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Shoehorning Darwin into an otherwise legitimate history of a science movement

The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World

In “New Book Poses the Question: At the Birth of Modern Science, Was Darwin Present — or AWOL?” ( Evolution News & Views, April 10, 2012), Michael Flannery reviews The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World :

The book takes its title from breakfast meetings that occurred from the end of 1812 through the spring of 1813 in which the four Cambridge students discussed Francis Bacon and inductive reasoning, the nature of scientific inquiry, and its appropriate goals and objectives. Their bond would remain life-long. More importantly, in developing their ideas they crafted the modern concept of “the scientist” as one who put his or her investigations to the practical service of human betterment. Given its broad altruistic aims, they saw this new scientific age as one in which the government had an active responsibility to support research and to recognize those who labored on its behalf. In their collective revision the natural philosopher (often an amateur cleric dabbling in astronomy, geology, chemistry, or other field) was transformed into a professional scientist supported by the academy and a collegial network of fellow practitioners.

Unfortunately, Snyder offers a second narrative. This one presents a strained and ultimately failed attempt at linking Charles Darwin with the work of the Philosophical Breakfast Club, a “breakfast” meeting of the minds that never happened. There are some hints of this misdirection sprinkled here and there throughout the book, but it comes to the fore in chapter 12, “Nature Decoded.”

Why did Snyder go out of her way to tie Darwin to these founders of modern science? The question, of course, almost answers itself. If these Victorian creationists (in a broad historical and philosophical sense, not our modern one) are indeed the founders of modern science — which is, after all, her central thesis — then she had to make them Darwin-friendly.

The fact is, Snyder probably could not have sold the book contract if she hadn’t. Who cares about actual science when the literary airheads are all channelling Darwin?

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19 Responses to Shoehorning Darwin into an otherwise legitimate history of a science movement

  1. Charles R. Darwin was 3 years-old in 1812. Probably a bit young for a ‘philosophical breakfast club’?

    “the literary airheads are all channelling Darwin”

    There are also practical heavyweights who are circumscribing Darwin’s influence. Check the response in a recent interview with an internationally honoured engineer, on the topic of ‘design’ and ‘evolution’:

    “Evolution the word was not invented by Darwin. Like revolution for that matter. Evolution means changes in something you look at…something is changing in time. Nobody needs Darwin in order to use the word.”

    What ‘non-Darwinian’ or ‘post-neo-Darwinian’ approach to evolution would you otherwise like to Name?

  2. I’m hoping to read this book (which I ordered last week for the college library) over the summer. Flannery clearly has read it, but I am hesitant to accept a couple of his points–even without reading the book yet.

    First, this:

    Snyder claims that Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859 “can be seen as encoding Whewell and Herschel’s philosophy of science” and that his “argument for evolution by natural selection” was modeled upon the methodologies they promoted, especially what they had considered the strongest type of evidence for a scientific theory — “what Whewell had dubbed consilience” (p. 332).

    Flannery comes back to this a bit later, briefly: “It was also wrong. Thus the degree to which Darwin’s theory was consilient is irrelevant since the consilience of any given theory is really a neutral factor in deciding whether it is true or not.”

    I don’t know how Snyder documents her claim, but Michael Ruse’s early book “The Darwinian Revolution” lays out the case very clearly for the influence of Whewell and Herschel on Darwin’s thinking, esp the notion of “consilience” that IMO helps to make Darwin’s case very persuasive. In short, Snyder ain’t just makin’ this up (it that’s what she says).

    I also think that Flannery be have quoted Howard Gruber out of context, when he has this:

    Gruber goes on to admit that an examination of Darwin’s private notebooks makes it clear that “his actual way of working . . . would never have passed muster in a methodological court of inquiry among Darwin’s scientific contemporaries” (p. 122).

    Gruber isn’t talking about Darwin’s arguments; he’s talking about the way in which he first came to his conclusions. In other words, context of discovery vs context of justification. The “Origin of Species” is “one long argument,” as Darwin says, and it’s in the context of justification that Whewell and Herschel seem so important.

    As for Whewell influencing Darwin’s views about science and religion, I think some influence was indeed present. The tip of that iceberg is the quotation from Whewell opposite the title page of the “Origin.” It sounds *exactly* like what Darwin himself wrote in the early, manuscript versions of his theories from the 1840s.

    Finally, a side point about Malthus. He wasn’t the only person writing about this in that way. In the second edition of his book, Malthus cites a paper by none other than Benjamin Franklin, who was worried about the carrying capacity of the land in Pennsylvania, which was being overrun by immigrants at the time (1751)–esp immigrants from Germany who weren’t assimilating.

  3. Is MS Snyder aware Darwin insisted women were biologically intellectually inferior to men and only careful selective breeding possibly could change this???
    Her ideas on science he would of smirked at?
    Just thought I’d bring it up because modern evolutionism doesn’t want to.
    They flirt with the race stuff(genetic brainism) but are shy of Darwins girl theories.

  4. 1. To Ted Davis,
    Permit me to respond to your points.

    Point #1
    I am familiar with Michael Ruse’s work on consilience, most recently in 2009, but really dating from the 1970s. I think Ruse is wrong to suggest that consilience validates (or somehow makes “more persuasive”) a scientific theory and Snyder implicitly makes this same mistake (whatever her sources for the claim). Maybe Snyder “ain’t just makin this up,” but neither is the point strengthened by repeating old errors. The error really begins with Whewell himself, who was simply wrong to accord consilience such power as an explanatory feature of scientific truth. I highly recommend Paul Thagard’s “Coherence, Truth, and the Development of Scientific Knowledge,” Philosophy of Science 74 (Jan. 2007): 28-47. Again, my point is that the degree to which a scientific theory is consilient is simply irrelevant to its truth. While we can have examples where it is, there are other examples where it clearly is not. In my essay I gave humoral theory as a consilent theory that was false; Thagard gives the example of phlogiston.

    Point #2

    I did not cite Howard Gruber out of context. Indeed Gruber’s comments go directly to the point that Darwin’s methodology – i.e., “the way in which he first came to his conclusions” – was NOT based upon Baconian induction as Darwin himself had claimed. Remember, Snyder is arguing the thesis that Darwin adopted the Breakfast Club’s methodology of Baconian induction in arriving at his conclusions. Gruber is stating here that Darwin did not. In fact, as I quote, Gruber ends by stating that “his [Darwin’s] actual way of working . . . would never have passed muster in a methodological court of inquiry among Darwin’s scientific contemporaries.” The examples I cite from Herschel, Whewell, and Sedgwick go directly to Gruber’s comment.

    As for the quotation of Whewell that Darwin (as Janet Browne so accurately puts it) took so “audaciously out of context,” I think the point that Darwin was consciously trying to make his theory amenable to Whewell and thus grant it the credibility he so earnestly sought for it, speaks for itself. Darwin was rather shamelessly namedropping here in an attempt to gain the credibility and authority for his theory that he so anxiously sought. It’s important to distinguish “influence” from salesmanship.

  5. I thank Michael Flannery for his reply to my comments.

    I don’t share Mr Flannery’s rather low view of “consilience.” As with all sorts of inductive inferences, it can lead us astray–we agree about that. However, it can be very persuasive in other cases, including in the kind of forensic reasoning that Darwin often engaged in when doing natural history, whether evolution was the specific topic or not.

    Janet Browne does indeed say that Darwin took his epigram from Whewell “audaciously out of context.” I’d like to know exactly what she means. This is not germane to what Mr Flannery says in his review; there he is talking about Darwin’s desire to link himself with Whewell’s methods, whereas I was referring to Darwin’s desire to link himself with Whewell’s attitude toward natural theology and divine action. The quotation he borrowed from Whewell is *not* (pace Browne and Mr Flannery) taken out of context, whether audaciously or not, with regard to what it actually says about God and miracles. I will elaborate in a separate post below.

  6. Here’s what Whewell says, in the longer passage from which Darwin borrows, which I [enclose in brackets]:

    “We are not to expect that physical investigation can enable us to conceive the manner in which God acts upon the members of the universe. The question, ‘Canst thou by searching find out God?’ must silence the boastings of science as well as the repinings of adversity. Indeed, science shows us, far more clearly than the conceptions of every day reason, at what an immeasurable distance we are from any faculty of conceiving *how* the universe, material and moral, is the work of the Deity. [But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this; -- we can perceive that events are brought about, not by insulated interpositions of divine power exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws.] This, which is the view of the universe proper to science, whose office it is to search out these laws, is also the view which, throughout this work, we have endeavoured to keep present to the mind of the reader.”

    He goes on to say that natural theology should be done on that basis.

    Now, let’s compare this with what Darwin wrote in his early “Essay” version (1844) of what later became “On the Origin of Species.” I quote:

    “I must here premise that, according to the view ordinarily received, the myriads of organisms, which have during past and present times peopled this world, have been created by so many distinct acts of creation. It is impossible to reason concerning the will of the Creator, and therefore, according to this view, we can see no cause why or why not the individual organism should have been created on any fixed scheme. That all the organisms of this world have been produced on a scheme is certain from their general affinities; and if this scheme can be shown to be the same with that which would result from allied organic beings descending from common stocks, it becomes highly improbable that they have been separately created by individual acts of the will of a Creator. For as well might it be said that, although the planets move in courses conformably to the law of gravity, yet we ought to attribute the course of each planet to the individual act of the will of the Creator{306}. It is in every case more conformable with what we know of the government of this earth, that the Creator should have imposed only general laws.”

    Source: http://www.readbookonline.net/read/63478/112423/

    As I say, I wonder what Janet Browne means by quoting Whewell out of context. She’s an excellent scholar, so I’m sure she means something, but I can’t fathom just what that is. Whewell and Darwin were on the same page here. Indeed, the same paragraph.

  7. Hi Ted,

    I’m a bit surprised to see you use the language of ‘forensic reasoning’ to describe what Darwin was doing.

    A typical definition of ‘forensic’ means that it is “of or before the forum.” More specifically, it is “for the legal system.” Darwin was not doing natural science or being a naturalist mainly for the courts of law, was he?

    ID of course uses the comparision of ‘design detection’ and/or ‘design inference’ with ‘forensic science’ quite often. Are you simply borrowing their language, going with the fashion?

    My question for you, Ted: what do you mean by ‘forensic reasoning’? Are you not “shoehorning ID language into an otherwise legitimate history of (a) science movement”?

    Btw, it is interesting to me that Darwin’s language, which you quote, speaks of ‘organisms’ as ‘peopling the world.’ Arggh (as Charlie Brown would say), it is so common for naturalists and zoologists to anthropomorphise their speech!

  8. Gregory–I mean that, in the historical sciences, one looks for hypotheses about past events that unify and explain the evidence available to us here and now. That’s what happens in law courts.

    That’s what Darwin was doing also. A lovely example is his theory of coral reef formation, which is still accepted today in its broad outline, although certain details pertaining to the rise and fall of the ocean (as vs the bottom of the sea) were unknown to Darwin.

  9. Gregory–I mean that, in the historical sciences, one looks for hypotheses about past events that unify and explain the evidence available to us here and now.

    The evidence available here and now does not support evolutionism.

  10. It makes little sense to say Darwin was engaged in ‘forensic reasoning’ other than with a stretch of the imagination. The ‘forum’ is something Darwin rarely engaged in (cooped up in Down) and he wasn’t working for the ‘legal system’ or courts of law. I think you’re confusing some terms here, Ted. You’re not suggesting the Royal Society was Darwin’s (hopeful) ‘forum,’ therefore he was a ‘forensic scientist,’ are you?

    Please excuse, Ted, but you seem to have been Meyerized, along with your ASA and BioLogos comrade Randy Isaac, over Stephen C. Meyer’s discussion of ‘the historical sciences’ in SotC (and elsewhere). For ID folks here, I don’t mean that pejoratively re: Meyer, but rather supportively as an observation of influence. I’ve been McLuhanized myself, which means, stamped with the imprint of McLuhan’s ideas. In fact, it shows that Meyer’s ideas about ‘the’ historical sciences are taking hold even of those who oppose the IDM on cultural, theological or holistic grounds.

    Meyer’s argument (which Ted’s somewhat echoes), in short form, via C. Lyell: “The present is the key to the past.”

    Here’s Isaac:
    http://www.asa3online.org/Book.....-sciences/

    Here’s the NCSE:
    http://ncse.com/creationism/an.....al-science

    Of course, the ‘experimental science’ or ‘operations science’ vs. ‘historical science’ dichotomy has been used by YECs as well, which is why I’m so surprised to see Ted Davis, who is strongly positioned against YECism, appealing to ‘historical science’ as a significant and valid category here. Or is this the part of ID that Ted agrees with?

    Isaac almost seems to want to embrace ID (or at least the ‘historical science’ claims) in the above article, because: “Creation science proceeds from the premise that historical science is not credible” and Isaac could be more against YEC than he is against ID.

    Just because subjects/objects ‘have a history’ surely does not qualify them as ‘historical sciences.’ Just because a person has a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in a field, doesn’t make them a philosopher! Coral reefs are surely not ‘historical sciences’ just because history/change-over-time is involved in their study; try ‘Earth and Ocean Sciences,’ ‘Environmental Sciences’ (or some other nearby ‘natural scientific’ field) instead.

    ‘Historical sciences’ stated within a weak Anglo-American philosophy of science seems to me counter-productive because it warps various realities in the division of academic knowledge. There are other far stronger schools, notably the German-Russian tradition and its influence on Eastern Europeans (Poles, Austrians, Romanians, Slovaks, Hungarians included, i.e. where the top PoS’s come from). The original distinction that Wilhelm Windelband made (i.e. nomothetic and idiographic, google it) was key; so were the distinctions by Dilthey and Rickert, as well as Max Weber.

    What appears to have happened is that Anglo-Americans (in privileging the ‘analytics’ over the ‘continental’) have come to exclude the label ‘science’ from a large chunk of the Academy, while at the same time they are now reeling from a consequent disappearing of philosophy from many peoples’ views of information, knowledge and wisdom.

    Philosophy (and I would add sociology) ‘of science’ is desperately needed, a view that Ted has supported re: HPS at ASA, saying there that these fields that offered the best interpretations of the Dover trial (and probably of ID generally speaking).

    Both Ted Davis and Stephen C. Meyer should welcome this unconventional (more globally-oriented) observation because recognizing it would assist them each in their common refusals of ‘materialism,’ ‘naturalism’ (both of the main types in evangelical and atheist US circles), and ‘scientism.’ It will be HPSS that allows TE/EC and ID to unite in a serious way, rather than speaking of ‘accommodationism,’ ‘concordism’ or ‘Theistic Darwinism.’

    Notice that in NCSE’s quotation, Eliot Sober doesn’t tell the whole story, being not as familiar with the stronger Eastern tradition as he is with the weaker Western one; he missed ‘idiographic,’ calling it ‘historical sciences’ instead. This is a great example of a blind spot in action!

    The “International Committee of Historical Sciences” (http://www.cish.org/membres/or.....ionaux.htm) carries a different meaning, Ted, from what you (and Meyer and partly Sober) are suggesting, i.e. that Darwin was doing ‘historical science.’ They mean ‘history as science,’ not ‘sciences that deal with history.’ Do you recognize the difference that a philosophical perspective makes on this question or do you dismiss or reduce the role of philosophy is actually setting the terms of the conversation?

    ‘History’ as a field is taught and studied mainly within ‘humanities’ or ‘arts’ faculties in N. America. What do you call ‘non-historical sciences,’ if you are not stuck on the ‘experimental’ or ‘observational’ (Isaac) vs. ‘historical,’ given that you’ve even included biology now as a ‘historical science’? What seems to me is happening here is an historian trying to turn ‘history’ into a ‘science’ by combining terms. Please correct me, Ted, if this is not so. The irony, Ted, is that, having been trained also in the East, I agree with your effort! The higher developed position in philosophy of science says that ‘history is (a) science.’ So, you, Isaac *and* Meyer should all be pleased with those results!

    “the modern concept of ‘the scientist’ as one who put his or her investigations to the practical service of human betterment.” – Flannery

    At least with this statement, most of us, even if in very different ‘camps’ should be able to agree. Sadly, I’m quite serious when I say that by wresting ‘history’ (cf. idiographic events) away from the humanities and social sciences and chucking it (analytically) into the territory of ‘natural sciences’ poses a real and lurking danger of dehumanization in Anglo-American philosophy of science and knowledge.

    - Gregory

  11. Ted Davis wrote about “the kind of forensic reasoning that Darwin often engaged in when doing natural history.” This would seem to support the idea that Stephen C. Meyer is doing the same sort of reasoning that Darwin was doing, according to the notion that ID echoes or mimics ‘forensic science.’ In Dembski’s words, this would validate the ‘generally accepted scientific principles’(GASP) of ‘intelligent design’ theory, which Ted, however, seems not to accept.

    Ted’s answer to my question about his use (re: Darwin) of ‘forensic reasoning,’ however, avoided the term ‘forensic’ altogether and instead concentrated on ‘historical sciences,’ to which I provided a long, challenging (and synthesizing) post in reply. Is Ted equivocating between ‘forensic’ and ‘historical’ and/or between ‘historical’ and ‘scientific’? Is he attempting to make history (into) a science? Without involving philosophy, a direct answer to this question would seem unlikely and worth little.

    “Darwin’s desire to link himself with Whewell’s attitude toward natural theology and divine action.” – Ted

    Could you please share some evidence if you’ve found any re: Darwin’s “desire to link himself with Whewell’s attitude toward natural theology and divine action” from the 1860′s (a decade after his daughter Annie’s death) onwards? The Darwin of the 1840s seems not to have been the same character wrt those themes as the ‘later’ Darwin, indeed it seems ‘divine action’ was no longer on his inner radar. Whewell, however, seemed more resilient in his willingness to discuss natural theology in his twilight years.

    Perhaps your conclusion, Ted, is that Darwin really was ‘primitive’ when it came to his HPS and as a person failed to develop theologically or religiously after a certain age? We don’t read many ‘forensic prayers’ in Darwin’s autobiography, do we? BioLogos is a home for “Saving Darwin” via Karl Giberson, even if many people think this effort is a lost cause. Do you wish to attempt to ‘save Darwin’ by portraying him in alliance with Whewell’s views of natural theology and divine action?

  12. Gregory,

    This isn’t the place to elaborate extensively on the distinction between “historical” and “experimental” or “nomothetic” (the term Sober used in one of the places you link). But, yes, I think the distinction has limited validity. I like what Sober says about the legitimacy of the “historical” sciences as empirically verifiable sciences, despite the fact that they are not quite the same in methodology. As you’ve pointed out, Steve Meyer also agrees that the historical sciences have validity. So did the late Ernst Mayr; one of his last books is about this.

    YECs do not accept the legitimacy of the historical sciences at all. They push a valid distinction much further than I or anyone else named in this comment would push it, to the point of wholly obliterating the scientific status of those sciences. When certain advocates of ID (I’ll leave out names here, since I don’t want to get into a prolonged argument) also advance this distinction, it can (for them) go toward the YEC end of the spectrum; other advocates of ID (such as Meyer) employ it with much more caution.

    As for Darwin and Whewell, I think the evidence is very clear, that when Darwin wrote the early versions of “On the Origin of Species” in 1842 and 1844, he (like Whewell, Charles Babbage, and some other English natural theologians of that period) was thinking of God as a lawgiver, and he sought simply to bring biology within the realm of law, in exactly the same manner in which astronomy and physics had already been brought into the realm of law. By the 1830s, as the late Walter Cannon (as he called himself then) showed more than 50 years ago, English natural theologians were looking for evidence of design much more in the overall lawlikeness of nature than in particular contrivances. Whewell was in this category. Darwin was probably influenced by it, which is why he quoted Whewell on the flyleaf.

    I have nothing more to add here.

  13. Ted,

    Your attempt to make Whewell and Darwin kindred spirits in your two quotes is flawed for two reasons. First, your reference from Whewell fails to fully demonstrate how Whewell viewed natural law and the intimate link it had with the Divine. As the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy so well summarizes, “Since our ideas are ‘shadows’ of the Divine Ideas, to see a law as a necessary consequence of our ideas is to see it as a consequence of the Divine Ideas exemplified in the world. Understanding involves seeing a law as being not an arbitrary ‘accident on the cosmic scale,’ but as a necessary consequence of the ideas God used in creating the universe. Hence the more we idealize the facts, the more difficult it will be to deny God’s existence. We will come to see more and more truths as the intelligible result of intentional design. This view is related to the claim Whewell had earlier made in his Bridgewater Treatise (1833), that the more we study the laws of nature the more convinced we will be in the existence of a Divine Law-giver.” Now this is not Darwin’s point at all. The quotation from Darwin is merely a retort against special creation and a view of God that is at best deistic.

    But for argument’s sake, what if they really are reflections of similar views? I don’t think they are, but let’s assume that they are. Why presume a sketch written in 1844 reflects the same thinking of the final work written 15 years later? Darwin made no mention of a Creator in his first edition of Origin and only as an afterthought (to soften the theological blow and enhance its reception) did he add a strained mention at the every end of the second edition that appeared soon after in January of 1860. Even this he retracted in a letter to Joseph Hooker on March 29, 1863, when he confessed he had “truckled to public opinion & used the Pentateuchal term of creation, by which I really meant ‘appeared’ by some wholly unknown process.” This would never have come from the pen or mouth of William Whewell!

    So, Ted, when you’re set to head-scratching over Janet Browne’s comment that Darwin took Whewell “audaciously out of context” please bear this in mind. Browne understands as you seem not to that Whewell and Darwin were very different in their worldviews. Whewell had real reasons for not wanting The Origin of Species on the shelf of his Trinity College library.

  14. Mr Flannery, I have no doubt that Darwin and Whewell had different worldviews, even at the time when Darwin wrote those early versions of the “Origin of Species.” At that point in his life, however, their worldviews were not (yet) as different as you think.

    You and Janet Browne may both be missing something important about Darwin’s use of Whewell on the flyleaf of the “Origin.” The passages I juxtaposed above are pretty darn close in meaning–as far as they go. Yes, as you rightly point out, Whewell’s view of natural law was strongly theistic, while Darwin’s was at that point in his life probably deistic. This does nothing to diminish the striking parallel: both Whewell and Darwin say that we can’t know the first thing about exactly *how* God does things (as Whewell puts it); it’s impossible to reason about this, as Darwin puts it. And, they both agree that the job of science is to search for the general laws through which the universe is governed.

    Yes, it was ultimately (in the 1850s and later) Darwin’s view that God had nothing whatsoever to do with the origin of species. It’s highly questionable that he saw it that way in the early 1840s. Certainly he saw himself as looking for general laws–trying as best as he could to solve Herschel’s “mystery of mysteries,” by subsuming the arbitrary acts of divine creation under general laws. The very approach that Whewell had praised. Yes, Whewell went quite a bit further than this; but, they agreed on that much, at least. That’s why Darwin used Whewell, IMO. Whatever Browne thinks of this, the evidence reviewed here supports my conclusion.

    And, b/c Whewell quoted Bacon a few times in that same section of his Bridgewater treatise, it makes sense that Darwin would do likewise. Indeed, Whewell used Bacon to make the same point he had made himself in the passage Darwin quoted: “That notwithstanding God hath rested and ceased from creating since the first sabbath, yet, nevertheless, he doth accomplish and fulfil his divine will in all things, great and small, singular and general, as fully and exactly by providence, as he could by miracle and new creation, though his working be not immediate and direct, but by compass; not violating nature, which is his own law, upon the creature.”

    The larger question I have implicitly raised here concerns “rationalism” and “voluntarism” in Darwin’s understanding of divine action. That’s largely unexplored territory for the time being, but I know someone who is very interested in mapping it. I’m not at liberty to be more specific. (My own early work was on the same general topic, though not about Darwin or other 19th century authors.) If that work eventually comes to light, I suspect it will support what I’ve said here. In the meantime, readers must draw their own conclusions, but I advise them to take Darwin’s citation of Whewell more seriously than Prof Browne and Mr Flannery.

  15. Let me add simply, that the “someone” I mentioned in #14 is not yours truly. Unlike Whewell, who called himself “some ingenious gentleman” in the famous review in which he used the word “scientist” for the first time in print, I’m not wearing a thin mask over my own face.

  16. Mr. Davis,

    Thanks for your reply, but I don’t see where anything you’ve said here really strengthens your position. The point Janet Browne was making was the “audacity” of using Whewell’s quote in Origin in 1859 not some unpublished sketch 15 years earlier (whatever their comparative mindsets in 1844). I’ll stick with her on this.

    As for your promissory note for verification of Darwin’s views of divine action, its value will have to be judged on the basis of the primary resources that back it. In the meantime, readers should look to Darwin’s early notebooks on the development of his thought; Stanley Jaki provides an excellent analysis in his book The Savior of Science (1988) as does Ben Wiker’s The Darwin Myth (2009).

  17. Incidentally, there is a fairly large electronic library of important 19th-century works on natural history and natural theology at http://www.geology.19thcentury.....index.html. The person responsible for the site, mathematician David Bossard, is a longtime member of the ASA and a keen student of religion and science. All of the Bridgewater treatises are there, including the one by Whewell from which I’ve quoted. IMO, the final 3 chapters should be required reading for anyone interested in ID (indeed, the whole book is worth reading). Among other sources, Whewell quotes an extended passage from Boyle’s “Disquisition on the Final Causes of Natural Things: Wherein it is Inquir’d, Whether, And (if at all) With what Cautions, a Naturalist should admit Them?” (1688) Boyle was in many ways the proto-type ID thinker; I also recommend this treatise in its entirety to all here. For background on some of its aspects, see the essays by Timothy Shanahan and me in this book: http://www.cambridge.org/gb/kn.....cale=en_GB.

    My exchange here with Mr Flannery underscores the fact that ID involves two related, but not identical, questions concerning natural history: (1) is there evidence for design in natural history (whether that inference is considered “scientific” as ID holds or “extra-scientific” as I hold)? (2) does design necessitate “supernatural” assembly of many individual specific artifacts, or only of the universe itself?

    It’s the latter question that Whewell was dealing with in the passages I quoted. He personally believed that many individual artifacts had been assembled “supernaturally,” but in those passages he argues that the general laws are what we can discover from science. That was Darwin’s point as well.

    Signing off of this thread now.

  18. Ted, I didn’t respond because you said you had nothing more to add, though it didn’t seem you wished to dialogue critically about ‘forensics’ or ‘historical sciences,’ but just to attempt to validate them by appeal to authority and common sense.

    You wrote: “I like what Sober says about the legitimacy of the “historical” sciences as empirically verifiable sciences, despite the fact that they are not quite the same in methodology.”

    So, are you suggesting that ‘historical sciences’ are synonymous with ‘empirical sciences’? My apologies, Ted, but it seems to me that your philosophy of science is all jumbled. Yes, there are multiple scientific methods, of course, but the label ‘historical sciences’ is actually a blatant distortion you are perpetuating by apparently forgetting your field’s home is (typically) in the humanities and ‘liberal artes’.

    I asked a simple question: in your view, is (the field of) ‘history’ a ‘science’ or not? Would you not return for an answer?

    In #10 above, I showed how major international scholarly organisations and national schools disagree with your Anglo-American position re: ‘historical sciences,’ yet you chose not to address this. Instead, you wrote: “I think the distinction has limited validity,” without even ackowledging the term ‘idiographic,’ which is precisely what Sober was missing (in the article cited above, which I re-cited) and which also impoverishes your ‘historical sciences’ claim and shows how it has become ‘dehumanised,’ un-reflexive and neo-positivistic.

    To make it easy, let me just ask please: which academic ‘fields’ do you consider count as ‘historical sciences’? A list of 5-7 fields should be easy; even 10 should not be that hard; for that matter 20 wouldn’t seem difficult according to the way you seem to be framing it. As someone who does ‘science studies,’ for me this is a typical exercise. How about in your historian’s perspective?

    Is this a case of a historian of natural sciences turning each and every science into a nail so he can hammer on it? Please excuse if I apply a simple dialectic by asking then the limits of what you call ‘historical sciences’ in the academy today. By your standard, Business Administration is a ‘historical science’ too, is it not; the ‘science’ of applying best practices through history?

    “when Darwin wrote the early versions of “On the Origin of Species” in 1842 and 1844, he (like Whewell, Charles Babbage, and some other English natural theologians of that period) was thinking of God as a lawgiver, and he sought simply to bring biology within the realm of law” – Ted

    Is this what made you speak of Darwin doing ‘forensic reasoning’ – this is the ‘legal’ reference you were suggesting? After he gave up on “God as a lawgiver” in the 1850s and 60s, did he then cease being a ‘forensic reasoner’ in your estimation? Though you appeal to Darwin’s use of Whewell re: order and law, if it has to come to that, Ted, you don’t consider yourself a ‘Darwinist,’ do you? This last question is the kind of thing I suppose many who visit UD would like to know.

    Aren’t all BioLogos authors and proponents, as Denyse calls them, ‘Christian Darwinists’?

  19. To Mr. Davis,

    In 17 you write: “does design necessitate ‘supernatural’ assembly of many individual specific artifacts, or only of the universe itself? It’s the latter question that Whewell was dealing with in the passages I quoted. He personally believed that many individual artifacts had been assembled ‘supernaturally,’ but in those passages he argues that the general laws are what we can discover from science. That was Darwin’s point as well.”

    Well, as I said in my post 13, Darwin was arguing against special creation and in a limited sense Whewell was too, but to suggest that because of this the two men were of the same mind on these matters is simply false. Again, for Whewell nature’s laws provided a window to the “intelligible result of intentional design,” and this is most assuredly NOT Darwin’s essential point.

    But we must return to the larger issue here, does an extrapolated quotation from Darwin’s earlier sketch warrant the justification for his quoting Whewell as some kindred spirit in The Origin of Species? (I would note that this question is easily extended with equal effect, namely, was Darwin justified in quoting Whewell’s earlier work in support of his present work?) While I would urge your consideration of Gregory’s points regarding the “historical sciences,” let’s take it down a notch. What about basic sound historical methodology? From that standpoint one must look askance at your use of an earlier quote from an unpublished sketch in support of that same author’s using a superficially similar quotation of another years later. This clearly commits the fallacy of presumptive continuity. So to clarify things let’s see what Whewell himself said about Darwin’s theory IN THE CONTEXT OF HIS ORIGIN.

    In a letter to Aberdeen Rev. D. Brown, Oct. 26, 1863, Whewell wrote the following:

    “It still appears to me that in tracing the history of the world backwards, so far as the Palatiological sciences enable us to do so, all the lines of connexion stop short of a beginning explicable by natural causes; and the absence of any conceivable natural beginning leaves room for, and requires, a supernatural origin. Nor do Mr Darwin’s speculations alter this result. For when he has accumulated a vast array of hypotheses, still there is an inexplicable gap at the beginning of his series. To which is to be added, that most of his hypotheses are quite unproved by fact. We can no more adduce an example of a new species, generated in the way wliich his hypotheses suppose, than Cuvier could. He is still obliged to allow that the existing species of domestic animals are the same as they were at the time of man’s earliest history. And though the advocates of uniformitarian doctrines in geology go on repeating their assertions, and trying to explain all difficulties by the assumption of additional myriads of ages, I find that the best and most temperate geologists still hold the belief that great catastrophes must have taken place; and I do not think that the state of the controversy on that subject is really affected permanently. I still think that what I have written is a just representation of the question between the two doctrines.

    So as this demonstrates Whewell objected to Darwin’s views on theological AND scientific grounds. Note that Whewell regarded Darwin’s views as “speculative” and that his multiple hypotheses still revealed a “gap” inexplicible by “natural causes.” Whether Whewell was correct or not is, I suspect, a subject about which we could have another argument for another time. Nevertheless, Janet Browne is surely right in concluding that Whewell’s views and Darwin’s were distant enough to consider that the latter’s quotation of Whewell in support of his theory was “audaciously out of context.” A full and fair analysis of both men’s views in their totality plus sound historical methodology demand this verdict.

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