Richard Dawkins and “The Purpose of Purpose”

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Oxford University’s previous Charles Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science, Richard Dawkins, visited Michigan State University in East Lansing on March 2nd and 3rd. Prof. Dawkins gave a lecture on “The Purpose of Purpose” to a sold-out crowd at the Wharton Center on the evening of the 2nd, and held an hour-and-a-half question and answer session at the Fairchild Theater on campus in the morning of the 3rd.

(Original post at the Austringer)

Fred Dyer, head of MSU’s Zoology Department, introduced Prof. Dawkins to a sold-out crowd in the Wharton Center main theater. A part of the WorldViews Lecture Series, this event was the first to completely sell out the main seating area and balcony for a lecture rather than a performance at the Wharton Center. A comparison to a lecture by Stephen Jay Gould several years ago cannot be made, since the organizers for that one booked only a smaller room at the Wharton Center and were dismayed to have to turn away a large number of people seeking admission. That sort of organizational miscue was avoided for Prof. Dawkins’ appearance.

Prof. Dawkins titled his talk as “The Purpose of Purpose” and began with an anecdote of Peter Atkins being asked by one of the Royal Family, “But what about the ‘why’ questions?”, and Atkins replying, “That is a silly question.”

Dawkins noted that asking ‘why’ for inanimate objects like air or rocks is almost always considered inappropriate. But asking ‘why’ living organisms are seems to often have been done in the past. He noted a number of amusing instances, such as claims that domestic animals provide a means to keep their meat fresh until we have need to eat them, lice were a strong incentive to personal cleanliness, large predators allowed hunters to test their courage, and horseflies encouraged industry and the use of wits in combatting them.

This mindset persists to this day, said Dawkins, popping up the Ray Comfort “banana” video, which got an especially large dollop of audience laughter with Comfort’s assertion that the banana has just the right shape to fit in the human mouth. Dawkins noted that, unfortunately, the video was not simply a joke. Comfort apparently has offered to give Dawkins $10,000 to debate Comfort. Dawkins responded saying that he would take Comfort up on that only if Comfort donated $100K to Dawkins’ new foundation. Then Dawkins compared the modern, domesticated version of the banana to the fruit of the wild banana, showing that many of the properties that Comfort was ascribing to God’s design were actually choices made in artificial selection by humans. Some of the attitudes remain even in those who have abandoned a religious viewpoint, especially when it comes to seeing humans as part of the panoply of life and not separate from it, as when people ascribe the grave sin of murder to aborting a human fetus, while cheerfully eating a cow. The question to be asked is not whether something can reason, or talk, but rather whether it can suffer.

Dawkins went on to talk about artificial selection as a transition to natural selection. Corn, for example, has been selected in varieties that minimize and maximize the oil content, with dramatic increases in oil content seen in the one, and values of oil content close to zero in the other. Roses demonstrate the extent to which human artificial selection can take things. But it must be recognized that human selection of roses picks up where natural selection done by insects has left off. Flowers show the lengths that adaptation in plants can go to avoid the phenomena of self-fertilization. Wind pollination only goes so far. Many flowers now bribe pollinators to carry their pollen. A Madagascar orchid that was examined by both Darwin and Wallace illustrates this, as the “dangly thing” restricts pollination to a pollinator with a thin tongue of some 11 inches in length. Darwin and Wallace predicted this, and later Darwin’s Hawk Moth was discovered, an animal with the predicted long tongue.

Natural selection is non-random success, and represents another way to improve. All living things are “survival machines”, where every species preserves its genes in a different way. Humans do this by thinking. And so we can give a new view of purpose, where purpose for living organisms is to preserve and propagate their genes, to work hard and make copies of themselves.

As related by Dawkins, humans appear to be a major exception to this view of purpose. Naive Darwinism has no explanation for things like contraception and adoption. Adoption is a wonderful thing, it just isn’t very Darwinian.

Then Dawkins got to the essential framework of the rest of his talk, making a distinction within purpose between the purpose that comes about as adaptation via natural selection, which he called “archi-purpose”, and the purpose that comes about through the intent of a planning brain, which he called “neo-purpose”. Archi-purpose, then, resembles an intentional purpose, but is not such: the resemblance is an illusion. Neo-purpose, as Dawkins views it, is itself an evolved adaptation.

The brain viewed as an on-board computer sets up goals, or neo-purposes. Dawkins raised the question of whether man-made machines can, themselves, have neo-purposes? And he answered in the affirmative on that, noting that machines like guided missiles can seek goals. He did note that certain other inventions, like cannonballs, were destructive but did not have the goal-seeking or even goal-setting property that underlies neo-purpose.

Dawkins moved on to what goals could be seen in animal behavior, bringing up bat biosonar as an instance. He also considered the simple guidance system of maggots where they use a negative phototaxis to get to a food source as a low-level example. Dragonflies, he noted, seek out their prey much as a guided missile seeks out its target. One could note the similarities in orientation via sound between human-made submarines and whales.

So, what happens in the on-board computer? Dawkins thinks that a key component in developing neo-purposes is the ability to simulate, to predict future outcomes under conditions other than what currently apply, and to be able to imagine novel situations. This raises further questions. Are whales conscious of their purposes? Dawkins relates that it seems that one can doubt that very simple animals have that sort of consciousness, but that it seems very likely that whales do have it.

The sort of flexibility in determining behavior that a simulating, imaginative brain gives an animal, said Dawkins, makes for a double-edged sword. With flexibility comes the ability to subvert the adaptive archi-purpose underlying the brain’s functionality. Why do humans seek hedonistic pleasure? Why do humans not work more diligently at propagating their genes? It is the nature of brain flexibility that makes subversion of that archi-purpose possible, such that re-programming of the brain can happen.

But we know, said Dawkins, that there is both flexibility and inflexibility involved. The flexibility to set a new goal, a neo-purpose, can be coupled with the inflexible drive to pursue that goal that was originally part of the adaptive archi-purpose program. The new, neo-purpose, goal can be pursued over long periods, even a lifetime, in service of religious, military, or political ideas. There can be continued flexibility in setting up sub-goals, and sub-sub-goals, in service of the inflexibly held neo-purpose goal. It is important to understand this hierarchy of goal-seeking, and the capacity to set short-term goals in service of long-term goals. Humans provide the most obvious examples of subversion of goals. Humans bred sheepdogs for herding sheep, yet what one sees in the herding behavior is an altered or reprogrammed version of the stalking behavior of wolves. To take a fictional example, Dawkins used the movie, “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” and the character of Colonel Nicholson, whose obsession with proving the industry and ingenuity of the Western mindset subverted the goal of firmly opposing the war efforts of the enemy.

Dawkins named a number of archi-purposes that provided “subversion fodder”: hunger, sex, parental care, kinship, filial obedience, and others. We evolved under conditions where sugar and fat marked high-quality food sources, and poor food availability meant we tended to eat obsessively when food sources were available. But today for western culture, food is always available, and we do damage to our teeth and our health via over-indulgence. For the subversion of sex, Dawkins showed a photograph of a moose mounting a statue of a bison. Once the audience had gotten a laugh out of that, the next slide showed a scantily clad human female model, and Dawkins said, “At least the bison statue was in 3D.” Contraception forms a subversion of the archi-purpose of sex. Notes Steven Pinker’s quote, “My genes can go jump in the lake.” We adopt kittens and puppies.

Filial obedience is subverted as in “God the father”, and the elevation of other father-figures. Subversion of kinship occurs, too, we are keenly aware of our kin relations, and may be said to be obsessed with kinship. This subversion occurs via fictive kin, subverting kinship loyalty. In-group loyalty and out-group hostility utilize fictive kin to cement those new allegiances. Religion consistently uses fictive kin rhetoric. Entire nations can be viewed as using fictive kin relationships. This is especially dangerous when an implacable faith is involved, as the 9/11 terrorists demonstrated.

But there is a good side to the subversion of purpose. It can be exhilarating. Our species is likely young in its liberation from the strictures of archi-purposes. The steps from the invention of the wheel to that of airliners and space shuttles have proceeded rapidly. Cultural evolution is speedy, whether we pursue things beneficial or the sub-goals of war. But the flexibility we have gives us grounds for hope.

A question and answer session followed after the lecture. The questions were submitted by the audience and selected by Prof. Dyer.

The first question asked about Dawkins’ personal history of non-belief. He said he first started doubting religion at the age of nine, when he realized that there were lots of different religions. He completely lost faith at the age of fifteen, when he learned about Darwinian evolution and was able to attribute life and its history to something other than a designer.

How would you respond to those who compare you to the likes of Billy Graham; do you consider yourself an evangelical atheist? No, Dawkins said, he did not consider himself an evangelical atheist, for the reason that people like Billy Graham are absolutely sure that they are right, and he is not certain that he is right, and would be able to change his mind given sufficient evidence that he was wrong. Dawkins said that he was not dogmatic, therefore not an evangelical atheist. While the pattern of speech that he employs based on conviction may sound similar to that of Billy Graham, but he bases his conviction on evidence and should not be confused with conviction that proceeds from no evidence at all.

Could someone embrace a no-god view without learning for themselves what science says about the world? Dawkins thought it would be difficult. He presumes that he would have been religious if he had been born before 1859, as the appearance of design is convincing. But even without the later scientific knowledge, one cannot come to a conclusion of a designer with any good certainty, as was recognized by various thinkers before Darwin, notably David Hume. So it would have been possible, but it would have been difficult.

What about the tendency in our society to embrace medicine based on pseudoscience? Dawkins said he was not dogmatically opposed to “alternative medicine”, as if one could demonstrate that some “alternative” works, it ceases to be alternative and simply becomes mainstream. That said, it is difficult to imagine a test for something like homeopathy, where active ingredients supposedly become more powerful with dilution. Eventually, both your control and your test dose contain nothing of the supposed active ingredient, thus if you found a difference, you would also have found entirely new laws of physics, too. Of course, the placebo effect exists, and mainstream doctors don’t have time to spend with patients, but alternative medicine doctors do. That additional time may be effective, but that effectiveness needs to be separated from the effect of the process or medication that the alternative practitioners offer. If we go back far enough, we may see our preference for alternative medicine in the fact that at one time what mainstream doctors mostly did was kill you, and while the alternative medicine practitioners may not have made you better, they at least mostly did nothing at all.

What about the view that medicine extends life to many who would otherwise have died? Certainly modern medicine allows the human population to propagate many genes that contribute to genetic illness, but Dawkins does not see this as a bad thing.

What if instead of consider archi-purpose to be subverted that we view the ability to set neo-purposes as adaptive? Dawkins said that this was interesting and would go to his points about flexibility in brains as on-board computers.

Is there an archi-purpose for spiritual experience? Dawkins said that the capability for spiritual experience could have a biological purpose, but that we should be careful to note that this did not mean that gods existed. Delusion is commonplace, and the survival value of the predisposition to spiritual experience could lead to the worship of nonexistent entities. The most likely way this might manifest is in a biological predisposition to a psychological attitude.

Dawkins has said that he’d be honored to become a fossil. What does he see as the best thing that he will leave behind? Dawkins said that it would likely be The Selfish Gene, though more recently he has preferred The Ancestor’s Tale. While The Blind Watchmaker is extremely popular, he sees Climbing Mount Improbable as a better book addressing much the same topic.

What is your favorite novel? Dawkins said that he was devoted to P.G. Wodehouse, but loved the works of Evelyn Waugh.

(Photo by Wesley R. Elsberry.)

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Alas, poor Richard. Ever since being thrashed by Ben Stein in Expelled he's just gotten more and more nonsensical. Then, it was that there is no intelligent design of life, except of course maybe alien-directed intelligent design. Now, it seems he has ... Read More

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Oxford University’s Charles Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science is currently Marcus du Sautoy, not Richard Dawkins.

My wife, Connie Barlow, a science writer, and I attended Richard’s presentation in Oklahoma City a few days ago. I posted a photo essay blog post here: “RICHARD DAWKINS: ROCK STAR IN OKLAHOMA”: http://thankgodforevolution.com/node/1729

See my comment in the previous PT thread re: Dawkins’s appearance at Oklahoma U.:

Michael Dowd said:

My wife, Connie Barlow, a science writer, and I attended Richard’s presentation in Oklahoma City a few days ago. I posted a photo essay blog post here: “RICHARD DAWKINS: ROCK STAR IN OKLAHOMA”: http://thankgodforevolution.com/node/1729

Wesley,

That’s a great report on Dawkins’s talk. Too bad I haven’t seen him debate philosopher Philip Kitcher on the importance of religion in human societies. I strongly suspect that that would be a most interesting debate.

I’m not surprised he likes P. G. Wodehouse, since one of his friends was Douglas Adams (Incidentally, another prominent admirer of Wodehouse is my high school creative writing teacher, Frank McCourt.).

Regards.

John

P. S. Gould must have spoken at MSU back in the early 2000s since he passed away in the Spring of 2002.

I’ve added “previous” to the description.

“Plum” Wodehouse? Hardly a militant atheist!

Dawkins noted that asking ‘why’ for inanimate objects like air or rocks is almost always considered inappropriate. But asking ‘why’ living organisms are seems to often have been done in the past.

Dawkins’ note about asking ‘why’ for inanimate objects being considered inappropriate, points right to the heart of the issues leading to widespread and exploitable incredulity about the evolution of life on this planet. If the physics community has been remiss in conveying the intricacies and beauty of condensed matter physics in support of the biologists, then I will apologize for that oversight.

Condensed matter physics is by far the largest sub-discipline of physics; and it is often looked down upon as “messy” and without the chic of elementary particle physics. Most of the popularizations and publicity seem to surround the frontiers of elementary particles, and little attention is given to the fundamental issues of condensed matter when directing public attention to what is going on in physics.

However, when it comes to some of the most fundamental questions about life, purpose, organization and complexity, and the differences and similarities between the living and the inanimate, one really needs to appreciate what this universe does at all levels of complexity and organization. That means not only appreciating life, but organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and condensed matter physics.

In general, most people take condensed matter for granted and do not connect all the properties they encounter everyday in their lives with the emergence of these properties from the self-organization that is ubiquitous at all levels in nature.

If we look at some of the deepest misgivings ID/Creationists have about evolution and the emergence of new life forms, these can be traced to their complete ignorance of some of the most fundamental ideas in condensed matter physics; namely the concepts of entropy and the second law of thermodynamics and how matter organizes. Thus their need to invoke intelligent design

Because of their misinformation and misunderstandings about how matter and energy behave (i.e., their complete lack of awareness of what “lowly inanimate matter” does), their lack of insight and imagination forces them to attribute intelligence and purpose where it is inappropriate. And that ties right in with sectarian fears and insecurities and the need for a fatherly deity.

There is little question that biologists have understood and appreciated the significance of these ideas in the context of life on this planet. But the gulf between them and the physics community has given the false impression that there is some kind of “fundamental barrier” between the inanimate and life.

What probably needs to be made clearer to the public is that nothing in all of physics, chemistry and biology points to any such barrier. We know this stuff happens at all levels; and we know it in great detail. If ID/Creationists want to find the “barrier”, then they know where they have to look. Given all their fundamental misconceptions about science, it is unlikely they will be successful.

PG Wodehouse - the classic English farce, most of it written during the long years Wodehouse spent in Manhattan! So Clinton can laugh!

According to someone I know who was a student of his at Oxford’s, he does have a sense of humor. It was certainly present when Douglas Adams introduced him to his current wife, who was once a Time Lord on “Doctor Who”:

rimpal said:

PG Wodehouse - the classic English farce, most of it written during the long years Wodehouse spent in Manhattan! So Clinton can laugh!

Dawkins is interesting in his way but he seems to have left biology behind long ago in preference for philosophy. The exact opposite of my personal preference.

I find some of his phraseology to be unfortunate.

Dawkins went on to talk about artificial selection as a transition to natural selection

Agricultural selection is not “artficial selection”, it’s a type of natural selection. Humans doing the selection are natural.

Obsessive Dawkins apologists have leaped up when I pointed this out in the past, and claimed that Dawkins means “artificial” in the arts and crafts sense - something created by skill.

No, he doesn’t, because he’s using it as a contrast to “natural”.

Now, of course, artificial sweeteners are “natural sweeteners”, too, but that’s quite different. Do chemists ever talk about “natural” chemical reactions and “artificial” chemical reactions? I took general, organic, and physical chem, and biochemistry, and never heard that terminology.

This isn’t a nitpick - it’s essentially creationism to refer to “artificial selection”. It implies that the human agency is beyond the natural.

All living things are “survival machines

I thought creationists were the ones who were always harping on how cells are “machines”!

Anyway, survival is necessary but not sufficient for evolution. It is reproduction that is necessary for what we call evolution.

Adoption is a wonderful thing, it just isn’t very Darwinian.

And now he’s talking about “Darwinian”. It’s almost as if he’s using confusing or anachronistic language to sew confusion and controversy for some benefit of his own…but wait, Dawkins would never do that.

Adoption sure is easily explained in the context of evolution. Our ancestors couldn’t do DNA paternity tests, but they did evolve the highly adaptive characteristic of emotions of affection and protectiveness toward the helpless young of our own and similar species. This adaptation is seen in numerous cephalized mammals, and the emotions invoked are commonly extended to the very young of other mammalian species.

It’s very common, especially but not exclusively in females, to care for the helpless young, even if they are not genetically related - and receive reinforcement from the adaptive emotional response.

Now whether that’s “Darwinian” or not I couldn’t say, but it certainly evolved.

Mike Elzinga Wrote:

There is little question that biologists have understood and appreciated the significance of these ideas in the context of life on this planet. But the gulf between them and the physics community has given the false impression that there is some kind of “fundamental barrier” between the inanimate and life.

What probably needs to be made clearer to the public is that nothing in all of physics, chemistry and biology points to any such barrier. We know this stuff happens at all levels; and we know it in great detail. If ID/Creationists want to find the “barrier”, then they know where they have to look. Given all their fundamental misconceptions about science, it is unlikely they will be successful.

Excellent points, and I would say the same (though not as eloquently) from a perspective of a chemist. Note that even a biochemist like Michael Behe takes advantage of the “widespread and exploitable incredulity” by focusing not on the matter itself, but the “information” that he can reduce to misleading calculations. He is keenly aware that there’s no “matter barrier”, i.e. no molecule or reaction sequence in cells that nature itself can’t construct.

Even though Behe has plainly admitted common descent, probably most of his nonscientist audience will ignore or forget that in the rare case that they do try to imagine what might have happened if “Darwinism” did not construct that first flagellum (or clotting cascade, etc.). Most will not think “Did the molecules come from another living thing? from nonliving matter? from a vacuum?” Most will not even think “When did that happen?.” Rather they will either believe that their particular childhood fairy tale has been vindicated, or dismiss those questions - the bread and butter of science - as unimportant. Which means that they will not wonder “Why on earth, after years of claiming an alternative process, is Behe not generating hypotheses and testing them?”

Even if there were no religious component to this scam, I would be no less opposed to it. Indeed I am just as opposed to this nonsense being taught in religious schools. Especially ones that preach “thou shalt not bear false witness.”

I think that Dawkins is wrong to keep talking of design or purpose in nature at all, even with the caveats of “apparent design” and “archi-purpose”. What we see in nature is activity and function. In human technological affairs, function follows from design and purpose, but the same is not true in nature, where function develops through evolution. We should not say that a bird’s wing has the _purpose_ of flight. Flight is its function.

Stephen,

“Archi-purpose” does seem to be defined in much the same way that Ruth Millikan has previously defined “function”.

Mike Elzinga said:

Because of their misinformation and misunderstandings about how matter and energy behave (i.e., their complete lack of awareness of what “lowly inanimate matter” does), their lack of insight and imagination forces them to attribute intelligence and purpose where it is inappropriate.

How true! Let me point out the cover of the current issue of “Physics Today”

http://ptonline.aip.org/journals/do[…]r03_2009.pdf

which shows complicated shapes arising from simple chemistry. According to Dembski, a shape like this is neither perfectly random nor perfectly ordered, so it must be “designed”!

harold said: Agricultural selection is not “artficial selection”, it’s a type of natural selection. Humans doing the selection are natural.

This subject has come up before. You are both right and wrong. You are right that humans are part of the natural world, another species operating on others. In that respect what we do is natural selection because it isn’t supernatural selection

However, historically Darwin (and others) used the phrase “artificial selection” to refer to human intervention in plant and animal breeding.

Its worth remembering that his 19th century audience was already extremely familiar with breeding programs. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that humans could cause speciation through selection. Darwin was trying to introduce the idea that humans weren’t necessary for speciation to occur.

So, historically, the word “natural” in natural selection is used the way we might say “all-natural” today. It really does have the anachronistic and confusing meaning of ‘not involving human intervention.’ It was historically not meant to be taken as meaning “all things that are not supernatural.”

Stephen,

For decades paleontologists wrote about “design” in nature without trying to infer that it was the agency of some unseen divine “creator”. Most recently, both Ken Miller and Francisco Ayala have argued that we should recognize the reality of design in nature, but, as Ayala has eloquently noted in his latest book, Darwin recognized the existence of design without a Designer in his “On the Origin of Species”:

Stephen Wells said:

I think that Dawkins is wrong to keep talking of design or purpose in nature at all, even with the caveats of “apparent design” and “archi-purpose”. What we see in nature is activity and function. In human technological affairs, function follows from design and purpose, but the same is not true in nature, where function develops through evolution. We should not say that a bird’s wing has the _purpose_ of flight. Flight is its function.

Regards,

John

P. S. Thanks for posting the link to the BBC series reconciling Christianity with Darwin’s ideas on evolution and natural selection over at Pharyngula. I found it interesting enough to forward to Ken Miller.

I reckon it hinges on which definition of “design” one happens to be using at the time.

The more restrictive meaning of “design” involves deliberate planning, which must be followed by engineering in order to realize the design.

The looser meaning of “design” simply means the shape or arrangement of parts in something.

Henry

Dan said:

How true! Let me point out the cover of the current issue of “Physics Today”

http://ptonline.aip.org/journals/do[…]r03_2009.pdf

which shows complicated shapes arising from simple chemistry. According to Dembski, a shape like this is neither perfectly random nor perfectly ordered, so it must be “designed”!

The article associated with the cover illustration is an excellent example of how simple chemical oscillations can produce some of the most complex forms.

The article also points out the additional caution that is necessary in attributing complex morphology to being evidence of fossilized life forms. This is already well-known in the science community, but here is a nice example of the issue. The picture in the article looks very much like it could have been a fossil of some kind of plant or animal.

This reminder that morphology is not necessarily and indication of fossilized life forms is especially important for extraterrestrial searches for life using robotic probes to other planets or moons.

But we already know what the ID/Creationists are going to make of this. And if they make their usual arguments, they will have to admit that matter and energy can do complicated things all the way up the ladder to life.

Frank J said:

Even if there were no religious component to this scam, I would be no less opposed to it. Indeed I am just as opposed to this nonsense being taught in religious schools. Especially ones that preach “thou shalt not bear false witness.”

This is an area of elementary and secondary education (I guess I’ll add college and university to that also), that needs to be seriously addressed. There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation being propagated by teachers who are not part of the scams being perpetrated by anti-evolutionists.

While there are many excellent teachers, there are also a lot of them who are cut off from the systematic interactions with a wider scientific community. These teachers are struggling with misconceptions they don’t even know they have.

Dan said: How true! Let me point out the cover of the current issue of “Physics Today”

http://ptonline.aip.org/journals/do[…]r03_2009.pdf

which shows complicated shapes arising from simple chemistry. According to Dembski, a shape like this is neither perfectly random nor perfectly ordered, so it must be “designed”!

Arrgggh! $79 for an annual subscription! What, no discount for online-only?

I’m sure IDists would tell you that it doesn’t count as specified because there’s no unique end state the proccess is tuned to produce. Completely forgetting that the physical and chemical world around each sheet specifies which ones will survive and propagate, and if you repeat the process umpteen times it ends up looking exactly like some unique end state was specified.

Dawkins’ term was “archaeo-purpose”, not “archi-purpose”, AFAIK.

I didn’t take pictures of the slides, but I’d be very surprised indeed if what I saw was “archaeo” rather than “archi”.

Nick (Matzke) said:

Dawkins’ term was “archaeo-purpose”, not “archi-purpose”, AFAIK.

What does the prefix mean?

I am asking: what did the prefix mean before Dawkins attached his stipulative definition?

Ray

Wesley R. Elsberry said:

I didn’t take pictures of the slides, but I’d be very surprised indeed if what I saw was “archaeo” rather than “archi”.

Wesley: In any case the prefix corresponds to the concept seen in “pseudo” or “counterfeit”—-correct?

Ray

From the OP text:

“What if instead of consider archi-purpose to be subverted that we view the ability to set neo-purposes as adaptive? Dawkins said that this was interesting and would go to his points about flexibility in brains as on-board computers.”

This doesn’t look like the usual Wesley R. Elsberry error free grammar & punctuation, what gives?

Ray

I am asking: what did the prefix [archaeo] mean before Dawkins attached his stipulative definition?

There is this magnificent modern invention called a dictionary, containing words and their definitions. Then there is an even magnificenter invention called the internet which allows you to look up words and their meanings, among other things, in even less time.

From the OP text:

“The first question asked about Dawkins’ personal history of non-belief. He said he first started doubting religion at the age of nine, when he realized that there were lots of different religions. He completely lost faith at the age of fifteen, when he learned about Darwinian evolution and was able to attribute life and its history to something other than a designer.”

Evolution, as every honest and objective person knows, does cause Atheism because the same says nature does not reflect invisible Designer.

So called Christian evolutionists do not have an objective leg to stand on. Why would they (Christian Theists) accept the same biological production theory that Atheist Richard Dawkins accepts? Since evolution explicitly says nature was not produced by Designer where do Christian evolutionists get the idea that God “created by evolution”? (Please forgive a parenthesis containing antithetic concepts.)

Ray

Ray Martinez said:

Nick (Matzke) said:

Dawkins’ term was “archaeo-purpose”, not “archi-purpose”, AFAIK.

What does the prefix mean?

I am asking: what did the prefix mean before Dawkins attached his stipulative definition?

Ray

“Archaeo” means “ancient,” while “Archi” means “most important,” “of the ruler,” or “overall”

Ray Martinez said:

Wesley: In any case the prefix corresponds to the concept seen in “pseudo” or “counterfeit”—-correct?

Wrong: if the concept really did refer to “counterfeit,” then “pseudo” would have been used. Furthermore, please explain how you can have a “counterfeit function”?

GuyeFaux said:

I am asking: what did the prefix [archaeo] mean before Dawkins attached his stipulative definition?

There is this magnificent modern invention called a dictionary, containing words and their definitions. Then there is an even magnificenter invention called the internet which allows you to look up words and their meanings, among other things, in even less time.

We could only wonder why you didn’t provide the answer?

I checked dictionary.com and came up with nothing. Then I posted my question. Then you re-state the mystery. If I had to guess Dawkins is borrowing from the Greek.

Ray

Ray Martinez said:

From the OP text:

“The first question asked about Dawkins’ personal history of non-belief. He said he first started doubting religion at the age of nine, when he realized that there were lots of different religions. He completely lost faith at the age of fifteen, when he learned about Darwinian evolution and was able to attribute life and its history to something other than a designer.”

Evolution, as every honest and objective person knows, does cause Atheism because the same says nature does not reflect invisible Designer.

So called Christian evolutionists do not have an objective leg to stand on. Why would they (Christian Theists) accept the same biological production theory that Atheist Richard Dawkins accepts? Since evolution explicitly says nature was not produced by Designer where do Christian evolutionists get the idea that God “created by evolution”? (Please forgive a parenthesis containing antithetic concepts.)

Ray

This is only so if the Bible is to be read and interpreted literally.

If such is the case, please also explain why you are not in favor of stoning unruly children, consumers of pork, shellfish and cheeseburgers, or wearers of polyester to death.

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OK, I’ve put off the clean-up long enough. I’m going to go through and shift all the non-Dawkins discussion to where it belongs. Pick it up there…

Elsberry relating Dawkins: “How would you respond to those who compare you to the likes of Billy Graham; do you consider yourself an evangelical atheist? No, Dawkins said, he did not consider himself an evangelical atheist, for the reason that people like Billy Graham are absolutely sure that they are right, and he is not certain that he is right, and would be able to change his mind given sufficient evidence that he was wrong. Dawkins said that he was not dogmatic, therefore not an evangelical atheist. While the pattern of speech that he employs based on conviction may sound similar to that of Billy Graham, but he bases his conviction on evidence and should not be confused with conviction that proceeds from no evidence at all.”

Dawkins says “he is not certain that he is right” (unlike Graham) who bases his certainty, according to Dawkins, “on no evidence at all.”

IF Graham represents Christianity and Creationism (“no evidence at all”), then why isn’t Dawkins certain?

Ray

IF Graham represents Christianity and Creationism (“no evidence at all”), then why isn’t Dawkins certain?

Um, Ray, you’re getting “science” confused with “religion” again.

Science does best running data: “I conclude X because the evidence says X happens, but if new evidence points to Y, then I would have no choice but to accept Y.”

Religion does Certainty. It does not do change regardless of what evidence turns up.

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on March 10, 2009 8:49 AM.

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