1.02.2010

My Year of Naturalism

A while back, I asked people to comment on their perception of the importance of teaching evolution and the natural origins of mankind. I said that I would get back to the subject. And so it begins. This little bastion of Internet absurdity declares 2010 to be the year of Naturalism. Over the next 12 months my goal is look at some of the challenges we face as a species from the perspective that our behaviors, both in creating the dangers as well as responding to them, can be explained on the basis of natural origins and evolution.

In Pliny’s opinion there is nothing more important to our collective future than getting the majority of humanity to stop thinking of ourselves as fallen angels but instead, rather magnificent beasts. That we are a product of natural selection. That we have drives, instincts and behaviors guiding a lot of what we do just like any other animal. We are on our own to solve the problems and face the dangers that we, apparently first among all those species that preceded us, can anticipate and possibly avoid. That we may be the first beast able to recognize the existence and importance of these natural drivers, study them in detail, and work to prevent them from leading to our own demise. We are the first species with a concept of future beyond the next brood. What will we learn about ourselves and where will it lead our individual and societal behaviors and governmental structures if we embrace this? One thing is for sure; unless we come to understand what we truly are we have no chance for the long term. Can humanity reach adulthood - the point where fantasy about what we’d like to be gives way to understanding and comfort with what we are in fact? It doesn’t look all that promising when I look around. But I am an eternal optimist.

So fairly often over the next 12 months I’m going to try and discuss events and global challenges (global warming, energy conservation, etc.) from the perspective of animal behaviors. No moralizing or arguing about creationism, religion or the lot (except in the occasional post on morals, religion and the lot...). So with all due respect to Joseph Merrick, "I am an animal!" Happy New Year!

15 comments:

pboyfloyd said...

Yea, I think 'we're screwed' too.

oneblood said...

This should be interesting Pliny. I look forward to it.

Michael Lockridge said...

From the subjective perspective of my twenty years in Hell, I don't really think all that many adult humans have reached adulthood, as you have defined it.

I have exited the laboratory called "jail," having retired rather than have the remainder of my soul sucked from me.

Perhaps one of the reasons the hope of Heaven has been popular through the ages is the abscence of an alternative hope.

So, go forth, prophet of reason, and sound your voice in the wilderness. Perhaps something interesting will happen.

Jared said...

I assume, by "naturalism," you do not mean natural history, but philosophical naturalism. I often wonder why the field-oriented work characteristic of natural history gets so little press...

I assume you mean ontological or metaphysical naturalism, in this case. Perhaps a bit of the=less philosophical and more evolutionary-natural history of primates would be in order?

Perhaps I should pick up the "naturalism" angle from the older "naturalist" (not naturist; no one wants to see me naked) term and run with it.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Perhaps a bit of the=less philosophical and more evolutionary-natural history of primates would be in order?

That's the plan though some Mammalian bits will be thrown in as needed. You hit the nail on the head in that my goal is not philosophical as much as a discussion of observed animal (primate) behaviors as theoretical explanations for human behaviors in a wide range of more culturally complex situations.
---------------------

Perhaps I should pick up the "naturalism" angle from the older "naturalist" term and run with it.

I think that would be interesting.
-----------

I guess in general, I use the term naturalism (not really correctly) to cover the broad notion of looking for clues to human behavior in the animal kingdom.

Jared said...

No, Pliny, that's actually the older meaning of the term; in my opinion, the correct one. Philosophers hijacked "naturalism" as in "metaphysical naturalism" to describe epistemology dealing exclusively with physical (termed, by them "natural") causations. This is opposed to the "supernatural" causations which have never been observed...

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

No, Pliny, that's actually the older meaning of the term; in my opinion, the correct one.

I agree and since no professional philosophers are ever likely to visit this site, we're free to use the term in this fashion!

Harvey said...

Pliny:

Great idea!! I have long been convinced that nearly all human behavior can be explained (or at least begin to be understood) by looking at other biological systems and how their behaviors have evolved. Obviously, our nearest kin phylogenetically, the primates, should have the most to teach us, especially when coupled with our ever increasing knowledge of archeology and anthropology. I will look forward to these discussions.

Asylum Seeker said...

Good luck. I'll be interested to see if you can draw anything clear from primate behavior, because they can be a mixed bag. At least in regards to aggression and sexual behavior, I think, there seems to be a decent amount of variation between species. But, I've never had reason to dig deep enough to find larger patterns. I think global warming should be easy to describe in terms of any behavior, however: it's textbook diffusion of responsibility.

mac said...

I look forward to seeing what you present us.

oneblood said...

You of course meant, by naturalism, that you're going to only type nekkid for the next year.

You west coast people is all the same.

Stacy S. said...

Happy New Year Pliney! :-)

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Happy New Year to YOU Stacy! How are you doing?

Stacy S. said...

I'm good - just trying to keep my butt moving as much as possible. :-)

oneblood said...

Congratulations Pliny, you've been blessed. Had you known God was among us, you never would've become an atheist.