Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Handy Dandy Modus Operandi

first_imgCharles G. Gross and Asif A. Ghazanfar win the prize for this gem in Science1 from a book review of The Sensory Hand by Vernon B. Mountcastle (Harvard, 2006):In one of the first systematic attempts to describe the differences between primates and other mammals, Thomas Huxley argued that the former are distinguished by virtue of their adaptation to arboreal life.  Central to this arboreal life is the grasping hand.  Indeed, the primate hand is so fundamental to how we define ourselves that some, including Friedrich Engels, have claimed that hand use (particularly with tools) was the driving force that gave rise to our sophisticated cognitive abilities.  Though this idea is an overstatement, our hands do represent a masterpiece of Darwinian evolution; its elegant design is on a par with the eyes and ears.1Charles G. Gross and Asif A. Ghazanfar, “Neuroscience: A Mostly Sure-Footed Account of the Hand,” Science, 2 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5778, p. 1314, DOI: 10.1126/science.1125179.Well, since eyes and ears evolved, obviously, hands must have, too.  In fact, natural selection not only invented the hand, but used it as a driving force for more natural selection.  Now that just drives it out of the park, doesn’t it?  Darwinian evolution makes hands that make Darwinian evolution make brains.  Who needs artists and engineers any more?  Darwinian evolution, the masterpiece maker, the masterpiece-maker maker, renders all other makers obsolete.  It even makes masterpiece critics who know what “elegant design” means.    The reviewers must be communist sympathizers, because they ended with another quote by Engels, a guy on the dustbin of history known more for his radical economics than knowledge of anatomy: “Man alone has succeeded in impressing his stamp on nature … and he has accomplished this primarily and essentially by means of the hand … step by step, with the development [i.e., evolution] of the hand went that of the brain.”  They add, “Mountcastle’s book shows us how we are beginning to understand this process.”    You can’t know you’ve understood a process at the beginning, but only at the end.  Their “masterpiece of Darwinian evolution” statement shows that they understand little, if anything, about the origin of masterpieces.  Their choice of guru (Engels) shows that they understand even less about economics – and logic.(Visited 18 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Measuring SA’s ‘second’ economy

first_img12 October 2005In the coming months Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) will be sending fieldworkers to households all over the country to assess informal and self-employment, so as to measure the growth of South Africa’s informal economy.This will help provide a clearer picture of the country’s economic growth and unemployment, and help the government provide services to encourage entrepreneurship.Stats SA deputy director-general Elizabeth Gavin told Parliament’s portfolio committee on finance on Tuesday that South Africa’s “second”, or informal, economy was difficult to measure because the sector’s large number of small and informal businesses were not listed on the official business register. The survey is an attempt to remedy this situation.Survey fieldworkers are being trained and will be going out to selected households in the coming weeks, Gavin said.This ties in with Stats SA’s priority of improving the quality of statistical information, as was achieved by its November 2004 benchmarking and rebasing of GDP, the committee was told.Gavin said the survey was important to assess the impact of the informal economy on South Africa’s GDP.Statistician-general Pali Lehohla said informal employers and the self-employed should be taken into account in the assessment of GDP; the only way to do this was with a household survey of a sample frame of dwellings.Reliable information on the number of informal businesses is also necessary for the government to provide the necessary services to encourage people to start their own businesses, the committee was told.The survey would also result in more accurate unemployment figures, Stats SA officials said.The stricter international definition of employment does not reflect “job-seeking behaviour” as a whole, the committe was told. The standard measure may therefore not provide a comprehensive picture of the problem.A broader definition of unemployment accounts for factors such as “discouraged” job-seekers, so providing a clearer picture of actual numbers of people out of work.Source: BuaNewslast_img read more