Monday, January 4, 2010

Recognizing Darwinism

            I get it now, how important it is to know of the world before you attempt to know of anything else. Within that, fully understanding process of evolution through natural selection (the obvious truth), and realizing there is no sky-god reclining on a cloud mapping out my life. I believe in evolution, I disbelieve in gods, but I don’t really know in-depth what all that entirely means.

            So now I’ve come to the conclusion that to grasp anything of the world to my fullest potential, I need to grasp why I’m here, and unfortunately but especially why I’m not. Instead of reading on with my list of famous fiction and sociology non-fiction, I’m going to head in the direction of Darwinism and read The Origin of Species after I finish 1984.

            For a long time I thought it was silly to prioritize reading Dawkins and the like before anything else. I regard religion—or lack of religion, depending on how you play with words—as a hobby when practiced beyond principle belief or disbelief. By reading The God Delusion with priority over Huxley or Orwell, I considered that hypocritical because it appeared to me as a hobby— entertainment if you will.
I was clearly wrong. If I believe in things I know little of, or don’t have a solid list of the truths I’ve recognized,  it will affect everything else I do in one way or another, sometimes big, sometimes small. It would be impossible and ridiculous for me to hold a sociological argument about why people are a certain way when I don’t even know why the world is a certain way.

            I’m not sure how I conceived the idea that not knowing of the world before knowing of its inhabitants wasn’t the most important thing I could be focusing my studies on.
In the very least, we are fortunate I didn’t need much convincing or evidence to recognize reality. I wonder if that says something of my character?


Almeidinha said...

" So now I’ve come to the conclusion that to grasp anything of the world to my fullest potential, I need to grasp why I’m here, and unfortunately but especially why I’m not. Instead of reading on with my list of famous fiction and sociology non-fiction, I’m going to head in the direction of Darwinism and read The Origin of Species after I finish 1984."

It may be true that it is good to know where you are from, but that is not completely necessary to wonder on why you are here or is it? Not sure =/

Anonymous said...

very deep writing i dont necasarily agree with it im an agnostic but thats the beauty of writing is that not everyone is gonna agree :)

Alexis! said...

@ Almeidinha: Well in reality I'm not here for any reason other than simply existing, being a part of evolution and natural selection. I can equip my life with reason all I'd like or feel I need to, but in actuality I wasn't born with a set purpose even if I've felt like I've had one all along (see: indigo children). In that light, it is very important to understand why I'm not here. :) It has potential to keep me grounded and reminds me "Hey, you're not going to become something just because." It's just not that easy!

@pdguitarist2189: A lot of people don't fully comprehend the meaning behind agnosticism and atheism, I think if more of them did they would claim atheism. I'll try to explain this to you as a friend, but bear with me-- it is 7:30 AM. ;)

The question of God in itself is a scientific question, were he to exist, it would change all of science. The universe, evolution, everything. I do not know if God exists (of any form presented so far or not), but the likelihood of his existence is quite improbable, which is what I stick to as an atheist. However, to completely disregard the God Hypothesis and claim "God does not exist because there is absolutely no way of ever knowing", is ridiculous because he either does or he doesn't, and when we'll get the answer--if ever--is entirely irrelevant. Agnosticism should be saved for things we'll never have evidence of, such as the question of whether you see red as I do. Your red might be blue, but its color might also be something I cannot even imagine.

Almeidinha said...

/\ richard Dawkins talks about something similar


Well. I think one of the biggest problems with "God" is its definition.
After all, God is a human word, therefore it has a meaning. The thing is what each one sees as "god".

Alexis! said...

@ Almeidinha:
You're exactly right, he does. He is an influence of mine, by various means.

You're entirely correct though, the defining of the word "God" in any form is a problem that interferes not only in miscommunication, but acts as a tool of arson for those that abuse its definition, typically the one of their understanding against the one of your understanding. As if the word "God" could be used as a plausible point in an argument, the whole concept is ridiculous. For to laugh, if you will.

By the way, I just realized who you are, I thought your icon looked familiar! I was just waking up when I had seen it before.
I haven't forgotten about your email, I'd hate for you to think I push it to the side to reply to other things. I just like to really think my personal replies through. :) Funnily enough, you've been written into my physical planner for a few days now as "reply to Luis's email", marked with high priority. :)

jose said...

Hello! I got here via Leah's place. This little thing make me want to comment...

"Instead of reading on with my list of famous fiction and sociology non-fiction, I’m going to head in the direction of Darwinism and read The Origin of Species after I finish 1984."

I know this might sound arrogant, specially coming from some anonymous nobody of teh interwebz, but please don't get me wrong, I somehow saw myself in that quote and just wanted to share some thought. If you want to learn about evolution, I wouldn't recommend The origin os species. Various reasons:

- It's outdated. Science has continued finding things out, and evolutionary theory is a lot bigger now. Even the very idea of natural selection has been expanded.

- A lot of little mistakes here and there. Gould said about The origin that it was like a thin rain of mistakes falling over an ocean of reformer validity. Here's the thing, if you're not an specialist, you won't be able to recognize them.

- It's a book from the 19th century, so it's so 19th century victorian minded. Like, evolution leading towards "superior forms" (us) from "inferior forms", progress as an ultimate goal, paternalistic views on "the savages", obscure references to his contemporaries' research...

I can tell you that a huge number of professional biologists who use evolution everyday have never read Darwin.

I wouldn't recommend those books that have been coming out for a while now either, you know those like What the fossils say, The greatest show on Earth, Why evolution is true and so on because they focus on why creationists are wrong. They show proof for evolution, but that's not what you need, right? You already know it's true. You rather need to learn how it works. How speciation occurs, what's the meaning of adaptative landscapes, the role of random genetic drift, how adaptations start to develop in the first place (stick-bugs look like sticks. It's easy to see how natural selection optimizes that shape, but how a totally average insect starts to look like a thiny stick? There's no advantage in being only a little longer and thinner. Maybe a large, non-gradual body change took place? Just chance? Exaptation? Of course, only an hopeless evo nerd would ask such questions. Oh well), what's a quasispecies, how they use evolution in medicine and agriculture, that kind of stuff. Actual modern science.

Dawkins has some really good books about just evolution-- not "proof for evolution" or "evolution for christians"-- mere evolution, like The blind watchmaker and Climbing mount improbable. Gould's essays are always enjoyable, too, specially those put together in Panda's thumb and Eight little piggies. There are others, like Carl Zimmer or Ann Gibbons' The first human, but I think the "classics" Dawkins and Gould are definitely worth reading first.

There I go again talking when no one's asked me. Sorry :(

Almeidinha said...

@ Alexis!
" I'd hate for you to think I push it to the side to reply to other things."

Don't worry. I don't expect you to answer them immediately. =)

Alexis! said...

@ Jose: Your comment has had me intrigued since you've posted it, I've even mentioned it a few times outside of the internet. I've taken great consideration into what you've said. I've decided to finish The God Delusion since I picked it up months ago and hadn't finished it, and then perhaps move onto Climbing Mount Improbable or The Origin of Species (I haven't decided yet). Besides the latter being outdated or hard to comprehend, I would feel satisfaction in knowing I had read all I could have. Even if wrong, at least I would be able to cite it if asked. Sometimes that's important as well, at least by my perception. Anyway, thank you so much for your comment and suggestions, I love book recommendations!

kissafrog69 said...

It was interesting to read theses replies to this post. So people just need (in their own minds) something to believe in. It started thousands, maybe millions of years ago. Think about the vast number of people that feel that they have connected to someone or something when they worship a statue or other structured figure. I understand what you are saying and you express it very well. everyone can believe whatever makes them happy, right. It really doesn't matter. As for your character, only you can really defined what is in yourself. And always believe in yourself, that is what will lead you through your life. Sometimes we change, but our inter self, the real character, will always be there. Carry on, you are getting there!

Alexis! said...

@ kissafrog69: The point where it begins to matter is when it starts affecting other people, and unfortunately in today's society, that's sooner and sooner. People are dragging their beliefs quicker than ever into everyday life where it is otherwise irrelevant, but all in its own that brings up another issue-- religion is relevant because if God exists or not affects everything we have ever known. Fortunately, he does not, but regardless people will believe it because they are conditioned to and the idea has presented itself from day one.
I can imagine that if people truly kept religion to themselves, like it would be most beneficial must it exist, it wouldn't be that big of an issue. The bottom line though, belief in anything higher than our beautiful world affects the society as a whole because its a reminder that people making up our society are still believing in fairy tales.

kissafrog69 said...

I know what you are saying. And what it really comes down to is, we make up who we are. Face it, life does not come from a handbook. Our lives are made up of what we do, our own decisions. I have my beliefs, as do you and everyone,which a right,so they say. We decide what and where our lives with be and where they will take us. I really would not want to feel like a puppet on strings. You are one of the beautiful people, and as long as you believe in yourself, you always will be.