Darwinism Science

Darwinism now in same sort of mess that “floored” astrology – Fuller

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So call me "Rube." I should care? Just answer the questions, please.

Agnostic Warwick U sociologist Steve Fuller asks some questions in Dissent from Descent,

Modern evolutionary theory, as we have seen in these pages, is subject to vagaries of interpretation just as fundamental as those that ultimately floored astrology. Here is a list:

1. Is the overall process of evolution directed or undirected- Lamarckian or Darwinian? If we deliver a mixed verdict, then when and where does the directed yield to the undirected?

2. Is design something that genuinely needs to be explained or an illusion to be dispelled? Again, given a mixed verdict, when and where should forms of life (or parts thereof) be regarded as ‘adaptations’ or ‘exaptations’?

3. What about the so-called ‘tree of life’? Depending on whethe the tree is arranged on the basis of an organism’s surface morphology or its underlying genetic structure, a somewhat different story about the actual course of evolution s ‘common descent through modification’ is told.

4. The above questions cannot be answered unless the matter of evidence has been resolved: What is the relative weighting of evidence drawn from sources as disparate as radiometric analysis, computer simulation, field observations and laboratory experiments.

5. To what extent is evolutionary history responsible for what we normally regard as human history, and vice versa? How much can environmentally-induced changes in one generation alter the selection environment for future generations?

6. Finally, if natural selection is, in some sense, a ‘chance-based process’, exactly to which theory of chance does the evolutionist subscribe? Presumably it is more than Aristotle’s idea of two or more independent causal processes whose outcomes coincide. Natural selection’s grounding in genetics certainly implies a commitment to some idea of statistical frequency. But does it also involve metaphysically deeper notions like ‘propensities’ and ‘dispositions’ that might be unleashed systematically under the right experimental conditions? That Neo-Darwinism is taken to underwrite today’s bioengineering projects suggests just such metaphysical depth, though it is alien from Darwin’s original line of thought.

The fact that the above disagreements remain mostly – though not entirely – confined to academic publications simply reflects the much greater professional control that evolutionists vis-a-vis astrologers have exerted over how their expertise is evaluated. (158-59)

Suggested answers?

Senior biology faculty member in audience:Jesus-hollering rube! Just trying to shove his religion down everyone’s throat! People like that burned Copernicus and Galileo at the stake …

Rube in audience: Answer the questions or shuddup for once, prof! I wanna hear what that guy is saying.

4 Replies to “Darwinism now in same sort of mess that “floored” astrology – Fuller

  1. 1
    jurassicmac says:

    1. Is the overall process of evolution directed or undirected- Lamarckian or Darwinian? If we deliver a mixed verdict, then when and where does the directed yield to the undirected?

    In what sense is Lamarckian evolution ‘directed’? Directed by whom, or by what?

  2. 2
    Proponentist says:

    Perhaps a combination of astrology and Darwinian theory would be the best solution yet. Both theories could compliment each other.

    Evolutionists could determine which seasons and planetary conditions are best for publishing their findings — and perhaps target only Capricorns with their reports since that has been astrologically proven to the most guillible star-sign (especially when Neptune manifests its romantic energy).

  3. 3

    Surely there is no one out there, Denyse, who thinks of you as a “Rube”?

  4. 4
    Heinrich says:

    My answers:

    1. Is the overall process of evolution directed or undirected- Lamarckian or Darwinian? If we deliver a mixed verdict, then when and where does the directed yield to the undirected?

    I don’t know of any evidence that organic evolution is Lamarckian (pseudo-Lamarckian is the closest we get), so I don’t see that this issue arises.

    Even if it did, the second question would primarily be an empirical one.

    2. Is design something that genuinely needs to be explained or an illusion to be dispelled? Again, given a mixed verdict, when and where should forms of life (or parts thereof) be regarded as ‘adaptations’ or ‘exaptations’?

    Apparent design needs to be explained, but design only needs to be explained if it exists.

    Oddly, neither evolutionary biologists or IDers want to explain design. Evolutionary biologists because they don’t think it’s there (it’s all apparent design), IDers because, well….

    3. What about the so-called ‘tree of life’? Depending on whethe[r] the tree is arranged on the basis of an organism’s surface morphology or its underlying genetic structure, a somewhat different story about the actual course of evolution[‘]s ‘common descent through modification’ is told.

    This problem is purely a technical one (although the implications go beyond technique). The problem is to pick traits which evolve at a rate that means we can detect both variation and similarity, and which don’t exhibit too much convergence. DNA has the advantage that each trait is a base pair, so they are well defined, and genes with different rates of evolution can be found (e.g. microsats mutate really quickly, rRNAs slowly).

    4. The above questions cannot be answered unless the matter of evidence has been resolved: What is the relative weighting of evidence drawn from sources as disparate as radiometric analysis, computer simulation, field observations and laboratory experiments.

    That’s a problem facing any science, and it’s negotiation is a part of the development of the science.

    5. To what extent is evolutionary history responsible for what we normally regard as human history, and vice versa? How much can environmentally-induced changes in one generation alter the selection environment for future generations?

    Again, an empirical question. The first question isn’t well formed (I assume Fuller explains it more fully in his book). The second I find too vague to be terribly interesting. The answer is probably “it depends”. What is interesting is to estimate it for particular cases – it might be that a generalisation can be made, but that requires evidence.

    6. Finally, if natural selection is, in some sense, a ‘chance-based process’, exactly to which theory of chance does the evolutionist subscribe? Presumably it is more than Aristotle’s idea of two or more independent causal processes whose outcomes coincide. Natural selection’s grounding in genetics certainly implies a commitment to some idea of statistical frequency. But does it also involve metaphysically deeper notions like ‘propensities’ and ‘dispositions’ that might be unleashed systematically under the right experimental conditions? That Neo-Darwinism is taken to underwrite today’s bioengineering projects suggests just such metaphysical depth, though it is alien from Darwin’s original line of thought.

    Does this really matter? I tend to think in Bayesian terms, but others don’t, but we’re all able to do the same work.

    I don’t understand the reference to genetics and frequencies. Fisher certainly wasn’t a frequentist, and he developed statistical genetics. And nowadays a lot of this work is done in a Bayesian framework. In between, the frequentists did a lot of good work (e.g. the Rothamsted crowd with their mixed models).

    If there really is a problem here, why isn’t it a problem everywhere else in science?

    The fact that the above disagreements remain mostly – though not entirely – confined to academic publications simply reflects the much greater professional control that evolutionists vis-a-vis astrologers have exerted over how their expertise is evaluated. (158-59)

    I certainly don’t think this was deliberate – it’s probably largely because of the fragmentation of intellectual knowledge. And, quite frankly, most people don’t care about these sorts of questions. Why should the general public care about different interpretations of probability? Most biologists don’t even care!

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