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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mary Midgley: Philosopher who questions the "Selfish Gene"

The recent Guardian profile of British philosopher Mary Midgeley, basher of ultra-Darwinist Richard Dawkins, is interesting for the way in which it seems to withhold praise for a generally admirable woman who made the mistake of questioning ultra-Darwinism during her philosophy career.

"I'm not anti-science," she maintains. "What I object to is improper science sold as science. I understand Dawkins thinks he was talking about the survival potential of certain lines rather than the motives of the genes themselves, but I believe he is mistaken. Scientists in this country have little cultural overlap with the arts and humanities and ... they are unaware of when they start bringing their own political and psychological views into the argument. There's nothing wrong with scientists having such views as long as they are aware of what they are doing ... Dawkins may argue that he is using selfishness as a metaphor but he must have been aware of how the concept might be interpreted and used. And Dawkins has to take some responsibility for that."

Obviously, naturalism (materialism) is an impotent ideology if any genuine criticism, on whatever ground, is seen as "anti-science." In fact, evolutionary psychology (EP), which Midgley rightly criticized in her disaproval of the "selfish gene", would be a big embarrassment to Darwinism IF the latter were itself more securely founded on fact.

You know the kind of thing we hear constantly from EP: If kids don't eat their greens, that's because "evolution" is protecting them from poisoning. Or if they do, well that must be because "evolution" is encouraging them to have strong bodies. Yeah right.

(Avoidance of chewy, non-greasy vegetables with complex flavours couldn't have anything at all to do with easy access to soft, greasy, sugary fast food in recent years. It must be shipped back hundreds of thousands of years in the past and called "evolution," ... possibly to assuage guilt?)

One reason I know Darwinism is on the way out is that Darwinists do not seem anxious to rise up, as a group, and drive this stuff off the scene. That fact alone implies that most arguments for Darwinism are similarly poorly founded.

Australian radio program on intelligent design

Here's a transcript of another program that has the benefit of a reasonably broad base. Many participants say some intelligent things. The disadvantage is that, as so often, conventional media don't get the key issues. Science does not exist to defend Darwinism, any more than it exists to defend classical physics over against quantum theory. I would say, if some traditionally privileged groups such as upper-class intellectual atheists, don't like intelligent design, tuff. These materialists should pay more attention to the messages from quantum theory.

By the way, while we are on the subject of Australians, I hope that all readers of this blog will also patronise the excellent blog operated by the learned biologist Stephen E. Jones, who is acquainted in detail with almost all of the relevant issues. Indeed, Commenters who want to engage me in argument would be so much better off to argue with Jones. It is a free education!

Another ID on TV link: The Bible Answer Man

Apparently, ID theorist Jay Richards also appeared on the Bible Answer Man, and a "Sagan at the cocktail party" joke was featured, which may not be the Bible Answer, but hey.

ID and opponents (on all sides ) on Larry King Live

If you want to sample a range of quotable opinion on the ID controversy, check out CNN: Larry King Live: "Intelligent Design in America's classrooms?"

I kind of like this program lineup because it brings together a number of different (= opposing), quotable voices in the debate today. According to CNN, the program transcript features

- young earth creationist John MacArthur, pastor, teacher at the Grace Community Church; author of The Battle for the Beginning: Creation, Evolution and the Bible host of "Grace to You" and president of the Master's College and founder of the Master's Seminary.

- Barbara Forrest, Ph.D. Barbara is the author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design She is professor of philosophy, Southeastern Louisiana University, National Advisory Council of the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

- Deepak Chopra, the best selling author of How to Know God, and founder of the Chopra Center. His blog site,, now has a discussion on the topic of creation versus evolution, including lengthy comments by Deepak.

- Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, who supports the president's position on teaching intelligent design as well as evolution, favors teaching both.

- Congressman Chris Shays, Republican of Connecticut, who disagrees with the president on the teaching of intelligent design.

- Dr. Jay Richards, vice president of the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank at the forefront in promoting the intelligent design theory.

Interestingly, in this setting, ID seems middle of the road to me. It's not New Age, YEC, or authoritarian materialist.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.
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