EF4 SHOW NOTES
Looking to play or download the episode? Click here…(EF4) S1-E2: The Decapitation of Reason: A Skeptic’s Guide (Season One, Episode Two)
How Can You Know Anything?
The big question driving Episode EF4 is… How can you know anything? People rarely think about the origins of knowledge. From where does everything we know come from? It does sound a bit stupid to ask until you realize that knowledge rarely changes. Yes, there is the knowledge that’s set in stone like that if you have two apples and add another two, you’ll have four.
But 300 years ago, the common knowledge was that the only way to communicate long-distance is using birds. Today, thanks to development and thus the constant change of knowledge, we can communicate anyway we want – pic or no pic. So if knowledge is constantly developing, does that mean you should evolve as well? But how if knowledge, the tool for development, is constantly shifting as well? Who knows, maybe in a near future, adding two apples to a basket with two apples will no longer make four.
DEDICATION: Episode EF4 is dedicated to Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist, and reason-fanatic who, like Ian Ament in Episode EF4, might be willing to cut off his head if it would prove something fundamental about science. Perhaps something near and dear to his heart like disproving the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster might justify decapitation.
Dawkins coined the term meme just like Monty Python coined spam. His work on popularizing the gene as the central unit of evolutionary selection puts him on ‘Darwin of the modern era’ lists, at least in the popular sphere. And similar to the ubiquitous utility of the word spam in an internet flooded with junk, the word meme is synonymous with the current fake news epoch. It’s also likely to be the key concept for which Dawkins will be known.
If we take Dawkins’ perspective and look at individuals as “survival machines”, we can see the irony behind our need to be right. It is not a biological survival, but survival in the arena of opinion where several collections of knowledge are always fighting to be right. Knowledge is less and less used to prove a fact and more to establish a subjective point. It’s a slippery slope because although one side might have the correct facts, they aren’t the goal, but a tool to defeat the opponent.
People aren’t sharing the facts to enrich each other’s knowledge, but to fight, win, and survive. This tendency appears almost to be a biological instinct hardwired in all one of us. Because in the end, we are all only human.
HOW RICHARD DAWKINS INSPIRES EF4
In Episode EF4, the protagonist Ian Ament goes all in to shake the very foundation of humanity without questioning the possible downsides or what might physically happen to him. Progress, it seems, only proceeds in a single direction.
Whether you agree with all of his viewpoints or his combative style, Dawkins’ work is a plethora of thoughtful insights about humanity. Here is more you can check out if you want to learn more:
- Most Prominent Work:
INSPIRATIONS: Charles Darwin, a man haunted by his discovery of what humanity might be, and the heavy burden of what that knowledge meant in a society still living in the dark. Mary Shelley, the famous writer of the novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus who dared to cut off more than just one limb with her pen. David Hume, a famous philosopher who is directly responsible for developing three contrary schools of thought. Because why should what we know limit us? Sergio Canavero, a neuroscientist who quite literary plans to bring Mary Shelley’s work to life. Episode EF4 was further inspired by Sergei Brukhonenko, Vladimir Demikhov, Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Plato, David Hume, Epicurus, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nicolaus Copernicus, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin. For a full list of data and references please, see Episode EF4 Show Notes.
Episode EF4 Summary
At the height of his success, a controversial philosopher named Ian Ament reveals a dangerous plan to do a head transplant swap with his brother. Nobody knows why and both the scientific and medical communities at large are concerned. In a tense live interview with a potential surgeon named Ross Hunter, Ament methodically explains his reasoning to the world. Yet his reasons only bring more questions. Is there something more behind Ament’s plan? For the next 60 minutes of this interview, the historical arc of reason—and Ian’s head—are both on the chopping block as we wait to find out if the ax will fall.
In this episode, we’ll discover what do the theories of rationalism, empiricism and skepticism have to say about the way we gain new knowledge. Why do rationalism and empiricism seem to collide on how humans function? Would it work to instead be a skeptic every time you face a new obstacle? Finally, is there a way to optimize your mindset and personal means of knowledge acquisition?
Unknown Writer, How Russian Scientists Kept a Dog’s Severed Head Alive!, scribol.com. http://scribol.com/science/biology/how-russian-scientists-kept-a-dogs-severed-head-alive/ (Accessed: May 5, 2017)
Tasos Vossos, Advantages & Disadvantages of Rationalism & Empiricism, classroom.synonym.com. http://classroom.synonym.com/advantages-disadvantages-rationalism-empiricism-8754632.html (Accessed: May 5, 2017)
Peter Markie, Rationalism vs. Empiricism, plato.stanford.edu. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationalism-empiricism/ (Accessed: May 7, 2017)
Hume, D., 1739–40, A Treatise of Human Nature, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1941.
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