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Tom Wolfe is an absolute genius and should one day be enshrined on the "Mount Rushmore" of social commentators (if there is such a thing)."Mau-Mauing the Flak Catcher" and "Bonfire of the Vanities" absolutely changed my worldview on many important social issues. His last few books have not been so hot, but this one looks good. The guy must be pushing 80. What a journalistic Titan.
"... speech--not evolution--is responsible for humanity's complex societies and achievements."and speech came about how?
I love Tom Wolfe but have never read "Bonfire of the Vanities." I mostly avoid fiction. Love the nonfiction. Same thing goes for David Foster Wallace.
AA"Bonfires of the Vanities" predicted the whole Travyon Martin glorification. But the movie stunk and didn't reflect the book."Back to Blood" nailed today's racial division.
The historical record of the written word shows no evolutionary or incrementally developed path or process. Advanced writing appears in Egypt in the space of just a few decades, and appears across the then-known world in a correlated relatively compact space of time.
Huh - I thought Bonfire was non-fiction?:)Just kidding - it perfectly portrayed an Al Sharpton type huckster and also made fun of the Manhattan Wasp elites in a spirited fashion.The movie did stink though.I have an entire bookshelf in my Mancave devoted to Tom Wolfe. The Right-Stuff about the Mercury Astronauts v Chuck Yeager and the California Test Pilots was awesome too. The movie was excellent as well - Sam Shepherd, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid. No Beta Males allowed
I must not be up on the conventional wisdom because never in my life have I ever heard anyone claim that evolution is "responsible for humanity's complex societies and achievements."
Is there enough straw in the world to construct this strawman. Only Wolfe could sell a book on the incredibly obvious.The more interesting analysis is between Darwinian evolution that is slow and random, but seems to drive the phenome and cultural evolution(with language as an very powerful transmission mode) which because of its ability to transmit information reliably through time is Lamarckian.
Evolution is a chaotic process. The unpredictability of chaotic processes motivated classification of a scientific logical domain (one of four intersecting domains). Science is a frame-based philosophy with accuracy inversely proportional to the product of time and space offsets from the observation point. Evolutionary Theory is a quasi-theistic model overlaid on the physical process, complemented by the myth of evolutionary creation.That said, no one knows. No one will every know. The evidence is circumstantial with insurmountable missing links. Also, there is no reason to believe that there exists a single evolutionary path, which precludes backward and forward predictions.This fundamental uncertainty is really disquieting to people who believe that since the discovery of fire, they can perceive the truth of life, the universe, and everything. Despite the scientific evidence, and self-evident knowledge, we cannot even agree when the evolution of a human life begins. Of course, the lack of a consensus is due to personal prejudice, opportunity, and immaturity.
Darwin started out wondering whether new species of anything could arise naturally; and the theory of evolution is the fruit of his endeavor. It envisions and accommodates change on a scale of millions of years. The technological and cultural development of one species of primate over ten or twenty thousand years without any apparent physiological change has just about nothing to do with the theory of evolution.
By the way, I was under the impression that Darwin got to it before Wallace, but that he was afraid of the consequences of publishing, and that Wallace's work was what prompted him to ultimately step forward.I'm neither a scientist nor a historian.
Quayle said...The historical record of the written word shows no evolutionary or incrementally developed path or process.So "Olde English" is exactly the same as modern English, and the latter is the same everywhere it's spoken or written. Chaucer and Shakespeare aren't actually difficult to read, and no spoken and written languages like Norse runes or Nahuatl pictographs went extinct. Got it. Advanced writing appears in Egypt in the space of just a few decades, and appears across the then-known world in a correlated relatively compact space of time."There were several types of writing in ancient Egypt. From the earliest Protodynastic Period of Egypt, Egyptian language was recorded both in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and in the Hieratic form. Additionally, there was a variety of stone-cut hieratic known as lapidary hieratic.Later on, especially during the Ramesside Period, cursive hieroglyphs also became popular."I'm not sure what Wolfe's thesis is supposed to be, but the Amazon synopsis sounds kinda dumb. (Replace "language" with "opposable thumb" and get a similar result.)
I'm presently listening to a lecture series on biological anthropology. The professor was, just this morning, going on about how evolution is the basis of the discipline and that evolution is perfectly compatible with religious belief.Fine.Whatever.
A critique of the Just So stories brought to us by the evolutionary behavioral sciences?
There's a difference between evolution as a theory in science with great explanatory power for the data and evolution as the black box for creating fables about why people do this or that.
Apparently, they've got the rate of speciation of certain cichlids in Africa down to about one in every 600 years or so. Also, they've got hard data that human predation has in the span of some 40 years reduced the overall size of horns in some kind of wild sheep in some national park.Darwin never saw that coming.Same for DNA, of course.
Lucien said...The technological and cultural development of one species of primate over ten or twenty thousand years without any apparent physiological change has just about nothing to do with the theory of evolution.A common misconception. Genome study places modern humans in the evolutionary fast lane"In a study published in the Dec. 10 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a team led by UW–Madison anthropologist John Hawks estimates that positive selection just in the past 5,000 years alone — around the period of the Stone Age — has occurred at a rate roughly 100 times higher than any other period of human evolution."
There's also supposed to be some evidence of evolutionary changes observed in a laboratory. Bacteria? Fruit flies? I can't recall.
Fernandinande is much smarter than me.
Yeah. Even if you accept the theory of speciation as put forth in the Modern Synthesis, it doesn't contain enough detail to account for phenomena that may still be characterized most accurately in biological terms, but are nevertheless emergent, complex, non-linear dynamical phenomena much as we would characterize, say, the laws of motion in physics. So even if it's true that language and speech evolved by the same underlying mechanism(s) as, say, opposable thumbs, I strongly suspect it's at the end of such a non-linear, complex, dynamical chain of events that we'll never be able to demonstrate it, even by modern analysis of the DNA representing the genesis of the biological stages, were that DNA consistently available—which, obviously, it won't be.So I guess I'm among those who say: evolution serves much better as a source of just-so stories than as a scientific theory with explanatory and predictive power, even if the mechanisms the theory posits are, ultimately, correct. And like many people of a conservative bent, I find the prevalence of scientism—the degenerate replacement of traditional religion that claims "science" as a complete, accurate, unassailable truth and force for good in the world—sufficiently disquieting that I'm inclined to skepticism regarding some of "science's" less-supported claims, and the moment there are questions of morals, ethics, and/or public policy involved, I reach for my wallet and my gun, because the odds I'm being had increase astronomically.
Eric the Fruit Bat said...There's also supposed to be some evidence of evolutionary changes observed in a laboratory. Bacteria? Fruit flies? I can't recall.Both those, esp bacteria evolving resistance to antibiotics. And that British moth that got dark, and most domesticated animals, depending how you define "laboratory".The Commies are breeding tame foxes:"The pressure of selection was very rigorous: less than 10% of the most tame individuals of every generation were used as parents of the next.(17-21) As a result of such a rigorous selection, the offspring exhibiting the aggressive and fear avoidance responses were eliminated from the experimental population in just two-three generations of selection." The physical changes associated with domestication or tameness are interesting because they occur in many different types of animals: floppy ears, shorter legs, shorter snout and curly tails.Eric the Fruit Bat said...Fernandinande is much smarter than me.If you're gonna say dumb stuff like that maybe I'll agree with you.
Paul Snively said...I find the prevalence of scientism—the degenerate replacement of traditional religion that claims "science" as a complete, accurate, unassailable truth and force for good in the worldI've never heard anyone claim that science is complete, completely accurate or unassailable, or that using knowledge always has a good result (see "Nobel Prize"). And replacing superstitions with something less superstitious is hardly degenerate.
I wonder what Tom Wolfe could have to say? The evolution of language would seem to be about the survival of the fittest in the Darwinian sense. A great deal of the world speaks English because English was more fit for the last couple hundred years. Before that, in Europe, French was more fit and before that Latin.
PB and speech came about how?Humans have a language center in the brain we call Broca's Area.
Not sure if I really care. Evolution got us speech, and maybe we are advancing more rapidly because of it. But part of that is that population density has increased to the extent that it matters. Some have claimed recently that Neanderthal ancestors/relatives had some level of speech. But even if they did, they were optimized for a lower density population. I don't think that you can really say that evolution is chaotic. The underlying mutations are, of course. For example - the classic example of bird color changing as a result of industrialization. On occasion, birds are born with different colors. Could be a different genetic modification. Or, it could be something more subtle (like how wolves and dogs and different dog breeds differ so greatly without major nuclear chromosomal differences). As everything got grayer, those a bit darker had a slight evolutionary advantage, and did a bit better. Rinse and repeat until a new equilibrium is reached. Reminds me of using synthetic annealing to find better minima, when stuck in local minima. It uses random numbers and loosened constraints, then the constraints are tightened. The random numbers are the chaos - a tool, but not the result.
Richard Dawkins, in some audiobook, said that natural selection is 100% not chaotic. Something to do with the fallacy of the counter-argument that evolutionary theory would have us believe that a tornado could whip through a junk yard and build a jumbo jet, IIRC.I tried to find that on the internet but instead learned that Richard Dawkins is not well and he's getting divorced from that Dr. Who lady with the pleasant speaking voice.Anyway, if chaotic means the same as random, then THERE'S THIS.
I'll read a master provocateur for entertainment, but won't assign his/her provocations any weight in discussions of fact, truth, reality or proposed action.That is why I'm so anti-Hillary. She thinks she is a master provocateur, and is only a damned crooked thief of a liar.
Humans are speaking spirits with a soul inside a body. Voila, It is rediscovered.Speech is how we control ourselves and rule our world. Animals are not in the game at all.Ergo: Lawyers are very valuable people.
Who the excrement cares what Tom Wolfe thinks about anything, let alone scientific subjects?(Also: Advanced writing appears in Egypt in the space of just a few decades, and appears across the then-known world in a correlated relatively compact space of time.Define "advanced writing"?Do you mean the adoption of hieroglyphs into a proto-alphabet by Semites in Egypt? Not sure that's really more "advanced", just "different" - and in any case, dating that to "decades" is a bit much, and "relatively compact space of time" rounds to "most of a thousand years"...)
A little off topic, but I thought it might be interesting too see what Tom Wolfe thinks about Trump, and there's in interesting American Spectator interview with hi about the subject of Trump. While he doesn't express direct support for Trump, he doesn't seem to be all that alarmed either. "Loveable megalomaniac" were the words he used.
Sounds like Wolfe is not trying debunk evolution per se (how could he, when modern biology and medicine are largely founded on genetics, which proved Darwin right after his death?), but rather Wolfe is saying that evolution is largely irrelevant to explaining human history and the development of societies compared with the influence of speech and writing. If so should be an interesting read, even if he tries to be needlessly provocative to gin up sales.
Eric the Fruit Bat said...Anyway, if chaotic means the same as random, then THERE'S THIS.The famous mathematician Jeff Goldblum said chaos theory means the dinosaur cages won't be strong enough and electric cars are a bad idea. Chaos or Murphy's Law.Near as I can tell, creationists try to make natural selection go away by calling it "chaotic".But another guy claims evolution is chaotic because phenotypes aren't linear functions of the genotype, the mechanism behind (koff koff) Gould's supposed punctuated equilibrium (of phenotypes).
I'm kinda rusty, but I think Wolfe made a technical error in the first sentence of the book:"...my face aglow with god-knows how many milligauss of x-radiation..."Gauss measures magnetic field. X-rays units are Rem or becquerel.
readering said what I was going so say.
Norse runes ... went extinctNot completely. (Is Latin "extinct?") In Södermanland, Sweden, in the 50s, in second grade, after mastering abcdäåö, we were taught to read the runes.
Walker Percy, a believing Catholic, visited the same subject in his "Message in a Bottle."
Eric the Fruit Bat,1. Darwin's notebooks indicate that he came up with his mechanism for evolution well before Wallace. However, Wallace was going to go public with the idea before Darwin was. While Wallace was still in the Dutch East Indies, he sent his ideas in a paper to the Royal Society in London. In modern science, that would make him the "discoverer." However, the officers of the Society knew Darwin had been working on similar ideas and didn't want him to be "scooped." They arranged for him to quickly write a summary of what he had been working on and then to have that paper read at a public meeting of the Society, at which Wallace's paper was also be read. Thus, history would rank them as "co-discoverers." Wallace didn't give his okay for this--it took ages for mail to go back and forth between London and the Indies--but he later said he was fine with it.2. Richard Lenski has kept alive 12 originally identical populations of E. coli for more than 65,000 generations. They have diverged and some have evolved interesting changes, for example being able to utilize a new food source. It's called the E. coli long-term evolution experiment (LTEE). Wikipedia has an article on it.
3. "that Dr. Who lady with the pleasant speaking voice" is Lalla Ward.
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