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Evolving Thoughts Posts

Philosophy is to science, as ornithologists are to birds: 2. Two topics of philosophy of science

Philosophy of science deals largely with two general topics: Metaphysics and Epistemology. These are general topics of philosophy, and in the philosophy of science they deal only with the metaphysics and epistemology of science. So there are no overarching debates about how you can tell if you’re dreaming, or whether we are all brains in a matrix-style vat. But there are local issues, as it were, that reflect these general concerns of philosophers.

[Part 1, Part 3]


Philosophy is to science, as ornithologists are to birds: 1. Introduction

This three-part series is a talk I gave a while back to some ecologists and molecular biologists. It is a brief overview of the aims and relationship between science and philosophy of science, with a special reference to the classification wars in systematics, and the interface of science and the broader community. I will present my own overview of the elements of science – as a dynamic evolving entity of knowledge gathering rather than as a timeless methodology or as a purely social movement.

[Part 2, Part 3]


Now this is a proper wedding ceremony

I only recently discovered 9 Chickwood Lane, which is a really odd cartoon strip with ballet dancers, veterinarians and a visiting space alien named Thorax. Before I found this (and Pibgorn, which is in the same universe), Thorax officated at the marriage of two of the characters. Being an alien, he delivered this ceremony, which beats hollow any other service I have ever read:


The World according to Genesis: Stuff that grows

We’re in the third day, and Elohim has made dry land, but no sun or stars or moon. Still, he’s keen to see something growing, so he tells the land to produce, by spontaneous generation as it was later known, “seed bearing plants and plants bearing fruit with their proper seed inside”. Seed here is crucial – God creates things that reproduce themselves through some innate generative power, but at first they come out of the land. Augustine, in De Genesi ad litteram declared that God acted out of a secondary power here – he didn’t create these plants directly, but indirectly, by putting a potentiality in the soil. This resonates for the next 2500 years after Genesis, with naturalists like Wallace and writers in the late nineteenth century declaring that the soil, the habitat, or the climatic conditions cause things to become what they were indirectly.

Some have tried to make Augustine an evolutionist on this basis, but in fact he’s not, if only because the distinction between species fixity and species mutability is not possible until we first have a concept of living kinds (species), and this is not really the case until the 16th century. In any event, Genesis 1 is about things coming out of prior materielle via the direct magical command of Elohim.