My Sociology Experiment
|January 10, 2014||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
In my last post I highlighted an exchange between commenters “Joe” and “AVS” concerning whether Darwinian evolution is a blind, unguided process. My purpose was not to open the issue Joe and AVS were discussing for debate, because there really is no debate on that issue. AVS, who took the position that evolution is, in some sense, “guided” should begin to worry when even frequent Darwinist commenter Mark Frank says, “Surely ‘guided’ is the wrong term for natural selection.” Dawkins sums the matter up nicely:
Natural selection, the blind, unconscious automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all.
Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 5.
No, there isn’t any real controversy on that topic, and my purpose was not to debate with AVS on this matter. Instead, I was conducting a little sociology experiment regarding Darwinist Derangement Syndrome (See here for what that term — “DDS” for short — means). I used AVS’s antics to demonstrate certain lamentable tactics among some of the Darwinists that appear on these page, and in this post I will describe those tactics and speculate on the psychological impulses that motivate them.
To recap, in a comment to this post Joe suggested that evolution is “unguided.” AVS disagreed, and said: “Natural selection guiding evolution is a hallmark of the theory.” He later stated, “Cmon people its called SELECTION . . . it is guided.”
Of course, as we have already discussed, AVS is plainly wrong. He has committed the reification fallacy. To “reify” a concept means to conceive of an abstract concept as if it were a concrete thing. For example, suppose someone were to say that gravity attracts objects to one another. In a sense, this is true. The law of gravity states that the force of attraction varies inversely as the square of separating distance of masses M and m. But it would be a mistake to conceive of gravity as a sort of concrete thing that causes attraction. It is not. It is an abstract idea. The equations of gravity model an observed regularity, not a causal agency.
It is very easy to reify the concept of natural selection. As AVS insisted, “it’s called SELECTION.” And from this AVS lept to the erroneous conclusion that some force “selects.” Thus, we see that the word “selection” has in it the seeds of reification (as, perhaps, Darwin knew when he analogized natural selection to artificial selection). Intelligent agents “select” one thing over another in order to accomplish a purpose. Therefore, it is easy to fall into the error of thinking that natural selection is a sort of agent that picks evolutionary winners and losers, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Natural selection is merely the name we have given to a process that results in differential survival rates. For example, certain bacteria may develop resistance to antibiotics. Those bacteria survive and their bacterial cousins who did not develop the resistance die, and this results in the modified strain largely displacing the unmodified strain through the process of natural selection. This does not mean that some “force” called “natural selection” chose the modified strain to survive and the unmodified strain to die. It merely means that for whatever reason the modified strain did in fact survive and the unmodified strain did in fact die. In no meaningful sense of the word did natural selection “guide” the process by which the modified strain survived and the unmodified strain died.
As he wallowed in his error, AVS demonstrated many of the attributes that we have come to associate with DDS:
1. Arrogant assertion of superior knowledge
Even in the midst of his egregious error, AVS was serenely confident in his acuity. He described himself as “the person who has forgotten more biology than [Joe] will ever know.”
2. Ridicule of ID proponents who seek to correct him accompanied by the assumption (sometimes implied; sometimes expressed) that the ID proponent cannot possibly understand Darwinism
AVS proceeds on the assumption that the only reason that Joe could possibly disagree with him is that Joe simply does not understand Darwinian theory. This is particularly ironic, because AVS was wrong and Joe was correct. Joe understands Darwinian theory better than AVS. Nevertheless, AVS embarrassed himself by saying things like:
“trying to talk to you about science would be like trying to talk to a wall.”
“If you can’t get [the erroneous reification of natural selection] through your head, Joe, then you should probably see yourself out of here before making this site look even more ridiculous.”
“Really? Seriously, I think I overshot when I said 7th grade.”
“Do you guys share notes around the kool-aid cooler? Seriously Joe, why are you still talking about biology? You know nothing about it.”
“Sounds like you have no idea what you are talking about”
“You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. You have no knowledge to speak of on this topic, sorry.”
“I’m only going to say this once more: you have no idea what you are talking about”
“Wow, ok then apparently you are simply in denial or you simply have no idea what you are talking about.”
“I’m sitting here laughing at your attempts to talk science and you’re running around with your hair on fire. Relax, everyone knows you are the sharpest marshmallow here.”
3. False quote mining charge
When Joe quoted Dawkins and a college website to support his assertion, AVS responded: “SO you mash two quotes up from two unrelated people and repeat them completely out of context? You are worse than BA, at least his quotes have sources and are correctly cited to their actual individual sources.”
“Before you start learning about science you need to learn the difference between mined quotes from your friends on here and actual information that is in context.”
Note that AVS never defended his quote mining charge. Indeed, the charge was indefensible. In context the writers Joe quoted meant the very thing for which he quoted them.
4. When corrected, don’t admit error; double down
After he was corrected, instead of admitting his error, in comment 5 to my post he doubled down on that error.
5. Never apologize
Finally, after it became evident that he had lost and that even his more honest Darwinist friends would not support him, AVS simply vanished.
Did admit that he was wrong? No.
Did he apologize to Joe for the false quote mining charge? No.
Did he show any remorse for ridiculing Joe when Joe was actually correct and he was in error? No, no no. AVS should be ashamed of himself. He does not seem to be.
Diagnosis: AVS is suffering from a particularly acute case of DDS. Thankfully, not all of the Darwinists who comment on these pages suffer from DDS. Sadly, however, many of them, including some of the more prominent ones (are you listening Nick?), do display the symptoms of DDS to one degree or another.