Wise Wittgenstein

This is part of an illustration – altered to feature different text – by Dave Mckean on p102 of Richard Dawkins’ The Magic of Reality:

McKean proves to be an imaginative illustrator, caricaturist, draughtsman, digital manipulator, portrait artist, cartographer, graphic designer, comic strip creator and storyboarder – and intriguingly, though undoubtedly under pressure of time he never resorts to duplication of even seemingly insignificant details, instead rotating their perspective and shadowing or otherwise varying them to fit a slightly different sequential context.

For example, in the picture above you can see the chairs are not mirror images of each other in any aspect.  The book itself is very readable, though surprisingly has no introduction to the brain or the nature of consciousness, understandable perhaps if Dawkins considers their natural offshoot – the phenomenon of spirituality – as merely an erroneous extrapolation of ancient myth.

The original text details Ludwig Wittgenstein’s discussion with a pupil of his about the justification for man’s persistent error in thinking that the Sun revolved around the Earth being simply because it looked that way.

But I find the argument surprisingly portable – perhaps because although Earth-centric thinking has long since been corrected, the way in which even highly educated people think has not changed at all!


About iain carstairs

I have a great interest in both scientific advances and the beauty of religion, and created www.scienceandreligion.com about 15 years ago with the aim of finding common ground between the scientist and the believer, and to encourage debate between the two sides.
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2 Responses to Wise Wittgenstein

  1. Paul says:

    What would it look like if intelligence WAS behind the creation of the natural world? Different! Very different! For example our physiology would be much better. The optic nerve would leave the eye from the correct side as it does in the octopus. The laryngeal nerve would go straight from the brain to the larynx rather than detour around the heart (in a giraffe that is even more ludicrous: about 20 times longer than it needs to be!) This is why there’s no good reason to assume a god designed us. There is a lack of intelligence behind evolution – only blind processes operate, not because they ‘want to’ but simply because they can.

    • We don’t know why the layrngeal nerve is aligned the way it is – for all we know it could contain a timing mechanism based on the length of time a nerve impulse travels around it. But every “junk design” idea presented so far has turned out to be incorrect; the eye is one example, but “junk DNA” is another embarrassing one, in the light of the systems information approach now adopted in genetics.

      Then there’s the appendix – snip it out! It’s a vestigial organ. Well, no.. it’s a reboot mechanism for the digestive system, a farm of bacterial types which, after a digestive crisis, repopulates the gut. Apologies to all who had their snipped out routinely while the doctors were in there doing something else! Or the tonsils – useless! Ah, well, as it turns out, not really.. the first line of defence of the lymph system as it happens!

      It seems if one starts with the worldview that the human being is an integral system, none of these mistakes would have been made. We would simply have assumed that the reason we couldn’t see a function of an element was our incomplete knowledge, instead of assuming we knew everything and therefore we were burdned with useless spare parts. This is a big, big difference in worldview.

      I’m surprised anyone can look at the stunning design of the brain – encased for safety in several layers of protection – which is so complicated that efforts to simplify and understand it have all, so far, failed (we don’t even know how physical energy is converted to mental energy) and still say it evolved randomly. From the dust of the Earth!

      So as for the laryngeal nerve. I’m betting on our lack of understanding on that one. All these criticisms of the human design sound a bit like a person living in a five star, luxurious hotel room and finding a small cupboard in a corner which they can’t open.. and then claiming the whole room is shoddily designed!

      The genome is packed with information; which is whypeople are trying to decipher it. If it were all random, there would be no point in trying to make order out of it. And how can error-detection machinery (of which there are many examples on many levels, and specific machinery to carry out repairs) arise because of errors? It doesn’t even make sense.

      Nobody in the chance-design set seems able to answer a very good, basic question: can you please show us an example of a mutation which has increased the information in the genome?

      I’d be delighted to feature the answer in an article, because I@ve been puzzling over this one a long time.

      Stay well!

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