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An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 21.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Seventeen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: December 8, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,176

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Dr. Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC is a Distinguished University Professor is the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster University. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. The British Medical Journal or BMJ had a list of 117 nominees in 2010 for the Lifetime Achievement Award. Guyatt was short-listed and came in second place in the end. He earned the title of an Officer of the Order of Canada based on contributions from evidence-based medicine and its teaching. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2012 and a Member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2015. For those with an interest in standardized metrics or academic rankings, he is the 15th most cited academic in the world in terms of H-Index at 245 and has a total citation count of more than 261,883 (at the time of publication). That is, he has among the highest H-Indexes or the highest H-Index, likely, of any Canadian academic living or dead. He discusses: developments of EBM throughout 2019; and EBM versus SBM.

Keywords: Canada, evidence-based medicine, Gordon Guyatt, McMaster University, medicine, science-based medicine.

An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine: Distinguished Professor, Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, McMaster University; Co-Founder, Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are some new developments in EBM? We have talked about those before. We can reference those. Let’s range from January 1, 2019 to the present. Your own repertoire of research.

Distinguished Professor Gordan Guyatt: I can talk about research known to me. One guy doing the most dramatic is working in perioperative medicine named P.J. Devereaux. He is a leading person in cardiology, particularly related to perioperative medicine. What he has found is that a lot of the people who we didn’t recognize before having the equivalent of heart attacks when they are undergoing surgery. We didn’t know about it. Because when they were under surgery, they are under narcotics and painkillers, and sedation.

So, when they are having heart attacks and nobody notices, what he started to do was to routinely measure their – more and more sophisticated ways to – enzymes released from the heart when the heart is damaged, he measured them in higher-risk people. He did this routinely. He found 80% of the heart attacks occurring when people are undergoing surgery are never noticed. If you do not do this routine monitoring, so, that was a big deal. So, subsequently, he did a randomized trial.

Where he was taking people with these heart attacks and giving them anti-coagulants after the surgery or not, the standard, at the time, was to not give them anti-coagulants. He found that major cardiovascular events, subsequent heart attacks, were reduced by the anti-coagulants. It was a major change in how we monitor people. First of all, we are, now, monitoring troponins.

We never did this before in the research. We are finding all of these heart attacks. We are treating all these heart attacks that they, typically, were untreated before. Now, they would be treated with standard medications like aspirin and statins. Drugs to lower blood lipids and anti-coagulants. That is going to be a major worldwide change in practice.

First of all, monitoring the enzymes to detect the heart attacks, which we didn’t notice before, and then treating them, it is reduce subsequent events. That has been one major change, which will have a big worldwide impact. Based on the furtherance of P.J. Devereaux’s research, what will be some next steps? One of the next steps is that we were also finding that people were having small strokes.

We never noticed them before. Now, we have ways of imaging the brain, sophisticated imaging, to find small strokes that people did not notice. Now, we have found that the people who are having strokes; if you follow them for a year, they are having cognitive deterioration, which does not happen to others who do not have the strokes.

Further work will be done. The preliminary work will establish that this is going on, then the question will be, “Is there anything that we can do to prevent the strokes?” That is another aspect. The other major thing that he is doing is that he has found things. It all started with 40,000 people worldwide and following them through surgery and seeing what happens.

A lot of them run into trouble of one sort or another. The strokes being one thing, infections being another, various complications. His idea: he uses the idea of anesthesia. Anesthesia, when it got started in the 1850s, people would die because of the anesthesia, complications of the anesthesia. Gradually, we developed more and more sophisticated monitoring through surgery.

Now, deaths from anesthesia have been reduced, literally, 100-fold. They basically never happen, almost never happen. The reason is that there is an anesthesiologist. They not only have the surgeon, but they have the anesthesiologist by the bedside through surgery monitoring everything that is going on and making very quick adjustments if there are any problems.

The very careful monitoring with an expert physician trained to do just that, monitor people through surgery. It has basically eliminated the complications associated with anesthesia. P.J. says, ‘We monitor people.” No one wants to travel for their surgery. They to travel as soon as they go back to the ward after their surgery and the subsequent days.

He says, very reasonably, “That’s because we stopped monitoring them.” Nurses come by every few hours. They check something, and so on. Now, we have technology that can monitor continuously. So, they monitor the oxygen saturation, the heart rate, the blood pressure. When we are doing this in studies, we are finding people running into trouble. Nobody notices for a few hours.

So then, the question is, “If we monitor closely electronically without nurses checking, the nurses can sit at the nurses’ station and look at the monitors and say, ‘Look! Something is happening.” Go down and get the doctor involved and have them act much more quickly, we think this can further lower or have real potential for nipping the problem in the bud – to use that metaphor.

He also found out that a third of the deaths that happened after surgery happened in the first thirty days after people go home. People are discharged. Things look okay. They run into trouble when they go home. That is a major problem. What is the solution to that? Monitor them once they get home! Once they run into trouble, then you bring them back, this monitoring and quick response could – he says or wants – to cut the mortality in half.

He is an ambitious guy [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Guyatt: So far, everything, all his leads, he has done has worked out. It kind of makes sense. The metaphor or analogy as to what happens with anesthesia and close monitoring. We eliminated bad things happening. As soon as we stop monitoring, bad things start happening. It, certainly, has huge potential.

2. Jacobsen: I want to dip a little bit into, in fact, a few news articles, actually, around red meat.

Guyatt: Yes, a lot of excitement about red meat [Laughing].

Jacobsen: In popular Canadian culture, there is so much fun people are having with it. I am told. And if you don’t want to be told, you will be told anyways. There are a lot of keto diets, red meat diets, and all-meat diets. All these phrases people are, basically, making up on the fly in the last year, or two, or three.

One, as a cultural comment, what do you think is the source of it? And two, what is the strongest evidence for and against this kind of dietary recommendation to people? Also, just compared to ordinary red meat intake, for example.

Guyatt: My impression is that the particular diets have been around and the enthusiasm for particular diets has been around a lot longer than a couple of years. Perhaps, people are talking about them more or, maybe, they’re getting a little stranger than they used to be. Certainly, in terms of weight loss, all the weight loss diets; we call them “Branded Diets.” Atkins Diet, so on and so forth, people have made a lot of money telling people, “This is the way to lose weight.” They have been around for a long time.

None of them are terribly successful in helping people lose weight over the long term. Although, they are well-advertised. But it is true that you have paleolithic diets, keto diets, and God knows what else. Fasting, as far as I understand it, is popular now. One might describe these as fads. The evidence supporting any of them is more or less absent.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] thank you. Also, with regards to comparing methodologies, EBM has been around since ’91, the older version…

Guyatt: …The term EBM has been around since ’91.

Jacobsen: Then values and preferences as an adjunct were much later.

Guyatt: That’s right.

3. Jacobsen: Speaking of the more modern forms of EBM and speaking of Science-Based Medicine, I am sure that you’ve read the literature and are aware of the critiques that have come your way. What are your thoughts on Science-Based Medicine (SBM)?

Guyatt: Maybe, you are monitoring the literature closer than I am. I have never heard the phrase Science-Based Medicine. As a historical note, when we were first developing the notion of what became EBM, my first idea of what to call it was Scientific Medicine. At the time, I was the Director of the Residency program in Internal Medicine at McMaster University. I presented this idea to my colleagues.

The basic scientists were completely enraged. They thought that they were the real scientists, not clinical epidemiologists like me. They were so angry. I said, ‘I have to come up with a different name than Scientific Medicine.’ The alternative was EBM, which turned out to be much more successful.

Jacobsen: Their emphasis in SBM is science in general rather than evidence in particular. It was proposed by “Yale neurologist Dr. Steven Novella… and surgical oncologist Dr. David Gorski (Karmanos Cancer Institute) in early 2008” (Ingraham, 2014):

EBM is a vital and positive influence on the practice of medicine, but it has its limitations. Most relevant to this blog is the focus on evidence to the exclusion of scientific plausibility. The focus on evidence has its utility, but fails to properly deal with medical modalities that lie outside the scientific paradigm, or for which the scientific plausibility ranges from very little to nonexistent. (Ibid.)

Guyatt: What are they saying? Are they implying that we should pay more attention to things like homeopathy? Or are they saying that we should pay less attention to homeopathy? From what you’ve read, I’m not sure which.

Jacobsen: Based on their orientation, there would be more emphasis on homeopathy in terms of critique. That tends to be the orientation.

Guyatt: That we shouldn’t take homeopathy too seriously. Is that the point?

Jacobsen: I think so.

Guyatt: Okay, I don’t see any EBM people advocating for homeopathy as far as I know.

Jacobsen: There you go. Further quote:

EBM, although a step forward over prior dogma-based medical models, ultimately falls short of making medicine as effective as it can be. As currently practiced, EBM appears to worship clinical trial evidence above all else and nearly completely ignores basic science considerations, relegating them to the lowest form of evidence, lower than even small case series. This blind spot has directly contributed to the infiltration of quackery into academic medicine and so-called EBM … (Ibid.)

Guyatt: This seems silly to me because they seem to, on the one hand, to be claiming that we should be paying more attention to what goes on in the laboratory. But we know that much of what goes on the laboratory or seems promising in the laboratory when tested in clinical practices turn out to be, certainly, not successful in the way one hopes.

Not infrequently, it is harmful in the way that one does not hope. In terms of quackery, if one sets standards for insisting on randomized trials, it ends quackery because when tested in randomized trials: things that don’t work, don’t work! So, people cannot claim that they work.

So, that seems silly. The part that you read to me is legitimate. It is the somewhat simplistic hierarchy of evidence that was initially proposed, which changed in 2004 with the first publication in the British Medical Journal in what we called the GRADE approach to assess the quality of evidence.

It said, “Randomized trials may start as high-quality evidence. But there are five categories of problems that  may lower evidence for randomized trials.” Those were the risk of bias, randomized trials not being conducted optimally, inconsistent results from one trial to another, small trials with imprecise results, and indirectness of evidence.

Where, for instance, a lot of my patients are over 90 now. Randomized trials were all done in younger people. Can you apply those with the same confidence to people over 90? Probably not. There is a new and more sophisticated understanding of evidence in randomized trials. It also recognized that infrequently, but perhaps not that infrequently, evidence from what we call observational or non-randomized studies can be high-quality evidence.

We have a considerable list of such things including hip replacements, epinephrine for anaphylactic shock, or insulin for diabetic ketoacidosis, dialysis for renal failure, and they go on. These things, appropriately, have never been tried in randomized trials because their results are so large and dramatic. So, you don’t need randomized trials to show that they are effective.

The new and more sophisticated hierarchy of evidence, first of all, acknowledges limitations in randomized trials and, secondly, recognized situations when evidence from non-randomized studies can, nevertheless, end up as high-quality evidence leading to strong inferences. That is another way, I would say, that they are not recognizing the sophistication that has been around in EBM since 2004.

Jacobsen: One thing, did you want to close on a note of the progress of science?

Guyatt: So, here I am. On Tuesday, or seven days ago, I started to notice that my balance wasn’t what it should be. In the next 24 hours, by Wednesday afternoon, it was getting to be a real problem, when I was falling to the left.

Ironically, it so happened that the residency program, which I still help out in, has an EBM day. Where they bring all the residents together to learn EBM stuff, this was on the EBM stuff. They, usually, highlight my teaching on the EBM day.

I, usually, lecture to the whole group. They break into small groups. By the end of the day, they knew; I was in trouble. They said, “You’ve got to do something quick Dr. Guyatt.” They were nice to me. One accompanied me to down the general and bought me an Uber.

They came with me. We found a neurologist. They all just thought I was having a stroke. They brought me to have a CT scan. The new CT scan at the general. I was pretty impressed. It felt like it took two minutes or less to do the CT scan.

It used to be a big production sitting there for half an hour. I didn’t know I was in the machine. They said, “No! You do not have a stroke. You are having a subdural hematoma. This blood collecting around the brain and squeezing your brain. That’s what is going on.”

Within an hour of that, they didn’t even take me to the proper operating room. They didn’t need to. They took me to a procedure room, put a drain in. By the next morning, I was fine!

Pretty impressive modern medicine, I would say.

Jacobsen: Thank you.

References

Ingraham, P. (2014, August 26). Why “Science”-Based Instead of “Evidence”-Based?: The rationale for making medicine more science-based. Retrieved from https://www.painscience.com/articles/ebm-vs-sbm.php.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Distinguished Professor, Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, McMaster University; Co-Founder, Evidence-Based Medicine.

[2] Individual Publication Date: December 8, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four) [Online].December 2019; 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, December 8). An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A, December. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A (December 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 21.A (2019):December. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Distinguished University Professor Gordon Guyatt, OC, FRSC on 2019 EBM, and Science-Based Medicine and Evidence-Based Medicine (Part Four) [Internet]. (2019, December 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/guyatt-four.

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An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 21.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Seventeen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: December 1, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,833

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC is a British-born philosopher of science who lived and worked for a significant period of time in Canada, as a Canadian. He works on the lines and overlaps between religion and science, on the socio-political controversy between creationism and evolution (not intellectual or scientific controversy), and the line between science and non-science. He is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. He discusses: analysis of developments in biology and philosophy; the favourite moment in teaching; smartest person ever met; intriguing ideas in the philosophy of science; accolades; mentors; impactful books; current scientific state of the United States; the importance of secular alliances; and astonishing evolutionary research in the 20th century.

Keywords: evolution, Florida State University, Michael Ruse, philosophy of science, religion, science.

An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science: Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University (Part Three)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: I was asking a different question. But it also a good answer to a good question. We’re not divided on that particular issue.

However, given that you are a historian of science and a historian of ideas, I would be curious as to your analysis of some developments that may be coming down the pike or that are probable into the future as important developments in biology, in philosophy, and so on.

Professor Michael Ruse: Let’s try that one. At the obvious level, I don’t think there is any question that work being done on development is going to be hugely important. All this stuff about homologous genes between humans and fruit flies share the same genes working in the same way is absolutely gobsmacking.

It is incredibly important. It gives huge amounts of insight. But I don’t think that anybody would say, “Oh my God, my world has fallen apart.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: That’s why epigenetics or epigenesis not only doesn’t worry me. It excites me. But it doesn’t excite me in the sense of saying, “Ah! You are going to get meaning in the world after all. I do not think that you are.”

However, I do think that there are issues where we have not scratched the surface. I think the consciousness is the big one. I think we can give all sorts of analogies for the states of the brain an can get certain thoughts by doing certain things to the brain.

I am not sure, at all, if anyone has gotten anywhere on saying what is consciousness or consciousness and the physical body. Dan Dennett wants to say, “If you give a fully materialistic account of the brain, then that does it.” That’s just not true.

Thinking is not the brain working, Leibniz told us that. Of course, these things, which are, as I say, staggering like quantum entanglement. How can something happening on one side of the universe have simultaneous effects on the other side?

This is not something violating the speed of light or anything. In some way, this is the transfer of information from one end of the universe to the other. I think there are some fantastic things out there.

Whether we will solve them or not, I do not know. It is as Haldane says the world is queerer than we think it is, but it queerer than we could think it is. Clearly, the world is queerer than we think it is. The question is whether or not we will be able to tackle the queerness.

At the moment, I am not particularly optimistic about finding the ultimate nature of consciousness. It does not mean that there is meaning in the world. I am happy to say that consciousness is not material. It is entirely natural. It is entirely a natural phenomenon.

So, maybe, consciousness does mean that it is all there. Maybe, it would mean reincarnation is possible. I do not think it would lead to Nirvana. I see no reason, even if there is reincarnation, that it will lead to Nirvana.

It is absurd as Camus was saying. There are some issues that we have scratched at. I think consciousness is one. One philosopher called himself a “New Mysterian” because he said, “I didn’t think that we will solve consciousness.” I am inclined to agree with him.

Because something is insoluble, it doesn’t mean that it will be religious. I am careful to say consciousness is material. I see no reason to invoke the supernatural for consciousness. As I say, maybe, there is, but it is something that neither turns me on or off.

I see nothing in consciousness that says to me, “Michael, meaning is out there in the world. You’ve just got to work harder at it, to find out.” I think if we could figure out the problem of consciousness, then we would be no closer to the problem of ultimate meaning than we are now.

Why would quantum entanglement prove God or prove that things are getting better? It doesn’t have anything to do with that.

I wrote a book called Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophy. I would say, “I am a naturalist.” I am certainly not a supernaturalist. I am not a materialist [Ed. Previous mentions to materialism within the context of being a naturalist and non-supernaturalist.].

I don’t think most people today, or anybody today who thinks about it, would think about themselves as materialists. A Lucretian-type atomist or something like this; everybody would agree that the physics of the last century, the quantum, show that electrons are sometimes particles and sometimes waves.

The idea of the universe as some type of massy stuff is just not true. It doesn’t stop you being a naturalist. For me, a naturalist is not finding meaning in the world.

2. Jacobsen: What has been your favourite moment in teaching?

Ruse: What is my favourite moment? I don’t know. It is like being married. There are a lot of favourite moments. There are a lot of tedious moments. I find marking papers tedious. When you see a student have a glimpse when they understood something that they did not understand before, or when a student gets onto something before that they didn’t, that is the favourite moment.

Teaching is a two-way thing. It is not just you teaching on your own. Teaching is working with other human beings. Favourite moments are going to be at some level shared or will occur in a social situation. Obviously, if you can get an idea across, sometimes, or a good analogy or something like that, you feel good about that.

Sometimes, you leave the class and say, “Oh, fuck it! I don’t know what went wrong today. Maybe, I’m bored. Maybe, they’re bored. It is the end of the semester of Thanksgiving is coming or something like that.” We all have those sorts of days.

But suddenly, you have an idea. Then a kid gets it. It is just wonderful. It works both ways. My own favourite moment, if you like. I don’t like marking. And that is related to the most non-favourite moment.  When I have worked with the student and then it becomes clear. All they wanted was the mark.

That is a really bad thing. You’re working with the student. All they wanted was an A to get into medical school. They don’t care about the subject. All they wanted was the mark. That is a pretty deadening experience [Laughing].

3. Jacobsen: [Laughing] who is the smartest person you have ever met?

Ruse: Oh! Oh goodness, I don’t know. I will tell you something. That’s not a good question for me.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: Seriously, maybe, I’ve got to much of an Oedipus Complex. I often thought one of the main reasons that I couldn’t be a Christian is that I couldn’t follow another human being. Of course, Jesus said that he is not another human being.

I may admire someone like Karl Popper.  But I recoil with horror at becoming a Karl Popper groupie or something like that.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: Of course, I have met people like Jim Watson. Clearly, Watson is a very clever guy. Some of the mathematicians that you read. They are very, very clever people. At that level, clearly, I have met some eminent people, historians, and that sort of thing.

As I say, I am never looking for that sort of thing. I am always looking for people who have interesting things to say and who want to share them. I am not looking for people who say, “I am a Nobel Prize Winner. Bow down before me, my name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: “Look on my works and despair,” sort of thing; that’s never been my thing. As I say, I got along well with my father. I have a bit of an Oedipal thing. My headmaster, I am joking about him. At least, the tensions that I had with my headmaster came, at least, as much from me as much from him. Do you know what I mean?

Maybe, the most brilliant person who I have ever met has never, at some level, turned me on – the thought of it. Not that I am being cocky, not that I am saying, “I am the brightest person that I have met.”

Certainly, I am not. Some people have mathematical abilities way beyond mine. Obviously, if you were talking about the ability to write, I would point to Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. I think The Selfish Gene is a work of genius. In other ways, I think The God Delusion is full of shit.

Jacobsen: [Laughing]

Ruse: It cuts both ways.

4. Jacobsen: What has been one of the more intriguing ideas that you have come across in the philosophy of science?

Ruse: As I say, thinking more and more about the mind-body problem, maybe, the mind is part of the world as much as material is. Some kind of panpsychism. I am not a philosopher of mind. I have not thought this through in any real way. I have not done any real work on it.

It does seem to me to make sense in certain sorts of ways. Certainly, it is something that I found very interesting. If you were thinking about what I have found as one of the most interesting projects in recent years, I was in South Africa about 5 years ago. I wanted to work on a project.

I was at Stellenbosch University. It is the Afrikaans university. The required library materials were just not there. I retooled things as it were. I wrote a book on Darwin and literature.

If I wanted to read a book on Emily Dickinson, I could do it in 10 seconds, and so on. I found it incredibly exciting working on Victorian and later things, and seeing what creative artists had done with Darwin.

One thing that was exciting were that there were so many women involved in it, like George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, and Edith Wharton and Mrs. Gaskell. So, I found that was probably the most exciting experience that I’ve had, certainly, in the last 10 years if not long before that.

I found that really was, almost, turning a corner and finding a whole new world, which I didn’t realize existed. Quite frankly, I don’t think that any of my fellow historians of science realized it existed. Obviously, some of the literary people knew about it.

They weren’t relating this back to the history of science. It was tremendously exciting coming in as a historian of philosophy and science and finding this whole dimension that was there. I felt like the soldier in the tinderbox. Every time, I went into a room.

I wanted to empty my pockets and then fill them up with what was there.

5. Jacobsen: [Laughing] people with long successful careers get awards. What accolade are you most proud of?

Ruse: I have four honorary degrees. I am not bragging about it. I have done pretty well. I have not won a Nobel Prize. I do not expect to. I have been acknowledged for what I have done. But in some sort of way, what I do, I do for myself.

I really do. I do this because it is important to me. Of course, one likes to have some acknowledgement of what one is doing. Particularly when people disagree with you, it is terrific. I don’t want to pretend that I am perfect on this.

But by and large, I don’t spend my time doing that. I have never asked any of my publishers to hook me up to book awards. Some want to do that and get some awards. I have never, ever said to one of my publishers, “I think we should hook me up to that.”

It is not where I am at.

6. Jacobsen: Did you have any mentors?

Ruse: When I was younger, some of my professors were very helpful and said, “Ruse, you’re better than you let yourself be.” I think that they weren’t necessarily important. Perhaps some.  Stephan Körner who was a Kantian at Bristol.  He was, certainly, a very kind man in my life. I wouldn’t say that he was a mentor in teaching.

As I say, I am a bit of an autodidact. My oedipal issues, I am not that good at doing that sort of thing. John Thomas at McMaster, he’s the father of Dave Thomas, the comedian.  He was awfully supportive of me. Coming to Canada on my own, it was a very lonely experience. It was very rough at times. John Thomas, I found tremendously supportive. I had mentors in that way. But never had someone who I feel I could be a disciple of, or who pushed me in certain directions.

I’ve always been, to a great extent, my own person. Coming to Canada when you’re 22 on your own, it rather inclines you that way [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: It really does. It really, truly does. Leaving England and everything like that, and striking out on my own, everything that I do; I have to do with my own bare hands. I did.

7. Jacobsen: What books have been most impactful on you?

Ruse: Obviously, The Origin of Species, I would not necessarily say The Critique of Pure Reason as such. Although I do love the Prolegomena.  Shorter and simpler! However, I would say Kant’s philosophy, as a whole, particularly the third critique. For many years, I taught Plato’s Republic. I would say that has been important for me and as a teacher.

Another one, I did, very early in my philosophical career, Descartes’s Meditations. I found that I wasn’t the only person thinking if they were sleeping or awake. My wife tells me, ‘Everybody does that when they’re 9. Then they grew out of it.” Neither Descartes nor I did.

You asked me about other things. I found that very eye-opening if you like. I get such pleasure of reading Bleak House by Dickens or The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope.

8. Jacobsen: What do you make of the current scientific state of America?

Ruse: It is up and down. With the charter schools, I suspect that there is more creationism being taught now than at any other time in the country. I think there is an awful lot of creationism going on in these charter schools.

By and large, my experience of public-school education in America has not been glowing. My kids, to a certain extent, had to overcome their high-school educations. My youngest son did his high school at Tallahassee and went university at Toronto to read physics.  He realized in the first week that he did not have the background and then switched to philosophy and did very well in Philosophy.

Without being a Jeremiah, I am not overly impressed by the quality of public education in America at the moment. It is difficult. Isn’t it?  If we send our kids to private schools, it means that so many of the parents who really care are no longer around and supporting the public schools.

When I grew up in England, we had the grammar schools. They gave a terrific education. We know that they gave it through a certain or great extent at the cost of everyone else. It went into the 20%. If you went into a secondary mod., they lost it by the time they were 12.

It does not mean that it is necessarily a good thing. I remember state education as very good. I’m sure the same in New England. I’m sure a lot of good public schools in and around Boston. But if you look at Tallahassee or Florida, you don’t expect to find excellence – and you don’t.

9. Jacobsen: How important are secular alliances for keeping a secular place on campuses?

Ruse: It is difficult to say. My campus is probably way more religious than Simon Fraser University or others, or UBC. But there’s no question about that. I think they’re important. But quite frankly, we have this secular society, which I am the mentor of. I try to help.

I don’t get the feeling that an awful lot occurs through it. I think that we do better in trying to direct students to certain courses or programs, or things of that nature, than anything else. It is difficult to say. If I was probably younger, I would be more enthusiastic about these things.

I’ve done the job for 50-odd years now. I never found these things tremendously helpful. But to a certain extent, that is probably me. I am not much of a joiner. I am not social. I do not feel an inclination to join a church group or the Unitarians.

I just don’t seem to work that way.

10. Jacobsen: What piece of evolutionary research most astonished you, in the 20th century?

Ruse: The implications of the double helix. I think this opened up huge insights into the ways evolution works. I think of the work of people like Dick Lewontin in the 1960s and 70s. I am quite happy to say, going on to do the Human Genome Project.

Things like that. As I say, this whole question about homologies between insects and humans opens up things and surprised the hell out of me. It doesn’t surprise me like an explanation of consciousness would. But I think it has been tremendously exciting that way.

Again, I think that’s the way it goes. I think most people would want to say that. Biology gained a whole lot more status in the second half of the 20th century than the first. When I went to school in the 50s, by and large, biology was not a very high-status science.

Whereas, I think, any student today who says, “I want to be a molecular biology student,” or have an interest in ecology in nature, is onto a good thing. I think it is a lot more exciting, generally, as it were, without necessarily picking on one particular thing.

But if you’re going to talk about one discovery, then the double helix would be it.  If you are going to broaden the question out to the history of science, I discovered that E. Ray Lankester, an eminent evolutionist at the end of the nineteenth-century could not get erections with women of his own class and had to go to Paris to find sexual relief in the brothels?   I discovered this from some very private letters he wrote to a friend in Naples, Italy.  Of course, I introduced it immediately into the book I was writing and made a big thing about it all being a metaphor for general feelings of decay – H. G. Wells, and the Time Machine, sort of thing.  I wonder what posterity will make of me?  I can assure you that there are no letters in Naples and I never had trouble with erections!  That time between wives might bear closer examination!!

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor, Philosophy, Florida State University; Director, HPS Program, Florida State University.

[2] Individual Publication Date: December 1, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three) [Online].December 2019; 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, December 1). An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A, December. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A (December 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 21.A (2019):December. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Biology and Philosophy, Teaching, Accolades, Mentors, and Modern American Science (Part Three) [Internet]. (2019, December 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-three.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 21.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Seventeen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: November 22, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,175

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC is a British-born philosopher of science who lived and worked for a significant period of time in Canada, as a Canadian. He works on the lines and overlaps between religion and science, on the socio-political controversy between creationism and evolution (not intellectual or scientific controversy), and the line between science and non-science. He is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. He discusses: orthogenesis, not believing in spiritual religions or secular religions, intelligent design, and evolution via natural selection; philosophy of science; creationism as not science; debates and dialogues with creationists; Dembski’s note on the god of intelligent design as, ultimately, the Christian God; and history as a window into the possibilities for the future..

Keywords: creationism, epigenetics, evolution, Florida State University, intelligent design, Michael Ruse, natural selection, philosophy of science, religion, science.

An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future: Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University (Part Two)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When it comes to orthogenesis and not really believing in spiritual religions or secular religions, what do you make of the current state of the sociopolitical context of the fringes of intelligent design and the modern progress and research of evolution via natural selection, and some of the advances in genetics, epigenetics, and so on?

Professor Michael Ruse: That’s a good question. In some way or another, I talk about it. That’s all I almost do. My own feeling is that biologists have made huge advances in the last 200 years, not only with evolutionary theory but with the double helix. There’s no question.

This has led to huge new insights. Are we going to have a whole new paradigm somewhere down the road? I would be very surprised if we did. It is to say. There might be an obvious big switch like with the Newtonian mechanics in the 19th century. Everything was still fine. Then it collapsed in the 20th century. Could it happen in the 21st century?

Of course, it could. However, I, myself, am not worried as a conventional Darwinian by epigenetics. I think we’ve always known that development one of the big – what shall we say? – unknown areas of evolutionary biology or molecular biology, which was formulated in the 1960s.

We tend to treat organisms as black boxes. Genes and phenotypes and that sort of thing. By and large, not everybody, we tend to ignore what goes between them. Clearly, with molecular genetics, they’re starting to find out a huge amount of the ways organisms work. These homologies between humans and fruit flies.

[Laughing] how amazing can it be? Yet, evolutionary biologists and molecular biologists would pull back and say, “Hey now! That’s an incredible finding. But it doesn’t make me go, at the end of the day, ‘Oh my God! Everything I thought was completely wrong. It will never be fixed.”

Obviously, it is going to lead into another area of research and that sort of thing. Somehow, it is not worrying. In this sense, let’s build on what we’ve got, we can take all sorts of new directions because of it.

If you say to me, “Ah, yes! This could include some kind of Lamarckism,” which a lot of people are hoping. That it will lead to some kind of direction that Darwinian evolution does not have and then lead to some progression. I very much doubt it.  I could be wrong. However, I would be surprised.

My feeling: it will give us a hell of a lot of insight into the way selection works. We think this fits, eventually, in the context rather than start all over again. That’s my personal feeling about it. We know damn well selection works pretty well.

We run experiments. We learn so much about natural selection, e.g., skin color. All of those sorts of things. Natural selection is not going to be given up. The question, “Is it going to be pushed to one side?” As in, “There is selection, but…” It could be.  But I will wait and see. I am not anticipating it in the next week or two. How does that sound?

I don’t like the idea that sunsets aren’t meaningful. I think we can put meaning into it. I think we can understand nature in our own ways. I think we can say, “Ah yes! This is why certain organisms have certain adaptations.” But it is a meaning that we ascribe to it. There is no meaning there that is put onto us. That’s why I call humanism a secular religion in this sense. It is not God. It is religion in some sort of way.

Gods don’t survive. But religions do. Catholic priests will die.

2. Jacobsen: How did you work on philosophy of science?

Ruse: I worked as a philosopher. Thanks to the influence of people like Thomas Kuhn, I got very interested in history. So, I worked on Darwin. It led me into sociobiology, whether or not biology applies to humans.

At the same time, I was getting involved in the creationism debate. It was something I really enjoyed. [Laughing] being a prof. could be awfully ivory tower at times.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: [Laughing] it appealed to the kind of personality I’ve got. Nobody ever calls me at 2 in the morning and says, “Oh my God, professor, I am worried about the synthetic a priori.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse:  I am not in a profession where somebody might call at 2 in the morning and say, “Doctor, the baby is coming!” Not that I do not want to get up every night. I was certainly drawn to doing things a little more publicly. At the psychological level, if you like, I found this very rewarding.

The other thing, which I also found rewarding, it brought me back into contact with liberal Christians. I never felt, and still don’t feel, any urge to join them in their beliefs. Having grown up among the Quakers, it was really almost like coming home to spend time with these people.

Usually, I go to a conference with them in New England and have done for the last 40 years. I find that very enjoyable. In this sense, this is what I grew up with. It is my kind of people. I like that. There’s always been that.

I’ve always been prolifically working on books. Certainly, it led me to working on science and religion in the last 20 years or so. That, of course, is what I have been writing on a lot now. For instance, a book that I did on war. That is why I took my students through the war battlefields of the First World War.

I never do anything without writing a book. So, I wrote a book on Darwinism and Christianity, and their treatment of war. I found doing those sorts of things very rewarding. I don’t pretend that I am a mega-brain.

But I think that I have been damned lucky in that way, to be both a researcher and a teacher.

3. Jacobsen: If we look at young earth creationism, a Bishop James Ussher point of view, as well as old earth creationism, for those who may not have unpacked the reasons for why these are not scientific ideas, why aren’t they? For instance, why is prediction important in science?

Ruse: One thing that you’ve got to take into account is the peculiar state of America compared to Canada or Great Britain. Neither Canada or Great Britain do you have the absolute division between the secular and the religious.

Where you cannot bring religion in any sense into the general pool, for instance, in Ontario, you have a Catholic school system. When I grew up in England, we learned religion from a Church of England point of view. Unless, your parents said that you couldn’t be there, which most didn’t [Laughing].

In Canada and Britain, there has a been more comfortable relationship between science and religion. As you know, in America, it is absolutely forbidden to teach religion in state schools.

But as we know, the Americans tend to be a hell of a lot more religious than the rest of us. If you look at Canada 50 or 60 years ago, there was more religion.  Today, Canada is not, basically, a religious country. Things are different in the US, particularly if you can look at the American South, where I live. There is effort to put religion in schools one way or another.

There is great tension about the teaching of evolution is taught. Evolution taken literally is against religion taken literally. You cannot have a world founded in 6 days and humans just a unique pair and then believe in modern evolutionary theory.

You need a hell of a lot of time. You never have a single pair of humans. They were not made out of mud. They were made out of monkeys. There is bound to be those sorts of clashes. There is always an effort to put religious ideas alongside or even instead of those evolutionary claims in the classroom.

You cannot say, “Just support religious schools.” Although, they’re trying to do it. They do this through charter schools. I think they’re succeeding. Note however is that what is going on is that the creationists don’t simply say, give us religion, they claim that, in some sense, their beliefs are equally validated by science.

Of course, this is what creation science was all about. It was trying to give creationism a justification with gaps in the fossil record showing evolution didn’t occur. These sorts of things. And because this is so obviously a move that flies in the face of conventional science, I would want to say that this shows that we have more of a political battle than an intellectual battle.

This all said, although I spend quite a bit of time fighting creationists, I have not spent the last 40 years working exclusively on creationism. Because, basically, I do not find it that interesting. Epigenetics, which you talked about 15 or 20 minutes ago, I find this much more interesting. I am not sure this has the implications that people think it has or hope it has. I think there is real science there and real philosophical questions.

So much of the creationism there, it is important to fight it. A lot of the work is not philosophical or intellectual, but political. That is not to say that it is not important work.

4. Jacobsen: In your debates and dialogues, and discussions, with Dr. William Dembski, and creationists, what have been the pluses and minuses of those debates, dialogues, or conversations?

Ruse: With the creationists, and the intelligent design people, by and large, we haven’t spent a great deal of time batting heads over the age of the Earth or the Adam and Eve thing. It is more on the question of design, which is the thing that intelligent design theorists seized upon.

On one level, they said, “We do not care that the Bible is literally true. What we want to argue for is some kind of design force through the world, which can only be explained by the invocation of a supernatural being.”

I think the intelligent design people go all the way from the hard six-day creationism perspective to those who are almost evolutionists, but guided evolution. I think someone like Michael Behe falls on that end of the spectrum as opposed to some of the others who, I think, like Paul Nelson, fall more on the literal side of the spectrum.

There’s no question. It has been the whole question with the matter of design, which has been the really crucial thing. I think, to be fair, this is an interesting philosophical problem. But there is only so far that you can take it. I look at this historically.

I wrote a whole book on purpose, for instance. It came out a couple of years ago. I am interested in the more historical level. I don’t find a great deal of joy or intellectual risk by spending time talking about design principles.

Because it does [Laughing] seem Darwin’s theory of natural selection moved that conversation along.

5. Jacobsen: Also, there have been admissions. Dr. William Dembski noted the designer of the intelligent design movement is the Christian God. So, it is every explicit.

Ruse: This is the thing. They do think it is the Christian God. They do not think it is a graduate student on Andromeda do an experiment on planet Earth.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: So, I won’t call them hypocrites. But the intelligent design that they talk about is the tip of a much larger iceberg. There’s no question about that. It is interesting. Dembski, basically, has withdrawn from this whole conversation over the last ten years or so.

At some level, he feels, on the other side, much as I do. We have had out say about it. There is not much more to say at this level. It is time to move onto other issues. So, Bill Dembski, whom I have a good relationship with, was, particularly, like me.

He felt that we battled for ten years or so. We got to the point where, clearly, if we could not beat one another on things. Then we wouldn’t. I was happy to write a book on purpose. But I am a historian of ideas.

For me, writing about purpose in Plato or something like that, that’s not just intelligent design today with people like Dembski or Mike Behe.

6. Jacobsen: History can provide insights into possibilities for the future. If we’re looking at the development of scientific ideas, whether it’s in revolutions via Kuhn or in developments in evolutionary biology, providing insights into things as important as the development of vaccines.

Ruse: Yes. As I say, I have the feeling that you and I may not see eye-to-eye on this. I am pretty hard line against trying to find any kind of meaning in the world. Atheism is less important, to me, than anti-religionism in some sort of sense.

I don’t find meaning in the world. Let’s face it, Buddhists are atheists in some very important sense, but they find meaning. You can find meaning in some sense. That’s my point. That’s what I don’t want to do.

I don’t want to find meaning in the world. For me, this is being an existentialist. That means, if I am going to find meaning, I am going to find meaning within myself. For me, not finding meaning in the world, it is a very positive thing as well as, if you like, a negative thing.

It liberates me from what I think is a false way of doing things. It forces me back onto the right way of doing things. I look back on my life. To say, “It is meaningless.” It is bullshit. It is like saying, “Is there free will?” Of course, there is free will. The question is, “How do you analyze it?” Of course, my life has been meaningful.

It is how I analyze it. This is, for me, what is so important. It is the liberation of not having to find it from outside. In this sense, I do not find it in a deity or in nature. Of course, I can give meaning to nature. Of course, I can.

Of course, I convey meaning and find meaning, but I do not find the meaning in nature. That’s the thing telling me what to do. Of course, my wife tells me what to do all the time. Bu you know what I mean.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: The key part of existentialism is that you are condemned to freedom. You, and you alone, have the obligation and the possibility to make meaning out of your own life. You are not going to find it outside. So, as I say, I find this kind of atheism about religion or meaning, external meaning, is liberating as much as a disappointment. How does that sound?

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor, Philosophy, Florida State University; Director, HPS Program, Florida State University.

[2] Individual Publication Date: November 22, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two) [Online].November 2019; 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, November 22). An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A, November. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A (November 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 21.A (2019):November. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, and History and the Future (Part Two) [Internet]. (2019, November 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-two.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 21.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Seventeen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: November 15, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,636

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC is a British-born philosopher of science who lived and worked for a significant period of time in Canada, as a Canadian. He works on the lines and overlaps between religion and science, on the socio-political controversy between creationism and evolution (not intellectual or scientific controversy), and the line between science and non-science. He is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. He discusses: personal background and intellectual history; and the flavours of belief structures influential on him.

Keywords: Britain, Canada, creationism, evolution, Florida State University, Michael Ruse, philosophy of science, religion, science.

An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief: Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University (Part One)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start from personal history, which is online. It is a question, in a way, that answers itself. Are there any parts of personal history and intellectual life that are not online that should be told, to start?

Professor Michael Ruse: I don’t really think so. Basically, my life has been pretty uncomplicated, starting with the first quarter of my life – I am 79 now – until 22; I was born and living in England and then moved to Canada.

It was rather fortuitous. It was not a long-thought-through decision.  Because I had the opportunity to do an MA at McMaster University and financial support for it. I made the move. Like a lot of people who came to Canada in the 60s, or the 50s too, as soon as I got to Canada, I never thought of moving back [Laughing].  It seemed like my kind of place.

Going back to the life in England, I was raised very intently as a Quaker. That is a 2-fold thing. On the one hand, certainly, in my days, they were very intensely, not only theistic but, Christological. They believe in Jesus as the Son of God. On the other hand, Quakers are strange. They have no dogma and no priests. That sort of thing.

There are three parts to Quakerism that affected me. One, just mentioned, is dislike of the formal nature of religion – priests, ceremonies and that sort of thing.  Second, is the intense urge for social work. I don’t mean to be a social worker.  But to reach out to serve others.  The pacifism is very much part of this. I do not think it is any chance that I would be a professor or a teacher than, say, a used-car salesman [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: Nothing against car salesmen. I’m sure you know what I mean. There are plenty of good Quaker salesman. But the urge to help others was very strong in my childhood. I never wanted to be a schoolteacher, but, as soon as I walked into the classroom in 1965, I knew that was what I would be doing for the rest of my life. That’s what I have been doing.

The third thing is that Quakerism is very much Apophatic Theology. Quakers are very much better at saying what God is not rather than what God is. To Quakers, God is much more of a mystical experience; an old man in the sky with a long sheet and a long beard is not it.

Quakers believe in a theistic God. But they were very loath to say, “God is clearly good, all-powerful, and the Creator.” Exactly pinning God down on his nature.  There was not much enthusiasm for law-breaking miracles. They didn’t deny the resurrection.  They tended to interpret the resurrection more in naturalistic terms; the disciples were, on the third day, desperately downcast and suddenly felt, “Our Saviour lives.” The actual body was totally irrelevant.  That was the third thing. It was important to me.

The Quakers are absolutely adamant about not asking or expecting children to believe what they believe. In other words, it is not like being Presbyterian or being a Catholic, where you’re taught what to believe like the Catechism. Quakers are loath to do that.

Like I say, by my early 20s, I was basically starting to lose my faith. My Quaker mentors, if you like, were incredibly sympathetic about that. They didn’t think that I was wrong in any sense or anything like that. That is what happened to me.

By the time I went to Canada, I thought, “When I get to 70, I can’t afford to not believe it.” [Laughing] You cannot afford to make too many mistakes there by the time that you meet Saint Peter. What is interesting, I do not feel any stronger urge to believe in God than I have for the last – well – 60 years.

I think this reflects my Quakerism too. I do not think that I have ever been a hardline atheist, like Richard Dawkins or others like him. If I were Thomas Henry Huxley, I would be called an agnostic. But think what this means.  I’m sure as you know. To many, it means, “I don’t give a bugger.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: Not me.  Like Thomas Henry Huxley and his grandson, Julian Huxley, I am a deeply religious person, but without theology. I don’t know if there is something. I very much doubt that Christianity is true. If you want to pin me down on atheism, I would, by and large, say that I do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God or that his death on the Cross made possible my eternal salvation. I do not buy any of that.

By that standard, I am pretty atheistic. When I die, I rot. I would be less uncomfortable about saying that than when I made the joke about Saint Peter or sitting on the cloud playing the harp sitting on a sheet.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: I think the other thing is becoming a philosopher was, if you like, not chance. The whole thing about being a Quaker was that we were expected to do this thinking for ourselves and try to think what it means, what God means, and, particularly, after Second World War.

Because unlike the First World War, this was a good war in that one really had to fight for one’s land. This was important. The First World War was also tremendously important. But in a different way.  You as a Canadian would know this. In some ways I think Canada was defined by the First World War.  It was a growing-up experience.  Basically, you turn around to the other country and say, “We have left the Mother Country and turn our own way.” Other countries said, ‘You’re damn right.” Every day, I used to walk past John McCrae’s [Laughing] birthplace – “in Flander’s fields the poppies grow.”

The Second World War, Canada was fighting as an equal and not just as an extension of the Mother Country.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] right.

Ruse: As I say, growing up in the 40s, the Second World War was a good war – Hitler had to be fought and beaten — in that sense. It wasn’t easy to be a pacifist. You are working these things through. By chance, I took a couple of philosophy courses, a subject in which you spend all day working things through.

Again, it was like teaching.  It was my destiny, as it were. I was pre-adapted for it. I always felt that being a philosophy professor was something that I clearly enjoy, as I am still doing this at 79 [Laughing]. In spite of having to support my children having children in their 30s with babies, and all busy with their lives.

Oh dear, my wife is listening into this. She has heard me say this stuff so many times [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: She is awful cynical about this whole thing [Laughing]. The whole thing made sense to me. I had gone to Canada. In ’65, I got a job at the newly formed University of Guelph. It was formed on the backs of the Ontario Agricultural College, the MacDonald Institute, and the Ontario Veterinary College. I taught there until 2000 quite happily. I taught philosophy.

I became interested in philosophy and science, and Darwin. I became interested in philosophy of science and its relationship to religion more. You cannot do Darwin without science and religion being a major factor. Whether that was part of my destiny, I am not sure.

Growing up in Britain, I loved the Victorian novels like Dickens and others. Not because I am an Empire loyalist or anything like that; rather, there always seemed to be something interesting about Victorians. I liked the Victorian architecture. I remember being a teenager in London and standing at the top of Parliament Hill Fields, which is at the bottom of Hampstead Heath. I was looking across London and seeing St. Pancras Station, which, in those days, they were threatening to knock down.  Now, it is, of course, much beloved and the terminal for the Eurostar.

That whole Victorian thing appealed to me. Working on Darwin, it became natural for me. Like I say, once you get into working on Darwin, you don’t have any choice but to look at science and religion. As you may know, by the end of the 1970s, in other words halfway through my life, the creationists became a major force, particularly in America.

Obviously, I am not saying that I am especially talented. But I was called down from Guelph to Arkansas to challenge the idea of teaching creationism in schools. I felt strongly there. You should understand. The people fighting it. The ACLU had many expert witnesses who were Christians. They were not agnostics or atheists.

One of our big witnesses was Langdon Gilkey who was the eminent Protestant theologian from Chicago Divinity School. It was not atheism versus Christianity. It was certainly science versus a particularly dogmatic form of Christianity. That, as I say, is where I felt comfortable. I never felt threatened or hostile to religious people as such. I got along well with the creationists.

I have always been ecumenical. At the same time, I never felt as though I want to change the views from my early 20s. In that, I don’t believe in the existence of God. Certainly, I do not believe in the Christian God. On a more fundamental level, as I have said, I am an agnostic. The well-known geneticist J.B.S. Haldane said, “My own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

I agree. Something like quantum entanglement blows my mind. Something happening on one side of the universe immediately impacting the other side. Possibly, I think the world is potentially queerer than I think it is. I am saying that it is a happy view, but it is not a bad view.

It means, at least, that God is not like my late headmaster who hated me on spot.  God, for some reason, was always a bit of a Calvinist. He created human beings [Laughing] and rather disliked them.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: He didn’t want them to get into heaven. Obviously, I have written extensively in the second half of my life. It was the case that before the call south and part of the reason for the call south.  I was working on a book, where I was talking about morality and why we can have a morality without God. Still am writing that sort of stuff.  Yesterday, I was quoting C.S. Lewis who wants to argue that ethics proves a God. I want to say, “It bloody well does not.”

What shall I say?  I am orthodox enough for Canadian atheists, which says I am not all-the-way atheist [Laughing]. How does that sound?

2. Jacobsen: [Laughing] it sounds reasonable to me. In my experience, I note flavours of atheism. Even flavours of agnosticism, it really depends on the premise or the premises.

Ruse: Yes, I think it does. I really think it does. It depends on what you are asserting. As I say, I have always been firm on what I don’t believe in. Certainly, I do not believe in the conventional Christian God. Yet, I was raised a traditional Christian. The most important parable for me is the parable of the talents. That, if we given these talents, then we not expected to do nothing but to do something with them [Laughing]. I don’t think that makes me a Christian. It means at that level I am very strongly influenced by Christian thought.

On the other hand, am not influenced by St. Paul when he said that you have to believe in order to get into heaven. That never appealed to me. But many aspects of Christianity, I imbibed as a child and still feel very comfortable with. But I am very surprised if Richard Dawkins rejected the parable of the talents. Anyone who works harder on this Earth, like Richard Dawkins, it would be hard to imagine. Wouldn’t it?

Jacobsen: When it comes to the idea orthogenesis and progress in biology…

Ruse: …this is the thing. This is when my agnosticism kicks in. I’m sure I talk about Dawkins, but I certainly talk about in the past people like Julian Huxley. Or my friend E.O. Wilson at Harvard. It seems, at some level, that these people are working to develop a secular alternative to Christianity. Often, these people call themselves secular humanists.

I feel that these people are attempting to create a secular religion with humanism.  Some, like Philip Kitcher, are pretty explicit about this. I have always pulled back from that. I always said, “Having given up one religion, I do not want to take up another religion, even a secular one.” I have felt rather strongly about that.

Being Unitarian has absolutely no attractions to me, apart from the fact, that I have no desire to put ribbons on from Oak trees. It is pagan-like.  Although let me add that there are aspects of paganism I find rather attractive.  I think, “The Unitarians have a moral sense. But if being anything, then I will be a pagan and shag myself silly.” I have to say. Polyandry  was a lot more attractive when I was 15 than when I am 79 now. You know what I mean.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: I have always been uncomfortable in trying to get meaning out of the world. We cannot get this out of God. So, we look to the world. We look to humans to provide moral insights. Which, of course, people like Herbert Spencer find.

But people like Julian Huxley and Edwin Wilson were also very keen on the idea of morality as not a subjective thing. That morality is laid on us, but not by God. It is laid on us by the way nature is. We see nature is, at some level, progressive, aiming for the good. It is our moral obligation to help this. It is a natural thing.

I am comfortable with that. Although, I am agnostic, at certain levels, I am rather Calvinistic agnostic, as you might say. In other words, my agnosticism is not an easy way out. In other words, I do not think of my agnosticism as a basic of way saying, “I don’t know. I don’t care. So, whatever.” I do not think in those terms at all.

That’s why I don’t believe in spiritual religions. I don’t believe in secular religions. That’s, basically, where I stand. That, to me, almost is more important than God exists or God doesn’t exists. Even if God exists, I describe myself as an existentialist, a Darwinian existentialist. There is a pretentious name.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ruse: I am very empathetic to Sartre. He said, ‘As an atheist existentialist, the atheism isn’t really the point of my existentialism. My existentialism says, ‘Whether a God exists or not, that’s not the issue. The issue is that we get to freedom, if you like, and have our freedom, and what we do with our lives is what’s important and not somebody else’s.’”

I am empathetic to that view. I spent most of my life in Canada. Can you think, basically, of a better country to live in than Canada? Really, maybe Norway, or somewhere like that, Canada is a wonderful country.

I have had health.  I have had a wonderful job. I enjoyed my job. My first marriage wasn’t very happy, but my second was. I practiced polyamory between them. I will put it this way. I do not have any regrets. I have been very fortunate.

I have this strong moral urge. I have these opportunities. I ought to do something with them. If you like, it is selfish in a sense. I think only through some self-realization is one going to find any kind of happiness.

I don’t think there is any question about that. I find working with my students, for instance, on the Second World War and taking them on a trip to the battlefields of the First World War, deeply fulfilling. I look at this. I say, “My goodness me, that is something which gives me John Stuart Mill kind of happiness.” Socrates is satisfied, but not in the way a pig is satisfied. I think that is true. It is trying to express yourself as a human being.

Kant said, “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”  I agree with Kant on this. Trying to understand the world through a good book or something like this, I think some of my books haven’t been quite all that bad, in a modest English sort of way.

At the same time, my wife and I have built a family together. It has been a very worthwhile relationship. As I say, the joy I have with my students and working with them, and the joy of family, are what count for me. I don’t go and build houses for the indigent in Uganda or other sorts of things. The very thought of doing that; it is just not me.

I do think that I have been able to give a lot to a lot of young people. That’s what I have done with my life. It really has meaning. It is so complex. Maybe, there is a God. Maybe, there is not. That is not the point of living.

It is not to get brownie points for the future. I think the point of living is to live it. That’s why I call myself a Darwinian existentialist. How is that?

Jacobsen: It’s excellent.

Ruse: I don’t know many people who talk as much as I do.

Jacobsen: It’s good. It is a richer reservoir of life experience than I have.

Ruse: That’s right.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor, Philosophy, Florida State University; Director, HPS Program, Florida State University.

[2] Individual Publication Date: November 15, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One) [Online].November 2019; 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, November 15). An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A, November. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A (November 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 21.A (2019):November. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Professor Michael Ruse, FRSC on Personal Background and Intellectual History, and the Flavours of Belief (Part One) [Internet]. (2019, November 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/ruse-one.

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An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments (Part Eight)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 21.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Seventeen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: November 8, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 5,915

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

His Lordship of Roscelines, Graham Powell,earned the “best mark ever given for acting during his” B.A. (Hons.) degree in “Drama and Theatre Studies at Middlesex University in 1990” and the “Best Dissertation Prize” for an M.A. in Human Resource Management from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England in 1994. Powell is an Honorary Member of STHIQ Society, Former President of sPIqr Society, Vice President of Atlantiq Society, and a member ofBritish MensaIHIQSIngeniumMysteriumHigh Potentials SocietyElateneosMilenijaLogiq, and Epida. He is the Full-Time Co-Editor of WIN ONE (WIN-ON-line Edition) since 2010 or nearly a decade. He represents World Intelligence Network Italia. He is the Public Relations Co-Supervisor, Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and a Member of the European Council for High AbilityHe discusses: patterns in the issues; additions to the formats and changes to the structure of the leadership; Kant and the highest good; meeting like-minded people; more on Kant’s highest good; corporations, British Mensa; the logic and philosophy of the nonexistent; and puzzles.

Keywords:  AtlantIQ Society, British Mensa, editor, Graham Powell, Kant, puzzles, WIN ONE, World Intelligence Network.

An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments: Editor, WIN ONE & Vice President, AtlantIQ Society (Part Eight)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: (Apology for the thick text in advance.) Issue IX was published on 12/12/12, as some may see the patterns – if they looked into the publication dates on the cover pages – of the materials with the publishing dates: 10/10/10, 4/4/11, 11/11/11/, 6/6/12, and 12/12/12, and so on. Why these patterns? A fine touch to the ideas of problem solving with numeric sequences within the dates of the publication too. So, in another tone of not only the fact of the patterns themselves, why these patterns, too?

Graham Powell: When I agreed to take over the role of WIN ONE editor, Evangelos Katsioulis mentioned that the date of publication could have some numerical sequence. Since that conversation, I have gained a certain amount of joy continuing the tradition, the first one having the obvious value of being all 10s. The second series is more subtle, 4 divided by 4 and then divided by 11 coming out with the series 0.09090909 (recurring). Some later dates, which you have not quoted, were Fibonacci sequences; others were prime number sequences; one was International Pi Day – which is also Einstein’s birthday. Therefore, it’s mainly just a quirky feature of the magazine. We’ve tended to produce the magazine every six months, so finding a sequence within a particular period of the year is a challenge. It is, in fact, what dictates the publication date. The next publication date will be 3-11-19, these being prime numbers.

2. Jacobsen: This issue works within the framework of “philosophical notions” challenging to “ardent intellectual brains” with an emphasis on the “thought-provoking” and “amusing” nature of the works. This issue continues to represent a stabilization in issue size and the complement to the eighth issue with the inclusion of the post-reportage on the 12th Asia Pacific Conference on Giftedness and announcements from WIN, including the appointment of Dr. Manahel Thabet as the Vice-President of the World Intelligence Network or WIN and the continuation of efforts by Dr. Katsioulis (the President) on work for WIN. How did these additions improve the format, the content, and the generality of the presentation to the WIN membership? How does the inclusion of a Vice-President help with the organization?

Graham Powell: Manahel Thabet has been a stalwart of the WIN for many years and she finances many aspects to it, which is very generous of her. She advises on how to run the WIN more efficiently and, though it is primarily a charitable, online entity, she makes it run in a more economically sound manner. This is mainly regarding the maintenance of the website – which inevitably had costs covered by the WIN administration, that is, before she intervened. I volunteered to help her organise the conference in Dubai and that developed into a series of workshops, which for me was a chance to put out into the world some thoughts, especially ones I had been developing during a sabbatical from work. I also wanted to include photographs from the conference and the cover shows the waterfall by the entrance to Dubai Mall, a place where Evangelos and I had dinner. It was a special few days during which we enjoyed each other’s company. From our discussions, a few more ideas became projects, the appointment of Manahel, for example, stemming from one such talk. I think overall, the WIN website is much better now than it was, the earlier versions being cumbersome and overly complex to navigate around easily. People just didn’t bother much – or took the easy route by asking me to advise them. Access to the magazine is also easier as a consequence of all that I’ve mentioned about the site.

3. Jacobsen: “The Importance of Kant’s Concept of the Highest Good (Pt. 1)” by Paul Edgeworth contained sections 8 through 11. He begins the issue with a philosophical mind wallop, with Kant’s conceptualization of virtue, happiness, and the highest good with fancy terminology including supremumconsummatumoriginariumperfectissimum, phenomenal, noumenal, and so on, where focus is on the modern commentators’ neglect of “his conception of the highest good.” Within the context of the nature of the think-piece, one idea comes from the idea of existence, personality, and rational being with the existence of a rational personality. Another comes from the Stoic idea of virtue and the Epicurean concept of happiness as an interplay and a hybrid between Stoicism and Epicureanism to come to the “highest good,” which appears to take on the Aristotelian maxim of moderation between virtue and happiness. Even so, Edgeworth places virtue as “cause” and happiness as “effect.” For the true attainment of the highest good, Kant requires the existence, through reason, of the soul and God. Without the eternality of the soul and the absolute existence of God, the cause of virtue and the effect of happiness cannot lead to the highest possible good. It begins to sound like lay notions of a Christian heaven. The rational being, through the eternality of the soul, must continue endlessly for the existence of the highest good. The complete subsuming of the will to the moral law for achievement of moral perfection becomes impossible in one’s own lifetime (thanks, Kant). However, one can strive towards the highest good through pure reason, as “the pursuit of the highest good.” As Edgeworth quotes in a statement, “Thus Kant declares, ‘We ought to strive to promote the highest good (which must therefore be possible).’”[3] This highest good is permitted in the light, as aforementioned, of an ultimate cause of “supreme being.” This may hold bearing on some of the previous articles on atheism. I like the explanation of the co-incident nature of nature and human rational beings as enacted virtue in line with moral law to produce happiness closer to the highest good with the explanatory framework around which nature’s larger manifestation – in a manifestor, i.e., God.  Humans co-incide in the Good with God.

Edgeworth brings forth the work of Terry Godlove, Jr.[4] An argument for the non-coherence of moral acts by non-theists, not a-theists interestingly, without the supreme being, God, because the ultimate cause for a penultimate end of good acts in a highest good requires an omnipotent unifier of moral virtue, for moral law, where non-theist moral acts, even if moral, become disjunct from one another and in some sense foundational sense dis-unified and, therefore, worthless in an eternal view. This, to Edgeworth and Kant, paves the road to the “Kingdom of God” in which “nature and morals come into a harmony through a holy author who makes the derived highest good possible.” Intriguingly, Edgeworth describes the Christian ethic as heteronomous, or non-theological (counter-intuitively), and autonomous pure practical reason with devotion duly placed in duty. Happiness does not become the goal, but the result of a partial achievement in attainment of a targeted objective, the highest good: some worthy of happiness; others not worthy of happiness in proportion to their attainment of the good oriented towards the highest possible good bound to the eternality of the soul and the absolute existence of God and, in the end, leading to the necessity in some practical  philosophic sense to the need for proper religion for proper moral virtue and real happiness of which one becomes worthy.

What was the reaction of the community to this article? What changed the orientation to a philosophically heavy one in this issue as an executive editorial decision? What seems right in Kant’s thinking about the highest good? What seems incomplete, if at all? What about a non-theist religion? Would this – a non-theist religion – by definition become impossible to attain in some manner?

Powell: Firstly, Scott, I must congratulate you on what is, without doubt, the longest introduction terminating with questions that I have ever had put to me. I will try to break it all down a little, and, indeed, this was the main factor in presenting this essay in the magazine. The notion of “an author who makes the highest good possible” summarises neatly the article, though the reaction of the community to the article was, as usual, not specific. Only Evangelos Katsioulis expressed appreciation of the content and tipped his intellectual hat towards the contributors, particularly Paul Edgeworth. Paul is a good friend – as are, still, the majority of people who contributed to edition IX. I think this steered the content towards the philosophical, it being part of the friendship I share to this day. As to what is ‘right’ in Kant, well, in retrospect, my girlfriend believes in the kind of predetermination that Kant and Paul describe, Lena being convinced that we are destined to emerge with our good intentions made reality, primarily by God’s will. This approach has fortified my altruistic mental framework, if I can express it that way for now. I sense that many people prefer to act on behalf of an extraneous force, or being, which, when genuine and demonstrable by action, is implicitly of ‘a higher good’. I think the current Pope, Francis, is of a similar line of thinking, the majority of great religious figures too. To have a sense that you are primarily doing things and creating thoughts for the benefit of the universe outside yourself, in whatever way that manifests itself (and towards whichever essence) is the highest good. I don’t necessarily believe that a god is necessary to attain that supreme level of goodness, to the point where I think such thinking is restrictive and ultimately, risks divisiveness. “Divine, divisive, divide” to summarise in three words. In short, I think a non-theist interpretation of the highest good is possible. Buddhism is a non-theist “religion”, though (and hence) the word “religion” is not usually ascribed to it by those who practice Buddhist thought. Taoism is also, by definition, “of the way”, to give another example. I don’t usually discuss religion in everyday life because, in my mind, I have a caveat that I call “Powell’s Law”, put simply, that discussing religion inevitably leads to division. I try to live peacefully and have no problem, per se, that people believe differently from each other, believe differently from me. I consider that the highest good. 

4. Jacobsen: “Meeting of Minds” images presented interesting displays from the 12th Asia Pacific Conference on Giftedness. Christina AngelidouDr. Evangelos KatsioulisJonathan WaiMarco Ripà, and yourself can be seen in some. I like the one with the gargantuan Burj Khalifa behind Wai and Katsioulis. What was meeting everyone in person like for you?

Powell: I have no doubt in placing the experience of meeting all the people you mention, plus colleagues from the European Council for High Ability, right at the pinnacle of my joyous existence. It was just wonderful! Everyone was so enthusiastic and ready to make a difference in the world. Meeting Christina Angelidou, then going around the arena at the centre of the conference, was delightful, and we discussed my first workshop too, which was intellectually rewarding. Christina is the founder member of Mensa Cyprus and she was introduced to me via my contacts in America: I was interested in getting Mensa members to the event, Mensa International being based in the USA. British Mensa, which I joined in January 1987, directed me to liaise with the Americans about attendance at the conference. Christina and I are still in regular contact. Dr Jonathan Wai was also a joy to meet, so calm and mild mannered, yet with a subtle, incisive sense of humour. We got on very well. I was also very pleased to meet Marco Ripà in person, something Evangelos arranged. I helped Marco with his presentation, which he was nervous about, quite naturally, because English is his second language and he doesn’t get a great number of opportunities to speak it. I was happy to reassure him about his ability to communicate, which he did very well in the end. It was also an opportunity for me to speak Italian, which was useful for me. Quintessentially, it was astonishing to reflect on the fact that I was often standing in front of four people, knowing that the SD 15 IQ points of those four people added up to well over 650. That is truly tremendous brain power! 

5. Jacobsen: “The Importance of Kant’s Concept of the Highest Good (Pt. 2)” continued with sections 9 through 16 of the essay. Edgeworth starts with some commentary of the highest good made apparent, as a transcendent object, to the rational being through pure practical reason. This gives grounds to actualize the highest good here-and-now, to bring the Kingdom of God, according to Kant, into the present and the future. He – Kant – makes immanent the highest good. I like this point in the argument for extension from the theoretical into the practical with a Kantian ethic meaning someone must act in such a way as to do that which they have not ever done if it leads them into a state of approximation of the highest possible good further than before. A sub-argument for individual growth as axiomatic, or at least derivatively unavoidable. In describing the base of transcendent moral law, Kant eked out some normatives. In a sense, every individual rational being becomes, or can become, a locus of the highest good in the real world on the condition of promoting it “with all his capabilities.” The idea implied before through the endlessness of the soul becomes explicit with mention of an afterlife. Edgeworth notes a limitation or blindspot in the thought process of Kant with “the highest good” implying “the reincarnation or rephenomenalization of the moral self.” Only infinite existence, hence the soul, permits the arena in which the endless striving for moral perfection or towards the moral law exists. Edgeworth provides a tip of the hat to an accurate description of a physicalistic, naturalistic, and secular interpretation to ethics-in-action with morals as something achieved in the here-and-now by human beings, where Kant’s first two, earlier, works began as more theological and latter, and third, work began to lean more secular in orientation in the morality. In short, a secular interpretation of the targeted objective of Kant becomes social ethics. Also, the, apparent, in-between comes in the form of an ethical commonwealth, which reminds one of The Commons from Anglo-American law in which everyone contributes and all benefit. This ethical commonwealth as a means by which to attain a status of a “rational church,” back to religion as a foundation for a unified ethic with God and an eternal soul. As Edgeworth states, “We can therefore state without fear of contradiction that Kant’s formulation of the highest good makes it abundantly clear that it is fundamentally about a common and shared human destiny,” whether secular or religious and, in this sense, more humanistic but atemporal too. What was the final takeaway from this extensively researched and well-written academic essay for you? Of those in the community who read some or all of it, what was their commentary on it? By chance, any commentary by scholars of Immanuel Kant?

Powell: With these points that you make, Scott, I am now of the mind that a review and a prompting of discussion would be beneficial, a kind of ‘afterword’, as I would call it. The production of the WIN book was intended to put these notions out into the general public and to stimulate discussion and some reassessment of the current milieu. The most apparent result of publishing such well-researched  pieces was, I think, the generation of enthusiasm to read further and to attempt to produce work of a high standard to publish on the internet, whether for the WIN ONE, or on other sites, in other blogs. I still wish to produce books that will have more of an impact on broader society, but the acceptance of that is still being negotiated. As mentioned earlier, from my part, ‘peacefulness’ as immanent in the highest good was what I carried away from the essay, though I remain sceptical about any eternality of self regarding that. 

6. Jacobsen: “The Corporate Strategy Column” by Elisabetta di Cagno gives a punchy set of thou shalts and thou shalt nots about corporate culture – take from it what you may, I suppose. “Differentiating features of gifted children and dealing with high IQ societies” by Marco Ripà examined giftedness, identification, and, sometimes, problems, even “big PROBLEMS” encountered by the gifted young with some connection to hyperactivity. The orientation of the academic article comes in the form of a human rights perspective and a compassionate one, too, in which myths abound about the gifted and their needs in life. Does di Cagno miss anything about corporate culture and output? Does the article on giftedness sufficiently differentiate the identifications of the different levels of the gifted? How does British Mensa, of which you remain a member, help the gifted and talented and distinguish the needs of the levels of gifted, of cognitive rarity and exceptional mentation?

Powell: Elisabetta’s piece is fictional, yet with overtones from reality, as the best fiction does – it’s part of what makes prose ‘literature’. Having read it again, I see it primarily as a statement about preparing for an interview and how that asks people to transcend, even betray, their inherent instincts in the name of ‘Business’. As a postgraduate student of Human Resource Management, I was most interested in Organisational Culture as part of the course. Dr Jackson liked my contributions and essays. Even Hugh Scullion, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management, admitted to the class that the best way to earn a promotion and ‘getting on’ in an organisation was via getting involved in events outside of work hours. Elisabetta’s piece hints at that, plus an inordinate display of knowledge and expression about share pricing (which she calls ‘stock’) and basically kow-towing to those in a position of power. If I may enlarge the discussion for a moment, this pays homage to what we talked about earlier on in this series of interviews, when we talked about Hollingworth and the difficulties of communicating and relating across broad spans of intelligence. In the context here, the more recent writing of Michael Ferguson and his popular essay about The Inappropriately Excluded has many ‘hits’ on his blog, so I recommend people to read it, plus the discussion pieces that surround it. 

Marco’s article was originally his presentation at the 12th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness, a presentation I helped him with just prior to him delivering it. It helped forge our friendship. In no way is it an attempt to cover all aspects of giftedness in youth and the associated problems; it was more an attempt to open people’s minds to some of the almost universal aspects of giftedness, especially prejudices and the lack of understanding and identification of hypersensitivities. British Mensa does contribute to the aspects you mention, especially via its promotion of national entities which are dedicated to provision for the gifted. I contacted British Mensa with a view to it sending people to Dubai for the aforementioned conference, but I got deferred to Mensa International in order to get contributors. Amongst my numerous friends in the high IQ community, the most ardent people who are transforming matters for fellow high IQ folk are not members of Mensa anymore, if, indeed, they ever were.  

7. Jacobsen: Dr. Manahel Thabet wrote “Organizing the 12th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness.” A significant event, as stated, “6,000 participants, all of them experts, teachers, researchers, decision makers, parents and educators. 325 papers were presented, from 42 countries.” Dr. Chris FischerChristina AngelidouDr. Evangelos KatsioulisJonathan WaiDr. Lianne HoogeveenMarco Ripà, and yourself took part in the event as well. “Artistic License,” “Between You and You,” “Seventy Shades of Gray,” Safe Between the Fluffy Covers,” “The Sleeping, Roving Genius Among Us” in “Poems” by Dr. Greg A. Grove provided some reflection on, in many cases, stark contrasts without direct opposites. What did “Poems” evoke for you? How important was the post-event reportage of Dr. Thabet for wrapping up the event? Any further developments since that time?

Powell: I asked Doctor Thabet to write something, which I could have done myself, having been heavily involved in the organisation and supply of people for it, but I was already contributing much to the IX edition, so I wished for someone else to write an article. As it was, she was busy, so I outlined for her what I considered should be written, then added the summary at the end anyhow. I had hoped that the filming of the event would produce extensive courses and presentations for posterity, but that never happened. Several of the WIN members put their presentations on Youtube, but that was it. I was really looking forward to seeing my presentations, especially the second one: it went down really well and Manahel’s assistant came running up to me afterwards saying what fantastic feedback I had received. It’s all part of the low-key work I have done in the eyes of the majority these last ten years. As for Greg’s work, they were extracts from a book he produced and it is still available in Kindle format. They form part of a total assessment and expression of psychological states and attitudes. I enjoyed the read and have the entire kindle book “Leopards in the Sky” on my computer. I recommend people look for it and make what they want of it. It’s subtitle is “For the Preconscious Mind”.

8. Jacobsen: Then we come to “On the Epistemic Standing of Claims of the Nonexistent” by Phil Elauria. Another interesting twist on the content of old, often boring and sterile, debates found only in philosophy classes and theology seminars. The first two points remain salient with principles of non-contradiction as a point of thought contact for existence as a property and the knowledge of the non-existent, as in the statement of “formal (deductive) logic and mathematics are, when applicable, the highest form of certainty.” Paraconsistent logic in Dialetheism is an interesting notion. However, Elauria finds this dishonest approach dishonest. He runs through the logic of non-contradiction with the famous problem of evil, often seen as the most difficult problem to theologians within Abrahamic traditions in search of an omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent self-existent (with property aseity) being. Elauria asserts, “Indeed, the fact that there is apologetics concedes my point. For, if reason weren’t important in the defense of theistic claims, then apologetics would be a waste of time at least, and an elaborate red herring constructed to mislead people from the fact that reason actually plays no role in coming to the conclusion about the existence of God,” as Elauria identifies as an atheist (one can assume an absolute atheist). Does this problem of evil in the midst of the Law of Non-Contradiction seem like a serious problem to the hypothesis of a God? He makes other examples with 2-dimensional objects and the statements of a single object having the complete set of properties of two 2-dimensional objects at the same time: a square and a circle, which amounts to a contradiction, e.g., a square circle or a circle square. His next methodological placeholder ideas become plausibility and likelihood. Is a God plausible? Is a God likely? He presents science and fallibilism as the next premises.[5] These through contacts of plausibility, likelihood, science, and fallibilism form the basis for the argument called the Weak Knowledge of Non-Existents. Much of modern science seems premised on the opposite secondary part of the title with tentative of weak knowledge, ever-improving and searching and refining, of the existent. This becomes the basis for the doubt inherent in the position of atheism for Elauria. Does this argument convince you? The argument for the non-existence of God. Also, in personal experience with 2-sigma and higher high IQ community, what tendencies in religious and non-religious beliefs exist among them? Does a tendency exist more towards theism, whether mono-theism or poly-theism, or a-theism, or an agnosticism amongst members? Does Elauria’s professed atheism seem as if atheistic as an assertion in a philosophical sense and then agnosticism in an empirical – plausibility, likelihood, science, and fallibilism – sense?

Powell: In a literary context, the notion of evil was an initial criticism of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, his stated aim of ‘justifying the ways of God to man’ faltering because many thought the depiction of the Devil more engaging than that of God. People empathised with the fallen angel, who reacted to the vicissitudes of God and was punished eternally for it. The Epicurean Paradox, which Phil Elauria alludes to, has often fascinated me and I have talked to Phil about choices and how they make for life’s experience, because in life, we have choices, right up until our death – and even then, perhaps, there are more choices to take. We can not be certain about that, as we cannot be certain of the existence of God. I favour an approach which (to paraphrase Pascal) does not concern itself so much as to whether or not there is a god, but rather, focuses on the notion that we should behave as if there is one. 

As for the ‘Weak Knowledge’ and the your interpretation that science proceeds via searching with the ever improvement and refinement of knowledge of the extant, again, this is a linear progression as stated, but knowledge does not proceed like that, according to Popper and Kuhn – for example. Phil Elauria chooses, as a corollary of his arguments, to be atheistic, though I prefer the agnostic stance whereby there is still a possibility of an alternative existence, even if it must remain within the realm of post-death. I actually think the confrontation with what is regarded as an inevitable in life (death) is the reason why mankind has confronted existence with the idea that there is something after death, preferably something good.  

As for the high IQ community, discussions on belief and the existence of God always divide vehemently, the arguments for and against often becoming so intense that even the highly intelligent start resorting to ad hominem after ad hominem. I am loathed to try and define trends in the high IQ community regarding this topic, but most of the people I respect express strong arguments in their particular paradigm (as I wish to express it here) and that is intrinsically what retains my respect for them. My experience notes that those who believe in a god believe that there is only one, so they have monotheistic beliefs, and, moreover, this places them within a deistic stance. Those who counter the argument for the existence of God take a similar line of argument as Phil Elauria, so are atheistic. That’s my experience, Scott, especially online. 

To summarise, your notion about atheism having a philosophical sense, agnosticism an empirical one, has credence, based, again, on my experience.

9. Jacobsen: Finally, we come to the “3D Lego Griddler ‘Chasing Nessie’” of Alan Wing-lun. Are puzzles an important inclusion for each issue? How do you vary the puzzles in order to maintain interest in these sections of the issues?

Powell: I like to have puzzles in the magazine, yes, the magazine genre demanding them to a certain extent. Most of the magazines pitched towards the high IQ sector have puzzles and quizzes and I produce most of them myself, which I also enjoy. Akin to the concept of having a series of numbers in the publication date (which began this interview) I like the inherent creativity involved in creating diverse and interesting puzzles. Alan certainly veers into the esoteric, which is very much his personality too. I was very pleased to meet him in London and we had a lively discussion about many things. I hope more people will contribute puzzles in the near future to maintain a diversity of interest and an enhanced expression of puzzle creativity. Most puzzles are derived from others. I read quite widely and, if I like a puzzle, I try to adapt it into something not seen before. I especially like puzzles which also tell a story.

10. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Graham.

Powell: You are welcome, Scott. It has been a very enjoyable interview.

References

Di Cagno, E. (2012, December 12). The Corporate Strategy Column. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Edgeworth, P. (2012a, December 12). The Importance of Kant’s Concept of the Highest Good (Pt. 1). Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Edgeworth, P. (2012b, December 12). The Importance of Kant’s Concept of the Highest Good (Pt. 2). Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Elauria, P. (2012, December 12). On the Epistemic Standing of Claims of the Nonexistent. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Grove, G.A. (2012, December 12). Poems. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Thabet, M. (2012, December 12). Organizing the 12th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Powell, G. (2012a, December 12). Introduction. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Powell, G. (2012b, December 12). A Meeting of Minds: pictures from Dubai.. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Ripà, M. (2012, December 12). Differentiating features of gifted children and dealing with high IQ societies. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Wing-lun, A. (2012, December 12). 3D Lego Griddler “Chasing Nessie”. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Editor, WIN ONE; Text Editor, Leonardo (AtlantIQ Society); Joint Public Relations Officer, World Intelligence Network; Vice President, AtlantIQ Society.

[2] Individual Publication Date: November 8, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] Edgeworth in “The Importance of Kant’s Concept of the Highest Good” states:

Accordingly, the highest good in the world is possible only insofar as a supreme cause of nature having a causality in keeping with the moral disposition is assumed. Which is to say that the supreme cause of nature, if it is to be presupposed for the highest good, must be a being that is the cause of nature by understanding and will, that is to say, God.

Edgeworth, P. (2012, December 12). The Importance of Kant’s Concept of the Highest Good. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

[4] “The Importance of Kant’s Concept of the Highest Good,” in full, states:

This question has both been raised and answered by Terry Godlove, Jr. In his response, he notes that while both the theist and non-theist may share an immediate action, only the former may undertake the moral life, for only he can truly intend to further the highest good. Thus without the hope of success in his moral life (since only an omnipotent moral law-giver could bring about such a state of nature), the non-theist cannot in actuality describe himself as working toward a unified moral end, the highest good, for he cannot intend to do what he knows to be impossible. Nor can he regard his conduct as furthering anything more than immediate ends, since he cannot aim at the final end of moral conduct. Consequently, the non-theist cannot set out to lead a moral life, where by “moral life” we signify “more than a brute concatenation of otherwise independent moral actions.”

Edgeworth, P. (2012, December 12). The Importance of Kant’s Concept of the Highest Good. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

[5] “On the Epistemic Standing of Claims of the Nonexistent,” in full, states:

We can reject any claim involving the existence of some object or being to the extent that we can justifiably maintain confidence in a given scientific thesis that contradicts or refutes some necessary property of the object or being in question, which is to say, a property that the object or being must possess in order for us to continue to identify it as such…

…We can say that no object or being exists, with confidence, to the extent that we are epistemically justified in accepting a given scientific thesis that refutes or contradicts properties that are said to be necessary to identify some claimed object or being as such.

Elauria, P. (2012, December 12). On the Epistemic Standing of Claims of the Nonexistent. Retrieved from http://winone.iqsociety.org/issues/WIN_ONE_09.pdf.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research Now [Online].November 2019; 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, November 8). An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments (Part Eight). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments (Part Eight). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A, November. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments (Part Eight).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments (Part Eight).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A (November 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments (Part Eight)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments (Part Eight)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments (Part Eight).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 21.A (2019):November. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Graham Powell on Immanuel Kant, the Logic of the Nonexistent, and Major Milestones and Developments (Part Eight) [Internet]. (2019, November 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/powell-eight.

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Does God exist and what can science say about it?

Interviewer: Dr. Mir Faizal and Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 21.B, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Seventeen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: November 1, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,796

ISSN 2369-6885

Keywords: atheism, God, Mir Faizal, science, theism.

Does God exist and what can science say about it?[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When people talk about atheism or theism, it is important to know what is being asked. So, I would like to start the discussion with you by directly asking you if you think God exists.

Dr. Mir Faizal: To answer this question, we need to first define what we mean by God. The problem with this question is that the word ”God” has been used for so many different concepts, that it is hard to understand what one is talking about. This also causes problems in the discussion. It is known in physics that you cannot derive consistent results from a system, with unphysical gauge degrees freedom in it. So, to derive consistent results in such a system, we need to follow a procedure called gauge fixing to fix these unphysical degrees of freedom. Now in this question, we actually have unphysical degrees of freedom. This question actually contains two different questions. The first is about the meaning of the word “God,” and the second is about the existence of God. Usually, people try answering the second one without answering the first one, and this causes confusion. So, let us discuss the first question, then we will be more precise about better understand what we are discussing.

2. Jacobsen: So, you want to start by defining what you mean by the word “God.” Ok, then tell us, how would you define God? 

Faizal: I would define God as the most fundamental aspect of reality from which all other aspects of reality are derived, and it is not derived from anything more fundamental. If it can be derived from something more fundamental, then it is not God, according to my definition, but that something from which it is derived is God. In other words, God by definition cannot “not” exist and everything that exists, exists because of God, and God does not exist because of anything more fundamental. Now this definition is pure tautology, and it does not provide any new information. It only fixes the unphysical degrees of freedom, and so we are now only left with one well defined question. Now we have assumed by definition that God is the most fundamental aspect of existence, it is meaningless to ask if God exists, as by definition it is equivalent to asking if existence exists. Now we are left with the unambiguous question about the nature of the most fundamental aspect of existence. This question is much more well defined than an ambiguous question about the existence of God, when we have not even fixed a definition of God.

3. Jacobsen: So, what is the most fundamental aspect of existence? May be start from telling us, what is the most fundamental aspect of physical reality?

Faizal: Well to understand that we need to understand an important concept in physics called as the effective field theories. If you are seeing any object around you, say a ball, it is actually a complex system of interacting atoms. But you do not need to know about atomic physics to know how the ball will move at your scale. All only need to know is Newton’s laws at that scale, as Newton’s laws are a good approximation to atomic physics. Going deeper, it is known that atoms are also made of fundamental particles. However, atomic physics is a good approximation to that system of fundamental particles. Now if you keep going deeper and deeper, you will come to a Length scale called the Planck scale. The physics here would be described by quantum gravity. Even though we do not have a full theory of quantum gravity, we have various approaches to it. String theory and loop quantum gravity are two famous approaches to quantum gravity, but there are several other approaches too. A universal prediction of quantum gravity is that space-time should break down at Planck scale. So, if you really look deep enough, you will discover that space-time and all objects in it are approximations to something more fundamental, and this fundamental aspect of existence is information. In other words, information is more fundamental than substance. In technical terms it is described as “it (substance) from bit (information), not bit from it.” So, the laws governing nature are more fundamental than nature itself. Instead of relativity existing because of space-time, space-time exists because of relativity. Physically the most fundamental aspect of reality is information, which is a mathematical structure. This structure is more fundamental than any physical structure like space-time, and hence cannot be possible derived from it. Even the multiverse exists as the level of it, and comes from some bit.

4. Jacobsen: So, would you say this is God? 

Faizal: Well there is even a problem with that. A mathematical structure is an axiomatic structure. So, we start from some axioms, and derive consequences from those axioms. The problem now comes from Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. The first theorem states that any axiomatic structure is incomplete, or in simple words there are things which cannot be proved within an axiomatic structure. The second theorem states that the consistency of an axiomatic structure is one of those things. In other words, the consistency of a mathematical structure cannot be proved within that structure. Penrose has argued that even though formal proof cannot be provided for Gödel’s unprovable statements because of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, human mathematicians can still prove them. In other words, we need consciousness to do mathematics, but reality is mathematics, and so I would say we also will need consciousness there to overcome this problem. However, it should be known that human consciousness occurs at low energies due to neurons in our brain, and now we are talking about a scale at which even space-time does not exist. So, rather the statement should be that a better linguistic approximation for the most fundamental aspect of reality is it has consciousness rather than the lack of it. However, this is still an approximation, and the actual nature of what produces this mathematics structure cannot be accurately expressed in language, which has evolved to express simple human actions.

5. Jacobsen: Can you give a simpler explanation about existence of God? 

Faizal: We again start from the definition that God as the most fundamental aspect of existence. Then we can look at our universe and try to infer the nature of God from it. Now in popular discourse, theism is the assertion that the fundamental aspect of reality is infinitely intelligent, and atheism is the assertion that the fundamental aspect of reality has zero intelligence. It is difficult to deal with zero or infinity, and in physics usually a finite number is assumed during calculations, and this finite number is set to zero or infinity at the end of calculation. So, let us also do it here, and make the argument more precise. Let us assume that our universe is a simulation, and now what can we say about aliens who have simulated it. Well if they can simulate an complex living system, they would be intelligent. If they can simulate evolution on a planet, by which complex living system will evolve, they will be very intelligent. Finally, if they can write an mathematical structure, which produce correct physics, and which will cause the big bang and the right evolution of galaxies, and finally cause complex life to evolve from evolution, they have to be hyper-intelligent. If those aliens would be stupid, the universe would be full of inconsistencies, and would require corrections. As our universe is free from such inconsistencies, we can infer that the reality behind this universe is very intelligent. However, we cannot still prove if it is not a simulation, but that does not change the argument. As if this is a simulation, then the arguments just shift to the universe, where aliens have simulated us. Even if this is an infinite sequence, the argument will still hold using limits. After all infinite is just another number, and we can consistently deal with it using limits. Furthermore, the multiverse will just add another layer to it, as to simulate physics which will generate a multiverse is more difficult than to simulate physics which will generate a single universe. The problem with naive creationist argument is that they get stuck on biological evolution, and try to assume a God who breaks natural laws to spontaneously create complex life. The whole nature is exists because of God, and in this there is no need to assume that God will perform some miracle and spontaneously create complex life.

6. Jacobsen: How does this idea of God relate to the common religious ideas of God? 

Faizal: There are again two aspects to it. Now in almost all religions there is a concept of the most fundamental aspect of existence, from which other existence proceeds, and it does not proceed from anything more fundamental. Interestingly it is also assumed that it conscious and it is not an object in space-time. So, Yahweh/God in Judaism, the Heavenly Father in Christianity, God/Allah in Islam, Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism, Brahnam in Hinduism, Tian in Confucianism all represent this idea. It may be noted that as in Christianity both Word and Spirit have a non-temporal causal origin from the Heavenly Father, who in turn does not have a causal origin from anything more fundamental, Heavenly Father in Christianity is linguistically equivalent to other terms in this list. Also it may be noted Tian in Confucianism has a will, and so again has consciousness and thus linguistically equivalent to other terms in the list. But then there is another aspect of these religions, in which earth or even humans are made the centre of existence. We humans are an insignificant species, living on an insignificant planet in an insignificant solar system in an insignificant galaxy, in possibly an insignificant universe. It is one thing to get inspiration from Moses or Jesus or Muhammad or Zoroaster or Confucius or Ram or Krishna or Buddha, and it is another thing to say that one of them is the most important being in the whole multiverse. There will be countless alien species, billions of times more intelligent than us. This anthropocentric view seems to be the result of our own imagination. Furthermore, the idea that a human is the most fundamental aspect of reality is totally meaningless. It is like saying a human being is gravity, or human being is evolution, which if taken literally is totally meaningless. It is not even wrong; it is simply meaningless.

7. Jacobsen: In this definition of God, how do you address the problem of evil, or the paradox relating to God’s ability to create a stone which God cannot lift? 

Faizal: We have to differentiate between the most fundamental aspect of existence being conscious, and the linguistic approximation of this most fundamental aspect of reality in theology as God. The problem is that our language only evolved with us to express objects at our scale, and when we are dealing with such a fundamental reality, it breaks down. So, it is important to understand that any description of God, in any language is only a linguistic approximation of reality. So, as any approximation, this approximation will also break creating apparent paradoxes. Now these paradoxes occur due to breaking of linguistic structure rather than the concept that is being described. It is well known that deterministic mathematical structure cannot consistently explain nature. If we try to answer the question regarding the exact position and momentum of a quantum particle, we will not get consistent answers. It is not that we cannot obtain such information, but such information does not exist in the system. If we extract information about position, we are not left with any information about momentum. Now we cannot even ask this question. Similarly, we can adopt a non-deterministic language to solve such paradoxes. For example, God is good and God is powerful, but you cannot linguistically ask both questions at the same time. It is just like asking about momentum and position of a particle at the same time. Similarly, can God create any stone, and can God lift any stone, are two questions which cannot be asked at the same time. I think it would be nice to try to see how for such a non-deterministic language can be developed to rule out such paradoxes. But in any case, it is important to distinguish between fundamental reality and its linguistic approximation.

8. Jacobsen: How do you see miracles that break physical laws, which some religious people talk about? 

Faizal: Another aspect that seems to be strange is to assume that certain miracles break natural laws. In our definition, God is the most fundamental aspect of reality. Now we also expected that space-time to break down at Planck scale, so this fundamental aspect of reality cannot be constrained by time. In other words, God’s nature would not change with time. As God’s action do not change with time, similar causes lead to similar effects, and this is why science works. However, it is possible that improbable events can occur (without breaking natural laws), and they can be interpreted as miracles. It may be noted that both the idea of God interfering only at specific points of time to do miracles, and God only interfering at the beginning of universe, as if that point is special, does not fit with this description of God. This is because in this description of God, as God is defined as the most fundamental aspect of existence, so linguistically we can say that God does everything. However, God does everything consistently, and there are no inconsistencies in the universe. So, even though we do not still have a consistent physical understanding of the physics at the point of big bang, big bang has to be explained physically. In simple words, God is not the God of gaps, with big bang being a big gap, but a God whose intelligence is so perfect that no gaps are left.

9. Jacobsen: Thank you!

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Adjunct Professor, Physics and Astronomy, University of Lethbridge; Visiting Professor, Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, University of British Columbia – Okanagan.

[2] Individual Publication Date: November 1, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Faizal M, Jacobsen S. Does God exist and what can science say about it? [Online].November 2019; 21(B). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Faizal, M. & Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, November 1). Does God exist and what can science say about it?Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): FAIZAL M.; JACOBSEN, S. Does God exist and what can science say about it?. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.B, November. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Faizal, Mir, and Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “Does God exist and what can science say about it?.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.B. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Faizal, Mir, and Jacobsen, Scott. “Does God exist and what can science say about it?.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.B (November 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen.

Harvard: Faizal, M. and Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘Does God exist and what can science say about it?In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.B. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen>.

Harvard, Australian: Faizal, M and Jacobsen, S 2019, ‘Does God exist and what can science say about it?In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.B., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Faizal, Mir and Scott D. Jacobsen. “Does God exist and what can science say about it?.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 21.B (2019):November. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Faizal M, Jacobsen S. Does God exist and what can science say about it? [Internet]. (2019, November 21(B). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/faizal-jacobsen.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Mir Faizal, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research Now

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 21.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Seventeen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: October 22, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,701

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Dr. Aubrey de Grey is a biomedical gerontologist based in Cambridge, UK and Mountain View, California, USA, and is the Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation, a California-based 501(c) (3) charity dedicated to combating the aging process. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, the world’s highest-impact peer-reviewed journal focused on intervention in aging. He received his BA and Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1985 and 2000 respectively. His research interests encompass the characterisation of all the accumulating and eventually pathogenic molecular and cellular side-effects of metabolism (“damage”) that constitute mammalian aging and the design of interventions to repair and/or obviate that damage. Dr. de Grey is a Fellow of both the Gerontological Society of America and the American Aging Association, and sits on the editorial and scientific advisory boards of numerous journals and organisations. He discusses: new research on longevity and longevity escape velocity; promising anti-aging research; research all over the place; advancing research into the Hadwiger-Nelson problem; organizations to look into; books to look into; and final feelings and thoughts on the conversation.

Keywords: Aubrey de Grey, longevity, Rejuvenation Research, SENS Research Foundation.

An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research Now: Chief Science Officer & Co-Founder, SENS Research Foundation; Editor-In-Chief, Rejuvenation Research[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is new about longevity escape velocity and research into it?

Dr. Aubrey de Grey: I could spend a half-hour just talking about that question. It has been a while. Remind me, how long ago was our last interview?

Jacobsen: 2014.

de Grey: All right, things are unrecognizable now. There is a private industry in this. In 2014/2015, it was the time when we created our first spinout. We took out a project philanthropically at SENS Research Foundation. An investor found us.

Jacobsen: Is this Peter Thiel?

de Grey: No, no, another person who had been one of our donors. A guy who was our second biggest donor back then. A guy named Jason Hope. He decided that one of our projects that we had been supporting at Rice University in Texas was ready to be commercialized.

Of course, it was early in terms of becoming a project. He felt that it was far enough along to invest as a project with his own money rather than as a donation. He created a biotech company of his own. He hired our people. He gave us a percent of the company and went off and tried to do it.

He did not have the faintest clue to run a biotech company.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

de Grey: It changed our attitude to the whole thing. Since then, our business model has been to pursue this kind of thing. It is to pursue projects that are too early to be investible. It is to be in parallel with conversations with potential investors and to identify the right point, where the thing has achieved enough proof of concept.

So, it can be spun out into a company and can receive considerable amounts of support, more than can be provided philanthropically. We have done this half a dozen times. We have been able to do this due to increasing investments at an increasing rate, including deep pocketed ones.

Something that happened 3 years ago with an investor named Jim Mellon who had made his money in a variety of other completely unrelated fields decided that he wanted to get into this. It was the next important thing to him.

He approached me. We started talking. We became very good friends, very quickly. The long of the short is he is the chair of a company called Juvenescence. Its model is basically to invest in other companies.

So, they have already put quite a bit of money into quite several start-ups. Some are spinouts of SENS. Others are closely aligned with what we do. It is transforming everything. It is fantastic. Around the same time, a guy came to us from Germany. A guy named Michael Greve who made his fortune in the early days of the German internet.

He made some of the most successful German websites. He has wanted to do this for a while. He has been investing in a variety of start-ups. The good news is most of these new investors, especially Michael Greve, have been also donating to the foundation as well as investing in companies.

That is very, very important, of course. For the near future, there will be projects that are not far enough along to really join the dots to make a profit. They will need to be funded philanthropically. We try to make the case to investors, even if they are inherently more in an investor mindset than a donor.

We try to make the case. Even if they donate a smaller amount than they are investing, they have as much of my time as they want. They will have the opportunity to have the information, so they will be the founding investor of the next startup.

For me, it is extraordinarily gratifying. I am at the nexus of all of this. Everyone comes to me, whether the investors or the founders of companies who want to find investments. I spend a ridiculous amount of my time just making introductions.

What had not changed, we are still woefully low on the money throughout the foundation. Even though, I have been able, as I say, to put some money in; and we have some money from elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is far less than we need.

I am constantly spending my time on the road and camera trying to change that. That is the biggest thing that has changed. The next thing that we are changing is the huge spike in the value of cryptocurrencies. We benefitted quite a lot from that. Several of our investors who used to be relatively penniless and had not funded us financially suddenly became rather wealthy.

They ended up with a lot of money. We had four 7-digit donations adding up to a total of 6.5 million dollars. So, obviously, this was a windfall. That we are making us of now. Only one of the donors is likely to be a repeat donor because the others decided to give away most of their fortune.

That guy created Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin. He, basically, read my book when he was 14. He is now 26.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

de Grey: He is one of these true children of the revolution who never had to change their mind about anything. They always grew up knowing it was a sad thing and tried to fix it. So, that is cool. My life is largely the same in broad strokes, but, in the specifics, in terms of the ways in which I can bring the right money to the right people; it has improved a lot.

2. Jacobsen: As aging is numerous processes, what programs of anti-aging, given individual processes of aging, seem the most promising within your remit?

de Grey: When I talk about what is more promising and less promising, I am always looking at the research. I am looking at how SENS is moving forward. Of course, there is a big spectrum to how far along things are.

On the easy end of the spectrum, we have hardly done anything throughout our 10-year existence on stem cell research, even though it is a key area of damage repair. It is a place for others too. Almost every area of stem cell research is important for cell damage and aging, which is being done by others and not us.

While at the other end of the spectrum, things like making backup copies of Mitochondrial DNA, hardly anyone else is working on it. That is a big spectrum. But if I look at the rate of progress, it is not the same at all.

One gratifying thing is making great advances in some difficult areas over the last few years. For mitochondrial DNA, we published a paper about 2 and a half years ago that sounded like only a modest step forward.

Basically, out of the 13 protein coding genes that we need to work in the nucleus, we were able to make two of them work at the same time, in the same cell. It sounds modest, but it is a huge progression from before. With the result now, we have a paper in review, which is a huge step forward from there.

We have these genes working now. We are understanding how we are getting them working. It is not so much trial-and-error now. More of the same thing is crosslinking. So, as you know, the extracellular matrix, this lattice of proteins that gives our tissue their elasticity. It gets less elastic over time because of chemical reaction with circulating sugar.

So, in 2015, the group that we were funding in that area, at Yale University, were able to publish a paper – our first paper in Science magazine – on the huge advance in that area. The advance sounded tangential at first hearing with the structure, which is one of the structures responsible for the loss of this elasticity. We want to break it, therefore.

The advance made that was published was ways to create it, to synthesize it, from simple agents. As it turns out, there is an enabling step. It allows us to perform experiments that would be impossible with the very trace amounts of this material that would have been previously available, just making antibody tissue or finding bacterial enzymes that break it down.

That work is proceeding very much faster now, as well. That is one of the companies that we are in the process of spinning out.

3. Jacobsen: If you look at the projections of research that looked very promising, what ones were very disappointing? What ones came out of nowhere and were promising?

de Grey: Of course, they are all over the place. Some of the most important ones were the ones no one cares about. One is pluripotent stem cells created 13 years ago, and CRISPR, which was very much more recent, like 6 years ago.

We have been exploiting those advances. Same with the entire medical profession. But there are also isolated things that have been unexpected. Let us go back to mitochondrial mutations, one thing that we were kicking ourselves over. It will be talked about in the upcoming paper.

It is codon optimization. It is well-known. Mitochondrial DNA has a separate DNA. Codons code different things, different amino acids, compared to the nucleus (in the mitochondria by comparison). One thing is true, which we thought was relevant.

Out of the range of the codons that code for a given single amino acid, let us say the 4 that encode for lysine, there may be one of them used more often than others. This will affect the speed of translation of the messenger RNA among other things.

Nobody had bothered to try to optimize that for expression of these genes in the nucleus. It turns out that if you do then things go far, far better. It was a serendipitous discovery. Science, itself, is full of serendipitous discoveries.

4. Jacobsen: Also, you solved a math problem, recently. What was it?

de Grey: [Laughing] right, that was about 18 months ago. It is a problem called the Hadwiger-Nelson problem named after some mathematicians from 1950s. The question is normally stated, “How many colors do you need to color all of the points on the plane in order that no pair of points that is one inch apart is the same color?”

The answer was immediately shown back in 1950 to be somewhere between 4 and 7 inclusive. I was able to exclude the 4 case. Many, many, many mathematicians have worked on this in the interim. So, it was quite surprising that I was able to do this, as I am a recreational mathematician. I got lucky, basically.

I would describe this as a game. What you do is, you have a two-player game. The playing surface is an initial blank sheet of paper. Player 1 has a black pen. Player 2 has a bunch of colored pens. The players alternate. When player 1 makes a move. The point is to make a new dot wherever player 1 likes.

Player 2 must color the dot. He must take one of his pens and put a ring around the new dot. The only thing that player 2 is not allowed to do is to use the same color as he used for a previous dot that is exactly one inch away from the new dot.

Of course, there may be more than one dot. Player 1 wins the game if he can arrange things so that the new dot cannot be covered. All the player 2’s pens have been used for other dots that are exactly an inch away from the new dot, right?

The question is, “How many pens does player 2 need to have in order so that player 1 cannot win?”

Jacobsen: Right.

de Grey: So, if player 2 only has one pen, obviously, player 1 can win with just two dots. He puts a dot down. Player 2 uses the red pen. Player 1 puts down a second dot exactly an inch away. Player 2 cannot move. If player 2 has two pens, then player 1 can win with three dots by just placing a dot; player 2 can uses the red pen, places another dot an inch away.

Player 2 uses the blue pen. Player 1 uses third dot in the triangle with the two, so an inch away from both oft hem, then player 2 cannot move. So, then, it turns out. If player 2 has 3 pens, player 1 can also win. It is a little more complicated.

Player 1 needs seven dots. But again, it is not very complicated. It was already worked out back in 1950 as soon as humans started thinking about this kind of question. The natural question would be the number of dots go up in some exponential way, but player 1 can always win.

It turns out that that is not true. It turns out if player 2 has seven pens. Then player 1 can never win, no matter how many dots that he puts down. But what I was able to show, if player 2 has 4 pens, then player 1 can win, but with a lot of dots.

The solution that I found took more than 1,500 dots. It has been reduced by other people since then, but it is still over 500 is the record.

5. Jacobsen: [Laughing] if we are looking at the modern landscape, especially with the increase in funding, what organizations should individuals look to  – other than your own as well?

de Grey: Things are looking good. There is a huge proliferation of investment opportunities as well, in this area. They are certainly raising money, as they are investing in more start-ups. In the non-profit world, there are plenty of organizations as well.

I should probably mention the Methuselah Foundation, which is the organization from which SENS Research Foundation arose. They are funding a bunch of research as well as doing prizes. They are choosing well and the right things to fund.

Then there is the buck institute, which is a much more traditional organization on the surface. In other words, it is mostly funded by the NIH and by relatively conservative funding sources. But! They understand the scientific situation. It has become much more acceptable to do work that is overtly translational, even if you are getting money from these types of sources.

We work closely with them. We have two ongoing projects there. We send summer interns there. We have been able to work with them on funding, in terms of bringing in new sources of funding. That is something hat I would include.

In terms of the world, one important organization is called LEAF or Life Extension Advocacy Foundation. One in the UK. One in the US. One in Russia. They focus on advocacy and outreach. They are extraordinarily good and play a key role in elevating the level of debate in this whole area.

In Europe, the Healthy Life Extension Foundation was founded by two people from Belgium. They run a nice conference every year, every couple of years anyway. They have a vibrant mailing list and spread useful information about this area. They could use some more money. The list goes on now.

There are increased organizations, now, not just in this space but really know what they are doing. They know what the priorities ought to be. One thing I have always known since the beginning. No matter how good I get at outreach and advocacy. I could never do this all myself, not just for lack of time, but because different people resonate with different audiences.

So, there are people who will overall inspire. Others will not like people with beards.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

de Grey: People may not like my act. So, there are people around now who are very capably complementing the kind of style that I have in communicating the value of this work. That is also extraordinarily important.

6. Jacobsen: Any new books that can provide a good introductory foundation into this kind of research? Also, what about advanced texts as well?

de Grey: On the introductory side, there is one guy named Jim Mellon. So, Jim, this businessperson, has a very interesting of going about his job. He preferentially gets into very emerging new sectors. What he does is, he creates his own competition.

He, essentially, writes newsletters and blogs and books about this new area whose intended audience is other investors. That is what I mean by making his own competition. The reason he does this is, basically, that when a sector is just beginning. That the faster it grows, then the better.

Essentially, it is floating all boats by increasing the buzz around something. He wrote a book based on conversations with me over the previous year or so. It is called Juvenescence, which is the same as the name as his company. It is targeted to other investors.

It is very good. I was able to help with this a fair bit with the technical part. But it is written in a style that is very, very appealing, which is not a way that I would be able to write. He has a second edition upcoming. This is one that I would highlight.

In terms of advanced texts, I would not move to texts right now. Things are moving so fast. One simply needs to read the primary literature. One needs to identify that, which is not necessarily an easy thing to do. I would point to our community’s effort.

Probably, the most important one is to fight aging in the blog done by Reason. Even though he has become one of the CEOs of our start-up companies, he is running the blog. He is extremely good at highlighting the important points of the research.

7. Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?

de Grey: I would say, “Thank you for having me on your show again,” and for the opportunity to give an update to your audience. I think, really, the conclusion that I would give is that it is extremely exciting that things are moving much faster than before. But we must not be complacent.

There is still a long way to go. My estimation for how long we must go has gone down, but it has not nearly gone down enough. We still need to be putting in every effort that we possibly can in whatever way.

8. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. de Grey.

de Grey: My pleasure, Scott, thank you!

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Chief Science Officer & Co-Founder, SENS Research Foundation; Editor-In-Chief, Rejuvenation Research.

[2] Individual Publication Date: October 22, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research Now [Online].October 2019; 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, October 22). An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research NowRetrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research Now. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A, October. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research Now.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research Now.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 21.A (October 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research NowIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research NowIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 21.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research Now.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 21.A (2019):October. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Dr. Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Biomedical Gerontology Research Now [Internet]. (2019, October 21(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/grey.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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