Intelligent Design

Eccentric social history: When dull conformists think they are cool

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This editorial from the Akron Beacon Journal – against allowing any student to know that Darwinism could be questioned on factual grounds – is an interesting bit of social history because it is complete boilerplate, beginning to end.

You can deduce a large proportion of the pieties of middle-class Americans (courts are right, professional bodies are right, organizations of “concerned scientists” are to be trusted … well, even when they are not right or trustworthy, they are actually right and trustworthy because it is NEVER right to allow oneself to be disturbed by thinking that they might be wrong or untrustworthy …. )

An intriguing fact about the times we live in is that, in my experience, the people who write sludge of this type often think of themselves as persons of daring, novel, intriguing, dangerous, or important ideas …

Did you know that there was a time – and I am old enough to remember the tail end of it – when people who had no novel ideas prided themselves on being good conformists – which was a fair assumption. That is to say, they prided themselves on a quality they really had.

Today, such people pride themselves on being good non-conformists for gurgling the treacle administered to them by an establishment.

The resulting language deficit hampers people who actually do have genuinely new or different ideas. Because everyone who thinks the establishment is right, also thinks he is innovative, the people who really do innovate don’t know what language to use to explain that they think the establishment could actually be wrong.

I was corresponding with a person who genuinely has interesting, new ideas in the history of life area, but he admitted to me that he had difficulty writing in the present climate.

The trouble is, everything old is new again, and everything new is old again. Only new ideas that are already old can be accepted.

I replied,

That is the real effect of political correctness and prescribed views. Sometimes they TELL you to bark along with the pack, but other times they merely surround you with the din created by the barking pack.

Such an environment withers independent thinking. Barking along with the pack comes to seem so natural – until you stop and realize that you are in fact barking, not speaking.

Well, he’ll manage. Oh, he’d better. Otherwise, you will all be hearing that dull sludge link, clink, and clank for decades.

15 Replies to “Eccentric social history: When dull conformists think they are cool

  1. 1
    BarryA says:

    Denyse, isn’t treacle too viscous to gurgle?

  2. 2
    O'Leary says:

    Well, I never said it would be fun or a useful enterprise. – Denyse

  3. 3
    Fross says:

    I’m assuming this post is talking about science, and science is a field where you can’t really get anywhere unless you stand on the shoulders of giants. I think to most scientists, the answers Darwin proposed have been so tested and refined that they feel comfortable to move further down the path and answer new questions. (because answers always lead to new questions) I think the novel ideas you are searching for do assume Darwin’s ideas as fact but they are truly novel ideas that constantly try to shed new light on biological diversity. I think the field most exciting right now is evo devo. I just wanted to point out that the novel ideas are there, they might not be what you expect, but they are there.

    Out of curiosity, what makes I.D. more novel today than it was 1,000 years ago?

  4. 4
    Carlos says:

    Fross,

    Out of curiosity, what makes I.D. more novel today than it was 1,000 years ago?

    There really wasn’t any ID 1,000 years ago. ID grows out of the empirical theology of the Enlightenment. It was a novel idea that the existence of God could be established on empirical, entirely a posteriori grounds. There would no longer be any need for a priori arguments, such as those used by Augustine, Aquinas, or even rationalists like Descartes. It was very exciting! Even if differences between “revealed religion” continued, at least we had “natural religion” and the argument from design to show us that reason and evidence would show us that there must be a Creator.

    Then someone had to come along and ruin it all for us: David Hume, in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

    Dembski pointed out that Hume’s arguments were rebutted by the Scottish “common sense” philosopher Thomas Reid. I suspect, but don’t know, that it was due to Reid that Hume’s criticisms of the argument from design weren’t widely appreciated, and that Paley could still make such arguments in 1802.

    Unfortunately for Paley, there was Darwin, and unfortunately for Darwin, there is Behe.

    Paley appealed to the complexity and intricacy of gross anatomical features, e.g. the eye. Darwinian thinkers showed that stepwise improvements, from light-detecting cells to simple eyes to more complex eyes, could account for such complexity.

    Enter Michael Behe. In brief, what Behe did is transpose the “complexity and intricacy” from the organism as a whole to the internal biochemistry of the cell. And those little suckers sure are pretty impressive. According to Behe, molecular biology has given the argument from design a new lease on life.

  5. 5
    Bob OH says:

    But, but… *splutter*

    One cannot gurgle treacle: the verb to gurgle is intransative. Did you mean gargle?

    Bob
    Nitpickers Inc.

  6. 6
    GilDodgen says:

    “According to Behe, molecular biology has given the argument from design a new lease on life.”

    Indeed it has. Anyone (e.g. Dawkins) can invent a hypothetical series of gross morphological changes to explain the evolution of the eye, but without a detailed description, supported by evidence, of how Darwinian mechanisms can account for the incremental genetic and biochemical manufacture of these morphological changes, all such speculations are superbly vacuous.

    In addition, the starting point, the light-sensitive spot, would be of no use, without colossally complex mechanisms that could transform photon collisions into neurological signals that could result in meaningful muscle movements.

    The problem with Darwinian mechanisms as an explanation for the evolutionary complexity of life is really not qualitatively different from the problem of the origin of life in the first place.

    They are both thoroughly mysterious and unexplained, and this should be admitted.

  7. 7
    Hawks says:

    GilDodgen wrote: “In addition, the starting point, the light-sensitive spot, would be of no use, without colossally complex mechanisms that could transform photon collisions into neurological signals that could result in meaningful muscle movements.”

    Ah, yes. The old “something cannot possibly have evolved unless it was for the sole purpose of doing what it is doing in modern organisms”, aka “something had to evolve the intricacies of whole biochemical pathways (including all its enzymes) all at once in one feel swoop” argument. It is very convincing.

  8. 8
    russ says:

    Ah, yes. The old “something cannot possibly have evolved unless it was for the sole purpose of doing what it is doing in modern organisms”, aka “something had to evolve the intricacies of whole biochemical pathways (including all its enzymes) all at once in one feel swoop” argument. It is very convincing.

    Comment by Hawks — September 12, 2006 @ 3:41 am

    Hawks, if Darwinists fill gaps with co-option, then isn’t it up to Darwinists to show that co-option could actually, realistically do what they imagined it has done? I keep hearing that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, but this maxim only seems to apply to ID, not to Darwinian speculations with no detail (i.e. content) whatsoever.

  9. 9
    Scott says:

    Out of curiosity, what makes I.D. more novel today than it was 1,000 years ago?

    -1 for not understanding that ID is based on data collected within the last 30 to 50 years.

    You see we can see inside the liliputian wonderland called the \\\”cell\\\” now. And we find software codes wrapped within codes, error protection mechanisms, transport shuttles, transcription, etc… etc… all the hallmarks of a designing intelligence.

    Steamboat-Era Darwinian ignorance won\\\’t suffice anymore. We have new data.

  10. 10
    platolives says:

    The gurgling became louder in the pieces fourth paragraph. I try not to gurgle….

  11. 11
    platolives says:

    Bob OH, sorry; gargling….

  12. 12
    P. Phillips says:

    Well, Denyse, you cannot expect parents and educators want their children to be corrupted by refuting or considering alternatives to Darwin?

    This may be about England, but it encompasses the West, and a threat as great as any terrorist, I believe:

    http://www.city-journal.org/ht.....-28td.html

    http://www.city-journal.org/ht....._05td.html

    And this:

    http://www.city-journal.org/ht.....to_be.html

    So of course, so long as students value money, sex, alcohol, and try to be “famous”, what more is needed? In seriousness, how do we combat this?

    Dalrymple wrote:

    # # # # # #

    Violent conflict, not confined to the home and hearth, spills out onto the streets. Moreover, I discovered that British cities such as my own even had torture chambers: run not by the government, as in dictatorships, but by those representatives of slum enterprise, the drug dealers. Young men and women in debt to drug dealers are kidnapped, taken to the torture chambers, tied to beds, and beaten or whipped. Of compunction there is none—only a residual fear of the consequences of going too far.

    Perhaps the most alarming feature of this low-level but endemic evil, the one that brings it close to the conception of original sin, is that it is unforced and spontaneous. No one requires people to commit it. In the worst dictatorships, some of the evil ordinary men and women do they do out of fear of not committing it. There, goodness requires heroism. In the Soviet Union in the 1930s, for example, a man who failed to report a political joke to the authorities was himself guilty of an offense that could lead to deportation or death. But in modern Britain, no such conditions exist: the government does not require citizens to behave as I have described and punish them if they do not. The evil is freely chosen.

    Not that the government is blameless in the matter—far from it. Intellectuals propounded the idea that man should be freed from the shackles of social convention and self-control, and the government, without any demand from below, enacted laws that promoted unrestrained behavior and created a welfare system that protected people from some of its economic consequences. When the barriers to evil are brought down, it flourishes; and never again will I be tempted to believe in the fundamental goodness of man, or that evil is something exceptional or alien to human nature.

    Of course, my personal experience is just that—personal experience. Admittedly, I have looked out at the social world of my city and my country from a peculiar and possibly unrepresentative vantage point, from a prison and from a hospital ward where practically all the patients have tried to kill themselves, or at least made suicidal gestures. But it is not small or slight personal experience, and each of my thousands, even scores of thousands, of cases has given me a window into the world in which that person lives.

    And when my mother asks me whether I am not in danger of letting my personal experience embitter me or cause me to look at the world through bile-colored spectacles, I ask her why she thinks that she, in common with all old people in Britain today, feels the need to be indoors by sundown or face the consequences, and why this should be the case in a country that within living memory was law-abiding and safe? Did she not herself tell me that, as a young woman during the blackouts in the Blitz, she felt perfectly safe, at least from the depredations of her fellow citizens, walking home in the pitch dark, and that it never occurred to her that she might be the victim of a crime, whereas nowadays she has only to put her nose out of her door at dusk for her to think of nothing else? Is it not true that her purse has been stolen twice in the last two years, in broad daylight, and is it not true that statistics—however manipulated by governments to put the best possible gloss upon them—bear out the accuracy of the conclusions that I have drawn from my personal experience? In 1921, the year of my mother’s birth, there was one crime recorded for every 370 inhabitants of England and Wales; 80 years later, it was one for every ten inhabitants. There has been a 12-fold increase since 1941 and an even greater increase in crimes of violence. So while personal experience is hardly a complete guide to social reality, the historical data certainly back up my impressions.

  13. 13
    David vun Kannon says:

    Denyse,

    Tell your correspondent to study the life and works of Barbara McClintock and Lynn Margulis. These brave scientists overcame exactly the same kind of prejudice against their ideas, but were eventually vindicated by careful field work and eventual replication of their work by other scientists.

  14. 14
    David vun Kannon says:

    Scott – why do you think evolutionary biologists are unaware of the inner workings of the cell? Why argue that the genetic code is an example of design if it isn’t a very good, or almost perfect design? If the code and transcription mechanisms are meant to preserve and transmit information perfectly, generation after generation, you could do better. (Hint – reading frame)

    However, if you think variation is your friend against a cruel and changing world, and you want to leave a legacy that lasts a billion years, then by all means mutate and duplicate and co-opt and engulf and do whatever it takes to be the last genome standing. If the genetic system is well designed to do something – that something is to evolve.

  15. 15
    O'Leary says:

    I expect that anyone whose throat is forced to accept treacle will gurgle rather than gargle, but I have never forced such a substance on anyone and bow to the expertise of those who may – for various reasons – know the truth by personal experience. I also think that Darwinism is sludge and that gagging is to be expected from those forced to ingest it, in full knowledge.

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