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Friday, September 15, 2006

Thinkquote of the day: Darwin's influence on modern thought

According to one of the best-known Darwinists, Ernst Mayr (1905-2005), here is the difference Darwin made:

But furthermore—and this is perhaps Darwin’s greatest contribution—he developed a set of new principles that influence the thinking of every person: the living world, through evolution, can be explained without recourse to supernaturalism; essentialism or typology is invalid, and we must adopt population thinking, in which all individuals are unique (vital for education and the refutation of racism); natural selection, applied to social groups, is indeed sufficient to account for the origin and maintenance of altruistic ethical systems; cosmic teleology, an intrinsic process leading life automatically to ever greater perfection, is fallacious, with all seemingly teleological phenomena explicable by purely material processes; and determinism is thus repudiated, which places our fate squarely in our own evolved hands. To borrow Darwin’s phrase, there is grandeur in this view of life. New modes of thinking have been, and are being, evolved. Almost every component in modern man’s belief system is somehow affected by Darwinian principles. (pg. 83)

– Ernst Mayr, "Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought," Scientific American, pg. 79-83 (July 2000). ( Note: SCiAm is the original source, but this link is from a botany page.)


This is useful information if a school board PR rep tells you that Darwinism is "just another part of the science curriculum." It clearly is not, as Mayr makes clear above, and as Australian biologist Stephen E. Jones also explains. Darwinism is, among other things, a philosophy that is held in explicit contradiction to traditional philosophies and religions, as Mayr is at pains to specify.

Some of the biology teachers who promote Darwinism, incidentally, hope that it will cause people to care more about the environment (because we're all just animals who happened by chance , and they're all just animals who happened by chance, right?)

The problem is that such a view is incoherent. If we can really care about or do anything about the environment as a whole - as opposed to the points at which it impacts us - we are not them and them 'r' not us. And nothing useful follows from a refusal to make the distinction.
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.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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