Darwinism Evolution

“Militant Darwinists like Dennett”

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To the Editor [NYTimes]:

In “Show Me the Science” (August 28), philosopher Daniel Dennett glosses over a point that is crucial for understanding the passions aroused by the current debate over the teaching of evolution in the public schools.

The point is just this: There is an immense difference between teaching that all living things, including human beings, are genealogically related, having evolved from one or a few original forms by means of an evolutionary process, and teaching that that process is known with scientific certainty to have occurred “without purposes and without intelligence.” The former claim is indeed a well-founded scientific generalization, based on a wealth of empirical evidence; the latter is an avowal of materialistic faith that is no more testable by ordinary scientific means than is the hypothesis of intelligent design.

This may sound like a quibble, but it is not. First, the sweeping reductive claim made for the theory of natural selection—that it has succeeded in eliminating all purpose, meaning, and value from nature as “unscientific”—is untenable. Any purposeful trait in an organism must already exist before it can be “selected.” Therefore, the theory of natural selection cannot explain how the purposefulness inherent in all living things has come to exist in the first place. Merely invoking “chance” to help us out of this difficulty is deeply problematic from a scientific point of view, never mind philosophy or religion. Nor do computer simulations help, since they themselves are intelligently designed and so merely beg the question at issue.

But second, and more important, what is at stake in the evolution debate is whether militant Darwinists like Dennett get to inculcate the nation’s schoolchildren with their own materialistic religion under the mantle of authority that our society accords to science. Dennett, who believes that human beings are nothing but fancy computer programs, has called for the forcible suppression of those guilty of the “deliberate misinforming of children about the natural world” (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, p. 516)—that is, those who disagree with him. Is this really the sort of person to whom we ought to give the power to decide what is taught in the public schools?

Of course human beings are animals; but we are not “just” animals. We live in a world of symbolic meanings and ideal values that far transcends our animal ancestry. The real question in the evolution debate is whether we as a society are going to allow radical materialist thinkers like Dennett to hijack the public education system. If we allow the next generation of schoolchildren to be taught nothing but the Darwinists’ impoverished view of their own humanity—drained of all purpose, meaning, and value in the name of “scientific objectivity”—then heaven help us all.

James Barham
University of Notre Dame

17 Replies to ““Militant Darwinists like Dennett”

  1. 1
    Bombadill says:

    “We live in a world of symbolic meanings and ideal values that far transcends our animal ancestry.”

    Preach it, brother.

  2. 2
    Aquila says:

    “Dennett, who believes that human beings are nothing but fancy computer programs..” I am led to believe by this remark that Dennett has never attempted to write software himself. Are not computer programs, including both the fancy and plain varieties, designed by intelligent beings? Do you suppose Dennett is waiting for his computer to execute programs from bits randomly generated and then naturally selected? Computers, as well as the programs that are executed on them, are both irreducibly complex in Behe’s sense. BY even suggesting that humans are nothing but highly organized assemblages of instructions and data, he is defeating his own argument.

  3. 3
    PaV says:

    Aquila. Bravo!

  4. 4
    John101 says:

    What naturaled and who did the selecting? Decent with ‘modification’
    Who did the modification? ‘selection’ and ‘modification’ per defenition can only
    be done by a human with a goal in mind. These terms are just not available
    to Darwinists.

  5. 5
    Ariston says:

    “Any purposeful trait in an organism must already exist before it can be ‘selected.’ Therefore, the theory of natural selection cannot explain how the purposefulness inherent in all living things has come to exist in the first place.”

    Are there any purposeful traits in an organism? Is there any way to answer in the affirmative that does not beg the question about the existence of a ‘Purposer’? How are purposeful traits identified, i.e., what is the criterion for being purposeful?

    [Comment: Barham holds to a naturalized teleology, so he can speak of purpose without a purposer. He has argued that functional descriptions of biological systems are ineliminable from the science of biology and are inherently teleological, i.e., exhibit real purpose. –WmAD]

  6. 6
    DaysofNoah says:

    Boy, you can tell when thinking is getting good when communication of ideas is so succinct! Bravo indeed!

  7. 7
    niwrad says:

    I agree perfectly with Aquila. At last informatics indeed will destroy Darwinism and its absurdities. Darwin thought a cell as a ‘blob of gel’. Now they have discovered that cell is a molecular information processing system more complex than a Pentium 4. The software running on it has yet to be reverse-engineered but is surely more complex than Windows OS. How could all that arose by chance and necessity?

  8. 8
    DaveScot says:

    Ariston

    I’m an organism and I have many purposes. More purposes than I’d like, actually.

    QED

  9. 9
    kuz says:

    Yes, but Dave, do you have a “special purpose?”
    [/Steve Martin reference]

  10. 10
    DonaldM says:

    I’m reminded of a scene in the bio-film “The Elephant Man”. John Merrick (the elephant man), is being chased in a subway after someone pulled off his hood revealing his deformed face and features. People scream. John cries out as the hostile crowd moves in on him “I am not an animal! I am a human being!” Apprently John Merrick was unfamiliar with Darwin. If Dennett and those of his ilk had their way, Merrick would have had to say: “I AM an animal! There’s nothing special about me!” Somehow, that scene would have not have had the same impact.

  11. 11
    dennis grey says:

    Dr. Dembski,
    You said, “The point is just this: There is an immense difference between teaching that all living things, including human beings, are genealogically related, having evolved from one or a few original forms by means of an evolutionary process, and teaching that that process is known with scientific certainty to have occurred “without purposes and without intelligence.”…

    … The former claim is indeed a well-founded scientific generalization, based on a wealth of empirical evidence”

    Oh. Then you accept common ancestry. I wasn’t expecting that. Why must we accept it? We are created in God’s image. He didn’t have to ‘evolve’ us. Why can’t intelligent design prove that? It must. It must.

  12. 12

    […] En fin kommentar pÃ¥ Bill Demsbkis weblog (www.uncommondescent.com) kan læses under overskriften “Militant Darwinists like Dennett” posteret den 2.9.05. Posteringen kommenterer en kronik af Daniel Dennett i New York Times, og kommentatoren bed mærke i et stykke af en sætning: “Dennett, der tror, at mennesker er intet andet end computerprogrammer..” […]

  13. 13

    […] En fin kommentar pÃ¥ Bill Demsbkis weblog (www.uncommondescent.com) kan læses under overskriften “Militant Darwinists like Dennett” posteret den 2.9.05. Posteringen kommenterer en kronik af Daniel Dennett i New York Times, og kommentatoren bed mærke i et stykke af en sætning: “Dennett, der tror, at mennesker er intet andet end computerprogrammer..” Kommentatoren fortsætter: “Jeg begynder at tro igennem denne bemærkning, at Dennett aldrig selv har forsøgt at skrive software. Er computerprogrammer, inklusive bÃ¥de de avancerede og de enkle, ikke designede af intelligente væsener? Kan man tro, at Dennett sidder og venter pÃ¥, at hans computer udfører programmer fra bits, der er frembragt tilfældigt og derpÃ¥ udvalgt igennem naturlig udvælgelse? Computere sÃ¥vel som programmerne, der køres pÃ¥ dem, er begge irreducible komplekse i Behes forstand. Blot ved at foreslÃ¥, at mennesker er intet andet end meget organiserede ansamlinger af instruktioner og data, gendriver han sit eget argument.” Postet af Leif Asmark Jensen kl.11:00 […]

  14. 14
    niwrad says:

    I agree with Dennis Grey. To admit common ancestry is to admit Darwinian species macro-transformations by means of RM/NS. I sincerely do not understand why some ID theorists believe in common ancestry as Darwinists do. They are inchoerent and offer a gift to Darwinists. There is indeed a common Designer and some common characteristics in the archetypes of animals and man but that at the incorporeal-project level (think of a sort of biological “software reuse”). But that is all. At the corporeal level no macro-transformations happened. Biological software can vary according some minor parameters only (micro-evolution).

  15. 15
    DaveScot says:

    Here is where I like to point out that common descent cannot be logically distinguished from common design. Either is a possibility. What remains is that all living organisms thus far examined are genetically related. The most basic common thread is the genetic code which is universally employed by every living thing. Every living thing uses DNA to store manufacturing blueprints for proteins and every living thing uses a ribosome to turn the blueprint into finished protein products.

  16. 16
    niwrad says:

    Sorry DaveScot but “common descent CAN be logically distinguished from common design”. Darwinian means all species would derive corporeally from a first primordial biological form thank to transformation. (That is impossible).
    I have spoken about “common Designer and some common characteristics” not about “common design”. To be exact in fact, there are many designs, each for any species (I have called them “archetypes”). These many designs share some features. Ok. But these designs preexist to their corporeal manifestation. When they will manifest they will not have any need of transformation. They will be quite exactly what they must be.

  17. 17
    niwrad says:

    Sorry. I wanted to say: “Darwinian common descent means all species would derive corporeally from a first primordial biological form thank to transformation”.

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