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Sociologist: Darwinism is the astrology of science

Steve Fuller, professor of sociology, University of Warwick
photo courtesy University of Warwick

And its biggest asset right now is public funding and court judgments.

Steve Fuller, agnostic sociologist at Warwick University (Britain) and author of Dissent over Descent, gives us an entertaining picture of astrology in the decades  before its collapse that unmistakably echoes Darwinism today:

… in the four centuries that separated the early Oxford scholastics from Newton, astrology grew in secular importance, resulting in the field’s knowledge claims becoming “unfalsifiable,” the specific quality Popper attributed to pseudoscientific theories. In other words, astrologers refused to submit to a public test that might reveal a fundamental error in their theories.

[As in arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins refuses to debate, despite fellow Oxford atheist’s chastisement? ]

Their reasons are familiar to us today. When astrology was within the reach of only the powerful and was used to decide the timing of military campaigns, it was shrouded in secrecy for what we now call ‘national security reasons’. But starting in the 15th century, when astrologers moved into Europe’s emerging private sector, and personal horoscopes increasingly became their stock in trade, client confidentiality was cited as ground for refusing to release their track records.Nevertheless, as astrologers acquired status, they made greater claims to knowledge for their field. Many leading Renaissance intellectuals, including Ficino, Paracelsus and Pomponazzi, tried to leverage astrology’s historic significance and burgeoning clientele into a foundational role in the university medical curriculum. Like many enthusiasts for evolutionary biology in the medical profession today, they believed that astrology would finally render their ancient art a genuine science with a deep causal sense of the extent to which humanity’s well-being was embedded in the cosmos.

[Think evolutionary medicine., one of the biggest dead losses in the history of medicine.]

This turned out to be a step too far, placing astrology under much sharper critical scrutiny than ever before. Suddenly everyone was a Popperian avant la lettre. Challenges to astrology’s pretensions, even among fellow practitioners, became very public affairs which only served to cast doubt on the entire enterprise – even when astrologers were shown to have drawn valid conclusions.- Dissent over Descent, pp. 166-67

[Think Altenberg 16 = lots of fed-up evolutionary biologists.

Will Darwinism end up as the “evolutionary agony aunt” column somewhere for the eternally hopeful faithful, just as there is still a star scroll column in newspapers today? Seems like a fitting epitaph.

I think Fuller needs to say what he really thinks. This from an interview with the Guardian: "Fuller claims he doesn't personally favour ID, but feels that it should have a "fair run for its money". His view on evolutionary theory is that the jury is out, though he acknowledges that Darwinism does have the most evidence on its side." Darwinism has the most evidence then, according to Fuller. How does that fit with what he claims to say now? "He describes himself as "very sympathetic to Christian ideas", although he doesn't go to church or belong to any particular denomination." And that is hardly consonant with being agnostic. Fuller seems to be basically a theist at heart, of the Christian persuasion. So why the claims to be a seculat humanist? Is he just doing it for PR reasons, to give himself a bit more credibility in the debate? He posts here occasionally, perhaps he can explain to us which side of the fence he's jumped down to. Grunty
and Brazilian and Portuguese people are enjoying, too: http://pos-darwinista.blogspot.com/2011/06/stephen-fuller-sociologo-falou-e-disse.html driving mad the local native Scientific Nomenklatura. Enezio E. De Almeida Filho
We live in interesting time. We can see paradigm shift and Darwinism collapse and we have front seats. Enjoy! Shazard

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