Neil Tyson And The Value Of Philosophy

Reprinted from Scientia Salon. You can read the original here.It seems like my friend Neil deGrasse...

What Does It Mean For Something To Be Metaphysically Necessary?

I mentioned before, this semester I’m teaching a graduate level seminar on David Hume, and having...

David Hume And The Missing Shade Of Blue

This semester I’m teaching a graduate level course on “Hume Then and Now,” which aims at...

Is Theologian Alving Plantinga For Real? Alas, It Appears So

I keep hearing that Notre Dame philosopher and theologian Alvin Plantinga is a really smart guy...

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Massimo PigliucciRSS Feed of this column.

Massimo Pigliucci is Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.

His research focuses on the structure of evolutionary theory, the relationship between science and philosophy

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Nature -- presumably through the mechanism of Darwinian selection -- has endowed us with a balanced system of pains and pleasures that correspond respectively to the sort of things we should avoid or seek in order to further our survival and reproduction. It is not surprising that the brain produces a sensation of pain when we bleed: if it didn't we may run the risk of bleeding to death without noticing (or noticing too late). Similarly, it is hardly surprising that our brain releases pleasure chemicals (literally, neural drugs) to reward us when we do something useful, like finding and eating a sugar or fat-ladened substance.
Below is a detailed response to my latest post, which Ken graciously sent me for publication here. After that, you will find a few additional notes from yours truly.

Dear Massimo,

Thanks, of course, for the very kind comments about my presentation at Brown. At your invitation, I’m writing a few comments to clarify and correct what I think are some mistaken impressions and also to point out a few areas of genuine disagreement. You wrote:
I am traveling back from Brown University (on Amtrak's Acela Express train, ah, the civilization of the Northeast!), where I participated in a panel discussion on evolution and religion together with Ed Larson (Pepperdine University, author of the Pulitzer winning Summer for the Gods on the Scopes trial), art historian Mary Bergstein (Rhode Island School for Design), and Brown's own
Academia is notoriously resistant to change, which to some extent is a good thing. It was therefore no surprise that when Wikipedia became a phenomenon most academics scoffed at it as a passing fad, fatally flawed by its very core idea: anybody, and I mean anybody, can become a Wiki author and post new entries or edit existing ones. Surely, this will inevitably lead to chaos and complete unreliability, the critics said.
I guess it was only a matter of time before my colleague Jerry Coyne at the University of Chicago lost his patience while reading one of several pieces that appeared in the press about the current and future status of evolutionary theory.
Time to put New York Times’ columnist Stanley Fish in his place, again. Fish is a rather interesting kind of animal: an academic through and through (he is, after all a professor of law at Florida International University and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and before that has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and Duke University), who nevertheless relishes harsh criticism of academia.