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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 17, 1998

Philosophical Methodology

Richard Rickert
Pages 62-69

Lost in a Paradigm: Dennett’s Dangerous Dream

The power of paradigm in science is ascendant, as exemplified in the growing debate over the role of DNA in natural selection, which Dennett (1995, 1996) has sustained with opponents like Gould (1996) and Fodor (1996). Here I focus on Dennett's quest for a dominating theory of natural selection and the ways in which two key issues of scientific method escape the notice of all debaters. In a scientific report or expository book a summary is an essential component of method — work which authors should do, not readers. Experience demonstrates its superiority in research analysis, reporting and conclusions. The second omission in Dennett's DNA model is any summary admission of limitations and of types of potential confounding factors which might be overlooked. In Dennett's case, the force of his material object reductionism and his rejection of Penrose's suggestions on quantum effects apparently prevents him from recognizing other field effects on DNA molecular dynamics, such as EMF and other radiation sources. I then introduce an amended version of the DNA paradigm in evolutionary causation, based on a range of evidence that researchers need to address. There are reports of certain types of adverse health effects of EMF proximity that have not, to my knowledge, been denied. But given DNA components of complex atoms bonded into a dynamic structure, it is prima facie implausible that proximate EMF fields have no influence on DNA dynamics, whether or not influence can be proved negative.

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