Tuesday, September 03, 2013

We Are Special

From the human point of view, we are the center of the Universe. That's probably why we like to create gods more or less in our own image. We also tend to resent anything that challenges that. That's why Bruno was burned at the stake, Galileo imprisoned, and Darwin remains excoriated by many who never read a word he wrote.

Darwin's great offense was applying the lessons of evolution to our own species. It remains a central point of contention even among those who purportedly belong to the intelligensia. The pointy end of Darwin's spear, these days, belongs mainly to the practitioners of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology - those who seek evolutionary roots for human behaviors.

It should be obvious that those disciplines remain speculative. Not only is human behavior complex and highly variable, but the specific genetic underpinnings are, in most cases, known not at all. Is this a good reason not to do the research? Hardly. Remember, Darwin knew nothing of genes or DNA. Is it a good reason to be skeptical of specific claims or hypotheses? Of course, but that means looking at the evidence as dispassionately as possible, not resorting to name calling.

Of course all that applies only to those who believe in science. If you take your truth from some other source, good luck to you.