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Atheist philosophers dissenting from Darwin … what they are really saying …

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O’Leary/ Bencze

Thinking of materialists Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini or non-materialist Thomas Nagel (and have doubtless missed some in both categories, sorry): Just because they write against Darwinism, doesn’t mean they are necessarily “moving toward faith.”

Maybe they are, I dunno. But unless you think that Darwinism is the central plank of atheism, that’s not why they are writing those books.

They are saying that Darwin’s theory (whether someone wants to call it neo-Darwinism instead or claim to not be “that kind of Darwinist” or whatever) has maxed out its value in the world of ideas.

I think that evolutionary psychology and evolutionary medicine were presumptive evidence of that fact, without any further books, but never mind.

The problem isn’t that these “fields” exist, but that—given the assumptions that Darwinism enforces—there is no way of controlling their outpour of nonsense. No one even tries.

And when a discipline has no discipline, it is not a discipline any more. It no longer matters how many organizations and institutions and governments and learned societies sign on and sound off —or get people fired or pass laws against their views—intellectually, it is just over.

And these guys are, by temperament, stuck with the intellectual life, which they understandably want to live and can no longer live under the constraints that cultural Darwinism requires. There was atheism before Darwin, and will doubtless be after him.

That is what I hear them saying. Thoughts? – O’Leary

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12 Responses to Atheist philosophers dissenting from Darwin … what they are really saying …

  1. 1

    James Barham is another good one. Not quite as critical of Neo-Darwinism as the others, but an Atheist skeptic of the Modern Synthesis all the same.

  2. Let’s not forget some other notable non-Theistic Dissenters from neo-Darwinism,,,

    Evidence for Creation now banned from UK religious education classes – July 2012
    Excerpt: Recently, evolutionist Suzan Mazur published a book entitled, The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry.,, The Altenberg 16 is a group of top university academics who met together at a symposium held at Altenberg in Austria in 2008. According to Mazur, these leading evolutionary scientists ‘recognize that the theory of evolution which most practicing biologists accept and which is taught in classrooms today, is inadequate in explaining our existence.’ Some of the delegates would clearly go further. According to molecular biologist, Professor Antonio Lima-de-Faria, not only is the Darwinian paradigm wrong, but it ‘actually hinders discovery of the mechanism of evolution.’ Professor Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini spoke for a number in stating simply that natural selection ‘is not the way new species and new classes and new phyla originated.’ Professor Jerry Fodor confessed, ‘I don’t think anybody knows how evolution works.’ If scientists can’t point to a natural process that can drive evolution, why should evolution be taught as science in school classrooms?
    http://creation.com/creation-religious-education

    and,,

    James Shapiro on “dangerous oversimplifications” about the cell – August 6, 2013
    Excerpt: “Depending upon the energy source and other circumstances, these indescribably complex entities can reproduce themselves with great reliability at times as short as 10-20 minutes. Each reproductive cell cycle involves literally hundreds of millions of biochemical and biomechanical events. We must recognize that cells possess a cybernetic capacity beyond our ability to imitate. Therefore, it should not surprise us when we discover extremely dense and interconnected control architectures at all levels. Simplifying assumptions about cell informatics can be more misleading than helpful in understanding the basic principles of biological function.
    Two dangerous oversimplifications have been (i) to consider the genome as a mere physical carrier of hypothetical units called “genes” that determine particular cell or organismal traits, and (ii) to think of the genome as a digitally encoded Read-Only Turing tape that feeds instructions to the rest of the cell about individual characters [4].”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-the-cell/

    Revisiting the Central Dogma in the 21st Century – James A. Shapiro – 2009
    Excerpt (Page 12): Underlying the central dogma and conventional views of genome evolution was the idea that the genome is a stable structure that changes rarely and accidentally by chemical fluctuations (106) or replication errors. This view has had to change with the realization that maintenance of genome stability is an active cellular function and the discovery of numerous dedicated biochemical systems for restructuring DNA molecules.(107–110) Genetic change is almost always the result of cellular action on the genome. These natural processes are analogous to human genetic engineering,,, (Page 14) Genome change arises as a consequence of natural genetic engineering, not from accidents. Replication errors and DNA damage are subject to cell surveillance and correction. When DNA damage correction does produce novel genetic structures, natural genetic engineering functions, such as mutator polymerases and nonhomologous end-joining complexes, are involved. Realizing that DNA change is a biochemical process means that it is subject to regulation like other cellular activities. Thus, we expect to see genome change occurring in response to different stimuli (Table 1) and operating nonrandomly throughout the genome, guided by various types of intermolecular contacts (Table 1 of Ref. 112).
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed.....0Dogma.pdf

    and,,

    Modern Synthesis Of Neo-Darwinism Is False – Denis Nobel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/10395212

    Physiology moves back onto centre stage: a new synthesis with evolutionary biology – Denis Nobel – July 2013 – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzD1daWq4ng

    Here is the paper that accompanies the preceding video:

    Physiology is rocking the foundations of evolutionary biology – Denis Noble – 17 MAY 2013
    Excerpt: The ‘Modern Synthesis’ (Neo-Darwinism) is a mid-20th century gene-centric view of evolution, based on random mutations accumulating to produce gradual change through natural selection.,,, We now know that genetic change is far from random and often not gradual.,,,
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....4/abstract

    “The genome is an ‘organ of the cell’, not its dictator”
    – Denis Nobel – President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences

    and;

    The Fate of Darwinism: Evolution After the Modern Synthesis – David J. Depew and Bruce H. Weber – 2011
    Excerpt: We trace the history of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, and of genetic Darwinism generally, with a view to showing why, even in its current versions, it can no longer serve as a general framework for evolutionary theory. The main reason is empirical. Genetical Darwinism cannot accommodate the role of development (and of genes in development) in many evolutionary processes.,,,
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....03g3t7002/

    I believe before these modern day dissenters from neo-Darwinism, there was also Barbara McClintock (June 16, 1902 – September 2, 1992), the 1983 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, who also held that neo-Darwinism was inadequate to explain what is happening in the cell. A bit of her history is told here:

    The Case for INTELLIGENT Evolution pt 3
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uluQaSbQjVs

  3. Regarding evolutionary medicine: while in college, I took an anatomy and physiology course as a prerequisite. I got the wrong textbook, and I was surprised to see the opening chapter deal with evolution. The authors justified this by stating that it is nearly impossible to appreciate or understand the tenets of modern medicine is impossible to understand without understanding where humans came from. Within a week or so, I got the correct textbook for the class. It contained literally no mention of evolution.

  4. Getting ready to post this at TSZ, actually:

    The (neo-)Darwinian theory of evolution (ET) has two distinct but related parts: there’s a historical account of the genealogy of species (GS), and there’s the theory of natural selection (NS). The main thesis of this book is that NS is irredeemably flawed. …

    However, although we take it that GS and NS are independent, we do not suppose that they are unconnected…The questions now arise: How did the taxonomy of species get to be the way that it is? what determines which nodes there are and which paths there are between them? In particular, by what process does an ancestral species differentiate into its descendants? These are the questions that Darwin’s adaptationism purports to answer. The answer it proposes is … natural selection

    We will argue that it is pretty clear that this answer is not right; whatver NS is, it cannot be the mechanism that generates the historical taxonomy of species. Jared Diamond in his introduction to Mayr (2001, p. x) remarks taht Darwin didn’t just p[resent ‘…a well-thought-out theory of evolution. Most importantly, he also proposed a theory of causation, the theory of natural selection.’ well, if we’re right, that’s exactly what Darwin did not do; of if you prefer, Darwin did propose a causal mechanism for the process of speciation, but he got it wrong.

    What Darwin Got Wrong

  5. Barb, you paraphrase: ” it is nearly impossible to appreciate or understand the tenets of modern medicine is impossible to understand without understanding where humans came from”: Utter rubbish.

    Assume common ancestry of humans, trilobites, and grapes. How would this ancestry help us understand the progress of diabetes? Even common ancestry with chimps didn’t yield useful research programs; the US government retired its research chimps recently. Not enough useful information.

    Suppose a doctor doesn’t even know who a patient’s next-of-kin are? It’d surely be a help, but the doctor can treat the patient without knowing. A Medic Alert bracelet, now THAT might be far more useful.

    Medicine is not about information but about information pertinent to the patient, which rules out such vast swathes of the history of life that the whole concept of “evolutionary medicine” is suspect.

  6. If it’s 100% effective on a chimp it should be at least 98% effective on a human. Science says so!

  7. As to the usefulness of quote unquote ‘evolutionary medicine’, in the following article Dr. Michael Egnor reflects on how “Evolutionary explanations by themselves are worthless to medicine.”

    Darwinian Medicine and Proximate and Evolutionary Explanations – Michael Egnor – neurosurgeon – June 2011
    Excerpt: Evolutionary explanations by themselves are worthless to medicine. All medical treatments are based on detailed proximate explanations,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....47701.html

    In the following video Dr. Michael Egnor reflects on how he was only able to understand a certain problem in neuroscience, and the solution to it, by looking to design principles in engineering so as to understand the problem more completely:

    Intelligent Design and Medical Research – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O76LyxBqMKA

    In the following article the late Professor Phillip Skell reflects on the fact that even in areas of medicine that would be thought to have most benefited from evolutionary explanations, he could find no discernible guidance from evolutionary theory:

    Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming’s discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.
    I also examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin’s theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.
    Philip S. Skell – (the late) Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/2816

    In fact, as to the somewhat minor extent evolutionary reasoning has influenced medical diagnostics, it has led to much ‘medical malpractice’ in the past:

    Evolution’s “vestigial organ” argument debunked
    Excerpt: “The appendix, like the once ‘vestigial’ tonsils and adenoids, is a lymphoid organ (part of the body’s immune system) which makes antibodies against infections in the digestive system. Believing it to be a useless evolutionary ‘left over,’ many surgeons once removed even the healthy appendix whenever they were in the abdominal cavity. Today, removal of a healthy appendix under most circumstances would be considered medical malpractice” (David Menton, Ph.D., “The Human Tail, and Other Tales of Evolution,” St. Louis MetroVoice , January 1994, Vol. 4, No. 1).
    “Doctors once thought tonsils were simply useless evolutionary leftovers and took them out thinking that it could do no harm. Today there is considerable evidence that there are more troubles in the upper respiratory tract after tonsil removal than before, and doctors generally agree that simple enlargement of tonsils is hardly an indication for surgery” (J.D. Ratcliff, Your Body and How it Works, 1975, p. 137).
    The tailbone, properly known as the coccyx, is another supposed example of a vestigial structure that has been found to have a valuable function—especially regarding the ability to sit comfortably. Many people who have had this bone removed have great difficulty sitting.
    http://www.ucg.org/science/god.....-debunked/

    International HoloGenomics Society – “Junk DNA Diseases”
    Excerpt: uncounted millions of people died miserable deaths while scientists were looking for the “gene” causing their illnesses – and were not even supposed to look anywhere but under the lamp illuminating only 1.3% of the genome (the genes).”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-357177

    Even HIV is best dealt with by understanding the limits to what evolutionary processes can do and developing medicines to take advantage of those limits rather than supposing there are no limits to what evolutionary processes can do. For instance, there is a limit to binding site complexity for HIV that very well may be able to be taken advantage of so as to develop a more effective treatment (if treatment has not already been developed to take advantage of this limit):

    Response to Ian Musgrave’s “Open Letter to Dr. Michael Behe,” Part 4
    “Yes, one overlooked protein-protein interaction developed, leading to a leaky cell membrane — not something to crow about after 10^20 replications and a greatly enhanced mutation rate.”
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....he-part-5/

    Of somewhat humorous note, while learning HIV is a ‘mutational powerhouse’ which greatly outclasses the ‘mutational firepower’ of the entire spectrum of higher life-forms combined for millions of years, and about the devastating effect HIV has on humans with just that one trivial binding site being generated, I realized if evolution were actually the truth about how life came to be on Earth then the only ‘life’ that would be around would be extremely small organisms with the highest replication rate, and with the most mutational firepower, since only they would be the fittest to survive in the dog eat dog world where blind pitiless evolution rules and only the ‘fittest’ are allowed to survive. The logic of this is nicely summed up here by a ‘Darwinian’ physician:

    Richard Dawkins interview with a ‘Darwinian’ physician goes off track – video
    Excerpt: “I am amazed, Richard, that what we call metazoans, multi-celled organisms, have actually been able to evolve, and the reason [for amazement] is that bacteria and viruses replicate so quickly — a few hours sometimes, they can reproduce themselves — that they can evolve very, very quickly. And we’re stuck with twenty years at least between generations. How is it that we resist infection when they can evolve so quickly to find ways around our defenses?”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62031.html

    i.e. Since successful reproduction is all that really matters on a neo-Darwinian view of things, how can anything but successful reproduction be realistically ‘selected’ for? Any other function besides reproduction, such as sight, hearing, thinking, etc.., would be highly superfluous to the primary criteria of successfully reproducing, and should, on a Darwinian view, be discarded as so much excess baggage since it would slow down successful reproduction. Indeed, instead of eating us, time after time these different types of microbial life are found to be helping us in essential ways that have nothing to do with their ability to successfully reproduce,,,

    We are living in a bacterial world, and it’s impacting us more than previously thought – February 15, 2013
    Excerpt: We often associate bacteria with disease-causing “germs” or pathogens, and bacteria are responsible for many diseases, such as tuberculosis, bubonic plague, and MRSA infections. But bacteria do many good things, too, and the recent research underlines the fact that animal life would not be the same without them.,,,
    I am,, convinced that the number of beneficial microbes, even very necessary microbes, is much, much greater than the number of pathogens.”
    http://phys.org/news/2013-02-b.....ought.html

    Thus in summary, there is much evidence that evolutionary explanations are useless in medical diagnostics, and that evolutionary ‘vestigial’ and ‘junk’ arguments have in fact caused much medical malpractice in the past. Moreover, in dealing with HIV and other pathogens that afflict humans, it is best to understand the limits of what Darwinian processes can do rather than it is to presuppose that there are no limits for what Darwinian processes can do.

  8. I liked Jerry Fodor’s crack in Suzan Mazur’s article about the conference dubbed, ‘Altenberg: the Woodstock of Evolution’, appearing in 2008 in the NZ, online periodical, Scoop, about being in the Witness Protection Program!

  9. OT: News (O’Leary) and Barb, you guys may (errr, excuse me, you women may) appreciate this article I found on my FB feed this morning:

    Christianity: The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Women
    http://www.probe.org/site/c.fd....._Women.htm

  10. Wow! What an article! (I don’t mean the author!)
    … if I may interject. B D Rose.

  11. News @ 4: I agree with you. I was paraphrasing what the textbook stated. I thought it strange that it began with basic evolutionary theory, rather than basic human biology (cells, tissues, organs, and the like).

    Suppose a doctor doesn’t even know who a patient’s next-of-kin are? It’d surely be a help, but the doctor can treat the patient without knowing.

    Knowing the next of kin is helpful if the patient is terminal. Knowing the patient’s past medical history (diseases affecting parents and grandparents) is far more valuable, partially due to the explosion in genomic medicine now. Now we can determine if a patient carries, say, the breast cancer gene or is at risk for Huntington’s cholera.

  12. OT: New research shows Darwinian understanding of species formation is extremely incomplete:
    Genetic Reproductive Barriers: Long-Held Assumption About Emergence of New Species Questioned – Sep. 2, 2013
    Excerpt: The rate at which genetic reproductive barriers arise does not predict the rate at which new species form in nature,” Rabosky said. “If these results are true more generally — which we would not yet claim but do suspect — it would imply that our understanding of species formation is extremely incomplete because we’ve spent so long studying the wrong things, due to this erroneous assumption that the main cause of species formation is the formation of barriers to reproduction.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....162536.htm

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