David W. Gibson asks some interesting questions in a comment to johnnyb’s last post. First, he writes concerning Darwinism: “How could it ever have come to pass that tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after decades of detailed study, could STILL fall victim to the ‘transparently ludicrous’?”
Let me answer this question by referring to a couple of similar examples from hisotry.
In the second century Ptolemy devised his system of cosmology. In this system each planet moves along a “deferent” and an “epicycle.” The planet’s movement along these two paths cause it to move closer to and further away from the earth. For the system to work, the planets sometimes had to slow down, stop, and even move backwards.
Tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world ascribed to Ptolemy’s cosmology from the publication of Almagest around 150 until well after the publication of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543.
But this system of deferents and epicycles is “transparently ludicrous” you say. And so it is in retrospect. Nevertheless it reigned nearly unchallenged for well over 1,000 years.
Here’s another example. Humorism. “This theory holds that the human body was filled with four basic substances, called humors, which are in balance when a person is healthy, and all diseases and disabilities result from an excess or deficit of one of these four humors. These deficits could be caused by vapors that were inhaled or absorbed by the body. The four humors were black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood.” Wikipedia.
Humorism was the prevailing medical orthodoxy from the time of Galen (circa 150 AD). It was not definitively displaced until 1858 when Rudolf Virchow published his work on cellular pathology.
Your phrase “transparently ludicrous” comes readily to mind when we think about humorism now. Yet it was the prevailing orthodoxy among tens of thousands of brilliant medical practitioners for nearly 2,000 years.
Now suppose one of Copernicus’ critics (and he had many; his theory was not accepted immediately) had said, “Hey Copernicus, how could it ever have come to pass that tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after 1,393 years of detailed study, could still fall victim to a theory of cosmology that, if you are correct, is transparently ludicrous?”
Or suppose one of Virchow’s critics had said, “Hey wait a minute! How could it ever have come to pass that tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after nearly 2,000 years of detailed study, could still fall victim to a theory of medicine that, if you are correct, is transparently ludicrous?”
I will put it to you David. How should Copernicus or Virchow have answered those questions?
Finally you write: “Centuries of scientific progress can only be explained by mass insanity. Does that work for you?”
First, I don’t know where you get “centuries.” Origin was published in 1859. That’s 153 years ago by my count. Darwin has over 1,000 years to go before he reaches the same status as Ptolemy or Galen based on mere “age of the theory.”
Second, “mass insanity” is a nice strawman. No one has suggested that someone who believes in Darwinism is insane. They are simply wrong.
Were all cosmologists from Ptolemy to Copernicus insane? No, they were simply wrong.
Were all doctors from Galen to Virchow insane? No, they were simply wrong.
The essence of your argument for Darwinism is: “All the smart people believe it; it must be true.” I hope you understand now that that argument is not as airtight as you seem to think it is.