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Laughlin on Evolution by Natural Selection

I made three posts at IDthefuture concerning Robert Laughlin, the Nobel laureate physicists who in his most recent book had some unkind words about evolution by natural selection:

“Much of present-day biological knowledge is ideological. A key symptom of ideological thinking is the explanation that has no implications and cannot be tested. I call such logical dead ends antitheories because they have exactly the opposite effect of real theories: they stop thinking rather than stimulate it. Evolution by natural selection, for instance, which Charles Darwin originally conceived as a great theory, has lately come to function more as an antitheory, called upon to cover up embarrassing experimental shortcomings and legitimize findings that are at best questionable and at worst not even wrong. Your protein defies the laws of mass action? Evolution did it! Your complicated mess of chemical reactions turns into a chicken? Evolution! The human brain works on logical principles no computer can emulate? Evolution is the cause!”

–Robert B. Laughlin, A Different Universe (New York: Basic Books, 2005), pp. 168-169.

ID critics quickly contacted Laughlin to get him to distance himself from ID proponents like me who might be misappropriating this quote. For my initial posting of this quote with commentary and for Laughlin’s official reply to me, go here and here respectively. For subsequent reaction, go here.

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2 Responses to Laughlin on Evolution by Natural Selection

  1. Mr. Dembski, pardon my confusion, but what is the particular purpose of these efforts at quote mining? You yourself grant the sensible hypothesis that life on earth has changed since beginning of earth, but seem to reject the mechanisms that evolutionary biologists state this occurs. Michael Behe, from what I have read of his, has endorsed some notion of common descent among organisms. Both yourself and Behe often speak of irreducible / specialized complexity concerning organic molecules like proteins, which seems to be a critique of the various theories of abiogenesis. I guess what I am then lost on is due to what forces, whether natural or supernatural, did the collective life on this planet change over the millions of years it has existed on this planet. Excuse me if I am still a bit in the dark about your arguments, for I am a bit new to the “Design” debate. And for note I was at Professor Laughlin’s talk at BU, and brought your quotation of his book to his attention after his presentation.

  2. I am not a scientist, but permit me to attempt an explanation. Abiogenesis occurred through a Divine Act. Life forms have changed over the many years, but only within narrow confined limits. One species did not give birth (or otherwise) to another. A blade of grass did not somehow evolve into an elephant. These unique creations were all the work of our Divine Creator (God). This is not difficult to comprehend once you realize that if God can create the entire universe from literally nothing, what is not impossible for Him? There is no reason anything must exist, including the universe. Nonexistence is the most stable state there is.

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