Tag Archives: John Bargh

Darwin has a Blog

Alright, well maybe old Chuck Darwin isn’t really blogging, but the Cambridge University Library is making available previously cloistered material from the father of evolutionary theory. Darwin’s notes for On The Origin of Species, as well as 20K more pieces of archive material are available at Darwin-Online.

As far as science goes, The Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection is as close as I’ve seen to Law (in scientific nomenclature). No other theory has produced such robust fields of knowledge, while easily accommodating seemingly unexplainable phenomena. I’m not here to argue science’s validity and value here, and won’t, only to say that if it wasn’t for the development of modern scientific methodology we would still be drinking the cholera water, living a shitty life in a one-room hovel, eating out of a trough with 10-35 of your cousins and layabouts, killing and getting killed fairly randomly, etc. etc. etc. They definitely didn’t have live-strong bracelets and designer jeans, coffee and chocolate, speed-dating and twitter.

The danger with with science is, of course, when it is misunderstood as an ideology with content. Science doesn’t have content, or a “body”, of presumptions and non-critical beliefs. It’s a hollow methodology used to find out what we don’t know, in the hopes that we might learn something sometime. And a hollow methodology is exactly what is required when dealing with homo sapiens, primates with extended pre-frontal cortexes, who basically make all decisions and movements based on unconscious machinations (not like Freud, like Bargh), socioeco-structural shaping, and marketing pressures (peer or otherwise).

What does all that mean for us moving forward? Fucked if I know. But, speaking personally, it lets me move through the world and really grasp just how beautifully imperfect everyone is, how impressive it is we can live alongside large groups of strange animals without killing and harming them that often, and every once in a while connect with someone else in a way other primates and animals can’t do. Evolution and science taught me that we’re all so close genetically, that biologically-speaking, the ability to empathize with almost anyone is almost a certainty if you can empathize with yourself. Evolution took away my fear of mortality, as well, because I’m sure I’m an animal, part of this whole (little) cycle we have going on on Earth, and it doesn’t require any level of faith or miracles. I fit here, if only for a brief spell. If religion gets you through the night, connects you with family and friends, than it has definitely achieved its goal, and I’m always glad to see someone comfortable in their own beliefs, no matter how far they are from mine.

For a great contemporary look at Evolutionary Theory, check Dan Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. Dennett rules, I’ve read almost everything he’s written, and DDI made clear for me some issues of probability, determinism, and just how the hell all this might have emerged.

Origin of Species