Category: On Philosophy

Intelligent design or infinite monkeys On reading the first dialogues of Hume, I found myself drawn into the argument of the existence of a supreme designer, especially as I was watching Our Planet  on Netflix in parallel.  But during my travels I thought about it vis a vis evolution and was less convinced. This also came out in the later dialogues with Philo’s skepticism. Thinking about it further, we look at nature and its offering essentially at a point in time.  But nature is continuously moving and changing.   To use analogies like that of a well designed watch is wrong, as the watch is a final product and thus has a defined final design. Anything in nature is just it’s current design at that point of time.  So when we look at something spectacular in nature, we cannot thus conclude it was created by intelligent design, but rather that it is part of a continuous process of design improvement that nature is carrying out that has lasted for an almost infinite amount of time and will continue forever.  Thus, there is no deliberate design, and thus a result of the design. I assume this thought essentially describes what we call evolution. If we take the beginning of life itself and it just keeps taking billions and billions of different arrangements randomly, for which all it needs is time, the abundance of which nature had, the result will be many variations of life form, some which will survive, some which will not – and this just continues. So now I find myself in a position in which I am skeptical of an intelligent designer by looking at nature.  However, could it be that the evolutionary process is the intelligent design or is that just the result of randomness of very large numbers (remember the theory of infinite monkeys with typewriters and infinite time will create Shakespeare’s writings).  I am left completely questioning the intelligent design view.

The last generation

free worldwide dating sites Samuel Scheffler’s article “The Importance of the Afterlife. Seriously.” NYU Law Magazine, 2014, describes a scenario from P.D. James’s novel Children of Men, in which humans are inflicted with irreversible infertility and there is no one under the age 25 on earth.  James says that this would likely produce widespread depression, anxiety and despair making some people seek consolation and some to take pleasure in whatever they can – although it would all have the backdrop of sadness and pain.

However, I believe the impact on humans is conditional on the demographics of the existing population.  If the youngest people alive are still near 25, then theoretically there is still a large population of people that have many years to live.  Given our actions tend to be relatively short term focused, there would be many not drawn into despair and will continue to give importance to their activities and projects.  However, if the youngest population was say over 60, it would definitely be a different scenario and all activity would seem total unimportant and futile and there would be widespread depression as everyone just waits for the demise of the human race.

But do assume that the population is currently like the former. It would change most people’s perspective on their activities, but not necessarily make them stop due to the feeling of lack of importance.  Many of our activities revolve around our children and their children.  Creating homes and wealth to pass on; gaining wisdom and knowledge to transfer to them.  All such activities would become totally futile and lose their importance completely.  But the projects and activities that are for ourselves, for our own personal experience and fulfillment – should not be compromised. It will still be a joy to travel around the world and experience nature, it will still be fulfilling to create art and music. We see these activities as part of our life on this earth. This should apply to those who believe in the after life as well as those who don’t.  If you don’t, then you seek these activities for personal satisfaction while alive. If you believe in the after life, you may believe that the after life if not dependent on our material bodies on this material earth and thus the lack of fertility does not matter and our souls will still continue somewhere, somehow, benefitting from the rich experiences we gained while alive.

But then I think of my mother. A famous poet and writer (who passed away recently). It was extremely important that she left an enduring legacy on this planet with her writings so that generations to come could enjoy it. That was her stamp on humanity which created her personal sense of immortality.  If the scenario above happened in her lifetime, there is no doubt she would lose all importance of the value of her writing and fall into deep despair.

While my former argument is based on the assumption that human individualism will allow most to continue to find value in our activities, Mr. Scheffler believes these assumptions are oversimplified and that removing the assumption of an ongoing humanity, the confidence in our purpose will erode .  But from the latter example of my mother, clearly Mr. Scheffler is correct insofar if a person’s purpose is undeniably dependent on the existence of future generations.

On Wisdom

If wisdom is innate, then by definition, everyone is “wise” – just too different extents based on our knowledge, experience and how we have used both of these to gain wisdom.

So when it suggested that we ask ourselves the question, “…what would a wise man or woman do…,  it begs the question,  how do you define “a wise man or woman”.   If wisdom is innate, then the original question could really be “…what would  I do..”

Since there is no objective and definitive measure of “a wise man” how can we even begin to think of what a wise man would do.  You can get a Phd in Physics and you will be a expert in Physics – this is objective.  But wisdom is relative and omnipresent, if it is truly innate – so the question of what would a wise man of woman do is somewhat impossible or thus redundant.

I have also heard the saying “… everyone is born a genius..”   My interpretation of that has been that every child is born with the ability to learn, to grow, to achieve – given the right nurturing, environment etc.   So if wisdom is innate, then the realization and exposure of that internal wisdom in us, requires the learning from our life experiences.   But one could make the same argument for courage and love.  So why wouldn’t those be considered innate? Or is there some definition of the threshold of stimulation that is required to bring these out in us – which defines which are innate.  The lower the threshold, the more innate?

We often hear about “..a wise old man..”.  That should not be confused with an intelligent person or one with a lot of expertise or knowledge in one or many areas.  Wisdom come from experiences that we learn from and which make us a “better” human being.  The wisdom to discern right and wrong, good or evil, meaningful or meaningless, ethical or unethical and so on.  We are not taught these, they are developed from our experiences and thus the view that wisdom is innate.  But then would the lack of these experiences at any point mean that wisdom is not possible at that point?  Then maybe Locke is right is saying that when we are born we are like a clean slate, a blank canvas.   But maybe wisdom is still there – like white light of the blank canvas. Our experiences over time bring out the colors and vividness on the canvas – but it all started from the existence of an innate wisdom.

On Education

ONE of the several traits, and arguably the most important one, that sets humans apart from the animal kingdom, is our desire for knowledge.   Humans have always had the insatiable need to learn about and decipher the world around them.  The result of this is why we have houses with heating and air conditioning, the reason we can travel by air, the reason we have electricity, the reason we have conquered many disease, the reason we have cell phones and the internet, the reason we have functioning societies and legal frameworks,

Thus we must not belittle the value of learning.   Our schools provide the foundation of such education and learning to prepare us to explore and learn new things as we go through life.  While many children feel that school subjects are pointless and a bore, they actually all have a reason and a purpose.  The sciences help us understand and explain the world around us, the mathematics gives us a sense of order and objectiveness, social studies help us understand society and where we came from and how we got here, languages give us the ability to communicate better with those around us.

Education and learning thus should always be given a priority and importance in your life.  That being said, you may not like every topic or subject you are asked to study, but the only way for one to know what is interesting is to be exposed to many subjects.   The world is extremely complex, and various fields of learning are constantly overlapping and interacting with each other.  Psychologists sometimes need the logic of math; scientists need the philosophical insight and the businessman needs to understand cultures and traditions.  Thus exposure and learning of many subjects is important at the school level.

Obviously there are other traits which set us apart as humans – such as our desire to be creative in music, arts, writing etc and our ability to appreciate this creativity.  No other animal creates varieties of songs and music, shapes and forms, expressionism etc.  And thus the exploration of the creative side is also important.  There are others like the philosophical and the physical side as well.

All these go hand in hand and are not mutually exclusive and the exploration or emphasis on one should not compromise the other.   As we grow, we may tend to focus more on one area of the other and sometimes there may be limitations preventing us from exploring some of these areas – but as human beings we must try not to consciously ignore any of these traits during our lives.

So make sure learning and education remain a priority – make sure you give them their due and your best effort and attention.   If you make learning a part of your life, then you will not see it as a chore or a bother – it is just natural.