Friday, July 08, 2005

Top 3 Countdown

I am curious to know who people think are the leading Darwinian fundamentalists today. My current top 3 are as follows:

1. Eugenie Scott
2. Richard Lewontin
3. Richard Dawkins

I will elaborate on the reasons and provide evidence in due course. In the meantime, I welcome comments and suggestions for their rivals.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Clarifying Catholic teaching

The New York Times opens its collective mind again. They permit a piece by Christoph Schönborn that clarifies the position of the Roman Catholic Church on evolution and design in nature. It begins:

EVER since 1996, when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was "more than just a hypothesis," defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith.

But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Kudos to the Times for allowing (at least in this instance) a correction of frequent misrepresentations of the church's position on this issue.

Michael Behe discusses the importance of this here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Oh yeah, that deity who does not transcend nature

A piece by Cornelia Dean in the New York Times contained this interesting assertion:

It is evolution's acceptance of nature as the only true scientific authority and its capacity to fall in the face of a more effective explanation that make evolution science, far more than its mere correctness.

That is the difficulty faced by advocates of creationism and intelligent design. It is possible to believe in evolution and believe in God. Plenty of biologists do. But their deity is not a creator or intelligent agent at work in the material world in ways that transcend nature and its laws. That would be a matter of faith, not science.

Is it not obvious that believing in a deity that does not transcend nature and its laws is also a matter of faith? Does she really mean to suggest that such belief is a matter of science? How can they print this stuff?

Of course, her real error is to ignore the fact that for many Darwinists, Darwinism is not falsifiable in practice. And she seems to think that by asserting that there is no evidence that would tend to contradict evolution, she can make it so. I find it so remarkable that she and her cohorts can state so confidently that the Cambrian Explosion poses no problems for Darwinian theory. Hence, she has rightfully earned a place among the Darwinian fundamentalists.

Gould and Dawkins Lovefest

Here is one of the first usages of the phrase Darwinian Fundamentalism of which I am aware. Thanks to my main man, Stephen Jay Gould. He used the phrase to describe Richard Dawkins' and Daniel Dennett's narrow reliance on limited mechanisms to explain how evolution happened:
Some of these ideas have filtered into the general press, but the uniting theme of Darwinian fundamentalism has not been adequately stressed or identified. . . . Amid the variety of their subject matter, the ultra-Darwinists share a conviction that natural selection regulates everything of any importance in evolution, and that adaptation emerges as a universal result and ultimate test of selection's ubiquity.

I think the description fits for many more reasons than that.

The article contains this gem about Daniel Dennett's book Darwin's Dangerous Idea:
His limited and superficial book reads like a caricature of a caricature—for if Richard Dawkins has trivialized Darwin's richness by adhering to the strictest form of adaptationist argument in a maximally reductionist mode, then Dennett, as Dawkins's publicist, manages to convert an already vitiated and improbable account into an even more simplistic and uncompromising doctrine. If history, as often noted, replays grandeurs as farces, and if T.H. Huxley truly acted as "Darwin's bulldog," then it is hard to resist thinking of Dennett, in this book, as "Dawkins's lapdog."

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Post note: Some extended quotes from this article can now be found here.