Saturday, June 13, 2009

Edward O. Wilson at the World Science Festival

If you are in Gotham City this weekend you can attend Brian Greene's and Tracy Day's World Science Festival. Greene wants the festival to celebrate great scientists in addition to science, as a way of encouraging public interest and generating excitement in the minds of future students. That's a great idea (one of many from the brain of Brian Greene). But this year's choice of "great scientist," evolutionist Edward O. Wilson, may not generate the type of excitement we need.

Wilson uses "science" to determine that soldiers who heroically throw themselves on top of grenades, to save their nearby comrades, are merely acting according to how evolution has programmed them. In his book On Human Nature, for instance, Wilson explained this sort of altruism:

To understand ... and resolve the puzzle of human altruism we must distinguish two basic forms of cooperative behavior. The altruistic impulse can be irrational and unilaterally directed at others; the bestower expresses no desire for equal return and performs no unconscious actions leading to the same end. I have called this form of behavior "hard-core" altruism ... Where such behavior exists, it is likely to have evolved through kin selection or natural selection operating on entire, competing family or tribal units. We would expect hard-core altruism to serve the altruist's closest relatives and to decline steeply in frequency and intensity as relationship becomes more distant. [155]

It seems the heroic soldiers not only were merely acting out their evolutionary impulses, programmed by kin selection, but they didn't even do that right, confusing their fellow soldiers for siblings--quite irrational.

But what about charity that goes beyond cultural and even national boundaries? Has Mother Theresa confused Indian children for her own? No, evolution has constructed religious altruism with false promises of salvation. How clever. Wilson again explains all:

Mother Theresa is an extraordinary person but it should not be forgotten that she is secure in the service of Christ and the knowledge of her Church's immortality. [165]

With those insightful thoughts, we can imagine how the Friday night panel discussion, on what it means to be human, went. The topic focused on altruism, which Wilson undoubtedly explained away to a fawning audience.

What is particularly disgusting about evolution's enlightened views of behavior and altruism is its scientific absurdity and ultimate reliance on religion. Hardly an encouragement to the minds of future students.