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The year of Darwin dawns, loud and exceedingly laughable

In case anyone cares, this item generated a dramatic uproar among third- and fourth-rate Darwinist tax burdens because – following a usual practice of file management, I had cross-posted it at the Post-Darwinist. Assuming any reasonable person cares, here it is.

I inserted into that post the following message, which should also do for this post, and justfor the record, really:

Note: This post appears to be exceedingly popular and I want to thank all the generous new donors to my PayPal button. Also, this post has garnered a large amount of attention (assuming site meter stats are accurate) and I am astonished at the number of third- and fourth-rate tax burdens who have written privately, proclaiming their faith in propositions like the Big Bazooms theory of human evolution. No wonder our economy is in the tank, and a thorough housecleaning is needed. I had no idea how bad it all was – but then I have usually had the privilege of working with productive, intelligent, and interesting people. Wow. I have always had the highest respect for my friends and colleagues, but I had no idea how lucky I have been, compared with the current Deleted Items box, mostly from Darwin’s Faithful.)

In “Darwin’s “dangerous idea: Top ten evolution articles,” the inimitable New Scientist advises us,

Scientists continue to respond to the latest attacks from creationists, and at the same time propose profound new ideas about evolution. This year has seen perceptions of the virus change from disease-causing villain to evolutionary hero, and the emergence of a new force of evolution – the absence of natural selection.

In other words, this year has seen the emergence of even more aggressive attempts to just plain make stuff up.

Put another way, everyone except the Darwinists has long since observed “the absence of natural selection.” It’s the presence of natural selection – as a source of new species – that we look for in vain.

A couple of years ago, after I had been following the controversy for several years, I found myself listening to a long lecture by a Darwinist, replete with bafflegab and pretty lame examples. Finally, sensing (correctly) that I was unconvinced, he proclaimed to me, “You just don’t understand how natural selection works, do you?”

And suddenly, the penny dropped. What he meant was that I just don’t believe in magic. I can’t make myself believe in magic; I haven’t been able to since I was a child. And I was no longer going to give the matter any attention. What I really wanted to know then and now is  – how magic became so important a principle in science? And I think I know of at least one reason.

Looking over New Scientist’s top ten evolution articles, I am struck by how paltry it all looks, how inadequate to the matter to be explained. I can’t believe that they are still fronting the peppered moth, for example, but they are, and under the windy title, “reclaiming the peppered moth for science.” (= In order to qualify as “science,” the moth must be reinstated as the notorious “peppered myth.”)

Who ever doubted that dark coloured moths might have a selective advantage over their light coloured kin in a polluted environment? The key problem, of course, was that, as Judith Hooper showed in Of Moths and Men, experimenter Kettlewell interfered with the moths’ normal behaviour during his research. So, while the legend blossomed in textbooks and popular science presentations, the very minor fact of a change in population frequencies between the two variants that Kettlewell was attempting to demonstrate may never actually have occurred. And if it did occur, it was soon reversed by widespread industrial cleanup. In other words, to the extent that natural selection does occur, it is apparently easily reversed.

The fact that so many people have put so much energy into defending the peppered myth merely shows how important the popular science myth of “evolution” is to their world view. Following the story, I learned far more about them than about moths.

So now, as to why the magic of Darwinism is so important to some people: People who don’t follow traditional religions make a religion out of whatever they follow. In this case, apparently, historical biology. But that comes at a cost. A burden is placed on historical biology that it cannot really bear.

To see what I mean, consider the difference between being a Darwin popularizer and being a traditional Catholic. As a traditional Catholic, I am asked to believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. But I am not asked to believe in virgin birth as a general proposition, and especially not for human males whose mothers’ pregnancies could be readily – though not respectably – accounted for otherwise. In that one  instance, I am told, I cannot argue that “God wouldn’t have done it that way,” as I have no basis for arguing with God about what he would or wouldn’t have done as an intentionally unique, divinely ordained event.

By contrast, in all conventional matters, I am entitled to use my best judgement as to what would or wouldn’t – or did or didn’t – happen. Not so the Darwinist who is compelled to defend the increasingly shabby icons of popular materialist science culture as if they were Very Important. Sadly, to him, they are.

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11 Responses to The year of Darwin dawns, loud and exceedingly laughable

  1. Denyse,

    Could you supply us with the top ten ID articles?

  2. People who don’t follow traditional religions make a religion out of whatever they follow.

    Hmm. Is there a third set of people who don’t “follow” anything? Or are you saying that it is an essential human quality to follow something “religiously?” Why would that be?

  3. One of the things that I have found with some people is that politics is their new religion. When I was young the things that drew the heated arguments amongst people had mostly to do with religion. Sure there were political arguments but none that seemed to separate people into opposing camps. Religion had that effect especially if someone in the family married outside the religion. But few left the fold if they became a Democrat or a Republican.

    Now that is not true. I have seen childhood friendships disappear because of politics. A lot of it is that politics now is more an expression of world view than it was before and it seems that for many their self identification is political or world view. And the ID/materialistic divide is a world view phenomena. Yes, some of the people just don’t care either way and a lot don’t really understand the debate but for those who do, there is a ferocity that rivals what and still is for many similar to a religious divide.

    The ferocity of the responses also depends upon which environment you are in. Compare the type of responses that the anti ID people make here to the pro ID people and vice versa. Then go to a pro Darwin site and watch the same types of exchanges and the responses.

  4. pubdef, I certainly think there are people who follow nothing in particular, but they tend in my experience to drift. My comment referred to those who care enough to become seriously involved in anything for long.

    jerry, yes indeed, some people do make politics a religion, and that is not good news for world or social peace.

    Politics is about the exercise of power in this world, and among the most dangerous of our fellow citizens are those who think that they can somehow “fix” human nature according to a politically driven prescription or “help” God or “get rid of” God – if only they acquire enough power to make everyone do what they say.

    Hence the crucial importance of constitutions in limiting the amount and type of power that anyone can acquire. May it always be so!

  5. …he proclaimed to me, “You just don’t understand how natural selection works, do you?”

    I understand how it works. It throws stuff out so it doesn’t get perpetuated. How throwing stuff out creates new stuff is what I don’t understand.

  6. pubdef: “Is there a third set of people who don’t “follow” anything?”
    In the owrds of Bob Dylan,
    “You may be an ambassador to England or France,
    You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
    You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
    You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
    You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
    Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

    Those who think they are only serving themselves are self-deceived.

  7. This year has seen perceptions of the virus change from disease-causing villain to evolutionary hero, and the emergence of a new force of evolution – the absence of natural selection.

    Let’s see, NS is supposed to be the main engine of Darwinism…except when it isn’t. Denyse, the reason you didn’t understand NS is because there’s nothing to understand. NS is nothing but a convenient phrase to describe certain observations after the fact. If he meant you didn’t understand NS as a mechanism he was exatly right! NS isn’t a mechanism.

    Perhaps New Scientist has finally recognized that too!

    What is that phrase we so often hear from Darwinists? “There’s no debate that evolution occured, the only debate is to how“, or something to that effect. But when every main tenet of the theory is under intense debate, then perhaps its time to debate the theory itself!

  8. Donald, if natural selection is not a mechanism – and I guess it isn’t – I don’t see that it is anything that can produce new information at all.

    Let me put a case to you:

    The superintendent of an apartment building with which I am familiar used to leave the heavy covers off the dumpsters at night, for the convenience of tenants who put out their garbage late.

    One outcome was a vast increase in raccoons and skunks (nocturnal creatures). Of course, these animals already existed, but I am not proposing to explain that fact. I am only proposing to explain why they raised heck around those dumpsters, rummaging and scattering garbage in my back garden.

    (Unlike the evolutionary biologist or psychologist, I am limited in my explanatory aims … but I do have a grasp of my material.)

    As the raccoons and skunks usually ate the good stuff through the night, there wasn’t much left for the squirrels who came round in the day. Also, the squirrels were in comeptition with rats. As a result, we seldom saw many squirrels rooting through the dumpsters.

    However, the superindentent was counselled by someone (from the city?) to adopt a different practice, and put the heavy metal covers on at night. (And to hire a rat extermination service pronto.)

    Now we see few raccoons or skunks but many squirrels (because squirrels are diurnal, and the covers are typically off during the day).

    And something awful happened to the rats soon afterward … something in relation to the Pest Control Ontario truck, I think.

    Granted, this is artificial selection, but it is not aimed at the health of raccoons, skunks, or squirrels*, so the sheer randomness of the events in relation to their welfare must be considered.

    My point is that this event – like industrial pollution – explains population variances but nothing much else. It would not amount to a big change in information in life forms, only a change in the census.

    *There was a definite intention to kill rats, but they are not native, fur-bearing species, so that is legal here, and much encouraged. And I did not count them except as a competitive species to squirrels.

  9. pubdef wrote:

    Hmm. Is there a third set of people who don’t “follow” anything?

    I don’t know about Ms. O’Leary, but I’ve never observed such.

    Granted, I’ve observed many people who say they don’t follow anything, but when it came down to it, they actually did. Music, clothing, body modification, sexual proclivity, politics, or any other thing that they could latch onto and be different just like all of their friends. And strangely enough, have the idea that there was objective good and bad things in those chosen areas all the while denying there should be objective good or bad morality.

    Or are you saying that it is an essential human quality to follow something “religiously?” Why would that be?

    Nature abhors a vaccuum. The human mind cannot cope with true nihilism.

  10. Borne:

    Bob Dylan?!? Next you’ll be quoting Mark Twain on the history of Palestine.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love His Bobness. I’d rather listen to the looniest ravings from the smoke rings of Dylan’s mind than a John Mellencamp ditty where I agree with every word he says.

    Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats,

    Blowing through the letters that we wrote.
    Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves,

    We’re idiots, babe.
    It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.

    The best advice I ever got from Dylan?

    Don’t follow leaders
    Watch the parking meters.

  11. Denyse

    Donald, if natural selection is not a mechanism – and I guess it isn’t – I don’t see that it is anything that can produce new information at all.

    Let me put a case to you:

    THe case study you write up is quite interesting. Of course as you rightly point it is a case of artificial selection.

    When it comes to NS though, there doesn’t seem to be any clear cut definition of exactly what it is, how it works and what it supposed to be doing. Let us take as an example the definition of NS provided by none other than the late Ernst Mayr, considered by many to be the Dean of Darwinism over the past 50 years or so. In his book What Evolution Is he provides the following as a definition for Natural Selection in his Glossary at the back of the book: “The process by which in every generation individuals of lower fitness are removed from the population.” In the chapter on NS in the book, he goes on to explain that fitness functions at the level of the organism.

    But consider this from Talk.Origins website (conssidered by many to be the best online authority on evolution):

    The current understanding of fitness is dispositional. That is to say, fitness is a disposition of a trait to reproduce better than competitors. It is not deterministic. If two twins are identical genetically, and therefore are equally fit, there is no guarantee that they will both survive to have equal numbers of offspring. Fitness is a statistical property. What ‘owns’ the fitness isn’t the organism, but the genes. They will tend to be more often transmitted insofar as what they deliver is better ‘engineered’ to the needs of the organisms in the environment in which they live. And you can determine that, within limits, by ‘reverse engineering’ the traits to see how they work.

    Fitness is in the genes, not the organism. Just the opposite of Mayr. In contrast to the TO definition Mayr writes “…a gene can never be the object of selection. It is only part of a genotype, whereas the phenotype of the individual as a whole (based on the genotype) is the actual object of selection.” (Mayr p 126) He goes to provide other reasons why it isn’t the genes being selected.

    Hmmm…but if only you and I understood NS, we’d “get it”.

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