[asa] Dawkins lecture last night in Omaha

From: Austerberry, Charles <cfauster@creighton.edu>
Date: Thu Mar 12 2009 - 17:31:36 EDT

Heard Dawkins' "The Purpose of Purpose" lecture last evening here in
Omaha. Nothing real novel.
Basic thrust: an important human adaptation is the ability to
anticipate, plan ahead, set goals, and revise them as required. Thus,
humans are "obsessed" with the idea of purpose.
Such flexible goal-seeking can be redirected towards goals quite
different from the original naturally-selected capacity. Example: The
"rule of thumb" to be altruistic towards other people made biological
sense when most people you might meet shared your genes (were relatives)
or at least were likely to run into you again and thus potentially
reciprocate the favor. We should not be surprised that it still feels
good to us to be altruistic, even though now perhaps most of the people
with whom we interact are not kin, and some are people we will likely
never meet again. The rule of thumb no longer makes as much biological
sense, yet it's still a valuable aspect of being a human.
He tried to argue that asking "What is the purpose of the universe?" is
a nonsensical question, a misdirection of our capacity to seek purposes
where they are not to be found. That was among the least convincing
parts of his talk, to me.

He distinguished between archeo-purposes (the original,
naturally-selected purposes for adaptations of living things) and
neo-purposes (the purposes in the minds of human planners, designers,
etc.). The former, he emphasized, were not designed.

The funniest part was the video he showed of Ray Comfort (and someone
else) describing how the banana was designed by God to fit so nicely
into the human hand, be easy to peel and eat, etc. Of course, he then
contrasted a wild banana with the artificially-bred banana with which we
are so familiar that Comfort claimed was designed in detail by God. I
recall Comfort's name coming up on this list recently, and I apologize
if it was about this same video - didn't mean to duplicate.


Chuck Austerberry

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Received on Thu Mar 12 17:32:19 2009

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