Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

A friend lays out Darwin’s rhetorical strategy for providing proof in Origin of Species

Share
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Flipboard
Print
Email

If you don’t mind, just to take a break, I decided to take a few minutes to flip through the marked text in my copy of Origin of Species to show some wonderful facts from Sir Charles.  Here are some direct quotes from the original master:

– I can entertain no doubt…
– We are driven to conclude that…
– We have good reason to believe…
– Thus it is, as I believe…
– It may be believed that…
– We may suppose that…
– I see no reason to limit the process of modification…
– We must suppose…
– hence there is no reason to doubt that…
– it is therefore highly probable that…
– Therefore it need not be doubted that…
– nor is it improbable that…
– it may often have happened that…
– which we imagine would have been gained through natural selection…
– it is possible that…
– it cannot be doubted that…
– Consequently, if the theory be true, it is indisputable that…

Here’s some of factual support for whale evolution:

“There is, therefore, nothing improbable in supposing that…  If so, it will hardly be denied that the points might have been…  Nor is there the least reason to doubt that each step in this scale might have been…”

I have to admit that Origin was one of the most difficult-to-read books I’ve ever read; not because of the content, but due to the slippery, soft factual foundation he was laying out.

(Yes, thanks, he has evidently made his case, now the thought police must follow up on dissenters. – News)

Comments
You are right, the account is not metaphorical.Eugene S
October 11, 2011
October
10
Oct
11
11
2011
07:13 AM
7
07
13
AM
PST
I suggest whoever describes living things as badly designed goes and does better. Then we'll be in a position to judge the result, not words.Eugene S
October 11, 2011
October
10
Oct
11
11
2011
06:29 AM
6
06
29
AM
PST
Umm there is much more required than just getting a longer neck. For example with that longer neck you need a different type of blood-flow regulation. As for "an obvious incremental adaptation explanation staring you in the face", well you can't test it so it ain't so obvious...Joseph
October 11, 2011
October
10
Oct
11
11
2011
05:37 AM
5
05
37
AM
PST
People call it a religion because it is taken on faith only.Joseph
October 11, 2011
October
10
Oct
11
11
2011
05:34 AM
5
05
34
AM
PST
Elizabeth, We are still waiting for those alleged testable hypotheses. You keep saying they exist yet you have failed to produce ONE. So have at it- tell us the testable hypiothesis relating to the bacterial flagellum- as in how can we test the claim it "evolved" via darwinian mechanisms?Joseph
October 11, 2011
October
10
Oct
11
11
2011
05:32 AM
5
05
32
AM
PST
Right on. it has lately been on my mind how much evolution by Darwin and company was based on a hunch and lines of reasoning and opposing other conclusions. NOT ON BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH. The big idea is because there might be selection of moths, here or there, makes a case for selection as the origin for everything. Just a line of reasoning that persuaded Darwin. Yet not a product of biological research. Actually in many papers I read on geomorphology they also invoke constantly how likely or apparently this or that is true. The very subject DArwin said was essential to accepting his ideas was geology. All these historical sciences are not really doing actual science. They can't. It is therefore demanding that logic be included in addressing the evidence for evolution. So creationism criticisms not only should fight on the issue of logic but can do so without charges we are not doing science first.Robert Byers
October 10, 2011
October
10
Oct
10
10
2011
11:48 PM
11
11
48
PM
PST
Please. You look at a diagram of a giraffe's neck and say, gee, that particular organ seems to be in a strange place. That is the extent of your "evidence". Of course let's not talk about what would actually be involved in engineering a long neck, dealing with additional pumping requirements, pressure gradiants, etc. Nope. We wouldn't want to actually look at the details. Let's keep things on the level of "gee it looks like a strange approach." This is the level of "science" we got from Darwin and still get from folks who complain about the backwards wiring of the eye, junk DNA, and other supposed "bad designs."Eric Anderson
October 10, 2011
October
10
Oct
10
10
2011
07:25 PM
7
07
25
PM
PST
Would I like to believe there is an afterlife and eternal life? Of course! Who wouldn’t? It would be wonderful. Who wouldn't? How about people who dislike the God in question, who think of the Christian God as a kind of omnipowerful tyrant, even a Hitler? How about people who dislike the afterlife being discussed, who want death to be permanent and want no afterlife to worry about? What about people who object to the morality, or who - like you did more than once in this conversation - basically say 'God wouldn't do it that way'? And what if the belief is reasonable, but uncertain - what if the belief comes with doubts, or stress, or who knows what else? It's funny how you immediately jumped to afterlife and heaven, even though belief in God - a distinct idea - was under discussion. What you mean is that you'd like to believe in a God you approve of and an afterlife you want and are certain you'll get - which is a very different proposition. So no, it isn't nearly so simple as "Believing would be great, who wouldn't want to believe?" The idea that believing in God, particularly Christianity, is all cheerfulness and happiness is, frankly, pretty inane. Maybe you know better, but if so you're not writing like someone who recognizes this. Finally, there's this. Giving up the comfort and fellowship of religion is not an easy step to take and at first is extremely daunting and even frightening, but in time I know at least for myself, my life is so much the better for it. Well, of course you think it is. And once again, it backs up what I say: You like non-believing better than believing. You yourself say your 'life is so much the better for it' without any prompting from me - and keep in mind, it was in reply to you asserting that believers believe because they like what they believe. I didn't say you were in "terrible rebellion" or in "denial", and I didn't have to. I simply had to say that you enjoy believing what you do, and that's a motive for your believing it - and once again, you provided evidence for me. And if you don't like being evaluated this way - if you prefer discussion to having your motives psychoanalyzed - then perhaps you'll think before saying "people will believe anyway, because people like believing better than non-believing". If I've demonstrated anything here, it's that you - and any other atheist - is as or even more open to that kind of accusation as any Christian or theist is.nullasalus
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
05:12 PM
5
05
12
PM
PST
^this. Except for me it was half a century.Elizabeth Liddle
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
04:38 PM
4
04
38
PM
PST
Except you just provided a great counter-example: You like non-believing better than believing. Why, this God – if He did exist – didn’t do things the way you approve of. How scary it would be if He existed. To pull a Futurama quote: You’d like very much to believe it’s not true. So, you will.
I was in fact a very ardent believer for 15 years. So I think I gave it a fair shot. I know what is like to believe. And there were many of aspects of that time I liked and valued. But for many, many reasons (and none of them really anything to do with evolution), I no longer am a believer. I could still be open to something "out there" I suppose, but I honestly don't give any credence to organized religions (of all kinds). Would I like to believe there is an afterlife and eternal life? Of course! Who wouldn't? It would be wonderful. I just have found the more I examined the foundations of my belief, I can no longer sincerely hold to that kind of faith anymore. I know it's popular to think that atheists, especially the ones like myself who are former believers, are in some terrible rebellion to God and denial. But for many of us it's quite the opposite and rather a process of being honest to oneself about what is real and what isn't in one's life. Giving up the comfort and fellowship of religion is not an easy step to take and at first is extremely daunting and even frightening, but in time I know at least for myself, my life is so much the better for it.woodford
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
04:35 PM
4
04
35
PM
PST
I’m so sure. There are fundamental differences between Seventh Day Adventists, Protesants, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and any number of Christian-derived cults (some 30,000 in all I’ve heard). All because nobody can quite agree on interpreting God’s word. Not really. First: You really think all splits among faiths are about "not agreeing on interpreting God's word"? That is ridiculously naive. Second, having a difference - even a difference that results in a split - does not mean that there's nothing, even a tremendous amount of things, in common between the two groups as far as beliefs and interpretation go. Two evolutionary biologists can disagree on the importance of selection versus drift, and still have much in common. Likewise, the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox have a split, but man do they have a lot in common in belief. Hell, there's a sizable amount of things in common between Jews and Christians, even Christians and Muslims. I know in the few years I spent in church we spent far more time arguing over doctrine than actually doing anything useful. Yeah, good thing you left that behind. Now you spend far more time arguing over doctrine and anything else than doing anything useful. ;) Sorry to hear your church experience sucked. Mine was different - though imperfect - and I see many more inspiring examples in Christianity generally. And even the origins of Christianity have rather murky (and occasionally violent) beginnings in how the canon was formed. To me these are all the hallmarks of a man-made religious institution that anything from a divine spark. Inaccuracies of your claims about the history aside - there it is again. Apparently the answer to my earlier question about whether you find theological reasoning valid is "yes". God wouldn't do it that way. You know it. Looks like you didn't leave much behind at all. But people will believe it anyway, because people like believing better than non-believing. Except you just provided a great counter-example: You like non-believing better than believing. Why, this God - if He did exist - didn't do things the way you approve of. How scary it would be if He existed. To pull a Futurama quote: You'd like very much to believe it's not true. So, you will. Go for it. Just try to understand it a bit better than you currently do. Or hell, don't. Rather up to you.nullasalus
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
02:52 PM
2
02
52
PM
PST
Not really. There’s tremendous amounts of agreement across various believers – and not every person who rejects this or that interpretation does so because they think the interpretation is wrong or unreasonable.
I'm so sure. There are fundamental differences between Seventh Day Adventists, Protesants, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and any number of Christian-derived cults (some 30,000 in all I've heard). All because nobody can quite agree on interpreting God's word.
You can suggest it – you’d just be wrong. Doubly so since ‘disharmony and strife’ are much more attributable to problems other than interpretation confusion on Genesis.
Well, yes I think it goes beyond Genesis, it's all of it. I know in the few years I spent in church we spent far more time arguing over doctrine than actually doing anything useful. And even the origins of Christianity have rather murky (and occasionally violent) beginnings in how the canon was formed. To me these are all the hallmarks of a man-made religious institution that anything from a divine spark. But people will believe it anyway, because people like believing better than non-believing.woodford
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
02:30 PM
2
02
30
PM
PST
Elizabeth, Is it only the unusually located nerve in the giraffe's neck that makes its supposed design seem unintelligent? If I hazard a guess I'd say that from top to bottom, from cells to the whole giraffe, we probably don't understand how 10% of it works. On a related thought, we find out what some of the DNA does and quickly conclude that the rest must not do anything because it doesn't match the part we figured out. Anyway, nearly any paper I've ever read is worded to make it sound like we understand way more of biology than we actually do. We've got bits and pieces. That's not a bad thing. But we're a bit like 19th century scientists examining a space shuttle. Connecting it back to the post, who knows how a giraffe works well enough to say which part is in the wrong place? I think it's strong evidence for common ancestry in this case anyway. But there's also evidence that's screaming design through a megaphone, and then putting down the megaphone and beating us over the head, just one small part being their blood pressure regulation.ScottAndrews
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
01:53 PM
1
01
53
PM
PST
That’s the problem isn’t it – everybody has a different interpretation on what is historical and what’s metaphorical, even among believers. Not really. There's tremendous amounts of agreement across various believers - and not every person who rejects this or that interpretation does so because they think the interpretation is wrong or unreasonable. I’d suggest as a communication vehicle it’s been rather a dismal failure and has resulted in more disharmony and strife than acting as a unifying force among believers. You can suggest it - you'd just be wrong. Doubly so since 'disharmony and strife' are much more attributable to problems other than interpretation confusion on Genesis.nullasalus
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
09:24 AM
9
09
24
AM
PST
Where in the account does it say it is moment by moment documentary history?
That's the problem isn't it - everybody has a different interpretation on what is historical and what's metaphorical, even among believers. I'd suggest as a communication vehicle it's been rather a dismal failure and has resulted in more disharmony and strife than acting as a unifying force among believers.woodford
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
08:52 AM
8
08
52
AM
PST
I don't disagree. And in fact that's really exactly what has happened. Darwin's theory has of course been expanded and even altered. Nobody treats Origin of Species as a science book. I'm sure if Darwin was still alive today, he would be rewriting it and it would be quite a different book. I know its popular around these parts to label evolution as some kind of religion, but even if Darwin is revered as a historical figure and eminent science, nobody is treating his works as holy immutable scripture. Although of course many still think his basic premise was correct and still valid.woodford
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
08:50 AM
8
08
50
AM
PST
“- I can entertain no doubt… - We are driven to conclude that… - We have good reason to believe… - Thus it is, as I believe… - It may be believed that… - We may suppose that… …” –I’m not sure what this is supposed to be a list of, but here’s some more: “Without all doubt…” “We might conclude…” “it is very reasonable to believe…” “let us suppose…” “they may perhaps…” “unless perhaps…” “perhaps it may be objected…” “let us imagine…” “it is possible…” Oh wait, nevermind, those are from Principiagoodusername
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
07:24 AM
7
07
24
AM
PST
What I said, Eric, that the giraffe's neck fits an incremental adaptation theory better than an intelligent design theory. And it does. If you want to infer an Intelligent Designer from how intelligently designed things look, feel free. But you can't then turn round and say, well, there's no reason why an Intelligent Designer should have done it intelligently. Especially when there's an obvious incremental adaptation explanation staring you in the face.Elizabeth Liddle
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
03:18 AM
3
03
18
AM
PST
News, Darwin's book articulated a theory based on simple logic, namely that if things self-replicate with heritable variance in reproductive success within the current environment, those variants that reproduce best will become more prevalent, just as in "artificial" selection, and so, by incremental changes in the direction of adaption, populations will evolve to optimise their fitness to their habitat. He then applied that theory to his own observations of living things, and to Linnaeus's classification. Had his theory not been supported not only by subsequent data, but by new discoveries regarding the mechanisms of inheritance and the sources of variance, his theory would have been rejected. What Darwin believed about the correctness of his own theory is neither here nor there. What matters is whether it generated testable hypotheses that were subsequently supported by data. You think not. Most people think so. Darwin didn't live long enough to find out. Please don't treat Origin as though it is a bible.Elizabeth Liddle
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
03:14 AM
3
03
14
AM
PST
Andrew Jackson Davis published a book describing the origin of species in 1850, some time before Darwin. Except he describes how form is designed - intelligently -by mind. called 'The Great Harmonia' its free to read, or download online.mazda
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
02:58 AM
2
02
58
AM
PST
But if Darwin had written down an account of how it was done, and it was then observed that all the signs in that creation contradicted that account, is it not fair game to say no only would the creator not do it that way, but in fact didn’t do it that way? YESbutifnot
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
01:43 AM
1
01
43
AM
PST
But since the creator has putatively provided a revelation, indeed even an account of creation itself, why is it not legitimate to ask if what we see in nature reflects that creation account? Who said it's not legitimate to ask? Who even implied it? I questioned the interpretation of the account, and pointed out some flaws in what how you were approaching it. Pretty modest stuff. And where in that account does it say it is metaphorical? Where in the account does it say it is moment by moment documentary history? Or is it all just a mystery and we really shouldn’t ask these kinds of questions? Asking these kinds of questions is encouraged by many, myself included. You seem to think that pointing out flaws with your approach and problems with your interpretation results in not being able to come to any other conclusion - but it's simply not the case. Again, just because there is metaphor involved in a description does not render the description "meaningless". Nor does recognizing metaphor and poetry being involved in a description make it impossible to reasonably separate the metaphorical from the non-metaphorical. And who made the rule up that it is therefore somehow out of bounds to ask “what would the creator do or not do”? You, apparently - no one else here said it's "out of bounds". I pointed out that, insofar as they are arguments against design, they're pretty bad arguments. I also noted they're not scientific arguments. In a word, relax. OK, I ask then, how does this creator operate, what does it do, when does it do it? So you consider theological reasoning valid? And that, thankfully, brings us back to what I think is the point Eric Anderson was making. "A creator wouldn't have done it that way" or "If I were the creator I would have done it differently" are essentially philosophical, religious arguments. Which is fine. They're just not science. I say this as a theistic evolutionist myself. I'm quite at home with a lot of evolution in principle, probably more than most around here, though I've also grown skeptical of how much has been demonstrated.nullasalus
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
12:31 AM
12
12
31
AM
PST
But since the creator has putatively provided a revelation, indeed even an account of creation itself, why is it not legitimate to ask if what we see in nature reflects that creation account? And where in that account does it say it is metaphorical? If it's a metaphorical account "addressing a real event" (whatever the means), what's real and what isn't? Again, where does the metaphorical stuff stop and the "history" start? Chapter 5? Chapter 6? Is the Ark a real event or we are still in metaphorical space? Are we missing a foreword to the Bible perhaps? Or is it all just a mystery and we really shouldn't ask these kinds of questions? After all, It isn't as if we are inquiring about a creator that we have absolutely no information about - indeed, the written account gives us quite a lot of information about the acts, the character, and the nature of this supposed being. And who made the rule up that it is therefore somehow out of bounds to ask "what would the creator do or not do"? You say there is a creator. OK, I ask then, how does this creator operate, what does it do, when does it do it?woodford
October 9, 2011
October
10
Oct
9
09
2011
12:03 AM
12
12
03
AM
PST
Or do we just then say the account is meaningless and just metaphorical (but after a few chapters turns into actual literal history?) Not even theistic evolutionists say the account is meaningless. Likewise, that something is metaphorical does not mean it fails to address a real event. Of course, the problem can always be on the part of the reader rather than the writer. Eric Anderson is correct: "A creator wouldn't have done it that way" really is a cornerstone, coming in the flavors "this is a cruel design" and "I'd have designed differently" principally. They're not only not very good arguments, they're also not scientific arguments - for whatever that's worth.nullasalus
October 8, 2011
October
10
Oct
8
08
2011
11:39 PM
11
11
39
PM
PST
Not a bad list, but he forgot all the instances in which Darwin claimed a creator wouldn’t have done it that way.
But if the creator had written down an account of how it was done, and it was then observed that all the signs in that creation contradicted that account, is it not fair game to say no only would the creator not do it that way, but in fact didn't do it that way? Or do we just then say the account is meaningless and just metaphorical (but after a few chapters turns into actual literal history?)woodford
October 8, 2011
October
10
Oct
8
08
2011
10:41 PM
10
10
41
PM
PST
Not a bad list, but he forgot all the instances in which Darwin claimed a creator wouldn't have done it that way. That was an important argument and remains, to this day, a key cornerstone of the materialist creation myth. Dawkins uses this as one of his primary rhetorical arguments. Folks like the NCSE and Nick Matzke use it all the time. Just the other day on this blog Elizabeth was using it to support her contention about the giraffe's neck. Cornelius Hunter has done a good job in his books of outlining Darwin's rhetorical stance and pointing out how Darwin's arguments are, in large sum, essentially philosophical/religious arguments.Eric Anderson
October 8, 2011
October
10
Oct
8
08
2011
10:30 PM
10
10
30
PM
PST

Leave a Reply