I'm interviewing Dawkins on Tuesday what question to ask?

export export at ihug.co.nz
Tue Apr 30 11:22:11 EST 1996


In article <sandman-2904961008400001 at gr2.un.umist.ac.uk>, 
sandman at another.world.mind.oc.aus says...
>
>Tomorrow I'm interviewing Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, The
>Blind Watchmaker, River Out Of Eden, The Extended Phenotype and Climbing
>Mount Improbable. What questions would you ask if you were in my place?
>Please post replies asap.
>
>Tom Strickland

Here's a couple

Does he consider that the similarity in the logical structure of his 
arguments is the same as that used by theology (in particular natural 
theology)? (for a reference wrt this see Goodwin : How the leopard changed 
it's spots pg 30.   Also ask him if his statement a few years ago that he felt 
more in common with natural theologians such as Paley (from where he quite 
likely lifted the 'watchmaker" title of his book) has an influence on this 
similarity of ways of seeing nature.

Adaptation: If adaptation is a meaningful concept in biology (which it may 
be), how should we define it?   If a moth has a chance mutation that results 
in it turning a black colour is this an adaptation?   Seems not this is only a 
random mutation.   Further if this mutation somehow is passed from parent to 
offspring and maintains its phenotype in the population is it right for us to 
claim that the moths have adapted?   It would seem not, the moths have merely 
inherited a particular mutation so what is this adaption concept about?

And still with the moths.   Does he find it problematic that the 'classic case 
of natural selection' ie the arising of melanistic moths during the industrial 
revolution is being taught as truth of the marvels of Darwins idea of natural 
selection when the whole experimental basis of the studies to 'Prove' this are 
relatively dubious. For example, moths (black and white) were glued to tree 
trunks in a large avairy containing birds (the 'predators').   More white 
moths were eaten than black moths, seems fair enough. But, these experiments 
failed to account for a number of important factors eg 1: The moths are 
nocturnal and spend their days not on tree trunks but under leaves (a moth 
collector reported that he didn't find one on a tree trunk during the day in 
over 25 years of collecting).The moths are primarily active at night (and 
under leaves in the day) so it is quite likely that birds don't prey on them.
The density of moths were increased to unrealistically high levels (Kettlewell 
used ~4 per tree, whereas the wild density has been estimated at 7-22 per 
square kilometre.
(For more on all this stuff see Lambert D.M. et al 'On the Classic case of 
natural selection' Rivista di Biologia- Biology forum 79 (1) p11-49 

When it comes to his biomorphs, does he consider it a problem in that his 
process of selection is a purposeful directed one (ie the person selecting), 
this is a problem that Kant addressed (in a form- purpose, and teleology) and 
the problem of this way of seeing.

Does he consider the teleological nature of his philosophy of evolution  
problematic with his idea's of 'science'.

How does he respond to the criticisms of his functionalist standpoint (and 
it's apparent integral association with natural theology, and narrative 
science) levelled at him by evolutionary theorists such as Goodwin (eg The 
origin of species a Structuralist approach:Webster and Goodwin 1982 J. Social 
Biol. Struct. 5: 49-68, Lambert 'Misery of functionalism: Biological function, 
a misleading concept. Rivista di Biologia: 77: 477-501

Does he consider his atomistic/reductionist approach to biology ( eg reducing 
organisms to 'selfish genes') problematic in the light of current ideas in 
theoretical physics, which is attempting to move away from this approach in 
favour of a more dynamic, interconnected, total system?

There you go, I've got lots more questions but you've doubtless got your own 
to ask as well, and other peoples.   How can I get hold of a copy of the 
interview, it's always interesting to see what Dr Dawkins has to say.


Chris




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