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An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two)

September 22, 2018

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 18.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Fourteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: September 22, 2018

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,309

ISSN 2369-6885


Dr. Christopher DiCarlo is an Author, Educator, and Philosopher of Science and Ethics. He discusses: social philosophy; natural philosophy and science; and time at Harvard University.

Keywords: author, Christopher DiCarlo, educator, philosopher.

An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo: Author, Educator, Philosopher of Science and Ethics (Part Two)[1],[2]

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

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: If you go to the major categories of philosophy and by social, political philosophy and so on. We started with ethics there. What social philosophy seems the most appealing to you?

DiCarlo: Obviously, there is an element of libertarianism that attracts a person. We want to give people as much liberty as possible. But libertarianism unchecked can run amok. We’ve seen that historically. You can’t let people do whatever they want.

I am also, a social democrat at heart because I do want to help people who through no fault of their own have had a tough go at it. So, it confuses people when I am on television or what not and they try to pigeonhole me, I say, “Oh, I am a libertarian socialist.” They’ll say, “That’s not possible.” I say, “Sure, it is possible.”

I think people should have the right to make as much money as they want. But they can’t do it at the sacrifice of others. They can’t harm people or other species in the process. They have to minimize the amount of harm that they do. then I am a socialist at heart because like when I was at Harvard, I used to hang out with this guy named Edward O. Wilson. I do not know if you know him?

Jacobsen: Oh, I know him. He was a Consilience guy, the unity of knowledge. That was in the 90s.

DiCarlo: Yes, he loved hanging out.

Jacobsen: That’s where the systemic relation part comes from too?

DiCarlo: Yes, exactly. So, he said, “Socialism, Chris, is a great idea but it is for the wrong species.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

DiCarlo: It works well for ants. It works well for bees, but for humans, at this point in our cultural evolution; we are not there yet. even Marx, if you read him carefully, he said this. We’re going to have revolutions with trials and errors. He couldn’t have known genetically what allele frequencies were.

He could not have known as much about Relational Systemics, as we do today. But let’s face it, I do not think humans generally want other humans to suffer if it can be helped. We do not. if you do enjoy the suffering of other humans, I think that’s very telling of an individual.

There will always be suffering. We know that. I got back from Guatemala. I went down there in February to teach critical thinking. I saw poverty at levels I’ve never seen before. I am a bit of a world traveller. But Guatemala struck a nerve with me. you want to help everyone.

You want to make their pain and suffering go away. You can’t because there are so many systems in place, of which you have no control or very little control. You want to wave your hand and give them lives of integrity and enjoyment, where they are comfortable.

Where they do not have to stay afraid, there is a lot of fear in Guatemala. Everyone owns a gun. It is the Wild West. It is a tough, tough country. They have come through 4 decades of Mayan genocide where 200,000 people were killed.

Largely because of, believe or it not, the United States and what the CIA were doing in the 50s with the coup and replacing their leaders with their own republic governments. Because why? The money in fruit: United Fruit, Del Monte, and Chiquita Bananas are all out of Guatemala.

It is messy. It is ugly. It is usually somebody making a buck somewhere, which is the result of a lot of human suffering. So, I mean this is a very roundabout way; I do apologize for being so long-winded. But I am no more long-winded than Krauss, because Krauss is a long-winded guy. He doesn’t like philosophy.

I got to keep him in his place, whenever he and I are together. He does respect me as a philosopher, which is good.

2. Jacobsen: If you look at the history and if you look at the terminology of science, as a professional cosmologist and physicist where he is at the highest level, science comes from natural philosophy.

As far as I know, things haven’t changed much. That’s why things like epistemological naturalism fit very well because, historically and currently, it still is. So, natural philosophy as a sub-domain of philosophy is a different set of principles and tools. So, he’s a philosopher, a natural philosopher.

DiCarlo: Tough to get him to admit that, but you’re right and I am with you.

Jacobsen: I think it is logically and historically a proof.

DiCarlo: It is. It is. It is a shame that Krauss didn’t take it up or even one undergraduate course in philosophy.

Jacobsen: Wasn’t it William Whewell who came up with that term science?

DiCarlo: Yes, that’s right. Yes, he was born one of the first philosophers of science. Michael Ruse, he was my supervisor. He’s a big fan of Whewell. A very big fan.

3. Jacobsen: Was this your time at Harvard?

DiCarlo: My time at Harvard was interesting. When I did my Ph.D. at Waterloo, Ruse was at Guelph. I was dealing with a supervisor in Waterloo who is a wonderful man, but not a driven supervisor. My advice to all my grad students is basically the same: find somebody with whom you can get the job done.

Find the biggest name with whom you can get the job done. Because if you can’t get the job done, it doesn’t matter; they are going to leave you floundering. 50% of all Ph.D. students drop out anyhow. I was having this hard time with this wonderful but misguided gentleman at Waterloo. I was meeting with Ruse in Guelph because that’s where I live.

He said, “Would you mind if I came on board as a co-advisor?” My current advisor was very receptive. He said, “Yes, work with Michael. Whatever Michael says is good here.” So, I was done my Ph.D. in less than 6 months with him. Under Michael’s guidance, it would have taken years with this one guy, but that’s very important.

Harvard, I was talking to a guy named Robert Nozick. Bob liked what I was doing but realized – we both realized – that I wasn’t doing philosophy anymore. As Ruse told me, “Find a niche in which nobody has ever worked and be the best at it in the world.”

Because he and David Hull kind helped me with philosophy and biology. So, I contacted Bob and he said, “You do not want to work in philosophy, what you’re talking about is cognitive evolution.” I said, “Yes, I know. I want to know if I can make determinations as to how people reason based on putting the pieces of the puzzle together from archaeology and anthropology, of hominid evolution.”

He said, “You want to work in the Stone Age lab.” So, I contacted the head of the lab, who said, “Come on down. We would love a philosopher in our faculty at the Stone Age lab.” So, that was my ticket to a postdoc for a couple of years down at Harvard.

It was wonderful to be able to ask any question that I wanted. No questions were too silly. Because we were talking about epistemic responsibility. By the way, Ed Wilson loved that term so much; he gave me this.

[Shows gift from Edward O. Wilson.]

He loved the fact that I gave him this term. Let’s face it, it is the hallmark of or should be of epistemology and philosophy in general. But it was wonderful to hang out at Harvard and everybody there knows, all the anthropologists, that we have to tell a story.

We do not have time machines. We can’t go back to see australopithecines morph. We do not know that for sure. But when you put all the pieces together from around the world, migration patterns, all of that, it appears obvious that certain lines went extinct but others led to others.

When you look at cranial development and brain size and tool use developments, we can tell more epistemically responsible stories than if we make things up willy-nilly. To me, one of the things I was most impressed with was the scientists I dealt with.

These are some of the best minds in the world. So, when I came in to talk about evolution, they loved it. Because probing around with primatologists, an archaeologist, people in genetics, behavioural genetics, and others.

I could meet everyone. So, I could meet with everybody and handle my questions there. I developed a fairly robust hypothesis as to why people have reasons, have developed reasoning skills the way we have. Like Aristotle developed the three modes of thought.

But even more so, I think I’ve got a pretty decent handle on why, throughout hominid evolution, mythologies and religions developed. Of course, there is no litmus test. There is no way anybody will ever say, “Look! DiCarlo’s right!” There is nothing clear to be able to say that, like the atomic weight of Caesium. We’re never going to get that.

But I think I put the pieces of the puzzle together in an epistemically responsible manner as I can, to be able to say, “We know what gave rise to what based on tool use and movement and nomadic practices, and the fauna and flora of a human area. We know that brain size was already completed. It was at its current size from 200,000 years ago.”

So, I talk about this perfect storm element of all different developments being necessary for language, which co-evolved with consciousness developments. So, I think I have a fairly robust hypothesis. I think I have enough information from other scientists that I’ve been able to glean.

I no longer consider myself a philosopher. So, I call myself an inter-disciplinarian at this point. But what does that mean? You hear about interdisciplinary studies at universities. They are a joke. They are largely hand picking people from English and other areas. There is no such thing as interdisciplinary studies in any robust way that I have seen.

But I think that I am doing it. Obviously, I am biased, but I do go to those other fields. I look at the information they provide me. When I ask them what I think are the hard questions, the challenging questions, when they answer them to the best of their ability, I am able to culminate this information.

I am able to look at all of these different historical systems that have worked together in various ways in order to produce the evolutionary species that we now find ourselves. I think I have a pretty decent handle on that aspect of human cultural and cognitive evolution.

So, yes, those two years at Harvard were probably the greatest intellectual time of my life. I was immersed among so many well-educated and proven scientists who could answer my questions very, very well. I was so impressed with the faculty of people and, of course, the other visiting scholars who were there from all around the world.

It was a good time. It was a very productive time for me and developing my ideas.

Appendix I: Footnotes


[1] Author; Educator; Philosopher; Fellow, Society of Ontario Freethinkers; Board Advisor, Freethought TV; Advisory Fellow, Center for Inquiry Canada.

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 22, 2018:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019:

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two) [Online].September 2018; 18(A). Available from:

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, September 22). An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two)Retrieved from

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 18.A, September. 2018.>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 18.A.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 18.A (September 2018).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 18.A. Available from: <>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 18.A.,

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 18.A (2018):September. 2018. Web. <>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Two) [Internet]. (2018, September; 18(A). Available from:

License and Copyright


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


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2018. 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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