Darwin's Black Box - Michael J. Behe and Intelligent Design

Approaching Infinity

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I'm halfway through it - extraordinary! It's not primarily about Darwinism, although many chapters are somewhat touching it. Berlinski's intellect is truly otherwordly. It's really another level. There is some math in it that I don't understand at all, but I could, for the most part, follow the argument around it. Not always though, I admit - and some chapters are truly strange. But I found the book very inspiring so far, and Berlinski is so bang-on in so many ways.

He wrote papers against Darwinism since at least the early 70ies I believe, and you can tell he has thought everything through many times over. So much in fact that you need to know some background, because sometimes he doesn't bother explaining certain arguments he apparently takes for granted. Some true gems in the footnotes as well, and his elaborations on history are very deep and learned. Impressive! I kept thinking about Collingwood's Idea of History - Collingwood knew about the trappings when dealing with history, and so does Berlinski, but Berlinski has the advantage of knowing his math, which allows him to destroy Steven Pinker and cohorts thouroughly both philosophically and from statistical theory. I suppose even Taleb could learn from him in that regard (he also has a little side-jab at Taleb in a footnote...).

Quite the ride and very much worth it!
Looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the mini-review. In his talk with Ben Shapiro from last weekend he briefly mentioned Collingwood. I thought it was a fun talk, as usual with Berlinski - he's a character, for sure:

 

Hello H2O

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Extraordinary mind, and intellect. But I must say, when watching interviews like these, I am also struck with the fact that because they are limited to the material world and material thinking, they can only go so far. It's like, the more intelligent you are, the more paradoxes you see. But you don't have any answers for them. He talked about how man has made great leaps in enlightenment in the 20th century, but that century also included mass killings in two world wars. And the attempted extermination of an entire race.

His take on Darwin theory was interesting, just a bunch of folk tales.. not really science.:-)

He is interesting to listen to, and doesn't seem to have many biases, or strong dogma. I will check him out when I get a chance.
 

luc

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Extraordinary mind, and intellect. But I must say, when watching interviews like these, I am also struck with the fact that because they are limited to the material world and material thinking, they can only go so far. It's like, the more intelligent you are, the more paradoxes you see. But you don't have any answers for them. He talked about how man has made great leaps in enlightenment in the 20th century, but that century also included mass killings in two world wars. And the attempted extermination of an entire race.
I understand what you are saying, but I must say I find it both refreshing and challenging that Berlinski always refuses to go the simple route of "I'm sure it must be like that, then". He sees all the contradictions of the material plane, he debunks them, he understands the futility, clearly. But his "alternative", if you can even call it like that, is one of suppreme subtlety: the higher manifests in the particulars, human nature "announces itself" in the specifics and complexity of human life. At the same time, he believes in an essential human nature, but clearly he sees that you can't put your finger on it using "human reason", science etc., and so he refuses to do it. Although he doesn't say it, he seems to believe that there is something higher, something more mysterious that we have an instinctual inkling of. More often than not, our theories just burry this instinct, and he's fighting to free it - both by showing how wrong all these theories are, but also by confronting us with the complexity of human nature in the form of short stories and raw observations.

What strikes me about Berlinski is that he is someone who is deeply in love with the abstract and the theoretical; and yet he loves humanity even more, which is why he has the wisdom to withstand the temptation of the abstract. In his introduction, he says that secular jews are fated to see the futility of it all without having something to hold on to, and that they must bear that terrible burden. I don't know about that, but it seems true for him. It's a hard place to be in. And you are right H2O - maybe a little non-materialistic religiousness, if even just a little "faith in the process", would serve him well, as it does for all of us.
 

Hello H2O

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Although he doesn't say it, he seems to believe that there is something higher, something more mysterious that we have an instinctual inkling of. More often than not, our theories just burry this instinct, and he's fighting to free it
Yes, he possibly knows more than what he is willing to say publicly, but that just highlights that materialistic thinking, no matter how profound, can only take you so far. He is an example of someone who is remarkably unbiased, and not bound to dogma, which is refreshing, but in the end he is still in the land of mysteries and paradoxes.

They were discussing the politics, and even hinted at the corruption, of the sciences, and he concluded that evolutionary science has been, and is, artificially elevated, because it was seen as a lesser scientific discipline, and it needed to be brought up there with physics and mathematics. Which I think is the kind of naïveté you encounter when you can only see things in the smaller picture. I wish he could see the presence of evil, or psychopathy, which explains a lot of what we see and encounter. In fact I think it may be the fundamental starting point to getting out of the box, as it were.


I definitely see things in a different light now, and can see that if you limit yourself to the material, you can end up on a train that goes forever in circles, never reaching a destination. JMHO.
 
I really like Berlinski. My prevalent impression of him is that he has thought about the things he says more than just about anyone else. He really knows how to think and is careful to avoid common cognitive biases, and he avoids going so far as to say things he can't be sure of. This is in strong contrast with that dimwit Dawkins who just spouts one stupidity after another, even though none of it makes any sense, much less is supported by any kind of evidence.

Berlinski's insights are quite penetrating. I agree that he probably knows and understands a lot more than he says publicly. But probably because that understanding goes into areas and things that can't be easily proven, he keeps it to himself. That's my feeling anyway.

I've read The Devil's Delusion, and I was often amused by his subtle humour. His awareness and the ability to see connections between things are pretty amazing.

I feel like I live in a world full of idiots, and it's rare that somebody seems much smarter than I am, but Berlinski is definitely in that small category. I really enjoyed reading his book, and I enjoy listening to him pretty much no matter what he's talking about.

My favourite interview with him, about Darwinism specifically:


So much interesting stuff there.
 

herondancer

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My favourite interview with him, about Darwinism specifically:
'
Wow. That was exhilarating. What a brilliant man. Just for jollies, I tried to see if there were any debates between him and Dawkins. I couldn't find any, and probably Dawkins wouldn't have lasted minutes anyway.

There's a wealth of interviews and conversations featuring Berlinski. Christopher Hitchens seems to have more nerve. Here is a debate from 2010.

Christopher Hitchens 2010 'Does atheism poison everything' vs David Berlinski

 

luc

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Yes, he possibly knows more than what he is willing to say publicly, but that just highlights that materialistic thinking, no matter how profound, can only take you so far.
I agree that he probably knows and understands a lot more than he says publicly.
As far as materialism is concerned, I don't think it's really about him knowing more than he says publicly. He clearly thinks scientific materialism is wrong. His whole premise for his new book is that there is such a thing as human nature and that it's essential, meaning there are features of human nature that necessarily define humanity. What's more, these cannot be described in the language of science as commonly understood; it's about the human experience.

Another example would be Roger Scruton (The Soul of the World), who talks about the transcendent in the context of human experience. But he doesn't come right out and says "materialism is false" or "there are higher realms that really exist" and so on, just as Berlinski doesn't.

The reason I think is similar to why Jordan Peterson refuses to affirm that he "believes in God", because the question is: what do you mean by this? What do you mean by "higher realms"?

Perhaps these things simply cannot be defined from our level of existence. We can know about them only "by proxy", i.e. by reflecting on the human condition, with an emphasis on human experience (something always negleted by materialistic science, or reframed in stupid pseudo-materialistic concepts like evolutionary psychology). By entering the world of the human mind/experience, we indirectly learn about the Higher, in a slow and tedious process where minute details matter, as do observations, of self and of the world. This is what Berlinski and Scruton write about, I think. And so they help us "grasp" the higher, in a sort of intuitive way.

The problem with the other approach - proclaiming that there are higher worlds or even trying to define them - is that we cannot escape materialistic thinking on our plane of existence. We think of higher worlds as places in space and time, where spirits dwell and interact with us, when clearly that's not how it works. We have no idea. Except perhaps glimpses here and there while grappling with the human condition from all kinds of angles, but it's more a "state of mind" than exact knowledge.

In Spirit Teachings, the channelled source warns the medium that phenomena (like telekinesis, ghosts and what not) are very gross and are only granted to open up certain people to the possibility of a non-material existence. But they are misleading and dangerous, because what really matters is a deeper understanding, a "communion" with the spirit world that is about gaining knowledge and understanding to move us closer to a higher existence. It's a very subtle thing though and depends as much on our own minds than on the "spirit world".

Laura also said this some time ago:

Yup. When the Cs said that we should concentrate on the lessons of this level in order to graduate, and I began to learn just how badly people are in need of these very basic concepts, I decided that I would concentrate my attention and energy on where I am with the intent to grow.

So, basically, I don't waste my time in fruitless speculation; I know my limits.
Personally, at least where I'm at right now, I learn a lot from the likes of Berlinski and Scruton, and I find it useful that they resist making positive claims about the non-material world. It forces us to focus on the human experience, while keeping in mind that materialism is clearly wrong. FWIW
 

Hello H2O

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The problem with the other approach - proclaiming that there are higher worlds or even trying to define them - is that we cannot escape materialistic thinking on our plane of existence.
Thanks luc. Reading your reply kind of unlocked something in my mind regarding my stance.

And it is really just a quick observation. Over the years I have had many friends that liked to get into all kinds of philosophical discussions. We could stay up till all hours discussing all sorts of things around the human condition, and the different theories surrounding them.

To make a long story short, when I see these people now, most have gone down the road of the SJW left. And whereas before, they were more open to things, now they are closed and entrenched in their beliefs.

I guess I am seeing now, that thinking that is restricted to the material, no matter how intelligent or profound is dangerous. Kind of like a soft drug that can lead to hard drugs. It can open your mind, but then, all sorts of bad things can enter an open door.

This is what got unlocked as to my feelings in the present. Now that it is unlocked I can sort of meditate on it...

You have the benefit of knowledge, and can self correct when reading this material, as I can, but I think for the average guy, they won't be taken anywhere but round in circles, ending up mostly likely where the greater powers lead them.

Anyway that is my thinking for now, not saying it is wrong or right, but that is my observation.
 

Palinurus

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More Dawkins bashing on SOTT today (from David Bentley Hart - Church Life Journal - Sat, 28 Dec 2019 18:15 UTC) :

Richard Dawkins discovers his ideal idiom and audience -- Sott.net

Some writers struggle for years to achieve a proper harmony in their work between style and substance. For some, that precious concinnity remains elusive till the end. So it is always something of a happy surprise when an author discovers his or her ideal idiom in the twilight of a long career. In a sense, Richard Dawkins has always been a writer of books for children — or, at any rate, for readers with childish minds — but not until now, it seems, has it occurred to him to write explicitly as a children's author. Tο this point, he has made a good living out of a relative paucity of gifts. As a third-tier zoologist, a popularizer of both scientific truths and pseudo-scientific speculations, and a tireless enemy of all religious beliefs (whether he understands them or not), he has gone far on an engagingly mediocre prose-style and an inflexible narrowness of mind. But, while his ambition has always been toward a certain intellectual gravity, even his putatively most serious (or most self-important) books have had an undeniably infantile quality about them. The Selfish Gene, for instance, was really little more than a cartoon of the molecular biology it pretended to explicate, a simplistic genetocentric reductionist fantasia so fraught with obvious logical errors and so prone to inadvertently and ineptly metaphysical claims that no truly mature mind could fail to recognize its fatuity. The God Delusion was, if anything, even more of a nursery entertainment: puerile rants, laboriously obvious jokes, winsomely preposterous conceptual confusions, a few dashes of naïve but honest indignation, attempts at philosophical reasoning so maladroit as to be touching in their guileless silliness. And I think it fair to say that nothing Dawkins has written for public consumption has lacked this element of beguiling absurdity — the delightful atmosphere of playtime on a long golden summer afternoon, alive with small figures shouting happily in shrill little voices and stumbling about in their parents' clothing, acting out scenes from what they imagine to be the daily lives of adults. But the bewitching effect has also always been diluted by his unfortunate failure to embody his ideas in a form suitable to their triviality.

With Outgrowing God: A Beginner's Guide, all of that has changed. The warm, languid sunlight of those idyllic revels positively spills across its pages. At last, Dawkins has found an authorial voice entirely adequate to his theme. And it is charming. Yes, of course, the confused and chaotic quality of his arguments remains a constant, and the basic conceptual mistakes have not altered appreciably since the earliest days of his polemics; but here it all comes across as the delightful babble of a toddler. "Do you believe in God?" he asks on the first page, tugging at your sleeve, eager to inform you of all the interesting things he has learned about religion this week. "Which god? Thousands of gods have been worshipped throughout the world, throughout history." Do tell. And, in fact, tell he does, breathlessly emptying out his whole little hoard of knowledge about the local deities of ancient peoples. The sheer earnest impishness of his manner is almost enough to make you ignore his continued inability — despite decades of attempts by more refined logicians to explain his error to him — to distinguish between the mythic and devotional stories that peoples tell about their gods and the ontological and modal claims that the great monotheistic traditions of the "axial age" and after have made about God, or to grasp the qualitative conceptual gulf that separates them.

continued...
 
I started reading Darwinian Fairytales right after Behe's books, around the time of my first posts in this thread. I wasn't very impressed with the first chapter. It felt like Stove was making Darwinism look much worse than it is by exaggerating certain things to the point of ridiculousness, and then showing them to be false in a way that felt too much like a straw-man argument. And maybe I was too biologically-oriented and not very philosophically-oriented at that point, so the arguments didn't seem very relevant. So after two chapters, I put the book away and figured I'd get back to it later.

I returned to it about a month ago, after 20 other books on evolution and lots of thinking. This time I had not only a much better understanding of the underlying biology, but also a better sense of the whole philosophy behind the theory, the implications, contradictions, and so on. I'm glad I had put the book away, because now I could appreciate it much better. My interest has somewhat shifted from showing that this mutation business is physically and mathematically incapable of making humans out of bacteria (I think for now, I've done enough in that regard) to showing that this whole thing is so incredibly toxic to the mind that it turns you into a moron the moment you start taking it seriously.

One thing that distinguishes this book from the others is, as luc has pointed out, that Stove is a philosopher and really knows how to think. I've had flashbacks of Berlinski and Collingwood while reading this. Stove leaves no stone unturned while attacking the issue from every possible angle, making sure he didn't forget about any conceivable way the theory could somehow be saved. He shows that no matter how you look at things and no matter how many concessions you make, the theory of evolution still can't hold together for reasons that are far too numerous.

There have been some things that I was aware of intuitively that Stove helped me see more clearly. One of them, and possibly the most important thing I took away from this book, is how Darwinists treat purpose in life and evolution. I can sum it up with the help of the example of Dawkins's Selfish Gene. Dawkins says that genes don't have a mind and cannot have goals, but literally everything in that book is written under the assumption that genes do have a mind and goals. If we accept that they really don't, then absolutely nothing in that book makes sense. And it's not only that book, but all of his books, and it's not only his books, but pretty much all Darwinian literature.

This is such a fundamental contradiction that I wrote a whole section about it for my next article, so I won't go into much detail here. But as a small example, one of the aspects of this is the idea that the goal or purpose of organisms is to reproduce. Yet there is absolutely no way to justify this idea in a materialist setting, because without an independent (as opposed to accidental, like in Darwinism) consciousness, there is nothing that can have this goal. Genes don't and can't have any goals. So if organisms strive to survive and reproduce, what exactly in them does that? I feel a bit stupid that I didn't see this coherently enough sooner, but after Stove pointed it out and explained, and after I thought about it for a few days and formulated my ideas in the article, I can't help but see this glaring inconsistency as one of the weakest points of the theory. So I think some hammering at this nail is in order, because the whole structure should crumble pretty easily.

Anyway, more in the article (within a few weeks, I think), but I highly recommend the book to those who haven't read it and are interested in the more philosophical aspects of the Darwinian business.

This year has been pretty enlightening for me, so hopefully this trend will continue in the next one, which starts in a few hours. Thank you all for your support. I wouldn't have made it this far on this fun journey without all of you.
 

genero81

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Anyway, more in the article (within a few weeks, I think), but I highly recommend the book to those who haven't read it and are interested in the more philosophical aspects of the Darwinian business.

This year has been pretty enlightening for me, so hopefully this trend will continue in the next one, which starts in a few hours. Thank you all for your support. I wouldn't have made it this far on this fun journey without all of you.
Yes, I started reading Stove's book and left off somewhere in the middle. I will have to come back to it. The PTB must have a lot of confidence in their ability to 'create reality' to have the audacity to hoodwink the masses with such ludicrous 'scientific' nonsense. It's a mind job of epic proportions. While there is no doubt that efforts in this area should continue in order to help free the minds of our brothers and sisters out in the world who, as of yet, haven't been given access or made aware of better and more sensical information, there are many other areas of which deserve our attention. I for one would like to see what else you can accomplish with your considerable intellectual capabilities in the upcoming year/ decade.

And, thank you!
 

Voyageur

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So after two chapters, I put the book away and figured I'd get back to it later.
In reading Stove's book, it was read on the heels of other's and I might have reacted to it similarly if not (yet I immediately enjoyed his style of writing). However once into Darwinian Fairytales, Stove had me, it was cemented.

So I think some hammering at this nail is in order, because the whole structure should crumble pretty easily.
Yes, look forward to what you write!

 
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