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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
No, that’s too much waffling for me. The domain of science — the questions it asks, the evidence it considers, and the conclusions it reaches — are all confined to the natural world.
It was designed to remove waffling. But you’re right that it wasn’t thorough enough!
Fine and dandy. You have four objections, and I endorse none of them. But I don’t object to the third or to the fourth!
I’m not sure they’re entirely consistent, incidentally. A Popper falsifiabilty criterion for science could recognize as scientific some falsifiable theory that deals with the supernatural.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m okay with having God introduced into a scientific context, just as long as it’s agreed that God is subject to and limited by the laws of nature, just like every other natural thing.
Well, as I’m sure you know by now, if you’ve read my pertinent comments to counter this fallacy that you state, that I take umbrage to this. To say that science has all the answers, or even sufficient answers to be at odds with Christian belief, is a fallacy. As many do say, to say that faith is mentally different from knowing (such as science is purported to be) is a departure from reason that modern “science” adherents fall prey to.
Linguistically, faith and belief are the same words in Greek. To say ‘You have faith and I have belief’ is contrary to the very meaning of the words. This is then a long and well propagated bit of confusion that is, I suppose, ignorantly advanced by both some Christians and it seems the majority of concerned non-Christians. And I consider it to be born out of a confirmation bias on the part of non-Christians.
Categorically, modern science is catching up to the Bible. The Bible says that God (or God says) that He spread out the heavens; and science now says that the universe started small and grew large. Three thousand years ago the Bible referred to the earth as round; and two or three thousand years later, modern science came to say the same thing. The Bible indicates that the earth suffered tectonic shifts; and so does modern science.
The differences are purely matters of faith in handed-down texts on both sides; one Biblical and one the accumulated works of hundreds of years of scientists who functionally premised their inquiries on Biblical presuppositions or postulates and on experimentation and reproducibility of results; and neither side knows the actual details of what, how, when, or why. The Bible is set; but modern science is in a state of frequent flux. And there are differences between the Bible and modern science.
The Bible says that the earth and the whole universe was deliberately created and ordered by God; and modern science says that the universe incomprehensibly spontaneously created and ordered itself with what scientists call the laws of physics. The Bible says that the world is in a state of decay from sin; and science says that the world is by happenstance subject to entropy. The Bible says that all life was deliberately created from scratch; and scientists say that all life was the result of random chance and otherwise-random actions of the laws of physics. The Bible says that life was created with distinct species and that some were presumably killed off and others were saved intact; and science says that distinct species specialized over time, and some went extinct, and at least some went catastrophically extinct, and others survived and evolved upwards.
The Bible says that species were deliberately created, and that man was created in the image of God; and science says that (athropogenically speaking) species were “honed” or in principle derived from an unintelligent and random, but surprisingly principled process which led to increases in order, and development, complexity, and punctuated advances in competence, leading ultimately to the human brain, with it’s ability to deliberately learn, to conceptualize, to transfer detailed knowledge from one human to another (over time!) using the spoken (and then written) word.
The Bible says that at a certain specific time God would be born a human and be “cut off” to “redeem” fallen humanity, and Jesus came at that time and died and rose again for humanity, and changed the world; and science says —
that’s a matter of faith not knowledge: it’s not “science”.
But “science so-called” does not even look at the events of 2,000 years ago and ask, ‘How did this seeming prophecy seem to get fulfilled”; instead ‘Let’s look through our microscopes and let us theorize for ourselves.’
As for the young age of the earth, that all depends on the speed of light. And over the past three years or so twice have I commented on this theory of light in which the speed of light has been shown to be decreasing over the past four hundred years, and decreasing according to the tail end of an inverse exponential curve, with predictable quavers. And I have given on-line references and asked for criticism. And I have gotten only two responses, both unreasoned rebuttals by only two members: one, a physicist, accused me of “mocking” him; and the other a member who read an internet criticism of the scientist and said, He doesn’t even have a PhD. (Howard Wolowitz would take umbrage at this.)
This is the state of science today? This is not the spirit of inquiry, even if just to investigate and rebut a fallacious theory. But to place all one’s eggs in one basket? “Science” may have taken a half step to the left when the true path lay a half step to the right. But no one is curious about checking.
It seems more like priests, angry against a challenge to the religious dogma handed down. And so science has string theory and 10-dimensions. Or superstrings? Or M-theory? Or supersymmetry and the Grand Unification?
Seems like that takes a lot of faith.
And the mome raths outgrabe.
I kid, I kid. Just because I don’t understand that doesn’t mean those aren’t real words perfectly clear to someone with a weaker philosophy vocabulary and a better math vocabulary.
I’m sorry. What?
A nonsense line from “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll.
I have this vague idea that it fits after a lot of words I don’t understand. Probably an influence of Scott Adams, below.
But really–I’m sure it’s just my own loserness that I didn’t know the words in your sentence. (If I hadn’t already talked too much in this thread, I could have stated some agreement on the meaning of the word “faith” and other stuff!)
Well, it’s there for anyone who might care to read through it. It’s actually all quite valid I think. It’s necessarily cursory, but if there’s any misunderstanding in what I meant, because of how I wrote or what I didn’t include, one can certainly question me. But for this pervasive mystical scientism that implicitly is treated as the final word on what is known or knowable, and is used to minimize and exclude Christian thought as not knowing anything really real, I couldn’t let it go without a response even if no one ever reads it.
What did you say? Poppy? said science is knowing nothing other than what know we don’t know; science only knowing what is falsifiable (or something like that)?
Science only gives us some knowledge if we can learn about what we have not experienced from what we have. We can only do that by means of some principle, like the principle that the same laws of physics are always in place in the physical world. Any scientific conclusion depends on such a principle. So no scientific conclusion is known unless . . . unless we also know such a principle.
More briefly, science has a foundation, which necessarily cannot be learned from science. We can only know it in some other way.
That’s why if science is the only source of knowledge, then there is no knowledge at all, not even from science. Details here:
Karl Popper. He’s the great philosopher of science who said that all genuine scientific claims are falsifiable.
A wonderful theory!
Unfortunately, he also denied that we can ever have any knowledge from science. That was because he understood that stuff about the foundations of science, and he thought it was a problem without a solution.
It’s better to just recognize that it’s not even a problem. Then we can admit that we can get some actual knowledge from science.
And, in theory, we could still take Popper’s definition of science. But I doubt it could be a complete definition. If we can get knowledge from science, then what science essentially is must be something that can give us knowledge that a theory is true. But falsification only gives us knowledge that a theory is false.
And, going back to what you were saying about religion and science, it turns out that at least three of the major responses to this topic from modern philosophers argue that religious faith is on a par with belief in the principle or principles at the foundation of science.
That is–the grounds we believe them on are the same.
That’s pragmatic grounds in William James, common-sense grounds in Thomas Reid and Alvin Plantinga, and complicated-Kant-philosophy-stuff grounds in Immanuel Kant. (2 of those are introduced in the link above. I introduce James elsewhere.)
If they’re right about this, well–then we need religion and science both. We, of course, still have to maintain the necessary distinction between them. (And if we side with people like Kant, and I think HR and Arahant as well, we can consider them not only distinct but also separate.)
Which leads one to think that the arguer is engaging in special pleading… because they are. You don’t get to invoke supernatural explanations in a debate about the natural sciences; it is literally non-sequitur.
Flick, you’re a good guy with a terrific profile picture, so I don’t like it hear that you’re taking umbrage with something I wrote. So I just want to say that I don’t “think that science has all the answers, or even sufficient answers to be at odds with Christian belief.” I really don’t, and I’ve routinely criticized scientists who try to claim that their findings in any way contradict, or support, religions claims (hence my negative comments about Meyer and Behe).
There are lots of questions for which science can offer us no meaningful answers. There may even be lots of question about the natural world for which science will remain mute.
But science is the process of dealing with the natural world in a self-consistent way to the best of our abilities. I believe — yes, this is a matter of faith based on experience — that science is the most effective tool we’ve developed for understanding the natural world. Other techniques, such as those based on oracles and mysticism and shamans and religion and philosophical theorizing unmoored from observation and experimentation, have demonstrated themselves to be, when compared to the methods of science, effectively worthless at explaining the natural world in a self-consistent way. So I have faith in the mechanisms of science like I have faith in the input of my senses: they’re imperfect, but they’re the best thing I’ve got and they haven’t let me down yet in any way that I can’t explain.
Science, by which I mean a rigorous naturalistic approach to the natural world, works, and has earned my confidence by being open to challenge and testing and revision. The Bible, which I have read and which I value highly for reasons having nothing to do with science, seems less useful for answering the kinds of questions science tries to answer.
The mistake that many people allow themselves to make is to pit the perfect (their preference for epistemic closure or philosophical beauty) against the good (the tendency of science to provide answers that are better than nothing but are nonetheless messy or incomplete.)
Philosophy has a sort of built-in advantage in that sense – it can always claim to be able to win this beauty contest while having the ability to point to some sunny upland of the future where these difficult questions all have nice, clean answers. Reality is considerably grubbier than that, and full of partial answers, compromises and held-together-with-bailing-wire predictive theories.
But unlike science, philosophy doesn’t really seem to have provided much in the way of actual improvements to our knowledge. Certainly not in comparison to the accomplishments which scientific learning has brought us.
Because you are assuming what is left unsaid.
I believe the world is going to end a certain way. That doesn’t imply I’m not open to being wrong.
I just think some theories are wrong or not as certain due to lack of evidence or something else. I have not limited God by my ideas as I’m open to him doing it however he likes.
I believe in natural selection. Go to the Ark Experience, and they teach natural selection as the means of getting every existent animal on the ark. I do not think special evolution is likely. It certainly does not deserve the certainty with which it is held.
But I find it hilarious that you are all about the How for God on a thread started by an atheist who will use the how as evidence of God’s non-existence. Now, surely what The Henries do with evolution or the Big Bang theory shouldn’t keep us from intellectual curiosity, but somewhere buried in this conversation is a criticism of faith being built on the assumption that reason is not built on any faith assumptions. And when challenged on erroneous conclusions, it must be the ID people lacking curiosity when you have absolutely no evidence to draw that conclusion, but you do have an entire system of scientific inquiry built by the curious believers in ID.
And notice, the mockery given to God must’ve done it that completely undermines your point.
Even if I thought there was sufficient evidence of macro evolution to convince me that species can evolve into new species, hybrid sterilization not withstanding, I would still believe God done did it.
Stina, I’m sorry, but that’s incorrect. I’m an agnostic: I don’t claim to know whether God does or doesn’t exist. And I not only have never seen any evidence of His non-existence, but I don’t believe that science can provide such evidence — nor of His existence either. That’s the whole point of most of my comments here.
I think cellular life was created by the independent Arch Angel Uriel and after destroying her creations many times to start anew. The other independent Arch Angel Samael suggests to tie destruction with time. They started simple with microrganisms and watched the most fascinating process in the physical universe unfold.
Then they went to Earth to start another game.
The universal myths of a brother and sister creating life and creating life without the usual problems of incest stem from this original story.
Thank you, Henry. Your contributions are always…
No. I just can’t.
Some stories have Shiva destroying and recreating different worlds which actually meant destroying the dinosaurs and recreating other life. Some stories have Ice and Fire meeting like in the Scandinavian tales to represent the warm water seeded with life by Uriel. Others like the legends of Mesopotamia… got kinda weird. Like Loki shapeshifting into a horse weird.
H.P. Lovecraft in one of his drug induced visions of the cosmos saw this process and he was horrified by it. In one glimpse he saw the glory of life evolving because of death and he felt it ugly. In his disgust, he made the concept of Shug Niggurath. A multi-breasted dark figure surrounded by her Bha’ki minions. Praying to her grants fertility but you may not like what you give birth to. She is among the most neutral of H.P. Lovecraft’s creations as she occasionally helps humanity.
When I read about parasites. When I read about how violent, rapey and unpleasant so many mating habits are. I am reaffirmed in my belief that this world is not good and it was wishful thinking when the Hebrews and their followers told themselves that this world was made good.
Uriel does not hate humanity and neither does her brother. But they are indifferent to us as I am indifferent to the bacteria living on the keyboard upon which I type. It’s the story that I find fascinating. The bacteria below me are immaterial to my sentiments.
I wish to genetically engineer the kind of religious impulses that you hold out of humanity in order to make the next generations more godly and less superstitious. You are a blasphemer in my eyes. Here is my definition of blasphemy. Which I described on a related post.
What has been, until now, a fairly thoughtful conversation could continue to do with less of this kind of stuff. The point was neither trolling nor fanciful shock-value mythology, but rather a discussion of the nature of science and what it has to say, or not say, about the supernatural.
But perhaps we’re all done with that. I think there are only two or three still here in any case.
From what I have read, Christians like Sawadeetka, Flickr, Stina and SaintAugustine aren’t attracted to the Christian religion because of the better part of themselves. Something irrational in them yearns for G-d so they believe. I find this repulsive even though I realize how normal and natural that impulse is. That impulse has nothing to do with the veracity of Christianity which I won’t comment on but with the exception of C.S. Lewis, the yearning for religion is not the same as the yearning for Truth. It’s worse with socialists.
My own impression is that something very normal and human compels us to seek the numinous — and that’s why almost everyone has almost always sought it.
It probably isn’t normal, per se, to find normal human motivation “repulsive.” You may be an outlier.
Is trolling when you lie? I honestly have not tried to mislead anyone or to unfairly insult anybody.
Trolling is attempting to bait someone into a reaction. It can be by presenting an absurd position and seeing who agrees (setting them up for mockery) or by being intentionally inflammatory in a “nice” way to skate by CoC while your responders let tempers carry them away.
It can be done with truth or lie, but not usually in good faith.
No, I’m sure you haven’t. You seem like an honest fellow. I chalk your nonsense up to a kind of immaturity.
Your Mom’s immature!
It is in good faith, when I present myths and I yearn to improve humanity through genetic manipulation. Humans don’t yearn for the Truth. They yearn for whatever beliefs suit them at the time. Atheists certainly aren’t immune to this. They believe that humanity can be good through reason alone though they really don’t have a good reason for that.
Please understand that what I find shocking is completely different from what you find shocking.
Stina. I might be going too personal here but if all the evidence suggested that Macro Evolution was True, scientists filled in the big gaps in our knowledge and we figured out how humanity got from a rat to a hominid, could you believe in it. Lately (last two years) I have rethought some of my most basic assumptions based on new evidence. It was unpleasant. I empathize with people who hate doing such things. It reminds me of C.S. Lewi’s conversion to Christianity was not very pleasant.
Science and Economics as written by Thomas Sowell seem to strive to understand the world as it is not as we wish it to be which is why I find it garners such ardent philos among so many nerds.
I don’t know. I’d need to be faced with that conundrum to tell. So far, I don’t see the evidence for it.