#174- Life & Mind A Conversation with Richard Dawkins

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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04 November 2019 11:51
 

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Richard Dawkins. They discuss the strangeness of the “gene’s-eye view” of the world, the limits of Darwinian thinking when applied to human life, the concept of the extended phenotype, ideologies as meme complexes, whether consciousness might be an epiphenomenon, psychedelics, meditation, and other topics.

#174- Life & Mind A Conversation with Richard Dawkins


This thread is for listeners’ comments.

 
 
GreenInferno
 
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GreenInferno
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04 November 2019 20:14
 

That’s two British guests (Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins) that have not seen the value in meditation as described by Sam. This is also the first time that I felt that mindfulness/meditation became a greater distraction than what it is claimed that it removes.

We can add Hitchens to the list of British colleagues that showed no interest in meditation also.

 
 
Twissel
 
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05 November 2019 18:13
 

A quick note Dawkins and Harris got wrong:
Part of our disease immunity is genetic, but because of the fast mutation rate of most pathogens, the effect is limited.
In addition, there is the transmission of gut bacteria strains from mother to child which have been selected to cope with pathogens and parasites found in the mother’s environment.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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11 November 2019 14:37
 

I found the part (around the 50-minute mark) about consciousness as a “spandrel” interesting. Harris claims that the more we learn about consciousness, the less it appears to actually benefit us. I tend to agree that it does less than we give it credit for, but I’m pretty sure it does make certain things possible which do confer an advantage: things like treachery (long term deception) and hydrogen bombs on the one hand, or penicillin and the Internet on the other. Not that technological progress would necessarily be impossible without consciousness, but it would take a lot longer.

I’d even go one step further: consciousness might be a learned skill, made possible by our overwhelmingly complex brain which evolved to confer an advantage on social animals. Children raised without any contact with conscious others might never learn to become conscious, and would grow up to be philosophical zombies. If true, then it seems to me that there might be better and worse ways of learning consciousness. Maybe we in the developed world today just happen to be learning it in the worst possible way, which might explain what appears to be an ever-increasing obsession with our “selves.”

(By “consciousness,” I mean the process by which a model of reality—including the model of self—is constructed in the mind.)

 
 
Twissel
 
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12 November 2019 00:29
 

I mostly agree, though in typical Evolution-Fashion: if consciousnesses arose as a by-product, it would quickly be co-opted for some evolutionary-beneficial purpose.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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12 November 2019 10:58
 

If we didn’t have consciousness there wouldn’t be any “us” to benefit.

 
Twissel
 
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12 November 2019 11:01
 
EN - 12 November 2019 10:58 AM

If we didn’t have consciousness there wouldn’t be any “us” to benefit.

It’s not the “us” that needs to benefit, it is our genes.
Our “us” doesn’t pass on from generation to generation.

 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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12 November 2019 11:27
 
EN - 12 November 2019 10:58 AM

If we didn’t have consciousness there wouldn’t be any “us” to benefit.

Not that it matters, but all creatures are entirely conscious. Human consciousness is perhaps less literally conscious, though we make up for it by being extra smart.

 

 
 
EN
 
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12 November 2019 11:43
 
Twissel - 12 November 2019 11:01 AM
EN - 12 November 2019 10:58 AM

If we didn’t have consciousness there wouldn’t be any “us” to benefit.

It’s not the “us” that needs to benefit, it is our genes.
Our “us” doesn’t pass on from generation to generation.

Right, but “benefit” has a subjective component to it.  If we don’t have consciousness, even if our genes get an advantage there is no “benefit.”  Consciousness is necessary for any consideration of good or bad, better or worse, etc.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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12 November 2019 15:10
 

You guys are looking at it from two different angles: genes vs. selves.

From the genes angle, I don’t think consciousness is necessary for our genes to spread, but it seems to benefit them by making us better able to survive and reproduce.

From the selves angle, you might say that “You” are not only an illusion, but a virtual parasite infecting the mind of your host mammal. Like EN says, without consciousness there’s no “you.” So as long as existing as a virtual parasite is desirable, then consciousness is beneficial from the selves angle.

 

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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12 November 2019 16:40
 

I’m having a great time as a parasite, so I can say it is, or can be, quite desirable.

 
Twissel
 
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13 November 2019 00:49
 

Keeping with the Parasite image, I do think that our consciousness can, in some way, replicate: teaching and raising kids comes to mind.

 
 
Jb8989
 
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18 November 2019 12:45
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 12 November 2019 03:10 PM

You guys are looking at it from two different angles: genes vs. selves.

From the genes angle, I don’t think consciousness is necessary for our genes to spread, but it seems to benefit them by making us better able to survive and reproduce.

From the selves angle, you might say that “You” are not only an illusion, but a virtual parasite infecting the mind of your host mammal. Like EN says, without consciousness there’s no “you.” So as long as existing as a virtual parasite is desirable, then consciousness is beneficial from the selves angle.

 

If consciousness just stopped with putting the lights on than it being you would be much less precise than what you see going on around you. If it were nothing more than just “you,” there’d be no evolution of the mind. But that’s what Sam missed, because consciousness can be both dormant and adaptive. It may be outside the scope of our focus but as long as it controls our focus “yourself,” things will change rather than stay the same commensurate even if only with time and memory. The tiniest knowledge over that process is possibly the same thing as free will. Free your mind homey.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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18 November 2019 22:39
 
Jb8989 - 18 November 2019 12:45 PM
Antisocialdarwinist - 12 November 2019 03:10 PM

You guys are looking at it from two different angles: genes vs. selves.

From the genes angle, I don’t think consciousness is necessary for our genes to spread, but it seems to benefit them by making us better able to survive and reproduce.

From the selves angle, you might say that “You” are not only an illusion, but a virtual parasite infecting the mind of your host mammal. Like EN says, without consciousness there’s no “you.” So as long as existing as a virtual parasite is desirable, then consciousness is beneficial from the selves angle.

 

If consciousness just stopped with putting the lights on than it being you would be much less precise than what you see going on around you. If it were nothing more than just “you,” there’d be no evolution of the mind. But that’s what Sam missed, because consciousness can be both dormant and adaptive. It may be outside the scope of our focus but as long as it controls our focus “yourself,” things will change rather than stay the same commensurate even if only with time and memory. The tiniest knowledge over that process is possibly the same thing as free will. Free your mind homey.

Huh? The Grammar Nazi in me wants to put your host mammal in the oven.