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From The Best Schools: James Barham replies to James Shapiro

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Remember how The Best Schools’ philosopher James Barham got himself criticized by self-organization theorist James Shapiro ( himself a target of Darwinists like Jerry Coyne for his doubts about Darwin?)

Barham has replied to Shapiro, saying that he thinks that Shapiro and he are in broad agreement: here.

What is important is that we get very clear about two things:

(a) If novel phenotypic traits are produced by means of natural genetic engineering, then the main creative force in evolution resides is this remarkable process, and not in natural selection.

(b) If natural selection cannot explain natural genetic engineering, then we must seek the explanation somewhere else.

Shapiro is admirably clear on the first point. Indeed, though many scientists are currently attempting to see past Darwin, he is one of the few who are willing to stand up to the bullying of the entrenched Darwinist establishment, and call a spade a spade.

However, Shapiro is strangely reluctant to affirm the second point. For example, he writes: …

More. The difficulty Shapiro faces is this: Standing up to the entrenched institutional power of Darwinism is not a solution to any problem other than obsessive demands for support for an untenable view of life (cf Ben Carson  controversy).

Beyond that, leaving Darwinism is simply giving oneself permission to think. And that includes patiently rethinking a number of questions, like the one Barham revisits, around “vitalism” or emergent properties. It’s no use blaming him for raising such questions. They are part of the landscape, and truer understandings of nature may follow from carefully reconsidering them. Which is now legal.

Note: The Darwinists will be out to get Shapiro now no matter what he does, so he may as well do what he thinks wise.

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5 Replies to “From The Best Schools: James Barham replies to James Shapiro

  1. 1
    Neil Rickert says:

    I have the impression that Professor Shapiro and I are in broad agreement and that the apparent difference of opinion between us is largely verbal.

    Barham says “vitalism” or “emergentism” while Shapiro says “natural”. It seems to me that they are in serious disagreement.

    On the one hand, he claims—quite correctly—that the empirical facts about bacterial genetic recombination undermine the claim fundamental to Darwinism that novel traits are generated at random.

    I see that as a misunderstanding of evolution, though perhaps that misunderstanding is shared by Shapiro. Neo-Darwinism says that mutations are random. It does not say that novel traits are random.

    But I maintain there is another, perfectly legitimate sense in which the term may be used—namely, to refer to the claim that living things have properties and causal powers arising from within that are more than the sum of the properties and powers of the inanimate parts of which they are composed.

    I’ll add my own comment here. I don’t see living things as made of inanimate parts. Rather, I see them as made of processes. Those processes make use of inanimate parts, but we should see living things as made of processes rather than as made of atoms. Most of the atoms will be gone after a while, replaced by different atoms. It is with the processes, rather than the inanimate parts that we find the continuity we identify as living things.

  2. 2
    Gregory says:

    Just curious, Neil, have you ever considered what ‘processism,’ i.e. the ideology that thinks everything is a process, means for your pov? Do you consider yourself a processist or do you allow for ‘origins’ in addition to ‘processes’ in regard to life vs. non-life?

  3. 3
    Joe says:

    Neo-Darwinism says that mutations are random. It does not say that novel traits are random.

    What does it say about novel traits?

  4. 4
    Jon Garvey says:

    “Barham says “vitalism” or “emergentism” while Shapiro says “natural”. It seems to me that they are in serious disagreement.”

    Sounds like you haven’t read either. They seem in comparable places from my reading, though addressing different things.

    If I had a pound for everyone I’ve heard accused of not understanding evolution, I’d be very rich. In Shapiro’s case it must be a really, really complicated theory if he still hasn’t understood it after 40 years or so researching it. And yet its appeal is its simplicity. Odd that.

  5. 5
    Neil Rickert says:

    Just curious, Neil, have you ever considered what ‘processism,’ i.e. the ideology that thinks everything is a process, means for your pov?

    I have not suggested that everything is a process.

    On the origin of life question, I consider that to be still an open problem.

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