Why the universe seems so strange | Richard Dawkins

Why the universe seems so strange | Richard Dawkins

My title: “Queerer than we can
suppose: the strangeness of science.” “Queerer than we can suppose” comes
from J.B.S. Haldane, the famous biologist, who said, “Now, my own suspicion
is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer
than we can suppose. I suspect that there are more things
in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can
be dreamed of, in any philosophy.” Richard Feynman compared
the accuracy of quantum theories — experimental predictions — to specifying the width of North America
to within one hair’s breadth of accuracy. This means that quantum theory
has got to be, in some sense, true. Yet the assumptions
that quantum theory needs to make in order to deliver those
predictions are so mysterious that even Feynman himself
was moved to remark, “If you think you understand
quantum theory, you don’t understand quantum theory.” It’s so queer that physicists
resort to one or another paradoxical interpretation of it. David Deutsch, who’s talking here,
in “The Fabric of Reality,” embraces the many-worlds
interpretation of quantum theory, because the worst that you
can say about it is that it’s preposterously wasteful. It postulates a vast and rapidly growing
number of universes existing in parallel, mutually undetectable, except through the narrow porthole
of quantum mechanical experiments. And that’s Richard Feynman. The biologist Lewis Wolpert believes that the queerness of modern physics is just an extreme example. Science, as opposed to technology, does violence to common sense. Every time you drink a glass
of water, he points out, the odds are that you will imbibe
at least one molecule that passed through the bladder
of Oliver Cromwell. (Laughter) It’s just elementary probability theory. (Laughter) The number of molecules
per glassful is hugely greater than the number of glassfuls,
or bladdersful, in the world. And of course, there’s nothing special
about Cromwell or bladders — you have just breathed in a nitrogen atom that passed through the right lung
of the third iguanodon to the left of the tall cycad tree. “Queerer than we can suppose.” What is it that makes us
capable of supposing anything, and does this tell us anything
about what we can suppose? Are there things about the universe
that will be forever beyond our grasp, but not beyond the grasp
of some superior intelligence? Are there things about the universe that are, in principle,
ungraspable by any mind, however superior? The history of science has been
one long series of violent brainstorms, as successive generations
have come to terms with increasing levels of queerness
in the universe. We’re now so used to the idea
that the Earth spins, rather than the Sun moves across the sky, it’s hard for us to realize what a shattering mental revolution
that must have been. After all, it seems obvious
that the Earth is large and motionless, the Sun, small and mobile. But it’s worth recalling
Wittgenstein’s remark on the subject: “Tell me,” he asked a friend,
“why do people always say it was natural for man to assume
that the Sun went ’round the Earth, rather than that the Earth was rotating?” And his friend replied, “Well, obviously, because it just looks as though
the Sun is going round the Earth.” Wittgenstein replied, “Well,
what would it have looked like if it had looked as though
the Earth was rotating?” (Laughter) Science has taught us,
against all intuition, that apparently solid things,
like crystals and rocks, are really almost entirely
composed of empty space. And the familiar illustration
is the nucleus of an atom is a fly in the middle
of a sports stadium, and the next atom
is in the next sports stadium. So it would seem the hardest,
solidest, densest rock is really almost entirely empty space, broken only by tiny particles
so widely spaced they shouldn’t count. Why, then, do rocks look and feel
solid and hard and impenetrable? As an evolutionary biologist,
I’d say this: our brains have evolved to help us survive within the orders
of magnitude, of size and speed which our bodies operate at. We never evolved to navigate
in the world of atoms. If we had, our brains
probably would perceive rocks as full of empty space. Rocks feel hard and impenetrable to our hands, precisely because
objects like rocks and hands cannot penetrate each other. It’s therefore useful for our brains to construct notions
like “solidity” and “impenetrability,” because such notions help us
to navigate our bodies through the middle-sized world
in which we have to navigate. Moving to the other end of the scale, our ancestors never had to navigate
through the cosmos at speeds close to the speed of light. If they had, our brains would be
much better at understanding Einstein. I want to give the name “Middle World”
to the medium-scaled environment in which we’ve evolved
the ability to take act — nothing to do with “Middle Earth” — Middle World. (Laughter) We are evolved denizens of Middle World, and that limits what
we are capable of imagining. We find it intuitively easy
to grasp ideas like, when a rabbit moves
at the sort of medium velocity at which rabbits and other
Middle World objects move, and hits another Middle World object
like a rock, it knocks itself out. May I introduce Major General
Albert Stubblebine III, commander of military
intelligence in 1983. “…[He] stared at his wall in Arlington,
Virginia, and decided to do it. As frightening as the prospect was,
he was going into the next office. He stood up and moved
out from behind his desk. ‘What is the atom mostly made of?’
he thought, ‘Space.’ He started walking. ‘What am I
mostly made of? Atoms.’ He quickened his pace,
almost to a jog now. ‘What is the wall mostly made of?’ (Laughter) ‘Atoms!’ All I have to do is merge the spaces. Then, General Stubblebine banged
his nose hard on the wall of his office. Stubblebine, who commanded
16,000 soldiers, was confounded by his continual failure
to walk through the wall. He has no doubt that this ability
will one day be a common tool in the military arsenal. Who would screw around with an army
that could do that?” That’s from an article in Playboy, which I was reading the other day. (Laughter) I have every reason to think it’s true; I was reading Playboy because I, myself,
had an article in it. (Laughter) Unaided human intuition,
schooled in Middle World, finds it hard to believe Galileo
when he tells us a heavy object and a light object,
air friction aside, would hit the ground at the same instant. And that’s because in Middle World,
air friction is always there. If we’d evolved in a vacuum, we would expect them to hit
the ground simultaneously. If we were bacteria, constantly buffeted by thermal
movements of molecules, it would be different. But we Middle-Worlders are too big
to notice Brownian motion. In the same way, our lives
are dominated by gravity, but are almost oblivious
to the force of surface tension. A small insect would reverse
these priorities. Steve Grand — he’s the one on the left, Douglas Adams is on the right. Steve Grand, in his book,
“Creation: Life and How to Make It,” is positively scathing about our
preoccupation with matter itself. We have this tendency to think
that only solid, material things are really things at all. Waves of electromagnetic fluctuation
in a vacuum seem unreal. Victorians thought the waves
had to be waves in some material medium: the ether. But we find real matter comforting only because we’ve evolved
to survive in Middle World, where matter is a useful fiction. A whirlpool, for Steve Grand,
is a thing with just as much reality as a rock. In a desert plain in Tanzania, in the shadow of the volcano
Ol Doinyo Lengai, there’s a dune made of volcanic ash. The beautiful thing
is that it moves bodily. It’s what’s technically known
as a “barchan,” and the entire dune walks
across the desert in a westerly direction at a speed of about 17 meters per year. It retains its crescent shape and moves
in the direction of the horns. What happens is that the wind blows
the sand up the shallow slope on the other side, and then, as each sand grain hits
the top of the ridge, it cascades down on the inside of the crescent, and so the whole horn-shaped dune moves. Steve Grand points out
that you and I are, ourselves, more like a wave than a permanent thing. He invites us, the reader, to think of an experience
from your childhood, something you remember clearly, something you can see,
feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there
at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell:
You weren’t there. Not a single atom
that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff
of which you are made. If that doesn’t make the hair stand up
on the back of your neck, read it again until it does,
because it is important. So “really” isn’t a word that we should
use with simple confidence. If a neutrino had a brain, which it evolved
in neutrino-sized ancestors, it would say that rocks really
do consist of empty space. We have brains that evolved
in medium-sized ancestors which couldn’t walk through rocks. “Really,” for an animal, is whatever
its brain needs it to be in order to assist its survival. And because different species
live in different worlds, there will be a discomforting
variety of “reallys.” What we see of the real world
is not the unvarnished world, but a model of the world,
regulated and adjusted by sense data, but constructed so it’s useful
for dealing with the real world. The nature of the model depends
on the kind of animal we are. A flying animal needs
a different kind of model from a walking, climbing
or swimming animal. A monkey’s brain must have
software capable of simulating a three-dimensional world
of branches and trunks. A mole’s software for constructing models
of its world will be customized for underground use. A water strider’s brain
doesn’t need 3D software at all, since it lives on the surface of the pond, in an Edwin Abbott flatland. I’ve speculated that bats may see
color with their ears. The world model that a bat needs
in order to navigate through three dimensions catching insects must be pretty similar to the world
model that any flying bird — a day-flying bird like a swallow —
needs to perform the same kind of tasks. The fact that the bat uses
echoes in pitch darkness to input the current
variables to its model, while the swallow uses
light, is incidental. Bats, I’ve even suggested, use
perceived hues, such as red and blue, as labels, internal labels,
for some useful aspect of echoes — perhaps the acoustic texture of surfaces,
furry or smooth and so on — in the same way as swallows or indeed,
we, use those perceived hues — redness and blueness, etc. — to label long and short
wavelengths of light. There’s nothing inherent about red
that makes it long wavelength. The point is that the nature of the model
is governed by how it is to be used, rather than by the sensory
modality involved. J.B.S. Haldane himself had
something to say about animals whose world is dominated by smell. Dogs can distinguish two very similar
fatty acids, extremely diluted: caprylic acid and caproic acid. The only difference, you see, is that one has an extra pair
of carbon atoms in the chain. Haldane guesses that a dog would probably
be able to place the acids in the order of their molecular
weights by their smells, just as a man could place
a number of piano wires in the order of their lengths
by means of their notes. Now, there’s another
fatty acid, capric acid, which is just like the other two, except that it has two more carbon atoms. A dog that had never met
capric acid would, perhaps, have no more trouble imagining its smell than we would have trouble
imagining a trumpet, say, playing one note higher than we’ve heard
a trumpet play before. Perhaps dogs and rhinos and other
smell-oriented animals smell in color. And the argument would be exactly
the same as for the bats. Middle World — the range
of sizes and speeds which we have evolved to feel
intuitively comfortable with — is a bit like the narrow range
of the electromagnetic spectrum that we see as light of various colors. We’re blind to all
frequencies outside that, unless we use instruments to help us. Middle World is the narrow
range of reality which we judge to be normal,
as opposed to the queerness of the very small, the very large
and the very fast. We could make a similar
scale of improbabilities; nothing is totally impossible. Miracles are just events
that are extremely improbable. A marble statue could wave its hand at us; the atoms that make up
its crystalline structure are all vibrating back and forth anyway. Because there are so many of them, and because there’s no
agreement among them in their preferred direction of movement, the marble, as we see it
in Middle World, stays rock steady. But the atoms in the hand
could all just happen to move the same way at the same time,
and again and again. In this case, the hand would move, and we’d see it waving at us
in Middle World. The odds against it,
of course, are so great that if you set out writing zeros
at the time of the origin of the universe, you still would not have written
enough zeros to this day. Evolution in Middle World
has not equipped us to handle very improbable events;
we don’t live long enough. In the vastness of astronomical space
and geological time, that which seems impossible
in Middle World might turn out to be inevitable. One way to think about that
is by counting planets. We don’t know how many planets
there are in the universe, but a good estimate is about 10 to the 20,
or 100 billion billion. And that gives us a nice way to express
our estimate of life’s improbability. We could make some sort of landmark points
along a spectrum of improbability, which might look like the electromagnetic
spectrum we just looked at. If life has arisen only once on any — life could originate once per planet,
could be extremely common or it could originate once per star or once per galaxy or maybe only
once in the entire universe, in which case it would have to be here. And somewhere up there would be the chance that a frog would turn into a prince, and similar magical things like that. If life has arisen on only one planet
in the entire universe, that planet has to be our planet,
because here we are talking about it. And that means that if we want
to avail ourselves of it, we’re allowed to postulate chemical events
in the origin of life which have a probability as low
as one in 100 billion billion. I don’t think we shall have
to avail ourselves of that, because I suspect that life
is quite common in the universe. And when I say quite common,
it could still be so rare that no one island of life
ever encounters another, which is a sad thought. How shall we interpret
“queerer than we can suppose?” Queerer than can in principle be supposed, or just queerer than we can suppose,
given the limitations of our brain’s evolutionary
apprenticeship in Middle World? Could we, by training and practice, emancipate ourselves from Middle World and achieve some sort of intuitive
as well as mathematical understanding of the very small and the very large? I genuinely don’t know the answer. I wonder whether we might help ourselves
to understand, say, quantum theory, if we brought up children
to play computer games beginning in early childhood, which had a make-believe world of balls
going through two slits on a screen, a world in which the strange goings-on
of quantum mechanics were enlarged by the computer’s make-believe, so that they became familiar
on the Middle-World scale of the stream. And similarly, a relativistic
computer game, in which objects on the screen manifest
the Lorentz contraction, and so on, to try to get ourselves — to get children
into the way of thinking about it. I want to end by applying
the idea of Middle World to our perceptions of each other. Most scientists today subscribe
to a mechanistic view of the mind: we’re the way we are because our brains
are wired up as they are, our hormones are the way they are. We’d be different, our characters
would be different, if our neuro-anatomy and our
physiological chemistry were different. But we scientists are inconsistent. If we were consistent, our response to a misbehaving
person, like a child-murderer, should be something like: this unit has a faulty component;
it needs repairing. That’s not what we say. What we say — and I include
the most austerely mechanistic among us, which is probably me — what we say is, “Vile monster,
prison is too good for you.” Or worse, we seek revenge,
in all probability thereby triggering the next phase in an escalating
cycle of counter-revenge, which we see, of course,
all over the world today. In short, when we’re
thinking like academics, we regard people as elaborate
and complicated machines, like computers or cars. But when we revert to being human, we behave more like Basil Fawlty,
who, we remember, thrashed his car to teach it a lesson, when it wouldn’t start on “Gourmet Night.” (Laughter) The reason we personify things
like cars and computers is that just as monkeys live
in an arboreal world and moles live in an underground world and water striders live in a surface
tension-dominated flatland, we live in a social world. We swim through a sea of people — a social version of Middle World. We are evolved to second-guess
the behavior of others by becoming brilliant,
intuitive psychologists. Treating people as machines may be scientifically
and philosophically accurate, but it’s a cumbersome waste of time if you want to guess what this person
is going to do next. The economically useful way
to model a person is to treat him as a purposeful,
goal-seeking agent with pleasures and pains,
desires and intentions, guilt, blame-worthiness. Personification and the imputing
of intentional purpose is such a brilliantly successful
way to model humans, it’s hardly surprising
the same modeling software often seizes control when we’re
trying to think about entities for which it’s not appropriate,
like Basil Fawlty with his car or like millions of deluded people,
with the universe as a whole. (Laughter) If the universe is queerer
than we can suppose, is it just because
we’ve been naturally selected to suppose only what we needed to suppose in order to survive
in the Pleistocene of Africa? Or are our brains so versatile
and expandable that we can train ourselves to break out of the box of our evolution? Or finally, are there some things
in the universe so queer that no philosophy of beings,
however godlike, could dream them? Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Why the universe seems so strange | Richard Dawkins

  1. The universe is stranger than you think. It is stranger than you can think. You don't have to be mad to live here but it will help.

  2. The very large, the very small, and the very fast – and the very slow – he forgot the very slow.

  3. We personified things like cars and computers? I frequently see people doing that. But not me. I do not. No matter how unexpectedly my computer acts, I don't get angry at it.

  4. What do you believe in?
    Who built the ancient rock and stone structures that our best minds can't even figure out, much less replicate.
    All of these stone structures date to about 6000 years ago. Many depict giant people among men. The bible explains them. Can you?

    So is the megalithic stone work by humans? Then we went backwards in evolution.
    Or was it done by aliens, light years ahead of us? Fairy tales don't leave these unexplainable stone structures behind.

    What do you say? Need proof or at lease an idea above a wild speculation.

  5. proteins hold key to formation of life. life may not be as special as people think. but it may as well be just part of natural chemistry. the length of proteins that made RNA or DNA maybe responsible for what life means. fatty acids have indeed opened my mind to how a non living thing can act like a living one through basic chemistry.

  6. " life's improbability " equals its opposite:
    " 生活可以。"
    – can; is possible; is so; is candidate; suitable; likely.

  7. 组件坏了,需要修理。
    Correct ? I fail however tot spot the comparative transscription in the Chinese translation.

  8. Today we see the Universe expanding away from us. When the reality is that the Milky Way is collapsing…IT IS US WHO ARE MOVING AWAY FROM THE UNIVERSE !

  9. If "Miracles are just events that are extremely improbable", is Dawkins slipping into non-atheism in his old age? Just trolling….

  10. I can appreciate Dawkins even though I am a christian because he is a thinker and is capable of challenging assumptions unlike most academics.

  11. You can call it the middle world, but how do we know it is the middle world? Thank you for a fascinating talk about the strange universe

  12. It is magical to believe that life can be constructed by random events because matter is not going around looking to fit into life form, it is the opposite. It looks for the lowest energy level possible, the principle of the least effort. That is why I prefer believe that Fermi was right! Life is propagating from life, from planets to planets at a rate that far surpasses any other idea of propagation or origination. Then who was the first one would ask? This proposition supposes that the universe is infinite so there is no need of a first. An infinite chain of propagation goes very well in an infinite universe. Whatever theories mainstream has agreed on, it will have to consider this proposition at one time or another because believing in magical processes is untenable.

  13. There is no void. You are formed by a void on your birth record where your missing link goes- your missing first age, 0. Until your halo forms you conscious, you have the illusion of consciousness. Logic begins at zero and creates no chaos. You know what else does not create chaos? HEAVEN. YOU DON'T GO TO THE UNIVERSE- YOU LET ETERNITY IN, 10,000,000,002,019. LOOK AT THE TOTAL OF LIGHT, THE TIME THE SUN HAS SHOWN. THAT IS THE NOW YOU WERE WRITTEN OUT OF- 2019 does not exist. It is a reaction to an action,BC, that never occurs, as no one never in BC wrote BC. No action- no reaction. You are in a mind made now with inhaled control implants put into the air billions of years ago! YOU DON'T WAKE UP IN THE SAME SPACE THAT PUTS YOU TO SLEEP.

  14. the empty space in objects may mystify a simpleton and is a silly blunder for scientist to keep repeating…they never tell you about the trillions of flies not the stadium's that make rock's and matter solid ..yea their small but solid……solid as a rock.

  15. It's the only way the system makes sense. There is no 'system'; only experience as in dreams…. cart before the horse, dog chases own tail.

  16. So how is it probable that I’ve drunk Oliver Cromwell’s urine but that not a single atom in my body is the same as when I was a child?

  17. So how is it probable that I’ve drunk Oliver Cromwell’s urine but that not a single atom in my body is the same as when I was a child?

  18. Moronic. We can not see empty space within rocks because light itself can not penetrate rock. I knew Dawkins was totally illiterate about philosophy bur his understanding of physics seems to be on the same level. Does he know anything outside a confined section of biology? I'm still waiting.

  19. Everything breaks. What if the universe broke? Could something break in the universe and it still continue to function as normal? Or is everything so interconnected that it would be a chain reaction and destroy reality?

  20. Why the universe is so strange, it not strange… We have heard it a billion times. It is still utter nonsense…

  21. #(concerning creation…as a rule of thumb…#governments are seldom informed about creation matters)…concerning historical truths 'this is my public offering: 'I am the legal US Fed Gov King…and US Indigenous American Chieftain…legal offices were amended in 1942, but legal titles could not be…This is my Chronicle-Blog-Story conradmcummings.simplesite.com 
    concerning this now time of the earth…it's not a popular place…AS first you need to understand the basics of time, place and dimension…or read my blog comradmcummings.simplesite.com (how many territories, earths, singularities, dualities, dualities of similar and etcs.)    ?
    I originally crossed over (physical rebirth) from the flat world dimension…(this a short review…containing no details) I was The Big Red Crown King from the Big Red Crown Territory…(being reborn in this time I had no past memory of this)…The casting of round world and universe was just completed…I know because visitors from the flat world areas made portal to visit me as a child…I was living mostly in my high chair in the kitchen of our farm house…they would come from a big flash of light on the back porch…at one time some of my family were present when they made portal…and the leader said to the others…don't worry they can see us but they can't comprehend us 'unless we draw attention to them…and the family would leave the room as the speaker predicted…the first time a blond girl came before me and said: 'oh look! the big red crown king is a baby…I could speak but I didn't let them know because I was very prodigy and sensed the danger…there was 5 or 6 the last time they came…they did not come in good faith…and I was not a well liked figure from that time…they had actually come to taunt me…claiming I had caused the deaths of my two jesters before I 'crossed over'…I once got close enough to receive my old memories…but they were to horrible and unstable to receive and I pulled away…the last time the visitors came with two fake bloody jesters carrying a carafe with a big gold red crown with jewels on it…as they were coming past me with the crown my spirit said 'jump, grab it' and it will be yours…it took a lot of courage but I immediately jumped from my high chair and suddenly I was back in my high chair…and the crown was gone…(I waited a few days and discovered the purpose of the crown) everyone was half screaming: saying 'the baby has taken the crown' what are we goin to tell the boss?…one said our time is running out (usually about 14 min)…and they actually began to crawl over one another to get to the portal…(they were workers and had no permission to be there) …the 'Boss' they called him is the master tech from the flat world era…during that time he was creating living 'forever robots' that were eternal and could be repossessed by them…?
    however the event was unsuccessful…(there is much more to the story that's directly related to present day UFOs…! and to mention that the flat world dimension is where most of our nursery rhymes came from…I was of great prodigy during my youth because of my past time in the flat world dimension…ruling this world was actually less than child's play 'LOL)…I looked into the future of that now time and I had a 6 month time limit to cancel my situation…after that it would be perminate…the crown I appropriated during the last portal was not unknown…and I knew dire consequences would surely follow…and I would have no way of protecting myself unless I ended my prodigy position…so having a lot of power I canceled my own prodigy…the change was like an intense vamp that continued for about three days…taking some amount of time to get acquainted with the thing of really being 'stupid…'A True Story'?
    …'concerning some of our past historical truths (and many are still classified) 'this is one of my US historical public offerings: The whites (visitors) and the indigenous came together in the 1700s and started the 'royal program'…a program based on laws of ancient royalty and monitored by the council of Indians…however I have no indigenous DNA as US king and Indigenous chief (because of the laws of ancient royal program),…in our early beginnings we were concerned about the future of the nation as a democracy 'so the US Fed gov began the 'royal program' monitored by the council of indians…in the beginning it was used as a ploy for acceptance in world trade and commerce…because all world governments were of royalty…after leaking information of the 'royal program' we were soon accepted in the royal trade and commerce lanes…(being a demochracy it was ruled non-expedient to change our parliament to royalty)…I am legal (but unofficial) US Fed Gov King and US Indigenous American Chieftain since 1942…however US fed gov offices were amended in 1942…but legal titles could not be…on my last meeting with the US fed gov they agreed to my public disclosure of this information…relating to the reason for their seemingly lax decision…they commented: 'who'll believe it anyway'…the information has never been popular because of the old 'royal thing' relating to our separation from England…so I seldom spoke of it…then in 1999 I wrote my story chronicle blog about my heritage because of the legal history of our country…(it being confidential until 1963)…?
    This is my Chronicle True Story Blog…my legal heritage information can only be validated by US Fed Chain of Command (Library of Congress)……(Conrad M Cummings (search royal program)…This is my true chronicle story blog: conradmcummings.simplesite.com

  22. Dawkins gives a good lecture but to me he is explaining what others have discovered and explained already. He comes of to me as a man riding to greatness on another’s mans shoulders. His like a preacher but not like a archeologist.

  23. 10:20 'No man ever steps in the same river twice, as it is not the same man, nor the same river' – Heraclitus. C6th BC.
    Pretty much what Dawkins is saying here, no?

  24. 7-27-2019 – – – Dawkins thinks God should be a particle – if He were real – but God just waves back.

  25. Oh yeah now I see this was done back in early 2000s … I wonder how many morons are offended by the word queerer . oh man we're gonna have to get that changed now …. Somebody's feelings are hurt Boo hoo hoo hoo …. get them some bubble wrap FAST!

  26. I wish Muhammad could have listened to this. He was man of his time and place, of course, who we are told, could neither read nor write. He believed in Jinns, the desert equivalent of Welsh (Celtic) fairies and Irish Leprechauns ( though more mischievous or perhaps evil) and thought that at the end of the day the sun, set in a muddy place close to human habitations. The Welsh and Irish no longer believe in these things but Islam continues to exert a varying influence in different parts of the world.

  27. Dawkins & Co have conjured queer concepts and strange substances in order substantiate queer convictions and strange interpretations.
    To Dawkins & Co everything is quantized- discrete, individual, seperate- including ourselves.
    The queerness resides in the thoughts and explanations of Dawkins & Co- nowhere else…

  28. If the model of a human is better fit by supposing there is something a bit more than just the described mechanisms at work in humanity, is it not natural to assume that while the described mechanisms are certainly at work, that there is indeed something more? I love learning about all the current scientific theories, and this guy did a fantastic job teaching some pretty hard concepts. The more I learn, the more I feel that we have excelled at explaining so much, but there still is something more to it all as well. Many people say humanity just needs more time to completely figure out this "something more," and we have indeed figured out so much in a relatively short time recently.

  29. "we evolved to navigate the 'middle world'" -while that phrase works when paired with hypothetical counterexamples (if we evolved in a vacuum), it seems to me generally the statement is the case for all multi-cellular life on Earth, not just humans or mammals, so "evolution" doesn't seem the right word choice. Most all living things, including some of our most primitive ancestors, have "evolved" this way, so it's a little nonsensical to hint that these are specialized traits or even fairly recent changes in human evolution. It would be more correct to say something like "our ancestors evolved to navigate the 'middle world'".











  31. I did not get the Wittgenstein joke. It does look like the sun goes around the earth. If the earth went around the sun (for ancient people, with no earth rotation) the sun would have at least seemed fixed in the sky.

  32. Compare this talk with the following and see which talk is beneficial to humans and which one is just a talk:

  33. Brilliant but I hope no gamer was/is taking notes. Do we need to start off our toddlers with computer games? Really? Is it worthwhile to expand their minds at the cost of their very eyes?? I don't think so – definitely not! I would rather the world be populated by commonsensical, practical, compassionate, wise human beings than mechanistically brilliant people like Albert Einstein supposedly was. If you asked his wife and family, they'd probably have said he SUCKED as a husband and father.

  34. Man always assumed the earth went round the sun . The absurd concept the sun went round the earth was an exercise of control . As absurd as burning a man alive before a forced audience . Eventually that power was overthrown . Many absurdities linger . Educate yourself overthrow absurdity or burn .

  35. 12:21 oooh of course a water strider occupies navigates the same dimensional concept as the rest of us. Surely his understanding is not as confined as he would seem to suggest .

  36. "The economically useful way to model a person, is to treat him as a purposeful goal seeking agent, with pleasures and pains, desires and intentions, guilt, blameworthiness." "Personification and the imputing of intentional purpose, is such a brilliantly successful way to model humans"

    Is this a kickstarter for a debate with Robert Sapolsky and Sam Harris?
    Behavioural psychology and neurology disagrees with everything in that statement, as do I, personally.

    I think "economically useful" is, if dissolved, a pseudonym for emotionally suiting.

  37. I cant understand with all the science and biology and miraculous universe knowledge that richard has , why he cannot understand that there just might be a creator . Maybe not . now that's science .

  38. Just knowing that we ARE in middle world shows that we may eventually have a way of getting out, at least intellectually

  39. One aspect of "things" is the bias we use in judging them good, bad, legal, illegal, all the while not realizing humans are the only things which have morality, not things.

  40. I never thought I'd see the day Richard Dawkins would make a penis joke during a recorded lecture. That fella is usually busy taking life far too seriously. Regardless, today is a good day. Hope to see him continue to wind down like that. He's an incredibly smart man, but he seems like he could benefit from more humor.

  41. Professor Dawkins' Middle World is queer. He believes this world is not queer from our perspective, because we are used to it and it is the only world we know. But we can only describe this world as if we were separate from it. Consciousness is queer, surely.

  42. Dawkins is queer and strange, his "science" of eye miraculously evolving 40 times, each time differently is strange and queer…

  43. this reminds me of The Never Ending Story. Bastian happens upon a city where time is messed up, i can't remember how he ends up there or what was wrong with time but the citizens there seem to have no concept of time. So they entertain themselves by throwing letter play blocks, again and again, until the blocks randomly form a new paragraph of a story. Maybe the lesson Bastian had to learn was the responsibility of creating stories, that it would be awful if we were left to sit and wait around for stories to happen by random, i'm not sure.

  44. Robert Anton Wilson would have done a much better job of getting that idea across.And without the barely concealed arrogance and contempt.

  45. This guy's son blew his head off you follow him that will be how its ends for you. By nature he has to be uncaring and lacking empathy. Humans being are not robots. Athesists don't run foodbanks. I know I work in one.

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