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Darwinism and high culture: “Exactly why we do things this way is never a question that is asked”


Commenting on the fact that scientists are typically poorly trained in philosophy of science, one friend remarks,

As a Ph.D. student in biology I was actively discouraged from taking courses in philosophy — or, for that matter, any courses outside my department, including evolution. My adviser’s attitude was that I should focus exclusively on my own specialty.

This wouldn’t be a problem except that folklore counts for wisdom among the ignorant. You know, “Europeans in Columbus’s day believed the Earth was flat,” and all that stuff is retailed as if it were fact.

Probe’s Ray Bohlin, who has a degree in molecular biology, also writes to tell me

I have been saying for years that most of our science PhDs, especially in biology of which I am one, are little more than highly trained technicians. We know how to design an experiment, interpret the results and figure out what the next step is.

Exactly why we do things this way is never a question that is asked. My mind was only trained to design experiments and interpret results. What philosophy I have learned has come from my own amateur study. But I understand far more than just about any evolutionary biologist I have ever had a conversation with.

And that’s pretty scary. It’s also why we don’t make much headway in this ID/evolution conversation. Most evolutionists really believe they are interpreting the evidence objectively with no or little bias. They literally can’t see the forest for the trees. They see the details but not the bigger picture.

In the DI podcast I was featured in a few weeks ago I elated how over two years my evolutionary biologist supervisor eventually was able to see the data from my perspective and could see how it could fit together for me. He still thought I was wrong, but he could see my view. Several years later he told me as an aside that all the data coming from cell biology as making it harder and harder to see how all that could have come about by chance (around 1984). I believe the reason was because he could now compare and contrast two different philosophical grids when interpreting new data.

Suddenly he could see that some things would be better explained through my lens and not his. Before he only had a naturalistic grid. Everything had to fit. Once another grid was available, even though he thought it was in error, a comparison could now be made.

But it took two years of close contact and working together.

Wow. You are lucky you weren’t bounced from the program, Ray, for interpreting data as if evidence mattered, instead of just shoring up the theory. I wonder if a person in your position would be as safe today. The word I hear on the street is no.

I don’t think anything will change in some places until they run out of sand to bury their heads in.

Also at The Post-Darwinist:

Startling idea for a debate: Evidence really matters

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Post-modernism the key threat? (And don’t miss Achmed the Dead Terrorist!)

Michael Behe and Darwin’s big theory

Christian mathematician John Lennox vs. former Christian science writer Michael Shermer, on God, design, and all that

ssalazar76 Evidently you need less documentation of citizenship to become a U.S. senator than you do to get a job picking strawberries in California. DaveScot
I'm just wondering if Obama is not legal to be a Presidential Candidate, how did he get this far? Aren't there forms and legal documentation required to become Senator? I thought it was required to show documentation for any type of public office. Go McCain! Concerned in Texas, Sada ssalazar76
This is an interesting phenomenon in that it is not only cross discipline study that is stifled but that even within a single discipline schools of thought, or differing methodologies, clash. Consider the words of Hannes Alfvén: “Contrary to almost all astrophysicists my education had taken place in a laboratory…Instead of treating hydromagnetic equations I prefer to sit and ride on each electron and ion and try to imagine what the world is like from its point of view and what forces push them to the left or to the right. This has been a great advantage because it gives me a possibility to approach the phenomena from another point than most astrophysicists do, and it is always fruitful to look at any phenomenon under two different points of view. On the other hand it has given me a serious disadvantage. When I describe the phenomena according to this formalism most referees do not understand what I say and turn down my papers. With the referee system which rules US science today, this means that my papers rarely are accepted by the leading US journals. Europe, including the Soviet Union, and Japan are more tolerant of dissidents… What is more remarkable and regrettable is that it seems to be almost impossible to start a serious discussion between E [a very strong Establishment] and D [a small group of Dissidents]. As a dissident is in a very unpleasant situation, I am sure that D would be very glad to change their views as soon as E gives convincing arguments. But the argument ‘all knowledgeable people agree that…’ (with the tacit addition that by not agreeing you demonstrate that you are a crank) is not a valid argument in science. If scientific issues always were decided by Gallup polls and not by scientific arguments science will very soon be petrified forever.” But what was Alfvén’s crime against science? Was he one of those crazy creationists or wacky ID proponents? No, the issue was cosmic rays and whether they were a galactic phenomenon or subject to heliospheric confinement. This was printed as “Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist” in American Scientist 76(3):251, May-June 1988, pp. 250-251, reprinted from Early History of Cosmic Ray Studies, ed. Y. Sekido and H. Elliot, pp. 421, 427-31 The editors of American Scientist made the following comments about Alfvén’s statements, “Alfvén’s anecdotes remind us how personalities influence ideas, and his irreverent comments about peer review are as relevant today as they ever were.” aDios, Mariano rddbug

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