Peder has a great post over at Two Gits about his experience during the Dawkins talk last week. I have to agree with his overview. There was not much substance. It was very much a talk presented for the layperson. However, it was entertaining and I don't regret attending. I do regret not knowing that Peder and Nils would be there. Next time guys.
I think Peder describes the Archi-, Archae-, or Arche-, and Neo-purposes more succinctly than Dawkins himself.
He also poses some questions for Dawkins that he didn't get to ask. Since I doubt he's going to answer them, I thought I'd take a stab at 'em. Just for conversation's sake.
For the type of purpose that we can see in nature, the unconscious selections that nature has made through the survival of better adapted individuals and the passing on of their genes, he uses the term “archi-purpose”. The word “archi” being Greek for first or principal, it can also mean the earlier version, so all definitions apply here, I think.
For the type of purpose that we can see in human invention, deliberate creations that were meant to accomplish a goal, he uses the term “neo-purpose”. The word “neo” being Greek for new or recent.
Do we as humans, having subverted archi-purpose, exist outside of natural selection?Yes, and no. Certainly there are a number of situations in which we are able to avoid natural selection. Sick people that would die without medical care are able to survive and reproduce fairly regularly. However, it seems inevitable that we will run up against something that our technology can't conquer on it's own. We may find that we need to evolve or go extinct. As far as subverting our archi-purposes goes, those may be driving factors in natural selection. Our drive to eat fatty foods no longer serves us well. We are overweight, unhealthy, and die sooner because of the decisions we make based on this particular subversion of purpose. Will it result in less reproduction for those that have the greatest drive to eat high calorie foods? Maybe.
If not, what is the next step in human evolution?Let me hope that the next step is that those of us that are able to find solace in reason and seek peace (assuming these things have a genetic basis) outbreed those that find it all too easy to murder in the name of imaginary friends (more subversion of purpose). Unfortunately, educated non-religious people seem less willing to reproduce. This really doesn't seem to be helping the cause from the view of natural selection.
If evolution is a scientifically provable, it means we should be able to model or predict future steps in the ladder; what traits will be favored in future human species?I think that this may be theoretically possible but with very little accuracy. In reality there are just too many factors. I'm running into similar challenges in ecology. We can't even figure out why shallow lakes turn green and you want to know what the next step in human evolution will be? Good luck.
With out sounding like a fan of eugenics, does it look like we are headed in a positive direction? Can we do anything about it?Ahh, eugenics. It's not a swear word but it sure feels like it. My personal opinion is that approached reasonably some of the ideas behind eugenics are both feasible and beneficial. I may open this can of worms another day. So, are we headed in a positive direction? That depends on what you consider a positive direction. Can we do anything? Yes. Will we? Not likely.
How about other species?That's a bit broad. Maybe you can be a little more specific (get it?) and we can continue this one later.
Does the potential environmental disaster we are causing equate to any of the mass-extinction events in the earth’s past?Wow. That's a great question. I would say that currently it's not even close. Will it get there? Well, I don't have a lot of faith in mankind. I don't think we'll stop until it's too late. This is another question that warrants an entire post with much discussion if you're interested. I'll bring friends too.
Just because we are content living within our epoch, where nothing has changed much in our cultural memory, doesn’t mean that things can’t go completely haywire. Assuming we don’t nuke the planet down to molten rock, and even if we do, won’t the earth’s myriad species just adapt with time and move on–with or without us?Yep.
How do you deal with theist family members (Nils’s question)?I'd really have liked to hear how Dawkins responded to this one. I'm struggling with this myself. Some relatives are just fine with the fact that I'm an atheist. Some are worried. Some are upset. None understand it though. I just had a conversation with my mom last night about what an atheist is. I've never discussed it with my dad and doubt that I ever will. It's really varies between people. Let me know when you find a fool proof answer to this one.
It would be fun to continue this conversation if anyone is interested. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?