Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Confessions of a science-killjoy- An introduction into a philosophical appreciation of evolution

I still don't know why it has taken quite so long to write this down, because recently for about the billionth time, I've had the famous “I hate evolution but I accept it” conversation. For those of you new to this particular discourse; it follows a familiar pattern. People often postulate that evolution is a depressing theory because it suggests the following things: Firstly, it suggests that we have have no free will as we are reduced to simple bags of chemicals acting out our biological destiny and secondly, that evolution favours the biggest, strongest and the meanest. Yet most of us will freely accept that we don't live in a society of evil, hulking, mindless, chemically driven drones and yet the persistence of these inaccuracies remain.

These two statements are provably false and any biologist with a decent understanding of the evolution of organisms by the process of natural selection will immediately refute them. I will offer my own brief rebuttal of these misrepresentations but I think far more importantly, I'd like to have a look at how a further understanding of evolution can enrich how we think about our lives. I would like to change the commonly held thinking that it is a depressing theory of fatalism but an uplifting theory of self-determination.

I think it's funny how science is often considered a “protestant killjoy” when my experience of science and particularly scientists, reveals a far grander worldview taught by some of the most colourful and humorous characters I've ever met. Everyone I know seems interested in people who study arts subjects- has any one really thought that a scientist might have a philosophy all of his own? Science is a constantly evolving art form all of its own, and I think should be examined as such.

No doubt that the arts affects science, the guiding hand of ethics, design and epistemology have contributed to how science works, but what about science affecting art? There I see the really exciting side of the modern age- the building of the world of information networks has triggered the biggest artistic movement in history, whether it is the millions of users of deviant art and its many digital canvas children, or the hundreds of millions of people who have decided to become movie stars for the first time on Youtube. It's a second renaissance fueled by a new digital printing press that isn't just limited to words, but includes sounds, videos and pictures instantly reproducible by anyone with a PC. You might say I'm just one of the new generation of desktop philosophers inspired solely by the fact that I can be read almost anywhere, by anyone at any time.

Given the almost completely indispensable inter-relation between the fields of art and science, I think it's probably about time that science gets the artistic appreciation it deserves, and where better to start than that cold, remorseless theory of evolution. I want to examine how it is in fact a theory that offers hopeful and relevant messages for coping in the modern age. I want to examine how an appreciation of the evolution of genetic memory can add an element of transcendence and responsibility to our existence. Lastly, I want to examine the way in which the new evolution of cultural memes can give an uplifting idea to how our minds are evolving currently.

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