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Monday, November 06, 2006

Quick posts: Recent events in the intelligent design controversy

■ A. N. Wilson in the Telegraph's World of Books makes the case that Darwin was the father of European fascism:
"Scientific humanism" sounds cosy, but Darwin's Descent of Man is anything but. You have to make allowances for his writing in the past, but in a passage I cited last week Darwin explained why he preferred monkeys and baboons to superstitious savages. You wouldn't say that on a natural history show today.

You can't dismiss such remarks as mere asides. Darwin had spent a lifetime accumulating his evidence and coming to his view of how life on Earth evolved. The indelible stamp of our origin remains with us, and the method by which any of us successful species - pigeons, dogs, birds of paradise, Victorian rentiers - evolved was through struggle. It was through beating off the opposition, through the assertion of our superiority in physical strength, in mental agility, in adaptability.

Darwin's sexism and racism, as we should call them today, are not minor hiccups in an otherwise humanistic nature ramble. They are written into his whole view of humanity: "Woman seems to differ from man in mental disposition," he writes, "chiefly in her greater tenderness and less selfishness; and this holds good even with savages."

He closes with "Darwin, the product of British imperialism, was surely the father, among other things, of European fascism." That's hard to prove, because other candidates make pretty convincing claims, but at least Wilson has got past the ridiculous hagiography of Darwin that characterizes so many materialist sources, and can see him as a man of his time.
■ Here’s lit prof Terry Eagleton’s review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, titled "Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching", and with a title like that, you can gather Eagleton did not especially enjoy the read:
Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday.

■ On the other hand, here is a sympathetic portrait of Dawkins and two other atheists, by Jerry Adler in Newsweek arguing
"If Dawkins, Dennett and Harris are right, the five-century-long competition between science and religion is sharpening. People are choosing sides. And when that happens, people get hurt."

Hmmmm. Wonder who Adler had in mind to get hurt? Lots of people who doubt materialism have already got hurt, but that obviously is not stopping them.

■ The author of the Sim City line of products Is developing a game where you can create new worlds, talks about random evolution vs. intelligent design in relation to his product:
Of course, some of the content of Spore is fanciful. The "DNA points" that players accumulate have no real-world analogue, for instance, and thus far no one — that we know of — has been able to grow a life-sustaining environment on a lifeless planet. "I've had a few people ask me if I think Spore will help teach evolution," Wright said, "and the ironic thing is that, if anything, we're teaching intelligent design. I’ve seen a few games that relied on evolution — I've even designed some of them — and it's just not as fun." But, of course, there's one crucial way in which Spore breaks from intelligent design. The universe of the game is not dominated by a single, all-powerful creator. It's a universe governed by a million intelligent designers, each unleashing his or her creations to be fruitful and multiply, to conquer and befriend, to fly spaceships and fashion planets.

Somewhat like India's two hundred and thirty million gods? Hmmmm.
■ Apparently, philosopher Peter Singer, known for stressing human-animal equality, has written a book, arguing for the viability of a Darwinian left. The Darwinian right has been aound for a while, of course. Nancy Pearcey reviews Singer in First Things:
Does Singer ultimately succeed in crafting a Darwinian left? Not exactly. To begin with, for all his eagerness to be identified as a man of the left, Singer shows a cavalier disregard for the concerns of real leftists. Historically, the left focused on the ownership of the means of production; in today’s "identity politics," the enemy is no longer capitalism but racism, sexism, and homophobia. Yet Singer says nothing about any of these; instead he offers a definition of the left so broad as to be meaningless. "[T]he core of the left is a set of values," he writes. A person of the left sees "the vast quantity of pain and suffering that exists in the universe" and wants "to do something to reduce it." Under this expansive definition, everyone who favors social amelioration—including, no doubt, everyone reading this review—is a leftist.

Pearcey goes on to suggest that Singer isn't really very interested in the left at all, only in promoting Darwinism.
■ Here are some endorsements for Salvo, that Christian pop sci mag.
"Salvo is arguably the most clever, edgy, intellectually-sophisticated Christian glossy on the market. It certainly is the most fun to read for both visuals and substance. It's a saucy shot across the bow of contemporary culture."
- Greg Koukl, Stand To Reason

"I recommend Salvo with enthusiasm. This stunning new magazine takes direct aim at the destructive consequences that follow from the scientism embraced by some of the cognitive elites of our culture. The hard-hitting and entertaining articles in the premier issue explain what Christians need to understand in order to help restore a balanced rationality to a society that has been seduced into discarding inherited wisdom in order to better pursue faddish notions up to and past the limits of their logic."
- Phillip Johnson, professor of law emeritus, University of California, Berkeley
"Salvo offers the hippest and most provocative articulation of orthodoxy to be found in our culture today. Salvo gets our postmodern moment and has something constructive to say to that moment."
- W. Bradford Wilcox, professor of Sociology, University of Virginia

"Here is a publication that is timely, persuasive, and intelligent. Surely it immediately ranks in the forefront of new and exciting publications."
- Herbert I. London, President, Hudson Institute

"Check out Salvo. It’s hard-hitting and in-your-face without being ponderous."
- William Dembski

“Salvo is setting the pace for intelligent discussion and Christian cultural engagement today.” ---Mark Brumley, President, Ignatius Press

Get your own copy soon. I just turned in my article for the second edition, on how the rag trade promotes starvation to women. (No, as a matter of fact, I do not write only about the intelligent design controversy. I was a freelance writer for twenty-five years before I had ever heard of the intelligent design controversy. it takes up a lot of my time right now, but hey.)
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?

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy att he University of Minnesota.

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 granted tenure at Baylor after a long struggle - even after helping in a small way to destroy the Baylor Bears' ancient glory - in the opinion of a hyper sportswriter.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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