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The Robotic Mind

As I was reading the comment section to “Our Anthropomorphic  Bias” I was struck by the...

Book Review - "Social Bonding"

Social Bonding and Nurture Kinship - Compatibility between Cultural and Biological Approaches...

Can Life Be Defined In One Word?

A year or so back Carl Zimmer asked the science world if life could be defined in three words.I...

Naive Group Selection

You would think after thirty years of numerous critics exposing the shortcomings of...

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An advocate for gene-centrism recently wrote that the concept is a reductive mechanism for the understanding of evolution.
The first part of that statement is correct; it is reductive, and is therefore lacking those qualities that are necessary for properly understanding a “big-picture” process such as evolution.

The second part of the statement is not correct. Gene-centrism did not develop as an explanation of evolution; it began as, and has remained a political movement within evolutionary biology, the goal of which is to destroy group selection as a credible evolutionary process.
In 1981 the philosopher Peter Singer published a book titled The Expanding Circle – Ethics, Evolution and Moral Progress. The book was inspired by EO Wilson’s Sociobiology – The New Synthesis, because although Singer claimed to find fallacies in Wilson’s book, he saw Wilson’s work as nevertheless providing a sound basis for exploring the evolution of ethical behaviour. Singer saw the need to republish with added notes in 2011 due to the appearance of fresh ideas on the subject.
Bill Bryson edited a very good book in 2010 titled, “SEEING FURTHER – The Story of Science and the Royal Society”.

The question as to how many meanings a word can have came up in the discussion that followed "The Intelligence Paradox". Two excited respondents found the whole thing so alarming that they volunteered the following helpful hints to improve my approach; “hogwash” “pseudo questions” “vacuous sophistry” and “hogwash” again, just in case I missed it the first time. I was also told that intelligence could not be cooperation because cooperation is cooperation.

So let’s see if a word can have two meanings, and a good place to start would be that emotion-charged hot-potato that we know as life.

I would like you to consider carefully the following comments made by Gerhard Adam in the discussion that followed a recent article on artificial intelligence.

Gerhard’s contribution is a lesson in the benefits of disciplined logical thought. Please read on:

“Intelligence" didn't just "wake up" one day. Its presence is visible from microbes up to the highest organisms. The notion that if you just cobble together enough pieces and intelligence will emerge is simply magical thinking.”

And in response to another comment; “It just seems that intelligence is being viewed as some arbitrary "add-on" to biology. Like it's some feature that is "out there" and has nothing to do with the organism in question.”
Nobel Prize winner Jack Szostak recently wrote an opinion piece titled "Attempts to Define Life Do Not Help to Understand the Origin of Life" which was published in the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics. (open access, so you can read it free of charge)
 
The view he expressed was given respectful coverage by Carl Zimmer in his widely publicised article "Can Science Define Life in Three Words", the only blemish from the usually perceptive Zimmer in an otherwise interesting and balanced article.