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Old 03-25-2011, 06:49 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Milleka View Post
I'm also reading "The Selfish Gene" right now as well. Like "The God Delusion", I'm having a little trouble getting through it- and I'm a Biology teacher! Someone told me it's because Dawkins uses Oxford English. He is just on a higher intellectual plain than I am (dangling participle). What I have gleaned from the book has been very enlightening- especially the mating rituals and parenting practices.
I guess being Irish I am more exposed to the "English English" and found it a bit easier. Though some parts still required me to read them 3 or 4 times, especially the sections about genetic blood disorders in the royal family.

The most important thing to get from the book however is simply the concept that the "gene" is the unit of selection in evolution, not the individual or the species (at least not exclusively, such selection still plays a role).

Get that one point... I mean really get it.... and whole swaths of Evolutionary Biology suddenly make sense... from the evolutionary success of genes that do not actually do anything... to the evolutionary concept of "Kin Selection"..... to the rise of altruism.... to even why genes or traits that cause an individual not to reproduce can STILL be selected for (such as homosexuality, or non-reproducing elements of species such as wasps and mole rats who are all non reproducing "drones").

On paper the idea of the gene as the unit of selection sounds really simple. You can say it in one sentence. Really grasping the implications of that however is what the Selfish Gene was good at.
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Old 03-25-2011, 07:48 AM
 
Location: Owasso, OK
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nozzferrahhtoo View Post
I guess being Irish I am more exposed to the "English English" and found it a bit easier. Though some parts still required me to read them 3 or 4 times, especially the sections about genetic blood disorders in the royal family.

The most important thing to get from the book however is simply the concept that the "gene" is the unit of selection in evolution, not the individual or the species (at least not exclusively, such selection still plays a role).

Get that one point... I mean really get it.... and whole swaths of Evolutionary Biology suddenly make sense... from the evolutionary success of genes that do not actually do anything... to the evolutionary concept of "Kin Selection"..... to the rise of altruism.... to even why genes or traits that cause an individual not to reproduce can STILL be selected for (such as homosexuality, or non-reproducing elements of species such as wasps and mole rats who are all non reproducing "drones").

On paper the idea of the gene as the unit of selection sounds really simple. You can say it in one sentence. Really grasping the implications of that however is what the Selfish Gene was good at.
Oh definitely! Americans have lost the ability to speak and comprehend proper English a LONG time ago. You can go back and look at American publications from the 1800's and see a drastic difference from what is in mainstream publications today.

I love how the discoveries in genetics have only solidified Darwin's theory. The more we learn about DNA and gene expression, the more clear Evolution begins to be. I wish Stephen Hawking could figure out how to build a time machine so we could bring Darwin here, to this time, and show him all the genetic evidence to back up his ideas. He would be amazed!
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Old 03-25-2011, 08:01 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Milleka View Post
Oh definitely! Americans have lost the ability to speak and comprehend proper English a LONG time ago. You can go back and look at American publications from the 1800's and see a drastic difference from what is in mainstream publications today.
Bill Bryson has a good book on this very thing... comparing historic English with current English and American English. It is called "Mother Tounge" if I recall correctly. Read it some time ago on holiday in Morocco during the parts of the day when it was too hot for an Irishman to go out in the sun.
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Old 03-25-2011, 09:02 AM
 
Location: Owasso, OK
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nozzferrahhtoo View Post
Bill Bryson has a good book on this very thing... comparing historic English with current English and American English. It is called "Mother Tounge" if I recall correctly. Read it some time ago on holiday in Morocco during the parts of the day when it was too hot for an Irishman to go out in the sun.
I'll bet that WAS an interesting read. I'm not sure where America went wrong. It is sad that we have such an awesome country- the Land of Opportunity and all. But, that our citizens are so horribly undereducated. Was it the attempt to have the masses be able to read, write, and cipher? Maybe material had to be "dumbed down" for the common man to be able to comprehend. But, we seemed to be doing ok in the 50's. I don't know. I actually took a class on the history of education in the US when I was working on my Master's (that I didn't finish- but that's another story). I don't remember anything being mentioned of how we're lacking- only stressing how wonderful we are. Hmmm.
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Old 03-25-2011, 11:02 AM
 
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I do not think there is any one easy answer to that but I am likely to now write a large post on the topic…

I was speaking about this with Biologist and Catholic Kenneth Miller and he is a man that is proud of Americas position in the forefront of international Science. America has long been the leader in all things science, and he has a lot of theories as to why this might be… everything from American democracy to the American rebellious spirit get mentioned in his book Amazon.com: Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul (9780670018833): Kenneth R. Miller: Books

So while America has a massive number of undereducated people, it also had a higher tier of intellectuals doing very well. Alas in recent polls and survey and studies America HAS been slipping down this leader board, and the thing about such leader boards is it is much easier to go down than climb back up. Once other countries have the research grants, the jobs and the intellectual assets…. They will hold on to them and rightly so. Miller I noticed when talking to him has closed his eyes to this a lot. He is so proud of the position the US has held that I think he is reluctant to admit it is slipping away.

We could point many fingers as to the causes here. Economics of education will be one factor of course. Few countries ever put enough money into education and the US is certainly on that black list.

This being the Atheism section of the forum however you will have a number of people pointing out how theists and kooks and loons want to inject stultifying nonsense into the schools too… which has to be a factor in everything. It also does not help that we teach our children good science during the week, and their pastor in Sunday School calls it all rubbish at the weekend. Many biology teachers, Miller included, report how when they bring up Evolution they have students walk out… complain…. Shout…. Parents writing complaining letters…. And school boards being petitioned.

Although I would apportion a massive amount of blame to Theists for this, I have to also acknowledge that scientists themselves are to blame. They are NOTORIOUSLY bad communicators.

They simply are no good at communicating their field to the general public and their field suffers for it. This problem is much compounded by the fact that scientists themselves look at communicators with some level of disdain too… because they are not “real” scientists doing “real” work. Despite the massive amount of respect people like Carl Sagan and David Attenbourgh and Richard Dawkins have in this world… their careers have also been marked with the disdain of “real” scientists too.

I think scientists need to wake up to this and start lauding praise at all levels on those people who successfully communicate science for them, and start working with them… through them…. to connect with the public at large. Writers of “popular science” books are something they should be proud to work with, not look on with barely concealed disgust.
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Old 03-25-2011, 02:23 PM
 
Location: New Zealand
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Originally Posted by Nozzferrahhtoo View Post
Although I would apportion a massive amount of blame to Theists for this, I have to also acknowledge that scientists themselves are to blame. They are NOTORIOUSLY bad communicators.
Another aspect that came to my mind recently after watching a debate between Dinesh D'Souza and Hitchens is that some aspects of science truly are complicated and require us to pay attention.

For instance, Dinesh can make a statement that evolution is like a "hurricane going through a junkyard and leaving behind a jumbo jet." It's a very short and simple sentence and quite easy to understand and will resonate with many people. But it is hard to counter that very easily in a similar 10-second sentence. It requires a somewhat longer and more detailed response which also requires a certain level of intelligence/logical thinking/reason on the part of the listener, by which time the audience has stopped paying attention.

For the layperson, this can often translate into: "The religious person can 'explain' something very easily/transparently, but the scientist hides behind technical mumbo-jumbo that doesn't make sense to me. So the scientist doesn't know what he's talking about."

It's like we have arrived at the proof of Clarke's third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The gap between our latest scientific knowledge and the average/religious person has grown so much, science seems just as magical/impenetrable/matter of faith to the religious as religion seems to the atheists/rational thinkers.
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Old 03-25-2011, 09:11 PM
 
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The power of straw man in debate fuzz Any debater knows, and I did years of it myself, that it only takes seconds to erect a "straw man". It takes much longer for the opponent to pull it down.
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Old 03-26-2011, 08:58 AM
 
Location: Owasso, OK
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuzz View Post
Another aspect that came to my mind recently after watching a debate between Dinesh D'Souza and Hitchens is that some aspects of science truly are complicated and require us to pay attention.

For instance, Dinesh can make a statement that evolution is like a "hurricane going through a junkyard and leaving behind a jumbo jet." It's a very short and simple sentence and quite easy to understand and will resonate with many people. But it is hard to counter that very easily in a similar 10-second sentence. It requires a somewhat longer and more detailed response which also requires a certain level of intelligence/logical thinking/reason on the part of the listener, by which time the audience has stopped paying attention.

For the layperson, this can often translate into: "The religious person can 'explain' something very easily/transparently, but the scientist hides behind technical mumbo-jumbo that doesn't make sense to me. So the scientist doesn't know what he's talking about."

It's like we have arrived at the proof of Clarke's third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The gap between our latest scientific knowledge and the average/religious person has grown so much, science seems just as magical/impenetrable/matter of faith to the religious as religion seems to the atheists/rational thinkers.
You are so right. And that's where the whole "undereducated" American comes into play. Keep them in submission by keeping them ignorant and mystified. Of COURSE they don't want you to understand "Scientific Mumbo Jumbo". Knowledge is power.

Last edited by Milleka; 03-26-2011 at 08:58 AM.. Reason: Mistake
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Old 03-26-2011, 02:06 PM
Status: "Life gives you what you need to awaken" (set 1 day ago)
 
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I like God is Not Great. Hitchens' style is very English obviously but I thoroughly enjoy his critique of religion, his eloquence and his hard line stance.

He's a very articulate man with a dry sense of humour. I do believe Americans sometimes don't quite get English humour.
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Old 03-26-2011, 02:16 PM
 
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I can relate to both Dawkins' and Hitchens' atheist viewpoint as I was an atheist myself for a very long time. I'm still atheist in the anthropomorphic sense of God. I still to a lot of what both say, and still quote from Dawkins' book on a regular basis, but for some reason something about Hitchens' writing style grates on my nerve. Even though Dawkins and Hitchens are conveying largely the same message, somehow the way Dawkins frames it is better IMO. With Hitchens I feel like I'm listening to a preacher, who happens to be an atheist. With Dawkins, I feel like I'm actually reading someone who has a lot of excellent points. I also think Dawkins is a very elegant communicator in general, and I really enjoy listening to his speeches. He really succeeds in communicating science to the masses.

Last edited by nimchimpsky; 03-26-2011 at 02:25 PM..
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