Superstar philosopher Jerry Fodor and cognitive scientist Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini have recently published a controversial book, What Darwin Got Wrong. They argue that “Darwinism,” specifically the theory of natural selection, is not just false, but even incoherent and therefore couldn’t be true. A summary of their argument is here. Elliott Sober debates Fodor in a diavlog on Bloggingheads.tv here. If you watch the diavlog (perhaps best to start about 6 minutes in: here) you’ll quickly notice that Sober doesn’t think Fodor’s argument works. In that respect I think Sober represents the vast majority of philosophers and scientists.
In a recent Scientific American article, evidence is presented for multiple realizability.
What is multiple realizability? Let’s begin with functionalism. Functionalism is a dominant view in the philosophy of mind and concerns the relationship between the brain and the mind. Take a physical apparatus (such as the brain), and divide it into components each defined by what causes it, and what it causes. Functionalism is the view that the mind consists of such components. It has the consequence that different physical apparatuses can give rise to (or ‘realize’) the same components, so defined. Think for example, of all the different physical objects that can realize a corkscrew. They can be constituted and look very different. But they all share the same causal role.
Neuroscientist Larry R Squire has discovered that the physical states that realize memories change as the memories become more entrenched. They begin in the hippocampus. Over time the memories become entrenched ‘in’ the neocortex, until eventually the hippocampus is no longer needed and so no longer constitutes part of the physical realizer of a given memory.
For the original article go here.
By Eric Funkhouser , University of Arkansas
(Vol. 2, February 2007)
Can Physicalism be Non-reductive?
By Andrew Melnyk , University of Missouri
(Vol. 3, November 2008)