Though I don’t usually address Darwin’s views or theories, since they are largely (but not wholly) outside of the social sciences and humanities (SSH) in which my work is based, the following quotation from Darwin’s autobiography serves as a lesson in what Darwin gave up and later regretted on his scientific journey:
“Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. . . . But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. …
This curious and lamentable loss of the higher esthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies, and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subjects interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine, would not, I suppose, have thus suffered; and if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept alive through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.” – Darwin
HT: Thomas B.
Tags: Anthropic Principle, Atheism, Dehumanisation, Evolution, Extension, Humanisation, Ideology, Marshall McLuhan, naturalism, Nick Bostrom, Philosophy of Science, Reflexivity, Scientism, Steve Fuller, Teleology, Theism, Transhumanism
The most recent paper continuing the work on human extension was published by EHU’s journal Topos.
The paper explores two main themes in science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse: anthropic principles and transhumanism. After providing a brief history of the first theme, it cautions about potential dehumanisation from adopting the wrong anthropic principle as a kind of ‘disanthropic’ reasoning. Part of the solution is to reclaim a proper meaning of ‘anthropic’ for the social sciences and humanities beyond the natural sciences of physics and cosmology or statistical probabilities. The second theme is investigated both in theistic and nontheistic variants as they influence what is meant by ‘human’ in the context of evolution and development. Transhumanism is portrayed in terms of both risk and reward with the rise of neoeugenics and biotechnological human enhancements. The paper closes by briefly acknowledging Human Extension (Sandstrom 2011, 2014) as a reflexive anthropic principle that can be applied in social sciences and humanities to help overcome the ideologies of naturalism and scientism. The Human Extension approach focuses on choices and actions that bring into relief the eschatological claims of some transhumanists and posthumanists who speak disanthropically about human extinction due to technocratic artificial intelligence or who deny human exceptionalism and instead promote species egalitarism among earthly creatures.
anthropic principle, anthropic reasoning, evolution, naturalism, transhumanism, dehumanisation, human extension
Sourcebook for Seminar on Intelligent Design in the Social Sciences and Humanities
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This post duplicates a précis and audio interview published at the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective.
Audio available here: http://social-epistemology.com/2014/01/20/extending-knowledge-and-the-extended-mind-gregory-sandstrom/
The interview focuses on the Extended Mind Thesis (EMT ), that was featured in no less than six presentations at the conference. It starts by hearing about the historical contact by Theiner and Palermos with the EMT of Andy Clark and David Chalmers. The main topics of the interview are cognitive science, psychology, philosophy of mind, science and technology studies, epistemology and the relevance of the EMT in interdisciplinary collaboration.
Theiner mentions that he had some hesitations at first to the EMT, which he learned about in a presentation by Andy Clark. At the end of the talk, Clark brought up René Descartes’ view of trying to empower the human mind by ‘shrinking’ it into something immaterial; “to save it from materiality” instead of allowing it to be ‘extended.’ Yet Theiner believes that instead of shrinking our minds down to just the material level, it is rather the extension of our minds and cognition into the world, into the physical, social and cultural environment that makes human beings special.