About Shaun

Bio

Brought up and educated in science in London, I moved to NYC and became a medical and science writer, also a graphic designer and artist. I now live in the mid Hudson Valley and write and publish books under the imprint "Evolved Self Publishing" on the impact of evolutionary theory on our sense of self.

An idea worth spreading

That we evolved is a great under-recognized discovery. It deserves re-examination.

I'm passionate about

The impact of evolutionary theory on our sense of self, and rethinking what it means that we evolved.

Comments & conversations

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Shaun Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Humanities approach to evolution
Darwinism has no exclusive right to account for how we evolved, any more than in the 19th century particle theories had an exclusive right to account for light. A phenomenon of such vast significance as evolution is unlikely to be comprehended by a single theoretical approach such as population statistics. We are a product of evolution; we should be able to explore it from the inside, through how we experience being such a creature. I propose placing beside darwinism an alternative account of evolution that draws on the kind of discourse we use for comprehending our own acts of creation, involving mind and design; as a product of evolution we may use ourselves as a measure of its capabilities. Such a discourse would be comprehensible, as population statistics is not, to artists and writers, and the humanities generally. Then their intuition can be unleashed on the astonishing discovery that we evolved. I invest mind and design in the genome, regarding it as a creature in its own right, evolving continuously since life first began. This is a secular theory, capable of a high degree of elaboration as we discover more about evolution, especially once our view of the natural world widens out beyond the narrow range of possibilities defined for us by current physical science.
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Shaun Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Humanities approach to evolution
I do believe that everything about me that is not attributable to physics is due to evolution. In this I differ from selectionists. I see myself an a product of evolution as a Ford automobile is a product of the Ford factory. The steel and rubber may be mere commodities, but as a functioning creature I am a product of evolution. If selectionists don't believe this, where do they think anything else comes from? Will they accept responsibility only for what they can explain, through population statistics, leaving "culture" to pickup the rest? And where does culture come from! I'm content to see that as coming from evolution, too.
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Shaun Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Humanities approach to evolution
"The only valid basis for dismissing Creationism, aka the Holy Bible, is to falsify it scientifically." I dismiss it, in the context of trying to understand what it means we evolved, for its agenda. I believe that is a valid basis.
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Shaun Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Humanities approach to evolution
Peter, I don't divide human talents between those a particular mechanism of evolution can account for and those it can't. I define evolution as being able to account for them all. Then follows the question, what kind of process must that be? In this I differ from creationists and darwinists.
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Shaun Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Humanities approach to evolution
By error I posted a reply to you at the top level, see main thread. But I want to add, I am puzzled to find creationists reading posts on evolution. Is your concern primarily to look for opportunities to support the creationist point of view, curiosity about alternatives, interest in general trends, or...? Some of the most tolerant, well-informed commentators on evolution I've come across have been creationists. But at bottom we've had no common interest.
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Shaun Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Is there a better way to measure or test maturity (mental or physical) than age?
Very important question. Relevant to the idea of voting--should only people who are mature be allowed to vote? Anyway, the possibility that one's reputation could include a ranking for maturity is intriguing. How could it be assessed? I suggest one imagine a tree of one's beliefs. Over time, these trees will grow more complex, each belief is overwritten in turn by other beliefs; beliefs cluster and form more vague but "profound" implications, etc. Generally this will happen as one ages, so in general old people will be more "mature" than younger ones. But this can certainly happen in some young people, in whose minds beliefs tend to overwrite themselves more rapidly. Converse is, if one still has one's first set of beliefs ("political correctness"), as for someone who still has their baby teeth, they seem unlikely to be mature. Of course, I may be mistaking maturity with wisdom, but I think you implied that connection.
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Shaun Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Humanities approach to evolution
No, Edward, I dismiss Creationism because its intent is not to learn what having evolved implies for human nature but to support existing doctrines. Creationism comes with answers already in place. I assume there is little thrill of discovery in picking out one or two findings to confirm what one already believes in. Rather like physics! As for disciplines, I was thinking of anthropology, history and linguistics, which have methods but are not bound by a logic limited to syllogisms based on today's physics. Even writers and poets; intuition in a garden may deliver more insights than population statistics. Imagination may be precisely what is most needed in evolution study today. Is it conceivable that changing from an origin story based on God to one based on evolution can have so little meaning for us as we have so far drawn from it? Something's suppressing our natural enthusiasm for exploration.
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Shaun Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Humanities approach to evolution
I am glad you are not subject to the difficulties we atheists face. We just have to deal with having evolved, it's our origin story. Darwinism is our self-chosen Procrustean bed, to which we submit ourselves. I'm afraid l have to find my own solution, yours is not an option.
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Shaun Johnston
Posted over 1 year ago
Humanities approach to evolution
There is no justification for assuming today's science is complete, its reach is always subject to its methods, apparatus and concepts. Therefore it can be an error to assume we have all the concepts needed to comprehend the mechanics of evolution. My experience of having consciousness and free will testifies to realities outside the reach of today's physics. That physics is not qualified to reserve for itself study of a process such as evolution that can generate creatures with the experience of being conscious and having free will. Religion has no concern for a process not involving its own doctrines. All that is left, the "disciplines" of the humanities, and individual exploration. And all that we have to work with is existing concepts such as mind and creativity, or design, and study of nature. We may use these to arrive at paradoxes and questions alerting us to the concepts still needed. Letting one's view be bounded by an inadequate science l see as worse than ignorance.