A Conversation for How to Be a Philosopher

Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 1

Wonko

This book is so unbelievable bad, and the only thing which prevents me from crying out loud is the fact that only very few people have actually read it.

Darwin, who is the greatest philosopher of all times, is discredited in this horrible book and thrown in together with Karl Marx, dispite the fact, that these two have absolutely nothing in common.

Well, you may wonder why I call Darwin the greatest, if not only one, philosopher of all times. Yes he is, because he alone solved the very question no other of the so called philosophers could answer: How do you know right from wrong? Who decides? Where does life and knowledge come from? Where does it head to?

Yes, he gave the answer: Itself.

Who, you might ask - who is itself? Well, of course: life, the universe and everything, which is the result of matter combined with the driving force of creation: Evolution. Evolution is the phantastic process of creation without a creator, creation as the ultimate process starting by nothing, only depending on its own judgement, which is created on the fly too.

Darwin and Einstein share a common fate, which is that almost nobody understands them.


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 2

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


I don't agree. There are many faults with Sophie's World, and it's a serious over-simplification of a great many philosophers. But philosophy belongs to everyone - Socrates used to philosophise by starting arguments with passers by. Sophie's World takes some of the arguments to other people, and this can only be a good thing.

I'm not that familiar with Darwin, but to say that he's the only philosopher ever is just wrong by any commonly accepted definition of philosophy.

And I don't see how any ethical arguments can be based upon evolution, David Hume argued that you can't "build an ought on an is". Evolution is an "is" (or a "might be"), so it seems that more moral premises are needed for any moral conclusions. But as always and on every subject, I'm open to persuasion. smiley - smiley

Otto


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 3

Recumbentman

I loved and hated Sophie's World -- loved the fiction-within-a-fiction (Who is Sophie?) and was disappointed with the philosophy. I thought the Norwegian outlook might be different but it was the same selection we got in college, dealt with in the same fairly superficial way. Above all I was disappointed that the philosophy was extraneous to the story, the story didn't engage the reader in any philosophical problem other than Who Is Sophie? Though that is a good problem itself, it didn't need the History of Western Philosophy to enlighten it.

For a philosopher who engages you, who lived his philosophy, go to Wittgenstein.


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 4

Wonko

Well, Otto. smiley - smiley What can I say?

Hmm. Let me think. Could you do me a favour? Please read my first posting again. And I'd be very happy to answer specific topics relating my posting.

To the "ought": As I tried to point out, the "ought" is pure fiction, as everything that exists is pure "is". And that the "is" created itself by a process now known as Evolution. Please read my entry: Some Logic about Life.

The "ought" actually is a "is". It is a lie to rob people of their freedom.

Life did not only create itself in a process called Evolution, it even created its own rulers. It had to, because rock and sand don't make any good rulers. By the way, can you imagine how empty a planet without life is? Please try to imagine being on Mars, rocks and nothing more. Now you get a grasp what Evolution is all about.

Evolution is Hardware and Software uniting in uncountable feedback loops.

The only things from outside are resources. The ultimate ruler is survival. And even that is another word for Life itself.

Well, Recumbentman, I don't know about Wittgenstein. But I suppose, he didn't know about Evolution either. And it is very interesting how long is actually took to answer the question of the creation of life, and it remains to be seen how long it will take until people find out that Evolution answers or voids all questions of philosophy.




Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 5

Recumbentman

Oh I'm with you on evolution Wonko -- I remember the excitement I felt when I first came across Huxley's essays -- I was seventeen and I thought "This changes everything!" Philosophers are only now coming to grips with it. The best I've read is Robert Wright, "The Moral Animal".


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 6

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


Hi Wonko,

I'm afraid that you may have to indulge my conventional philosophical training a little. I've re-read your first posting, and "Some Logic About Life" and I think I'm beginning to see what your argument is, though it reads more like an account rather than an argument.

My particular interest is in why you think that evolution settles the argument about what is right and wrong. I take it that your view is that neither exists seperately from what "life" itself defines. We are, in other words, masters of our own destiny and not the playthings or servants of some creator figure. Jean-Paul Sartre argues something very similar, and so did Neitzsche, though I'm rather less familiar with his rantings.

Darwin, I believe, argued that deism and evolution were not incompatible, and even if he didn't, I think it's a reasonable position to take. There's nothing in evolution that I can find that says that there *can't* be a god, just that there *need not* be a god, as a rival account of creation exists. It might just be that god set things up and then sat back and watched.

But this still leaves the question of how "life" ought to live. And that question still looks open to me. Even if evolution shows that there *can't* be a God (which I doubt), not all moral theories rely upon the existence of God.


Otto



Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 7

Lear (the Unready)

If there is no need for a God in the theory of evolution by natural selection, why bother including one in the equation? A good scientific theory is economical - it contains nothing that is unnecessary. Darwinism's revolutionary impact lies precisely in the fact that it provides an account of the evolution of life, that is comprehensive and coherent without needing reference to anything other than natural forces. There is simply no need for 'skyhooks' such as supernatural intervention for the theory to work - so why bring God into it? What is to be gained from doing so?


That said (and Wonko will possibly disagree with me completely smiley - smiley ), I don't personally believe that natural selection leaves us free to be "masters of our own destiny." Actually, I think that understanding our animal origins sets boundaries to what can reasonably be expected of human beings. Somebody (Edward Wilson, I think) once commented to the effect that genes hold culture on a "long leash" - that is, we have a certain amount of room to manouevre within the limits of our genetic heritage, but the possibilities are far from endless. Some, of course, would go much further and argue the case for genetic determinism - ie, we are merely playthings of our genes, with no autonomy at all. But few serious Darwinists, I think, would hold such an extreme view - that's more in the realm of pop psychology and pseudo-science.


Take care,

Lear


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 8

Recumbentman

If there's no need for a god then there isn't a god -- Occam's Razor.

Of course there's a need for a god; not to create the universe, but its consciousness.


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 9

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


Occam's razor puzzles me, as I can't see the argument for why it should be true in this case, or indeed in many cases.

I can see that it might apply to theories which deliver predictions. If both perform equally well (whether identically or not), then it seems to be reasonable to choose the simpler theory, for convenience. Though the bare fact that it's simpler doesn't to me seem to be an argument in its favour. Why think that the universe is a simple place? My tentative view is that you have to be an instrumentalist about science to use Occum's razor as anything other than an occasional rule of thumb.

But this case is a different kind of case. I agree that with Lear that there is no *reason* to bring God into evolution - I agree that nothing is gained. If people debate evolution, and how it works, and so on, there are good reasons for leaving God out - God's existence *adds* nothing. True.

But my point is that I cannot see this as a reason to rule out the existence of God just because evolution is true. My interest here is in exploring whether Darwin has solved the question of right and wrong, and is the only proper philosopher ever.

I'm trying to show that no moral theory follows deductively from evolution being true. If evolution is logically consistent with God existing, then it cannot be true that any moral theory follows deductively from the truth of evolution.

In trying to show this, I can of course concede this point and argue from a humanist perspective.....

Otto


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 10

Recumbentman

You are daring, to be caught saying "the bare fact that it's simpler doesn't to me seem to be an argument in its favour". Simplicity is the difference between Kepler's astronomy and Ptolemy's. Ptolemy's requires planets to wander backwards and forwards; Kepler's doesn't. You think Ptolemy's has something to recommend it?

Occam's Razor is not to be taken lightly. It is one of the few universally assented-to propositions in philosophy (do not multiply entities unnecessarily). This is why Darwin's demonstration of evolution was a bombshell to philosophy. It really changed everything.


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 11

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


Occam's Razor is not a "universally assented-to proposition" because I'm not assenting to it. I think it's a useful device for use in certain arguments, but not all.

To elaborate on my previous posting - what is science for? Is is instrumentalist (to give predictions) or realist (to give an account of what is really there)?

(IIRC, Galilleo tried to claim that his astronomy wasn't a realist account, but an instrumentalist one. Of course, he argued, the church is absolutely right about what exists, but his method (for some mysterious reason) gives better results. Therefore, he argued, he wasn't a heretic. They didn't buy this at all, funnily enough...)

If you're a instrumentalist, you don't care what really exists, you're much more concerned with getting accurate predictions with which to build bridges, fly aircraft, and design central heating systems. Given the strange things that seem to be coming out of physics, this approach looks increasingly attractive. So if you're being an instrumentalist, then you can use Occum's razor to take God out of the picture if all you're interested in is predicting results.

But if you're a realist, then you need to show that it's *true in reality* that simpler solutions are *always* true than more complicated ones that have the same predictive power than more complicated ones. And I can't see how such a proof could possibly be constructed. And given that that's true, it's a fallacy to thing that Occum's Razor can be used to logically *prove* that evolution is incompatibile with the existence of God.

So, Occum's Razor can be used for *instrumentalist* purposes, and perhaps as a handy rule of thumb / heuristic for realist purposes, but I really cannot see how it can be used as an absolute rule to rule out the existence of God!

Otto


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 12

Lear (the Unready)

>"I'm trying to show that no moral theory follows deductively from evolution being true. If evolution is logically consistent with God existing, then it cannot be true that any moral theory follows deductively from the truth of evolution." (Otto, posting #9)


Why not? You appear to be assuming that if a God exists then it is, by definition, the ultimate arbiter of all moral questions. Yet it is entirely possible that a God could exist that is laid-back and laissez-faire about right and wrong, having left us to work such things out for ourselves. Actually, a God who set up the mechanism of natural selection would be more likely to be non-interventionist, otherwise why would it have gone to the trouble of setting up something that could work perfectly well without it! Your own earlier suggestion (in posting #6), Otto, of a God who "set things up and then sat back and watched," seems to hint at such an idea.

I would say, then, that Darwin's theory of natural selection gives no reason at all to rule out the existence of God, but it does give justification for saying that God is irrelevant for all practical purposes, including the discussion of moral questions.


Darwinism, in my view, does not by any means settle the question of right and wrong, but the insights that we can gain from it can help us to make such judgements based on more reliable information about human nature than we can get from, say, The Bible. I think it is highly unlikely that any such thing as a fully 'scientific' moral theory could ever be derived from the theory of natural selection, simply because morality is not really for scientists to deal with - it is beyond their territory. It is a subject for philosophers and intelligent laypersons to discuss, and scientists can only influence that discussion insofar as they can provide us with reliable infomation about the world, and about human nature (and also, of course, insofar as they themselves are intelligent laypersons with an interest in debating such matters).


Regards,

Lear


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 13

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


Hi Lear,

I think we're broadly in agreement.

My argument is not that that God *must* be the arbiter of moral decisions, just that God *could* be. And if God *could be* (ie might exist and might be the arbiter of moral decisions - the two not being the same thing, as you rightly point out) then it cannot be true that a moral theory can follow deductively from evolution being true, as the existence of God is not ruled out absolutely. The two points that I wanted to make are that God's existence is not ruled out by evolution being true, and that the fact of evolution being true doesn't settle any moral questions. This is quite a modest claim made in response to earlier comments. These I think we agree on! smiley - smiley

Evolution gives us a license to exclude God from various discussions, which is something that I'm quite comfortable with, as a deist/agnostic (depending on my mood!) humanist. I think that God must be pretty laid back about morality (perhaps having a meta-ethical code) or wouldn't be just - given the wide variety of ethical codes that have existed.

Though I'm not sure why believing in evolution without God is easier to understand or more logical than believing in God - both require finding an uncaused cause.

Otto


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 14

Recumbentman

Otto -- try Ian Hacking's book (on the philosophy of science) "Representing and Intervening" for an account of appearance and reality. The only reality check there is is the ability to instrumentalise.


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 15

Lear (the Unready)

As you say, Otto, we seem to be mostly in agreement. I go along with your assertion that "the fact of evolution being true doesn't settle any moral questions," except to say that natural selection should certainly have a significant *influence* on the way we approach moral questions. On the one hand, a quick look at the way Darwin's theory has been abused for (sometimes abhorrent) political purposes shows the danger in rushing too quickly to derive moral conclusions - 'oughts' - from the 'is' of natural selection, just as there would be danger in trying to derive an indisputable 'ought' from any other scientific or theological account of the world. Then again, I think we have a responsibility to try to use the most reliable and relevant information that we can get about the world (and about ourselves), when we make our value judgements, otherwise those judgements are likely to be worthless.

It's also worth pointing out that most of our traditional Western moral preconceptions / misconceptions also rely, ultimately, on a view of what 'is' - ie, the (supposed) Natural Law of Judeo-Christian ethics. I think we all derive 'ought' from 'is', one way or another - it's just that some people are less upfront (and possibly less aware) than others about the fundamental assumptions underpinning their moral values.


Lear


Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Post 16

combattant pour liberte

I don't agree. I loved Sophie's World, although it all got quite confusing at times, and I especially liked the bit with the Major at the airport. It encourages a lot of deep thought and I would recommend it.


Darwinism is not a fact

Post 17

Pete, never to have a time-specific nick again (Keeper of Disambiguating Semicolons) - Born in the Year of the Lab Rat

From http://report.ca/archive/report/20001218/p34i001218f.html (note: this is a Canadian article; my comments in square brackets):

It is one of the great under-reported stories at the end of the century that Darwinism is under furious attack. Opponents of Darwinism make the following claims; not one has been successfully refuted.

* The fossil record does not support evolution. [Point at Archaeopteryx all you will, but there are no intermediaries between theropods and A. or between A. and birds. In otherwords, A. is a quantum leap that is not explainable by Darwinism.]
* "Survival of the fittest" is a tautology. (How do we know that the fittest species survived? Because they survived.)
* There is no evidence of a common ancestor of all life on earth.
* Biology is incredibly more complex than Darwin knew, and random variation is mathematically insufficient to explain the development of such systems as DNA and proteins. [See "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution" by Michael Behe]
* Evolution is not "falsifiable." A theory that cannot be proved wrong is not a theory. As intelligent designers like to say, a theory that explains everything explains nothing.

Yet evolution is taught almost everywhere as an uncontested "fact." Mr. Wells explains in his new book Icons of Evolution that writers of textbooks commonly used in high schools have resorted to outright falsehoods to obscure the crisis in Darwinism. Here are several:

* The "life-in-a-test-tube" experiment ignores the fact that earth's early atmosphere consisted of gases that were not hydrogen-rich but volcanic.
* The similar embryos depicted to prove common ancestry were faked over a century ago, a fact known to Darwinists for decades.
* The "Tree of Life" depicted to prove common ancestry has been disproved by molecular biology.
* The photographs of peppered moths used to prove natural selection were faked.
* Photographs of increased beak size in Darwin's finches (they increase in times of drought) used to prove natural selection neglect to mention that the beaks return to normal when the droughts end.


Darwinism is not a fact

Post 18

Recumbentman

See Stuart Kaufmann's book "At Home In the Universe" for the mathematical side to evolution.

Briefly, when systems (including cells) become sufficiently complex -- and that's not all *that* complex either -- they become self-catalysing; and change begins to happen at a greatly increased pace. It's like betting, or marketing: a tiny advantage pays big dividends, establishes itself, and soon wipes out the competition. Once a trend starts, evolution happens (comparatively) very quickly, and statisically you would not expect intermediate forms (which in evolutionary timescales are fleeting) to suvive in sufficient numbers to turn up in the fossil record now.

What is the reason for opposing such well-founded science? There is just so enormously much evidence for evolution, is seems to me really not possible to doubt it.


Darwinism is not a fact

Post 19

Otto Fisch ("One, you started coming over. Two, you started sleeping over. Three, you started taking over. Four, you told me it was over.")


And if not evolution, then what?


Don't talk to me about life

Post 20

Wonko

Hi guys,

I started to write a reply to all the others who posted, and I read your statements with pleasure, but I didn't have time to write something good. But the argument below had to be made:


>It is one of the great under-reported stories at the end of the century that Darwinism is under furious attack. Opponents of Darwinism make the following claims; not one has been successfully refuted.

Well, no. Please don't tell lies. Darwin's theory of Evolution (NOT to be called Darwinism) is accepted in science as the only way for life to be explained.

>* The fossil record does not support evolution. [Point at Archaeopteryx all you will, but there are no intermediaries between theropods and A. or between A. and birds. In otherwords, A. is a quantum leap that is not explainable by Darwinism.]

This is the strangest thing I ever heard. Evolution does not work because A has not been found. Look out, it has just been found in China! By the way, didn't you see the small changes in the skeletons of species? Where were you at school?

>* "Survival of the fittest" is a tautology. (How do we know that the fittest species survived? Because they survived.)

Yes, so it is. Life creating itself is a tautology either. Except that you don't seem to be willing to understand one thing: the feedback. Life is creating itself and it is creating the rulers out of the ultimate ruler: survival, which is another name for life. Is is simple, and it is tough, and it is the ultimate philosophy.

>* There is no evidence of a common ancestor of all life on earth.

So what? Even if there weren't one, I wouldn't matter. Creation of life can happen severall times, one one planet, one time, many times, on different planets, in one universe, on many universes in many big bangs. Just consider my theory of big bang evolution: A big bang creates a universe, and its state while ending during the great crash determines the next universe(s), this is possibly accelerated though life which dominated the (father)universe, as soon as there is life to travel through space and spreading the universe.

But all cells on earth share one thing: the DNA is rotated in the same direction.

>* Biology is incredibly more complex than Darwin knew, and random variation is mathematically insufficient to explain the development of such systems as DNA and proteins. [See "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution" by Michael Behe]

Oh no. That is definitely wrong. Just look at dogs: they have been bread by mankind. Mathematics is fine, but it can't handle complex nonlinear feedback loops very well (take a look at the weather forecast). But computer simulations have clearly shown that random changes are capable of these things.

>* Evolution is not "falsifiable." A theory that cannot be proved wrong is not a theory. As intelligent designers like to say, a theory that explains everything explains nothing.

Evolution is the ONLY theory. There is no other.

>Yet evolution is taught almost everywhere as an uncontested "fact."

It is a fact.

>Mr. Wells explains in his new book Icons of Evolution that writers of textbooks commonly used in high schools have resorted to outright falsehoods to obscure the crisis in Darwinism.

There is no crisis. Did I say that already? Well, sigh.

>Here are several:

>* The "life-in-a-test-tube" experiment ignores the fact that earth's early atmosphere consisted of gases that were not hydrogen-rich but volcanic.

So what? It started in water. Plenty of hydrogen in it.

>* The similar embryos depicted to prove common ancestry were faked over a century ago, a fact known to Darwinists for decades.

Nothing is faked. Just look at a picture of a human foetus. Looks like a fish, doesn't it?

* The "Tree of Life" depicted to prove common ancestry has been disproved by molecular biology.

Tree of Life has nothing to do with Evolution. And, besides that, I doubt that molecular biology has disporved such a thing.

* The photographs of peppered moths used to prove natural selection were faked.

Well, yes, they were. But the moths are real, they are black and white, as well as sheeps, as we, a product of creation through Evolution.

>* Photographs of increased beak size in Darwin's finches (they increase in times of drought) used to prove natural selection neglect to mention that the beaks return to normal when the droughts end.

Very clever these finches, aren't they? Another proof of Evolution at work.

Which I can't say of you, as you still seem to believe that something as laughable as ID can explain anything. Oh sorry, I didn't understand, it really is true, it is a explanation for life, it is great science and it really is overwhelming, life is created by, hm sorry, forgot the name, who was it? Manitu, Donar, Jahwee, Buddha, the great beast of Upsalahh.

Ok. Forget Evolution. Forget science. A simple children's tale is sufficient.

Who created life?

X!

Who created X?

Don't ask such silly questions. It was there all the time.

Why do I have to live according to X's rules?

Because he/she/it is great and it is the best for you!

But I am not happy.

Shut up and now go to sleep, I've go to slaughter some non-believers tomorrow, who think Y created life and who don't live to X's rules.

X can be replaced by any religion of choice with a good history of shaughtering, or by any leader of an ideology with an equal record, some of which skip the creation part and start with the slaughtering others because of their different opinion part. Makes definitely no difference for the hundreds of millions dead.


Evolution teaches us one thing: small changes, interaction, feedback, individuality, freedom - that is, many ideas and self-regulation is better than one centralized, dogmatic, singleminded, blockheaded and unchangable approach.



Key: Complain about this post

Sophies's world is one of the worst books ever

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more