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Darwinism and Its Discontents – Book Review Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Posted by henry000 in anti-creationism, anti-fundamentalism, anti-ID, Behe, biology, book review, Charles Darwin, Christianity, consilience, creationism, Darwin, Darwinism, Dawkins, evolution, genetics, geology, God, Gould, Haeckel, human evolution, philosophy, Piltdown Man, punctuated equilibrium, rationality, reason, religion, science, scientific theory.

I have been thinking about the ideas in this book for about four decades and have decided that the time has come to put them all together.

This is the opening sentence of Professor Michael Ruse’s latest book Darwinism and Its Discontents. Ruse is a well-known evolutionary philosopher and has been a great defender on Darwinism for a number of years. And with an opening statement like that, naturally I was thrilled to read what the discontents are all about, and if they matter at all.

The book is a defender of Darwinism and the fact of evolution from all sides of attacks, and is understandably light on refuting creationism of various flavours, so read this book to cement your understanding of Darwinism and evolution – I certainly learned a good deal from it.

Darwinism is defined as a particular theory in which evolution works. Its heart lies in the concept of natural selection, the chief causal process behind all organisms, and is the widely accepted evolutionary mechanism by the scientific community. However, it has always been under attack from various disciplines in social science, philosophy, religion, and even within science itself, and Ruse writes how these attacks are categorically mistaken.

Darwinism and Its Discontents Cover

The first chapter goes through the historical background of Darwinism. Ruse includes a number of notable historical figures ranging from people who did not have direct contribution to Darwinism such as Lyells and Malthus, to modern day scientists such as Fisher, Haldine and Wright. The conclusion of the chapter is right on spot – why was Darwin important? Because it was after him that a revolution happened – that life is a naturalistic, not a supernatural or God-inspired one.

The next few chapters are, I think, the highlights of the book as they outline what the fact of evolution is, its path, its cause and its limitations. Ruse presented the concept of consilience argument – that is, direct evidence supporting evolution from a myriad of fields of studies: palaeontology, biogeographical distribution, classification, morphology, embryology and so on. These chapters are essential in understanding the science of Darwinian theory of evolution – population genetics, adaptation, physical constraints on the phenotype, drift, and of course, natural selection, as well as a dash of Gould’s famous punctuated equilibrium theory.

The second half of the book then takes a different turn. It examines humans, the mistakes and dishonesty made in the history of evolutionary science (such as the Piltdown Man and Haeckel’s drawings) – and finally, Ruse looks at Darwinism from philosophical and religious point of views.

Overall I thought this book is very well balanced and not too technical for the layman; however it is definitely not an introductory level kind of book. If you are looking for the whole creationism vs. evolution debate then this is not an ideal book; conversely if you are looking for a book that covers a wide areas of Darwinian evolution – from past to present and across various disciplines, then this book is it.

“The Limits of Atheism”? Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Posted by henry000 in anti-evolution, atheism, Behe, creationism, evolution, faith, fundamentalism, God, Michael Behe, rationality, reason, religion, science.

Sometimes I wonder where the journalistic standards have been these days. Here is an appalling article written by a columnist named David Warren, titled “The Limits of Atheism”. Firstly it addresses nothing on the limits of atheism, instead it is all mumbo-jumbo on evolution; secondly it is full of the straw-man and manipulative arguments coming from the religious bigotry frame of mind.

Let’s start with the second paragraph. Warren simply asserts that most of the proponents of “evolutionism” know little science and cannot engage in details scientific discussions:

For most of these correspondents know precious little science, and haven’t the stamina to engage in detailed argument. They are simply shocked and appalled that anyone would dream of challenging what they believe to be the consensus of “qualified experts,” whom they assume are a closed camp of hard-bitten materialists, with no time for religious or poetical flights.

How outrageous!

It is the creationists of any creationism flavours who exhibit the undesirable trait of ignorance in evolution (and science in general) – we see this time and time again in the never-ending debates against creationists. We are all familiar with how they argue, which involves techniques such as quote mining, mis-understanding science, trumpeting scientists’ mistakes, using out-of-date data, using any areas of uncertainty as proof etc, you name it.

It is precisely the lack of “stamina” to engage in scientific arguments that make creationists of all favours so foolish and wrong. For example,  Michael Behe – one of the very few quotable reputable creationist-scientist today – has had one of his central argument refuted completely here by a grad student.

What on earth does Warren mean by putting quotes around “qualified experts”?

They (evolution proponents) imagine themselves to have an impersonal interest in defending science against “religious superstition,” and the dangers to society that the latter might present. They in fact have strong and uncompromising religious beliefs of their own, which they are loath to have questioned.

Yes of course! We stand to defend human knowledge and the scientific method as well as rationality from religious ignorance and fundamentalist thinking and manipulation.

I often wonder why the religious fundamentalists think evolutionists are arrogant, in that we have “uncompromising religious beliefs” of our own – when the complete opposite is true! Nothing, even in the face of undeniable evidence, will change the creationist’s mind, where as the proponents of evolution and science are the opposite – by definition. Now who is “uncompromising”?

In the concluding paragraphs Warren writes about a recent scientific finding showing that DNA could not have survived comets crashing into earth, because he attempts to show that yet another possible naturalistic explanation of origin of life is been shown not possible. He again shows his lack of understanding in evolution by using the argument of chance. This time this chance argument is done with a twist. Warren thinks that the materialistic evolutionists have resorted to the “multiple universes” hypothesis in order to let chance to explain the origin of life. What idiotic and criminal claim!

The Monthly Dembski Watch – July 2007 Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Posted by henry000 in anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, Behe, creationism, Dembski, evolution, fundamentalism, intelligent design, materialism, MIT, rationality, religion, Richard Dawkins, science, Uncommon Descent.

This is a summary of Bill Dembski’s July posts at Uncommon Descent. I started this last month when I was utterly appalled by Dembski’s classless act of making fun of Coyne’s physical appearance. Since then I have been interested in what Dembski writes, and this post is a result of it. I am particularly curious in what kind of positive contribution Dembski (and ID in general) can provide. Note that it is not the purpose of this post to provide anything substantial; it is merely a summary with some element of sarcasm (with people like him – why not?).

So these are what Bill has written in July 2007 (in reversing chronological order):

27th of July – SCIENCE’S BLIND SPOT by Cornelius Hunter

This is a short post from Bill recommending an anti-science book to his audience.

26th of July – A Scoville Scale for Dangerous Questions

This is a good one from Dembski – he is using the scale that measures the hotness of chilli as a way of rating questions proposed to “materialists”. Bill can be very creative too.

24th of July – Intelligent Design in Business Practice

Dembski cries and feels sorry for ID and wants to make it go into business practices. Be aware, the emptiness of ID has turned from school classrooms to business offices! Let’s see what ID has to offer for the success of the economies around the world.

Bill says:

Get used to it: ID is going every place that Darwinism has gotten its fetid little fingers.

I am seriously worried about Dembski’s state of mental health, no kidding. His bitterness has turned to this me-against-the-world ill feeling which has shown time and time again.

20th of July – Casey Luskin interviews Robert Marks, director of Baylor’s Evolutionary Informatics Lab

A short post by Bill advertising for his colleague Robert Marks. If you have read Bill’s post earlier, they are actually writing a very important and critical academic papers on, er, disproving Jesus Tomb.

20th of July – Kevin Padian: The Archie Bunker Professor of Paleobiology at Cal Berkeley

For those who aren’t familiar with Padian, he is a paleontologist who testified in the now famous Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005 which led to the defeat of the Intelligent Design side. Here is the entire testimony by Padian. Given this background, no wonder our oh-so-lovely Bill takes issue with Padian.

Bill creatively calls Padian the Archie Bunker this month, and as reported here last month Bill called the evolutionary biologist Coyne Hermant Munster. I am eagerly waiting what Dembski the creative soul will come up next month.

Incredibly Bill is actually on the defensive for once.

For a rebuttal of Dembski’s whining and vileness, see the wonderful Jason Rosenburg’s post here (and its comments). Jason said well to sum up William Dembski’s mentality:

Mentally healthy human beings do not write paragraphs like that.