on the relativity of reason

November 26th, 2006

Richard Dawkins is a popular crusader for Darwinism and at that, of course, a highly controversial figure. I have actually found everything I've heard him say to be entirely reasonable and meaningful. This clip I found on youtube is not to do with Darwin vs religion, however, it is centered on consequences of evolution in all kinds of ways. It's remarkable, because the examples and explanations he gives are things that I instinctively strongly feel to be true, I just have not heard them articulated by anyone before. The notion that humans live in a physical world suitable to our scale, scaled to our bodies, and that this is the reason why we find it so hard to comprehend both the micro scale and the macro scale. I actually wrote an essay dealing with these two extremes in high school, so I completely recognize the proposition and in terms of evolution it also seems highly logical that this should be the case.

In other words, what we find to be true and false is not in relation to some absolute, objective truth, because there is no such truth. What we find to be true is only a product of our evolutionarily shaped minds, as they have been to survive in the climate we find ourselves in. And that is the essence of one of my strongest instincts, in fact. So another entity equipped with what we call "reasoning ability", having evolved in a vastly different climate, would conceivably not share any of our conclusions or views about the physical world, because that world would be different. Physics and mathematics are not absolute sciences, they are sciences relative to us. Observable, verifiable phenomena we observe and we verify. So if something seems to be impossible, does it mean it really is? Or is it simply "not possible" within our grasp of reason.

Which, in essence, is why our definition of intelligent life is quite broken in my view.

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1 Responses to "on the relativity of reason"

  1. erik says:

    I agree, but it's a can of worms. If we want to maintain a liveable and workable atmosphere we need to set limits and give things names that are a little naive ("intelligent life" being one of them). It keeps things understandable, for lack of a better word. That said, we need at all times be aware that we impose limits based on what our limited senses perceive and that our limits aren't necessarily fixed limited.

    I find most religious people I know enjoy dismissing that little tidbit.