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jacassidy2

DAWKINS IGNORANCE

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Hey friends, First, I could and, perhaps, should have posted this in metaphysics because the unspoken core of this essay is the connection between science and philosophy, but here goes.  I've been aware of Richard Dawkins for years, but having left the evolutionary biology area of academia in my 20's, before his fame, I assumed (incorrectly) he was just a modern, more scientific, atheist.  I've always wondered why anyone would spend time arguing against the nonexistence of an entity without identity claimed by others.

I just read his latest book, Brief Candle in the Dark . . . Most of it was a little boring because it's a biography of his later life,  but the substance of his anecdotal stories near the end of the book had an effect similar to my first reading of Ms. Rand's Galt speech from Atlas Shrugged. (That speech was criticized by many, for me it was the essence of the book).  The subject of this short essay is the reason for this feeling of connection and its significance in the crossover between science and philosophy.

I first read Ms. Rand, fiction for entertainment and then nonfiction for knowledge, in grad school.  I remember thinking; this way of thinking is relevant to my study of zoology and evolution.  Today I'm thinking the same thing from Dawkins' writing, but in reverse,

There is a common cognitive theme separated in time between my Rand reading in my 20's and my Dawkins reading (I'm waiting for all his other books to work thru my library's share program) at age 60.  Both these thinkers look at common questions in which philosopher/scientists get stuck.  They both (by different means) seem to say, if the answer appears to be attainable only by new and seemingly unreasonable ideas, go back and examine the nature of the question in the light of metaphysics and epistemology.  That is, forget the answer to your question for a time - instead, study the premises you assume as true and that allow you to reasonably ask the question.  For the simple, hey, maybe you're asking the wrong question.

Ms. Rand did this with ethics and politics and eventually expressed, publically, an epistemology consistent with reality and Aristotelian metaphysics - Dawkins appears to be doing the same thing with his science interest area and it has drawn him into the area of criticizing mysticism.

SUMMARY AND POINT OF THIS POST - Existence, identity, cause and effect, and their expression in the mechanistic-material world, as well as the same in the infant exploration of consciousness and cognition, is not so advanced that the specialists in any area that the scientist and the philosopher should not communicate. 

EXAMPLE - If the science says the electron is defined as a particle and can exist in two places at once (or transit the space between the two positions without the movement of cause and effect), are we asking the right question.  EXAMPLE - Einstein's Bern clock exists with its identity and related cause and effect regardless of the speed of an observer moving away from it.  --------- A current philosopher, thinking of Aristotle and ignoring Plato and his intellectual descendants, might ask, has our method of investigation (existence/identity) interfered with our ability to note aspects of existence/identity or caused us to characterize one or the other as its opposite?

Human observation is full of the possible error of the Primacy of Consciousness as relates to scientific inquiry.  We should all remember that consciousness and the amazing variety of sense organs that feed it with data, did not exist before the general idea of existence and is influenced by the nature of the environment in which natural selection functioned?

Dawkins is so objective in his direct statement of fact (with explanation so the reader can examine his conclusions) he reminds me of Ms. Rand; the idea that one thing must be true for the following reason, and this other thing could be true but needs more thought.  The similarity is respect for the reader by numerating reasons  for conclusions, without giving status to the silly.

CONCLUSION - The advance of knowledge and technology has caused philosophy and the sciences to exist in different worlds.  It seems like a reasonable path given the shear amount of data.  Do we need to establish a new academic concentration to filter science and philosophy?  Who knows enough about history, philosophy, physics, chemistry, biology to recognize corrollaries, metaphors, analogies, analogues . . . . .

PS - This was an essay written without editing to get a hard copy of an idea on paper - and it included a liter of merlot.  So tell me where I got it right and where I got it wrong.

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Why wouldn't you attribute the advance of knowledge and technology to the inertia generated by the burst of energy released by the renaissance and the age of enlightenment, with the rediscovery of Aristotle? The remnants of Aristotelian influence still allows it to move forward while the notion that philosophy is just a game has businessmen and scientists just trying to get on with things best they can.

 

Edited by dream_weaver

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