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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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.

 

Aping Mankind by Raymond Tallis – An Absurd Being Book Review

aping_mankindFor a complete summary of Aping Mankind see the philosophy page at the Absurd Being website here.

If one word serves to describe Aping Mankind, that word would be ‘thorough’. Tallis’ book takes the reader on a detailed and rigorous trek through the latest attempts in science to explain consciousness. He focuses on what he calls, “neuromania” (the idea that the mind and the brain are the same) and “Darwinitis” (the idea that we are nothing more than animals), and produced a ‘take-no-prisoners’ refutation of the various claims made by his twin nemeses. Continue reading