Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Why evolution is more certain than gravity

Joseph LeConte 1823-1901.jpg
Joseph Le Conte (1823-1901)

From Sarah Chaffee and Granville Sewell at The Spectator: 

Whether the standard neo-Darwinian mechanism fully explains the origins of biological novelties is a question that scientists themselves increasingly contest. Yet for the media, evolution is the holy Kaaba of science. Resistance verging on hysteria greets attempts to allow teachers to introduce mainstream controversies found in peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Just look at media coverage about Arizona’s state science standards, currently being revised, where minor changes were decried as a wholesale “attack” on evolution. Louisiana passed its academic freedom law, the Louisiana Science Education Act, in 2008 and critics have been denouncing it ever since, dishonestly, for sneaking in instruction about “intelligent design” or “creationism.” Tennessee passed a similar law in 2012, likewise prompting accusations about a “loophole… through which creationism would creep in.”

Chaffee and Sewell trace the “more certan than gravity” claim back to a 19th-century geologist Joseph Le Conte, who wrote,

[T]he law of evolution is as certain as the law of gravitation. Nay, it is far more certain. The nexus between successive events in time (causation) is far more certain than the nexus between coexistent objects in space (gravitation). The former is a necessary truth, the latter is usually classed as a contingent truth. More.

Granville Sewell

Chaffee and Sewell respond, “Finally, we understand. The law of gravity is a “contingent” truth. We believe it only as long as the evidence supports it. The theory of evolution is a “necessary” truth. It is not contingent on supporting evidence.”

No, the “theory of evolution” is not contingent on supporting evidence. Failing mainstream media, for example, cannot even report seriously on the slow crumbling of Darwinism. To them, Darwinism IS evolution, a necessary truth, like their other beliefs.

Hat tip: Philip Cunningham

See also: “Sincere and heartfelt apologies” to Granville Sewell from the math journal that dumped his article due to Darwinist pressure (2011)

Mathematician Granville Sewell denied right to respond to rebuttals in journal (2012)

Breaking, breaking: ID friendly math prof gets apology and damages from journal

My Controversial Tautology (Sewell)

Retraction Watch has noted the math journal’s retraction of its treatment of Granville Sewell

More on the withdrawn article (Sewell)


Granville Sewell’s vindication latest in string of defeats for Darwin lobby … straw in the wind?

John, Nice summary (comment 18) of the failures of Le Conte's "axiom" since he wrote this. One more that you didn't mention is quantum mechanics. I mentioned in comment 15 that I had included the longer version of the Le Conte quote in my book (In the Beginning... www.discoveryinstitutepress.com/sewell), it is actually used as the intro to Chapter 8 on quantum mechanics, where I said "Surprisingly, less than 40 years after his book appeared, Le Conte's axiom was shattered by the discoveries of quantum mechanics, which introduced, quite literally, a 'supernatural' element into science." Unfortunately, quantum mechanics and the other discoveries of physics you mention, seem to be unknown or ignored by most biologists today and so Le Conte's axiom still seems to dominate biology. With some exceptions, of course. Granville Sewell
According to Le Conte,
Physical phenomena we all admit follow one another in unbroken succession, each derived from a preceding, and giving origin to a succeeding. We call this the law of causation, and say that it is axiomatic. We might call it a law of derivation. So also organic forms follow one another in continuous chain, each derived from a preceding and giving origin to a succeeding. We call this a law of derivation. We might call it a law of causation, and say that it too is axiomatic. The origins of new phenomena are often obscure, even inexplicable, but we never think to doubt that they have a natural cause; for so to doubt is to doubt the validity of reason…
However, modern scientific discoveries have revealed that nature is riddled with discontinuities. For example, let’s begin with the beginning of the universe-- the so-called big bang. During Le Conte’s day materialists believed that universe we live in could very well be eternal. However, because of several discoveries made in the 20th century virtually no one believes that today. So how did the universe come into existence? At present there is no scientific explanation. Sure you could invoke the “multiverse” but what scientific evidence is there for the multiverse? Related to the origin of the universe is its so-called fine tuning. What is fine tuning? It is the empirically derived fact that if certain fundamental physical parameters or constants had been slightly different life and self-conscious life would not exist anywhere is the universe. Many prominent physicists agree. According to the late Stephan Hawking, “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. ... The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” But the fine-tuning is even more intricate than Hawking’s brief summary suggests. For example, if the ratio of the nuclear strong force to the electromagnetic force had differed by 1 part in 1016, no stars would have formed… no stars… no life. Or, if the ratio of the electromagnetic force constant to the gravitational force constant had not been precisely balanced to 1 part in 1040, we would have no stars of the right size to support life. We need both fast burning large stars to produce the essential elements for life’s chemistry and planet formation as well as long burning small stars to burn long enough to provide planetary systems habitable for life. Also, if the nuclear ground state energies for helium 4, beryllium 6, carbon 12, and oxygen16 had not been fine-tuned higher or lower with respect to each other by more than 4% there would not be sufficient oxygen or carbon for the development of life.” Or if the majority of the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun (or any equivalent star) wasn’t within a very narrow band: one part in 10 raised the 25th power (that’s one followed 25 zeros) life could not exist on earth. One part in 10^25 is equivalent to the thickness of one playing card in comparison to a stack of cards that stretch way beyond the confines of our own galaxy. So I guess we’re just really, really lucky! (Yeah, right.) Physicists have discovered dozens of other of these finely tuned parameters. WAP (the weak anthropic principle) argues that the universe appears to be fine-tuned for life because if it hadn’t been we wouldn’t be here to observe it. SAP, on the other hand, argues that it must be fine-tuned for life. Why? Neither WAP nor SAP provide the answer. Another discontinuity is the origin of life. If the universe is not eternal life cannot be eternal. Then there is the origin of consciousness and of mind and intelligence. And of course, Le Conte himself saw there were discontinuities in the evolution of animal life. But at the time these discontinuities could be rationalized away-- for example, the incompleteness of the fossil record. However, with time and the advancement of science these discontinuities have not gone away. So it appears Le Conte’s axioms are no longer axiomatic. Of course they never really were. john_a_designer
evolution as a law of derivation of forms from previous forms
So when and how does Form (whatever that means) A become distinct from Form B? Are there scientific parameters to what constitutes Form A? I'm sorry people have devoted their lives to Evolutionary Idiocy. This is a joke. Andrew asauber
Granville Sewell, Thanks for the response and clarification. I agree that Le Conte clearly states that only natural causes are to be considered (as well as the "continuity" principle), both of which are debatable. daveS
DaveS: Yes, Le Conte was not saying Darwinism is more certain than gravity, only "evolution". In my Evolution News version: https://evolutionnews.org/2018/04/why-evolution-is-more-certain-than-gravity/ I had the more complete quote, and I also have the more complete quote in my book. It was shortened for length concerns for the TAS version, but I thought it was still clear that Le Conte's "axiom" is that everything must have a natural cause. In the earlier version I also noted that "since there is no chance of finding a natural explanation for the beginning of time, Le Conte's axiom would force scientists to reject the Big Bang theory before looking at the evidence" but this was also removed to keep the article short. Granville Sewell
Polistra @2 I get similar messages on Microsoft Edge, saying "This Site is Not Secure". I expect the reason is the https on the link, which normally designates a secure site. I am guessing that older UD posts are not "secure" somehow and using the https prefix for them then raises a flag and a warning in Firefox. In my case, I can click on "details" which gives me an option to open the site regardless, and nothing bad happens (so far). Hope this helps, and UD may want to look into it to see if there is a simple fix. Fasteddious
Upright BiPed. Great points about why "evolutionary science" must become political. So far it's been without guns. Mung
Universal common descent remains untestable. We still cannot scientifically test the claim that chimps and humans share a common ancestor. Kinesiology argues against such a transformation as muscles and their attachment points have to change and such a change is not coded in the genes ET
Funny that Darwinists always claim that evolution is as 'certain' as gravity, and in Le Conte's case 'far more certain' than gravity, but nobody ever claims that gravity is as 'certain' as Darwinian evolution. And in Belfast's link to wikipedia we find the claim that Darwinian evolution is as 'factual' as the heliocentric model. And again, I've never seen the counter claim that the heliocentric model is as 'factual' as Darwinian evolution. Myself, I am personally absolutely certain that Darwinian evolution is factually false. How can I be 'certain' of this? Besides the fact that Darwinian evolution does not even qualify as a science, but is more properly classified as a unfalsifiable pseudoscience,,,
Darwin’s Theory vs Falsification – video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rzw0JkuKuQ “There are five standard tests for a scientific hypothesis. Has anyone observed the phenomenon — in this case, Evolution — as it occurred and recorded it? Could other scientists replicate it? Could any of them come up with a set of facts that, if true, would contradict the theory (Karl Popper’s “falsifiability” tests)? Could scientists make predictions based on it? Did it illuminate hitherto unknown or baffling areas of science? In the case of Evolution… well… no… no… no… no… and no.” – Tom Wolfe – The Kingdom of Speech – page 17 - Darwinian Evolution Fails the Five Standard Tests of a Scientific Hypothesis - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7f_fyoPybw
And besides the fact that Darwinian evolution, (with advances in quantum biology, and since it is based on reductive materialism), is not even based on the correct theoretical foundation in order to properly understand biology in the first place,,,
Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology - video https://youtu.be/LHdD2Am1g5Y Darwinism vs Biological Form - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyNzNPgjM4w Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable: Gödel and Turing enter quantum physics - December 9, 2015 Excerpt: A mathematical problem underlying fundamental questions in particle and quantum physics is provably unsolvable,,, It is the first major problem in physics for which such a fundamental limitation could be proven. The findings are important because they show that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.,,, "We knew about the possibility of problems that are undecidable in principle since the works of Turing and Gödel in the 1930s," added Co-author Professor Michael Wolf from Technical University of Munich. "So far, however, this only concerned the very abstract corners of theoretical computer science and mathematical logic. No one had seriously contemplated this as a possibility right in the heart of theoretical physics before. But our results change this picture. From a more philosophical perspective, they also challenge the reductionists' point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description." http://phys.org/news/2015-12-quantum-physics-problem-unsolvable-godel.html
Besides all of that, I am 'certain' that Darwinian evolution is false because of the simple fact that if Darwinian evolution were actually true then any 'certainty' we could have in anything would be completely undermined. That is to say, if Darwinian evolution were actually true then nobody could be certain about anything. "Certainty" is a property of a mind. A person freely chooses whether or not he to be 'certain' about anything after weighing the evidence for and against any particular claim. Yet, besides the fact that the scientific evidence itself consistently contradicts the claims from Darwinists that Darwinian evolution is as 'certain' as gravity, Darwinian evolution itself, or more specifically the reductive materialistic premises of Darwinian evolution, also undermines any 'certainty' we may have in anything by denying the reality of our own immaterial minds and of our free will. Although the 'most certain' thing that we can possibly know about reality is the fact that we actually exist as real persons (Descartes, Chalmers) and that we, as real persons, can freely choose to do, or not do, a veritable infinity of options (free will), Darwinian evolution directly undermines this 'most certain' thing that we can possibly know about reality. Within the reductive materialistic premises of Darwinian evolution we find that both the reality of our conscious minds and our free will are held to be merely illusions.
“that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.” Francis Crick – “The Astonishing Hypothesis” 1994 “We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.” Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor etc.. etc.. etc..
Bottom line, if you are absolutely 'certain' that you really exist as a real person, which is the most certain thing you can possibly know about reality, then you can also be absolutely certain that Darwinian evolution is false. Of supplemental note: If Darwinian evolution were actually true, even our perceptions of reality would also become illusory and we could never be 'certain' about anything we perceive.:
Donald Hoffman: Do we see reality as it is? – Video – 9:59 minute mark Quote: “fitness does depend on reality as it is, yes.,,, Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is, and it is fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution. So, in my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds. Some of the organisms see all of the reality. Others see just part of the reality. And some see none of the reality. Only fitness. Who wins? Well I hate to break it to you but perception of reality goes extinct. In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality, but are just tuned to fitness, drive to extinction that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor veridical, or accurate perceptions. Those (accurate) perceptions of reality go extinct. Now this is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage?” https://youtu.be/oYp5XuGYqqY?t=601 The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality - April 2016 The cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman uses evolutionary game theory to show that our perceptions of an independent reality must be illusions. Excerpt: “The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions — mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction. The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.” https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160421-the-evolutionary-argument-against-reality/
Since Darwinian evolution denies 'reliable observation', which is a necessary cornerstone of the scientific method itself, then Darwinian evolution can never be based upon the scientific method and is therefore falsified once again in its claim to be a scientific theory. And again, if you are absolutely 'certain' that you are reading this post then you can also be absolutely 'certain' that Darwinian evolution is false. Verse:
2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
source of the above is https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_fact_and_theory The bit I wanted to highlight but could not is Scientists regard common descent as being as factual as the understanding that in the Solar System the Earth orbits the Sun, Belfast
Biologists consider it to be a scientific fact that evolution has occurred in that modern organisms differ from past forms, and evolution is still occurring with discernible differences between organisms and their descendants. There is such strong quantitative support for the second that scientists regard common descent as being as factual as the understanding that in the Solar System the Earth orbits the Sun, although the examination of the fundamentals of these processes is still in progress. There are several theories about the mechanisms of evolution, and there are still active debates about specific mechanisms. Belfast
As to this claim from the 19th-century geologist Joseph Le Conte
"The law of evolution is as certain as the law of gravitation. Nay, it is far more certain. The nexus between successive events in time (causation) is far more certain than the nexus between coexistent objects in space (gravitation). The former is a necessary truth, the latter is usually classed as a contingent truth."
It seems that quantum mechanics could care less for how "far more certain" Le Conte was in his belief in "successive events in time (causation)" Wheeler's Delayed Choice Experiment and the Quantum Eraser Experiment have both undermined his notion of "successive events in time (causation)" being "far more certain".
Wheeler's Classic Delayed Choice Experiment: Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles "have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy," so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory. http://www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/basic_delayed_choice.htm "Thus one decides the photon shall have come by one route or by both routes after it has already done its travel" John A. Wheeler Reflecting light off satellite backs up Wheeler's quantum theory thought experiment - October 26, 2017 - Bob Yirka Excerpt: Back in the late 1970s, physicist John Wheeler tossed around a thought experiment in which he asked what would happen if tests allowed researchers to change parameters after a photon was fired, but before it had reached a sensor for testing—would it somehow alter its behavior mid-course? He also considered the possibilities as light from a distant quasar made its way through space, being lensed by gravity. Was it possible that the light could somehow choose to behave as a wave or a particle depending on what scientists here on Earth did in trying to measure it?,,, The experiment consisted of shooting a laser beam at a beam splitter, which aimed the beam at a satellite traveling in low Earth orbit, which reflected it back to Earth. But as the light traveled back to Earth, the researchers had time to make a choice whether or not to activate a second beam splitter as the light was en route. Thus, they could test whether the light was able to sense what they were doing and respond accordingly. The team reports that the light behaved just as Wheeler had predicted—demonstrating either particle-like or wave-like behavior, depending on the behavior of those studying it. https://phys.org/news/2017-10-satellite-wheeler-quantum-theory-thought.html (The quantum eraser experiment) A Classic Time Travel Paradox – Double-Slit Experiment Demonstrates Reverse Causality! - November 15, 2013 Excerpt: Quantum physicists argue the double-slit experiment demonstrates another unusual property of quantum mechanics, namely, an effect termed the quantum eraser experiment. Essentially, it has two parts: Detectors record the path of a photon regarding which slit it goes through. As described above, the act of measuring “which path” destroys the interference pattern. If the “which path” information is erased, the interference pattern returns. It does not matter in which order the “which path” information is erased. It can be erased before or after the detection of the photons. This appears to support the wavefunction collapse theory, namely, observing the photon causes its wavefunction to collapse and assume a single value. If the detector replaces the screen and only views the atoms or photons after they have passed through the slits, once again, the interference pattern vanishes and we get only two slits of light or atoms. How can we explain this? In 1978, American theoretical physicist John Wheeler (1911–2008) proposed that observing the photon or atom after it passes through the slit would ultimately determine if the photon or atom acts like a wave or particle. If you attempt to observe the photon or atom, or in any way collect data regarding either one’s behavior, the interference pattern vanishes, and you only get two slits of photons or atoms. In 1984, Carroll Alley, Oleg Jakubowicz, and William Wickes proved this experimentally at the University of Maryland. This is the “delayed-choice experiment.” Somehow, in measuring the future state of the photon, the results were able to influence their behavior at the slits. In effect, we are twisting the arrow of time, causing the future to influence the past. Numerous additional experiments confirm this result. Let us pause here and be perfectly clear. Measuring the future state of the photon after it has gone through the slits causes the interference pattern to vanish. Somehow, a measurement in the future is able to reach back into the past and cause the photons to behave differently. In this case, the measurement of the photon causes its wave nature to vanish (i.e., collapse) even after it has gone through the slit. The photon now acts like a particle, not a wave. This paradox is clear evidence that a future action can reach back and change the past. http://www.louisdelmonte.com/a-classic-time-travel-paradox-double-slit-experiment-demonstrates-reverse-causality/ "If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded." Asher Peres, Delayed choice for entanglement swapping. J. Mod. Opt. 47, 139-143 (2000). Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past - April 23, 2012 Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a "Gedankenexperiment" called "delayed-choice entanglement swapping", formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice's and Bob's photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice's and Bob's photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor's choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. "We found that whether Alice's and Bob's photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured", explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study. According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as "spooky action at a distance". The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. "Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events", says Anton Zeilinger. http://phys.org/news/2012-04-quantum-physics-mimics-spooky-action.html
Besides undermining Le Conte's 'far more certain' belief in 'successive events in time (causation)', the Delayed Choice experiment also undermined Le Conte's 'lesser certainty' in "coexistent objects in space (gravitation)". In the following experiment it was found that, “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,”.
New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It - June 3, 2015 Excerpt: Some particles, such as photons or electrons, can behave both as particles and as waves. Here comes a question of what exactly makes a photon or an electron act either as a particle or a wave. This is what Wheeler’s experiment asks: at what point does an object ‘decide’? The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts. “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,, “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said. Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer. http://themindunleashed.org/2015/06/new-mind-blowing-experiment-confirms-that-reality-doesnt-exist-if-you-are-not-looking-at-it.html
,, For something to be 'coexistent in space' it would 'certainly' seem to be a prerequisite that the object must first exist somewhere in space in the first place independently of whether anyone is observing it or not.
“No phenomenon is a physical phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.” — John Wheeler Quoted in Robert J. Scully, The Demon and the Quantum (2007), 191
Of related note is the falsification, by quantum mechanics, of Einstein's apriori 'materialistic' notions of what was possible for experimental physics:
Albert Einstein vs. Quantum Mechanics and His Own Mind – video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxFFtZ301j4
From Sarah Chaffee and Granville Sewell at The Spectator:
Err, no. It's published by <a href="
">The American Spectator, not The Spectator.
Bob O'H
Confused ID critic Joshua Swamidass came through here recently saying the same thing about biogenesis. It is an axiom, he says, no longer a hypothesis. Not only does it not need evidence to be installed as scientific fact, but it is wholly immune to the universal evidence against it. This is not the science I was taught to respect as a child, and it seems hopeless that anyone close to the levers of power care that they are losing (have lost) me. I ask the question, at some point in the future mankind will be able to create a completely novel biological organism. When that time comes, will it matter to anyone that they won’t be able to do it unless they install a code (symbol system) in order to make it work? Will they merely look the other way as someone slips in a little Turing, Von Neumann, and Pierce into the system? Will they assure the population that this is how it all happened without intelligence? Will it be legal to disagree? Upright BiPed
Latemarch, First, this is the part of the Spectator piece I was objecting to:
Finally, we understand. The law of gravity is a “contingent” truth. We believe it only as long as the evidence supports it. The theory of evolution is a “necessary” truth. It is not contingent on supporting evidence. Fossil forms appear in temporal succession in the layered records of the ancient earth. Therefore they must have evolved by a natural process, namely Darwinian natural selection.
Le Conte is clearly not talking exclusively about "Darwinism" here. Now whether the fossil record is consistent with continuity, I'll leave to those with more expertise. daveS
From Le Conte:
....but evolution as a law of derivation of forms from previous forms; evolution as a law of continuity, as a universal law of becoming.
Except the fossil record does not show continuity and neither do extant organisms today. Where does that leave the argument? Latemarch
LeConte says that the nexus of successive objects in time is more certain than the nexus of successive objects in space, but didn't Einstein show that space and time were linked, relatively? cmow
FYI, Firefox is refusing to link to the links, claiming that UD's domain has an 'expired SSL certificate'. I don't know if this is true, since Firefox has a habit of issuing false alarms about "security"... but it might be worth noting. polistra
The Le Conte quote seems to be lacking some context. The full text is here. A fuller excerpt, with some bolding:
Thus much, we believe, will be generally admitted as a very moderate claim. Evolution is certainly a legitimate induction from the facts of biology. But we are prepared to go much further. We are confident that evolution is absolutely certain. Not, indeed, evolution as a special theory---Lamarckian, Darwinian, Spencerian---for these are all more or less successful modes of explaining evolution; nor evolution as a school of thought, with its following of disciples—for in this sense it is still in the field of discussion—but evolution as a law of derivation of forms from previous forms; evolution as a law of continuity, as a universal law of becoming. In this sense it is not only certain, it is axiomatic. It is only necessary to conceive it clearly, to see that it is a necessary truth. This may seem paradoxical to some. I stop to justify it. Physical phenomena we all admit follow one another in unbroken succession, each derived from a preceding, and giving origin to a succeeding. We call this the law of causation, and say that it is axiomatic. We might call it a law of derivation. So also organic forms follow one another in continuous chain, each derived from a preceding and giving origin to a succeeding. We call this a law of derivation. We might call it a law of causation, and say that it too is axiomatic. The origins of new phenomena are often obscure, even inexplicable, but we never think to doubt that they have a natural cause; for so to doubt is to doubt the validity of reason, and the rational constitution of Nature. So also the origins of new organic forms may be obscure or even inexplicable, but we ought not on that account to doubt that they had a natural cause, and came by a natural process; for so to doubt is also to doubt the validity of reason, and the rational constitution of organic Nature. The law of evolution is naught else than the scientific or, indeed, the rational mode of thinking about the origin of things in every department of Nature. In a word, it is naught else than the law of necessary causation applied to forms instead of phenomena. Evolution, therefore, is no longer a school of thought. The words evolutionism and evolutionist ought not any longer to be used, any more than gravitationism and gravitationist; for the law of evolution is as certain as the law of gravitation. Nay, it is far more certain. The nexus between successive events in time (causation) is far more certain than the nexus between coexistent objects in space (gravitation). The former is a necessary truth, the latter is usually classed as a contingent truth. I have used and may continue to use the term evolutionist, but if so it is only in deference to the views of many intelligent persons, who do not yet see the certainty of the law.

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