Reasons, Genes, and Misanthropes

When is a reason not a reason?

There are two ways we use the word ‘reason’ of interest to us here (I will be ignoring ‘reason’ used to mean ‘rational’). The first (A-type) is used to explain something with respect to factual events or the past; i.e. the reason the sky is blue is because molecules in the air scatter blue light more than they do red, or the reason I broke my leg was because I fell off my bike. The second type of reason (B-type) also explains something but is future-oriented; i.e. the reason she bought a bigger car is because she wants a large family. Importantly, while only conscious agents can have B-type reasons, anything can have an A-type reason.

The central problem I want to address in this article is whether all B-type reasons ultimately cash out as A-type reasons.

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What is ‘World’?



In its grandest conception the world is simply the whole of the physical universe. If this sounds about right, then you have probably accepted the scientific/materialistic paradigm that saturates the modern intellectual atmosphere without realising there are any alternatives aside from crackpot religious or new age ones. This article will challenge this prevailing scientific/materialistic notion of world, specifically arguing that it is neither (1) fundamental nor (2) complete, and is, in fact, both (3) meaningless and (4) misleading.

Of course, there is nothing incoherent about defining ‘world’ as the totality of physical matter in the universe. The problem isn’t one of coherence, but of scope and relevance. Given its limitations, my argument is that despite being coherent in an insular kind of way, it isn’t the best definition of the word, and doesn’t even reflect what we typically mean when we use it.

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Freewill by Sam Harris – An Absurd Being Commentary

So, for this article, I’m assuming that you have read Sam Harris’ book, Freewill. If you haven’t, it’s very short, more essay than book, and well worth a read because it raises some interesting points that any proponent of freewill needs to address sooner or later. In lieu of this, you could read my previous article which briefly outlines what I took to be his main ideas.

Somewhat surprisingly, I agree with much of what Harris says… if we assume determinism to be true; specifically, what he has to say about fatalism, quantum indeterminacy, compatibilism and moral responsibility. All of the above are often given as reasons for resisting determinism and Harris, quite correctly in my opinion, rejects them in this capacity. Continue reading


Free Will by Sam Harris – An Absurd Being Book Review

In his short book, Freewill, Sam Harris mounts a concerted attack on the notion that we are free. He argues that our universe is predicated on some mix of determinism and randomness that doesn’t stop somewhere just outside our craniums, but rather penetrates all the way in to our thoughts and intentions carrying an inert ‘conscious witness’ along for the ride.

Past Behaviour and Thoughts

He starts out by identifying two assumptions that will serve to define freewill: 1. We could have behaved differently than we did in the past and, 2. We are the conscious source of our thoughts and actions. He asserts that both of these are false. Continue reading


Free by Alfred Mele – An Absurd Being Book Review

At just 90 pages, Free, by Alfred Mele, is a light, easy to read, accessible refutation of the idea that scientists have proven freewill doesn’t exist. Mele tackles some of the scientific arguments typically offered in defence of determinism and succeeds in, while not strongly making a case for freewill, definitely dismantling the scientific case against it.

He begins by looking at Benjamin Libet’s now infamous experiments from the 80s in which he asked subjects to flex their wrists whenever they felt like it and report when they first had the intention to do so. On average, participants reported the urge to act around 200 milliseconds before the muscle burst. However, through EEG, Libet detected activity in the brain (called the readiness potential, (RP)) around 350 milliseconds before the subject reported the conscious intention. Libet concluded from this that our brains ‘make’ our decisions without any conscious input. Continue reading


Materialism – The Unlikely Hypothesis

The universe and everything in it is physical. Despite there being no shortage of supernatural, religious, new age and downright crackpot notions of some kind of non-physical ‘stuff’, not one of their claims, from crystal healing to ghosts to the effectiveness of prayer to out of body travelling, has ever been empirically verified, despite many efforts to do so. It certainly seems sensible to conclude from this that materialism (the hypothesis that the physical is all there is) is true. But does closing the door on ghosts, fairies and energy bodies necessarily consign us to materialism? I argue in this article that it doesn’t.

Image result for materialism robot

Let me begin by asking you a very simple question. Are you a robot? Surely, you will have answered this question in the negative. Of course you’re not a robot. You’re a human being. Continue reading


Humans – Are We Still Evolving?

Note: This is a synopsis only. The complete article can be viewed on the Absurd Being website here.

Evolution by natural selection is well understood and essentially universally accepted among the scientific community as the mechanism by which homo sapiens appeared on planet Earth. But does the fact that we did evolve this way condemn us to evolve this way forever?

In this article, I suggest two reasons why the human species may no longer be evolving according to Darwin’s theory. Both are connected to the extensive and sophisticated culture humankind has developed for itself, and therefore also to human consciousness and the non-physical world of thoughts, imagination, beliefs, etc. that arise from it.

In the first place, our ability to reproduce in the modern world seldom comes down to features that are genetically transferrable to our offspring. We are just as likely (if not more so) to choose a ‘mate’ based on things like our prospective partner’s bank balance, job, religious beliefs, habits, family, friends, etc.; none of which have a significant genetic component. In this case there is simply nothing for natural selection to select for.

Secondly, humans don’t reproduce like animals in the wild anymore. We have developed customs surrounding family that mean we tend to ‘mate’ for life and have far fewer babies than our animal cousins. In addition, there are artificial constraints on how many children we elect to have ranging from the societal to the financial to the personal. The sheer fact that human children are as helpless as they are and require such a long time to mature and become self-sufficient in the human world of work, money, relationships, possessions, customs, expectations, etc. – a world like that of no other animal – places burdens on us as parents that automatically restrict the number of children we are likely to have, or are even capable of having.

At the end of the day, although we may not know exactly how it came to be, it seems that human beings, despite having evolved according to natural selection, have now evolved beyond it.