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Friday, October 21, 2005

Quotes of the day:

In case you wondered why there is an intelligent design controversy, here is a quotation from a textbook of recent memory:

"Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless--a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit."

"Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us."
(Joseph S. Levine and Kenneth R. Miller, Biology: Discovering Life (D.C. Heath and Co., 1st ed. 1992; this language was not removed for the 2nd ed. in 1994), p. 152. Note: Apparently, this language has since been removed, but yunf!, what about all the previous students who thought that it is, like, science? )

I am utterly fascinated by the people who insist that we all ought to support this stuff with our tax money and - now that I am a member of The Writers' Union of Canada - I am thinking of applying for a Canada Council grant to study them! So please write in and make the case that I have a moral obligation to support philosophical materialism with my tax money, even though it is not the established religion of my country, let alone the one I belong to (as if that matters). By doing so, you will help get ME tax money in order to question the obligation.

Alternatively, if the Comments box does not fill up in the way that helps my case, I could try financing my opinions on publishers' advances ... hey, maybe that makes more sense because then no one who hates my ideas is forced to support them (which I wouldn't really want anyway), and in any event I am good at dealing with publishers and don't have trouble getting decent advances ... Now how shall we convert the Darwinists to that system?

Oh, and here's another good one, maybe even better:

Many investigators feel uneasy about stating in public that the origin of life is a mystery, even though behind closed doors they freely admit that they are baffled. There seems to be two reasons for their unease. Firstly, they feel it opens the door to religious fundamentalists and their god-of-the-gaps pseudo-explanations. Secondly, they worry that a frank admission of ignorance will undermine funding, especially for the search for life in space. (Paul Davies, The Origin of Life , Penguin Books, London, 2003, p. xxiv)

(Note: I just finished shuffling through a bunch of textbooks' chapters on the origin of life, and I never saw anything there like this blanket admission that experts "are baffled". Having recently edited a textbook chapter on origin of life myself, I am not sure why it is a suitable subject for discussion at the high school/first year U level, except as a fun item for speculative projects (and I am all for that, as long as we understand the level of uncertainty we are dealing with).

I am not claiming that OoL is unresearchable or a miracle. But when you don't know and don't really know how to find out, it is better to admit the problem than to speculate.)

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