Saturday, 14 November 2009

Our November Meeting

Thanks to Alexander Hellemans for introducing our discussion on Evolution, Altruism and Ethics on Thursday Evening. Thanks also to our twelve Supporters who braved the heavy winds and made interesting contributions to the debate. Especially to Helene who looked after the finances and Elaine who made the coffee.

Generally I think we ended up being dubious about ethical advances in recent history being attributable to "evolution", certainly to biological evolution. If "social evolution" occurs in some way analogous to biological evolution, the mechanisms have yet to be elucidated. Perhaps there is something in meme theory, but it needs to show more results before it can be regarded as scientific.

Personally I'm happy with traditional explanations of the advances that have occurred over the last few centuries, which put them down to reason, logic, enlightenment philosophers like Voltaire, and radical social reformers like Tom Paine, Richard Carlile, Robert Owen and many others, and of course the general advance of scientific knowledge.

The new venue at the Arts Forum got a unanimous vote of approval. I'm sure we will meet there again, though the December meeting, being a Quiz, will probably be held at a pub, though the venue is yet to be decided. Several of our regular Members were unable to attend due to family and business commitments. And I received last-minute phone calls from two new-comers who pulled out for similar reasons. So I think our group is in a healthy position for next year. I have approached James Williams of Sussex University as a possible speaker for our February meeting, but this has yet to be confirmed.


  1. From Alex: Some interesting articles:

  2. OK, I looked at those links. The titles of the first two are highly misleading.

    The first is "Evolution of the God Gene" by Nicholas Wade. This is about archaeological work in Mexico. See also

    The second is "Satan the great motivator" by Michael Fitzgerald. This is about relgion as a motivator of economic activity (Protestant work ethic, My word is my bond, etc). At school I was taught that the parable of the talents was a play on the double meaning of "talent" and that it meant one should seek to optimise ones own (natural or 'god-given') abilities, not that it was advocating capitalism. How do the Taliban justify cultivating heroin?

    The third is about a talk "Supernatural Belief: Me or Memes" by Bruce Hood, at Goldsmith College, New Cross, on 8 December. Might be worth a visit if you can get there.