Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Why “Why” is Such a Powerful Word

January 26, 2015

Once humans evolved from bacteria in the ocean to walking and talking people, they started asking “why?”  Seeking answers to that question has brought us to the point that we are today, able to go to the moon, split atoms, eradicate deadly diseases, compose and perform magnificent music, plays, movies, books, and produce computer games, among other really neat things.

Of  course, there is a downside to technological advancement, because it has also brought to the point that we can easily destroy the world.  All it will take is for one insane head of a country with an arsenal of nuclear weapons to push a button.  Then, there is the process that takes a little longer, but can also do the job, and that’s the  destruction of our environment by the side effects of machines and processes that produce pollutants.

Those thoughts occurred to me as I watched David Christian’s TED talk “The History of the World in 18 Minutes.”  You can check it out at http://www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history?language=en .

 

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TED is a Good Friend to Have

January 18, 2015

When I go walking, quite often it’s with a good friend called TED.

TED tells me some really interesting things when I put in my two miles daily – well, most days – on a treadmill.

For instance, the other day David Christian, one of the many intelligent, engaging speakers on TED, told me the History of the World in 18 Minutes.

Now, that might seem something really impossible to do, but, amazingly, he does a pretty good job of it.

Check it out at   www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history?language=en and we’ll discuss it in our next post.

 

 

 

Taking Stock Philosophically: Overcoming Primitive Group Dynamics is the Solution

December 29, 2011

Here is another outstanding, thoughtful, well-written comment on our previous posts about social evolution that I decided should run as a featured post.

By Mike Nichols

The great scientific and technological advances of the twentieth century have enabled an unprecedented quality of life for many in the more developed nations of the world. But at the same time they have provided tools of destruction and mayhem that abet and even encourage humans’ tendencies to move from zealotry to irrational nationalism to warfare to genocide.

Evolutionary psychology, a relatively new field, has done much to explain why we humans behave as we do. Concepts such as altruism, reciprocity, kin selection and group selection are theorized to be characteristics that were evolved in humans to ensure both individual and group survival.

However, the most worrisome feature of the discoveries of evolutionary psychology is that they seem to present the social traits evolved in humans as an immutable fate, something so imbedded in each of us that it is a near-futile task to sublimate them.

Standing in opposition to this Darwinian determinism are those who point to the many aspects of our primitive nature, such as the urge for men to impregnate as many women as possible, that have been largely overcome in many societies. The ability to accept another group, work peaceably with them, and even meld with them is not uncommon in modern history, though these arrangements sometimes fall apart.

And almost all of the world religions have as their foundation the belief that humans can rise above their flawed nature toward better actions and attitudes. However, the continual crimes against humanity done in the name of religion seem to make the good effects of religion doubtful to some. (I must insert here GK Chesterton’s famous statement that “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”)

The main problem, as I see it, is that humans are still trapped in the group dynamics of our forebears fifty or even one hundred thousand years ago. My group is good, righteous, upholders of Truth, superior, while the other group is radically opposite. The other group is demonized, accused of egregious acts, and made subhuman – justifying violence against them. These group dynamics are observable in everything from local government and race relations, to the current petty politics in Washington to the animosity and violence between nations and religious groups.

Whatever the final solution to the problem, it will take the universal recognition that humans have these primitive destructive tendencies working against the common good, coupled with a universal societal commitment to overcoming them. This need not and should not be imposed by government, but through our many institutions, religious groups, social groups and political groups – primarily and most importantly on the local level.

This may seem like pie-in-the-sky thinking, but it – or something like it – seems to be the only solution for breaking free of our evolutionary bonds to enjoy a world where war is unheard of and the good of all humans in all places is a primary virtue.

Taking Stock Philosphically: Social Evolution

December 28, 2011

While we have come a long way in scientifically explaining how we have evolved from a fish to a person,  what I want to know is why, if we are so smart, can’t we evolve socially? Why do we continue the insanity of wars? Why can’t we learn to work as the human family for the common good?

The superb PBS NOVA program on Charles Darwin’s explanation of the evolution of living species and how science is now answering questions that Darwin could not made me reflect, not only on natural evolution, but also, on social evolution.

  Darwin figured out that species do adapt to their environments, do mutate. But he could not explain how. But now, as I learned watching “What Darwin Never Knew,” another superb program in the NOVA series on PBS, scientists are now cracking nature’s biggest mysteries at  the genetic level.  They are, as a NOVA explanation says, “linking the enigmas of evolution to another of nature’s great mysteries, the development of the embryo.”

I do not doubt that humans have physically evolved, that our brains have enlarged over the eons, and that we have some incredibly brilliant scientists, but where we seem to have  not evolved is in our ability to work as a human family to make the world a better place for the human race. Why?

I welcome your thoughts on this, and I have more of my own on which I will elaborate in future posts on this subject.

The Springer Company Kept “Inherit the Wind” Fresh

February 6, 2010

Having seen the movie three or four times over the years, I decided I wouldn’t see the Springer Production of “Inherit the Wind.”  After attending the evolution versus creationism debate at Springer, I changed my mind.  Then, on learning that Ledger-Enquirer Editorial Page Editor Dusty Nix was playing the judge, I was looking forward to seeing what the Springer could do with the famous play. 

I was impressed.  When going to see an amateur production, I’m ready to make allowances and not expect a lot. No allowances were needed. The production was good, full of life.  As far as Dusty playing the judge is concerned, he nailed it.

The prologue in the program announces that the play is not history. It’s drama. That was true.  The play is nowhere near an accurate portrayal of the Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925.  However, it is obviously “based” on that trial.

Scopes knew he would go on trial because he had been approached by the ACLU to be the defendant to test the Tennessee law that banned the teaching in public schools that man was a product of evolution.  At the end of the trial, Clarence Darrow asked the judge to direct the jury to find Scopes guilty.  He was interested in the appeal, which he partially won.  The Tennessee Supreme Court remanded the trial on a technicality.  Scopes didn’t have to pay the $100 fine and the retrial was never held, and the law remained on the books until 1967 when it was repealed.   And the battle between the evolutionists and creationists continues; however, evolution is probably taught in most high school science classes.  The scientific community overwhelmingly supports the theory of evolution.

Panel Discusses Evolution and Creationism at the Springer Monday

January 22, 2010

DISCUSSION IS HELD IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE SPRINGER”S PRESENTATION OF “INHERIT THE WIND”

Dr. Ian Bond sent the following email to me.

Dr. Ian Bond (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

This week the Springer Opera House will begin a three week run of one of the greatest American plays of the past century, “Inherit the Wind,” to mark the 75th anniversary of the famed “Scopes Monkey Trial.” The play reenacts Clarence Darrow’s squaring off against Williams Jennings Bryan in a Tennessee courtroom on the right of a science teacher to teach evolution in a Tennessee public school. The question of the teaching of evolution and creationism in the classrooms of American public and private schools is still hotly debated today, 201 years after the birth of Charles Darwin.
 
Columbus Technical College Counselor, Dr. Ian Bond, will moderate a panel discussion on Monday, January 25 at 7:00 pm at the Springer Opera House. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
 
Our panel consists of experts in science and anthropology and professional educators.
 
            Dr. Brian Schwartz (biology professor, CSU)
            Dr. Donald Moeller (former college science teacher)
            Dr. John Studstill (anthropology professor, CSU)
            Dr. David Schwimmer (paleontology professor, CSU)
            Principal Len McWilliams (headmaster, Calvary Christian Schools)
 
This panel of titans ensures a lively, informative, and though-provoking discussion as well as an enjoyable evening at Georgia’s Historic State Theater.