Skip to main content


The "Modern Synthesis" in Evolutionary Biology

A recent anthology by philosophers of science challenging the "modern synthesis" in evolution draws an intelligent review from NDPR, here:

What had to be brought together was some sort of Darwinian account of evolution on the one hand and Mendelian genetics on the other.  The late 1930s and early 1940s were key, and the gelling of the synthesis involved a seminal book by  Theodosius Dobzhansky in 1937, and another by Ernst Mayr in 1942 The term "modern synthesis" was attached to such work in the subtitle of a book by Julian Huxley, also in 1942.

I'll quote the review directly for some institutional history: 

During this period significant institution building was taking place, coupled with theoretically significant gate-keeping. The Committee on Common Problems of Genetics, Paleontology, and Systematics,supported by a United States National Research Council, was launc…
Recent posts

A Source on the Philosophy of Time

Here's a link to an article by Dean Zimmerman defending the intuitive (or "A-Theory") view of time. 

The intuitive view is that there is such a thing as the present, the "moving now," that at this present is ontologically privileged.

Privileged? Sounds like a bad thing to modern sensibilities. "Check your privilege, nowness!"

At any rate, we intuitively feel confident the now is real, whereas the past is uncertain and the future is promised to no one. Descartes' "cogito" is in the present tense. The certainty is "I think" not "I thought" or "I will think." From this epistemological privilege we infer an ontological one -- the intuition is that the now is more real, which is one reason self-help authors always urge us to "live here now." 

Zimmerman believes, roughly, that the inference is a sound one and the self-help authors have a …

A Very Old Joke

There's an old joke (it actually comes down to us from an ancient Roman joke book) that goes like this:

An absentminded professor and a bald man and a barber were making a journey together and camping out in a lonely place. They arranged for each of them to stay awake in turn for four hours and guard the luggage. When it fell to the barber to keep watch first, wanting to pass the time he shaved the head of the prof and, when his shift was done, woke him up. The prof rubbed his head as he came to and found himself hairless. “What a right idiot the barber is,” he said. “He’s gone all wrong and woken up the bald man instead of me.”

The phrase "absent-minded professor" is something of a loose translation here. We are primed to accept that as a term for an intellectual who does something amusingly stupid. But the phrase "an academic" would be a more neutra

A Quote from Michael Wolff

It came out, and made its splash, months ago now, but I'm just getting around to reading FIRE AND FURY, a take on the early months of the Trump presidency written largely from the point of view of Steve Bannon.

"It's worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won't read anything -- not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing. He gets up half-way through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant prick who thinks he's smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than  collection of terrible traits. No one will survive the first year but his family. I hate the work, but feel I need to stay because I'm the only person there with a clue what he's doing. The reason so few jobs have been filled is that they only accept  people who pass ridiculous purity tests, even  for midlevel policy-making jobs where the people will never se…

Rapping about my man, Plato

His name is Plato and we all know in the ghetto
That messin with my boy is gonna getcha laid-low.

He'll blow your mind, he be really stylin'
He's got the mike and got all of the Big Abstractions flying.

He's laying down now how it ain't real in the cave, Joe.
He's planning our escape so we can look out at the sun yo.

He knows how we can make ourselves a truly perfect city,
Just kick out all the poets who are trying to make things pirty.
Just kick out the musicians who are making us feel pity,
And let the wise ones rule, eating cheezburgers with kitty.


And yes, I AM ashamed of myself, Thank you for asking.