Philosophy & Ethics

Time to take a break from philosophy of mind and get back to evolutionary psychology.
I recently examined (and found wanting) the so-called computational theory of mind, albeit in the context of a broader post about the difference between scientific theories and what I think are best referred to as philosophical accounts (such as the above mentioned computational “theory”). Defenders of strong versions of computationalism (which amounts to pretty much the same thing as strong AI) often invoke the twin concepts of computation itself and of the Church-Turing thesis to imply that computationalism is not only obviously true, but has been shown to be so by way of mathematical proof.
Readers of this blog are familiar with my criticism of some scientists or scientific practices, from evolutionary psychology to claims concerning the supernatural. But, especially given my dual background in science and philosophy, I pride myself in being an equal opportunity offender.

Though women work in corporations and serve at higher levels of organizations more than at any time in world history, sociologists note that they still lag behind men in one high-profile way; fraud.

Obviously cultural critics can argue that women are being left behind in opportunities to commit fraud because they do not have equal numbers at the highest levels, but that is a self-correcting problem over time. Regardless of the gender landscape, the sociologists who examined a database of recent corporate frauds found that women typically were not part of the conspiracy. When women did play a role, it was rarely a significant one.


Steven Pinker has written a long essay in The New Republic embracing scientism. That's really too bad, because this way Pinker joins a disturbingly long list of scientists (and a few philosophers) who confuse a defense of good science with a knee-jerk reaction against sound criticism of science. [For a good, if partial, response to Pinker from the Left look here; for a far less convincing one, from the Right, look here.]
As is well known to readers of this blog, I do not have much sympathy for philosophers like Alvin Plantinga. That’s not because the guy’s not smart (he certainly is), nor because he hasn’t published interesting philosophical arguments (he certainly has). But people like Plantinga still stride what should by now be an impossibly uncomfortable divide and ever widening gap between serious philosophy and theology.
How would editors at National Review regard the credibility of a controlled market publication that had its economic policy articles written by astrologers using the stars as their evidence?

They might not like it but so what? Can they prove astrologers can't make economic policy? No, it's just flawed logic, sort of like me challenging someone to prove I am not an alien from space. That is the problem with National Review paying someone from the Discovery Institute to spout anti-science nonsense about 35-year-old science under the guise of 'ethics'. Because misunderstanding and logical head-faking is the strategy the Discovery Institute uses to promote doubt about biology in general and evolution in specific.
Time to reconsider the relationship between science and the supernatural. A number of colleagues in both science and philosophy argue that the supernatural is nothing special, that god-related hypotheses can be tested by ordinary scientific methods, and that — given the repeated failure of such tests — the only rational conclusion is that science has pretty much shown that there is no such thing as the supernatural.

Testing a new therapeutic intervention such as a drug or surgical procedure on human subjects is not an option so the vast majority are first tested on animals and only when they have been established in those trials can human trials be considered.

But in recent years cultural campaigns against animal testing have increased, making researchers increasingly leery of them. That means size constraints and limited statistical power, and as a result the scientific literature contains many studies that are either uncertain in their outcomes or even contradictory.


Back in 1992, Francis Fukuyama famously argued that the advent of Western liberal democracy spelled nothing less than the endpoint of sociocultural evolution: we have finally discovered the best way to govern people and organize society, and that’s gonna be it.