• September 1, 2015

Philosophers Rip Darwin



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Last year was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The anniversary was marked by conferences the world over. I will not tell you how many I attended; ecologically sensitive readers of The Chronicle might start whining about carbon footprints and that sort of thing. Let me just say that I found myself going no fewer than three times through the Quad City International Airport, in Moline, Ill. Moline!

I mention this as background to the publication of a new book by Jerry A. Fodor, a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University, and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, a professor of cognitive science at the University of Arizona. The title of the book, What Darwin Got Wrong (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), tells you their opinion of the old English naturalist and of his theory of evolution through natural selection. If Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini were an isolated case, one could dismiss their book with a grimace (if you were a biologist), or welcome them with a cheer (if you were a creationist). But in the philosophical community, there is an increasingly vocal cadre of eminent philosophers harboring doubts about Darwin. To understand their critique, we must first put the clock back a year, to the beginning of the celebrations.

The anniversary conferences usually had a smattering of professional Darwin types like me—I am a historian and philosopher of science specializing in evolutionary theory—but the bulk of the presenters and attendees were evolutionary biologists. For two reasons, the atmosphere was universally positive. First, scientists deeply respect Darwin and his achievements. These people are evolutionists—they take the past seriously. Second, there was not a person at these conferences who was not excited about the science today. Evolutionary biology is on a roll, and that was a cause for celebration—and frenetic presentations that jammed in as much new science as possible. Moreover, to a person, the scientists saw that the first point led smoothly into the second. Everyone appreciates the tools of Darwinism, above all the mechanism of natural selection. But great science doesn't stand still. It picks up and carries ideas and findings way beyond the wildest hopes of its founders. Evolutionary biology today is deeply Darwinian, but it has outpaced the Origin in ways that its author could never have imagined. To use a hackneyed phrase, Darwin gave biology a paradigm, and biologists have been expanding it ever since.

Here is some of the work I heard about. This is important for what I have to say in this essay. Peter and Rosemary Grant, emeritus professors of biology at Princeton University, have for many years been tracking and studying the finches of the Galápagos archipelago. The Grants have recently become more interested in speciation, when groups pull apart and set up reproductive barriers. Paleoanthropologists like Dean Falk, my colleague at Florida State University, have been studying the brain of the humanlike little beings recently discovered in the Indonesian archipelago, Homo floresiensis, better known as the hobbit. I also several times heard Donald Johanson, director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, who, in 1974, discovered Lucy, a three-million-year-old female hominid skeleton. She walked upright yet had a brain the size of a chimpanzee's. The buzz now is about the reconstructed Ardipithecus ramidus. Older than Lucy by about a million years, she, too, walked upright. She still lived a lot of the time in the trees, hence challenges earlier hypotheses about proto-humans moving out to the plains as the jungles dried up, and then needing to stand upright. Bipedalism came while we were still in the jungle.

Sean Carroll, a biologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a master of evolutionary development ("evo devo"), and his team are turning up fantastic findings about how genes regulate development. The most exciting discovery in recent evolutionary biology is that humans and fruit flies, Drosophila, are remarkably similar at the molecular level, like DNA. Organisms really are built on the Lego principle, with the same building blocks: Go one way and get a human, another way and get a fly. Meanwhile evolutionary psychologists and anthropologists like Marc Hauser, at Harvard University, are studying moral behavior with such precision that they are able to pinpoint the parts of the brain involved in ration-al thinking, emotional reactions, and motivations. And, as always, the context is Darwinian. Why did natural selection push things this way rather than some other way?

Exciting times, which makes it all the more remarkable to hear voices from within the mainstream of philosophy questioning the veracity of evolutionary theory. I'll mention three. First there is Alvin Plantinga. Although he teaches at the University of Notre Dame, a Roman Catholic institution, Plantinga is North America's most distinguished Protestant philosopher of religion. A deeply sincere Calvinist, he has never hesitated to argue for his faith and has done groundbreaking work on questions of knowledge and belief. Even if you disagree with his conclusions, you can admire his skill and learn from his arguments. Plantinga, however, has long harbored a distrust, even an ardent dislike, of evolutionary theorizing in general and of Darwinian thinking in particular. In an essay published in 1999, he wrote, "Consider the role played by evolutionary theory in our intellectual world. Evolution is a modern idol of the tribe; it is a shibboleth distinguishing the ignorant fundamentalist goats from the informed and scientifically acquiescent sheep. Doubts about it may lose you your job. It is loudly declared to be absolutely certain, as certain as that the earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun—when it is no such thing at all."

Plantinga is an open enthusiast of intelligent design, the belief that at some points in life's history an intelligent being intervened to move the process along. I am not quite sure whether this makes him a full-blooded creationist, although he has in the past said he does not think it an impossible position. Some supporters of intelligent design, like Phillip E. Johnson, an emeritus professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial (Regnery, 1991), seem to reject all forms of evolution. Others, like Michael J. Behe, a professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University and author of Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Free Press, 1996), seem to accept a lot of common descent and might even be called theistic evolutionists, meaning that they think God guides the course of continuous development. Wherever Plantinga stands on this spectrum, he stands with the intelligent-design theorists in strongly emphasizing what they see as the falsity of Darwinian evolutionary biology.

Why does Plantinga feel this way? In his view, Darwinism implies that there is and can be no direction in life's history. All change is a function of randomly appearing new variations (mutations) that are then sifted by the opportunistic mechanism of natural selection. Although new variations are not uncaused, they do not appear according to need. As Darwin himself argued, to think otherwise is to illicitly bring in a directing God. The late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould used to pun that the arrival of the human species was entirely an accident brought on by our lucky stars—a comet that hit the earth 65 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs and allowing for the rise of mammals. It is precisely that kind of thinking to which Plantinga is opposed.

Plantinga's reactions to evolutionary biology are disappointing but understandable. Disappointing because, generally speaking, Calvinists are favorable to science: It is all part of God's sovereignty, and it is our task to discover his immutable laws. As the Victorians used to say about sexual intercourse, if God decided that we should reproduce in such a disgusting way, then it is for us to accept this fact and put it in context. The same can be said about Darwinian evolution. Plantinga's views are understandable because philosophy today tends to be very secular, and there is a lot of sympathy for the claims of the so-called New Atheists—Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens—that if you are a Darwinian, then you ought to be at least an agnostic, if not an outright atheist. Philip Kitcher, a professor of philosophy at Columbia University and author of Living With Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith (Oxford University Press, 2007), has spoken of Plantinga's decision to blurb Johnson's book as revealing "a combination of Schwärmerei [excessive sentiment] for creationist doctrine and profound ignorance of relevant bits of biology," which has caused Plantinga to put his brain "in cold storage."

Much more surprising is the position of the New York University philosopher Thomas Nagel, who has established himself right at the top of the field thanks to a long series of dazzling essays on topics as diverse as the thinking apparatus of a bat and the nature of sexual perversion. Although he states firmly that he does not believe in a deity, he has now come out against Darwinism. If Nagel is not a supporter of intelligent design, one wonders why he says what he does. He has endorsed a book by Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperOne, 2009), naming it one of the top books of 2009 in the Times Literary Supplement.

In a recent article, Nagel argues that it is proper to teach intelligent design in the classroom. Doubting the Darwinian claim that the sources of variation are undirected, Nagel quotes Behe as an authority. "Are the sources of genetic variation uniformly random or not? That is the central issue, and the point of entry for defenders of ID," Nagel writes. He goes on to tell us that Behe's recent book, The Edge of Evolution, examines the "currently available evidence about the normal frequency and biochemical character of random mutations in the genetic material of several organisms."

Nagel leaves the reader with the impression that Behe's concerns are well taken. Behe, according to Nagel, argues that "widely cited examples of evolutionary adaptation, including the development of immunity to antibiotics, when properly understood, cannot be extrapolated to explain the formation of complex new biological systems. These, he claims, would require mutations of a completely different order, mutations whose random probability, either as simultaneous multiple mutations or as sequences of separately adaptive individual mutations, is vanishingly small."

Like Plantinga, Nagel is skeptical about the whole evolutionary enterprise. Suppose someone says that doubting evolutionary theory is equivalent to thinking the earth is flat. Nagel writes: "This seems to me, as an outsider, a vast underestimation of how much we do not know, and how much about the evolutionary process remains speculative and sketchy." He goes on to tell us that those who think we are now well on the track to understanding the mechanisms of evolution are wrong: "Nothing close to this has been done." And in a comment to which I shall refer below, he writes: "A great deal depends on the likelihood that the complex chemical systems we observe arose through a sufficiently long sequence of random mutations in DNA, each of which enhanced fitness. It is difficult to find in the accessible literature the grounds for evolutionary biologists' confidence about this."

Naturally the origin-of-life issue is raised—and found wanting ("a complete scientific mystery at this point"). It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Nagel thinks that evolutionary biology is more happily accepted by nonbelievers than by theists: "This is just common sense."

Jerry Fodor, no less distinguished than Nagel and Plantinga, is well known for his claim that the mind is composed of separately functioning modules. And he, too, has taken to criticizing Darwinian theory, first in an article in the London Review of Books and now in What Darwin Got Wrong. Fodor finds something deeply flawed in contemporary evolutionary thinking: "An appreciable number of perfectly reasonable biologists are coming to think that the theory of natural selection can no longer be taken for granted. This is, so far, mostly straws in the wind; but it's not out of the question that a scientific revolution—no less than a major revision of evolutionary theory—is in the offing."

To Fodor the notion of natural selection is flawed. He has long been on record arguing that metaphors in science are misleading, and that they must be eliminated as science matures. In the case of Darwinism, we have an analogy or metaphor at work, between the artificial selection that breeders use when they improve livestock—shaggier sheep, beefier cows—and the process of differential reproduction that Darwinians think leads to evolutionary change (in the direction of adaptive advantage). Fodor believes that differential reproduction illicitly brings mind into the natural process:

The present worry is that the explication of natural selection by appeal to selective breeding is seriously misleading, and that it thoroughly misled Darwin. Because breeders have minds, there's a fact of the matter about what traits they breed for; if you want to know, just ask them. Natural selection, by contrast, is mindless; it acts without malice aforethought. That strains the analogy between natural selection and breeding, perhaps to the breaking point. What, then, is the intended interpretation when one speaks of natural selection? The question is wide open as of this writing.

Fodor argues that this problem is insoluble. Fortunately we need not worry much, because in going with selection, evolutionists have been grasping the wrong end of the stick. In his view, today's proper-thinking evolutionary biologists are finding that it is all in the variations anyway. All evolutionary change comes about through the genes and their development. Even if natural selection were at work, Fodor argues, the most it could do is clean up afterward.

What does one say about these critics? One could certainly pick apart individual things, for instance Fodor's claims about selective breeding versus natural selection. The very last thing that Darwin and his followers are trying to do is put mind into nature. In both artifice and nature, some organisms are going to reproduce and others are not, and the reasons for that are (on average) going to be connected to the different features of the winners and losers. To say that a speckled moth is less likely to be eaten by a robin than a dark moth, because the robin can less easily see the speckled moth against the lichen-covered tree, is to say nothing about God or any other conscious being.

One could also pick up on the fact that neither Plantinga nor Nagel seems to have the slightest awareness of the scientific criticisms that have been launched against intelligent design. Every example that supporters of intelligent design produce to suggest that natural causes are not adequate—the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade—has been shown to be the exquisite end result of evolution. And one could certainly groan at the tired suggestion that Darwinians are unaware of or threatened by developments in evolutionary development. No evolutionary biologist, least of all Sean Carroll, suggests that one day the eye just appeared. However the new sources of variation play out, selection is going to be there right along with them.

But rather than work over the details, I want to draw attention to the way this crop of critics ignores evolutionary biology—aside from the kind of cherry-picking in which Fodor engages. Nagel may sneer about the failure to find "accessible literature" that answers his worries. In what part of the library was he doing his literature search? Where, for example, is any discussion of the Grants' work on the Galápagos finches? What about a detailed look at the new scholarship that is challenging earlier thinking about the evolution of bipedalism? What about the discoveries of molecular biology and of the similarities (homologies) between humans and fruit flies? And why no mention of Marc Hauser and his work uncovering the secrets of moral thinking? There is a deafening silence on those and other issues. Fodor, Nagel, and Plantinga don't need to turn themselves into biochemists, but some awareness of the issues and advances would not be entirely misplaced.

This total lack of interest in the science is surely suggestive. The critics are being driven by other, for them deeper, concerns. And as an evolutionist, I turn to the past for clues. What fueled the initial opposition to Darwin was a concern with our species, with Homo sapiens. For 150 years, since the Origin, critics have feared that we humans might become part of the evolutionary picture—not just our bodies, but our minds, our very souls. What makes us distinctively and uniquely human? This worry is still alive and well in today's philosophical community. Plantinga is open in his fear that Darwinism makes impossible the guaranteed existence of our species. More, for years he has argued that Darwinism is bound up with the metaphysical belief that everything is natural (as opposed to supernatural), and that this leads to a collapse of rational belief and knowledge. The chance elements in Darwinism are simply not compatible with Plantinga's Christian faith.

As nonbelievers, Nagel and Fodor are a bit different, but not that different. For years Nagel has argued against a reductive view of the human mind, believing it to be more than just molecules in motion—the obvious end result of Darwinism. At some level, Nagel believes, the mind is above the material. It is perhaps a stretch, but probably not too much of a stretch, to say that the kind of sympathetic attitude that Nagel takes toward intelligent design points not so much to a concealed theism (akin to Plantinga's open theism) as to a kind of vitalism, in which there are nonnatural, nonphysical forces that direct things in the material world.

And then there is Fodor. The final section of his new book is very revealing. As a dreadful warning to those who do not accept his main conclusions, Fodor prints passage after passage of claims by Darwinians that one can understand human nature and thinking as the product of natural selection: This is where we will all end up if we don't stop the rot right now. My suspicion is that Fodor doesn't really give a damn about fruit flies or finches or anything else out there. But when it comes to Homo sapiens, he wants no part of a naturalistic explanation that reduces design to the workings of blind law. There may not be a God, but we sure are made in his image.

I often joke, as one who spends a lot of time fighting creationists, that when one of them says something silly, that means more work for me: bread on the table. When one of them says something really silly, there is strawberry jam, too. In 2005, after a trial in Dover, Pa., a federal judge ruled that intelligent design should not be taught in schools. Pat Robertson's response—"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever. If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them"—kept me and my family well fed for weeks.

Now those of us who love Darwin and his theory have got the philosophers to deal with, too. I see steak in my future. But in truth, I am not really happy. I might even turn vegetarian if I could persuade my fellow philosophers to start taking science seriously. Could they possibly entertain the idea that being at one with the living world does not make us any less worthy as human beings? After the Origin was published, the wife of the Bishop of Worcester supposedly reacted: "Descended from monkeys? Let us hope that it is not true. But if it is true, let us hope that it not become widely known."

A century and a half later, the time has come to shout the truth from the rooftops.

Michael Ruse directs the program in the history and philosophy of science at Florida State University. His latest book, Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science, was just published by Cambridge University Press. He contributes to The Chronicle Review's blog, Brainstorm.


1. paulburnett - March 07, 2010 at 08:27 pm

As Ruse says, a century and half later, the time has come for the anti-Darwinistas to realize that Darwin has been dead over a century, and science has moved on. Providing aid and comfort to the forces of willful ignorance and scientific illiteracy - the intelligent design creationists among others - does no good for our 21st century technological civilization. How degreed philosophers can support and defend the likes of Answers In Genesis or the Discovery Institute is a mystery future philosophers will discuss with dismay.

2. jpmajors - March 08, 2010 at 06:11 am

Yeah, there are plenty of good places to start learning about evolutionary biology -- even for prominent philosophers (don't worry guys, there's no shame in admitting you don't know the ins-and-outs). I would suggest to Fodor and Nagel to have a look at iTunesU, particularaly Stephen Stearns' video lecture from Yale.

In any case, Fodor and Nagel (now in the winter of their lives) have some cred to lose if advancements in the biological sciences begin to undo or destablize their life's philosophical work. These guys want to see their "genes" get into the next generation (of philosophers), so to say; so what better way to do this than to bring all of Darwinism into question? Folks will be buying and reading their books for years to come, money will be made, reputations and legacies will be secured, families will prosper, and fitness will be maintained. Nice strategy. Can it be explained from an evolutionary perspective?

3. rrylaarsdam - March 08, 2010 at 07:28 am

There are 2 prominent scientists by the name of Sean Carroll. The Sean Carroll you refer to in your article is at UW Madison, not CalTech. I agree that he's a master of Evo-Devo. And an outstanding spokesperson for that field.

If you'd like to point philosopher friends and colleagues to some educational materials, the Howard Huges Medical Institute's Holiday Lectures featured Carroll and some other evolutionary biologists recently. The DVDs are available on their website.

4. brettmorris1 - March 08, 2010 at 07:40 am

Fascinating. Darwin as a "sacred" and inviolate object who may only be criticized or selectively ignored by his devotees. Those outside the camp must not speak, research, critique "the name." Fortunately, philosophy and science have not made this approach common practice or there would be little debate and advancement of ideas.

5. xiaomin - March 08, 2010 at 08:41 am

If Ruse's description of these famous philosophers were correct, I would have to say that I am really shocked at how ignorant they are on science. Evolution have moved far beyond the "random mutation" paradigm. We know plenty spontaineiously organized phenomena, we know many different mechanism of "natural selection" as not just another random event.If those philosophers want to criticize evolution, shouldn't they at least read something about evolution since Darwin's time? Shouldn't they base their arguments on something more than their own perceived theory of evolution?

6. speterfreund - March 08, 2010 at 09:13 am

"As the Victorians used to say about sexual intercourse, if God decided that we should reproduce in such a disgusting way, then it is for us to accept this fact and put it in context."

With this comment, Michael Ruse points the way to the category mistake underlying much of the anti-Darwinian rhetoric that he surveys. IDers and their ilk confuse formal elegance, aka Occam's razor, "good taste" (physics), and the like, with material elegance. Victorians may have found sexuality "disgusting" on the material level, but it was both formally elegant and a damned good solution to the problem of the success of the human species that Darwin studied in great detail in _The Descent of Man_ (1871). Those large families that the Victorians (re-) produced--and, truth be told, with less disgust than is commonly thought, if one credits the diaries and other personal documents of the time--contributed to the success of the species by offsetting the high levels of infant and childhood mortality of the day.

7. paulswift - March 08, 2010 at 09:29 am

Is it surprising that some posing as philosophers should willfully ignore evidence? I am surprised that Dennett has gone this track since he doesn't (on the surface) seem to have much invested in subverting or strawmanning Darwinism. At this late date, it is hard to not view a concealed bias in almost every case of doubting evolution.
"I sing the song of the person's bread I eat," says Schopenhauer about the earlier chapter of this story in the late 19th century: make room for speculative theology! Then it was almost impossible to get a university position as an atheist...so what are the requirements today for academic posts in philosophy? At many religious venues, is it theology in disguise? I am sure no one would consider hiring a professor of philosophy at Platinga's university who knows little or is misinformed about Thomas Aquinas (which goes so nicely with all of the intelligent design stories)--yet it surely would be permissible to hire a philosopher who knows little or nothing about Darwinism and the empirical sciences. The best philosophers are well informed about the sciences and respect scientific reasoning (which also requires an acquaintance with facts!), even if they contradict centuries of religious dogma.

8. nuffsed - March 08, 2010 at 09:51 am

brettmorris1 makes an intersting point. It makes the Darwinists sound a bit like the religious types they love to rip.

9. jalorello - March 08, 2010 at 10:05 am

Having not read the book this article was somewhat dumbfounding and makes the two philosophers sound like outright morons. However, I may be wrong, but it seemed to me the two are arguing against Darwinian Evolution, Not modern evolutionary biology, a difference I thought was supported by a consensus of scientists. Current Evolutionary theory has seen many changes from darwin, but perhaps brettmorris1 is right on this one...

10. jpmajors - March 08, 2010 at 10:27 am

To my knowledge, researchers in the biological sciences for the most part do not revere Darwin as some infallible religous-like figure - otherwise the current lanscape of evolutionary theory would never have developed. This is usually an accusation made by humanities scholars who have neither read Darwin nor habitually read scientific literature.

Biological scientists who teach evolution are quick to point out the shortcomings of Darwin's original theory, for example, the completely wrong Lamarckian aspects of blended inheritance that were introduced into the 6th ed. of Origin of the Species. Most humanities scholars are probably not aware of such important minutiae. Yet, Darwin still got the big picture right.

The scientific method provides a transparent way for self-correction, and science is NOT a democracy. Darwin is respected as an innovator who dared to break from conventional thought, much in the same way as Freud or Marx. We know that Darwin didn't have it completely right (e.g., upon publication of Origin, he knew nothing of genetics or Mendel, for that matter), but that's not the point - and to attack Darwin's original idea is, well, peculiar, as it has already been done by the scientific community at large continually over the last 150 years.

11. climatologist - March 08, 2010 at 10:31 am

Thomas Aquinas used logics, reasoning and other qualities that none of the philosophers after him will ever have.

Darwinism is a complete nonsense in the eyes of a contemporary science. The center of Darwinism in London has admitted that, but you won't! All you do is quoting what this and that guy said!

Open your eyes and think about what it really is! A piece of non-organic matter becomes a human being and yet we relatively know almost nothing about it! Exuse me, but when science tell you that one the sea shrimps has the most sophisticated vision in color (!) than any organizm known on the planet, I have no choice, but to think about the super intelligence behind it! When I know that human optical nerve(relatively thin) is composed of over 6 million cables, each of which is isolated (!) I have no choice, but to think about super intelligence behind it. When I think of the total length of human blood vessels being 2,5 times longer than size of our planet around equator, I am thrilled about intelligence behind it. And knowing that complete blood exchange across the entire human body takes just about 2 minutes, all I can say that all of you "smart" Darwinists either deliberately don't want to admit the facts of science, or you are just a bunch of complete idiots.

So far, nothing good has ever come out of Darwinism except of a lot of wasted time! Not to mention Hitler who got inspired by it and came with the idea of a holocaust! And no, he was not sick, he just based his ideas an a false science!

12. dmcdonald - March 08, 2010 at 10:33 am

Ruse addresses objectors by first positioning them as religious. What has that got to do with the validity of their arguments, unless they are arguing from religious texts? They don't.

13. alexanian - March 08, 2010 at 10:35 am

Intelligent design proponents are often asked, “Who designed the designer.” I ask Darwinists, “How come natural selection and the substance it purportedly works on.”

14. jpmajors - March 08, 2010 at 10:49 am

If the human eye was actually designed by a greater force, then that greater force was the idiot. Every human eye has a blind spot, and the retina is covered up by blood vessels and nerves. This is hardly "intelligent" from a design persepctive. The squid has a much more sophisticated eye than any human.

15. belecr - March 08, 2010 at 11:14 am

I know that when trying to defend a point of view, one has a tendency to gather all supporting evidence without really assessing the quality of that evidence. Professor Ruse does this when he brings Marc Hauser and his "Moral Minds" unto his side of the argument. The problem is that despite the support of many of his peers, Hauser's work is not fundamentally sound. I refer you to the late Richard Rorty's review, "Born Good". which apeared in the N.Y. Times in August of 2006. That is a much more judicious apraisal of Hauer's work than the polite blurbs on the dust jacket. I agree with the basic argument of defending Darwin, but I would suggest he be more careful in building his case.
Richard Belec, Ph.D.

16. flowney - March 08, 2010 at 11:15 am

I would have thought that the discussion would center on the nature and utility of theory in advancing human knowledge. This convoluted dialog sees so tangential to the more important issues that philosophy could be of assistance with.

17. akafka - March 08, 2010 at 11:23 am

Regarding Comment 3, we have corrected that in the online version and will run a print correction too. We regret the error and thank the several people who have pointed it out to us.
Alex, an editor at the Review

18. jpmajors - March 08, 2010 at 11:36 am

Flowney, please help put the train back on the rails!

19. latino - March 08, 2010 at 11:43 am

Signature in the Cell, Going Rogue, Arguing with Idiots, Preventing Homosexuality, The Devil's Delusion, books that belong to the same buyers-readers' networt. Are these books non-related, are they ignated by the same media? Do the design community separate from those shallow, biased, cheap ideas or do they consider confortable there?

20. what4 - March 08, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Darwin's ideas fit into a series of ideas that challenged almost all earlier ways of seeing the world:

1. The immensity of the geological time evolution takes place in
2. The unimaginable vastness of the universe -- 20th C. astronomy
3. The complexity of matter and energy -- How physics explained everything, then got lost in new questions
4. Genetics -- how another new answer opened a world of new possibilities

Perhaps you could list others.

Each idea has popped the lid off most earlier ways of knowing, providing bracing new concepts and explanations that are, nonetheless, open-ended, developing.

So many major areas of knowledge have their ends open now (as opposed to closed, sealed, explained) that this is especially difficult for some people to tolerate.

Either you find this one of the great exciting periods to be alive and learning, or it scares the daylights out of your need for certainty.

Or maybe both.

21. luisosio - March 08, 2010 at 12:21 pm

There's a single problem with evolution besides being an insult to human beings, human brains, and modern science.

It is religious fanaticism!

Talmudic fanaticism as per Yebamoth 63a. which states that Adam copulated with all the animals in the Garden of Eden before he received Eve.

That is the racism to differentiate between the Jew and the non Jew. Evolution is the scientific disguise.

So when you mention the other book, and fanaticism, kindly don't leave this one, the Talmud, out of the picture. It defines the politically, plus the Academically "correct" under modern Jewish dominance.

22. mdzehnder - March 08, 2010 at 01:24 pm

"I might even turn vegetarian if I could persuade my fellow philosophers to start taking science seriously." While no doubt there are and have always been philosophers who fail to take science seriously, even a cursory review of the historical record since approximately the time of Francis Bacon demonstrates incontrovertibly that if the world suffers from a lack, it is that of scientists who fail to take philolosophy (or for that matter, anything other than science) seriously.

23. jcn8139 - March 08, 2010 at 02:52 pm

Ah my dear Zehnder, you must have been spending too much time looking at the salary comparisons in this issue. How awful it must be be to have to use the fruits of science and technology to convey your sour grapes around the world in micro-seconds. You must long for the days when we could use chisels and stone, so that someday a scientist using ground-penetrating radar could discover your erudition and share it with the rest of evolved society. Naturally, the latter would wonder at the wasted use of good stone and metal...uh produced by the scientists and technologist of the day.

If we narrow-minded scientists didn't take you seriously, why would we respond on the record to countervene what at least some of the time is drivel instead of thoughtful ideas from the true genius and logic of most philosophers, artists, writers that enrich us all. I suggest you might live in a cave and sit by burning wood by a fire, denuding the landscape and yes, none-the-less creating a very measurable carbon footprint.

It is a scientific fact that where you apparently keep your head most of the time is devoid of oxygen. However, when you withdraw it from that moist, warm, if stiffling environment, try to stay out here with the rest of us long enough to clear your head, oxygenate your brain cells, and realize that us knuckle-dragging technos actually apply some of our toil so that the the keepers of all thought and progress like you can listen to music, appreciate and create art, even communicate with each somewhere outside of your caves.

24. newcombgreenleaf - March 08, 2010 at 03:17 pm

Not having read Fodor, I can't comment on his arguments about mind. But the great hole in the theory of evolution is its inability to say anything about the evolution of mind. As conscious beings whose minds (not brains) are full of ideas, perceptions, and emotions, we are different from rocks and clouds and lakes which presumably are not conscious.

When in the evolutionary process did consciousness enter the picture? That's the big question, and the theory of evolution has nothing to say about it. Wonderful as the theory may be, it is also pathetically incomplete.

25. wej1955 - March 08, 2010 at 03:25 pm

These arguments,that something is so complex that it couldn't have just happened, is I think the crux of the ID folks. The answer is we are just starting to realize yes it can happen more quickly than we thought prior but not in a linear sense. Anything they say just goes round and round in an anthrocentric view. Their argument is the 1% of uncertainty in any theory. The oxymoronic phrase "uniformly random" highlights this; if it was uniform then it wouldn't be random.

26. luisosio - March 08, 2010 at 03:50 pm

The philosophy of the ancients evolved into modern science by precision (the use of numbers) and by experiment using the former.

Even according to the ancients, efect without a cause was ridiculous; the rule of proportions was therefore mandatory: a great effect demanded a great cause. In this regard you evolutionists are proposing an effect without a cause. Ridiculous!

Worse, you are using time as a hideout. The only thing that time per se produces is: wrinkles, arid bones and ruins.

Time per se demands we compare what it takes to build with what it takes to demolish. And it's here that evolution is a greater joke than Global Warming after this winter's Gobal Freezer!

Grown-ups dont utter science and evolution together except for a laugh. But there is another way to examine the problem; in the way we began:

If what the philosophy of the ancients ridiculed can be bettered; who will take up the gauntlet?

Take your pick, what will it be, an experiment or probabilities?

Or just a hearty laugh?

27. nsmyth - March 08, 2010 at 03:54 pm

1: The inclusion of Platinga on this list is highly irresponsible. He is light-years out of Nagel and Fodor's league, and the only reason to include him here

2: Fodor and Nagel have ARGUMENTS for their positions, you know. A response article should probably, you know, address the actual arguments, rather than insist that "paying more attention to the science" would cure these incredibly intelligent men of their alleged failings. Neither has endorsed I.D., so you have to wonder why you insist that they should consider anti-ID arguments.

Mr. Ruse, if you want a genuine answer to your question, I can probably provide a good guess. I would say that certain philosophers have begun to attack adaptationism because they sense dogma in it. Nothing could possibly strengthen this impression more than an adaptationist who won't even respond to their arguments.

28. mkant69 - March 08, 2010 at 04:49 pm

Opposing views, no matter how misguided, strengthen a theory by helping it to evolve (pun intended). Biological organisms are incredibly complicated, and it is likely that as modern evolutionary biology understands more about the mechanisms that gave rise to the complex structures it will add refinements to current theory. So critics, like facts, are to be addressed, not insulted or ignored.

The discussion of the flaws of intelligent design reminds me of a science fiction story where a future race builds a massive computer to answer a single question: Is there a god? The computer thinks about the question for a very long time, then summons the race's elders for an announcement. The elder's ask, "So do you have the answer? Is there a god?", to which the computer answers "There is now."

29. rpm13 - March 08, 2010 at 05:03 pm

Newcombgreenleaf proposes that the theory of evolution is unable to say anything about the evolution of mind. Actually, evolutionary psychology has been doing just that for several decades.

30. lalezarzadeh - March 08, 2010 at 05:33 pm

A theory has to hold together among its hypothesis and corollaries. If the theory is based on random selection based on success, variations and gradual change, learning by trial and error, and the success - survival of the fittest (both in behavior - phynotype or organism - genotype as a whole) then how come there was no variation in the function of ribosome protein foldings (Ito, 2005)? How come fish or monkeys did not evolve or change? How come species do not change?

Reference: Ito, K. (2005, June). Ribosome-based protein folding systems are structurally divergent but functionally universal across biological kingdoms. Molecular Microbiology 57 (2), 313-317.

31. aylwin_forbes - March 08, 2010 at 05:38 pm

It seems fantastically unlikely that Darwin could have gotten it completely correct right out of the box based on the extremely limited number of data points then available. That he got it largely right, and the hundred and fifty years of subsequent work, with entirely new and powerful insights from genetics, have been refining and fine-tuning his main idea, is testament to his achievement. Why are we still having these silly arguments?

32. ledzep - March 08, 2010 at 05:42 pm

I think Fodor's argument, however wrong-headed, deserves better than to be lumped in with ID-sympathizers and subjected to psychologizing about what Fodor must be afraid of. Maybe he's not afraid of anything except endorsing what he considers to be a falsehood. There have been excellent reviews of his book that dismantle the argument quite nicely, but this one-size-fits-all explanation, that anybody who criticizes broadly Darwinian evolutionary theory must be afraid in some unhealthy sense, is unsatisfactory. If he's wrong, he's wrong. What look like hang-ups to you just look like principled objections to him - psychologizing gets you nowhere.

33. willismg - March 08, 2010 at 08:36 pm

The one thing that science really teaches us is that there really isn't something as succinct and orderly as what is called the "Scientific Method" by many.

Another lesson is that the surer we get about something, the more likely it seems to be ripe for being skewered by some new information. Many physicists at the end of the 19th century were absolutely convinced that Newton and Maxwell had pretty much closed physics forever.

One final lesson... It has often happened that human scientists see what they expect in data. This has led to many theories being carried limping and staggering well past their prime.

I do not "believe" in evolution or intelligent design or what is probably more likely to be the truth (which may very well be neither one). I merely find any discussion about science that even uses such terminology to be patently ridiculous. Psychology, philosophy, and theology are not considered to be science for good reasons.

34. willismg - March 08, 2010 at 08:40 pm

This all reminds me of the SETI folks who are convinced of the existence of extraterrestial intelligent life. They use admittedly fabricated guesses at the possible probabilities of various parameters. What they should be doing is listening to Fermi... "Where is everybody?"

35. rpm13 - March 08, 2010 at 09:46 pm

willismg - "Psychology ...(is)... not considered to be science for good reasons." By whom? Your announcement certainly will come as a shock to the the 20,000 deluded members of the Association for Psychological Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Science, and many other umbrella scientific organizations that include psychology.

36. csabel - March 08, 2010 at 10:54 pm

The cry of "Oh, woe!" is hard to take from someone speaking on behalf of the scientific and intellectual establishment. These creationists, intelligent design enthusiasts, and Darwin doubters have made a cottage industry out of their complaints, but they are easily dismissed, often should be, and always are. Evolutionists might go read Chap 10 of 'Leviathan', where Hobbes informs them that "The sciences are small power, because not eminent," and then flip to Ch. 13: "every man looketh that his companion should value him, at the same rate he sets upon himself." There's the rub. Mr. Ruse says he'll turn veggie if his fellow philosophers take the field seriously? Terrific! A simultaneous plea for recognition and a stabbing put-down. Listen: forget about eyeballs and Hobitt brains. When scientists are doing science (and not pop-sci social controversy), they are superb. Leave them alone. However, scientists might dare taking philosophy and ethics seriously, too, in their own proper realm. I confess I am not "up" on Mr. Hauser's work, but I have never seen a convincing attempt to explain 'morality' through the lens of evolution. Let the brain be evolved. We still use it to think, and I see no reason why, on the strength of understanding ourselves as the products of evolution, we should value anything but our own survival, even if it meant the extermination of very other living thing on the planet. To the argument that such a universal destruction would probably mean our own destruction too, the reply has to be, "so what?" Of course, it may not be legitimate to elevate the dynamics of a natural process to an ethical value (we "should" sit upon chairs gravitationally), so forget about exterminating everything, or about managing everything, all for our own survival (collectively or individually). Whatever we do, or don't do, will one day result, by an infinitely complex, subtle, and barley noticeable process, in our survival, extinction, or mutation into something else. To which the reply has to be, again, "so what?" The scale alone of evolution is non-ethical. We worry, as human beings (evolved, go ahead and posit), about the number of clitoridectomies in Africa; about the chances of Euro-land disintegration, about underwater mortgages, about campus drinking, about the -- in ethical language -- "long term" effects of the culture of "hooking up." But here, "long term" is a day, a year, a lifetime. Not 137 million years. And when so-called "evolutionary" explanations are offered, as they are now routinely, for everything under the sun -- Paris Fashion Week, the latest perfumes, our diets, our love of sports, management styles and investment mistakes, everything! -- it seems a little implausible. A minute change 137 million years ago is supposed to account for my preferences more "scientifically" than a study of the relevant culture, language, moralities, and so forth? The claim "it's all evolution" gets us nowhere, and seems to be logically equivalent to "it's all caused by God." Possibly true, possibly false, but not very helpful. That is a style of thinking and arguing scientists, or philosophers of science, would do well to avoid.

37. chiron - March 09, 2010 at 07:11 am

"Those whom the gods would punish, they first drive mad." I can't believe that this discussion is still going on in the 21st Century; it is as if the Chronicle and whole country have gone mad, and not only politically. There are so many lines of evidence supporting Darwin that it is an absolute no-brainer. And there is not a single line of evidence supporting the doubters. Darwinian evolution has power and elegance. ID has only an intellectual muddle. ID supporters write silly books, and then cite them to one another to "prove" their point, but offer no evidence. It is "sense" to be found only in Wonderland.

38. walshd14 - March 09, 2010 at 08:49 am

@ jcn8139,

Am I supposed to thank you wonderful scientists for the atom bomb as well?

39. aldebaran - March 09, 2010 at 10:21 am


As much as I hate to feed trolls, let me suggest that, if you bother to remove your head from your own oxygen-free orifice, you might notice that mdzehnder's point is simply that philosophers have not only taken science seriously for centuries, but that science as we know it is unthinkable without the contributions of philosophers such as Bacon and Locke. If contemporary scientists took philosphy today as seriously as they should, then one side benfit is that we would be spared the fatuous smugness of commentaries such as yours.

40. aylwin_forbes - March 09, 2010 at 10:39 am

"The one thing that science really teaches us is that there really isn't something as succinct and orderly as what is called the "Scientific Method" by many."

willismg makes a good point, although I don't agree with the assertion that psychology is "not a science": unnecessary to make such inflammatory barbs. I have never liked the expression "scientific method"; it implies there is only way one to do it, and a simple set of rules is used in the process. The reality is it is far more messy and complex. The scientific naysayers generally have a very simplistic and narrow view of what they believe science is. In a recent discussion with a climate-change "skeptic" (scientific naysayer) I was challenged to describe, "The one reproducible experiment that proves it." Of course such a thing is an impossibility, as if evolution could be proved or disproved by a single experiment. Would it were that simple.

41. aldebaran - March 09, 2010 at 10:44 am

csabel writes,

"The claim 'it's all evolution' gets us nowhere, and seems to be logically equivalent to 'it's all caused by God.' Possibly true, possibly false, but not very helpful. That is a style of thinking and arguing scientists, or philosophers of science, would do well to avoid."

At last, someone who gets it! On the other hand, such comments as Chiron's and several others' make plain that science is indeed the new "religion substitute". Its advocates are as fanatical and emotionally vehement as Savonarola. Witness some of Dawkins's rhetoric, for instance, if you doubt me.

Indeed, science, and especially Darwinism, has replaced religion as the new bringer of soothing certainty and absolute truth. For most, the science is valuable not because it approaches truth asymptotically, but because it supplies firmness and an illusory sense of absolutes. As I asked in another thread on this subject: Just as science has supplanted religion in this role, one wonders what, a few thousand years hence, will have replaced science?

Hint to rabid evolutionists: If you cannot even imagine that a new form of thought could replace--dare we say, "evolve beyond"--science, just a science evolved beyond and replaced primitive explanations of natural phenomena, then you might be a fanatical ideologue, as well as a self-contradicting hypocrite.

42. luisosio - March 09, 2010 at 10:53 am

"R. Eleazar further stated: What is meant by the Scriptural text, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh? This teaches that Adam had intercourse with every beast and animal but found no satisfaction until he cohabited with Eve. (Talmud:Yebamoth 63a.)"

Much damage is mentioned as the result of preaching or accepting Evolution. And it is easy to see where the damage is made, and which results can be further expected. We can recognize the most serious assault on human reason and an open imposition by political and financial power to impair thinking. Logical cause to effect is abolished, proportions loose all relevance, and unfounded optimism is presented as omnipotence. Everything good can be expected without effort or merit. Only rights and no duties rule for progress, and progress and blind optimism are one. The only needed force is sex, and singly exalted, responsibility for offspring can be better waylaid to natural selection. The laws of the jungle function optimally above human law. Bestiality can have no substitute in evolutionary thinking, if it got us here, evolutionists seem to say, why not only bestiality?

43. chaszz - March 09, 2010 at 11:23 am

I am no partisan of ID; I am an atheist, a rationalist and an enthusiast for science. Yet I need help from someone here in explaining the evolution of the mockingbird. Do I believe that random chance gave this creature the blind abilities to sing the songs of multiple other birds even over spans of millions of years? Without acquired characteristics? Do I believe that the fabled group of monkeys could type the works of Shakespeare, or even the titles of his plays, over not eternity but mere tens of millions of years? It is a stretch. Help, please!

44. barrycooper - March 09, 2010 at 11:51 am

I find it interesting that a self proclaimed "professional" would be so cavalier and so--frankly--incompetent, as to not define the word evolution prior to presuming to speak definitively about it.

Correllation and causation--as most of us learned in high school--are not the same. When you state--"Organisms really are built on the Lego principle, with the same building blocks: Go one way and get a human, another way and get a fly."--you commit several intellectual sins. First, you offer up a conjecture as a proven fact, and secondly, you offer up something like ID while condemning it.

Legoland was built by humans. To the precise extent that fruit fly and human DNA are the same, do not the problems involved in explaining the very large differences between us become larger? What was it, 90%? How does 10% of the genetic code enable such differentiation?

You ducked--presumably since your ideological indoctrination has rendered you impervious to deep, contemplative understanding of non-compliant views--the import of the breeding analogy.

Yes, natural selection is a great explanation--if someone is selecting. But you can only get the eye if you run an algorithym in which only selections in the direction of an eye are selected. Same for the other examples Behe and others have pointed to.

You have done nothing to address this fundamental point.

In my own view, if evolutionary biologists ever decide to do serious basic science--which in my own view is the persistent, principled, and organized effort to FALSIFY basic paradigms, so as to generate a qualitative shift in the direction of greater knowledge--they will find themselves revisiting the work of the Germans and others in the 1930's, and studying the manifestations of bioenergetic, bioorganizational fields.

We don't know how hands are differentiated from feet. We don't know how heart cells are differentiated from brain cells. Manifestly, it happens. We can see that. We can measure that. We can describe it in intimate detail. But this is not explanation.

Yes, DNA is a type of building block, but in my view the blueprint resides elsewhere. To paraphrase Korszbyski, "The brick is not the map". There is nothing in contemporary physics--which as anyone aware of Bell's Theorem should realize--which precludes Einstein's "spooky action over a distance", or the retention of information in non-material realities.

45. ralandbeck - March 09, 2010 at 11:52 am

As a humanity, we aspire to many things, rationality among them. But like morality or spiritually, we can't even agree how to accomplish such ends. A sure sign of our confusion over such matters. As one of the many paradoxes of our human condition, we are all too easily prepared to hold to what is irrational, unethical, and even immoral, while believing with conviction we are rational, ethical and moral?

So the crux of the matter is this. Our rationality is bound up to our limitations. By nature we're all a bit crazy, not quite the full shilling, It's just the some are better than others at recognizing and challenging those contradictions, thanks in part to educational systems attempting to discipline a chaotic mind. Yet all too often we dishonestly default to the illusion rather than a less palatable reality, especially about ourselves. And that's what makes us such a dangerous and destructive species.

So while we're waiting for either evolution or God to finish off project 'us', I can only wonder which might get the job done more quickly. I'm not sure we have time to wait for evolution to do its work, even if it could, as it's beginning to appear that Gaia may be planning an 'extinction-is-us' event. But however 'religion' has failed and discredited the very idea of God among thinking individuals, it may be time to separate the two, as Lenny Bruce once said, "I think it's about time we gave up religion and got back to God', This possibility, still a prisoner of intellectual and spiritual vanity called tradition, may yet hold new potential to explore if anyone was bothering to look? Where one chooses to invest hopes and aspirations remains a most personal matter. Getting it right is all that counts.

In the meantime, for those enjoined in the struggle to 'see' clearly, considering the darker spiritual and intellectual forces at work, any truly free thinker is one who strives to be free from illusion but never from the truth, founded not in language but in experience and evidence; is not blown with the winds of intellectual fashion or prejudice; has an enlightened humility and holds with integrity to a single conception of knowledge and what is true, one proven in the crucible of scrutiny that can demonstrate its own efficacy with direct supporting evidences, and is prepared to apply these principles to all things visible and 'invisible'. And when any new claim of insight becomes known, with the opportunity to test it for ones self, always go for the evidence, especially when it challenges the past and makes previous, long held theory or even cherished beliefs redundant, for that's the price to pay for progress, another step up the learning curve and into the future. Be prepared to accept ones own limitations and change. The man who cannot change loves himself more than the truth. Remember "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"...........! http://www.energon.org.uk

46. barrycooper - March 09, 2010 at 11:59 am

I will add, that that Einstein quote was issued in tandem with the so-called EPR Paradox, intended to falsify quantum physics by showing it necessarily led to the conclusion that information could travel faster than the speed of light.

Einstein (and Podolsky and Rosen) were proven wrong; first mathematically, by Bell, then experimentally.

Materialism--the notion that the entirety of the facts of the universe can in principle be reduced to reconstructable material processes with knowable antecedants, and knowable consequences, which proceed in the absence of observation and consciousness--has been formally falsified. The impact of this basic fact has not yet percolated into mainstream biology.

47. willismg - March 09, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I didn't really mean to denigrate psychology, philosophy, or theology. They all have their place in the totality of the human search for understanding. As do the arts, etc. I only meant to distinguish such things from others in the sense that "scientific" things are rooted in the implicit assumption that there are material "rules" that are immutable, although only imperfectly known, which we are striving to tease out of nature.

Such things as psychology, etc. deal with something different, in my opinion. In that sense, even though psychologists may get funding from the science arm of the government, they are almost never under the College of Science at a university.

48. willismg - March 09, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Hold on, maybe I exagerated... Let's just say that Psychology is often under the Humanities or Social Science banner rather than Science. Still, no disrespect is intended.

49. jwaage - March 09, 2010 at 01:07 pm

Alexanian said, "Intelligent design proponents are often asked, “Who designed the designer.” I ask Darwinists, “How come natural selection and the substance it purportedly works on.”,..."

The answer to your question is really very simple. Independent of how RNA and DNA arose, they are capable of replication and subject to mutation. The action of natural selection needs no explanation as to its origin. It is a process, not a physical being or force. Variants (resulting from changes in their DNA) that differ in their ability to reproduce or survive, will leave different numbers of copies of their genes.If that happens, selection will have happened and evolution will have occurred.

Much of the study of evolution for those of us interested, as Darwin was, in the phenomenon of natural selection, is about the various sources of selection in nature - abiotic factors, other species, other members of ones own species. For evolution, unlike ID, there is no missing agent whose existence cannot be determined or studied scientifically. Of the several agents of evolutionary change, natural selection remains the major one. It is identifiable, observable, and its actions and consequences are experimentally testable.

50. jwaage - March 09, 2010 at 01:31 pm

Richard Belec (#15) suggests that the work of Marc Hauser had been shown to be not sound in a short NYT review by Richard Rorty in 2006. I would like to know how that piece, which follows much along the lines of what Michael Ruse has been arguing, has anything to do with a critique of a body of scientific work. Because someone who was a preeminent philosopher does not want to believe that evolution has anything to do with the human mind and the actions of humans does not mean he has tested let alone rejected the experimental work that Marc Hauser has done for more than a decade and published in peer reviewed journals in a variety of fields as well as several books.

Though many above seem to have gotten distracted about the issue of evolution and creationism (=ID), Ruse's point remains. If philosophers want to critique evolution as a science then they have to either rewrite the "rules" of how science is done or learn the science they want to critique (as Ruse has done). That is not to say philosophers have nothing to contribute to science or evolutionary biology (they have - Popper, Hull, Dennet, Sober, ...), just that doing so requires at least a basic understanding of what evolutionary biology does and does not say and how it works as a science.

51. csmac3144 - March 09, 2010 at 01:56 pm

Mr. Ruse sheds little light on the problems afflicting Darwinism. His examples actually demonstrate his ignorance of the matter. Human and fruit fly DNA is remarkably similar -- what does this tell us? It tells us how incredibly unimportant genes are in the scheme of things. A human may share 60% of his DNA with a fly, but the gulf between an human being and a fly is for all practical purposes infinite. The modern intellectuals who cannot grasp this are truly benighted -- as bad or worse than any medieval alchemist. As for identifying regions of the brain "responsible" for moral reasoning... most 10 year olds can grasp that the piano strings are not "responsible" for Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Darwinists at the very least are guilty of grossly overestimating their own intellectual depth, and the theory as it stands today is at best problematic. One does not need to be a creationist or even a theist at all to see this. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the current Darwinian model can account for the miracle of human consciousness, much less art, literature and science itself. Those who believe this are no less superstitious than the simplest soul throwing chicken bones on a dirt floor.

52. minnesotan - March 09, 2010 at 03:52 pm

It's funny how religious people project religious sentiment onto everything. "People think Darwin was a smart fella who made a convincing case that the last 150 years of scientific research has refined and supported? It must be a religion!"

I think all of your religion is really atheism in disguise! There, now how do you like that?

53. dank48 - March 09, 2010 at 04:40 pm

It's simply amazing how vociferous some (certainly not all) people get in defending their anti-evolutionist beliefs. Polls tell us that scientists themselves are not uniformly irreligious, but some folks simply cannot believe (a) that evolution could be anything but hostile to their beliefs or (b) that evolution could be explained more accurately by its proponents than by its opponents.

Look, I work with a very nice lady whose fundamentalist beliefs keep her from considering the possibility that God could have done it this way. She has not read and will not read any discussion of evolution other than attacks by those whose beliefs pretty much coincide with hers. It's too bad, but it's also none of my business. But I can't help feeling that in all too many cases, it's really a matter of, as James Thurber put it once, having a version of religion that "drags God down to man's level."

Still, science works, and science keeps itself honest primarily by its openness to criticism, from within and without. To compare the scientific enterprise to dogmatic religion seems to me to violate at least the ninth commandment. I fail to understand where some people get the idea that they are immune from that stricture "when it's in a good cause." When religion becomes a pretext for that sort of moral relativism, it has lost its last pragmatic justification, never mind the little matter of whether it actually has any connection to reality.

54. chiron - March 09, 2010 at 05:03 pm

There is talk of 3 day mail service. Rest stations on Arizona hi-ways are being closed. We import most manufactured goods, and export agricultural products, a classic colonial exchange. And we discuss whether or not evolution is scientific fact. We are becoming a third world country, where sense and nonsense are given equal weight, and witch doctors are being debated seriously by scientists. What is going on here? Are we the only country going nuts or do we have company?

55. johnborstlap - March 09, 2010 at 05:33 pm


If the factor of 'randomness' is time and again the difficult bit of evolution theories, the sensitive point where theists and atheists quarrel, why not look into random coincidence itself as a subject? If coincidence can, in the long run, help creating something so unusual and spectacular as life and mind on this planet, then it must be something very special and maybe even, mystical. C.G. Jung did some very unusual philosophical and psychological exploration in this territory ('Synchronicity'). Stepping-out of the Western cultural mindset may help to look at things in a different way. For instance, according to antique Chinese philosophy, the Gods were operating in life events through the small window of coincidence, the events which for us seem to just happen at random. In that way, the Gods could remain undetected and the laws of nature, in which randomness is a 'structural' part, intact. This might offer a bridge between believers in a God and non-believers, although it is no longer a scientific matter but a philosophical or religious one: they could agree that randomness was both 'meaningless' on one level and 'meaningful' on another ('in case there exists something divine outside time and place, it is meaningful'). It may be that our western understanding of causality, which has given so many stunning results, has in its very logic its limitations which hinder us to fully understand evolution. Randomness, coincidence, is an open situation, and its fragility may invite non-material energies to intervene. Quantum theory has already (if I understand it well) left the notion of causality. So, that is something comparable to 'coincidence', it would seem. In real life experience, it often happens that rare, unexpected and random but meaningful events happen, statistically much more often than reasonably could be expected, for instance when one meets the only one possible life partner by sheer chance but in a way that could never be consciously contrived. Or other connections which happen to be unusually fruitful and meaningful but cannot be 'forced' to happen. Another example is the emergence, independently from each other, of similar ideas, scientific inventions, artistic ideas, etc. in the same time. Why could such things not happen in the context of an evolutionary biological process? Maybe Teilhard de Chardin in his 'Le phénomène humaine' in which he tried to reconcile evolution with faith was, after all, not so crazy when he described how something, a spiritual energy, tried to find the location in the evolution tree where a higher level of consciousness, of development, could enter the evolution process. And indeed - if I were God I would also choose the primates for development because of their relative lack of physical specialism. Their design was quite malleable.

56. willismg - March 09, 2010 at 06:13 pm

"God does not throw dice" - Einstein
"Stop telling God what to do" - Bohr

Maybe #55 is on to something...

57. nathanway - March 09, 2010 at 06:33 pm

I always scratch my head at people on "both ends" of these discussions. My view is that they can easily work hand in hand. However, my education was unique.

As a teenager, I briefly attended a private, Christian school (non-Catholic, non-demoninational). There, our science teacher, as well as our science books and materials, covered creationism as one of among about dozen theories of the world's beginning.

Although it would seem the school would have a "dog in the fight," so to speak, each theory was presented equally and without bias given to one over another.

I've always been thankful for that one class because it gave me the ability to really use reason for the question. I'm sorry to say my education further down the road - both public and private - was filled will people and books choosing one side or the other, and having nothing but open hostility and outright derision for the other side.

These are adults I'm talking about reducing themselves to using words like "idiot" and "empty-headed" and the like to describe people who did not agree with them...on a subject which no one can for certain prove one way or the other!

To me, standing fully on one side or the other of something that cannot be definitively proven is the height of intelluectual dishonesty. No person can for certain prove that there is a God or Creator anymore than one can prove a cosmic explosion from millions of years ago. It's either puffed up pride or academic cowardice that drives one side to try to say for certain that the other is wrong.

I will say this, though - each side does well in a capitalist society. Writers, philosophers, scientists, etc. make good careers, and cash, out of chosing one side or the other.

Could a God have created the earth? Sure. Could He have used various methods, including explosions of stars, planets, or what have you as the impetus? Sure. Could it have happened in another way? Sure. Do you know for sure? No. Will you ever know for sure? Doubtful.

However, many of you will continue to claim some sort of intellectual superiority because of your chosen side. Sad. Dishonest and sad.

Jesus, if you even believe in him, gave people room for error and didn't brow beat non-believers. He just moved along to try to help people on down the road. Sadly, neither Christian nor non-Christian scientist, philosopher, writer, etc. has the ability to do the same.

Too much negative energy is spent in these discussions that could be poured into common ground beliefs that would further science for the good of mankind. Think of all the grant money wasted trying to prove one side or the other as people die and waste away with awful diseases around the globe. And, so, the answer is to waste valuable time and money talking about Gods versus explosions?

Well, cynically, why not? Go ahead and make your unprovable points so you can thump your chests as a broken world clamors for cures and compassion. After all, that's what makes money, right? Being able to produce literature to prove your point? And, isn't that really what life's all about? Being right...and getting paid for doing so?

58. nancypiper - March 09, 2010 at 07:04 pm

Love it! Thank you for having science and faith coexist like Kepler, Galileo, and so many of the first true men of science. I know Stephen C. Meyer, Check out "Signature of the Cell" (Harper One) There is only one "right camp" Jesus doesn't brow beat but he does say that there is One Way. Truth is non-debatable in Jesus' eyes. (Matt. 7:13-14, John 14:6.) God's Word is enough evidence for me. But my favorite philosopher is Dr. RC Sproul, 2nd is Francis Schaeffer.
Darwin is outdated! He had no knowledge on DNA or the insides of living cells. Mr. Bill Gates acknowledges a software code needed a designer.
Being "right" is a pretty good point. But, my motivation is to steer the next generation into truth. We got here by a Designer. And being under the Authority of this Living, Sovereign LORD, shapes our destiny! In sincerity and peace, ~Nancy

59. beelzebubbles - March 09, 2010 at 07:36 pm

Never ceases to amaze and amuse me that every time evolution is discussed, the creationists accuse scientists of being "religious" as if that's the worst insult they can think of, and they pretend that their own religious beliefs are really science, as if this is the best praise they can think of, and always utterly fail to see the irony. Possibly they're not the sharpest tools in the shed....

60. janawoo - March 09, 2010 at 09:08 pm

Are there philosophers who aren't from the desert-religion cultures (as Richard Rodriguez calls the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition) who are also critiquing Darwin? Just curious. Thanks.

61. chiron - March 09, 2010 at 10:58 pm

This discussion isn't fair. The "believers" never mention the attributes of their "designer." How big is he/she/it? How old? Where does he/she/it reside? Where was it last seen or heard, and by whom? When and where did it create DNA and viruses? And I'm not even going to ask who made or what made the "designer." Evolutionists are willing to provide several different kinds of proofs for evolution, (and if you don't know what they are, you might want to take a look at Dawkins' most recent,"The Greatest Show on Earth"). Where are the proofs for ID? A single one will do, thank you.

62. raghuvansh1 - March 10, 2010 at 02:03 am

Darwin`s research field was so vast he was unable the fill the gap.Darwin himself know that.His writing is a thought experiment.It is duty of scientists to fill up that gap.New research in genome,and biology suggesting Darwin fundamentally right.Today we can see Freud and Marx theories are also inadequate but how can refused their contribution in science.

63. nancypiper - March 10, 2010 at 02:11 am

#61 I didn't give you specifics as my Designer is so much greater than mere measurements. Challenge your inner pullings to a Creator. My goodness, the evidence is all around? Ever see a birth?
I don't think it's that difficult to comprehend & I did give you my source of Meyer's book. See #58.
I think you are smug to even compare Design to religion. Religion is man-made. Design is far beyond us peon scientists. I don't see any irony, Beelzebub. Are you the brightest bulb in the chandelier? Check out Clive Staples Lewis, or google a debate between Doug Wilson and Christopher Hutchins. ~N

64. rchill - March 10, 2010 at 08:21 am

nancypiper: Yes, I have five children, so I have seen a birth...what does that have to do with Darwin, or a designer, or a God, or whatever you are trying to say?
Your evidence and scientific evidence are most likely two very different things.
Just what science are you in, and does it actually consider evidence to be "ever see a birth"?
The field of evolutionary studies is as specific as neuroscience, gastroenterology, quantum physics, etc. Having a scientific background does not qualify you to make knowledgeable statements regarding evolutionary processes.
Humans often mimic nature,or utilize natural processes (think molecular biology)for our own purposes, and because we designed our processes/methods/equipment, we think the only way it could happen in nature is if it were also "designed". As a scientist, you should know better than to let your personal bias (there must be a God/desginer)into the scientific process. I have no idea is there is or is not a God/designer. But, I do see evidence of the ability of this thing we call life to naturally come into existence, and to evolve.

65. sgtrock - March 10, 2010 at 09:09 am

From comment #58 "Mr. Bill Gates acknowledges a software code needed a

What astonishing drivel. Is Windows 7 the same as Windows 3.0? Of
course not. The operating system code EVOLVED over time, and it was
an interesting parallel to biological evolution because it was a
natural evolution. Mistakes were found in Win 3.0 and corrected in
Win 3.1; Win 98 was a successor to Win 3.x but better; Win 2000 was
another successor, yet improved -- and so on. At each stage,
performance -- in the largest sense -- improved.

If there were a "divine creator" she would have gotten it right --
both in software design and in the design of biological systems -- on
the first attempt.

66. barrycooper - March 10, 2010 at 09:32 am

#61: you forgot the "Flying Spaghetti Monster". You obviously need to be locked in a cell, again, with a right thinking evolutionist.

Speaking of which, why are the proponents of "evolution" so stupid as to use often a word which they never define? Can this be viewed as something other than the worst sort of intellectual sloppiness? A cavalier disregard for intellectual precision?

In my own view, serious people define their terms, then are willing to defend them at length. You state this: "Evolutionists are willing to provide several different kinds of proofs for evolution".

Define "proof". Your position, if you are a member of the Dawkins Fan Club, is that of neo-Darwinism, which is the position that the entirety of the diversity of life on this planet can be explained as having emerged by chance through the mechanisms of time, imperfect genetic replication and natural selection. Whether we were "seeded" by accident or intent, or whether life arose spontaneosly here, the necessary argument is that SOMEWHERE, it all came about purely by chance, and that we are nothing more than self aware machines that assembled themselves over a prodigious stretch of time.

Manifestly, species exist. Manifestly, they change over time, but we see very few examples of actual speciation in the fossil record. Species seem to change, but only within limits, and only around a certain pattern that we find appearing instantly at a certain "moment" in the fossil record.

I don't think the mechanism of undirected, random natural selection best fits the evidence. Darwin, himself, conceded that his own theory would show incessant speciation in the fossil record. He predicted not a single missing link, but countless millions of them, everywhere.

If you think showing a similarity between human DNA and, say, a tree counts as evidence, why? Correllation and causation are two different things.

What "proof" can you offer? I know you have none, but I am curious if you have the integrity to admit the same yourself.

67. barrycooper - March 10, 2010 at 09:34 am

#65: thank you for proving yet again that--like virtually all dogmatic proponents of what you imprecisely call "evolutionary theory--you don't understand the theory of natural selection. Windows was designed. It is not necessary to posit perfection as an attribute of a designer. In fact, it is not necessary to posit a Designer at all, merely an informational memory latent in the fabric of our universe.

68. newcombgreenleaf - March 10, 2010 at 10:09 am

In #29, rpm13 claims that evolutionary psychology tells us about the evolution of mind. I'd be very interested in how this field would answer these questions:
Is a grain of sand conscious?
Is a virus conscious?
Is an amoeba conscious?
Is a worm conscious?
Is a fruit fly conscious?
Is a frog conscious?
Is a mouse conscious?
Is a monkey conscious?
Are you conscious?
Where in evolution did consciousness arise?

69. willismg - March 10, 2010 at 10:36 am

^ and what disadvantage did it overcome?

70. nancypiper - March 10, 2010 at 10:41 am

Dear rchill, Did you naturally come into existence, I know those 5 gorgeous children DID NOT! (I respect your ability to pro-create, yet it just amazes me how any one can refuse to stand in AWE at giving birth, -we certainly are cold.) My common sense over rides my "evidence" I'm humbled to say I am a work in progress (is that what you call evolution?) There's more to it than personal bias. Everything around me screams AMAZING! I am a Certified Nurse Midwife. Biology is my science My "drivel" is more than "natural"! ~Blessings

71. johntoradze - March 10, 2010 at 11:08 am

What they should be doing is listening to Fermi... "Where is everybody?" Fermi was replied to way back when with, "They have been visiting for eons."


72. 12052592 - March 10, 2010 at 06:21 pm

Proof is for math problems. Science requires evidence. A theory's strength is measured by how well it is supported by evidence. That the Old Testament is the indisputable word of God requires absolutely no proof or evidence. The Bible is still the word of God even in the face of contrary evidence. So why argue? Can we expect a Christian to change his/her belief that Christ is the Son of God because scientists found evidence to describe the motion of objects with mass through space? So much that they came up with a theory, and called it "Gravity." This would sound like a very weak faithed Christian indeed. I argue that Evolutionary Theory should not be a threat to one's faith anymore than the Theory of Gravity. Evolution by means of natural selection is the best natural mechanism that fits many patterns that are completely observable in nature today and in the past (patterns of fossils, patterns of DNA, patterns of anatomy, patterns of species diversity). ID and Creationism might offer an explanation for these same patterns too, but they both fundamentally (no pun intended) rely on a supernatural causative agent. This is outside the bound of a scientific investigation, because science seeks natural explanations. As far as I can tell, the "rules" for the supernatural are limitless. This is reflected in the myriad of stories across human cultures that invoke supernatural forces of creation. No evidence required. As for people who claim that there is no evidence that supports evolution, this either showcases the ignorance of the person making this arguement of the scientific literature or their willingness to blindly deny what has been published thousands of times in hundreds of scientifically refereed journals and books.

Scientists don't "believe" in Evolution. They either accept it or reject it based on the evidence. If one doesn't accept the evidence, that's fine (and this happens all the time). But if a scientist rejects the evidence, it is their obligation (as a good scientist) to offer an alternative natural explanation and find evidence to support it. Intelligent Design (Biblical Creationism dressed up to look like science) fails on both accounts, because it relies on the supernatural (something that can't be confirmed or disputed by evidence) as evidence. And I'd like to end this by the all-time greatest closing statement that is guaranteed to win any true believer EVERY argument on matters such as this: "Anyone who disagrees with me shall be condemned to HELL!" How can any Evolutionist argue against that?! Case closed!

73. nancypiper - March 10, 2010 at 06:57 pm

All I can say 12052592 is, Amen. I may not be a good scientist, but, I love LIFE!

74. shobazee - March 10, 2010 at 06:58 pm

The field of evolutionary studies is as specific as neuroscience, gastroenterology, quantum physics, etc. Having a scientific background does not qualify you to make knowledgeable statements regarding evolutionary processes. http://www.traveliota.com

75. clearmind - March 11, 2010 at 02:58 am

When we look at the science of the past, it's easy for us to see how their explanations reflected their own worldviews as much as the evidence that confronted them. Ancient thinkers believed that the stars circled the earth in a series of perfect spheres--after all, God was perfect, spheres are perfect shapes, therefore that must be how God would work. Eventually their explanations broke down and they had to realize that there was more going on out there.
But it's harder for us to see that our current science also reflects hidden assumptions about our own world view (among others, the belief in a purely material, causal universe, one which is random, purposeless, and funamentally meaningless). The monomaniacal focus on selection for traits with "survival value" is about as effective as the monomaniacal insistence on the perfect spheres concept. Soon evolutionists will have to realize there's more going on out there.
What if survival is not the game being played here--or at least not the only game that is being played in nature? When push comes to shove, humans often show they value many other things more than survival--self-determination, meaningful lives, happiness. The many prisoners in Guantanomo who committed suicide--despite its being made very difficult to do--were surviving just fine. Three meals a day, a very safe living environment, etc. The problem is that they were given ONLY survival and nothing more. Under evolutionary thought, that should have been enough. The question is, if everything we have and everything we are--from our miraculously finely-tuned and well-ordered physical structures, to our emotional outlooks, our religions, our cultures--are all determined by their having survival value, then why do we seek so much beyond mere survival? For evolutionists, everything begins and ends with the question of survival. For humans and other creatures, survival is just the beginning: it's what allows us to get to the more meaningful things beyond it. If suicide isn't a mainstream behavior, it's because humans are rarely put in a position in which they are so starkly confronted with the choice between mere survival and other values. But in places where they are--in prison, in the military and in wartime--it becomes a predictable response. If evolutionists want to narrow everything to the question of survival--necessary for them in order to have a clear variable that makes their inquiry seem suitably scientific--then they are lopping off 99% of what life is all about. That's why their vision of what happens in nature is so often simplistic, distorted, and ridiculous, and why so many people find it dissatisfying and insulting to their basic humanity.
If your fundamental assumptions cannot support your eventual conclusions, it's time to reexamine the assumptions. How could a system in which selection for traits with survival value is everything EVER produce creatures that, when push comes to shove, reject survival in favor of meaning, happiness, or self-determination? The theory of evolution, therefore, breaks down at the level of its most fundamental assumptions about life and the universe. No creature seeks only to survive.
(Please note I have no religious affiliation and the arguments above are not religuosly based)

76. willismg - March 11, 2010 at 06:52 am

clearmind-- Thank you for putting this so well. I was asked once by a student in a high school physics class whether I "believed in evolution". I told him, "In the way that I understand it, not being a biologist, it doesn't even pass the laugh test."

I also do not consider myself to be overly religious, at least my problems with evolution are not based on "God shall strike down the blaspheming heretics!"

I wish I could go back and show my student your comment, although it would have probably led to unemployment.

77. rchill - March 11, 2010 at 07:35 am

nancypiper: If by "natural" you mean did my parents have sexual intercourse to fuse haploid gametes into a diploid zygote (me), which is a natural process that evolved over time....yes. And yes, both pregnancy, labor and delivery were amazing, but nothing in those processes indicated anything beyond the wonder that is this thing we call life. Did not say it was designed, that there was a designer.
I assume you studied your field (mifwifery) for years before you began to practice it, and you have continued to study and learn. I am an evolutionary developmental biologist, and have studied and continue to study my field. I am a scientist and therefore must base my statements of the natural world in observable, testable facts. Those facts can and often do get modified over time, often when technological advances allow us to observe at a level previously not available. Over time many of the details of the theory of evolution by means of natural selection (that is what we are discussing, not the process of evolution)have been modified, but the basic theory remains intact. Evolution is a process - in the context we are discussing it means heritable, biological change over time. And yes, it is appropriate to say you are evolving too....although not in the biological sense (I don't think your changes are on the genetic level.
I too am amazed by what my work show me; I still hold up the tube to see the DNA precipitate out of solution; I still can spend hours looking through my microscope. But, the wonder of life is still not "evidence" of a designer. Science requires a natural explanation, requires its practicioners to be "doubting Thomases" (show me), whereas faith is belief beyond proof; its concern and focus is the spiritual world, not natural world.

78. 12052592 - March 11, 2010 at 09:50 am


That was a wonderful, heartfelt piece. Evolution stops with the physical because that's all it can do. That doesn't mean the spiritual does not exist, it just means the spiritual aspects of humanity are impossible to investigate scientifically. It's obvious to everyone (yes, even "evolutionists") that humans have needs beyond gaining energy and reproduction. But because they do, that is not "evidence" against biological evolution. Our bodies are physical and they are subjected to the same physical forces in the universe that humans have so far described. Evolution is just one of them. When you start talking about outside our bodies (the mind, the soul, the spirit) then you've left the realm of the physical, and evolution has nothing to say about that. It's supernatural. So feel free to examine and explore the mind/soul/spirit of humanity (it's a very noble line of investigation). What the human mind/soul/spirit does over time is anybody's guess (just ask the many humans throughout history who have come up with answers: Jesus of Nazareth, the Buddha, Muhammed, Joseph Smith, etc.).

79. barrycooper - March 11, 2010 at 10:42 am

I will repeat: serious people define their terms. If you do not define them, then you are not serious. When you state "supernatural causative agent", then define it as "outside the bound of a scientific investigation", what have you added? You have simply stated that you lack the ingenuity to grasp that short-comings manifestly exist in the Darwinian account, and that this is a SCIENTIFIC problem.

To make the claim that the eye cannot be the product of random mutations, each one of which was a product of natural selection, is to use the terms and ideas of Darwinism--the scientific method, in other words--to critique it.

I have seen the "creation" of the eye with a computer program. They programmed it to retain selections in the direction of an eye, which they called beneficial. To the extent they led to an eye--which is manifestly a positive adaptation--this was true, but this was the tinkering of a Designer with creation. EVERY link has to be beneficial, in and of itself, and there are many examples of biological structures which are ONLY Of use when all the constituents are already present as a system.

All you are doing is saying that if we don't know how something works, we can't investigate it if it leads in non-materialist directions. This is short sighted and inconsistent.

If any of you want to claim Darwinism is a theory, then you have to be able to define what concrete predictions it made which were not consistent with any other alternative explanation, how those predictions were verified, and what would falsify it as the mechanism of speciation.

I will tell you in advance that tracing DNA strands backwards to demonstrate commonalities between biological entities proves nothing. It is not even strong evidence.

I will tell you as well that observed real-time "evolution" is directly contrary to Darwinism, since randomness requires time, and anything that happens quickly is therefore using a different mechanism.

80. barrycooper - March 11, 2010 at 11:17 am

I will add, I constantly see "evolution" reified as a virtual conscious agent. Evolution selected this. Evolution provided for this. Practically, even self declared evolutionists attach the same emotive weight to "evolution" as others do to a Creator.

Evolution does not DO anything. It does not SELECT anything. It is all accident, all chance. Even Darwin's term "natural selection" has a latent Deism in it, in that he has Nature selecting. There are no conscious agents. We are not even conscious agents, per se, so much as a summation of chemical processes. If we are to hew to the Materialist account, this entity which appears to be typing here was destined from the first tick of time to be typing EXACTLY--with no deviations, and no possibility of deviation--what I am typing here.

But we know that God DOES play dice. We know that, in theory, there can be influences a 100 light years from here which are exercising an instantaneous effect on us here. In fact, if we take von Neumann's view, the material world does not exist AT ALL prior to being observed.

One can only understand the persistent failure of biologists to integrate these findings into what they like to call their science through an appeal to cultural factors, particularly the anxiety most people feel about uncertainty, which induces in weak minded people a sense of powerlessness that they can't abide.

81. nancypiper - March 11, 2010 at 11:43 am

Thank you Mr. Cooper!~
We are made differently than the beasts of the fields. (the soul) And I love Thomas, he actually acknowledged out loud, "My LORD and My GOD". (Jesus is Deity..unlike a Buddha or a Joseph Smith. Those boys didn't even claim to have been a CREATOR.)
Faith is beyond physical (measurable) scientific. We at least agree there is Someone greater, but education and what man calls knowledge can't grasp it. The soul is the gift we, humans could never, never, never, evolve. It was placed into our bodies as the part that makes us "Made in His Image". King David knew that. "You knit me together in my mother's womb." Ps 139:13
My children, each of who are unique. One is studying Chemistry at Harvard, one has a PharmD, another, a degree in Philosophy and Spanish, one
EE, and one who is medically fragile with high needs, (more than "special") All have a soul and communicate with their Designer. There is wisdom in that Creator's "guidebook".
First Corinthians 1:18-19, & verses 26-28.
~Peace to you,

82. 12052592 - March 11, 2010 at 01:03 pm

A written definition of what science is and what is does can be found in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District court decision.

83. barrycooper - March 11, 2010 at 01:12 pm

Is your point that if an authority opines in a given direction, that opinion does and necessarily should hold weight for the rest of us? And that a legal ruling that violated our Constitutionally protected right to free speech--within which, self evidently, is included that sub-part of free speech which includes the free expression of religious sentiment--eliminates any necessity for politicized partisans of bad science to defend themselves using their own methods?

At the risk of making the stupidity of this position embarassing for you, written definitions of "class criminals" were issued by the Bolsheviks, and used subsequently to justify mass slaughter and habeas corpus free detention for life. Detailed accounts of just why the Jews were biologically inferior to Aryans were issued by prominent German academics well prior to the ascent of the Nazis, and used subsequently to bring mass murder within the realms both of reason and science.

Were they right? If not, why should we listen to you, or incompetent, unprincipled judges?

84. jor_el - March 11, 2010 at 01:15 pm

While taking no position on the Darwin/ID issue it would be fascinating to construct a Darwinian argument explaining the "evolution" of both a variety of linked (to varying degrees) religious institutions, and also a variety of linked biological science-based academic institutions.
By a form of selection each inevitably becomes populated with people who believe the same thing. Indeed they eventually cannot be accepted as members unless they believe the current orthodoxy for each group. So it is just as pointless to say "all reputable scientists agree" as it is to say "all Fundamentalists agree". You can't get accepted into either club unless you - by definition almost - agree.
And the same issue exists with Climate Science as well.

85. 12052592 - March 11, 2010 at 01:46 pm

Wow. Your stultifying logic leaves me with only one option: I must accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. Thank you for showing me towards the Light. God Bless you all...

86. barrycooper - March 11, 2010 at 02:00 pm

I'm not a Christian. Why don't you start by supporting the practice of honest science, and/or taking the time to understand what our Constitution actually says and why? Either would be a substantial advance over the current very unattractive combination of ignorance and condescension, which one could easily generalize to the zealotrous evolutionary biology cult as a whole.

87. new_theologian - March 11, 2010 at 03:38 pm

I've been reluctant to weigh in on this thread, but here it goes. First, Creationism is not the same thing as Intelligent Design, or "ID". ID presupposes only an intelligent cause of order in the universe, not an intelligent source of existence itself. Creationism is the belief that the universe has order, meaning, and value built into it, because existence itself emerges as a gift from a benevolent source. The revelation of the divine name in the book of Exodus has everything to do with this idea. We can summarize the monologue by saying, "The foundation of all reality is reaching out beyond itself to speak to you, and is calling human beings to a relationship of love with him. Thus, it is in this way--as love--that I will be known, and in light of which knowledge, that reality itself will be understood." It is not the idea that the world was made "in six days," that is as stake in the question of Darwinism, but the very idea that love is the foundational reality. I, personally, have no concern over the "mechanism" of evolution or any theory of origins, as long as it does not involve the counter-dogmatic assertion that the world is an accident of mere chance, without a heart and mind and will behing it, loving each and every one of us into existence. If I lay it down on that issue, I've handed over the whole game.

88. barrycooper - March 11, 2010 at 04:49 pm

I propose we define dogmatism as the confusion of labelling with thinking. Dogmatists engage long enough to place you in a category, then, having determined where you belong, disengage emotionally and intellectually, even if the actual words continue to flow for some time. #87 is thinking. #85 is not. This applies whether you agree or disagree with the basic positions.

89. california_dreamer - March 11, 2010 at 05:20 pm

"If your fundamental assumptions cannot support your eventual conclusions, it's time to reexamine the assumptions. How could a system in which selection for traits with survival value is everything EVER produce creatures that, when push comes to shove, reject survival in favor of meaning, happiness, or self-determination? The theory of evolution, therefore, breaks down at the level of its most fundamental assumptions about life and the universe. No creature seeks only to survive."

This, and the more general argument (i.e. evolution cannot explain cognitive traits or mind) comes from a failed understanding of what evolutionary theory says what constitutes the selection environment and time element.

Evolutionary theory takes the view that living organisms pass through a very long series of environments that constitute a very long series of altering conditions in many forms. This is to say, evolution is a phenomenon of organisms over time surviving millions of situational challenges and situation changes in rapid succession. Not all situation changes are, or can be, survived by any particular organism. What we see over long spans of time is a statistical outcome: the world is filled with the offspring of survivors of millions of dilemmas and challenges and threats faced, and themselves live in the same.

People with a traditional creation-bound conception of time and world tend not to grasp just how consequential and strong the situation-bound logic which evolution says is governing is. The fact that products of biological evolution can appear as if they were designed to satisfy some absolute function logic- take for example dolphins, sharks, and crocodiles- says that the products of enough iterations of situational constraints closely approximate those of an absolute logic.

Cognitive traits, cognitive complexity, and consciousness are not strong challenges to evolution. It's a long dissertation to precisely define consciousness and cognitive traits. But anyone who has had e.g. pet dogs for a long time, or knows barn and other domesticated animals well, and is familiar with any variety of smaller creatures, can see that there's a continuous spectrum of these qualities. Dogs objectively have a degree of morality and altruism, they have a politics and memory, they draw sensible conclusions to the extent possible, and they're certainly conscious even though they're not terribly reflective or intellectual. They are willing to go to remarkable extremes, even die, for/with their human owners or dogs they are partnered with. They mourn lost friends, family, and partners.

If you then look at the spectrum of higher animals, it's quite clear that there has been a kind of arms race of cognitive traits that came from all higher animal species being both predatory on some other species (plant or animal) and prey. There are the famous right eye/left eye and right brain/left brain differences, and these look like linked specializations. In mammals iirc the right eye and left brain hemisphere seem to specialize toward traits involved in seeking food and predation and sexual partners, the left eye and right brain hemisphere to traits involved in identifying and escaping enemies, rivals, and predators.

The record is one of animals evolving as their predators and prey became more cognitively powerful. Some became themselves more cognitively powerful. Others stayed cognitively limited but became e.g. better swimmers, runners, or fliers with more acute senses or higher rates of reproduction.

We're the descendents of the species developed form of these traits. We've gotten to where we hunt down whales and lions and bears. We easily escape the attacks of even the once most deadly, invisible, viri and bacteria. Reproduction is an issue of minor attention. We have the material resources such that we have the time to cogitate about our cognitive abilities.

The things you mention- religion, art, education, science, confinement, suicides- are all about the perfection of our perceptions, interpretations, and cognitive traits. And improvement of the quality and quantity of information we have and share with each other. The evolutionary element to these is not the positive development of these "software" but the amount of "hardware" in cognitive capability we have to work with. As a species this amount of power has caused us to live in a remarkable amount of exasperation and boredom, but also a realization that exasperation and boredom can be fended off by generating lots of mental objects to engage ourselves with.

And so we've generated a lot of mental objects for a lot of different psychological needs. And at some point we had so many of them, generating so many contradictions, that we had to come up with some serious method of eliminating the unworthy ones on their merits. We now have one set of well warranted ones describing the physical world, lumped as Science. And another set reflecting experiences of consciousness and unwilling to subject itself to as hard a scrutiny and testing, broadly termed Religion.

90. ppagan - March 11, 2010 at 09:59 pm

Are comments no longer being accepted?

91. ppagan - March 11, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Pt. 1: I partly agree and partly disagree with Michael Ruse. I would agree that those who advocate "creation science" (e.g., Paula Haigh [http://www.americanphilosophy.net/catholic_evolution.pdf]) are profoundly misguided. (Ronald Numbers provides a detailed account of the creationist movement in his gripping book, _The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism_ [http://www.amazon.com/Creationists-Evolution-Scientific-Creationism/dp/0520083938].) A proper understanding of creation ex nihilo exceeds the methodological boundaries of modern experimental science. Thus "creation science" is an illegitimate hybrid. Moreover, a sound philosophical (metascientific) understanding of creation ex nihilo is not to be found in contemporary ID theory. (To be continued.)

92. ppagan - March 11, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Pt.2: Ruse also asserts the following: «It is perhaps a stretch, but probably not too much of a stretch, to say that the kind of sympathetic attitude that Nagel takes toward intelligent design points not so much to a concealed theism (akin to Plantinga's open theism) as to a kind of vitalism, in which there are nonnatural, nonphysical forces that direct things in the material world.» The suggestion that Nagel is sympathetic to ID theory [http://www.intelligentdesign.org/whatisid.php] seems quite gratuitous and unjustified. I'm aware of no work in which Nagel endorses ID theory as advanced by writers such as Phillip Johnson [http://www.origins.org/pjohnson/pjohnson.html] [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/beta/evolution/defense-intelligent-design.html] or William Dembski [http://www.designinference.com/]. The real heart of the matter is that, in accord with the teaching Charles Darwin advanced in _The Descent of Man_ [http://darwin-online.org.uk/EditorialIntroductions/Freeman_TheDescentofMan.html], Ruse's position on the origin of mind is rooted in philosophical naturalism. Philosophical naturalism is wholly incompatible with a rational faith in the existence of a transcendent divine creator. (To be continued.)

93. ppagan - March 11, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Pt. 3: «This total lack of interest in the science is surely suggestive.» It should be noted that legitimate science, as opposed to scientism [http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/gengloss/sciism-body.html], is perfectly consistent with a rational faith, and there are extremely intelligent believers who take a very keen interest in modern science. Here one could mention the work of Stanley Jaki [http://www.sljaki.com/] (e.g., _The Road of Science and the Ways to God_ [http://www.amazon.com/Road-Science-Ways-God/dp/0226391442], which is based on his Gifford Lectures (1974-76) [http://www.giffordlectures.org/Browse.asp?PubID=TPRSWG&Cover=TRUE]; the award-winning _Brain, Mind and Computers_ [http://www.amazon.com/Brain-Mind-Computers-Stanley-Jaki/dp/0895269074]), Mariano Artigas (_The Mind of the Universe: Understanding Science and Religion_ [http://www.templetonpress.org/book.asp?book_id=7]), or Stephen Barr (e.g., _Modern Physics and Ancient Faith_ [http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P00848/]; "The End of Intelligent Design?" [http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/02/the-end-of-intelligent-design]), among others. One could also recommend _Creation And Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict XVI_ [http://www.ignatius.com/ViewProduct.aspx?SID=1&Product_ID=3275], and _Chance Or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith_ [http://www.ignatius.com/ViewProduct.aspx?SID=1&Product_ID=3187&AFID=80]. On the relationship between faith and reason, Pope John Paul II's _Faith and Reason_ [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html] merits careful consideration. (To be continued.)

94. ppagan - March 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Pt. 4: I could say a good deal more, but I'll close with a comment on the following statement: «I often joke, as one who spends a lot of time fighting creationists, that when one of them says something silly, that means more work for me: bread on the table.» I certainly don't mean to defend the faulty ideas of those who advocate "creation science," but perhaps things would become a good deal more clear if everyone understood that, unlike subrational animals, "man liveth not by bread alone..." (See Luke, 4:1-4 [http://www.drbo.org/chapter/49004.htm].)

Peter A. Pagan
Aquinas College
Nashville, TN

95. clearmind - March 12, 2010 at 03:52 am

I thank everyone for the very thoughtful and generally polite conversation here. Too bad time and space are too limited to allow any of us really adequate expression of our ideas.

California_dreamer restates how evolution is believed to work, including some insightful comments on animal consciousness. He states: "It's a long dissertation to precisely define consciousness and cognitive traits."

Well, yes, and I'm not sure evolution succeeds at defining or explaining it. An earlier post spoke well to that very difficult question, that is, how a universe that is assumed to be purely material, consisting of non-living, non-conscious matter, can give rise to consciousness. ("In #29, rpm13 claims that evolutionary psychology tells us about the evolution of mind. I'd be very interested in how this field would answer these questions: Is a grain of sand conscious? Is a virus conscious? Is an amoeba conscious?..etc.") If consciousness is considered merely a sort of biologically-based computing ability, then those computers that can match or exceed humans in some areas, such as Deep Blue, the one that can beat Gary Kasparov at chess, must surely be granted some level of consciousness, at least to the extent of say, their chess-playing abilities. But outside of science-fiction, it never occurs to us to really believe that computers possess consciousness, because our deep intuitions tell us that it is something fundamentally, qualitatively different than mere computing ability--whether it depends on hardware or "wetware." This poor analogy can only hint at things that space doesn't allow to be fully discussed, but it seesm to me that unless some quality or aspect of consciousness were incipient within matter itself, and then formed into ever more complex gestalts, consciousness would not be possible. The qualitative leap is simply too great. I feel that consciousness must be fundamental to the universe itself. A universe of dead matter and energy can only produce interactions between dead matter and energy. Consciousness seems to be something else.

Evolutionists don't know how life started, and can't really explain with certainty how it happened in their version of the universe, or show it happening in the laboratory. But they believe that somehow, life began. It seems to me that evolutionists have their own creation myth, then, don't they? They take it very much "on faith" that life must have begun somehow in line with the assumptions of their theory. If were are going to accept the theory, don't we eventually have to be very concerned with that starting point?

Some posts have said that evolution is only concerned with physical traits, and doesn't delve into spiritual matters or those beyond the physical. Really? We have evolutionary psychology, which attempts to explain how culture, religion, altruism, and love arose on the basis of the "survival value" they offered. Well, explaining these things on the basis of their survival value is like trying to explain the game of basketball in terms of ballet. Of course, graceful, controlled physical movement is fundamental to both basketball and ballet, and the explanation will work--up to a point. But the graceful movements of basketball are not an end in themselves; they take place within a larger framework in which the ultimate goal is to rack up more points than your opponent. Likewise, survival is only one goal in nature; it takes place within the context of larger goals, and is not an end in itself. It just isn't the game we are playing here.

Sorry if this ended up a bit rambling and disorganized.

96. hannodb - March 12, 2010 at 08:31 am


Is this the same Michael Ruse that said a popular hypothesis for the origin of live is that it evolved off crystals, and that natural selection can actually act on mistakes in crystals?

It's a bit fresh for him to criticize ID when that is the best alternative he can come up with.

The arguments of ID is based on solid scientific facts and empirical research, while Darwinists rely on theological arguments and just so stories. "No God would've done it this way".

Darwinian reasoning works pretty much like this:

1) Live did not always exist
2) Live must have arisen in some natural way
3) Therefore Darwinian evolution has to be true, as this provides the only natural explanation
4) Based on 3, it is not necessary to argue whether the proposed natural solution is actually possible.

The problem is exactly that: Science has NEVER proven that live arose and evolved by means of natural processes. This is something Darwinists often admit: Faced with the overwhelming evidence against the Abiogenesis, Darwinists invoke an artificial rule that science is not allowed to consider ID.

That is why they can not understand the ID phenomenon: they are in denial about it. They prefer to treat it as creationism, because creationism is easy to defeat. They refute what they want ID to say, instead of looking at what it actually says. Here is just one example of this: http://www.stephencmeyer.org/news/Meyer%20response%20to%20Ayala.pdf This is a blatant example of how Darwinists first misrepresent what the ID proponent says, and then refute his misrepresentation with more false information.

Darwinists try to discredit ID with cheap little arguments, while they themselves make preposterous claims (Such as Natural Selection acting on chemicals. Do you even KNOW what natural selection IS, dr Ruse???) And then they are puzzled why reasonable people are starting to doubt them. If I can give them a word of advice: KNOW YOUR ENEMY. Assuming that ID is Creationism, amusing it is religion, assuming it is ignorance, is to shoot yourself in the foot. Doing this does not impress those who actually listened to the ID argument with an open mind. They immediately see the Darwinian "refutations" as arrogant and stupid. The weakness of the arguments with which Darwinists counter ID is actually serving to STRENGTHEN the ID argument.

The biggest problem is that there is something called "evolutionary biology": "Scientists" who does no actual biological research, but simply look in the research of others for evidence for evolution with which to construct just-so stories. They will make evolutionary claims about a certain piece of DNA without knowing its function, simply because it looks like something else. Or they will condemn DNA as "Junk" simply because we still don't know its function. For them to admit that evolution fails in light of new scientific research, is kinda like a pastor professing that there is no God: No amount of scientific evidence or no amount of reasonable argument can convince them that it is falsified, because it is their bread and butter: If evolutionary biology is admitted to be the farce that it is, a lot of people will be out of a job.

So, thank you, dr Ruse. It's people like you and Dawkins and Eugene Scott that really convinced me that Darwinism is the alchemy of the 20th century.

97. tridaddy - March 12, 2010 at 09:01 am

Quoting a previous poster "faith is belief beyond proof; its concern and focus is the spiritual world, not natural world." Obviuosly, this poster really doesn't understand what faith is or has a preconceived notion and is not open to truly investigating what 'real' faith is. It is not blind nor a leap.

98. nancypiper - March 12, 2010 at 01:11 pm

Dear Mr. Peter Pagan,
I love Thomas Aquinas, Augustine is also intriguing. Ah, but this is the 21st Century. Darwin didn't even know how the Andes were "formed". LIFE is a beautiful science. Have a great weekend!

PS clearmind is a great name,

99. nancypiper - March 12, 2010 at 01:49 pm

"Our school says that evolution is OK because some Pope said it was. The Theory's assumptions and implications are rarely addressed. For the most part, we are just told that some organic compounds spontaneously arranged themselves into the first cell, which eventually gave rise to all other living things through a lengthy series of minute changes in each generation of that 1st cell's progeny. Eventually, descendants of the first cell clumped themselves to form the 1st multicellular organism, which was the father of all subsequent multicellular organism, including us. And the rest, they say, is history. And as living things were evolving, geological processes were taking place at a similarly slow rate.

But we rarely hear about the origins of matter and energy. We don't hear about the flaws in radiocarbon dating. And who's to say that geological processes have always been going as slowly as they are today? (these slow geological process layed down a bunch of sediment which covered up the remains of dead animals and created the fossil record over the course of billions of years. But could a quicker series of global cataclysms have created the fossil layer in shorter amount of time. Some would say the great Flood did this.
And who's to say that evolution occurring on such a wide scale by pure chance is really that reasonable. I for one am willing to accept evolution on a much smaller scale. If I accept that all dogs have a common ancestor, why must I accept that dogs and trees have a common ancestor? The author speaks of "patterns currently observable in nature." But we have never observed evolution on the kind of scale that it is taught. Also, who's to say that these "currently observable patterns" have always been happening the same way they do today?
I would not have too much problem with saying that microbes evolve, but I do not think that drug resistant bacteria and ever changing cold viruses provide the "airtight" evidence of evolutionary dogma. For all we know, the microbes could have already had the necessary genes to change in such small ways. Or maybe the drug resistant bacteria already existed, they just become more prevalent because their lesser cousins get killed. In this way, they didn't really mutate and evolve into an entirely new species.

Evolutionists too often use their premise as its own conclusion. Evolution is true because of similar patterns in DNA and anatomy. These patterns are similar because of evolution. It's circular reasoning.

I don't really buy how the author simply dismisses the supernatural instead of attempting to deal honestly with it. Is it impossible for a scientist, or any rational person for that matter, to believe in the existence of the supernatural? I have never heard a "natural" or "scientific" explanation for the origin of matter or energy. I would submit that at some point, scientists must consider the possibility of the supernatural. Why is a natural explanation better than a supernatural one?
The author says that any and every scientific theory must have the potential to be confirmed. But can we ever confirm Evolution happened as it is taught without the ability to travel back in time to all past eons and epochs? There aren't any written historical records describing it like that, and we in recent history have yet to observe a clear cut example that unequivocally demonstrates that all the evolutionist dogma is correct.

That being said, evolution is a bit Procrustean. Must one really accept all that is said about it in order to be a good scientist, or even a good biologist? Of course, with genetic engineering, we have been responsible for any significant evolution in the recent past. We are intelligent designers in our own right."
~From my 18 year old son, who is wiser than his Mama!(out of the mouths of babes.")

100. california_dreamer - March 12, 2010 at 07:16 pm

"But outside of science-fiction, it never occurs to us to really believe that computers possess consciousness, because our deep intuitions tell us that it is something fundamentally, qualitatively different than mere computing ability--whether it depends on hardware or "wetware.""

Well, no. That attitude is mostly unwillingness to look under the hood. Yes, it's known that the nervous system works as a system of processed information flows. The basic distinction between what contemporary computers do and what animal nervous systems do is actually very simple: contemporary computers act as if all data bundles coming into it are indistinguishable in importance. Animal nervous systems function as if data bundles don't just consist of the data per se but also carry along a simple tag that says "relatively important" or "relatively unimportant". The brain then (also by evolution) gives processing priority and makes action initiating available to the immediately most important set of data bundles. Consciousness is name we give to the aggregate behavior that results. We admittedly also look for intelligence, i.e. data processing that leads to a response that is successful but of a different level and superior quality than the data that forced a response.

For example, your eyes report data with some processing that says there is a slowly moving object of the right size and location to be a predator at some still-safe distance. Then your brain processes this with priority and identifies the object as a cognitively known danger- a tiger- at a distance of 20 yards. It then enables fight-and-flight responses, prioritizing the neural program that causes running away from the danger toward the place of maximal safety and ignores all extraneous incoming data. But before giving control to that it does one more check of reality- all consistent information about the current situation- and discovers that you are in a zoo, which is a place where tigers are generally unable to attack you. It looks up in memory the reasons why the zoo is safe and then you check whether these reasons hold, i.e. a wall or fence exists that separates you from the tiger.

Some of the fun of going to the zoo with young children, and why children at that feel they learn a lot from it, is just how concretely and visibly they go through these steps in thinking and analysis. There really isn't a serious alternative explanation to importance-tagged data bundles with importance-responsive circuitry/processing as the essence of neural processing. And from this simple example of the tiger at the zoo it's not a difficulty to explain pretty much anything involving consciousness- picking up money at the bank, picture painting, firing arms in war, sleep, mediation, etc.

We can even biochemically suppress this information tag or the tag reading system in the brain substantially so that in many cases the nervous system can't distinguish as well which data flows are tagged as important and which ones aren't. That's what alcohol- ethyl alcohol- does in the phenomenon termed drunkenness. That tagging system is probably what is erratic and dysfunctional in the brain in schizophrenia and hallucination states.

In short, consciousness is by far not as unreachably mysterious as many pretend it is.

"Evolutionists don't know how life started, and can't really explain with certainty how it happened in their version of the universe, or show it happening in the laboratory. But they believe that somehow, life began."

People who accept evolution as true relative to the alternatives are not called 'evolutionists', they're called informed about modern biology. Might as well call modern physicists "Einsteinians" and modern mathematicians "Gaussists", astronomers "Copernicans" as if the findings of those predecessors were religious-type beliefs. They're not.

Well, life exists, so it presumably came into existence sometime. 150 years ago there was no serious idea of how or where to look. These days we know that the common ancestry of current life on Earth leads back to a DNA-based, protein-utilizing cellular form that lived in water. We do know that before there was DNA there was RNA. And RNA and proteins are always built up from amino acids. It's also clear that some of the 20ish amino acids currently used by living organism are latecomer additions. We do know the basic dozen amino acids and a variety of other organic molecules existed in the seas at the time life arose on Earth.

The problem of the arising of physical life is one of how low levels of these dozen amino acids, perhaps with a few other helper molecules, all dissolved in salty and sulfury water of unknown temperature, formed aggregates that were somehow chemically selfreproducing.

"It seems to me that evolutionists have their own creation myth, then, don't they? They take it very much "on faith" that life must have begun somehow in line with the assumptions of their theory. If were are going to accept the theory, don't we eventually have to be very concerned with that starting point?"

First of all, historical creation myths are explanations of the makeup of the world as it is psychological experience to the group which adheres to the myth. None of them is objective or intended to be objective. The first chapter of Genesis is in fact one of these. But in the U.S. and Europe there is a material-centric interpretation of Semitic religious texts by people of white European ancestry taken from pre-Christian European religions.

Physical science is the effort at (1) an objective explanation of (2) the material nature of the universe. No creation myth attempts this. Physical science in turn does not explain to people, nor does it mean to do so, what to make of their psychological experience of the world.

The origin of life is a rather old problem to biologists. But as described above, in the past century it has been reduced to a problem of organic chemistry and information science. Presumably in another couple of decades we'll be able to demonstrate to high school kids how a moderately simple mixture of chemicals in water leads to some kind of selfreplicating structures under certain conditions. And we'll likely have the computational models to demonstrate how these evolved to higher complexity and function over many millions of years.

We can probably eventually assign reaction rates and such to the point that we can say things like "evolving from molecule arrangment A to molecule arrangement B calculates to 50% probability of occurence in 13 million years, with 5% likelihood after 3 million and 95% chance of it after 17 million". And there will be looking in ancient rock to find distinguishable remains.

The gaps into which to squeeze the material-manipulating God Of Theism are simply going to keep on shrinking. I keep on wondering why people go to so much effort to assert a God which they theologically don't require and actually resembles the one(s) that Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc. sought to replace but then allowed in through back doors. It has to be theological ignorance of the difference between the highly pagan and external God of Theism and the only inwardly experienced deity/insight of mystical religion. The latter is what people really want. But I guess the former is easier to live with, being a lot less demanding.

101. escaned - March 13, 2010 at 06:42 am

I don't see any incompatibility between SOUND Evolution and SOUND Philosophy. I would advice the reading of Mariano Artigas, THE MIND OF THE UNIVERSE: UNDERSTANDING SCIENCE AND RELIGION, Templeton Foundation Press, 2001.

102. barrycooper - March 14, 2010 at 09:37 am

#100: you state: 'People who accept evolution as true relative to the alternatives are not called 'evolutionists', they're called informed about modern biology.'

Have you read anything I have written? All you have done is reiterate the dominant view, which I have criticized. As I stated above (I am repeating now; why don't you use your consciousness, which we both agree is in theory capable of assigning relative importance to different pieces of data, to read, again, what I wrote): I propose we define dogmatism as the confusion of labelling with thinking. Dogmatists engage long enough to place you in a category, then, having determined where you belong, disengage emotionally and intellectually, even if the actual words continue to flow for some time.

Your words continue to flow, and to flow without regard to the salient objections which have been made to your atheology. That makes you a dogmatist and not a thinker. Please try thinking. It would encourage the rest of us that reason continue to be generally valued. To be clear, the objections are empirical and relate direct to the method of speciation, that of natural selection.

Further, you state "Presumably in another couple of decades we'll be able to demonstrate to high school kids how a moderately simple mixture of chemicals in water leads to some kind of selfreplicating structures under certain conditions."

What, exactly, would be the value of this? I don't think it will happen--you are simply wrong, in my view, scientifically--but if you aren't, what impact do you think that will have on the quality of human life?

Most Darwinians are incompetent BOTH as scientists AND as philosophers, their own profound conceits to the contrary notwithstanding.

103. nancypiper - March 14, 2010 at 08:16 pm

Isn't it funny how great scientists such as Copernicus, Newton, Bacon, Galileo, and Einstein didn't consider belief in God a hindrance to science!

"Happy birthday Mr. Einstein", born today in 1879. "Everything should be made as simple as possible. but not simpler." & "Science w/out religion is lame." -Albert Einstein.

104. california_dreamer - March 14, 2010 at 11:03 pm

barrycooper, I was responding to clearmind's notion that consciousness is not explicable. Then to his/her notion that the origin of life is not explicable. I am a biologist, these are issues touched upon by the research I am involved in. Overwhelming evidence for evolution is an everyday fact of life of any working biologist.

You have several posts above, irritated or angry in tone, that are a moderately amusing engagement in denialism. The insults don't help your case. If you've got good evidence for supernaturalism, why not show it to the world?

As far as I'm concerned, closing significant gaps in knowledge is inherently a good thing. It doesn't take a philosopher to determine that any worthy belief system has to have room for all the established facts. Including evolution. Good luck with your alternative.

105. aldebaran - March 15, 2010 at 09:24 am


"As far as I'm concerned, closing significant gaps in knowledge is inherently a good thing."

So far as I am concerned, using just-so stories in order to close these gaps is not inherently a good thing. Neither is confusing description with explanation, or inventing concepts to name phenomena, and then pretending that the concepts themselves completely cover, or even precede, the phenomena in question. In particular, to pretend that humans possess greater degrees of certainty and knowledge than they in fact possess, merely to allay their anxiety over ambiguity, is inherently a bad thing. You would do well to read *On Being Certain* by Robert Burton. It might at a minimum temper your own mildly condescending tone (though it's an improvment upion barrycooper's irritability, I agree).

106. barrycooper - March 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm

You state: "Overwhelming evidence for evolution is an everyday fact of life of any working biologist."

I call this the "But mine goes to 11" phenomenon. You have not responded to my critiques. You have not displayed the capacity to understand them. You have not shown that you have even read them. But you are still right. You were born right, apparently, in your own view.

Why shouldn't I find such dismissive arrogance irritating, particualrly about so important a topic? Do your damn job right, or help the world through your silence.

And when you state "As far as I'm concerned, closing significant gaps in knowledge is inherently a good thing.", you are making a PHILOSOPHICAL statement, but without any apparent thought to the actual content of your philosophy. This is called incompetence, by people who retain a belief that clear thinking is possible and desirable.

I repeat: if you are going to do philosophy, do it right, or improve the world most by keeping your mouth shut.

You quite literally cannot grasp the problems with your view. I have seen this hundreds of times. I see you; you don't see me. That is as frustrating in an intellectual context as in any other, particularly when the outcome of these debates will quite literally determine the future of the human race.

Your path leads to autocracy. That you will be unable to fathom why this may be so--particularly since in your own self assessment you are either a libertarian or a "liberal"--is to be expected.

107. barrycooper - March 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

I will add, I am still waiting for a definition of the word "evolution" which you keep using. As a professional, surely such sloppiness is not a part of your daily craft?

108. barrycooper - March 15, 2010 at 05:10 pm

I'll make that my last comment. I may be the last one looking. Within the next month or two, I will summarize and publish on my website my views on the doctrine of Scientism, and its by-products--pugnacious Materialism, and dogmatic Darwinism.

Suffice it to say for now, there need be no recourse to "supernaturalism" to point out where a purportedly scientific theory fails to measure up to its own first principles. You can point out flaws without an alternative that can be tested. What you cannot do, as an honest scientist, is ignore flaws BECAUSE you have no alternative to test.

The truth is what it is, as we are told ad nauseum by mildly sadistic, self satisfied intellectual demagogues.

I agree. The first step to progress is to accept that your views are less than perfect. There are NO scientific ideas which are beyond questioning, not even the so-called Laws of Motion. As far as that goes, we are still awaiting an explanation as to how gravity works.

I suspect the lack of progress in that domain is derivable, as well, directly from the Materialistic Superstition.

109. arrive2__net - March 15, 2010 at 06:46 pm

I want to throw in my opinion. I think Darwin's theory of natural selection will turn out to be partially outdated because a viable genetic method of inducing diversity occurred. A genome with a tiny built-in mechanism to facilitate effectual diversity would have a huge edge in survival in competition with a genome that had no such mechanism. Of course there are a lot of examples of diversification of genome. Recent discoveries of genetic switches provides a plausible location, for such a structure. Perhaps, evolution should be seen as a fuction of a genome and not a fuction of a species or organism. Thus a species is less a source of evolution than it is an expression of it. Maybe the genome will succeed through a new species, maybe not, but the genome that has plenty of species going may have the best chance. First 500 million or so trips around the sun ... natural selection ... then the next billion got more competitive. Natural selection was still there, but the genomes that could not compete through differentiation tended to go by the wayside.
Bernard Schuster

110. clearmind - March 16, 2010 at 03:13 am

A couple of responses to California_dreamer, who makes some very interesting points, but who also I believe confirms some of the things I've said about the lack of objectivity of science and scientists:

"The basic distinction between what contemporary computers do and what animal nervous systems do is actually very simple: contemporary computers act as if all data bundles coming into it are indistinguishable in importance. Animal nervous systems function as if data bundles don't just consist of the data per se but also carry along a simple tag that says "relatively important" or "relatively unimportant"."

Actually I think search engines now can be set up to filter and distinguish different types of linguistic cues that tell them whether a particular online text is a personal narrative or some other type of writing--i.e., distinguishing certain tags about what is important or not for the purposes of their search. They can then differentiate between blog content and other kinds of content. Again, if we combine this kind of "search engine" tagging function, resembling what you say the nervous system does, with other types of computing ability in a silicon-based system in a comlex enough way, would you at some point consider it conscious?

"People who accept evolution as true relative to the alternatives are not called 'evolutionists', they're called informed about modern biology."

Allright; I'll remember the distinction. Is "evolutionary biologist" acceptable?

"The origin of life is a rather old problem to biologists. But as described above, in the past century it has been reduced to a problem of organic chemistry and information science. Presumably in another couple of decades we'll be able to demonstrate to high school kids how a moderately simple mixture of chemicals in water leads to some kind of selfreplicating structures under certain conditions. And we'll likely have the computational models to demonstrate how these evolved to higher complexity and function over many millions of years."

I note that you use the words "presumably," "likely," and "probably" throughout this argument. That is, you "assume," or "take it on faith," precisely as I said above, though without any current proof, that science will find an answer that confirms what you currently think--or believe--is true. But is this how science should work? Should you be "presuming" anything about what you will find? And is this how science has worked historically? Has it always gone on to confirm preconceptions? Isn't it the case that scientists often think that they have things just about completely explained, or at least close enough that they can confidently quash any idea that reflects what they consider a non-scientific point of view, as that happens to be defined in their current era? Before Einstein, people were pretty confident that Newtonian physics provided a pretty complete explanation of the physical world, though there was that one anomaly, the fact that the speed of light measured the same regardless of the motion of the observer relative to it. In the following century, Einstein's explanation of that one anomaly helped break the study of physics wide open once again. I really doubt how much you can "presume" about what we'll know in the future.

"The gaps into which to squeeze the material-manipulating God Of Theism are simply going to keep on shrinking."

I'm not trying to squeeze "God" into any gaps, since I made it clear above I have no religious affiliation. But let me make it more clear what I am trying to do, by responding to something else:

"Physical science is the effort at (1) an objective explanation of (2) the material nature of the universe. No creation myth attempts this. Physical science in turn does not explain to people, nor does it mean to do so, what to make of their psychological experience of the world."

Re point (1), I'm not certain any knowledge is "objective." Physicists have delved into the nature of physical reality at its deepest levels, and know that our consciousness is part and parcel of what we observe, and the universe cannot be known apart from our awareness of it. Re point (2): Actually, many scientists are very strenously involved in telling people what to make of their psychological experience, by denying that the universe has any nature other than its physical nature. They insist on "evidence," for example, that mind, God, or spirit exists independently of the material or physical, yet the only evidence they will accept is "scientific" evidence, which you've already defined as "physical." It's a bit like an economist who asks for proof that people in society engage in anything other than economic behavior--but he insists that the only proof he will accept must be based on economic indicators. A bit foolish, isn't it?

What I'm trying to do is question the possiblity of "objective" knowledge, and to suggest that consciousness is not necessarily physically based. I don't believe in God, certainly not in the traditional sense, but I do think that it is just as likely that matter is derived from the workings of consciousness as that consciousness is derived from the workings of matter. How would we tell? The universe may not exist "objectively" at all.

111. aldebaran - March 19, 2010 at 09:12 am

Bravo, clearmind. I completely agree with your last post. It's a pity that it came so late in the discussion. Then again, perhaps the deafening silence in reply is because the advocates of scientism have no answer for you?

112. ufred - March 21, 2010 at 04:46 am


113. ufred - March 21, 2010 at 04:47 am

I would

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