Darwin’s Signature for Sale: $125

darwin's signature

Believing that a person has something inside–an essence–that makes them what they are is called “Essentialism”.   Essentialism is often accompanied by the belief that this “essence” somehow can rub off on things that person touches or where that person lives — that their essence is contagious.  Such essentialist thinking plays a huge role in our superstitious/religious minds.

Many atheists would be excited to purchase a signature of Charles Darwin for the price I listed above.  They may frame the signature in their house or office.  They would love to show it to their friends.  All this because part of their mind buys into “Essentialism”.  Signatures of Richard Feynman, Isaac Asimov, Stephen Jay Gould and many others may be equally exciting.   In a similar way an Atheist may boast of having met and shook hands with Margaret Atwood, Steven Pinker, James Randi, Daniel Dennett, or Lance Armstrong.

Being an atheist, being a free thinker or being an agnostic does not protect you from the many deep seated cognitive illusions in the human brain.  You are inescapably human.   Sure, we can try to discipline our minds to avoid these illusions, but then you could not have as richly enjoyed sharing Darwin’s signature, of attending a lecture by Richard Dawkins, or of meeting Steven Hawking.

(1)  Bruce Hood’s new book “SuperSense” discusses this phenomena in an excellent chapter called, “Could You Wear a Killer’s Cardigan?”

(2) OK, I photoshopped that framed signature.  I trust that everyone realizes that I am not selling a signature.  Sorry if anyone was tricked to visiting and reading by my pic — OK, I am a fibber, I am not sorry !  Smile.

(3) Word on the street is that Dawkins’ new book talks about Essentialism too.   This concept is essential in understanding our religious minds.  OK, that does it, I am going to Amazon to order now !


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

15 responses to “Darwin’s Signature for Sale: $125

  1. As soon as I saw the title I thought of Supersense. A great book.

    Sorry, Sabio. I’m almost through Dawkins’ book and he doesn’t mention essentialism. At least not yet, but I don’t think he will. But still a great purchase, even if you have a good working understanding of evo.

  2. I wouldn’t, but then again I don’t go in for hero worship. I wouldn’t buy anyone’s signature for any price and I think that the virtual deification of Darwin that some atheists do is a very bad idea. He was just a guy who made some discoveries, just like every scientist. The discoveries are what matters, not the man.

  3. While I agree, Cephus, that deification of anyone, regardless of the importance of their discovery, is wrong. All cults of personality are wrong. But giving recognition to the brilliance of Darwin’s insight is not at all forming a cult of personality, and recognizing that his discovery forever changed how we view nature is something to celebrate. It seems rather denialist to compare the genius of Darwin (and he was by any measure a genius – this is just a statement of fact) to “Joe Scientist” and say that Darwin didn’t stand out.

  4. @ Shameless
    Dawkins pg 22-23 Essentialness is discussed. Greek philosophy and how it is burned in our DNA and how it has been an obstacle to understanding Evolution.
    So there ! (smile)

  5. Interesting that being a “free-thinker” means you have to bind your mind against thinking in a “superstitious” manner. I had often regarded existentialism as a godless philosophy… but even with it having that “essence” that can be placed in the world of superstition…


  6. I would say it is more like guarding against superficial intuition, and it ISN’T easy! As a scientist I have to avoid jumping to conclusions where the data does not warrant it. Worse, bad experimental design tends to answer a question you never meant to ask, leading to erroneous conclusions. That’s one thing Bruce Hood (and Gary Marcus’ Kluge – a little plug for that book) clearly shows.


    Must have blocked that out with selective absorption.

  7. There are Christian theologians (and mystical sorts in other faiths) which I have always been drawn to:
    Apophatic Theology (Negative Theology) — where the divine is known through exclusion of what it is not.
    Perhaps an approach to knowledge which emphasizes what it is not, is important.

    Before we get all excited about telling what is true, perhaps, especially when dealing with abstracts, it is best to understand how the mind works with all its illusions and understand what can not be trusted as real knowledge. Sort of a Apophatic Epistemology !

  8. While yes, we can certainly recognize the importance of Darwin’s discovery, that doesn’t mean we ought to treat him like divinity or even royalty. He’s just a man, nothing more, nothing less. Of course, I do notice that a lot of people who treat him like a saint are scientists so I suppose on some level I can understand that they seek some measure of long-lasting notoriety, I just don’t buy that we ought to treat it like a cult of personality.

    For instance, the theory of evolution that we have today is very little like what Darwin originally envisioned, he had no clue about DNA, etc. So why do we still call it Darwinism? Makes no sense to me.

  9. @ Aaron — thanx for stopping in.

    On a linguistic note: I have friends with no kids, and they choose to not have offspring and love having no children. They prefer to be called “Child-Free!” instead of the sad, reflexive, pejorative appallation of “childless”. Likewise, I would love to see you call us “god-Free !” instead of “godless”. You might be surprised what a simple word change does to your perspective !

    On a philosophical note: I am trying to emphasize that we can not even hope to rid ourselves totally of superstitious (delusional) thinking — it is our nature. But we should discipline ourselves with techniques to see beyond it when we have purposes that are hindered by it. But I am not sure we should suppress it totally, because suppression can lead to worse outcomes. Perhaps transforming it, is my ambition. Does that make sense in your god-burdened (god-colored, god-distorted, god-flavored, god-tainted, god-filtered) world? Ooops, should I say, “God-Enriched”?

  10. Good to know… 😉

    I was using “godless” after those that I have been reading about via the Friendly Atheist who were getting license plates that said “godless.”

    Either way, duly noted… will gladly make that adjustment. 🙂

  11. I am thoroughly unconvinced that “many atheists” would like the autograph. I know I and others I know are NOT into idol worship.

    That stuff is for Brittney Spears fans, not for rational thinking adults.

    But hey, what do I know? I rarely leave the house, so I wouldn’t know what other atheists want.

  12. Hell, for $125, in a nice frame like that and proven authentic, I’d buy it. But you already know I ain’t any old atheist. I don’t think I am into idol worship too badly. But it is good to see those ten commandments still echo in your purely rational head.
    Smile ! It takes all kinds of us, eh !

  13. @ Aaron — I was just playing ! But as I wrote, I did notice how simple changes for words meaning the same thing give different connotations.

    I think “godless” license plates is provocative and funny — cause a lot of folks probably imagine lightening striking the car or a terrible accident. That is because, as Lorena just showed us, it is hard to get things out of our heads once we believe it. That is why religions want the little children !
    Anyway, I ramble. No worry !

  14. @ Lorena
    With just a little surfing, I found lots of photos people take of themselves next to Darwin statues, Darwin dolls and Darwin’s books.
    I don’t think any of this stuff is wrong, it is just what humans do.
    Here is an example: Darwin Safari – Stanford crew

  15. Temaskian

    Maybe it’s just a respect for men who have made history and delivered us from the tyrannical religious mindsets.

    We don’t mind bestowing such some ‘worship’. They’re certainly more worthy and deserving of it than a non-existent God.

Please share your opinions!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s