<video snipped on request>
From the video description:
<redacted> TEDx presentation speaks to the debate over innovation of ideas specifically regarding evolution, creation and intelligent design. He asks whether or not science can have the courage to work together with philosophy and religion or worldview to discover where humanity is headed and presents the idea of human extension as a way to promote human dignity, cooperation, altruism and flourishing instead of Darwinian dehumanisation, conflict and struggle.
Apparently all you need to do is post the URL on its own line.
OK. I’ll try that next time.
Consider me underwhelmed by that presentation.
You weren’t intrigued by zoocentric misanthropy?
To be fair, I’m posting on a tablet and have only watched the first few minutes. So I will only post about the segment on the teaching of evolution.
My son’s sixth grade science teacher asserted that snakes do not have bones. I can only say that she was not an atheist and probably not an evolutionist.
Science education can suck for many reasons, but I suspect the most common reason is that teachers don’t know much about science.
Hmmm. I’m pretty sure this is actually “PowerPoint Roulette”, which I quite enjoy. Greg seems to have a Chopra-esque strategy to slides he’s never seen before, and this works quite well for him. Moderate coherence is achieved in some parts. I think I may too try this gambit although I’ll be throwing around “quantum” and this sort of thing:
Then I must acknowledge that the concept of human extension was beyond my grasp. However, I did come to the realization that Marshall McLuhan was a highfalutin bullshit artist. Gregory wouldn’t model himself after that multifariously defunct Canuck, would he?
The following is not a parody. It is my best attempt to summarize, without embellishment, what Gregory actually says in the video.
If you haven’t watched the video, then do. You’ll see that I’m not joking or exaggerating.
1. High jumping: It takes courage to jump backward when everyone else is jumping forward.
2. Specialists often don’t talk to each other in the “multiversity”.
3. Let’s put the “uni” back in “university” and balance the spheres of science, philosophy, and religion.
4. Make dialogue, not war.
5. Are we forced to choose sides between evolution, creation, and intelligent design?
6. The scientific view is that early humans came from Africa, which is cold and damp. They had humps on their backs and dragged their wives around by their hair.
7. This is taught in public schools in Canada.
8. Russians’ views on evolution differ from ours in the West. One example: A girl sued the education ministry in 2006 to get them to teach creationism.
9. Does the theory of evolution overreach itself? Yes — 392 TED talks use the word ‘evolution’ in their titles.
10. Gregory’s Eureka moment — how to solve the conflict between evolution and creation.
11. V vs X.
12. Darwin’s bifurcating tree vs Klimt’s bifurcating tree with spiral branches. The latter is non-western.
13. Normal perspective vs reverse perspective. We can apply the latter to evolution.
14. Marshall McLuhan: All human artifacts are extensions of man.
15. Do we need courage to face the ideology of evolutionism? How can we do it?
16. Darwinism is about competition, conflict, struggle, survival of the fittest.
17. Today we can speak of cooperation, collaboration, mutual aid.
18. Victorian England: people spoke of ‘civilized’ vs ‘primitive’, ‘savage’
19. Today: ‘people are people’
20. Human Extension Axiom 1: All human-made things extend from human choices.
21. Human Extension Axiom 2: Nothing human-made ‘evolves’ into being/becoming.
22. Dobzhansky: “Biological evolution has instilled in us no ethics and no ability to discriminate between good and evil.”
23. Why do we look to biological evolution as a foundation for our ethics? We need another way. That’s the idea behind Human Extension.
24. What to look for: things that don’t evolve; things that extend; rehumanization after Darwinian dehumanization.
25. Then we can talk about human rights, human dignity, human flourishing, human altruism.
26. Steve Fuller: zoocentric misanthropy
27. It’s not an evolutionary process; we do have choice.
28. Human Extension: a new kind of high jump strategy for science, philosophy and religion dialogue.
It’s an avalanche of misconceptions and nonsequiturs.
My favorites are 6, 7, and 12. I strongly suspect that 6 isn’t part of the Canadian public school curriculum — Bruce will weigh in, I’m sure 🙂 — but rather that the young Gregory was influenced by a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons and comic books.
Number 12 is wonderful. It reminds me of Denyse O’Leary’s splendid confusion over evolutionary trees:
Close your eyes, channel Darwin, and you will suddenly know that this is a Tree of Life, not a circle (her caption on a tree drawn with a circular layout)
Was this back in 2012? So I’d be curious to know how Gregory’s thinking has evolved between then and now?
“Fosbury later recallled, ‘I knew I had to change my body position and that’s what started first the revolution, and over the next two years, the evolution.’ At first [as a sophomore], he tried to use a technique known as the upright scissors method. […] As he began to experiment with this technique, he gradually adapted it to make himself more comfortable and to get more height out of it. […] Gradually, Fosbury shifted his positioning during the jump, such that by his senior year he had begun to go over the bar backwards, head-first, curving his body over the bar and kicking his legs up in the air at the end of the jump.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Fosbury [emphasis added]
My public school experience happened in the 60s, not the 80s like Gregory’s, and I don’t remember much from that far back, nor did I keep any drawings. But the current Ontario public school standards are available online, and Gregory is correct in saying that only scientific theories can be taught in biology classes (even in the publicly-funded (!) Catholic schools). But I do recall that when I went to high school there were social science courses that talked about alternative world views (remember, this was the late 60s).
I agree the presentation ranges over many topics, but I personally am not interested in discussing the use of PowerPoint (I also had no interest in the discussion of Bronowski’s presentation style — that is just me, of course).
I think most people here would agree with the theory that the concepts of biological evolution can be misunderstood and misapplied to social domains, eg, Social Darwinism. So there does not seem to be much to discuss there (point 23). And there is already a recent, related thread on Scruton, biology, altruism.
I was hoping that Gregory would talk more about point 25. What should be the ground rules of conversations among scientists, philosophers, theologians. Is the scientific consensus on topics like evolution to be taken as a given where factual input to the conversation is needed? Is it acceptable to appeal to dogmatic assertions put forward by a single religion? What exactly can philosophers contribute?
These are the questions that interest me. (My answers would be (Edit:) Yes; no; rules setting, refereeing, historical context).
(I do thank Gregory for his reminder of Debbie Brill; all red-blooded Canadian teenage males appreciated her contribution to high jump methodology).
Of course Gregory goes much further than that, saying that the view expressed in his 1986 mini-essay is the scientific view, and that this view is taught in the Canadian public schools. It’s absurd, and I had to listen to that part of the video a couple of times to convince myself that Gregory really makes that claim. He does.
I do think there’s something important to say about that point. Most people, including me, do not look to biological evolution as a foundation for our morals. I think that morals ultimately have a biological explanation, but not a biological foundation.
I would be interested in hearing Gregory explain how his Human Extension axioms are applied in practice:
Axiom 1 seems compatible with “evolutionism”. I have no idea what Axiom 2 means.
It would be interesting to see those axioms in action, applied to a specific scenario and contrasted with that same scenario viewed through the lens of “evolutionism”.
I gave Gregory the benefit of the doubt, and took him as being deliberately ironic at that point.
The video link I see is to a debate with the resolution “Death Is Not Final”. No one named Gregory appears to be involved.
It’s working for me. Perhaps a browser cache issue?
What a disjointed mish-mash of scientific illiteracy, ridiculous mischaracterization of actual social concepts, and new age psycobabble. I lost track of how many times he equivocated between the different meanings of the word evolution.
I am glad however to have confirmation of my previous opinion of Gregory’s competence based on the previous blithering drivel he’s posted here.
A refresh fixed it. I wonder how that other one, which I’ve never seen, ended up there.
I was intrigued to hear (apparently from McLuhan via Gregory) that the shift from evolution to technology occurred in 1957 with Sputnik. I was a high school student then, so I remember that event. It was a shock for the American self-image and led to more science funding and science education. On the whole a Good Thing.
Thing is, humans had all sorts of stuff before then, such as jet planes, atomic bombs, rockets, electronics, and even soft ice cream. I’d call it technology, but Gregory seems to have a different perspective.
Gregory is also very concerned to vindicate new perspectives originating from The East. (Interestingly enough, from where I live, to get to The East you have to head west.) He does mention the name of Theodosius Dobzhansky. Dobzhansky’s book Genetics and The Origin of Species was first published in 1937 and was the first, and arguably most influential, exposition of the Modern Synthesis. Dobzhansky was a Russian-speaking Ukrainian, and Gregory does cite him as important in bringing about the Modern Synthesis. Lots of present-day evolutionary biologists are busy defending that Modern Synthesis against intellectual self-promoters. If we can get Gregory to consider evolutionary biology sufficiently Eastern, perhaps he can help us.
Like Neil, I took a charitable view and interpreted it as self-deprecating irony. I assumed he was not proposing that a single child’s initial view of evolution was an accurate reflection of what the schools were teaching about evolution. YMMV.
I was not sure how to take his comment to the effect that only the scientific view was being taught and not religious views. That is, I don’t know if he meant that this should be considered a bad thing.
With the proviso that “most people” refers to “most knowledgeable people” I agree and that was the point I was making about Social Darwinism. That specter seems to haunt creationists caricatures of evolution only and does not seem to be worth discussing here. (Why creationists keep using that ploy and what that says about the audience they are trying to influence is a different question and possibly one of interest).
I also agree there is much of importance to be said about morals beyond biology. To me, that would be one of the topics for the conversations between scientists, philosophers, and theologians that Gregory mentioned but did not spend a lot of time discussing.
The other one was part of this OP:
Sean Carroll and Steven Novella debate life after death with Eben Alexander and Raymond Moody
It defeats Gregory’s purpose if you take it as irony. His slide is entitled “Human Evolution in Public School (CAN)”, and he is criticizing the schools for teaching what he considers to be “the scientific view”. That criticism is effective only to the extent that the young Gregory’s views actually coincide with the scientific view.
If his criticism had been of the poor quality of Canadian science education, he wouldn’t have faulted schools for teaching “the scientific view”, but rather for distorting it.
I wouldn’t say distorting it. I would say perverting it. I would also guess that the stuff in Gregory’s slide appears nowhere in any curriculum guide or textbook.
Of course non of you have the necessary HPSS background.
I’m not going to speculate further on Gregory’s purposes. I will let Gregory speak for himself on this topic, if he so chooses.
I hope he’ll join the discussion. I don’t think any of us can tell, from that presentation, what Human Extension is or how it is supposed to reconcile evoloution, creation and intelligent design.
I did buy his book ( $4.35 at Amazon ). I’ll report back if it clears up any mysteries for me.
There’s no need to speculate. Gregory himself makes it clear. He reads his 1986 mini-essay and then states:
Ridiculous? Yes, but it’s not out of line with other statements that Gregory has made.
I think it’s fair to ask Gregory
1. If he thinks this is science
2. If he thinks this was ever part of an officially approved curriculum
I’ve always found Gregory coy about presenting his views at TSZ, but his userid links to his blog and you can search it for “Human Extension.” You may want to try that as a warmup for the book.
The one article I tried there seemed to me to be written for an academic audience trained in sociology. As best I understood it, the human extension idea appeared to be a counter to certain sociologists who were (mistakenly, in Gregory’s view) trying to apply concepts abstracted from biological evolution to change in human society. I could not understand the details of the issue or the response because I know nothing of academic sociology.
I’ll be interested to hear if Steve Fuller’s forward to the book means the book agrees with some of Fuller’s ideas on ID and the nature of science. Gregory has always come across here as anti-ID, at least ID in the way it is used by the political movement in the US that Fuller testified for.
Though I am flattered that someone would highlight as a single thread the TEDx talk I gave in 2012, sadly I don’t think that it was featured here in good faith. (E.g. the thread’s author can’t even get the institution’s name right where the event was held.)
One shouldn’t expect computer programmers to be up-to-date or even well-informed about theories in social sciences and humanities. It does Tom English no credit to playfully abuse one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century simply because he did not understand him. Many others saw in Marshall McLuhan an amazing scholar who challenged what we realise about ourselves in the electronic-information era, founder of communications and media studies and ‘sage of the wired age’ (Wired magazine’s ‘patron saint’). But calling bullshit on pretentious programmers (who think they know a lot more than they actually do) is a rather boring pastime.
This link will help you to explore ‘human extension,’ although the topic of the interview was more the ‘extended mind’ thesis and we spoke very little about ‘human extension’ (more is still to come on that).
Another source for readers is available here.
Regarding the PowerPoint, due to time constraints they didn’t include my final version (available here), just the pre-event version. But if the major critique of the talk is the PowerPoint, to me that’s a sign of unwillingness to face the implications of ideas.
BruceS’s comments seem to me most appropriate.
Regarding “What should be the ground rules of conversations among scientists, philosophers, theologians” – the first step is simply that such conversations should happen. I’ll be listening and speaking at a conference this week on the topic. Do you participate in these kinds of conversations, BruceS? Atheists are usually welcome at the table as long as they are not trying to hide behind the idea that ‘science inevitably leads to atheism,’ which is by now a broadly discredited position.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with the ‘scientific consensus’ regarding biological (geological or even cosmological) evolution as long as it does not exaggerate into ideology, which is plainly evident in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, among other fields. Biological evolution is quite innocent and simple, aside from the ‘Darwinism’ that over-reaches into an argument for atheism or agnosticism, i.e. anti-theology. Most serious scholars in science, philosophy, theology/worldview discourse are not as frantic as IDists and nothing like the caricature provided by people like YEC Robert Byers (shame in Toronto!) here.
To JoeF, who writes “I’d call it technology, but Gregory seems to have a different perspective.”
Yes, those all qualify as ‘technologies’ according to McLuhan. The Sputnik reference is a symbol or signpost, if you will. The ‘shift’ McLuhan referred to was from biology to technology or communication. This indicates something I’ve said here (too many times already); human-made things differ from ‘natural’ things and thus require a different ‘language’ of study. That is what Human Extension was ‘designed’ for.
In regard to “morals beyond biology” one needs to involve more than just physicalists or ‘sceptics’ especially when ‘norms’ are involved. Indeed, if you pick and choose guests at your morality conversation ‘table,’ how many people here would include theologians, rabbis, mullahs or other religious leaders who have been paramount in history on this topic? The question here is willingness to engage, rather than haughtiness and dismissal by anti-theists and agnostics.
As for questions around what is taught in Canadian public schools about ‘Human Origins,’ the 1986 paper was part of the curriculum and you can see the results. There is no need to make an apology for it or even explain it, especially not to USAmericans who are quite obviously far behind the rest of the world on acceptance of biological evolution. ‘keiths’ (hiding behind his pseudonym) is simply irrelevant to serious conversation on this topic, but he will of course protest pretending to be a giant without showing any work he’s actually done in public.
Re: Debbie Brill, you are welcome BruceS – she was an amazing athlete. I met her several times and she did ‘coach’ me from a distance, though we lived in different towns. About the “red-blooded Canadian teenage males,” well, the ‘Brill Bend’ was indeed a phenomenon! 😉 She’s quite down-to-earth to speak with; nevertheless elevation is inevitably part of her story
p.s. I’m not interested in discussing ‘evolutionary biology,’ though perhaps JoeF will start a thread about Kozo-Polyansky’s symbiogenesis and Lynn Margulis’ dabbling in ‘eastern’ biology if that is something he knows about. For me, Human Extension is far more interesting that any theory in biology’s history.
Fair enough. You’ll find out sooner than later. And Fuller is not an ‘IDist’ either. He did not testify on behalf of political IDism. Academic freedom is another topic entirely, which the IDM is exploiting for its own benefit.
p.s. I do try to write non-academic sociology texts and apparently succeed in that sometimes. It’s much easier in conversation than in professional publications that require following certain scholarly rules. I don’t think one needs to be trained in social sciences to recognize there are (many) ‘things that don’t evolve’ and that artefacts provide a clear example of this.
I’m a retired IT manager who is using some of his retirement time to learn some philosophy. So I don’t attend academic conferences. If the one you are speaking at is pitched at a layperson’s level, then I’d be interested in viewing recordings of talks or reading transcripts.
For the testimony reference, I was thinking of the Kitzmiller trial. By political IDism in the US, I meant the attempts by the ID movement there to influence the science curriculum at public schools through school boards and legislatures. I don’t know much about Muller beyond Wikipedia and an article or two he has written for the popular press, but he does seem from those sources to be in favor of some form of ID being included in science.
Not just included in science, but taught in schools as part of an “affirmative action strategy with regard to disadvantaged theories”.
From Fuller’s testimony in the Dover trial:
Repeating my earlier comment:
Gregory makes so many basic mistakes.
Some faiths make specific truth claims about origins that we now know are wrong.
There is nothing wrong us examining that, for it is not biology that is stepping on the toes of religion in this case – the reality existed long before the myths were fabricated.
“…how many people here would include theologians, rabbis, mullahs or other religious leaders who have been paramount in history on this topic? The question here is willingness to engage…”
“…‘keiths’ (hiding behind his pseudonym) is simply irrelevant to serious conversation on this topic..”
All are welcome around the Big Table(c) Except Keiths.
Gregory is stuck on credentialism. We’re more focused on the quality of argument. And that’s where the real schism lies.
Reminds me of the old lawyer’s aphorism: When the evidence is on your side, pound the evidence; when the law is on your side, pound the law; when neither is on your side, pound the table.
Substitute credentials for law.
Substitute rattling a bag of pejorative isms for pounding the table.
For all his emphasis on credentials, Gregory has none in any relevant field of science.
Regarding the proposed dialog between science and society, I regard science as a consultant who describes how things work, and not necessarily how things should be.
Consider a few current controversies:
2. GMO food crops
3. Global warming.
I consider any and all of these to be more important than how evolution is taught in school. I would be curious how philosophers and theologians would approach them.
I’m less interested in which side people are on than I am on how they propose to talk about them and how they would go about deciding on policy.
Leaving Margulis and Kozo-Polyansky aside (I’ve met Lynn Margulis a number of times but never heard of K-P), I am surprised that Gregory does not want to discuss evolutionary biology. When he says things in the TEDx talk such as
I find it hard to interpret that as anything but a discussion of evolutionary biology. This sounds too much like Gregory saying “Am I forced to discuss the subjects I have raised?”
I understand that Gregory’s central concern is the ways “evolution” is used, or misused, in areas outside of evolutionary biology, particularly in discussions of human cultural, social, and technological change. But if he does not want to discuss evolutionary biology itself, perhaps he should issue a clearer disclaimer.
I suppose if you don’t want to take sides you can’t discuss the topic.
Why is it that taking sides is undesirable?
The link seems not to work anymore?
You’re right. The link no longer works, and the book appears to have been pulled from Amazon. Searching Amazon for ‘Gregory Sandstrom’ or ‘Human Extension’ yields no matches.
I wonder if this is related to Amazon’s fight with Hachette?
I don’t think so. Gregory’s book appears to be self-published and is (or was) only available in e-book form.
Gregory, do you know why your book is no longer available on Amazon?
Do you still have the book on your Kindle? Or did they pull that, too?
I still have it, but I also have the WiFi turned off on my Kindle, so they couldn’t remove the book even if they tried.
ETA: I checked using Kindle Cloud Reader on my PC, and the book is still there in my online library. It appears that they’re not yanking existing copies, just not selling any new ones.