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It’s Not Just Science

The influence of evolutionary thought reaches far beyond science. Consider, for example, the histories we are given of how the theory of evolution arose. Charles Darwin and co-founder Alfred Wallace were deeply influenced by non scientific considerations and these influences have, to a certain extent, been explored. Janet Browne, Peter Bowler, Michael Ruse, Keith Thomson, Neal Gillespie, Adrian Desmond and James Moore are but a few of those who have elucidated the cultural, political and other non scientific forces that influenced Darwin and Wallace. As Bowler explains, historians are now far more concerned about the social environment within which scientific knowledge was generated, and far more willing to admit that the development of science is not the inevitable triumph of a series of factually true assertions about the natural world. That sounds like good, solid historiography. But there’s a catch.  Read more

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2 Responses to It’s Not Just Science

  1. Cornelius Hunter writes:

    Today’s history tellers cannot avoid the undeniable non scientific influences in evolutionary thought. But they do avoid the obvious implication; namely, that evolution entails non scientific premises.

    Cornelius,

    You seem to be unaware of the self-contradictory nature of your position.

    As an ID supporter, you presumably think that science should not be limited by methodological naturalism. I would agree. MN is a useful heuristic, but it should not be treated as a rule.

    However, if you choose to entertain supernatural hypotheses, then you must ensure that they are falsifiable.

    The idea that life was created (or that evolution was directed) by an omnipotent supernatural designer is, by itself, unfalsifiable. No matter what we discover about the world, you could dismiss it by saying “that’s how the Designer chose to make it”.

    To transform it into a falsifiable hypothesis, you have to add some assumptions. YECs do this by stipulating that God is honest and that he created the universe less than 10,000 years ago. That hypothesis is falsifiable, and in fact has already been decisively falsified. The evidence shows that the universe is more than a million times older. If you choose to evade the evidence by asserting that God made the universe appear older than it really is, then you are admitting that he is dishonest, which also contradicts the hypothesis. Therefore, the YEC hypothesis can be regarded as falsified.

    Here’s the contradiction in your position:

    1. You insist that MN be relaxed, thus allowing supernatural hypotheses to be considered.

    2. Scientific hypotheses must be falsifiable.

    3. To make the hypothesis of an omnipotent supernatural designer falsifiable, one must add assumptions about the nature and/or goals of the designer. Without those assumptions, it is not a scientific hypothesis.

    4. You criticize Darwin and Gould for adding those assumptions, yet you don’t acknowledge that some assumptions have to be made in order to make theistic ID a scientifically testable hypothesis.

    This is not true merely of evolutionary biology, either. It applies to all of science.

    Why, if these additional assumptions are necessary, do you criticize people for making them?

  2. This is the correct link to the blog post.

    On the substance of the post, there are certainly non-scientific influences in science, but isn’t this going a bit too far

    Evolution is a theory created by humans, out of human concerns that have very little to do with science.

    Can you show us the evidence that the primary motivation for Darwin and other scientists was (and is) something other than trying to understand the natural world?

    I’m also happy with the idea that evolutionary biology can be used to make non-scientific inferences, but it’s not clear to me that it pre-supposes these metaphysical claims. The passage by Thomson that you quote doesn’t seem to provide a Darwinian solution to the problem of evil.

    BTW, it would help your readers if you told us where you got your quotes from. I hadn’t heard of Thomson, and Gould had a large output, so I’m not going to try to chase them down.

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