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A Question for Jonathan Weiner

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor Jonathan Weiner will be giving the second lecture of the Darwin Celebratory Lectures on the topic of variation. Weiner’s award winning book, The Beak of the Finch, documents the adaptive variations observed in the finches on the Galapagos islands. Such adaptive change is both rapid and intelligent. For instance, the beaks of the finches adapted to changes brought about by drought years. It is another piece of evidence that species have incredible adaptive abilities, not that reptiles changed into birds.   Read more

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6 Responses to A Question for Jonathan Weiner

  1. Chapter IV of prominent geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti’s book Why is a Fly Not a Horse? is titled “Wobbling Stability”. In that chapter he discusses what I have been talking about in other threads- that populations oscillate. The following is what he has to say which is based on thorough scientific investigation:

    Sexuality has brought joy to the world, to the world of the wild beasts, and to the world of flowers, but it has brought an end to evolution. In the lineages of living beings, whenever absent-minded Venus has taken the upper hand, forms have forgotten to make progress. It is only the husbandman that has improved strains, and he has done so by bullying, enslaving, and segregating. All these methods, of course, have made for sad, alienated animals, but they have not resulted in new species. Left to themselves, domesticated breeds would either die out or revert to the wild state—scarcely a commendable model for nature’s progress.

    (snip a few paragraphs on peppered moths)

    Natural Selection, which indeed occurs in nature (as Bishop Wilberforce, too, was perfectly aware), mainly has the effect of maintaining equilibrium and stability. It eliminates all those that dare depart from the type—the eccentrics and the adventurers and the marginal sort. It is ever adjusting populations, but it does so in each case by bringing them back to the norm. We read in the textbooks that, when environmental conditions change, the selection process may produce a shift in a population’s mean values, by a process known as adaptation. If the climate turns very cold, the cold-adapted beings are favored relative to others.; if it becomes windy, the wind blows away those that are most exposed; if an illness breaks out, those in questionable health will be lost. But all these artful guiles serve their purpose only until the clouds blow away. The species, in fact, is an organic entity, a typical form, which may deviate only to return to the furrow of its destiny; it may wander from the band only to find its proper place by returning to the gang.

    Everything that disassembles, upsets proportions or becomes distorted in any way is sooner or later brought back to the type. There has been a tendency to confuse fleeting adjustments with grand destinies, minor shrewdness with signs of the times.

    It is true that species may lose something on the way—the mole its eyes, say, and the succulent plant its leaves, never to recover them again. But here we are dealing with unhappy, mutilated species, at the margins of their area of distribution—the extreme and the specialized. These are species with no future; they are not pioneers, but prisoners in nature’s penitentiary.

    The point being, that IF it were left to direct scientific observations, evolutionism fails miserably and all that is left is wishful thinking supported by speculation.

  2. The question

    Is it proper for scientists to incorporate metaphysical assumptions in their theories?

    is reminding me of the “Did you stop beating your wife?” one. Also, what are these “metaphysical assumptions” exactly?
    From your text I get the impression that you think that evolutionary biology somehow inherits metaphysical assumptions by disproving an alternative view which is based purely on such assumptions. So, when will you stop twisting logic in this way? ;-)

  3. Indium,

    If the assumption that metaphysics is in part driving the methodology or outcomes of biological theories, and then the question of whether it is proper for these to exist in the same question, and that the existence of both in the same question involves a twisting of logic, show what that twisting of logic actually is. Don’t use what you perceive to be the same, as in “So, when will you stop twisting logic in this way?” for it is not the same. Your assumption is that Dr. Hunter is wrong in his claim that science uses metaphysics, and that the question of whether it is proper or not is the real question he is asking. But the assumption that science doesn’t use metaphysics is just as much an assumption, regardless of whether you answer the question of whether it is proper or not on that premise. You could ask the reverse question “Is it proper for science to use no metaphysics? This is, of course, not what you’re asking, though, is it?

  4. Idium,

    When did materialists start hiding their metaphysics?

    Richard Dawkins: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”

    George Gaylor Simpson: “Man is the result of a purposeless materialistic process that did not have him in mind”

    Ricardo Lewontin: “cannot allow a Divine foot in the door”

    Stephen Gould: “biology took away our status as paragons created in the image of God”

    Douglas Futuyma: “Darwin’s concept of natural selection made this argument from design completely superfluous.”

    Ernst Mayer: “Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations”.

    Eugenie Scott: “Scientists still need to counter the creationist message.”

    Michael Ruse: “Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”

    Will Provine: “One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.”

    Sir Julian Huxley: “(the God hypothesis) is becoming an intellectual and moral burden on our thought”…”we must construct something to take its place”

  5. 5

    Indium (2):

    From your text I get the impression that you think that evolutionary biology somehow inherits metaphysical assumptions by disproving an alternative view which is based purely on such assumptions.

    Evolution does inherit these metaphysical assumptions by way of another metaphysical assumption: that the creation model that has been falsified is the only alternative.

    For more information see:

    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....igion.html

  6. Upright BiPed:

    Dawkins is right. From the 19th Century death of Genesis until Darwin, the Western world had no believable explanation of where humans and the other species came from. Now we do and it’s conservative Christians who are intellectually unfulfilled.

    George Gaylor Simpson is also right. Evolution is purposeless, materialistic and didn’t have us inmind. You’ll have to live with that.

    Richard (not Ricardo) Lewontin is also right. Turning to the devine is like turning to Bigfoot. Neither exists, so neither can help you.

    Steven Gould is also right. You’re not created in the image of God.

    Douglas Futuyma is right. The argument from design has been superflous for a century and a half.

    Ernst Mayer is right. Science in general, including Darwinism, rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. Although if you ever get any convincing evidence for the supernatural, I at least am willing to take a look at it. But I’m not holding out any hope of seeing such evidence.

    Eugenie Scott is right about countering creationism, but I’m not sure if scientists are necessarily the best people to do that.

    The main reason Michael Ruse annoys so many scientists is because he keeps saying dumb things like that.

    Will Provine is right. As far as any chance of ever being factually right is concerned, you can pretty much write religion off. Intellectually, it’s a spent force.

    And finally, Sir Julian Huxley is right. The God Hypothesis has failed. It’s doing us no good.

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