Recently, I wrote about philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci sputtering about the new ideas-challenged campuses. He’s on the right side, for sure, but why does he have such difficulty calling the new ‘Shut up, they explained’ culture what it is: Mediocrities with tenure, thugs in office, and cowards on the Board?
Meanwhile, Casey Luskin responds to Pigliucci’s critique of Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution, at Centre for Science and Culture. In 2002, Wells had the temerity/misfortune to be among the first well-qualified persons to talk openly about the vast, rotting mass of received doctrine about origin of life and evolution. That mass is currently shovelled at biology students, in exchange for a diploma or degree, which they need to make a living in say, nursing or physiotherapy.
In its current state evolution studies is a bully pulpit for ideological thugs and PC dimwits, and a disaster to serious inquiry. Wells, no stranger to conflict, to judge from his biography, took it on. Just about every Darwin troll on the planet stood against him. That he has endured is remarkable.
Anyway, Pigliucci, despite his own doubts about Darwinism, did his share against Wells in a 2002 book, leading with somewhat confused bluster, as this excerpt will show:
Icon 1: The Miller-Urey Experiment
Here, Pigliucci correctly states Jonathan Wells’s argument, namely that the Miller-Urey experiment “was based on an incorrect hypothesis concerning the chemical composition of the early earth.” (Denying Evolution, p. 252) Pigliucci says that Wells is wrong because “The origin of life is not a field of research within evolutionary biology.” (p. 253) That may be true, but Wells never claims otherwise. His book is a critique of how evolution is taught in textbooks, and since most textbooks teach about the Miller-Urey experiment, often calling it evidence of “chemical evolution.” Therefore, it is legitimate for Wells to discuss the origin of life in a book about “evolution,” and Pigliucci’s comments don’t touch upon Wells’s arguments.
Pigliucci acknowledges that “Scientists still disagree on the composition of the early atmosphere” — basically conceding one of Wells’s central points. The problem, Wells explains, is that textbooks often discuss the Miller-Urey experiment as if it was valid, when in fact there are many scientists who feel it is irrelevant to conditions on the early Earth. Finally, Pigliucci states, “The origin-of-life field is not in disarray as Wells implies” and instead “new hypotheses and experiments are being produced at a rapid pace.” This seems like an odd statement to me, given that the very next year Pigliucci admitted:
We really don’t have a clue how life originated on Earth by natural means.
(Massimo Pigliucci, Where Are We Going?, page 196, in Stephen C. Meyer and John Angus Campbell, eds., Darwin Design and Public Education (East Lansing Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 2003).)
Given this admission from Pigliucci, it’s safe to say that Wells isn’t off-base to question the adequacy of theories of chemical evolution. More.
If getting to the bottom of a problem mattered, Wells wouldn’t be off-base in anything he said in Icons. But Pigliucci belongs to a culture where one is strictly limited in how seriously one can take the fact that the system is rotten. Wells doesn’t. That is the true difference.
If getting tenure for shoving more of the mass at student debt-serfs is the goal, Wells is a dire enemy, no doubt about it.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (origin of life) for why origin of life studies are not going anywhere.
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