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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Quote of the Day: Evolution as both law and fact? James Watson weighs in

DNA double helix discoverer James D> Watson on “Why Darwin’s still a scientific hotshot, writes,
Let us not beat about the bush — the common assumption that evolution through natural selection is a "theory" in the same way as string theory is a theory is wrong. Evolution is a law (with several components) that is as well substantiated as any other natural law, whether the law of gravity, the laws of motion or Avogadro's law. Evolution is a fact, disputed only by those who choose to ignore the evidence, put their common sense on hold and believe instead that unchanging knowledge and wisdom can be reached only by revelation.

Now, this sort of confusion, at high levels no less, helps explain why so many people are restless about how evolution is taught in school. Having boomed that "evolution is a law", Watson does not formulate the law.

What is the law? Can Watson, or anyone, say where evolution will take us in the next 50 million years, in the same way that Avogadro could tell us what would happen if we pumped more gas into a sealed container?

Watson then announces that evolution is a "fact." That means that it can't be a law, but rather a set of observations from which we may be able to formulate a law. But we can formulate a law only if those circumstances constantly recur. Only then can we predict specific outcomes in an accurate enough way to talk about law.

The problem is that the history of life is a history, like any other, and life forms do not constantly recur. They strut their hour upon the stage and depart.

Attempts to formulate laws of evolution are like attempts to formulate laws of any other type of history. The laws are formulated in good faith, but life does not need to follow them.

What happened to Dollo's Law? (life forms cannot regain structures they have lost) or the Central Dogma (one gene codes for one protein) or "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" (that baby of yours was once a fish, honest!)? Well, no one told the life forms they had to follow those laws/dogmas/slogans, and it seems they didn't bother.

Take heart, both Darwinists and non-Darwinists. Historians do no better with their alleged laws of human history. You are doing well enough if you can demonstrate that your theory of evolution is a sound theory.
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Anti-ID course at the University of Kansas:

The University of Kansas will sponsor a course that studies intelligent design, but only as a form of mythology, taught by department chair Paul Mirecki.

Mirecki said his course, limited to 120 students, would explore intelligent design as a modern American mythology. Several faculty members have volunteered to be guest lecturers, he said.

I bet. I wonder if anyone will be allowed to defend ID?

Here's Mirecki's background, which is an impressive array of studies of ancient myth and magic:

John Calvert, who got the new Kansas science standards through (for which this course is clearly payback), says,
... Mirecki will go down in history as a laughingstock.
To equate intelligent design to mythology is really an absurdity, and it's just another example of labeling anybody who proposes (intelligent design) to be simply a religious nut," Calvert said. "That's the reason for this little charade."

Well, charade or not, what's needed here is for some brave students to take the risk of questioning Mirecki on slightly more modern issues such as the apparent fine tuning of the universe for life and the high level of information in cells. He could likely do with some good questions.

On the other hand, beware the curse of King Tut's Tomb, or is it King Toot's Tome or King Tote's Tum, or ... well, anyway, keep a sharp lookout.
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

The Pope using the term "intelligent design" to describe the Catholic view of origins, go here.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams attacked by Darwinist, hits back. Will he now cartoon on the subject?

"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. See also the ruling on tax funds. Note the line that the “free speech” 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.

Christoph, Cardinal Schonbon 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.

World class chemist dissed at Catholic university because he sympathizes with intelligent design.
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