Leave it Raw

Epistemologists, among others, often fall into the trap or expecting dispositions to have uniform exercises. For instance, when they recognise that the verbs ‘know’ and ‘believe’ are ordinarily used dispositionally, they assume that there must therefore exist one-pattern intellectual processes in which these cognitive disposi- tions are actualised. Flouting the testimony of experience, they postulate that, for example, a man who believes that^the earth is round must from time to time be going through some unique proceeding of cognising, judging’, or internally re-asserting, with a feeling ofconfidence, ‘The earth is round’. In fact, ofcourse, people do not harp on statements in this way, and even if they did do so and even if we knew that they did, we still should not be satisfied that they believed that the earth was round, unless we also found them inferring, imagining, saying and dbing a great number of other things as well. If we found them inferring, imagining, saying and doing these other tilings, we should be satisfied that they believed the earth to be round, even if we had the best reasons for thinking that they never internally harped on the original statement at all. However often and stoutly a skater avers to us or to himself, that the ice will bear, he shows that he has his qualms, if he keeps to the edge of the pond, calls his children away from the middle, keeps his eye on the life-belts or continually speculates what would happen, if the ice broke.

—Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind (via philphys)

(via philphys-deactivated20120616)

Many people were scandalized — some still are — at both ideas, evolution and natural selection. Our ancestors looked at the elegance of life on Earth, at how appropriate the structures of organisms are to their functions, and saw evidence for a Great Designer. The simplest one-celled organism is a far more complex machine than the finest pocket watch. And yet pocket watches do not spontaneously self-assemble, or evolve, in slow stages, on their own, from, say, grandfather clocks. A watch implies a watchmaker. There seemed to be no way in which atoms and molecules could somehow spontaneously fall together to create organisms of such awesome complexity and subtle functioning as grace every region of the Earth. That each living thing was specially designed, that one species did not become another, were notions perfectly consistent with what our ancestors with their limited historical records knew about life. The idea that every organism was meticulously constructed by a Great Designer provided a significance and order to nature and an importance to human beings that we crave still. A Designer is a natural, appealing and altogether human explanation of the biological world. But, as Darwin and Wallace showed, there is another way, equally appealing, equally human and far more compelling: natural selection, which makes the music of life more beautiful as the aeons pass.
The fossil evidence could be consistent with the idea of a Great Designer; perhaps some species are destroyed when the Designer becomes dissatisfied with them, and new experiments are attempted on an improved design. But this notion is a little disconcerting. Each plant and animal is exquisitely made; should not a supremely competent Designer have been able to make the intended variety from the start? The fossil record implies trial and error, an inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with an efficient Great Designer (although not with a Designer of a more remote and indirect temperament).

Carl Sagan (Cosmos, Chapter II, p. 18, 19)

(Source: academicatheism, via detoxyourmind)