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He said it: Philosopher Richard Rorty on Darwinism and chance

Product Details “Keeping faith with Darwin,” progressive pragmatist Rorty (1931–2007) wrote, means realizing that “our species, its faculties and its current scientific and moral languages, are as much products of chance as are tectonic plates and mutated viruses.” (Richard Rorty, “Untruth and Consequences,” a review of Killing Time by Paul Feyerabend, in The New Republic, July 31, 1995).

Remember this when Darwinists, Christian or otherwise complain that people misunderstand them, that Darwinism isn’t really all just about chance and chance alone.

Darwinism IS really all about chance and chance alone.

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6 Responses to He said it: Philosopher Richard Rorty on Darwinism and chance

  1. Denyse O’Leary:

    Darwinism IS really all about chance and chance alone.

    Denyse,

    ‘Chance’ is an ambiguous word.

    On the Pascal’s Wager thread, Barb asked:

    Regarding those who believe that evolutionary theory is not a theory of pure chance:

    The answer of modern molecular biology to this much-debated question is categorical: chance, and chance alone, did it all, from primeval soup to man, with only natural selection to sift its effects. This affirmation now rests on overwhelming factual evidence., philosopher Christian de Duve (http://philosopedia.org/index……an_De_Duve)

    Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the supendous edifice of evolution.” (Jacques L. Monod, Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology, New York, Vintage Books, 1972, pages 112, 180).
    Are de Duve and Monod wrong in asserting that chance is responsible for evolution?

    My reply:

    Barb,

    It depends on the definition you use. To me, “pure chance” in the context of evolution means “pure randomness”, and by that definition, evolution is far more than pure chance.

    If you use the phrase “by chance” to mean “not by design”, then of course unguided evolution is a chance occurrence under that definition.
    De Duve was using chance in the latter sense, as can be seen by considering his statement along with the question that prompted it:

    According to science writer Malcolm W. Browne, when de Duve was asked whether “some guiding hand” was needed for the process, he responded,

    The answer of modern molecular biology to this much-debated question is categorical: chance, and chance alone, did it all, from primeval soup to man, with only natural selection to sift its effects.

    Monod is using “chance” in the first sense, but you have misinterpreted his statement. He does not say that evolution is nothing but chance; he says that chance is at the root of evolution, which is a very different meaning.
    This is clear if you read Monod’s statement in context:

    We call these events [mutations] accidental; we say that they are random occurrences. And since they constitute the only possible source of modifications in the genetic text, itself the sole repository of the organism’s hereditary structures, it necessarily follows that chance alone is at the source of every innovation, all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution…

  2. Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness – Talbott – Fall 2011
    Excerpt: In the case of evolution, I picture Dennett and Dawkins filling the blackboard with their vivid descriptions of living, highly regulated, coordinated, integrated, and intensely meaningful biological processes, and then inserting a small, mysterious gap in the middle, along with the words, “Here something random occurs.”
    This “something random” looks every bit as wishful as the appeal to a miracle. It is the central miracle in a gospel of meaninglessness, a “Randomness of the gaps,” demanding an extraordinarily blind faith. At the very least, we have a right to ask, “Can you be a little more explicit here?”
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....randomness

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    “In discussions with biologists I met large difficulties when they apply the concept of ‘natural selection’ in a rather wide field, without being able to estimate the probability of the occurrence in a empirically given time of just those events, which have been important for the biological evolution. Treating the empirical time scale of the evolution theoretically as infinity they have then an easy game, apparently to avoid the concept of purposesiveness. While they pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.’”
    Wolfgang Pauli –

  3. 3
    Kantian Naturalist

    I far prefer this statement of Rorty’s:

    “As good Darwinists, we want to introduce as few discontinuities as possible into the story of how we got from the apes to the Enlightenment.” (Truth and Progress, p. 40)

  4. 4

    Amen to this thread.
    its all about the unlikely case of chance creating the glory of biology.
    give it up already.

  5. “As good Darwinists, we want to introduce as few discontinuities as possible into the story of how we got from the apes to the Enlightenment.” (Truth and Progress, p. 40)’

    Why gild the lily? Particularly, since chocolates with unexpected, new flavours are filling them with awe at the never-ending scope of Darwinism to throw up surprises. Why start confiscating the chockies?

    Love the use of the word, ‘introduce’ there!

  6. That guy is giving newspeak a bad name.

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