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A new Darwin revolution?

With Darwin day celebrations going on around the world, people are looking back on a man that changed science as part of a larger cultural revolution away from using theology to explain natural phenomenon and toward a more secular thinking. One wonders, however, where the next such revolution might take place. From where will the next groundbreaking scientific discovery that truly challenges the tenets of our social understanding come from? I'd offer -- linkurl:and I know I'm not the first;htt

By | February 12, 2007

With Darwin day celebrations going on around the world, people are looking back on a man that changed science as part of a larger cultural revolution away from using theology to explain natural phenomenon and toward a more secular thinking. One wonders, however, where the next such revolution might take place. From where will the next groundbreaking scientific discovery that truly challenges the tenets of our social understanding come from? I'd offer -- linkurl:and I know I'm not the first;http://www.the-scientist.com/2005/09/12/14/1/ -- neuroscience, particularly the deduction of the seat of consciousness. Defogging this mystery and finally making the mind something understandable and not merely miraculous is the next great challenge for biologists. A stellar linkurl:__New Yorker__;http://www.newyorker.com article appearing tomorrow hammered home for me just how rudimentary our understanding is, following a pair of philosophers Pat and Paul Churchland (it's their Valentine issue after all), as they struggle to convince their colleagues that the mind can be understood as matter. Crushing dualist notions that have persisted for thousands of years of human history would be no small feat. And in a sense it would complete the course that Darwin set. Although the article doesn't deal much with Darwin, it incidentally provides one of the clearest, most succinct descriptions of his theory that I've read in a while. Describing the Churchland's frustrations in how even the abstractions of neuroscience don't go far enough toward understanding the mind, Larissa MacFarquhar writes: "The mind wasn't some sort of computer program but a biological thing that had been cobbled together higgledy-piggledy, in the course of a circuitous, wasteful, and particular evolution." I'm fond of those last three descriptors. Circuitous, wasteful, and particular: They do anthropomorphize evolution a bit, though no less than Darwin himself, but I think they neatly capture its nature. Interesting too that the author would pick the words of Darwin's colleague and critic linkurl:John Herschell;http://www.palass.org/modules.php?name=palaeo&sec=newsletter&page=22 who couldn't cope with a process completely devoid of intelligent direction calling Darwin's "the law of higgledy-piggledy" -- harldy a crass insult. I wonder what would be the reaction to the person who takes the next step in his legacy, and shows conclusively that the human mind, intellect, experience, and consciousness is nothing more than a piece of meat in a larger than average skull.
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