Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

It Used to be Funny . . .

      but now it's just sad, and rather annoying.

      The evolution "debate" comes up again, with the usual suspects proclaiming their open-mindendness, rationality, and devotion evidence means that only their side should be heard.

At Length:

      Bush was asked about the question in an interview with The Washington Post.  He said:
THE PRESIDENT: I think -- as I said, harking back to my days as my governor -- both you and Herman are doing a fine job of dragging me back to the past. (Laughter.) Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.

Q Both sides should be properly taught?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, people -- so people can understand what the debate is about.

Q So the answer accepts the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and I'm not suggesting -- you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.

      The reactions are interesting.  Glenn Reynolds calls Bush a "fair weather federalist", implying that he, Reynolds, is not.  Does that mean that Glenn's in favor of local school boards being able to choose their curriculum.  Would he take the issue out of the federal courts?  Somehow, this doesn't get addressed.  Instead, he decides on no evidence what kind of curriculum Bush would be in favor of.  By the way, according to a CBS poll, about 2/3 of the country want both Evolution and Creation taught in public schools.  As a staunch federalist, shouldn't Reynolds be supporting their right to choose their childrens' education?  Somehow, I've never seen any posts by him endorsing that position.

      John Cole has a load of ad hominem, and a lot of assertions without evidence.  Cole, by the way, approvingly quotes a commentator who says:
      The most critical and distinguishing feature of scientific theories is that they are vulnerable to evidence. The theory of evolution is a dramatic case in point. It makes stringent postdictions that rule out an enormous variety of otherwise possible observations. Just for instance, as Haldane points out, the discovery of a single fossil rabbit from the Precambrian era would constitute very strong evidence against evolution. Indeed, evolution is a viable scientific theory because no such clearly falsifying evidence has been discovered.

      Well, if you ever bothered to read any of the opponents of evolution, you'd find out that:

  • they usually distinguish between 'evolution' and 'Darwinism,' which is a specific theory about how evolution supposedly occurred (random variation and natural selection);

  • they make many arguments against Darwinism on evidentiary grounds;

  • the defenders of Darwinism take the view "Who're you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

      If Darwinism was true, there must have been many intermediate forms, as various species gradually changed into radically different species.  The invariable answer is that the intermediates existed, but somehow never get fossilised.    When Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge put forth the idea of punctuated equilibrium, the main reason, says Gould, was so they could have a theory of evolution that didn't conflict with the fossil record.  This is the science that is "vulnerable to evidence?"

      In 1966 or '67, a conference was held in Philadelphia, in which various mathematicians argued against Darwinism, and various Darwinists insisted that they KNEW the theory was true, so they didn't need to listen to arguments against it.  You can find the conference proceedings recorded in the book Mathematical challenges to the neo-Darwinian interpretation of evolution, edited by Paul S. Moorhead, and Martin M. Kaplan.  It was interesting that the only mention of religious faith was by the Darwinists, who insisted that an argument against Darwin had to be an argument FOR Creation.

      Oh, as for Haldane's point (and do you really want to use a Communist who was probably a Soviet intelligence agent as your model of intellectual integrity?), let me introduce you to the idea of "logical content."  I ran across this in Antony Flew's God and Philosophy.  Suppose someone says that they have a scientific theory that God exists.  You ask what evidence would disprove that theory.  They answer that 'if the sun doesn't rise tomorrow, that proves that God doesn't exist.'  The "logical content" of the theory is that the sun will rise tomorrow.  That 'evidence' has nothing to do with theism, unless you can show an inescapable logical connection from 'the sun rose' to 'God exists.'  The logical content of Haldane's observation is that there were no rabbits alive in the pre-Cambrian, and more broadly, that there has been a succession of life forms throughout the history of the earth.  Evolution is the theory that the ones that came later (like vertebrates) were descended from the radically different ones that existed before.  Darwinism is the theory that random, unguided variations occurred, natural selection led to progressive changes in certain direction, and eventually new life forms arose.  Haldane's observation is not evidence for evolution or Darwinism until you can establish that there is no other possible theory of why different species existed at different times.  Hereditary acquired characteristics, "hopeful monsters," independent birth, and multiple creations are among the alternative theories that have been proposed, so Haldane's argument fails.

      People like Reynolds and Cole always accuse opponents of evolution of really being theists who want to impose their religion on everyone.  Yet when anyone tries to raise non-religious objections to current Darwinian theory, it's the proponents of 'theories that can be disproved by evidence' who don't want any dissent.

      To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, if people don't wish to discuss an issue, the least they could do is shut up about it.



  • Wow, Steve. There's lots wrong with this post, but let's start with this one:

    "If Darwinism was true, there must have been many intermediate forms, as various species gradually changed into radically different species. The invariable answer is that the intermediates existed, but somehow never get fossilised. "

    No, if Darwinism is true, then *all* species are transitional. (i.e. species populations are always undergoing slow, gradual changes.)

    Thus every fossil is a transitional species. The only way to not have 'gaps' would be for every animal to be fossilized.

    The 'where's the transitional species' objection is just rhetorical trick akin to Zeno's paradox. (http://mathforum.org/isaac/problems/zeno1.html)

    e.g. say we have fossils A and B, and make a claim that B evolved from A.

    A -----------------------> B

    "What about the gap between A & B? Where's the transitionals?"

    Later, another fossil, C, is found, which fits neatly in the transition range:

    A ------------> C -------> B

    "But what about the AC gap? the CB gap? where the transition between A to C, or C to B?"

    And if many transitionals are then found:

    A -> D -> E -> C -> F -> G -> B

    The ID people just complain about all the gaps here. This isn't a serious argument.

    By Anonymous Lee Willis, at 9:52 AM  

  •       Sorry, Lee, but you're half right, and all wrong.

          Yes, if Darwinism is true, AND CHANGE IS CONTINUOUS (i.e., if "punctuated equilibrium" is false), all species are transitional.  But if all species are transitional, then you won't find the same species persisting for a million years.

          And that's what the the fossil record shows.  There are fish, and then, BANG!, suddenly there are amphibians.  There are various species of mammal X, mammal X exists with no discernable changes for hundreds of millenia, then PRESTO!, mammal X is gone, replaced by mammal Y.

          In short, the fossil record does not show what you assert it shows, and what, according to Darwin, it should show.  Instead, it shows


          And as the gaps are filled in, you get more As, and more Bs, but hardly ever anything that looks like a transitional species.

          This fits well with Gould & Eldredge's punctuated equilibrium theory", and even better with Goldschmit's "hopeful monster" theory, but it doesn't fit with Darwinism as the man created it, or neo-Darwinism as Haldane et al reformulated it to fit with early 20th century genetics.

          And so the 'science' of darwinism remains: 'If the evidence doesn't fit, it can be ignored.  What's important is that we have a "scientific" theory of the origins and diversity of life, "scientific" being defined as "one that is 100% materialistic." '

          Personally, I want an explanation of the origins and diversity of life that is true, and one thing a true theory must do is fit with all the evidence.  So far I haven't found a theory of the origins and diversity of life that is satisfactory.

          But then, I seem to be highly atypical in that lacking such a theory does not leave me intellectually unsatisfied.

          Oh, btw Lee, I have read some Intelligen Design literature, and while I don't find it convincing, I don't remember it resembling your description, either.  This leads me to suspect that you don't actually bother to read opposing views.


    By Blogger Stephen M. St. Onge, at 8:50 AM  

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