Critique of TSW Part 27b The Myth of Exceptionalism

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Bill agrees with the party line of the former USSR in their assertion that nothing concerning humans can be learned by studying other animals.

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked “TSW: “are from "The Scientific Worldview" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".

The Myth of Exceptionalism (Part 2 of 4)

TSW:  USSR Academy: "Attempts to spread to humanity the laws of the animal kingdom are attempts to lower the human being to the level of beasts."

BW: Out of its original context, I agree with the sentence. Particularly, that "humanistic ethics" ought *not* be derived from the social characteristics of ants (which seems to be E.O. Wilson's perspective). However, Wilson had a particularly amusing comment: “Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species.” http://www.froes.dds.nl/Wilson.htm

[GB: Remember what I said before: Ethics are the result of all the interactions that occur among humans. Any other statement about ethics must be regarded as an aggressive attempt to change them. To claim that we can learn nothing from the interactions of other microcosms, particularly biological ones, is vacuous. It certainly is not scientific.] 

TSW:  Heller: "The logical climax of evolution can be said to have occurred when, as is now imminent, a sentient species deliberately and directly assumes control of its own evolution."

BW: I think he's referring to biological evolution, which is already happening, to increasing degrees, with advances in genetic engineering, medicine, and pharmacology.

[GB: Sorry, but the statement is false because he is analyzing the species as a whole. No microcosm can assume “control of its own evolution” in the same way that the body in Newton’s First Law of Motion cannot change its velocity or direction by itself. Like all microcosms, the Social Microcosm evolves per univironmental determinism, the universal mechanism of evolution stating that what happens to a portion of the universe is equally dependent on the infinite matter in motion within and without.]  

TSW:  "To attain the state of amazing grace, the indeterminist asks us first to accept the Sartrean burden. Then, and only then, would he allow political power to become egalitarian."

BW: I don't think Sarte's "Bad Faith" was in the pursuit of egalitarianism. Almost the inverse. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_faith_(existentialism)

[GB:  Let me explain a bit more. The “Sartrean burden” I referred to is Sartre’s imagined, overbearing freewill. Because free will does not exist, Sartre always would win that bet and would never have to grant equality to anyone at all. In existentialism, “Bad Faith” is the “phenomenon where a human being under pressure from societal forces adopts false values and disowns their innate freedom to act authentically. It is closely related to the concepts of self-deception and ressentiment.” Realize that all this talk of “false values” and “self-deception” really has nothing to with “innate freedom”. Sartre’s imagined free will is capable of nothing, least of all, an escape from the deception typically sponsored by the powers that be. Escape from deception proceeds only through education about the ways of the world.]

TSW:  "... the Social Microcosm will assume control of its own evolution on the day the world has pure democracy, free will, and the ability to make perfect predictions. Because none of this is really possible."

[GB: You missed the rest of the last sentence. The complete version is: “Because none of this is really possible, the indeterminists proposing it need not worry about losing political power, at least not to those who agree to such terms.”]

BW: Humans will never control the entire universe, but they certainly determine the progress of political evolution (not necessarily toward pure democracy). They also have the option to substantially control their personal intellectual evolution, to the degree that they think.

[GB: Wow! Glad you agree that your imagined control of the macrocosm has to stop somewhere. Again, the Social Microcosm, like all microcosms, cannot “certainly determine” its own evolution. That is the whole point of this chapter. As you have demonstrated, that realization comes with great reluctance, if at all. Believers in free will invariably forget that they actually cannot be in control of their own “personal intellectual evolution”. This is because we are all microcosms. What happens to us is “equally dependent on the infinite matter in motion within and without”. What we are and what we will become is the product of an infinitely long chain of physical events.

Since it is illusory, the belief in free will is only a hindrance to “personal intellectual evolution”. Personal evolution is never internally generated. It is the result of a 1:1 interaction with the macrocosm per univironmental determinism. Those who wish “to change themselves”, must change their environments. That is almost a cliché, but that is why we go to school, read books, and study those we admire.]

BW: It will always be true that scientific evolution, however successful, can never achieve "perfect predictions" of the future ... we will never be prescient, which requires omniscience, which can't exist. That's not an "exceptionalism paradox", it's just that human (or computer) knowledge can never BE an exact duplicate of all of reality ... nor even proximate and consequential subsets of reality.

[GB: Right. That sentiment is included in the Third Assumption of Science, uncertainty (It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything).]

TSW:  "No one has yet discovered a single verifiable case of species suicide ..."

BW: I agree with your optimism that humanity won't destroy itself with nuclear weapons, but I don't think that's a certainty. You're correct that no other species has *chosen* its own extinction, but that's because no other species of animal can chose to die: they *always* act on the natural instincts that facilitate their survival. Nevertheless, instincts are not very reliable, since 99.9% of all living species are now extinct. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction

[GB: Remember that suicide is never a solitary act. The path to a suicide is univironmental, whether the trigger is medical or mental. No microcosm, including the Social Microcosm, exists in isolation. As you documented so well in your comment above, all extinctions have been the result of changes in the macrocosm. The “natural instincts” you referred to are similar to the nonexistent “free will” that you think is an exceptional property of humans. Get back to the univironmental concept. Everything in the universe exists at the behest of its macrocosm. Bigger, stronger microcosms displace smaller, weaker microcosms. That is how extinction works. That is why our species is displacing other species by the millions. Neither “natural instincts” nor your so-called “free will” can be sufficient in the face of great macrocosmic changes. When the Sun dies, our species will die with it. That is the way of the universe. Get used to it.]

TSW:  "... one especially pernicious way of competing has been to convince others, directly or indirectly, that suicide is a viable or even honorable alternative”.

BW: But, it occasionally is. Not because of competition or persuasion, but because humans can decide that their lives are no longer worth living. That may be because of excruciating pain, untreatable disease, sacrificing one's life to save a valuable other, or simply making a fatal error of knowledge.

[GB: A little off point. The subject mentioned involves competition and honor, which is used to instill and enforce loyalty for the protection of the tribe. That is the evolutionary purpose of religion.]

Next: The Myth of Exceptionalism Part 3 of 4

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