Democracy and reductionism

Ted Davis (
Tue, 07 Apr 1998 09:31:39 -0400

Dear Will,

Thank you for your comments on my thoughts about Ockham's razor, democracy,
and reductionism. I have little to add. Mainly, I would note that we
continue to differ on whether or not meanings and purposes are necessary
additions to mechanistic explanations, no doubt because we differ on how we
would complete the phrase, "necessary for which reasons..." As Pascal put
it, "the heart has its reasons that reason cannot know." Some would call
such a statement "irrational," but I prefer the category "nonrational" for
that which is not reducible to reason alone but is not (in my opinion)
nonsense or empty gibberish.

On this one, I'm with someone like Francisco Ayala, who believes that
selection produces our brains, which have survival value for lots of
immediately obvious reasons, but that brains also produce things like
culture and religion, which are not themselves subject to natural selection
(I hope I've stated his argument accurately). When compared with your
views, this seems to me akin to a difference of belief, not of science pure
and simple. I'm content to leave it there.

Ted Davis