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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.)

Not to worry: Museum curators will scramble to save Darwinism!

Lisa Anderson, national correspondent for the Chicago Tribune KNOWS what to think about the efforts of museum curators to convince the public that Darwinism is true:
Natural history museums around the country are mounting new exhibits they hope will succeed where high school biology classes have faltered: convincing Americans that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a rigorously tested cornerstone of modern science.
The article is a classic because writer Anderson seems never to have allowed herself to consider that the curators could be out of touch. If there is one thing that Darwinism isn't, that's rigorously tested. In reality, anyone who offers objections, without committing themselves to philosophical materialism (which really amounts to agreeing to whatever substitute materialist system is proffered, should Darwinism fail) becomes the target of any mediocre academic with a taste for witch hunting.

But it's not all a triumph of dullness. Some students have withstood the pressure, and at least one has entered on a promising dialogue with one of the profs who opposed him. (Note: You will find that dialogue in the comments box. Scroll down to Comments because I can't link to it directly).

While we're at it, one Commenter wanted to know why I object to the curators' apes 'r' us displays despite the fact that I accept common ancestry. Well, quite simply, because apes AIN'T us. We sustain not only civilizations but - on a lesser note - museums whose curators attempt to pretend that apes 'r' us, even though the very existence of a museum demonstrates that apes 'r' not us.

Meanwhile, apes just sit there, eat bananas, throw coconuts, and - if pestered sufficiently by humans - display minimal skills in manipulating symbols. Look, I got nothing against apes, but they 'r' not us.* And they can't help us understand ourselves either. The precise points on which we need information are the ones that separate us from them. A long time ago, for whatever reason, we started on a different path. Get used to it. End the fantasy. Quit trying to pretend that things are different.

* I support projects to protect wild apes from habitat destruction and laboratory apes from abuse, but do not see any future in pretending that they are "nearly human." They're not. And they are probably not headed in our direction either. Why should they be?

Did you come here looking for the following stories?

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. It will be interesting to see the line that the “separation of church and state” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Joseph, Cardinal Schonborn is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.

Caldwell suit re tax money to promote religious views of evolution :Growing debate at UCal Berkeley’s site

The discussion around the Caldwell suit against UCal Berkeley regarding the promotion of liberal religious views on evolution (but not conservative ones) on the UCal evo Web site is fascinating, precisely because so many academics and professionals appear to have missed the point! The point is that taxpayers’ money has been used to promote only liberal religious views.

Now, if the United States wants to enact a constitutional amendment to say that Darwinism is the state religion, and that therefore non-believers’ tax money should be used to support it, fine. I don’t find that to be a recipe for social peace, but then I am not an American. My advice to UCal Berkeley would be to get all that stuff off their Web site pronto. If they want to promote Darwinism, they should promote it as science, and not try to show how it abets some version of religion. But then, maybe it can't stand on its own as science. maybe it needs the support of religion. In which case ...
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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