June 20, 2006
147 YEARS TO ARRIVE BACK AT "IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD...":
Physicist and computer scientist W. Daniel Hillis has noted:
"Notions like Selfish Genes, memes, and extended phenotypes are powerful and exciting. They make me think differently. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time arguing against people who have overinterpreted these ideas. They're too easily misunderstood as explaining more than they do. So you see, this Dawkins is a dangerous guy. Like Marx. Or Darwin."
Part of Dawkins' danger is his emphasis on models derived from cybernetics and information theory, and that such models, when applied to our ideas of life, and in particular, human life, strike some otherwise intelligent people numb and dumb with fear and terror. Some have called the cybernetic idea the most important in 2000 years...since the idea of Jesus Christ. And that would make it one of the most dangerous ideas.
Pinker eloquently writes about how information theory fits into Dawkins' ideas, and implies why some may find these ideas troubling:
"Dawkins’s emphasis on the ethereal commodity called “information” in an age of biology dominated by the concrete molecular mechanisms is another courageous stance. There is no contradiction, of course, between a system being understood in terms of its information content and it being understood in terms of its material substrate. But when it comes down to the deepest understanding of what life is, how it works, and what forms it is likely to take elsewhere in the universe, Dawkins implies that it is abstract conceptions of information, computation, and feedback, and not nucleic acids, sugars, lipids, and proteins, that will lie at the root of the explanation."
These guys are nothing if not amusing. They analogize their faith to computer programming and then become apoplectic when the ID crowd analogizes theirs to a programmer or programmers. Posted by Orrin Judd at June 20, 2006 5:18 PM