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Introducing the Royal Society’s Evolutionary (Over-)Extension Meeting to Trans-Evolutionary Change

Royal Society

“New Trends in Evolutionary Biology: Biological, Philosophical and Social Science [sic] Perspectives”

London, U.K.

7-9 November, 2016

“The extended evolutionary synthesis is best regarded as an alternative research programme, entirely complementary to orthodox evolutionary biology.” – Denis Noble

“A better understanding is not always an extension of the earlier model, sometimes it is an alternative.” – Kalevi Kull

Summary of the Abstracts

 A closer look at how the modern evolutionary synthesis is being approached, since a major amendment or replacement is being suggested. Can any kind of coherent ‘alternative’ to the current Darwinian consensus be found in the abstracts of the meeting’s participants? The answer is no. But aspiration itself indeed seems to be part of this Royal Society bargain.

Continue reading ‘Introducing the Royal Society’s Evolutionary (Over-)Extension Meeting to Trans-Evolutionary Change’

What is Trans-Evolutionary Change?

The Royal Society’s 07-09 November ‘New Trends’ meeting in London faced an extension of the modern evolutionary synthesis in biology at the same time that a replacement of Darwinian evolutionary theory was being suggested. In light of the second option, particularly regarding the ‘philosophy and social science’ component of the Royal Society meeting, we introduce the notion of ‘trans-evolutionary change’ involving human choice and action.

Trans-evolutionary change (TEC) solves both a negative and a positive problem. First, how to identify limits or borders around evolutionary change so that evolution is not conceptually over-extended. Second, how to study the teleological person-oriented dimension of change-over-time in social sciences and humanities (SSH) that is absent or proportionally minimal in ‘agent-less’ or largely ‘non-human’ fields of study. This combination of solutions enables us to break free from naturalistic ‘Darwinian’ ideas in SSH.

Continue reading ‘What is Trans-Evolutionary Change?’

Darwin’s Regret

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.

Evolution, Extinction or Extension: What is the Risk of Adopting the Wrong Anthropic Principle?

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

The Social Epistemology of Human Extension – Presentation

Video Presentation by your blog’s host starts at: 30:55

Conference: Future Fundamentals of Social Epistemology

Session Title: Humanity 2.0 and the Extended Humanities

Co-moderators: Gregory Sandstrom and David Budtz Pedersen

Venue: Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

Date: July 30, 2014

Title: “The Social Epistemology of Human Extension”

Session Abstract:

Extended cognition is the hypothesis that the reach of the mind need not end at the boundaries of the human body. Tools, instrument, technologies and other physical and social infrastructures can under certain conditions count as parts of human cognitive activity. The separation of mind, body, and environment has been imperative throughout the philosophical tradition. Yet, external objects play a significant role in facilitating cognitive processes. Directions written down in a notebook or on a digital device can serve the function of memory. In the not so distant future, one may imagine a biological being that retains information in non-neural ways (e.g. prosthetics to support memory). In this way, cognition is extended into the world through different media. Continue reading ‘The Social Epistemology of Human Extension – Presentation’

Sourcebook for Seminar on Intelligent Design in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Sourcebook for Seminar on Intelligent Design in the Social Sciences and Humanities

Summer 2008

Discovery Institute

Seattle, Washington

 2014-09-01 17.15.54

Contents of Sourcebook

Continue reading ‘Sourcebook for Seminar on Intelligent Design in the Social Sciences and Humanities’

Human Extension – Book Publication

It’s a great pleasure to announce the publication of my first book – Human Extension: An Alternative to Evolutionism, Creationism and Intelligent Design. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.


This introductory book critiques the Intelligent Design Movement and its ideology, in addition to documenting the exaggeration of ‘evolution’ as a biological theory into the ideology of ‘evolutionism’. The ideology of ‘creationism’ is given rather short thrift as unfortunately linked with fundamentalism and biblical literalism in the USA. This does not, however, discount theistic views of Creation across a range of beliefs. Of main interest is the idea of Human Extension and how it impacts the current landscape of views involving origins and processes of change-over-time.

Thanks are expressed to the editors at NewGen and to the management at Palgrave Macmillan for their patient and consistent work on bringing this text to print in the Pivot Series.

Human Satellites and Creative Extension – SERRC

This was a risky short paper in response to a provocative article by Russian philosopher Lyudmila A. Markova at the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective. The initial paper left out the ‘many worlds’ perspective, i.e. that human beings may perceive ourselves as living in a ‘human multiverse.’ I thought it would be helpful to add it as a brainstorming possibility. Quite openly, I ask for feedback from anyone with thoughts about it: “Do the satellites extend (as technologies, media, cognition) from human beings or are we all self-sustainable ‘worlds’ around which our satellites fly in a greater social epistemological multiverse?”

This is an on-going discussion related to extended mind and human extension, soon with a visit to the extended knowledge project.

Continue reading ‘Human Satellites and Creative Extension – SERRC’

On ‘the Character of’ (tCo) vs. ‘the Nature of’ (tNo) – A Social-Realist Account*

In a previous entry I wrote about ‘non-natural’ and ‘extra-natural’ things as if they pose a challenge to the phrase ‘the nature of’ (tNo). This perhaps needs some clarification, especially for those who have come to embrace the ideology of ‘naturalism’ and the view that there is nothing ‘real’ other than that which is ‘natural.’

Showing my position upfront, I admit that I am not an ideological ‘naturalist,’ nor am I a ‘naturalist’ in the sense of that being my professional occupation (as Charles Darwin was on the Beagle or David Attenborough is today). That is to say, there are (at least) two distinct meanings of ‘naturalist’: 1) as an ideology (i.e. ‘naturalism’), and 2) as an occupation or vocation (i.e. working as a ‘naturalist’). What this means is that my academic activities are focussed on things other than purely ‘nature,’ except for the rather ambiguous concept duo of ‘human nature,’ which is of course part of the human-social sciences and humanities.

This short message contends that one way to articulate the distinctiveness of the human-social sciences in contrast to the natural-physical sciences is to replace or substitute (or simply provide a suitable alternative to) the phrase ‘the nature of’ with the phrase ‘the character of’ (tCo). This linguistic move displays a ‘personalist’ instead of a ‘naturalist’ approach. But why should others adapt their language this way and for what purpose?

Continue reading ‘On ‘the Character of’ (tCo) vs. ‘the Nature of’ (tNo) – A Social-Realist Account*’

The Intelligent Design Movement: Revolution or Repatriation?

This post consists of Chapter 2 from my masters thesis at the Free University of Amsterdam, “Evolution, Extension and Intelligent Design: A 21st Century Tri-Fecta,” completed and defended in 2004. It is therefore outdated, given that we are already 9 years removed and the IDM has morphed since then. Nevertheless, it is posted here to provide some background to my work on human extension as an alternative to evolutionism, creationism and Intelligent Design Theory. Notably, since then I’ve accepted the distinction that Owen Gingerich and others make between Uppercase Intelligent Design Theory and lowercase ‘intelligent design’ or ‘design arguments.’


The Intelligent Design Movement: Revolution or Repatriation?



“Molecular machines appear to look designed because they really are designed.”

– Michael Behe

This chapter analyzes the (post-)modern social movement that has begun[1] with the concept-duo of intelligent design (ID). In the most ambitious words of one of the intelligent design movement’s (IDM’s) leaders, William Dembski, ID is named as ‘The Bridge’ between Science and Theology: “If you’re going to reject a reigning paradigm,” he explains, “you have to have a new improved paradigm with which to replace it. Naturalistic evolution is the reigning paradigm.” (Intelligent Design: The Bridge, 1999, 119) Needless to say, Dembski believes the concepts of intelligent design represent an academic replacement for naturalistic evolution compatible with both science and theology. Given these outspoken relative sentiments about ID theory, can and should we believe that the IDM’s scientific revolutionary[2] declaration is practically possible? In this section we will make a brief inquiry on this topic.

Continue reading ‘The Intelligent Design Movement: Revolution or Repatriation?’

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