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Will Darwin’s last refuge be popular media?

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Christian commentator Dinesh D’Souza has recently been arguing that the real problem with Darwinism in the classroom is that it is used to promote atheism. Today,

I noticed he had an interesting item in TotheSource, which is not yet archived, talking about Darwin’s own agnosticism-bordering-on-atheism. I have elsewhere pointed out that Darwinism has always been sold primarily as the creation story of atheism.

And with good reason. If we survey the patterns in the actual history of life from the Ediacaran period to the present, given what we know today, it is most unlikely that we would credit Darwin’s theory of natural selection acting on random mutations with explaining how most of it happened.
That is why I was somewhat impatient with D’Souza’s contention that we need only prevent people from using Darwinism as a tool of atheism and everything will be fine. (See “Earth to planet D’Souza.”*)

The reality is that right now, scientists seem to be trying to dump Darwin’s theory as a theory of everything in biology, yet the secular chants of praise for Darwin have increased in volume in the popular media – competing with a flood tide of nonsense from evolutionary psychologists, flogging to journals material that, if only it were well written and a little more plausible, might have morphed into saleable “Clan of the Cave Bear” fiction. For that sort of thing, Darwin’s theory is far more essential than it is for biology.

Just up at Design of Life blog

Fossil fish find reveals that live birth is ancient, not modern. Live-bearing fish is from 380 million years ago.

Platypus genome a patchwork of mammal, reptile, and bird, like the platypus itself

Mantis shrimp can see colours unknown to humans, researchers find

Cambrian food webs similar to webs observed today

Can science be unbiased?

(Many biologists and science historians have been attacked as “anti-science” for challenging scientists’ basic assumptions about themselves and their work, whatever the reason for the challenge. The ID controversy, however heated, is not the only controversy or even the first where one side was labelled “anti-science.” )

Just up at the Overwhelming Evidence blog

The way it ain’t: Photoshopping hits the science journals

Intelligent design rockumentary – warning: NOT approved by anyone – and other free stuff

Think TV: Reverend and lawyer duke it out over evolution in the schools

Flying Spaghetti Monster’s creator authors a “gospel”: Make his without meat

Louisiana academic freedom bill – some chuckles and interesting links

*Of course, the fact that D’Souza said nice things about my co-authored book The Spiritual Brain mollified me somewhat, as you can imagine.

I remember predicting this would be found:
Platypus genome a patchwork of mammal, reptile, and bird, like the platypus itself
I think the platypus can be used as a strong argument for front-loading of some type and/or the designed reuse of information. The key is that you shouldn’t expect to find the same information being used in divergent lines from a Darwinian viewpoint if they’re geographically isolated. So we look at creatures that are supposed to examples of "convergent evolution" and look for information reuse. But I think it would help the conversation to differentiate between Darwinian Common Descent and Common Descent compatible with ID hypotheses (which is fine with the above picture). Also, to show how badly the Darwinists are doing with their predictions, the chromosomal sex determination in the platypus was previously discovered to be a combination of mammal and bird systems. Now we have this evidence. Yet TalkOrigins says: “birds are thought to have evolved from dinosaurs in the Jurassic about 150 million years ago, and that mammals are thought to have evolved from a reptile-like group of animals called the therapsids in the Triassic about 220 million years ago. No competent evolutionist has ever claimed that platypuses are a link between birds and mammals.” Often the the convergent evolution storytelling card is played…you’d think Darwinist would have run out of cards in that deck by now. My previous thoughts reposted:
Common descent from a single LUCA may be true itself but the historical narratives we have now may not be true themselves. Some ideas like land mammals to whales may have never existed (or persisted to this day) if the bearded buddha had never posited his bear story. If front-loading and universal common descent are both true then why couldn’t the whale have evolved entirely in the ocean and received the mammal-like features from internal information? ... . I have my personal preferences but I also have no problems with multiple LUCAs and other narratives. Directed panspermia (front-loading with no further design interaction), intelligent evolution, progressive creation, separate creation (possibly combined with more limited front-loading), it doesn’t matter. As long as intelligence is involved as the data shows and the evidence is compatible with a scenario.
O'Leary said (#7) --
Good points all, Larry, but check out the Altenberg meeting, story link above - I think they sense that the dam is bursting and are finally trying to do damage control.
The Altenberg meeting was mainly about natural selection whereas I was responding to your following statement in the original post: "The reality is that right now, scientists seem to be trying to dump Darwin’s theory as a theory of everything in biology." The article about the Altenberg meeting says,
A central issue in making a new theory of evolution is how large a role natural selection , which has come to mean the weeding out of traits that don't favor survival, gets to play.
Another statement of that notion that Darwin's theory is "a theory of everything in biology" is the Florida state science standards' statement that evolution is "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology." In the article titled, "Why Pigs Don't Have Wings", Jerry Fodor said of that notion,
It wouldn’t be unreasonable for a biologist of the Darwinist persuasion to argue like this: ‘Bother conceptual issues and bother those who raise them. We can’t do without biology and biology can’t do without Darwinism. So Darwinism must be true.’ Darwinists do often argue this way; and the fear of hyperbole seems not to inhibit them. The biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky said that nothing in biology makes sense without Darwinism, and he is widely paraphrased. The philosopher Daniel Dennett says that ‘in a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law.’ (Phew!) Richard Dawkins says, ‘If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilisation, is: “Have they discovered evolution yet?”’ Well, if adaptationism really is the only game in town, if the rest of biology really does presuppose it, we had better cleave to it warts and all. What is indispensable therefore cannot be dispensed with, as Wittgenstein might have said. The breaking news, however, is that serious alternatives to adaptationism have begun to emerge; ones that preserve the essential claim that phenotypes evolve, but depart to one degree or other from Darwin’s theory that natural selection is the mechanism by which they do.
BTW, my arguments about co-evolution concern natural selection -- in fact, I call those arguments a "non-ID criticism of evolution." The Florida Citizens for Science found my ideas about co-evolution to be so threatening that I was banned from discussing them on the FCS blog. My ideas about co-evolution are discussed on my blog in articles under the post label "Non-ID criticisms of evolution". Larry Fafarman
Gil, As someone who's very close to Dinesh's viewpoint (though I wouldn't speak for him), I'd guess that he wouldn't buy the line that 'darwinian mechanisms are unguided'. Questions of guidance or purposefulness would be questions relegated to philosophy, leaving only the mechanisms themselves behind. In fact, that seems to be what Dinesh specifically rails against - he knows that if ID is drummed out on account of it dealing with questions science can't tackle, so too must claims 'purposeless' and 'unplanned'. I don't think 'avoiding stigma' is quite the guy's game either. He does have quite a rep in that regard. nullasalus
D'Souza is an enigma. He must have been thoroughly indoctrinated at some point to believe that Darwinian mechanisms really do account for life. Since Darwinian mechanisms are by definition unguided, unplanned, and ultimately purposeless, it is difficult to understand how he can reconcile this with his Christian theology. Perhaps he just wants to avoid the inevitable ridicule that accompanies an association with ID, or perhaps he is just willfully ignorant. GilDodgen
The problem with citing the Altenberg meeting is that all of them believe in naturalistic processes for evolution, just not strict traditional mutation and selection processes. All they are doing is adding new naturalistic processes that expand traditional Darwinism. They are not getting rid of selection at all. One of the major critics of traditional Darwinism is the book by Jablonka and Lamb and they refer to selection on nearly every other page as a process that explains how things happened. So getting rid of traditional Darwinism for a more sophisticated naturalistic mechanistic paradigm or synthesis does not move the ball forward very much if at all. We can sit on the sidelines and throw arrows at the new synthesis whatever it may turn out to be but the game will be the same. Darwin will still be the hero because he started it all and it is his basic process that will still rule supreme. No one is getting rid of variation and selection. jerry
Good points all, Larry, but check out the Altenberg meeting, story link above - I think they sense that the dam is bursting and are finally trying to do damage control. As I told an evolutionary biologist years ago, I won't take them seriously until they start denouncng the "evolutionary psychologists" efforts to reclassify Clan of the Cave Bear Tales as NON-fiction. Often, evo bios will admit to ME that that stuff is nonsense, but they seldom say so in public. I am, of course, always happy to cover instances where they do. O'Leary
I think Darwin's last safehouse will be the seminaries. I think the media will boot him long before the seminaries or teachers' colleges. I think that the teachers' colleges will follow the media and Darwin may die of old age in the seminaries. thogan
Darwin and Atheism An Atheist Creation Story bevets
Denyse O'Leary said in the original post,
The reality is that right now, scientists seem to be trying to dump Darwin’s theory as a theory of everything in biology
I disagree. For example, the new Florida state standards for science education say that evolution is "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology." That statement is absurd, but it was recently written by scientists and science educators. Dinesh D'Souza said,
Textbooks by biologists like William Provine and Richard Dawkins routinely assert that evolution has done away with the need for God.
I have seen no evidence that either William Provine or Richard Dawkins ever wrote a biology textbook used by K-12 public schools. However, Casey Luskin gave the following excerpts from biology textbooks written by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine:
(4)“[E]volution works without either plan or purpose … Evolution is random and undirected.” (Biology, by Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph S. Levine, pg. 658 (4th edition, Prentice Hall, 1998); emphasis in original) . . . . . (6) "Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless--a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us." (Biology: Discovering Life, by Joseph S. Levine & Kenneth R. Miller (2nd edition, D.C. Heath and Co., 1994), p. 161; emphasis in original) To Miller's credit, the latest editions of his textbook do not seem to contain such anti-theological language. But if Ken Miller has published 11 textbook versions, then it remains the case that more than half (6 / 11) of his textbooks have contained theologically charged language like evolution is "purposeless," "heartless," "required believing in philophical materialism," "random," "undirected," or "works without either plan or purpose" because it is implied there is "no divine plan."
So it was the textbooks of Miller and Levine that -- in the words of Dinesh D'Souza -- "assert that evolution has done away with the need for God." Larry Fafarman
Indeed, as ironic as it may seem the media might be the last people to make the conversion to reality when it comes to the question of origins. ...competing with a flood tide of nonsense from evolutionary psychologists No kidding, you know there was a story in Psychology Today that seemed really desperate to explain how such a trait persists by evolutionary means. I thought the FULL article was laughable. Intelligent design rockumentary - warning: NOT approved by anyone - and other free stuff I've been policing that video under the name "Alternate2GOP." Aside from the fact that such a name draws attention, it also appears a lot more often when someone decides to trash talk views that dissent from Darwinism. I know it's wrong but I can't help but turn videos like that into a battleground. :D It is interesting to see the intellectual contradictions of those in the academy who embrace Darwinism but reject competition and capitalism as evil. Very interesting indeed. I live in the northwest and see a similar phenomenon at various universities I go to. F2XL
The problem is that Darwin's ideas work great but not where it really counts in macro evolution. Essentially at its very core, Darwin's idea is one of competition and as such is embraced by all who believe that competition leads to newer more complicated and more functional things. So societies, businesses, sports, etc. all lead to more sophisticated versions through competition and knowledge. It is such an obvious idea and is the basis for acceptance of Darwin by the general public. It is interesting to see the intellectual contradictions of those in the academy who embrace Darwinism but reject competition and capitalism as evil. jerry
Your link on Photoshopping reports common examples of design detection clearly recognized by scientific journals: Journals Find Fakery in Many Images Submitted to Support Research, By JEFFREY R. YOUNG, J. Higher Ed. May 29, 2008
So far the journal's editors have identified 250 papers with questionable figures. Out of those, 25 were rejected because the editors determined the alterations affected the data's interpretation.
The Office of Research Integrity says that 44 percent of its cases in 2005-6 involved accusations of image fraud, compared with about 6 percent a decade earlier.
Mr. Farid, of Dartmouth, has developed software tools that can automatically check for image tampering. The software looks for patterns in the digital code underlying an image. When files are opened and altered in Photoshop, for instance, codes are added that Mr. Farid's software can detect. Likewise, when scientists copy and paste parts of images in any software programs, their actions leave a digital mark. "No matter how good you are at it, there's always going to be some trace left behind," he says.

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