Sunday, May 10, 2009

23a Mary Midgley (1919 - ......)

The Financial Times praised her work as “commonsense philosophy of the highest order,” and she was characterized in the Guardian as “the most frightening philosopher in the country… the foremost scourge of scientific pretension.”

In recent years, she has found herself engaged in fierce public battles with Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, over what she deems to be their ideological approach to the story of evolution. When I visited, she was working on a pamphlet for teachers in British schools, to help explain the evolution v. creationism debate.

Midgley is a tall, formidable woman. I arrived at her home by train at four in the afternoon, and though I would be staying overnight, she requested that we begin the interview immediately.

We spoke for an hour and a half, after which she grew tired. Then she cooked us a vegetarian dinner. When I followed her into the kitchen and asked if I could help her with the preparations, she remarked, very drily, “It’s no use being helped.”

QUOTE FROM—Sheila Heti (February 2008) gley

For the "Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain" Mary Midgley wrote a pamphlet: "Intelligent Design and other ideological problems". Her pamphlet deals with one of the most pressing and controversial curricular issues in discussion in the UK today.

She critically discusses the role of Intelligent Design as a putative scientific theory and suggests that it does not have a place in the Science curriculum but may have a home in the Religious Education.

She also discusses the work of prominent advocates of natural selection and suggests that, although natural selection is, in essentials, a scientific research programme, it has accreted metaphysical doctrines through the interpretation of some commentators such as Richard Dawkins and is, therefore, not entirely unproblematic as a candidate for the Science curriculum.

Some of the claims of the supporters of versions of natural selection, she holds, might more properly belong in the Religious Education curriculum alongside Creationism and Intelligent Design.

The pamphlet is a timely intervention which not only analyses the controversial issue of Intelligent Design but also suggests a way forward for schools to deal with it.

[ quoted from PESGB Ito Launch of Impact Pamphlet 15: Intelligent Design and other ideological problems, debate was on October 3d 2007. The Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain (PESGB) publishes a well-established booklet series called IMPACT, addressed to policy-makers and practitioners. ]

Mary Midgley, what are you doing to me !!!!!???? Till Yesterday I never had heard of her, tho this 89 years old woman philosopher appears to be still on the barricads, I just wanted to read the 30 pages of chapter 11 from her book "Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature" (1979) in prepration o f this lecture.

But then I did some research on the Internet and WHAM !!! In No time I was burried under an avelange of -isms: naturalism, creationism, Intelligent Design, atheism, pantheism, relativism, scientism, reductionism, darwinism.

And then there was Richard Dawkins all over the place. Last week I went to the university bookstore, a huge one. There was a whole table with almost all books by Dawkins in Dutch translation and I wondered, what is so special about this guy. I have read about his ideas, about that selfish gene (they call it "the banker gene" these days ;-).

I once read a review on his book "The God Delusion". I regard writing such a book as a real waste of time, almost a show of intellectual immaturity. Maybe a little in line with Ayn Rand, where philosophy becomes ideology and in Dawkins case scientific theory and sciences become ideology.

Personally I prefer to ignore this debate or just to look at it as an not invoved bystander. I don't close my eyes or ears for it, on the contrary, but I prefer not to spend much time on such debates, because I regard it more as theological than philosophical discourse.

However, there still is Mary Midgley and this 11th chapter I still want to read. It is an example of her basic ideas on Beast and Man. The origine of the fire that is still in this 89 years old woman philosopher. Amazing and definitely with a social impact.

Next lecture I'll talk about the basics of her philosophical view and mayby I also can explain why she got so involved in debate with Dawkins. So if you will excuse me ......I still have some reading to do (^_^)

The Discussion

[13:22] Daruma Boa: lol
[13:22] herman Bergson: So much on Mary Midgley for today :-)
[13:22] Qwark Allen: indeed
[13:22] hope63 Shepherd: you make my mout water herman.. have to read about her.. i think she's my gal...
[13:23] herman Bergson: she is amazing...her ideas against Dawkins go back to when he was still in diapers
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: lollol
[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: a woman that talks sense what a discovery..
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:23] herman Bergson: that is an inappropriate remark Hope..
[13:24] Daruma Boa: yes it is^^
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: as usual
[13:24] hope63 Shepherd: of course all girls present here are in the same category)
[13:24] Daruma Boa: jaja hope;-))
[13:24] herman Bergson: It is inappropriate..
[13:24] herman Bergson: unphilosophical
[13:24] Daruma Boa: peace^^
[13:24] hope63 Shepherd: i never said what i say makes sense all the time:)
[13:24] Corona Anatine: dont worry the remark is noted in the black book
[13:25] Ze Novikov: it is unprovable therefore iilogical
[13:25] Daruma Boa: lol
[13:25] herman Bergson: an agrumentum ad hominem it is called
[13:25] herman Bergson: But this woman is reallly great..
[13:25] Samuel Okelly: i suppose It is hardly surprising that an atheism with extreme and fanatical zeal arose to counter-balance the religious extremism?
[13:25] Qwark Allen: and i think it is amazing when we talk about men sense
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: if you all want to kick me.. take your shoes off at
[13:25] Daruma Boa: yo please next week
[13:25] Qwark Allen: women have more sense in general
[13:26] Daruma Boa: + better boots to kick^^
[13:26] Qwark Allen: cause their emocional QI it`s higher
[13:26] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:26] Qwark Allen: hope still a young man
[13:26] hope63 Shepherd: daruma-you are a sadist..
[13:26] herman Bergson: Stop this plz...
[13:26] Daruma Boa: mee????
[13:26] Daruma Boa: i am peaceful as a sheep
[13:26] hope63 Shepherd: sorry
[13:26] Daruma Boa: really
[13:26] Daruma Boa: in rl
[13:26] Daruma Boa: not here
[13:26] herman Bergson: Can we get back to the subject at hand?
[13:27] herman Bergson: PLZZZZZZZ
[13:27] Ze Novikov: Herman how did you happen to interview her?
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: Ms. Midgley has a point in her insight into the taint that supposedly scientific books and research have toward a personal theory
[13:27] hope63 Shepherd: what exactly is her position towards evolution..
[13:27] herman Bergson smiles
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: once it becomes subjective, it becomes superstitious
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: do we need to know more about Dawkins?? or ignore him
[13:27] herman Bergson: probably missed the line that told you where the quote came from , but I wished I had interviewed her
[13:27] Corona Anatine: She also discusses the work of prominent advocates of natural selection and suggests that, although natural selection is, in essentials, a scientific research programme, it has accreted metaphysical doctrines through the interpretation of some commentators such as Richard Dawkins
[13:28] Ze Novikov: oh my blushes..
[13:28] Alarice Beaumont: we should read up on him, no? she is fighting mostly with his ideas i think
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: I tried to read the God Delusion and felt I was being preached to
[13:28] Corona Anatine: Dawkins is good at that
[13:28] hope63 Shepherd: if you want to go
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes...Dawkins makes science a religion
[13:28] hope63 Shepherd: fight an have to get to know him..
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: Christopher Hitchins is some scientific in his approach
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: ahha
[13:29] herman Bergson: And that is what Mary Midgley is fighting
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: got it
[13:29] herman Bergson: next lecture I'll go into detail about this..and maybe she even needs a third lecture..we will see
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: good then
[13:30] hope63 Shepherd: sounds easy to understand--but science is always in danger to be used like an religion..
[13:30] herman Bergson: But what is interesting is that this debat never reached the Continent...
[13:30] herman Bergson: a typical Anglo-American debate it seems
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmm
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: Is there a debate on the Continent or is it a specific US debate..
[13:31] Alarice Beaumont: oh
[13:31] Samuel Okelly: like many "christian" preachers dawkins, hitchens, harris et al make good money from beeing seen as professional atheists
[13:31] Corona Anatine: the problem lies in that is how the creationist approach it
[13:31] Corona Anatine: they makle it a matter of personalities
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: yes Samuel there is that element that must be considered
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes Samual..that is why I called it intellectually immature
[13:32] Corona Anatine: seeming to think thaty if darwin or dawkins are discredited then evolution is as well
[13:32] herman Bergson: when you have a good hand of writing such a book always stires the water and makes money
[13:32] hope63 Shepherd: religion and pseudo-science is big money in the states..
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: 'fire and brimstone' is the best money maker
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:32] herman Bergson: It is so unprofessional in a philosophical sense
[13:33] hope63 Shepherd: unscientifical as well..
[13:33] herman Bergson: is doesnt even come close to science Hope
[13:33] hope63 Shepherd: don't they use so called scientific knowledge as a selling tool?
[13:34] herman Bergson: Dawkins does, yes
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: I like to think of scinece as 'just the facts, ma'am'
[13:34] herman Bergson: Not Mary Midgley..she fights against this abuse
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: so did hubbard...
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: no need fro adjectives
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: which Hubbard
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: scientology hubbard..
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:35] Corona Anatine: good website for this =
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: who put the science in scientology?
[13:35] hope63 Shepherd: tom cruise?
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: :))
[13:35] herman Bergson: Let's keep scientology out here. plz
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: ty corona
[13:36] Corona Anatine: yw
[13:36] herman Bergson: this is a philosophy class still
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: well we fall into the mire every so often
[13:36] Corona Anatine: well it could be argued that scientology is closer to warped philosophy than warped science
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: there is the problem.. how can a simple mind like mine f.ex make the difference between philosophy and....
[13:37] herman Bergson: Anyway...we are talking here about a woman philospher that made a real difference
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: yes but the corruption of language is part and parcel to the image of scientific knowledge
[13:37] Alarice Beaumont: and she there in science.. didn't she?
[13:37] herman Bergson: So let's focus on that
[13:37] Corona Anatine: this has a term - scientism
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: smile.. why not add tuesdays lecture right now here
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: herman..
[13:38] Corona Anatine: stuff that gives the appearence of being science but isnt
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: he needs to read some more
[13:38] herman Bergson: Next lecture I wil show you that she already was ahaed of Dawkins with her ideas
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: or wants to anyway
[13:38] Alarice Beaumont: so i have to read about dawkins
[13:38] herman Bergson: You have to do research on her..there is so much on the Internet
[13:38] Daruma Boa: ahha
[13:39] hope63 Shepherd: just what i thought alarice..
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: some work :-)
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: i did not find her on youtube Herman
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: i started
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: no
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: i looked and was quite astonished that i did not find her
[13:39] herman Bergson: Neither did I, Alarice..unfortunately
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: no interview.. nothing
[13:40] herman Bergson: But I found almost all her books as ebooks...:-)
[13:40] Paula Dix: dawkins books about biology are nice. The god one, and another about art and science, weak
[13:40] Alarice Beaumont: ah .. i found an extraction of one
[13:40] Alarice Beaumont: the sea.... i started reading it..
[13:41] herman Bergson: Dawkins isnt a philosopher...he lectures on Zoology, but knows how to write a book :-)
[13:41] Paula Dix: yes, when he talks about what he knows, its good :)
[13:41] herman Bergson smiles
[13:42] herman Bergson: Anyway..I was a bit taken by surprice by this lady..:-)
[13:42] herman Bergson: I didnt know her...but she is right in the middle of the action
[13:42] Paula Dix: on the other side, dennett book about darwin is very nice, i loved the start where he shows how was the philosophy "climate" before darwin
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: Folks like Dawkins have no more evidence for the nonexistence of God as do the one professsing it to exist
[13:43] Corona Anatine: lol Paula that would make all creationism bad reading by definition
[13:43] Samuel Okelly: i think Dawkins lost a lot of credibility as an academic when he started to shift from science to ideology and it's refreshing that there is someone like mary who is willing to point this out
[13:43] Paula Dix: I agree Ari
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle...and yes Samuel
[13:44] Paula Dix: Why Corona? i dont understand
[13:44] herman Bergson: That is why I compared him with Rand....making his ideas an ideology..not science
[13:45] Corona Anatine: ix: yes, when he talks about what he knows, its good :)
[13:45] herman Bergson: But she pointed those out already before Dawkins had written his Selfish Gene
[13:45] Corona Anatine: ix: yes, when he talks about what he knows, its good :)
[13:45] Corona Anatine: that would make all creationsim bad reading by definition
[13:45] Paula Dix: ah, about dawkins! Lol, i meant when he talk about the biology that is something he really knows about
[13:45] herman Bergson: In 1979 she was invited as speaker at a conference
[13:45] herman Bergson: Evolution AND religion was the theme
[13:46] herman Bergson: and she concluded...Evolution AS Religion
[13:46] Paula Dix: On his Rainbow book dawkins try to show that there is good art and bad art, good being the one that support science. That makes no sense at all...
[13:46] herman Bergson: that is why she is so focused on Dawkins
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: oh she did? strange in these times.. i wonder
[13:47] Ze Novikov: evolution has become a form of religion ...
[13:47] Ze Novikov: interesting
[13:47] herman Bergson: Well...the problem with Dawkins is (but who are we discussing here) that he has himself portrait in large on the covers of his books...that tells a story
[13:48] Corona Anatine: Rainbow book ?
[13:48] Corona Anatine: well his book sales do massage his ego
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:49] herman Bergson: Oh I said..a whole table for his book in the university bookstore....(makes me worry actually )
[13:49] Paula Dix: To unweaven the rainbow is the book name
[13:49] Corona Anatine: oh ok
[13:49] Corona Anatine: just wondered if it had anything to do with childrens tV programmes
[13:50] herman Bergson: We are here dealing with philosophical questions....and in that sense we need to have acloser look at Midgley and dawkins
[13:50] Corona Anatine: that may say more about the publishing industry than about Dawkins
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: One should not kill the messenger, but one should alwyas be suspicious of him/her.
[13:50] Paula Dix: lol true Ari
[13:51] herman Bergson: Yes a way that industry wants to make hima popstar
[13:51] Samuel Okelly: i thought when dawkins discussed variation and gene mutation in the " xxtended Phenotype" he was clearly beginning to blur the edges of science
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: maybe there will be youtube on dawkins
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: at least
[13:51] herman Bergson: I have the Selfish Gene on my digital bookshelf now Samule..I'll check it out
[13:52] Corona Anatine: well at least you go live in SL Herman
[13:52] Daruma Boa: lol
[13:52] Corona Anatine: Dawkins SL lecture was pre recorded
[13:52] Samuel Okelly: that shuld have been the "extended phenotype"
[13:52] herman Bergson: There was a Dawkins lecture in SL???
[13:53] Paula Dix: I didnt read the extended phenotype yet...
[13:53] Samuel Okelly: there are plenty of YouTube vids on dawkins, harris etc
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: oh good
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: i will look
[13:53] herman Bergson: I know..but this is about Mary Midgley...
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: yes but would like to understand why she was so in debate with him
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: or about him
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: you next lecture will be interesting
[13:54] herman Bergson: and next lecture we'll focus on her ideas and the WHY she opposes so vehemently to Dawkins
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: so that is the easy way
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: the EP principly deals with the apparant random nature of gene mutation and variation which he concludes arrives "randomly"
[13:54] Corona Anatine: i am looking forward to it already
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: this is where he jumps from science
[13:54] Daruma Boa: wb alarice^
[13:54] Corona Anatine: owner if waterstones sells any books by her
[13:55] Alarice Beaumont: thanks Daruma :-))
[13:55] herman Bergson: you should use Bit Torrent.... an abundance of ebooks available
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: ah ok
[13:55] Corona Anatine: : ))
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: for free?
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: have to go now
[13:56] herman Bergson: yes for "free"
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: good
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:56] Daruma Boa: bye gemma
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: see you tuesday
[13:56] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:56] Daruma Boa: bye qwark
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Ms Cleanslate
[13:56] Qwark Allen: cya soon
[13:56] Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
[13:56] Qwark Allen: ty
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: bye you two :-)))
[13:56] herman Bergson: Bye Gemma, Qwark..:-)
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont waves
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: later on Qwark
[13:56] Samuel Okelly: i will leave too... cheerio for now :)
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: bye Samuel :-)
[13:56] Samuel Okelly:
[13:56] Samuel Okelly: †
[13:56] Samuel Okelly: † (( take care everyone )) †
[13:56] Samuel Okelly: †
[13:56] Samuel Okelly:
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: have a good week :-)
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Sam
[13:56] Ze Novikov: bb
[13:57] herman Bergson: So.class dismissed...see you all on Tuesday...:-)

Posted by herman_bergson on 2009-03-24 11:17:14

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