Selective Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 368 quotes )
Humans are often credited with having real foresight, in distinction to the rest of biology which does not. For example, Dawkins compares the 'blind watchmaker' of natural selection with the real human one. 'A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection . . . has no purpose in mind'.I think this distinction is wrong. There is no denying that the human watchmaker is different from the natural one. We humans, by virtue of having memes, can think about cogs, and wheels, and keeping time, in a way that animals cannot. Memes are the mind tools with which we do it. But what memetics shows us is that the processes underlying the two kinds of design are essentially the same. They are both evolutionary processes that give rise to design through selection, and in the process they produce what looks like foresight.
The application of this knife, the division of the world into parts and the building of this structure, is something everybody does. All the time we are aware of millions of things around us - these changing shapes, these burning hills, the sound of the engine, the feel of the throttle, each rock and weed and fence post and piece of debris beside the road - aware of these things but not really conscious of them unless there is something unusual or unless they reflect something we are predisposed to see. We could not possibly be conscious of these things and remember all of them because our mind would be so full of useless details we would be unable to think. From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and calls consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selection mutates it. We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world." -Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
But the secret of intellectual excellence is the spirit of criticism ; it is intellectual independence. And this leads to difficulties which must prove insurmountable for any kind of authoritarianism. The authoritarian will in general select those who obey, who believe, who respond to his influence. But in doing so, he is bound to select mediocrities. For he excludes those who revolt, who doubt, who dare to resist his influence. Never can an authority admit that the intellectually courageous, i. e. those who dare to defy his authority, may be the most valuable type. Of course, the authorities will always remain convinced of their ability to detect initiative. But what they mean by this is only a quick grasp of their intentions, and they will remain for ever incapable of seeing the difference.
As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.
Writing is so much more problematic than drawing, full of moral pitfalls, ambiguity, public responsibility. If you record a day of your life, does the decision to do so change the shape of the day? One of Doris Lessing's days in The Golden Notebook is fifty-four pages long. It's complete; the rest are summaries - the "impression" of a day foisted artfully upon the reader by providing a few details. Fiction is made this way - as lineal perspective gives the illusion of three dimensions in drawing. But does the selection of a day - that you begin by knowing you must remember and observe - really affect it? Do you change the balance, distort the truth? The period itself, its choice and selection, does that not in itself constitute a kind of misconstruction, and the rest follow subconsciously?
I hear of a convention to be held at Baltimore, or elsewhere, for the selection of a candidate for the Presidency, made up chiefly of editors, and men who are politicians by profession; but I think, what is it to any independent, intellegent, and respectable man what decision they may come to? Shall we not have the advantage of his wisdom and honesty, nevertheless? Can we not count upon some independent votes? Are there not many individuals in the country who do not attend conventions? But no: I find that the respectable man, so called, has immediately drifted from his position, and despairs of his country, when his country has more reason to despair of him. He forthwith adopts one of the candidates thus selected as his only AVAILABLE one, thus proving that he is himself AVAILABLE for any purposes of the demagogue. His vote is of no more worth than that of any unprincipled foreigner or hireling native, who may have been bought.
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I confess, absurd in the highest degree...The difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection , though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered subversive of the theory.
The novelist makes his statements by selection, and if he is any good, he selects every word for a reason, every detail for a reason, every incident for a reason, and arranges them in a certain time-sequence for a reason. He demonstrates something that cannot possibly be demonstrated any other way than with a whole novel.
Many bright people are really in the dark about vegetable life. Biology teachers face kids in classrooms who may not even believe in the metamorphosis of bud to flower to fruit and seed, but rather, some continuum of pansies becoming petunias becoming chrysanthemums; that's the only reality they witness as landscapers come to campuses and city parks and surreptitiously yank out one flower before it fades from its prime, replacing it with another. The same disconnection from natural processes may be at the heart of our country's shift away from believing in evolution. In the past, principles of natural selection and change over time made sense to kids who'd watched it all unfold. Whether or not they knew the terms, farm families understood the processes well enough to imitate them: culling, selecting, and improving their herds and crops. For modern kids who intuitively believe in the spontaneous generation of fruits and vegetables in the produce section, trying to get their minds around the slow speciation of the plant kingdom may be a stretch.
Thinking is computation, I claim, but that does not mean that the computer is a good metaphor for the mind. The mind is a set of modules, but the modules are not encapsulated boxes or circumscribed swatches on the surface of the brain. The organization of our mental modules comes from our genetic program, but that does not mean that there is a gene for every trait or that learning is less important than we used to think. The mind is an adaptation designed by natural selection, but that does not mean that everything we think, feel, and do is biologically adaptive. We evolved from apes, but that does not mean we have the same minds as apes. And the ultimate goal of natural selection is to propagate genes, but that does not mean that the ultimate goal of people is to propagate genes.
There were no judgments to be made, yet out of necessity one had to select. Beyond good and evil was all right in theory, but to go on living one had to select: some were kinder than others, some were simply more interested in you, and sometimes the outwardly beautiful and inwardly cold were necessary. The kinder ones fucked better, really, and after you were around them a while they seemed beautiful because they were.
...that manic depression, far from being a liability was an advantage. It was a selected trait. If it wasn't selected for, then the "disorder" would have disappeared long ago, bred out of the population like anything else that didn't increase the odds of survival. The advantage was obvious. The advantage was the energy, the creativity, the feeling of genius, almost, that Leonard felt right now. There was no telling how many great historical figures had been manic-depressives, how many scientific and artistic breakthroughs had occurred to people during manic episodes.
Thinking of Macintosh's reaction to Veronica, Grant felt a wave of empathy. "Poor kid's going to be mooning like a puppy for a month. Did you have to smile at him?""Really, Grant. He can't be more than fifteen.""Old enough to break out in a sweat," he commented."Hormones," she murmured as she found Fairfield's sparse selection of wine. "They just need time to balance."Grant's gaze drifted down and focused as she bent over. "It should only take thirty or forty years," he muttered.