Other Ways of Knowing

Humans know about what surrounds them by virtue of their sensory perception. It is impossible otherwise to know about the world outside our head. It is necessary but is it sufficient? No. To develop our full intellect we need to develop our cognitive skills and, crucially, learn a language. Luckily, humans are a social species and language together with the physical adaptations necessary to speak, hear and understand develops in childhood seemingly without much effort, just by being immersed in the family group.

Humans, if we start with early modern humans, have been around for approximately 300,000 years but humans only begin to distinguish themselves when social living in extended family groups develops into behavioural modernity This is perhaps still somewhat controversial but, beginning around 50,000 years ago, the archaeological evidence seems to show a spread of development of skills in hunting and fishing tools but also the beginning of art, body decoration, burial of the dead.

The dawn of civilization begins with the development of agriculture. Given a fertile valley, suitable crops, a bit of foresight and investment in storage and defence, humans were able to settle into larger and larger communities. But larger groups need to agree, organise, resolve disputes, have common goals. Dispute settling and record keeping become necessary and writing is a useful tool to supplement memory. Cultural evolution in the last 10,000 years has left biological evolution in the dust.

Today, our collective memory, the stored information that individual humans have discovered, invented, developed, is now recorded and digital form and readily accessible to others. The internet is a vicarious way of knowing that would seem limitless.

But I’m talking of physical development, physical discoveries, physical inventions. Humans don’t just experience and share their knowledge of reality. Humans have imagination. Human civilizations seem to need non-physical explanations, a religious raison d’être. Ara Norenzayan’s book Big Gods proposes an explanation for why a religious organisation, a priesthood, is a given for a civilization to thrive.

So what is the value of religious knowledge? I ask as a deaf man unable to hear the beauty of the music. Are there other ways of knowing, other than experimenting, learning, being told, imitating.

Can internal reflection, meditation, revelation provide us with other or additional information and broaden our knowledge?

107 thoughts on “Other Ways of Knowing

  1. velikovskys: Well, if you are so sure about those explanations being wrong , does the designer do it? How can you tell?

    When one shows that Darwinian evolution can’t logically do something, its a very weak retort from the darwinists that says “well, you have a better idea??”

  2. Alan Fox: Pretty sure there are no formal training programs for birds in nest-building. But complex behaviours in birds are observed that must then be inherited and that makes it subject to natural selection.

    Yes I am well aware of the Darwin of the gaps theory of everything.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    I think Kn realizes we will never find a random mutation that makes an animal suddenly want to start blocking water sounds whenever they hear it underneath them, thus he proposed that beavers probably just are taught this.

    When that theory doesn’t work, I predict the next theory is, So what?

  3. I wonder if there have ever been any humans with that random mutation ~whenever they hear water rushing they immediately want to block it with debris.

    Could make it rather awkward in the men’s room when they suddenly start trying to chew out the water pipes to make sticks.

  4. phoodoo: When one shows that Darwinian evolution can’t logically do something, its a very weak retort from the darwinists that says “well, you have a better idea??”

    Exactly, phoodoo. The fact that there are no other avenues of exploration is no excuse. Science as yet has failed to come up with complete answers to life, the universe and everything, so far. But there’s no other way, so we’ll just have to keep at it.

  5. phoodoo,

    Mutation is random, selection is biased. The niche decides. The idea that beavers have an innate aversion to the sound of running water also involves that trait having some benefit in the niche they occupy.

    Hard to see the benefit of an aversion to running water in human society. Except to plumbers. 🙂

  6. phoodoo: When one shows that Darwinian evolution can’t logically do something, its a very weak retort from the darwinists that says “well, you have a better idea??”

    I must have missed where you showed, rather than merely claimed, that. Could you link?

    Also, when you see a sleight of hand magician do something ‘impossible’ do you assume the laws of physics can be broken by that person or do you look for a more mundane explanation?

  7. Alan Fox: Science as yet has failed to come up with complete answers to life, the universe and everything, so far.

    And Intelligent Design has come up with precisely zero answers to anything at all. And yet it refuses to die.

    When that research project I mentioned about the spiders gets to the third phase they will start to mute genes with drugs to see how web building is changed. phoodoo’s ‘prediction’ therefore seems to be that nothing will change no matter what as web building is not genetic at any level.

    Is that right or wrong phoodoo? Care you put real money on the table?

    Or are you scared to put something concrete on the table you can be shown to be right or wrong about?

  8. Alan Fox:
    phoodoo,

    Mutation is random, selection is biased. The niche decides. The idea that beavers have an innate aversion to the sound of running water also involves that trait having some benefit in the niche they occupy.

    Hard to see the benefit of an aversion to running water in human society. Except to plumbers.

    If it were a random mutation, then occasionally some humans would get it.

    In your fairytale theory at least.

  9. phoodoo: In your fairytale theory at least.

    This fairytale theory has a strong physical grounding. DNA.

    What is the transmission substrate for when the Intelligent Designer teaches baby spiders how to web?

    The funny thing is that you and Charlie and now arguing for the same thing. Some sort of élan vital that you know exists somehow but only on the basis that it being real would mean significant parts of evolution are wrong.

  10. phoodoo: If it were a random mutation, then occasionally some humans would get it.

    It seems you don’t understand the space that DNA is “exploring” at all. No wonder you are so confused about fitness etc.

  11. Alan Fox: To paraphrase Tootsie, when was it ever alive? 16 years since Dover.

    phoodoo claims to have “shown” something, and that must be ID related right?

    phoodoo: When one shows that Darwinian evolution can’t logically do something, its a very weak retort from the darwinists that says “well, you have a better idea??”

    And it’s an even weaker retort to pretend that you have a better idea but just won’t say what it is.

    All you have to do to show that ID is alive, phoodoo, is to explain what that better idea is. To fill that gap.

    Why don’t you? It’d make us all here look like fools!

  12. phoodoo: I wonder if there have ever been any humans with that random mutation ~whenever they hear water rushing they immediately want to block it with debris.

    Hydrophobia can be induced by e.g. rabies.

  13. phoodoo: Did you miss the words “types of spider webs”, that can be categorised, or were you just trying to make my point for me?That sounds like trail and error to you?

    If the observations fit your point , I don’t mind . If all web making all has the same ultimate source, an intelligent designer , what is criteria for designing many species of spiders and styles of webs in first place , does the designer tailor his designs for different niches, or is just the result of the designer’s whims? How does one go about gaining knowledge of how the designer works?

    Are you also a closet Lamarkian?

    Isn’t Lamarckism and trial and error as ways to gain knowledge compatible with design?

  14. phoodoo: When one shows that Darwinian evolution can’t logically do something, its a very weak retort from the darwinists that says “well, you have a better idea??”

    So are you saying you don’t have a better idea how things work?

  15. Alan Fox: Hard to see the benefit of an aversion to running water in human society. Except to plumbers

    Plumbers love running water , it is how they make their money.

  16. phoodoo: I think Kn realizes we will never find a random mutation that makes an animal suddenly want to start blocking water sounds whenever they hear it underneath them, thus he proposed that beavers probably just are taught this.

    I’ll add my two cents worth.

    It does not seem at all plausible that the genome carries the details of how a beaver should build a dam or how a bird should build a nest.

    Note that this is not an ID vs. evolution issue. The question of how much detail the genome can carry is just as much of a problem for ID people as for evolutionists.

    To that extent, I agree with KN, that dam building and nest building are learned behaviors. But I disagree with the idea that they learn by observing their parents, though there might be some of that.

    To me, it seems more likely that the Beaver has a strong innately given urge to build a dam, and the bird has a strong innately given urge to build a nest. But then they have to learn how to do it via a trial and error process. And note that they need to build that dam or that nest using locally available materials, which is part of why that requires a learning process.

    How these innate urges are carried by the genome, I do not know. But notice that there is a similar question for humans and language. Nobody doubts that language is learned, but there seems to be some innately given drive to communicate.

  17. Neil Rickert: Nobody doubts that language is learned, but there seems to be some innately given drive to communicate.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-51372265

    In the 1980s deaf children in Nicaragua invented a completely new sign language of their own.

    It was a remarkable achievement, which allowed experts a unique insight into how human communication develops.

    “What we learnt from Nicaragua about language still isn’t over,” says American linguist Judy Shepard-Kegl, who documented the emergence of Nicaraguan Sign Language.

  18. Neil Rickert: Yes, I’m aware of that.

    Neil Rickert: To that extent, I agree with KN, that dam building and nest building are learned behaviors. But I disagree with the idea that they learn by observing their parents, though there might be some of that.

    Yes, it does seem as if although the “words” are not part of it the desire to create representations is.

    It’s most odd. I look forwards to the spider web gene experiments.

  19. velikovskys: So are you saying you don’t have a better idea how things work?

    A better idea on how beavers know to build dams, then “Once upon a time, a few million years ago there was this small bucktooth rodent that gave birth to another small bucktooth rodent, but during the copying of the genes which produced this baby rodent, there was a mistake. A gene copied poorly, and the new gene it made it so that overtime the rodent felt rushing water under its feet, it suddenly had the urge to run into the woods and start chewing on trees until they fell, then carry them to the source of the sound of water and begin dropping the trees. It continued chewing on trees, and dropping them near the sound of the water, and guess what happened? They chewed on some many trees that the big bad coyotes, the ones who didn’t have the accidental gene for hearing water and chewing trees, couldn’t swim into the water and eat the crazy little rodents, that in any other niche would have been rejected by any mates as having schizophrenia, but in this niche, what a stroke of fortune! Which was rather fortunate indeed as until this time these buckteeth rodents had no idea why they had theses ridiculous buckteeth for the past 100,000 years.

    So what happened after that, all the other buckteeth rodents in the village, that didn’t have the schizophrenia gene, well, they all got eaten by coyotes, or some just died of loneliness, because schizophrenia was the new chic. Before the schizophrenic beaver came along, life wasn’t too bad, other than they had zero defences against coyotes, but somehow they managed. But now, they couldn’t find any dates to save a beaver. They were some truly lonely beaver.

    And that momma rodent that gave birth to the weird baby rodent with water schizophrenia, who was so worried about her demented baby? She is now known by all the beavers around the world as Grandmommy Eve the Beav. She is a legend.”

    So your question is, do I have a better explanation than this Darwin of the gaps one? Gee, that’s a tough one.

  20. So that’s how evolution works. I used to think evolution made a lot of seense, but that was before phoodoo told me otherwise. Boy, was I wrong!

  21. Flint:
    So that’s how evolution works. I used to think evolution made a lot of seense, but that was before phoodoo told me otherwise. Boy, was I wrong!

    Is something about that not consistent with the darwin fairytale?

  22. phoodoo: So your question is, do I have a better explanation than this Darwin of the gaps one? Gee, that’s a tough one.

    Apparently it is a tough one because you just spent a lot of time avoiding answering. Anytime would be fine , how does the designer do it? Where do beavers come from and how do they know how to build a dam ? Free free to elaborate.

  23. phoodoo: So your question is, do I have a better explanation than this Darwin of the gaps one? Gee, that’s a tough one.

    No, you don’t. And you appear to be proud of your ignorance.

    No matter how stupid you might think evolution is, it’s still a better idea then no idea at all. It’s still better than saying ‘the designer did it’. The latter we cannot investigate,

    In short, there are some things neither sides know the answers to. But only one side is unhappy with ignorance. The other, you, wallow it it.

  24. velikovskys: Where do beavers come from and how do they know how to build a dam ?

    If evolution only breaks things what did it break to cause Covid-19? There’s another one that phoodoo should be able to answer with the knowledge he thinks he has. What got broke phoodoo?

  25. phoodoo: So Alan is claiming that these things are inherited. Knowledge is inherited? Maybe Alan is a closet Lamarkian. But as he also is forced to admit, science has so idea how. Saying knowledge exists in your genes is a pretty far fetched idea. the problem is, there is no other explanation that suits the Darwinian framework they are stuck with.

    Why not? That certainly seems to be the case with dogs and various breed’s bred-in behavior (including complex behaviors, like herding). The genetic details are not known (though they are being investigated), but since we’ve been able to “create” these behaviors with selective breeding, they clearly must be the result of genetic variation.

    If a border collie’s herding instinct is a result of selected genetic variation, why not a beaver’s dam-building instinct? Just because you don’t understand something, that does not mean it’s impossible.

  26. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: . It is no coincidence that Knossos and gnostic are both derived from the same root.

    Kantian Naturalist: I don’t think that’s true. The ancient Greek words are spelled definitely and there’s no reason to believe that they are etymologically related.

    “Gnostic”, “knowledge” and “nous” probably all have the same root. What makes you think there is no connection to “Knossos”? Noēsis and dianoia are two ways of knowing which I think also have the same derivation.

    From
    Archaic England
    , by Harold Bayley

    The words _doll_, _idol_, _ideal_, and _idyll_, which are all one and the same, are probably due to the island of Idea which was one of the ancient names of Crete. Not only was Crete known as Idæa, but it was also entitled Doliche, which may be spelled to-day Idyllic. Crete, the Idyllic island, the island of Ideas, was also known as Aeria, and I think it probably was the centre whence was spun the gossamer of aerial and ethereal tales, which have made the Isles of Greece a land of immortal romance. We shall also see as we proceed that the mystic philosophy known to history as the Gnosis was in all probability the philosophy taught in prehistoric times at Gnossus, the far-famed capital of Crete. From Gnossus, whence the Greeks drew all their laws and science, came probably the Greek word _gnosis_, meaning _knowledge_. But the mystic Gnosis connoted more than is covered by the word _knowledge_: it claimed to be the wisdom of the ancients, and to disclose the ideal value lying behind the letter of all mysteries, myths, and religious ordinances.

    Bailey “has been described as one of the greatest Orientalists of the twentieth century. He was said to read more than 50 languages”.

  27. Gordon Davisson: Just because you don’t understand something, that does not mean it’s impossible.

    In fact this is literally true for phoodoo. Just look up his screeds on “fitness”.

  28. velikovskys,

    One day… the explanation will be better than, …a random copying error that makes you freak out over the sound of running water so you accidentally start building fortresses that turn out, once again accidentally, to be useful… not to mention the accidents for your teeth and tail.

    One day…. It won’t be this.

  29. And every time someone mentions how ridiculous of accident that would be, some Darwin faithful will jump up yelling, ‘don’t forget the selection part, that’s not accident, don’t forget that part!’ as if that makes up for the ridiculous accident part.

  30. phoodoo: What makes you think Lamarck isn’t right?

    Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, chevalier de Lamarck was a conscientious and hardworking general biologist (he was maybe the first user of the word biologie in the modern sense).whose classifications of invertebrates were good enough that they still stand today. His observations on evolution and adaptive change were inadequate in that he speculated about the mechanism, suggesting that individuals were changed by the effect of the environment, rather than by differential survival of fixed phenotypes. It is a small part of his legacy that was inflated by critics of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Pretty unfair on a respectable biologist.

  31. Alan Fox,

    If biologists can’t tell what the mechanisms are for knowledge to be passed down from generation to generation, then there is no reason to believe random mutations and natural selection are any more true than acquired traits passed down are true.

    “Lamarck of the gaps” is just as valid as claiming “Darwin of the gaps.”

  32. phoodoo: then there is no reason to believe random mutations and natural selection are any more true than acquired traits passed down are true.

    You appear to believe that if you don’t know everything you can’t know anything. Given who you are it’s actually an understandable point of view. Good luck with that!

  33. phoodoo: “Lamarck of the gaps” is just as valid as claiming “Darwin of the gaps.”

    And the gap your “Intelligent Designer” occupies shrinks daily.

    It seems that as knowledge replaces ignorance we can dispense with such unnecessary entities.

    phoodoo, given your insight into biology would you care to speculate on the mechanism your designer uses to transmit knowledge across generations?

    Or does that even happen at all? Perhaps the brain is a radio picking up “soul” signals which is the actual source of such knowledge, much as Charlie seems to believe.

    Is that it? Or is “I dunno and I’m not capable of finding out” all we’re ever gonna get from you?

  34. phoodoo: “Lamarck of the gaps” is just as valid as claiming “Darwin of the gaps.”

    No, it’s not. We have a framework that produces useful output. Does your misunderstanding of Lamarck (as Alan noted) produce useful results?

  35. Is it not even a possibility that knowledge transmission happens via an unknown system that is compatible with evolution? Why does it have to be some magical mystical thing instead? Why jump straight to that? Why not assume that it’s a more mundane explanation rooted in physical reality as we understand it?

    Why is it that when we don’t know something we have to throw away everything we do know despite the fact there are different evidences for what we are throwing away to what we don’t know?

  36. Or, in other words, how productive has this attitude been phoodoo? How is Intelligent Design doing?

  37. phoodoo:
    Alan Fox,

    If biologists can’t tell what the mechanisms are for knowledge to be passed down from generation to generation, then there is no reason to believe random mutations and natural selection are any more true than acquired traits passed down are true.

    Belief and truth? No! Hypotheses and data, observing and experimenting to find better explanations with more predictive power, that is what science is always in the process of doing. As OM says, there is not a binary dichotomy between knowing nothing and knowing everything. We just try to be less wrong.

    “Lamarck of the gaps” is just as valid as claiming “Darwin of the gaps.”

    Nonsense and a disservice to Lamark. Lamark was a bona fide scientist who did not have information about genetics and inheritance that we have today. Had he possessed that information (or some inkling of it) he could have been the icon we look back to rather than Charles Darwin.

  38. Alan Fox: Nonsense and a disservice to Lamark. Lamark was a bona fide scientist who did not have information about genetics and inheritance that we have today. Had he possessed that information (or some inkling of it) he could have been the icon we look back to rather than Charles Darwin.

    Great.

    How is knowledge inherited again?

    Oh, right, no idea…one day.

    Charles Darwin, the icon of the onedayers.

  39. phoodoo: How is knowledge inherited again?

    Have I claimed knowledge is inherited? I do think innate behaviours are heritable and the heritable vehicle can only be DNA sequences. Some very basic instincts are controlled by hormones. Hormones are proteins and protein synthesis takes information from DNA sequences to produce those proteins, so those are heritable. There can be a cascade of hormone production, stimulation or repression of other hormones. There’s an extensive literature showing the current state of research. Here is a fairly recent paper I found on a quick search looking at innate sexual behaviour.

  40. phoodoo:
    velikovskys,

    One day… the explanation will be better than,…a random copying error that makes you freak out over the sound of running water

    I expect, there are already better explanations what motivates beavers. But that explanation is certainly compatible with design. No unlikely copying error ,the designer just designed beavers to be freaked out somehow. Of course , the designer had to design the sound of running water ,too. And gravity and water and certain varieties of trees. Sounds like a designer getting paid by the hour.

    so you accidentally start building fortresses that turn out,once again accidentally,to be useful

    Never thought of bunch of stuff blocking the flow of a creek as a fortress. It is worse than that, beaver ponds have certain geological requirements , the beavers need to have a surveying mutation as well. No problemo with design theory , all it takes is the design of a couple of ice ages , or at least the appearance of ice ages . After all geology does not factor in the whims of the Designer either.

    … not to mention the accidents for your teeth and tail.

    Don’t forget fur, the designer made that water pretty chilly.

    One day…. It won’t be this.

    Yes ,one day design theorists , having successfully debunked Evolution , will have finally have the time to fine tune the details of design theory. “In the beginning” or something like that.

  41. phoodoo: How is knowledge inherited again?

    Oh, right, no idea…one day.

    It seems only one group here has the honesty to say “I don’t know”.

    You’ve never opined on the subject of how knowledge is inherited. You presumably have an answer however, it was designed like that. Just like the amount of evil in the world is “just right” for whatever opaque purposes.

    Some people see no shame in saying I don’t know. Some people even get excited at the idea of being the first to know something, the thrill of discovery etc.

    Bitter much? Failed career was it? Wanted to change the world but found out that you just did not have what it takes?

    phoodoo: Charles Darwin, the icon of the onedayers.

    In 1000 years we’ll still speak of Darwin. Behe, Dembski, phoodoo – not so much. Just the last failings of the priesthood.

  42. Alan Fox: Nonsense and a disservice to Lamark. Lamark was a bona fide scientist who did not have information about genetics and inheritance that we have today. Had he possessed that information (or some inkling of it) he could have been the icon we look back to rather than Charles Darwin.

    I don’t think that’s right, as stated, because Darwin was no different than Lamarck with regard to what they knew (and didn’t know) about genetics and inheritance.

    The conceptual difference between Lamarck and Darwin could be put as follows. For Lamarck, the problem of how to understand biological evolution is still a problem of transitions between types of organisms. He proposes that individual effort accumulates over time, eventually producing a new type. (Interestingly, I learned yesterday that one reason why Lamarck’s theory wasn’t widely embraced at the time was that it became immediately clear that his theory couldn’t explain biological evolution in plants!)

    By contrast, Darwin’s conceptual breakthrough was a rejection of typological thinking entirely: on his understanding of species, there simply is no deep, interesting, metaphysical difference between differences within a species and differences between species. Ernst Mayr calls this Darwin’s “populationist thinking,” and says that it’s this which really distinguishes Darwin from everyone else in the 19th century who accepted biological evolution but couldn’t see how exactly it worked.

  43. Kantian Naturalist: I don’t think that’s right, as stated, because Darwin was no different than Lamarck with regard to what they knew (and didn’t know) about genetics and inheritance.

    Sure but I only meant that had Lamarck some inkling that evolution was fixed in indivdual organisms and variation happens at reproduction, then his hypothesis would have preceded Darwin by at least 40 years. I accept Darwin did not know what the vehicle of inheritance was but his idea of “gemmules” wasn’t ludicrous.

  44. Kantian Naturalist: I learned yesterday that one reason why Lamarck’s theory wasn’t widely embraced at the time was that it became immediately clear that his theory couldn’t explain biological evolution in plants!)

    Yes, I can see the difficulty. I believe Lamarck’s ideas on evolution weren’t particularly noted at the time and were revived and popularized by opponents of Darwinian evolution after “Origin”‘s publication.

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