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Philosophy of Biology Ragout

13 posts in this topic

Posted

I was going to start this thread on the subject of law, science, and when human life begins, but the conversation in the chat room showed that there's room here for a general thread. Much of the conversation in this thread (though by no means all!) is going to be based on Philosophy of Biology, 2nd ed. by Michael Ruse (ed.), which davidm is going to be getting very soon so that we can discuss it in more detail. :twisted:

The topics covered in the book are:

The nature of biological explanation

What life is and the origins of life

Explaining (the appearance of) design

The nature of Darwinism

Macroevolution and the philosophical problems it brings up

Classification, the species problem, and where to draw lines on a continuum

Human nature (if any)

Genetically modified foods

Biological metaphors and the Gaia hypothesis

Environmental ethics

When human life begins and the abortion debate

God and biology

Now I'll get on to writing my other post in this thread and let davidm write his. 8-)

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Posted

Null, thanks for starting this great thread. I plan to pick up the book tomorrow when I finally have some free time for something other than sleep. I'll also try to make some initial comments tomorrow; right now I'm just too tired. :faint:

I hope others will join this thread; there are tons of things to explore and great intellectual fun. :wave:

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Posted

The Barnes and Nobles bookstore chain, which has colonized New York and driven out virtually every other bookstore, will happily sell me the Philosophy of Biology Book.

They will sell it to me for -- take a deep breath -- one hundred fifty dollars.

:faint:

No wonder the American public is so rat-bastard stupid. Even if they wanted an education (and most don't), they can't afford it.

Another impressive innovation, the unaffordability of education, begun under Ronald Reagan. :lol:

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Posted

The Barnes and Nobles bookstore chain, which has colonized New York and driven out virtually every other bookstore, will happily sell me the Philosophy of Biology Book.

They will sell it to me for -- take a deep breath -- one hundred fifty dollars.

:faint:

No wonder the American public is so rat-bastard stupid. Even if they wanted an education (and most don't), they can't afford it.

Another impressive innovation, the unaffordability of education, begun under Ronald Reagan. :lol:

Formats

Amazon Price New from Used from

Expand Hardcover -- -- $10.36

Expand Paperback $18.98 $12.00 $9.94

Unknown Binding -- -- $3.77

I thought it was only university bookstores that charged extortionate amounts for books. :faint:

Anyway, I'm going to read some stuff related to Darwin and his attitude towards race and slavery. If there's anything in there I can add to this thread, I'll add it when I can.

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Posted

Oh hey neat I'll be in on this for sure.

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Posted

Null assures me he will be back in this thread when school work abates.

In the meantime, here is an interesting article about physicists looking biology. It is often said that evolved designed are jury-rigged, ad hoc, "just good enough" and sometimes plain bad, but the physicists claim just the opposite: human eyesight, they say, is practically perfect. The broader claim is this: evolved biological systems are optimized; they are as good as they can possibly be given the way that our world is, and the only way they could be "better" is if they evolved in a world with different physics.

Interesting stuff. :blink:

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Posted

Null assures me he will be back in this thread when school work abates.

In the meantime, here is an interesting article about physicists looking biology. It is often said that evolved designed are jury-rigged, ad hoc, "just good enough" and sometimes plain bad, but the physicists claim just the opposite: human eyesight, they say, is practically perfect. The broader claim is this: evolved biological systems are optimized; they are as good as they can possibly be given the way that our world is, and the only way they could be "better" is if they evolved in a world with different physics.

Interesting stuff. :blink:

I understand that Null has read that article, and has given reasons elsewhere for why he considers it to be cobblers. Unfortunately, I can't remember what he said, so I'm hoping that either you can quote him or he gives his criticism of the article when he gets back.

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Posted

Null assures me he will be back in this thread when school work abates.

In the meantime, here is an interesting article about physicists looking biology. It is often said that evolved designed are jury-rigged, ad hoc, "just good enough" and sometimes plain bad, but the physicists claim just the opposite: human eyesight, they say, is practically perfect. The broader claim is this: evolved biological systems are optimized; they are as good as they can possibly be given the way that our world is, and the only way they could be "better" is if they evolved in a world with different physics.

Interesting stuff. :blink:

I understand that Null has read that article, and has given reasons elsewhere for why he considers it to be cobblers. Unfortunately, I can't remember what he said, so I'm hoping that either you can quote him or he gives his criticism of the article when he gets back.

Yes, I know, we were all in chat when he called it cobblers, Dave. B)

But it will make for an interesting philosophical discussion straddling biology and physics.

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Posted

Null assures me he will be back in this thread when school work abates.

In the meantime, here is an interesting article about physicists looking biology. It is often said that evolved designed are jury-rigged, ad hoc, "just good enough" and sometimes plain bad, but the physicists claim just the opposite: human eyesight, they say, is practically perfect. The broader claim is this: evolved biological systems are optimized; they are as good as they can possibly be given the way that our world is, and the only way they could be "better" is if they evolved in a world with different physics.

Interesting stuff. :blink:

I understand that Null has read that article, and has given reasons elsewhere for why he considers it to be cobblers. Unfortunately, I can't remember what he said, so I'm hoping that either you can quote him or he gives his criticism of the article when he gets back.

Yes, I know, we were all in chat when he called it cobblers, Dave. B)

But it will make for an interesting philosophical discussion straddling biology and physics.

I'll be interested to see if null (or anyone else) who calls it cobblers is saying that with regard to the journalism (that is, it misrepresents the scientists cited) or the statements made by the scientists.

It's hardly news that biological systems are extremely optimized solutions to the problems that (we take it) they evolved to solve. Although they often appear messy or wobbly in comparison to human-engineered systems, they can usually compensate for a much wider range of conditions and circumstances than human-engineered systems.

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Posted

So the human photocell performs optimally when it comes to detecting photons?

Pity they're plugged in backwards.

Optimality is what we'd more or less expect from evolution provided nothing stupid gets in the way, which it probably will. Simplistic evolutionary simulations hit 100% perfection in just a handful of generations.

The article makes it sound like suboptimality is being questioned as a general feature of biological systems, which is kinda misleading. There might be something to it, if your expectation is to see "the most optimal system you can get without actually planning anything".

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Posted

Surely nullf's schoolwork is abating at this most merry or times of the year? can we contact him? I have actually read the book in question, and it's one of my favourite topics even if I am as in all things a dilettante.

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Posted

Surely nullf's schoolwork is abating at this most merry or times of the year? can we contact him?

I think he's busy playing chess...

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Posted

I think the problem is that he's still finishing up schoolwork, but in addition to that, he hasn't had a chance to read the volume that he linked at the top. So we might have to wait awhile. No reason the discussion can't proceed, however.

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