Monday, August 8, 2011

Evolution on the radio

Dan Dennett was on the radio ("What Does Evolution Want?"), rejecting Simon Conway Morris's claim that human-type intelligence is inevitable and insisting on the limits of science, in a rebroadcast of  "To the Best of Our Knowledge" yesterday. (Also on TTBOOK, "Waiting for the Apocalypse": send it to anyone who seriously proposes your serious consideration of "Revelations.")
What are some important questions that are beyond the scope of science?
What should we do?  All the ethical questions are outside of science.  They’re the province of philosophy and particularly the province of a political process, where we try to get everybody to sit down and talk about what we ought to do.  Science isn’t about what we ought to do.  Science can tell you how we got to where we are in our moral thinking - how our moral attitudes evolved, both biologically and culturally.  But once science has done that, we have to sit down and figure out what we ought to do.  
He's clearly rejecting the Moral Landscape position Sam Harris has been defending, embracing a position associated with his old rival Stephen Jay Gould.

Did the tape of evolution play an utterly contingent tune when it played us? Hard to believe there's anything inevitable about our species, but it would be nice to think that intelligence in the universe is more than a fluke. And nicer to think that more of it is likely.

Listen, too, for Ken Miller's invocation of Carl Sagan in defense of  varieties of evolutionary possibility. Good show.

Another good rebroadcast yesterday: Anthony Appiah, the cosmopolitan ethicist and experimental philosopher, on Krista Tippett's On Being. He's a pluralist's pluralist, such a sane voice in these crazy times.

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