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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Evolution Confusion

Thoreau cites this article on the myths of evolution. Unfortunately, the article is full of the usual philosophical rubbish put out in these pop-evolution pieces. As Eric Voegelin said, Darwinism has provided a "new creed for the semi-educated."

Here are a few examples:

"Darwin presented compelling evidence for evolution in On the Origin and, since his time, the case has become overwhelming."

Kind of like the case for Newtonian physics in 1880, heh?

"Countless fossil discoveries allow us to trace the evolution of today's organisms from earlier forms. DNA sequencing has confirmed beyond any doubt that all living creatures share a common origin."

Fine. Neither of those statements has any bearing on the truth of NeoDarwinian evolution as opposed to other evolutionary models.

"Innumerable examples of evolution in action can be seen all around us, from the pollution-matching pepper moth to fast-changing viruses such as HIV and H5N1 bird flu. Evolution is as firmly established a scientific fact as the roundness of the Earth."

Once again, the authors are confusing (deliberately?) the issues of "Do species evolve?" and "Is NeoDarwinism the correct model of how they evolve?"

"For those who have never had the opportunity to find out about biology or science, claims made by those who believe in supernatural alternatives to evolutionary theory can appear convincing."

What about supernatural evolutionary theories (such as those accepted by the Catholic Church, e.g., evolution happened much as the Darwinists claim, directed all the while by God)? And, in any case, the whole distinction is fatuous, given that the existence of nature itself is not susceptible to anything other than a "supernatural" explanation.

Have the people who write this stuff taken even an introductory course in the history or philosophy of science? Have they ever heard of the Duhem-Quine thesis?

Aargh!

12 comments:

  1. Once again, the authors are confusing (deliberately?) the issues of "Do species evolve?" and "Is NeoDarwinism the correct model of how they evolve?"

    Where in the article does it say they're trying to establish the truth of "NeoDarwinian evolution"? I don't even know what you mean by that. The Christians I know don't believe in evolution at all, much less NeoDarwinism. Unless you are trying to say that natural selection among created kinds is an alternative theory of evolution.

    I don't really get your Duhem-Quine article. I like the idea about how "birds don't get left behind when they let go of branches" is not counted as "evidence" for a stationary earth any more. But the general gist of the article seems to be "Some people think there's no way to disprove a theory with evidence," and that's way too broadly applicable for me to accept it just because I've now heard of it.

    You should take that Duhem-Quine article and turn it into a blog post, because I didn't really see

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  2. Ignore that last bit, I forgot to delete it. I'm not a reader of yours so don't write a post for me.

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  3. I also see that what I wrote is exactly the same as what TGGP wrote on the UO thread so you can just answer that one if you want to.

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  4. Has anyone seen Ben Stein's movie?

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  5. It was supposed to open nationwide on the 18th but they've been hit with a couple of lawsuits because of some stupid ripoffs on their part (I'm no fan of IP, but I'm not gonna step on the feet of someone who has a big bank account and lawyers, like Yoko Ono or Harvard researchers).

    It won't come out to Taiwan and hasn't appeared on any torrents, but I still check every week.

    From everything I have read, every case discussed in the movie is totally false.

    I had hoped to see the actual scientific experiments on the part of ID, but it doesn't appear to have made the cut. Maybe the directors edition will include it.

    See also: Judgment Day

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  6. "Where in the article does it say they're trying to establish the truth of "NeoDarwinian evolution"?"

    Nowhere. That's how they're creating the confusion! Do you think that for one second the authors would accept a theory of, say, life evolving based on a spiritual urge to achieve higher levels of consciousness? But such a theory would be compatible with the evidence they cite.

    "I don't even know what you mean by that."

    Well, if you're entirely ignorant about modern evolutionary theory, why in the world are you worked up about my comment?
    "The Christians I know don't believe in evolution at all, much less NeoDarwinism."

    You should meet a few more Christians! You do realize that the Catholic Church accepts the evolution of species, donùt you?

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  7. I read: Steven Pinker, Carl Zimmer's Loom blog, This Week in Evolution, and John Hawks' anthropology web log. If I'm still entirely ignorant about evolution then they must be hiding it from me on purpose. Never heard of neo-Darwinism, though. Uttering those words shamed me into going to Wikipedia for neo-Darwinism, eventually following the links to here, making me think "No wonder I've never heard of it. Everyone believes it already."

    I just don't think the neoDarwinism distinction matters. What if the articles were all titled, for example, "Myth: Evolution-based -on-a-spiritual-urge-to-achieve-higher-levels-of-consciousness produces creatures perfectly adapted to their environment." It would be the same article behind the title. It's about evolution, not what flavor of evolution.

    You should meet a few more Christians! You do realize that the Catholic Church accepts the evolution of species, donùt you?

    Lutherans think Catholics are eeevil, I don't know any.

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  8. Gene and noumenon,

    I think if you introduce the term theory of common descent you might actually get somewhere in your argument.

    Noumenon, Gene is explaining that everything in the article is evidence of common descent, not of the theory that it occurred because of purely random, "purposeless" mutations upon which natural selection acted.

    The fact that you don't apparently see the distinction between the two is Gene's point.

    For example, Michael Behe is not opposed to common descent; he thinks all living things today could be descended from the same cell. What he denies is that you can come up with a story whereby the DNA in that original cell arose without intelligence being involved.

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  9. Tim,

    That's too bad that they apparently ripped off an animation. And yeah, I've heard enough flak about Dembski that it can't all be made up.

    I could come up with an "evolutionary" argument about why this type of stuff happens, I guess. E.g. someone who comes up with totally off-the-wall theories (like Dembski's use of the No Free Lunch theorems from computer science in the context of Darwinism) is either brilliant or a nut or both. And then if they are taking weirdo positions, they will be ostracized. This will simply lend them credibility with their fan base, and then their further success will only intensify their idiosyncrasies and bad qualities.

    E.g. in a different country Ann Coulter would probably be a successful lawyer.

    Oh, that link you provided about the animation rip off had a hilarious comment, did you see it? Somebody said of the guy accusing them of plagiarism, "Sounds like an argument from personal incredulity."

    That's very clever, if you are a geek and into the ID/Darwin battles.

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  10. I just checked the link that noumenon provided for neo-Darwinism, and maybe I have myself muddied the waters. So Gene, if I misrepresented your position, please speak up.

    Anyway noumenon, I personally would say that that definition leaves out the crucial fact that there has to be a blind watchmaker.

    This is why mainstream biologists have a hard time even arguing with someone like Behe or Dembski. For example, Dembski wouldn't necessarily dispute that the process in that page you cited is what happened.

    However, he would just say that that would still be begging the question. WHY IS IT that the environment just so happens to be such that as it slowly changes, it becomes advantageous for sentient human beings to evolve?

    So you see, there is a lot more to the mainstream view of actual neo-Darwinists than what that definition listed. I think if I said, "Yes I believe in evolution but you need to endow the system with information, even if it's in the environment as a whole" then a lot of biology PhDs would go nuts and so I had misunderstood the whole elegance of the theory.

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