Posts Tagged ‘biology’

Darwin vs. Capitalism

January 26, 2009

I went to the Philosopher’s Café tonight at Cafe Kathmandu on Commercial Drive. The topic was “Empiricism and the State of Evolutionary Biology in an Age of Faith-Based Fundamentalism.” It was a discussion about ways of knowing that pitted the knowledge of science against the knowledge of God. The discussion is never-ending. Listening tonight, hearing the old familiar lines, it occurred to me that maybe the church isn’t the obstacle to enlightenment it’s made out to be. Over the past 150 years the values of Capitalism have replaced the values, however similar, of the church. So I asked the question: “Can it be a fluke that children are in the capitalist state run school system from the ages of 5 to 17 and at the end of those twelve years have no understanding whatsoever of their material reality?” The way I see it, Darwin’s Origin of the Species is a revolutionary work, and a true understanding by the population would change the world. What’s so scary about evolution?

This Café was part of the Vancouver Evolution Festival.

The idea that both religion and capitalism might have a stake in keeping quiet the notion that free and uncontrolled variation, the variation that makes evolution possible, has been considered. Check this out: from Jihad vs. McWorld:

To the extent that either McWorld or Jihad has a NATURAL politics, it has turned out to be more of an antipolitics. For McWorld, it is the antipolitics of globalism: bureaucratic, technocratic, and meritocratic, focused (as Marx predicted it would be) on the administration of things—with people, however, among the chief things to be administered. In its politico-economic imperatives McWorld has been guided by laissez-faire market principles that privilege efficiency, productivity, and beneficence at the expense of civic liberty and self-government.

For Jihad, the antipolitics of tribalization has been explicitly antidemocratic: one-party dictatorship, government by military junta, theocratic fundamentalism—often associated with a version of the Fuhrerprinzip that empowers an individual to rule on behalf of a people. Even the government of India, struggling for decades to model democracy for a people who will soon number a billion, longs for great leaders; and for every Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, or Rajiv Gandhi taken from them by zealous assassins, the Indians appear to seek a replacement who will deliver them from the lengthy travail of their freedom.

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Darwin’s Finches

November 21, 2007

Last night I went to Evolution of Darwin’s Finches, a lecture by Rosemary and Peter Grant. Luckily I got to the lecture hall a little early, because the place completely filled up. Even the aisles were filled. There was a nice article about the lecture in the Georgia Straight (notice the comments are about God), but I think the popularity of the speakers, was simply a result of 35 years of work. The room was filled with birders, and biologist, academics both institutional and independent, students, teachers, children, teenagers and the very, very, old. I’m guessing the majority in the room were academics of some sort. This couple has got to be a kind of role model for anyone interested in this branch of science.

I’ve been reading Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. I’m working a number of ideas into some sort of theory for a project I’m proposing. The Grant’s work seems interesting. It’s interesting because it’s real hands-on science. The theory of evolution , I don’t know, but right now I’ve got a feeling it’s important in all its complexity to any theory of social change. The problem with any theory of social change is the theory of social stasis, which might be analogous to the confrontation between the theorists of evolution and the believers in God’s creation. (This is a little of what I’m talking about.) What I’ve just written sort of explains why I haven’t been writing lately.

The Grants observed evolution through natural selection. Changes in the environment (changes in weather patterns and the resulting changes in plant based food sources) produced measurable differences in beak and body sizes in the islands’ finch populations. And after 35 years of observing the birds behaviour, they could see the “cultural” differenced that grew up around inherited adaptation.

Preface to Democracy and Education

July 10, 2007

The Preface is incredibly brief and straightforward, but the problems in it can only grow throughout the book. I question Dewey’s “endeavour to detect and state the ideas implied in a democratic society and to apply these ideas to the problems and enterprises of education.” What ideas does a democratic society imply? Would those implications have changes since 1915? (Not that this matters.) The idea that an actual democratic society has ideas implicit in it and that one can go about detecting and stating those ideas is not an idea at all but misconception based on an idealization of democratic society. This misconception can only lead to a polemical argument. What ideas are actually in play in our specific democratic society? To be of any practical use to the problems and enterprises of education any ideas applied should not be implied but in play.

Dewey clearly explains that “the philosophy stated in this book connects the growth of democracy with the development of the experimental method in the sciences, evolutionary ideas in the biological sciences, and the industrial reorganization, and is concerned to point out the changes in subject matter and method of education indicated by these developments.” I wonder if his philosophy and purposes are a problem? I am not an expert on Dewey, but wouldn’t be stretching it to say he launched the progressive education movement in the States. The progressive movement is today stalled. Could it be that the simplistic philosophical foundation of the movement is it’s problem? Dewey confuses possibility with progression. He sees implicit in growth, development, evolution and reorganization a progressive improvement. We now know (and Dewey could have known then) that the possibility of improvement will not necessarily actualize. What does this mean for the philosophy stated in this book?