]

… the whole “adaptation” approach to human phenomena is topsy-turvy. It involves a mechanical application, case by case, of the theory of natural selection, as supplemented by modern genetics. It tells us that, if a trait is widespread across our species, then it has been “selected for.” But this means only that the trait is not maladaptive, that it is not something that would disappear under evolutionary pressure. And that is a trivial observation. Everything that exists could be said to be not dysfunctional. That tells us nothing about how the thing in question came to exist. Read More ›

Are you sitting down?: Pope believes in God Part zillion and …

Jonathan McLatchie tells it here.

It’s no surprise the Pope has gone on record as saying “God was behind Big Bang, universe no accident” (Philip Pullella, 2011 01 06):

God’s mind was behind complex scientific theories such as the Big Bang, and Christians should reject the idea that the universe came into being by accident, Pope Benedict said on Thursday.

Nor is the pop media reaction. Most of the Yahoo article is the usual sludge (= Pope grudgingly accepts reality while retaining a tiny corner for dumb people to pray in).

Notice however that, to their credit, the Yahooligans couldn’t quite bring themselves to say “the Pope supports evolution”. Instead: Read More ›

2010 Coming down from the reductionism trip …

Animal cell, Wikimedia Commons In (surprisingly) the New Scientist, Brian J. Ford observes, “The secrets of intelligence lie within a single cell” (April 25, 2010). For me, the brain is not a supercomputer in which the neurons are transistors; rather it is as if each individual neuron is itself a computer, and the brain a vast community of microscopic computers. But even this model is probably too simplistic since the neuron processes data flexibly and on disparate levels, and is therefore far superior to any digital system. If I am right, the human brain may be a trillion times more capable than we imagine, and “artificial intelligence” a grandiose misnomer. I think it is time to acknowledge fully that living cells Read More ›

God was behind Big Bang, universe no accident: Pope

A news article featured on Yahoo! News today reported that Pope Benedict has now affirmed that “God’s mind was behind complex scientific theories such as the Big Bang, and Christians should reject the idea that the universe came into being by accident The article further reports, “The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe,” Benedict said on the day Christians mark the Epiphany, the day the Bible says the three kings reached the site where Jesus was born by following a star. “Contemplating it (the universe) we are invited to read something profound into it: the wisdom of the creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God,” he said in a sermon to some Read More ›

Essay Contest Prize Money Needed

UD will be sponsoring an essay contest for students in high school and above. We have a donor who has committed to a fund a $200 first prize. We are asking UD readers to fund the $100 second prize. Please consider a $20 donation to UD using the “Donate” button. Thank you.

Coffee!: If you are going to be a “denialist”, why not be an obesity denialist as well, …

If you read this blog, you are a denialist already, probably. You doubt that truth flows one way from the Establishment, and there is no hope for you. So, …

Here, Julie Gunlock comments on the response of professional busybodies to people who doubt that The Government Can Make Everybody Thin:

Hiatt also echoes the first lady’s warnings that fat Americans are all going to keel over from obesity-related diseases. This also doesn’t pan out. More recent research on obesity has found only a very slight (and statistically insignificant) increase in mortality among mildly obese people, and that in fact it is underweight individuals who have a higher rate of death than those in the “healthy” weight category. Read More ›

Does Gene Duplication Perform As Advertised?

In my previous post, I highlighted a recent peer-reviewed paper which challenged a key tenet of neo-Darwinian evolution — specifically, the causal sufficiency of gene duplication and subsequent divergence to account for the origin of novel biological information. In this follow-up blog, I want to consider some of the case-studies examined in the paper and relay some of the conclusions drawn. Read More>>>

A Majority of One

1915 was a momentous year for science. That was the year Einstein published The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity, in which he demonstrated that Newton’s theory of gravity was wrong or at least substantially incomplete. Newton’s theory had dominated physics for over 225 years, and, to the great surprise of many, it had fallen. With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to be complacent about the inevitable success of Einstein’s theory, but history shows that general relativity was not accepted immediately by the scientific community. In fact, many scientists clung tenaciously to Newton, and there was fierce resistance to the new theory. Read More ›

Darrel Falk: You’re nothing but a pack of neurons and you must accept that

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responds to BioLogos (= Dawkins’s scissors, applied to Bible in Jesus’ name): Then, after chiding the church for paying too much attention to anti-evolutionary voices, he offers a sentence which, taken seriously, represents a breathtaking intellectual commitment: Scientific knowledge is not seriously flawed and we cannot allow ourselves to be led down this pathway any longer. That is nothing less than a manifesto for scientism. Science, as a form of knowledge, is here granted a status that can only be described as infallible. The dangers of this proposal are only intensified when we recognize that “scientific knowledge” is not even a stable intellectual construct. Nevertheless, these words do reveal why BioLogos pushes Read More ›

From Science Daily: New genes as essential as old ones

Evolutionary biologists have long proposed that the genes most important to life are ancient and conserved, handed down from species to species as the “bread and butter” of biology. New genes that arise as species split off from their ancestors were thought to serve less critical roles — the “vinegar” that adds flavor to the core genes. But when nearly 200 new genes in the fruit fly species Drosophila melanogaster were individually silenced in laboratory experiments at the University of Chicago, more than 30 percent of the knockdowns were found to kill the fly. The study, published December 17 in Science, suggests that new genes are equally important for the successful development and survival of an organism as older genes. Read More ›

Did Darwin Undercut All Paley-Style Arguments?

Recently at Prosblogion, philosopher Alexander Pruss started a conversation off with the following:

Classic Paley-style design arguments go like this: There is some complex biological feature C which is such that

1. God would have good reason to produce C, and
2. C is extremely unlikely to occur through a random combination of elements.

It is concluded that probably God produced C, and hence probably God exists. The standard story is that Darwin undercut Paley-style arguments by providing a plausible explanation that does not involve God.

I shall suggest that the story is not so simple, and that, in fact, a very powerful Paley-style design argument may continue to go through.

Pruss later mentions that he thinks there’s a possible flaw in the argument, but not one due to Darwin. More on that below.

Read More ›

Catching up: Young astronomer who paid the price for dissing Carl Sagan settling into new observatory

Refurbishing the observatory

I asked young astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez how things were going, after Iowa State University rejected his tenure in a case that stank to high heaven.

He replied,

Things are going well. I’ve started an astronomy minor program here at Grove City College and the refurbishment of the college’s new (old) observatory is essentially done. Here’s our observatory web page.

While it is more difficult to find the time to do research here, I have managed to squeeze out a few papers (2 in 2010).

Remember that, folks. Trolls and their lackeys don’t run the world (yet). You can still get in some good research and avoid their odious claptrap.

More on Gonzalez: Read More ›

He said it: The importance of feeling confident where probability is concerned …

Personally, given the resources of geological time, I feel confident that sooner or later that hypothetical chimpanzee sitting at a typewriter, will one day type Hamlet. – D. V. Ager, The New Catastrophism: The Importance of the Rare Event in Geological History, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1993, p. 149. Confidence in confidence alone is a heartwarming thing if nothing depends on it. Hat tip: Stephen E. Jones.

Protein Evolution: A Problem That Defies Description

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is scientifically unlikely. The idea that all of biology just happened to arise spontaneously over long time periods (yes, that is what the theory of evolution says) is not motivated by the scientific evidence. This can be seen at all levels of biology including, more prominently in recent years, at the molecular level. A good example of this is the scientific evidence on proteins, and what it says about evolution.  Read more

How FIRE can help in the fight for academic freedom on campus

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (First Amendment to The United States Constitution.)

Did you know that two-thirds of public universities and private colleges in the United States have official policies that clearly violate the First Amendment? Some examples:
Read More ›