Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Mr. Darwin Can’t Get a Break
It can’t be easy to be Charles Darwin right now. (I mean, for reasons beyond the obvious.) A meticulous researcher and a serious and deeply respectful man, Mr. Darwin spent years carefully documenting and refining his seminal* theory of evolution through natural selection, delaying its presentation until similar discoveries by fellow British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace prompted him to go public and secure his claim as the father of evolutionary theory.
(And what is it with our British cousins, that they should produce simultaneously two men of such insight?)
Imagine for a moment if Galileo, whose encounter with the Catholic Church has been described in this fine piece by our own @Roderic, was today the target of pseudo-scientific sniping for Galileo’s enthusiastic support of the heliocentric model, and that a cottage industry of questionable academic rigor persisted in attempting to tear that theory down. Ponder a world in which the work of Isaac Newton (another big name in British science) was deemed risible by a gaggle of modern critics, despite his having discovered much of classical physics and — oh, yes — co-invented the calculus because plain old math wasn’t quite up to his needs.
Think about that, because that’s what Mr. Darwin has to put up with every single day.
Okay, there’s nothing wrong with questioning science. In fact, to do science is to question science: that’s what science is all about. But while doing science always entails questioning science, the act of questioning science is not always doing science (if that makes sense: it’s one of those p implies q does not imply that not-p implies not-q situations).
A couple of days ago the British newspaper The Telegraph ran a story about a criticism of Darwin mounted by the woke folks at Sheffield University in the UK. That story is paywalled at The Telegraph, but Breitbart is covering it here. The gist of the story is that the school deems evolutionary biology the stuff of white supremacy. The Telegraph quotes the school as writing “It is clear that science cannot be objective and apolitical…. [T]he curriculum we teach must acknowledge how colonialism has shaped the field of evolutionary biology and how evolutionary biologists think today,” and as calling for the “whiteness and Eurocentrism of our science” to be deconstructed.
It’s bad enough that Darwin’s work is attacked via pseudo-science from the right, as I mentioned recently in this piece (paywalled behind Ricochet) about the work of Stephen Meyer. Now the great naturalist is in the left’s crosshairs as well.
What caught my eye about the Breitbart piece (which was linked indirectly by Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit) was, first, that it is about Darwin, a man I admire and with whom I share a birthday, but also that it mentioned Sheffield University. That august institution came up here recently in this piece I wrote about a
quack woke geophysics lecturer at Sheffield calling for an end to the structural racism of the geoscience field. Or something.
* I have read that “seminal” is no longer considered appropriate, when discussing contributions in science. I can’t imagine why not.Published in Science & Technology
You mean this?
That makes no sense. ID people say things like “This could not have happened by purely natural means, and was likely designed.” That’s not a statement that G-d didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t make things in a particular way. That’s a statement that G-d did make them–full stop.
Well, at least it is a full stop to scientific inquiry. 😜
(Don’t go there again.)
And how is it not telling God how He had to have done things through direct intervention? “Nope, God, sorry, you can’t have used this method to create humans. There wasn’t enough time/There’s not enough evidence for me to believe You could do it this way/Etc. You had to directly intervene and directly design humanity! You had to do it the way I say You did!”
You went there, so why not?
I would think it’s the beginning of a research program looking for features of good design.
I’ve got these hemorrhoid problems, but there must be some reason the darn things are there; it would be useful to know why.
Ok, real doctor probably does know why; that example is surely outdated. But the thought pattern seems about right. I believe it was Snell and Fermat who made some discoveries using the same pattern; Leibniz thought the fact was important.
(This is very, very Kuhn, and not very Popper, and Popper is still awesome. But that’s as much as I know. Do I look like I have the time to sort this all out?)
It’s not telling G-d how He had do things. It’s telling us that G-d did do things. That’s what the statements mean. They don’t mean your paraphrase.
Okay, then why couldn’t God have used natural selection to get the job done?
Arahant, I’m going to guess that most intelligent design enthusiasts would allow that God might have used natural selection, but that the entire sequence of events required to establish the beginning of the process of evolution couldn’t have happened — or, more precisely, is extraordinarily unlikely to have happened — through scientifically explainable means, and so the assert that a divine hand was most likely involved in getting the ball rolling.
ID doesn’t say He didn’t.
Six-day creationists say He didn’t. Some people say both things.
ID folks are often theistic evolutionists who say He did. Sometimes I get the impression the theistic evolutionists are a majority of the ID folks (as with HR’s preceding comment), but it’s not like I’ve ever taken a poll.
How did the Divine Hand do that? (You knew that was the next question.) We’re beating a dead horse at this point, and probably for the last six pages at least.
No, if they said God could have done it thisaway, then I would never argue with them. The whole point is they limit God by their arguments. How can anyone not see this?
They very often do say that G-d could have guided the evolutionary process. That is a very normal thing for ID people to say.
I don’t know what to tell you. I’m looking at their premises and conclusions and not finding any limitations on G-d. You’re seeing what’s not there.
Your objections, I’m expect, would apply to some six-day creationists, some of whom are no doubt into ID. But it’s not from ID that they’re getting that limitation.
That’s where SA goes off the rails. (He undoubtedly has a different opinion, but this is my comment so I’m going to tell it my way.)
He seems to argue that saying “God designed it” is effectively an explanation. I think that’s a sophistic dodge, taking advantage of the fact that we all know that the moment God is invoked, all the rules are gone and we have to stop asking questions about method, stop asking for evidence, stop asking for testable hypotheses: once God’s hand is in it, all the other questions are moot.
From the perspective of the natural sciences, that’s nonsense. Science wants to know the mechanism, wants to understand every natural process. Scientists don’t want to see a wildcard played that trumps everything else and answers every question with “God just did it.”
So science and religion part company at the moment where someone invokes divine intervention. They part company even when someone suggests that God is the most likely explanation, because that person has announced that he’s no longer doing science. It’s like being presented with a mathematical problem you don’t know how to solve and simply declaring that the answer is, not some number, but rather, I don’t know, “the sense of wellbeing one has when one finishes a good meal and gazes at a beautiful sunset.” It’s a nice answer, but it isn’t math.
That’s intelligent design.
No, no, no, no, no, no! That’s not the same thing. God used the process, not God intervened in the process. When I set up a program to run, I don’t go back to intervene and redo the data. I run the program. This is my point. They are saying God intervened. He “guided” the process. There is no proof of any such thing. There is no need for that as an explanation. God does not intervene if I throw a jar up in the air to make it come back down again. They think God couldn’t have created a process to create this diversity and beauty. He had to keep sticking His finger in. “God can’t get it right. He has to keep fudging the results to get things where He wants.”
Incorrect, you are not seeing what is plainly there. Faithless ones.
Of some things, yes.
Of everything, no. I doubt any ID proponent ever thought it was.
See # 125, particularly the third-last paragraph.
It’s all of them, Augie. Every one of them. Faithless and blind to their lack.
Depends on which ID argument you’re talking about.
Let’s try this argument: “There’s no way this irreducibly complex system that turns up 100 millions years after life began could have emerged step-by-step, so G-d must have made it miraculously!” I think it’s actually fair to say that limits G-d, although I’m not aware that anyone actually makes that argument. (Probably some guy on the internet does, but so what?)
But then there’s this argument: “Here’s an irreducibly complex system that probably could not have emerged step-by-step by purely natural means. So G-d must have helped.” That leaves open the possibility that G-d guided some step-by-step process, which is a very normal thing for ID people to think.
Or this: “There’s information in cells, and information needs an author, so G-d probably wrote this information.” That, again, leaves open the possibility that G-d used the standard neo-Darwinian chance-selection process to write the information He wanted. Again, a very normal thing for ID people to think.
Sometimes you just need to beat them dead horses more:
“What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?”
Exit science stage left.
See # 125, particularly the third-last paragraph.
It’s a consistent thing, and is a normal thing for ID people to say; this is a basic fact about what some human beings say; I’m surprised you’ve apparently never heard of such people.
It’s fine to make a distinction between G-d setting up the program and G-d intervening. It’s also fine to make a distinction between G-d interfering in a world set up to run without Him and G-d acting in a world set up for Him to act in. . . .
I would imagine all three of those models are held by many ID people. But it’s not like I’ve taken a poll.
Statements mean things. They don’t mean what they don’t mean.
Must? God must have helped? Don’t you see how this is exactly what I’m talking about?
Information needs an author? No. Information needs an interpreter. Messages can be encoded by an author, and that becomes information for those who can decode it. The US highway system has information. Does that information have an author? Was the information in the highway system purposefully encoded? Or is it something that can be interpreted out of the organic network?
“Did you really? I never do that. I’ve never done that on Ricochet at all.”
What has that to do with anything?
“Must” in this case describes a probable conclusion about what G-d has actually done. There’s not even a hint that G-d personally had no choice in the matter. It’s the difference between “The kids must have cleaned their room” and “You kids must clean your room.” It’s just observations about the past.
You’re welcome to disagree with the premise. I’m just here to pay attention to what the arguments actually are.
Might want to get some glasses.
As you say, statements mean things. Science means, among other things, not invoking supernatural explanations to explain natural phenomena.
Again, it’s okay to invoke God. It just isn’t okay to pretend that you haven’t left the realm of science and entered the realm of the supernatural. And it’s definitely not okay to trick gullible people into thinking that you’re still doing science.
That’s the problem with telling people to go look things up all the time. Either they don’t go, or might not be able to count.
So are you making one of the three objections summarized in # 125? If so, which?
And should there have been a fourth, perhaps along the lines of “ID is not science because science must not say anything about the supernatural”?
I’ve at least heard that one before, and more than once. It’s not part of Popper’s falsifiability criterion or any other major theory on what science is that I am familiar with; but I’m not sure I have any particular problem with it, as long as it’s stated clearly.
“The supernatural is outside of the domain of science, which is confined to natural phenomena.”
Is that sufficiently clear?
Not yet. ID is confined to natural phenomena in terms of the evidence it looks at–but not in its conclusions.
“The supernatural is outside of the domain of science, the subject matter of the conclusions of which is confined to natural phenomena.”