A new website about evolution and (arrgh!) cephalopods

Reader Peter asked me to call attention to his new evolution-related website, which I do gladly, but with two small reservations. Based on his email below, guess what they are?

I am a philosopher of science. I think we’ve met just once. As a reader of your blog, I thought I’d take the liberty of sending along something about my own new blog, The Giant Cuttlefish.

 It is about cephalopods and is written from an evolutionary point of view. A guiding theme is that because our most recent common ancestor with cephalopods is so distant (600 mya?), cephalopods represent an ‘independent experiment’ in the evolution of large nervous systems and minds. The current post, for example, is about REM sleep and dreams. Surprisingly, cuttlefish seem to have something like REM sleep.
So go have a look, already.


  1. asyouwere
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    A very way cool site. Thank you for the pointer JC.

  2. Charles Sullivan
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    WEIT aint no stinking blog. It’s a website.

    • Charles Sullivan
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      The 2nd reservation: Stinking cephalopods instead of kitties.

  3. RFW
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Ah! An excuse to celebrate Cephalopodmas.

    Alternate Wednesdays when the moon is waning, the day after Caturday.

    You are feeling confused. You are uncertain what galaxy you are in. You will send money.

  4. Tulse
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Cephalopod dreams must be very weird…

    • Posted July 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      OMG I dreamed I had only four tentacles! It was a nightmare!

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted July 9, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      A wet dream, presumably.

  5. Pirate
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Can I just say that Peter Godfrey-Smith (the email writer) is an excellent philosopher? I highly recommend his book Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection. Excited to see he has a blog.

  6. Caroline52
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Reservation that the word “experiment” as he is using it implies a designer or inherent purposefulness, and is susceptible to the same kind of misunderstandings engendered by Gould’s Wonderful Life, among even brilliant scientists such as Stuart Kauffman?

    • Caroline52
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Second reservation: PZ Myers has already cornered the philosophy-of-evolution-blog-with-cephalopods market?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 9, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      It is perfectly legit use in astronomy, cosmology and physics where nature is described as doing experiments outside of the lab. It doesn’t matter if a human is involved to press the start button or not, but ideally you would like to see some form of statistics. I.e. observing several exoplanets instead of just one, expansion witnessed at many times and directions (and by many means) instead of just one, et cetera.

      To confine the modern, generalized sense of “experiment” to the lab again is both artificially restricting and, in my opinion, unnecessary anthropocentric.

      Interesting. We can expand that, “anthropocentrism” then looks to me to be a more primary source of misunderstandings in this case. At the very least it gets confused with “agentism”, if not teleology.

      • Caroline52
        Posted July 9, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

        Well, I agree — just as I agree with Daniel Dennett that we should characterize adaptations as “design” — mindless design, bottom-up design. Trouble is, as someone pointed out to me, the dictionary defines “design” only as the product of a purposeful agent. “to conceive or fashion in the mind,” “to formulate a plan for.” Similarly, the dictionary defines “experiment” only in terms of a “controlled test” or “innovative act.” It’s perfectly valid, of course, to appropriate literal meanings such as these for metaphorical ones, such as mindless design or natural experiment. However my point was that “experiment,” like “design,” risks perpetuating confusion or enabling creationists’ quote-miningesque distortion because of its literal meaning, and I speculated that this might be one of JAC’s reservations–for the same reason that Richard Dawkins has reservations about the use of the word “design” to describe adaptations. In other words, any reservation about the use of the word “experiment” would be political, and thus not overcome by an argument such as you have made, even though everything you say is perfectly true.

  7. Posted July 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    The pictures are nice and I do like cephalopods AND cats, but the title is ho-hum. I prefer “The Awakened Kraken”.

  8. Marella
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    Lovely site, I have subscribed to the email alerts so as not to miss anything.

  9. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Nooo, not a philosopher! Of science too, to really twist the knife. What a waste of excellent talent.

    Okay, the “cuttlefish before cats” problem is somewhat ameliorating this slap in the puss by alive seafood.

  10. Ed
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Aw, they look so cute when they’re asleep, don’t they?

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