Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

More ridiculous adulation of arch-Darwinist Dawkins: Now upgraded to prophet

Shades of the ridiculous adulation of Darwin, here’s some ridiculous adulation of Dawkins, the current ultra-Darwinist in chief, as the “prophet of the selfish gene”: Andrew Read opens the volume with an account of how his view of life was changed after reading The Selfish Gene on a lonely mountaintop in New Zealand. My own first reading had less of Mt. Sinai in it but was still special. I was in the flats of Michigan in my first year of grad school, and Richard Alexander and John Maynard Smith were already laying waste to the false idol of uncritical group selection. Alerted by Maynard Smith to the imminent appearance of The Selfish Gene, I watched for it, snapped it up Read More ›

Robyn Williams and the facts of nature

Bill Dembski’s post on an Australian anti-ID tract, creationism’s belligerent cousin , quotes the science broadcaster Robyn Williams in an interview with scijo Deborah Smith, regarding the alleged defects of the human (and marsupial) body: And the technique appears to have been slapdash or confused: “Halitosis, farting, vaginal discharge, reflux, snoring, rheumatism, warts, smelly armpits, varicose veins, menopause, brewer’s droop … these are not the marks of a designer at the top of his game.” Koalas, Williams also notes, have a pouch that opens downwards. “Was God intending the babies to fall out and crash to the forest floor?” To me, this is fascinating because, once upon a time, it was mostly effete literati who made these kinds of comments. Read More ›

Liberalism as social policy arm of materialism – or even Kansas isn’t in Kansas any more

Recently, an analyst of the Kansas state science standards controversy drew my attention to the fact that “every newspaper in southeast Kansas was against the standards and went out of their way to promote the candidacy of [x’s] opponent and his defeat.”

Yes, I’ll bet. Most media people are liberals. And just as materialism is the organized religion of the school system (and Darwinism its creation story), liberalism – in its modern form – is the social policy arm of materialism.

(That’s why so many litmus tests for liberalism (legal partial birth abortions, stem cell research, euthanasia) attack the uniqueness of humans. It’s not incidental.)

One outcome is the astoundingly ignorant legacy media coverage of “religion” stories. Since the mid-Nineties, I’ve yawned with peers through lots of meetings on the subject but don’t consider the problem resolvable until there is more diversity of ideas and cultural background in the newsroom. But now, on Darwinism in particular, media pros can understand private non-rational dissent (“I just don’t believe it in my wee little heart”), but not public, evidence-based dissent (“In my professional opinion it did not happen that way”).

Actually, it doesn’t even matter to the media materialist whether Darwinism is true. What Darwinism UPHOLDS is seen as true. That is, of course, promissory materialism – the belief that even if the evidence is weak now, we will find strong evidence one day because materialism is true. Lying about or suppressing contrary evidence or persecuting dissenters isn’t a serious problem because Read More ›

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne: Stop that Coult!

Apparently, pundette Ann Coulter has continued to say unnice things about Darwinists and Darwinism (gasp! Say it ain’t so!): Interviewer Charlotte Allen: Many arguments in favor of Darwinian evolution strike me as actually being arguments against the existence of God–that is, why would a creator create tapeworms, disease viruses, and other bad things? Why do you think such things exist in a world of intelligent design? The Coult: Your question is incomprehensible. I assume you are trying to ask me: “Why would God create tapeworms?” My answer is: God also created mosquitoes, which I hate. But purple martins love mosquitoes and would probably all starve without them. It’s kind of a “big picture” thing. Of course that doesn’t explain why Read More ›

God woun’t’a dun it dat way?

Bill Dembski asked me to post my comments in a recent discussion elsewhere, regarding intelligent design (ID) as we currently understand it.

Phil Johnson, the lawyer who put ID on the map, is currently seeking more input from the arts community (he calls it Wedge II).

I agree that the ID debate will develop along more useful lines when more people from the arts participate.

Artsies (those who are not crazy) understand some aspects of intelligent original design better than most people.

An original design must be evaluated under actual, not hypothetical conditions.

Fundamental fact: All actual features of any given design exclude all other possible features.

Choices must be made. There is no perfect design, only optimum design.

Thus any rubberneck can point to a feature and say that it doesn’t do everything conceivable. But “everything conceivable” is never the goal of a design.

That is why, years ago, while researching the issues around ID, I quickly blew off the “God woun’t’a dun it dat way” approach of the churchgoing scientists who wring their hands over the menace of ID.

Coming as I do from an English language and literature background, I am familiar with the idea of creating a “world” out of whole cloth.

One always works within constraints. Even Shakespeare, the greatest of English-language dramatists, worked within constraints.

For example, Hamlet has defects as a play – but it is easy to stage.

King Lear is a more sublime play than Hamlet – but it is difficult to stage.

Julius Caesar is great for high school drama classes because of the large number of small parts and easily detachable scenes, plus an emotional range that is not too embarrassing or incomprehensible for teenage boys.

Now watch for some egghead to come along and say “A REAL dramatist wouldn’t have made those errors.”

Errors? What errors?

Read More ›

Ernst Mayr at the millennium: A study in misplaced triumphalism

Darwinian evolutionist Ernst Mayr wrote in Scientific American in 2000:

“Let me now try to summarize my major findings. No educated person any longer questions the validity of the so-called theory of evolution, which we now know to be a simple fact. Likewise, most of Darwin’s particular theses have been fully confirmed, such as that of common descent, the gradualism of evolution, and his explanatory theory of natural selection.”

(Mayr E.W., “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought,” Scientific American, Vol. 283, No. 1, pp.67-71, July 2000, p.71)

Note how Mayr has smeared the “so-called theory of evolution” (why “so-called”?) together with the facts of the history of life. He makes clear that he does indeed think that the theory can be identical with the history it interprets and that Darwin’s is the only conceivable interpretation.

This bunkum entanglement first attracted my attention as a journalist years ago. When I first caught sight of the hordes of  churchgoing scientists who rushed to defend it, I knew I was onto something.

The best way to unpack bunkum entanglement is to recognize it for what it is: a creed constructed so as to prevent legitimate evidence-based doubt.

After all, if theory and fact are identical, there is no basis for evidence-based doubt.

In any event, by now, 600 scientists do in fact question Darwin’s “particular theses,” on the evidence. I am sure many more would if Richard Sternberg and Guillermo Gonzalez had not demonstrated, by example, what happens to dissenters.

But my instinct is that it isn’t working for the Darwinists any more. Listen to the caterwauling about Visigoths at the gates. Note the ridiculous-beyond-parody hagiography of Darwin, an upper-class Brit toff who lent respectability to the theory that ruthless competition was the key to all life.

And just yesterday, I noted that John Rennie, editor-in-chief of Scientific American, has been blogging up a storm against a young lawyer, Casey Luskin, who works for the Discovery Institute, in re the current Kansas science standards uproar.

I would have thought that a man in Rennie’s position  would find himself too beset by the demands of his publication to get into a row with …. But I guess not …. ? … ?

Read More ›

Political correctness alert: Non-Darwinist philosopher doubts equality of women

John Davison of our list was referred to by one of our authors as “incorrigible” (so much so that the author hastened to print his views! – a good sign). Well, here’s another one for you. Agnostic Australian philosopher David Stove, not content to take on Darwin, apparently had the intellectual courage, as a friend puts it, to challenge the current bloviating about the “intellectual equality of men and women”. Questioning that politically correct tenet as it applies to the sciences cost Harvard honcho Larry Summers his job. Stove analyzes the case for the intellectual equality of men and women in the same slow, careful way that he analyzes the case for neo-Darwinism, and dismisses it – at least so Read More ›

Thinkquote of the day: Why career scientists cannot afford to consider challenges to Darwinism

by Denyse O’Leary ARN correspondent Lawyer Edward Sisson writes with considerable insight about the career scientist’s dilemma: There is also a unique reason why scientists are particularly averse to developing an opinion that the theory of unintelligent evolution cannot explain all of the diversity of life on earth, and that an intelligent-designer theory may be necessary to explain at least some of the diversity of life. In litigation, even if a lawyer does develop an internal belief about the data that conflicts with the presentation he or she needs to make in court, the lawyer is expected to keep that belief private. The lawyer’s obligation is not to be actually sincere but to appear sincere. Thus there is no danger Read More ›

The Penguins March Again

In yesterday’s post on March of the Penguins, I quoted British Darwinist Steve Jones, noting A group of penguins standing upright looks like co-operation, but in fact the ones on the outside are struggling to get in and those on the inside are trying to stand their ground: it’s a classic Darwinian struggle. The idea that the life of a penguin is any more beautiful than that of a malaria virus is absurd. I then noted, Actually, the book narrative and the film do not depict a classic Darwinian struggle. The book states that the male penguins, left alone with the eggs in a harsh climate while the females return to the ocean to feed, spiral in and out of Read More ›

ID vs. Darwinism: Same evidence, different interpretations?

ID advocates and Darwinists can look at the same evidence and see different things. The recent National Geographic film March of the Penguins created a minor furore because some thought of it as pro-ID, though the filmmakers denied that. One difficulty is that, denial or not, elements of the penguins’ behavior inevitably raise questions about Darwinism. However, some Darwinists respond to the problem simply by reinterpreting those elements along Darwinist lines. For example, responding to the idea that the male penguins co-operate to share the body warmth, the well-known Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, replies, A group of penguins standing upright looks like co-operation, but in fact the ones on the outside are struggling to get Read More ›

Iders: Start by asking different questions

Recently, National Review‘s John Derbyshire took on George Gilder’s case against Darwinism and for ID. To Gilder’s “Darwinian Theory has Become an All-Purpose Obstacle to Thought Rather than an Enabler of Scientific Advance” (his subtitle, actually), Derbyshire ripostes against ID, After being around for many years, it has not produced any science. George’s own Discovery Institute was established in 1990; the offshoot Center for Science and Culture (at first called the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture) in 1992. That is an aggregate 30 years. Where is the science? (Now, combining the figures in this way to get “thirty” is a bit dodgy. I mean, in the same way, you could combine my age with my two daughters’ Read More ›

Hi all, from Denyse O’Leary

As Bill Dembski noted here, I will be sharing the task of moderation with him. Joining us will be Bill’s research assistant, Joel Borofsky, who can say a bit more about himself in his own posts. Anyone wondering what sort of changes will ensue at UD should note that I am a journalist and my main interest is in promoting a responsible public discussion of ID. I am not qualified to evaluate hypotheses in mathematics, biochemistry, or exobiology. But I am well qualified to study public issues and attempt to pull a discussion back from the abyss. My approach will combine “editor of the Letters section” and “moderator of a discussion group.” In my experience, this approach best serves the Read More ›