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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Speaking of science and religion, I got significantly annoyed by a short piece in Nature magazine by Michael Bond (13 November 2008). Bond reviews two recent books on Buddhism and science: “Mind and Life: Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality,” by Pier Luigi Luisi, and “Buddhism and Science: A Guide for the Perplexed,” by Donald S. Lopez.
The news coming out of the recent, and much trumpeted, Vatican-sponsored conference on evolution isn’t that good, according to a brief article that appeared in Science magazine on November 14. Molecular biologist John Abelson commented on the most controversial figure at the conference, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn: “He believes there are gaps in evolution and [that] God acts in those gaps.” Oh boy, not the “gap theory” again?
On Race

On Race

Nov 25 2008 | comment(s)

I’ve recently touched on the delicate topic of human nature. Now it's the turn of the even more inflammatory subject of race. The occasion is provided by a short commentary in Science (1), reporting on a meeting of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). The reason that meeting was contentious is because of increasingly common research on differences in the genetic susceptibility to diseases among human populations, where “population” is often a thinly veiled synonym for race.
A couple of years ago I co-taught a course in philosophy and science with a colleague in the Philosophy department at Stony Brook University. At some point the issue of “human nature” came up, and my colleague looked at me with a mix of surprise and pity: human nature, she maintained, is a quaint concept that has been long abandoned by serious scholars, so why are we still talking about it? Tell it to James Fowler and Darren Schreiber, who recently authored a paper in the prestigious Science magazine (7 November 2008) by the title “Biology, Politics, and the Emerging Science of Human Nature.”
Aristotle figured out pretty early on that human beings are by their nature constantly pulled by two opposing forces: on the one hand their propensity to go after immediate rewards, even though they are often deleterious for them (akrasia, or “weakness of the will”); on the other hand the necessity to work for their long term welfare (eudaemonia, loosely translated as “happiness” but better understood as flourishing).
I have recently criticized British geneticist Steve Jones for his claim that modern human societies are no longer subject to natural selection. My arguments were based on basic principles of evolution and population genetics. Now a new study shows that Jones is wrong on the basis of the available empirical evidence and, ironically, that evidence comes from research on the British population!