Another Reason to Doubt the Relevance of Jeffrey Shallit

Materialist mathematician Jeffrey Shallit has a post on an article in the Globe and Mail about philosophy and the immateriality of the mind. Shallit’s post is titled “Another Reason to Doubt the Relevance of Philosophy”. Shallit doesn’t think much of philosophy: If philosophers think the view that “The brain is not an organ of consciousness. … The brain has no cognitive powers at all” deserves anything more than a good horselaugh, this simply shows how irrelevant philosophy has become…Our future understanding of cognition will come from neuroscience, not from Wittgenstein. Philosophy is plainly irrelevant to Shallit, which is the problem. Wittgenstein may not inform Dr. Shallit’s understanding of cognition, but Descartes, Kant, Hume, James, Skinner, Block, the Churchlands, Ryle, Rorty, Read More ›

My Question for P.Z. Myers: What Endows a Human Being With the Right to Life?

P.Z. Myers has responded to my post about his views on abortion and personhood. In reply, Myers posted pictures of a zygote, an embryo, and a group of young women. He asserted that differences in appearance between these human beings was an ethical basis for denial of the right to life to humans in utero. I take it for granted that Myers, being a competent biologist, agrees with me on this point: a living human embryo/fetus is a member of the species Homo sapiens (it is no other species). That is, a distinct human life begins at conception and ends at natural death. That is not to to say that Myers and I agree on rights, personhood, etc., but merely Read More ›

P.Z. Myers on Abortion

P.Z. Myers on a faux online abortion poll: “I’m about as pro-choice as you can get…” Unsurprisingly, Myers is “pro-choice”. But Myers’ advocacy of “choice” goes further: “…I’m even willing to say that I’m pro-abortion…” “Pro-abortion”? Even committed pro-abortion zealots don’t generally endorse abortion explicitly, except to assert the right to ‘choice,’ as if one were choosing a salad dressing rather than deciding to take a human life. Myers: “[I] would like to encourage more people to abort…”

Darwin, Racism, and Eugenics in Detroit

Last week I participated in a stimulating panel discussion on Darwin, scientific racism, and eugenics at the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Other participants included distinguished evolutionary biologist Morris Goodman of Wayne State University, historian Damon Salesa of the University of Michigan, and biology professor Jerry Bergman of Northwest State College in Ohio. The moderator was author and broadcast journalist Edward Foxworth. The Charles Wright Museum is the world’s largest institution devoted to the subject of African American history, and it’s well worth a visit. The museum’s presentation of the African American experience is outstanding; its galleries place you in the very midst of history, including a slave ship, plantation life, and early twentieth century Detroit. Read More ›

Watching Never Let Me Go

[Editor’s Note: The issue of human exceptionalism — what it means to be human — comes up at ENV on occasion. With this in mind, Heather Zeiger reviews Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest book and movie (spoilers ahead!).] Earlier this week I discussed the book, Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. In this post, I will look at the film and focus on some particular aspects that were explicitly brought up in it. The best part about the film was the three main actors, Carrie Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley, who performed their parts well. Also, director Mark Romanek had excellent scenery and cinematography. Admittedly, the film does not live up to the complexity and controlled narrative of the book. Read More ›