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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Agnostic philosopher David Stove: Ten false Darwinian propositions

The late Australian philosopher David Stove, for whose book of essays, Darwinian Fairytales, I have provided an introduction on line, also wrote a paper in which he identified ten false propositions of modern Darwinism (sometimes called neo-Darwinism), as applied to humans.

He begins,

Most educated people nowadays, I believe, think of themselves as Darwinians. If they do, however, it can only be from ignorance: from not knowing enough about what Darwinism says. For Darwinism says many things, especially about our species, which are too obviously false to be believed by any educated person; or at least by an educated person who retains any capacity at all for critical thought on the subject of Darwinism.

but notes

I give below ten propositions which are all Darwinian beliefs in the sense just specified. Each of them is obviously false: either a direct falsity about our species or, where the proposition is a general one, obviously false in the case of our species, at least.

Now, keep in mind that Stove is an agnostic and no friend to religion, let alone creationism or intelligent design. He is simply explaining why Darwinism (and therefore evolutionary psychology) does a poor job of accounting for human behaviour.

His ten propositions start from the present day and work backward. You can go to the site to read most of his comments on them. I will provide only a brief summary in parentheses.

1. Dawkins’ selfish gene thesis: "The truth is, 'the total prostitution of all animal life, including Man and all his airs and graces, to the blind purposiveness of these minute virus-like substances’, genes. (Despite his denials, Dawkins' thesis in fact requires that genes be smarter than creatures equipped with actual brains, consciousness, and self-interest, a situation that certainly requires some explanation, and cannot simply be shuffled under the heading of "natural selection.")

2. "'…it is, after all, to [a mother’s] advantage that her child should be adopted' by another woman. This quotation is from Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, p. 110." (That is because she is free to spread her selfish genes further, but, of course, few mothers have ever thought that way, which makes Dawkins' thesis suspicious at best.)

Read the other eight, other eight, which he develops in more detail because some of them are not obviously ridiculous, though they are errors.
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.

Reconciliation makes strange bedfellows

David H. (a design engineer) at Practically-Thinking suggests that a simple solution to the whole question of evolution and intelligent design (or creation, I guess) is to indulge in
... one simple realization: a belief in creation has to include the belief that the world was up and running at time of creation, with all the features that might indicate age and prior events. We know this has to be true for a created world, and can prove it. Take starlight, for example. If we believe the universe is only a few thousand years old, how did light from a star 1 million light years from earth get here last night? Obviously, if the universe was created, that light had to have been created en route. Here’s another: plants created in the first 6 days of the world needed to stand in soil. Soil, though, is made of the remains of earlier life. If God created these plants in a day, it follows that He created the dirt and all the history embedded in it. Surely an omnipotent God can do all this.

This is not a new idea. It was the position of a nineteenth-century figure, Philip Gosse, author of Omphalos , which advanced the view that the planet only appears to be old.

Bertrand Russell pointed out that the idea is not in principle illogical:

There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago. (Russell, The Analysis of Mind, 1921, page 159.)

Well, so much the worse for pure logic then.

David writes further,

As believers and/or as scientists, we can accept what we see and believe what we believe without conflict. Let's do it.

Better yet, let’s not do it.

Once we get started on any “the evidence is just another illusion” track, there is no obvious place to stop. As a matter of fact, we could all just be a bout of road rage that an advanced being is having in the left turn lane somewhere on Alpha Centauri.

By the way, such flights of fancy should in no way be confused with Pope Benedict XVI’s contention that we are each a “thought of God.” B16 would say that the reality we observe actually does exist, and we can derive true knowledge from studying it as a reality - but it exists within a larger reality. Thus, we are not (usually) deceived by the evidence of our senses, but we err if we think that only what we can observe or understand can exist.
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 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 ?

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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