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:
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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.
 
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