Babel Fish, Quod Erat Demonstrandum

The Babel fish, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, translates any language instantly if placed in your ear.

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful [the Babel fish] could have evolved by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

“But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED

“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

“Oh, that was easy”, says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white, and gets himself killed on the next Zebra crossing.

Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Babel Fish, Quod Erat Demonstrandum

The Babel fish, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, translates any language instantly if placed in your ear.

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful [the Babel fish] could have evolved by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

“But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED

“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

“Oh, that was easy”, says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white, and gets himself killed on the next Zebra crossing.

Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Related:

Animals in the Womb

Renderings of animals in the womb, produced from ultrasound scans and some supplemental computer graphics, will appear on “In the Womb: Animals”, airing Sunday, December 10th at 8 PM eastern (9 PM pacific) on the National Geographic Channel.

Animals in the Womb

Renderings of animals in the womb, produced from ultrasound scans and some supplemental computer graphics, will appear on “In the Womb: Animals”, airing Sunday, December 10th at 8 PM eastern (9 PM pacific) on the National Geographic Channel.

Symmetry in Biology

image credit: owenbooth

Back in 1974, an unusual report from Jane Goodall at the Gombe Stream Wildlife Research Centre in Tanzania caught the public eye. Chimpanzees had committed infanticide and were engaging in war. Not only were they acting in unanticipated ways, chimpanzees were acting like humans. Goodall’s discovery bridged the divide between Homo sapiens and other species. (…)

Since then, what we know about ourselves and other species has changed substantially. Many studies have documented in other species the same behaviors that enrich human lives. We now recognize that species other than humans engage in an array of behaviors that bring variety and depth to life: dolphins teach cultural customs to their young, octopi demonstrate diverse personalities, and rats show a sense of humor. Once at odds with the conventions of her discipline, Goodall’s interpretations today are supported by decades of research in neurobiology. They are part of a broad conceptual framework that has coalesced around the idea that psychology, like biology, is conserved among animals.

This idea isn’t new. Charles Darwin placed human beings on the continuum of animal species nearly 150 years ago. Somehow that insight was lost. Nurture is being reconciled with nature, and boundaries that once separated academic disciplines are dissolving, all of which bring models of animal and human behavior to unity. Separation has given over to integration, and what seemed like a haphazard collection of observational anomalies is now taking form as a coherent, human-inclusive, trans-species theory of mind and body.

More on Jane Goodall; her institute for wildlife research, education and conservation; and some video from a program on Nature featuring her and her work:

Today, 147 years ago in 1859, Charles Darwin first published The Origin of Species. ‘Survival of the fittest’, fitting for such a cut-throat day.

Symmetry in Biology

image credit: owenbooth

Back in 1974, an unusual report from Jane Goodall at the Gombe Stream Wildlife Research Centre in Tanzania caught the public eye. Chimpanzees had committed infanticide and were engaging in war. Not only were they acting in unanticipated ways, chimpanzees were acting like humans. Goodall’s discovery bridged the divide between Homo sapiens and other species. (…)

Since then, what we know about ourselves and other species has changed substantially. Many studies have documented in other species the same behaviors that enrich human lives. We now recognize that species other than humans engage in an array of behaviors that bring variety and depth to life: dolphins teach cultural customs to their young, octopi demonstrate diverse personalities, and rats show a sense of humor. Once at odds with the conventions of her discipline, Goodall’s interpretations today are supported by decades of research in neurobiology. They are part of a broad conceptual framework that has coalesced around the idea that psychology, like biology, is conserved among animals.

This idea isn’t new. Charles Darwin placed human beings on the continuum of animal species nearly 150 years ago. Somehow that insight was lost. Nurture is being reconciled with nature, and boundaries that once separated academic disciplines are dissolving, all of which bring models of animal and human behavior to unity. Separation has given over to integration, and what seemed like a haphazard collection of observational anomalies is now taking form as a coherent, human-inclusive, trans-species theory of mind and body.

More on Jane Goodall; her institute for wildlife research, education and conservation; and some video from a program on Nature featuring her and her work:

Today, 147 years ago in 1859, Charles Darwin first published The Origin of Species. ‘Survival of the fittest’, fitting for such a cut-throat day.