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Biotech Science

Hawking Says Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution 398

movesguy sends us to The Daily Galaxy for comments by Stephen Hawking about how humans are evolving in a different way than any species before us. Quoting: "'At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information. I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race,' Hawking said. In the last ten thousand years the human species has been in what Hawking calls, 'an external transmission phase,' where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. 'But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage,' Hawking says, 'has grown enormously. Some people would use the term evolution only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes.'"
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Hawking Says Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution

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  • What's his point? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by i-like-burritos ( 1532531 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:05PM (#28576991)
    This is basically just a useless semantics argument.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:09PM (#28577005)

    ...the singularity is already here []...

  • Memes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orkysoft ( 93727 ) <.moc.xoblaerym. .ta. .tfosykro.> on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:11PM (#28577015) Journal

    So he's talking about memes [].

  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:12PM (#28577019)

    Memes. []

    Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist of some note, coined the term to describe the ideas that people create, that reproduce in much the same way genes do.

    This came from his earlier ideas of a "selfish gene []" to postulate that genes existed to propagate themselves, which helped to describe a lot of aspects of evolutionary development, from altruism to various kinds of suicidal behavior. In other words, it isn't the lifeform itself that is important in the reproductive cycle, so much as the information they pass along.

    Ryan Fenton

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:13PM (#28577027)

    Our species is more than just the information we carry in our DNA.
    It's all the information we "own".

  • ten thousand years (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:26PM (#28577089) Journal
    Ten thousand years is only 400 twenty-five year generations. That's not a lot of time for any significant alteration in how our evolution works, especially considering the millions of years it took to get us this far in the first place. Perhaps Dr. Hawking should stick to theoretical physics.

    Of course having said that, he's a father, grandfather, world famous author, and Nobel prize winning genius, despite being a wheelchair bound victim of neuromuscular dystrophy who can barely speak, whereas I am single, childless, and broke, despite being relatively healthy.
  • by hwyhobo ( 1420503 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:28PM (#28577103)

    We are more than just our genes

    Yes, but we must be willing to use that knowledge to improve human chances for long-term survival, not to counteract the evolution just to feel good. If we take the latter course of action, as it is trendy to do, we are in effect using our evolutionary advantage against ourselves.

  • by whistlingtony ( 691548 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:39PM (#28577147)

    Errrgghh.... Stephen Hawking said something that bothered me. I feel weird.....

    Now, I am not a biologist, or even in the field. I have read The Selfish Gene, and consider myself up on evolutionary theory....

    OK. There are several misconceptions about evolution that drive me nuts. Why? Because it's incredibly important to understand, as it helps explain so much about life on this planet. It hurts me that people accept the Law of Gravity, but poke at the evolutionary process....

    Ok... Misconceptions.
    1. Evolution has a goal.
    It doesn't. We are not going to transcend or become ultimate beings. No. It just adapts critters to their environment. What's neat is that critters adapt to each other, together. Think about that, and ecosystems, and all that web of life stuff for a while and it's pretty neat.

    2. Evolution is critter-centric.
    We are simply carriers for genese. Evolution is gene centric. Most of your genes are useless to you. Stuff that is stupid at a critter level can make perfect sense at a gene level. Those little bastards are using us, and don't care about us at all, as long as we breed.

    3. Survival of the fittest.
    It's survival of the breediest, not necessarily of the fittest.

    4. Evolution works through mutation.
    Errrrgghh... I disagree with Stephen Hawking. Ok, mutation helps, but you know what? Evolution doesn't need it. Most mutations result in a f*kup, not something useful. Evolution just needs seperate populations and/or environments. Eventually populations diverge and become more suited to their environments.

    I feel weird....


  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:49PM (#28577185)

    Well if you look at what he says from individualistic perspective, then the you are right. Evolution affects species not individuals. However, if you are trying to understand the broader changes happening right now with humanity. Everyone wants to know where we are going. That is hugely significant. We advanced to the point that developing intelligence born out materials not possible through biological evolution. We are also getting close to programming our DNA to adapt to any environment and drive our own evolution. Of course, we could just apply these principle to understand how the US economy will evolve in this post industrial age. What will drive our growth. That might help your stock portfolio.

  • by ahankinson ( 1249646 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:56PM (#28577217)

    I think you're trying to make a useful argument here, and on the surface you're trying to challenge the idea of racial intelligence. But your post is horribly misguided. I can't decide if you're flaming on purpose, or just plain ignorant, so I'll bite.

    You're assuming that everything that has value is somehow linked to science and technology. You completely dismiss differences in cultural values as being somehow 'less' than the output of the Europeans. The IQ test has, built into it, the cultural bias of the white, european, while completely disregarding other values. You can bet that if the IQ test included intelligence and observations on how nature behaves outside of the constraints of 'the scientific method' the Europeans would have their asses handed to them by the native americans, the australian aboriginals, or any other culture that couldn't give two pig shits about European science or technology.

    Walk, don't run, to your nearest library and check out "Guns, Germs and Steel". The author successfully challenges and completely and systematically demolishes the idea of some sort of inherent racial intelligence difference.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:59PM (#28577235) Journal

    I have no idea where morons like you come from. Sub-saharan Africa has the highest genetic diversity on the planet. Ponder that for a moment. It means that your notion of some sort of genetic "dumbness" is bunk.

    But maybe that explains your own stupidity, fear and ignorance. I'd feel sorry for you, if you weren't such a loathesome pile of garbage. Now go find a rock, you useless piece of shit.

  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:01PM (#28577241) Homepage

    But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes.

    Take that line a step further and you get transhumanism. We are no longer an isolated life form, but are inherently coupled with our tools. Tools that extend our minds around the planet. The Internet.

    Books are cool, but they're pretty uni-directional. Wikipedia is cooler, updating our knowledge base in real time. Twitter is even faster; a brain extension so fast and light that it recently fomented revolution.

    Yeah, we're past genes. What's more, we're rapidly passing static tools like rocks, newspapers, and books. Our minds are connected to each other in real-time, planet-wide. Our individual minds are gaining connectivity to the hive mind and extending our capabilities, much as our giant neocortex lifted us above the other animals.

    See: Transhumanism []

  • by schmidt349 ( 690948 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:02PM (#28577243)

    Life isn't just about passing on your genes.
    We can leave behind much more than just DNA.
    Through speech, music, literature and movies...
    what we've seen, heard, felt ...anger, joy and sorrow...
    these are the things I will pass on.
    That's what I live for.
    We need to pass the torch,
    and let our children read our messy and sad history by its light.
    We have all the magic of the digital age to do that with.
    The human race will probably come to an end some time,
    and new species may rule over this planet.
    Earth may not be forever,
    but we still have the responsibility to leave what traces of life we can.
    Building the future and keeping the past alive are one and the same thing.

  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:04PM (#28577253) Homepage Journal

    ... and use higher and higher levels of abstraction [] so to communicate and develope more and more refined technology that will someday allow us to advance beyond where we can see ourselves going today. To the point of enabling us to create a black hole for the purpose of its rebound effect of creating a galaxy so as to continue on the expansion of the universe for the insurance of the continuation of conscious life.... to repeat the process.

    One of the things I have noticed about our evolution is that it seems to be related to population growth. As our population grows we face new problems that we must adapt to and this generally leads to advancements in social development. One recorded event is the story of the tower of Babylon and how the population growth and specialization grew to the point of a bicameral mind break down [] that lead to expansion and now so long after, we have come back together in population growth with further advancements.

    Another interesting analogy or extension of this process is that of open source software where branching projects off to eventually bring the best of the branches back together.... and its all based on, in essence, Abstraction Physics [] of code development. Where the difference between human to human language and human to machine to human, is automation of human created abstractions...

  • by rlseaman ( 1420667 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:08PM (#28577279)

    Stephen Jay Gould told an anecdote about Richard Feynman excitedly announcing that he had discovered new principles of evolution. On inspection they turned out to be either well known findings or well known fallacies. Basically he was largely ignorant of the literature in the field. It says more about physicists than about evolution that he would deem himself qualified to wade into the fray with such minimal preparation.

    It is not surprising that Stephen Hawking, another great physicist, similarly feels empowered to speculate about evolution without apparently having read Richard Dawkin's popular works. Others have mentioned memes, but Dawkin's notion of the extended phenotype might be even more pertinent. Hawkings appears to be taking the notion of the meme to the extreme of thinking that species evolution is now relying on actual gene analogues outside our physical corpus. Rather, our genes remain internal, but their somatic expression is external to ourselves.

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:08PM (#28577285) Homepage
    No, it's not necessarily "survival of the breediest". The breediest does not survive in the long term if that population growth alters its habitat beyond its ability to adapt. Examples of this can be found at the cellular level (e.g. cancer cells breeding out of control may kill the organism, including the cancer) and at the cellular-phone-using level (e.g. H. Sapiens breeding out of control crowds out too much CO2-eating vegetation adds too much CO2 into the air, causing the greenhouse effect and its own eventual extinction).
  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:13PM (#28577305) Journal
    But computer programs aren't that different compared to 30 years ago.

    Just look at the operating systems:

    Unix is pretty old. When you strip away the "transparent windows" and flashy glitz, the popular desktop computer O/Ses (Linux/OSX/Windows) are just as primitive as stuff 30 years ago.

    And look up the "Mother of all Demos" - they had real time video conferencing, working together with a remote user over a WAN on the same document. So many innovative concepts, 40+ years ago.

    The hardware available then naturally limited these pioneers, I'm sure they had plenty more they could think of but could not implement.

    Linux - just Unix revisited.
    Mac - The WIMP from PARC finally makes its way to the public (note the scrollbar was invented in 1977).
    Windows 95/2K- ok the taskbar was nice (I think the Acorn had it first).
    Windows XP - whoopee a new colour scheme, and some rearrangements, no big improvements
    Windows Vista - I can't say this is a big improvement, in many ways the user experience is worse.
    KDE/GNOME - basically the same old thing as "X" years ago, now with Wobbly Windows and stuff copied from Windows 95.

    As for apps, the spreadsheet was a decent leap 30+ years ago. The browser? Go look at the Demo again and look up the history of hypertext. DTP? I dunno...

    The Lisp fanatics will say stuff is just as primitive as it was 50 years ago, if not more primitive ;).
  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:15PM (#28577319)

    Clearly you need to impair yourself physically to allow your brain to develop. See, blindness develops your ears, deafnes develops your eyes, and physical disability develops your brain.

    Training to develop under-used muscles/skills is what I hope you meant. Disability by itself doesn't provide any such strengths.

    No, but, the human condition seems to provide us with incredible potential in a diverse set of skills, but only enough capacity to develop a subset of that potential - if you become handicapped in one area, and you don't get despondent / depressed / suicidal, your drive to excel gets channeled into other areas, developing them beyond normal levels, and the fact that you are handicapped seems to "free up additional capacity" for the non-handicapped skills.

    Not just good hearing for the blind, also savant skills, etc. TMI experiments seem to promise the ability to induce temporary handicaps that temporarily enable some savant skills - very very sketchy at present, but that's what the experimenters want to see, and they have some data to back up their dreams already.

    Hawking himself may be an example of this - no ability to waste time on sports, etc., but plenty of time to think about theoretical physics, and potentially lots of spare brain capacity that would otherwise have been learning how to hit a ball with a stick, etc.

  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:19PM (#28577345) Homepage Journal

    There is one flaw of this projection. It is the same problem that has inflicted mankind as long as there has been human consciousness.... the power of human denial.

    It is the one thing you can bet on and always win.

  • by etherlad ( 410990 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nostawnai)> on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:26PM (#28577397) Homepage

    Sir Stephen Hawking is a very smart man, and I have the utmost respect for him.

    However, he should stick to the areas of his expertise and let biologists talk about evolution, because that's their area of expertise.

    I wouldn't expect anyone to take Dr. Richard Dawkins' thoughts on quantum mechanics as definitive, and this is no different.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:38PM (#28577463) Journal
    I agree, it did not begin with literacy, there was Culture and Religion way before literacy.

    Your consciousness depends on your collection of cells to work together as a _group_ (with the individual cells regularly making sacrifices for the benefit of the whole).

    But independent cells have done pretty fine for billions of years, without this newfangled "working together for the better of the whole" idea :). Are your poor little white blood cells and neurons doing that much better than protozoa? Do they even know "You" exist? Red blood cells don't even have a nucleus.

    Can Culture and Religion benefit the hosts? Or only some cultures and religions?
  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:50PM (#28577509)

    So you're saying that the Scientific Method is bunk? Sorry, but you just lost me with your argument there. The Scientific Method is the reason we have advanced technology now, and aren't just sitting around in grass huts or caves and suffering with a life expectancy of 30. The "all cultures are equal" line is bunch of liberal B.S. Some cultures are absolutley superior to others. Cultures which treat women as property, for instance, are inferior cultures.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with race, but as a typical liberal, you had to inject race into it. Cultures developed differently, in different places, because of external factors as noted in Guns, Germs and Steel: geography, suitability for agriculture, etc. The people from these cultures are interchangeable: take some African-born infant and raise him in Western Europe with advanced medicine and European parents and he's going to turn out basically a dark-skinned European, with European culture and probably just as smart as an average European. The IQ test isn't biased; it's just showing that people raised in poor conditions, with poor nutrition (especially in childhood), possibly in war-torn countries, tend to not grow up to be as smart as children that grew up in better conditions, where were able to spend their childhood exercising their brains learning math, science, language, etc. instead of dodging bullets or swatting flies.

  • by Raffaello ( 230287 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:13AM (#28577609)

    Exactly. Apparently something that is very, very old news in social science circles [] has just occurred to Hawking, so naturally, it must be a new idea, right?

    Miranda: How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't!
    Prospero: 'Tis new to thee. (The Tempest, Act V:Sc. 1, line 183-184)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:15AM (#28577621)
    Oh for fuck sakes. The man has a brainstorm, and you feel he's out in left field. Apparently the man has touched on a subject that biologists have been discussing for a while now, and he did it without any substantial background in biology or the study of evolution. I doubt he was expecting another nobel prize for this. You say you have respect for him, but you don't have basic respect for intellect, so I doubt your disclaimer whole heartedly.
  • by paulsnx2 ( 453081 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:18AM (#28577637)

    Makes one wonder about folks that take Dr. Richard Dawkin's thoughts on theology as definitive, doesn't it?

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:25AM (#28577681)

    I think this highly oversimplifies things.

    Yes, many "mechanical" things about computer software hasn't changed that much in 30-40 years. The C language is 40 years old and still is the language of choice for many things. Most other languages are similarly imperative, if not downright derived from C (functional languages, while at least as old, never really caught on much). Operating systems still basically work the same way: they allow separate processes with isolated memory, separate users, restricted access to hardware by programs, preemptive multitasking, etc. Even GUIs aren't that new, since the WIMP interface was invented by PARC in the 70s.

    What's new is all the high-level stuff done with it: having an internet that not only connects universities, but is accessible by everyone from their home or their mobile phone. Buying stuff on the internet, communicating with each other on Facebook, etc. The thing that's changed is who uses this technology, and what they use it for.

    When I was in high school in 1989, the only people that had computers at home were either adults who needed them for work, or geeks like me. Most people didn't have computers, and thought anyone that spent their spare time on a computer instead of watching some crap on TV were crazy. Now, every knucklehead has a computer and knows how to use the internet. People spend all kinds of time screwing around on sites like MySpace and Facebook. So many people read the news online that newspapers are going out of business left and right. All kinds of people are using Craigslist to buy and sell stuff locally, or to meet each other.

    As for apps, the spreadsheet was a decent leap 30+ years ago. The browser? Go look at the Demo again and look up the history of hypertext. DTP? I dunno...

    Actually, browsers have evolved a lot in the last 15 years. They started out as just a way to display marked-up text, and now they're a way to not only show all kinds of data (text and video), but a way to interact with other systems. For instance, look at Google Maps, or other AJAX apps. That's not static data, it's basically a way of running an application remotely. IMO, the whole HTTP legacy of web browsers is holding them back. The entire way interactive web pages are written now seems like a giant kludge, when for many things it seems like it'd be simpler to just write an app in C++ or Java or whatever, run it on the remote server, and display it remotely on the user's computer.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:35AM (#28577741)

    Hawking is more or less repeating ideas that others have come up with, as others have pointed out, but your post is pointless. If you disagree with someone, Hawking or otherwise, make a cogent argument refuting theirs. "He's a physicist and this is biology" is just a slightly mangled appeal to authority - a logical fallacy.

    Ironically, Hawking is saying many of the same things that Dawkins has said.

  • by paleo2002 ( 1079697 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:42AM (#28577777)
    With all due respect to Dr. Hawking, the idea that humanity evolves differently from other species is nothing new amongst paleontologists and evolutionary biologists.

    Most plant and animal species evolve by natural selection (or mutation, or whatever the current fad alternative theory is) over generations and hundreds of years. If local climate becomes colder, mammals with favorable cold adaptations such as thicker coats gain a selective advantage. Over time, the gene for thick coats becomes fixed in the population. For humans, if it starts to get cold out, we put on a coat. Or we build insulated enclosures that feature heated swimming pools.

    Because of our ability to alter the environment, communicate abstract ideas, and store information outside our genetic code, humanity is able to adapt to environmental changes in real time, rather than geologic time. Its still evolution - change over time, adapting to new environmental factors - but much faster.

    And, more often than not, the environmental changes are of our own making. We adapt to new technologies, new life styles, and new information as society progresses. Those adaptations spread quickly through the social environment via education and mass communication. You need to use a blackberry to be successful in your new job, but you're not sure if you inherited the texting gene from your parents? No need to mate with a slashdotter and pass the job off to your kids, just read the instruction manual!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:48AM (#28577809)

    Yeah, interdisciplinary talk never amounted to anything. Everything is separate. People should stick with a specialised field and stepping outside that is simply unproductive. And while we're at it, perhaps you shouldn't have posted your comment unless your area of expertise is the study of areas of expertise.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:48AM (#28577813)

    "Stephen Jay Gould told an anecdote about Richard Feynman excitedly announcing that he had discovered new principles of evolution. On inspection they turned out to be either well known findings or well known fallacies. Basically he was largely ignorant of the literature in the field."

    If you know anything at all about the incredibly high level of intellectual honesty Feynman held himself to, this statement would sound absurdly out of character for him. In the absence of a citation, I call bullshit on your specious anecdote.

  • by littlewink ( 996298 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:57AM (#28577843)
    An organism interacts with it's environment by slightly modifying it's behavior. That behavior alters the environment, sometimes radically. Sometimes a positive feedback loop is established between organism and environment that causes unusully rapid evolutionary change. Man is the most extreme case of niche construction . See Niche Construction [] for details.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:19AM (#28577931)

    It's very unscientific to assume that someone may only have relevant ideas in 'their field of expertise'. I'm sure if you look around you'll find a lot of people who have great ideas in disciplines that they weren't officially eminent in, especially since many of the greatest inventions resulted from accidental discoveries.

  • Re:Memes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rdnetto ( 955205 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:26AM (#28577961)

    The answers tell you whether the person sees themselves as a bundle of genes or as a bundle of memes.

    You're making an assumption about their reasons for wanting to procreate. Given that the child would be successful, its possible that they could do far more than a single book could. For example, they could write many successful books, or be another Hawking, Einstein or Tesla.

  • Re:Memes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:31AM (#28577981) Homepage Journal

    A fun question to ask people is: "if you could only have one, which would you rather do: author a successful book or be parent to a successful child (raised by others)". The answers tell you whether the person sees themselves as a bundle of genes or as a bundle of memes.

    Only if you assume that people's main goal in life is to reproduce themselves or achieve immortality in some regard.

    Me, I'd rather be a parent to a child, because I've had more fun playing with kids and doing family activities than I've ever had writing, or talking to a group of people. I've heard a few writers talk about going on book tours and it sounds like hell. Also, fame seems to be universally hellish, unless the person is emotionally sick enough that they can't feel good from normal situations, but need the adoration of nameless strangers.

    So my main thrust in life is to enjoy myself. At some point all of my progeny will die out ( if I ever have any ) and certainly all my writings and recorded thoughts will be obliterated. I don't worry too much about the future.

  • Re:Memes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by metlin ( 258108 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:17AM (#28578399) Journal

    Or you could do both - John Stuart Mill [] is the perfect example.

    James Mill wanted his son to carry on the mantle of Jeremy Bentham's utilitarian philosophy, and John is probably one of the greatest philosophers of our times.

    So, there is no reason you cannot do both - James Mill was a great thinker in his own right (as was Jeremy Bentham); and them raising John the way they did created a true genius.

    If only everyone raised their kids thus... imagine how far humanity would go.

  • by cephalien ( 529516 ) <> on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:26AM (#28578435)

    (Disclaimer: I am a scientist, so this isn't anecdotal)

    Mod my parent up. This is -precisely- true. The idea that we test a hypothesis and refine it based on experimental outcomes is utter BS. In all but the most -basic- of processes, there simply is no way to account for all possible results of testing a system; this is further compounded in my field, where an 'in vitro' experiment may yield different results than one 'in vivo'. To make matters worse, those 'in vitro' experiments may in fact yield different results in /different cell types/, given all other conditions being precisely the same.

    Without going into too much detail, the real nature of science is that we already have a fairly good idea of what we -want- to happen before we begin testing. I may have a vague theory about the experiments will come out, but more often than not we end up writing the theory to fit the facts around the time the data is published, in such a way that it fits the data we've collected, even though that final theory may not have any relation to the initial expectations.

    Some of this is also attributable to the funding system (at least in the US). Submission of a grant (money to do experiments) requires that you already have (preliminary) information, and a fairly tight and detailed set of theories to explain how what you propose to do will result in a conclusion, as well as what those conclusions will be. Essentially, you need to present some data in order to get funding to obtain data. Give too much preliminary research, and you won't have enough theory and interesting suggestions to get funding, but if you don't have enough research done (how you do this without money is a nice conundrum), you won't get funding.

    In practice, this often means researchers with no active funding will dust off old unpublished work, and write theories around it, in order to talk the NIH into paying out money so real work can get done (since once you're funded, you can really do whatever research you want -- especially if we're not talking about a renewable grant).

    So it's really a messed up system all around, but the scientific method as you know it has virtually no role in it either way.

  • by Michael_gr ( 1066324 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:55AM (#28578555)
    Just the opposite. etherlad is pointing out that automatically believing something Hawking says, just because "he's a famous scientist", is a logical fallacy in itself. Hawking is not a biologist and therefore is unlikely to have made any actual research, theoretical work or experiment regarding evolution or memes. Therefore, what he said was probably just opinion. No better than anyone else's. And, as other people said, it's not even a new idea, and certainly it isn't HIS idea. So why is it even news? I don't know.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:16AM (#28578635) Journal
    Wow, did you even read the post he was replying to? The original poster made an argument that Africans are stupider than every other race. The post you replied to, was explaining that race has nothing to do with intelligence. And then for some reason you accused him of bringing race into it, when he clearly did not.

    Everyone, please try to understand the context of a post before replying to it. It will make the conversation go so much nicer.
  • by tyroneking ( 258793 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:52AM (#28578757)

    Sorry but you're so wrong.
    1) Hawking is very very smart and it is likely that he has very good ideas about many branches of science beyond his own. It's not beyond possibility that he has more knowledge than most about more than one field is it?
    2) There is a clear connection between what Hawking has to say about some part of human evolution occurring externally to the human form (in information stored externally) and the idea that information crossing the event horizon of black hole is preserved and emitted back out (IANAP so forgive any error I may have made here).

  • by Forrest Kyle ( 955623 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:53AM (#28578761) Homepage
    Are you saying Twitter is a more important intellectual fountain than books? Because no.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:01AM (#28578789)

    Why does being an expert in one area imply you can't also be an expert in another area? Maybe he's trying to be the Bo Jackson of scientists?

    If you're going to criticize somebody's work do it based on the merits of their work, not your opinion of the author.

  • This makes sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lttlordfault ( 1561315 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @07:49AM (#28579249)
    This is something I've never really considered before, but seems to make sense.

    When people stopped competing on who could keep eating enough for survival and as social interaction between people increased, the evolutionary battle moved from being physically based to one based on knowledge.

    Though this is really a different way of thinking about evolution, there are a lot of parallels I can think of between classic evolution and a knowledge based evolution.

    I'd say that as knowledge became more important this evolutionary race moved from just being about independent people a common pool of knowledge grew, almost as an ant hive has a swarm life of it's own, all building for a common purpose, the advancement of that race as a common goal.

    Just my 2 cents, as I said I've never really considered this before so I'm only just getting my head round it

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @08:56AM (#28579503) Journal

    Sir Stephen Hawking is a very smart man, and I have the utmost respect for him.

    However, he should stick to the areas of his expertise and let biologists talk about evolution, because that's their area of expertise.

    I wouldn't expect anyone to take Dr. Richard Dawkins' thoughts on quantum mechanics as definitive, and this is no different.

    This is a pure ad-hominem attack. You show absolutely no understanding of the message, you don't even mention it with one single word, but you feel you can bash the messenger.

    The interesting fact is, Hawkings has not even taken on genetics itself (of which he is no expert), he states taht human evolution is determined by more than just genes, as we are a species that leaves behind us more information than just what is stored in our genes. So he wasn't even talking from the podium of a geneticist; his was a larger-picture stance looking at humankind as more than just an animal species.

  • by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @09:26AM (#28579615) Journal

    Perhaps he's wrong to say that we'd still be sitting around in caves, but technology has still advanced tremedously in the last few hundred years since "the scientific method", so it's not true to say that all this progress happened "long before the scientific practice".

    I'd argue that many of the scientific advances before then were still the scientific method in practice, it's just that the process wasn't formalised (this wasn't a sudden thing after all - the method was formalised over a period of hundreds of years and is very much a part of scientific progress itself - e.g., see [] ).

    The vast majority of our advances in Western society have been due to sheer intelligence - IE, observations

    And? Using intelligence to form a hypothesis from observations is the first stage of the scientific method.


    Einstein fits perfectly with the scientific method. Both relativity and the photoelectric effect came from trying to solve known problems, based on observations that had been made. His theories were then tested (I suppose you could argue that in some sense, testing wasn't required, in that it was already proven from the observed data - I'm reminded of Einstein's reply of "Then I would feel sorry for the good Lord", when asked what if the experiment failed to support relativity. But we cannot always be so sure).

    Newton similarly followed the scientific method when he came up with laws of motion, and a theory of gravitation, to explain observed facts. The progress he made was a fundamental part of the scientific method. His dabbling on alchemy and the occult was not so scientific, however - yet would you suggest that these somehow contributed to science and technology?

    Socrates was a philosopher - but he himself came up with the Socratic Method [], which I would argue is the sort of rational approach that later lead to methods such as the scientific method.

    I think you are misunderstanding what the scientific method is. It's not "let's tinker around randomly and hope we find something through trial and error" as you imply - it's precisely the application of intelligence to observation that you describe, followed up with testing to make sure we are right. Hypotheses are not randomly made up, they must still fit the observed data, and theories must provide a model to explain the observed data.

    What method do you advocate in place of the scientific method?

  • by Ginger Unicorn ( 952287 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @10:18AM (#28579923)
    No, what you've noticed is that some people, some times, exhibit that double standard in judgement. Then you just arbitrarily glossed a gigantic generalisation over some nebulous ill-defined boogeyman you've labelled "Liberals".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:38AM (#28580427)

    in my LSD and Weed smoking days, no one interviewed me, and I certainly had no magazines or authors contacting me for my "evolutionary knowledge"


  • by jipn4 ( 1367823 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:43AM (#28580463)

    "He's a physicist and this is biology" is just a slightly mangled appeal to authority - a logical fallacy.

    Why do you think anybody listens to Hawking in the first place? Because he is famous. If he weren't, nobody would give a damn what he had to say about biology. Refuting him on biology is no more worthwhile than refuting the guys at the Creation Science institute on biology.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?