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Posted in: Reading , Philosophy

(…) Let us try to summarize. Our brain and intelligence have a basis consisting of gadgetry strictly geared to surviving in a certain type of environment. Evolution has, rather recently, added to these basic brain skills some higher functions that perform very flexibly. Possession of these higher functions have also allowed humans to develop scientific knowledge. But this, it seems to me, was an accident. The human brain lacks some basic functions that are desirable for doing science, like the ability to compute quickly and reliably, or the ability to store large amounts of data. In spite of these shortcomings, human science has developed, and we are thus able to understand a lot more about the nature of things than we had any right to hope for.

We live, apprently, in a world full of three-dimensional objects limited to two-dimensional surfaces. Therefore it is not astonishing that our brain can cope with such objects: this skill is useful for survival and encouraged by natural selection. But natural selection does not explain how we came to understand the chemistry of stars, or subtle properties of prime numbers. Natural selection explains only that humans have acquired higher intellectual functions; it cannot explain why so much is understandable about the physical universe, or the abstract world of mathematics.

Taken from Chance and Chaos by David Ruelle.