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Thursday, September 20, 2007

David Warren's further correspondence with the Darwin fans

I don't know what I would do without my regular fix of Toronto journalist David Warren, who - having made clear that he thinks Darwinism a crock - is constantly hearing from anxious Darwin fans, who don't know what they'll do if it isn't true.

If life cannot be produced accidentally by jiggling chemicals in a test tube, ... apparently life makes no sense to them - or something like that anyway.

Warren continues to offer boilerplate responses (one must live, after all). Indeed, he appears to know some of the same Darwoids as I hear from, to judge from their inimitable prose style:
"Atrociously bad, pig-ignorant garbage." ... "Mixture of gall & negligence." ... "Sheer brazen quality of this ignorance is a wonder to behold."

This is what's said ABOUT the likes of me, third-personally, by the more articulate correspondents advising my editors to sack me. The letters to me personally are, however, much ruder. As usual, among the charges, I am a "faggot," or at least a "closet fag."

[ ... ]

Many, many, of my apoplectic correspondents refer me to websites on "The God Delusion," & other standard sources for atheist proselytizing. Several correspondents refer to a website where Michael Behe's "claims" are "refuted" in a similar manner to the above (i.e. with a lot of more-or-less clinical abusive language).
And apparently, many of these ill-tempered illiterates have taken to styling themselves "the New Enlightenment."

Warren also muses on the "survival instinct":
This is where it becomes interesting: at the very point where post-modern Darwinist "evolutionary biology" throws up its hands (or alternatively, declares victory, & then cuts & runs).

I am hardly saying the instincts, including the survival instincts (really they are complex & plural), don't exist; I am only pointing out that they are non-material. Which is not to say that their operation does not correspond to particular, detectable parts of the brain -- i.e. the "amygdala," in the higher vertebrates: the emotion centres. Only that you won't find them there. It is the part of the brain that is working when survival & other emotional issues are at stake, but the instinct to live & not to die is in itself an arbitrary, "irrational" thing (i.e. super-rational; or if you prefer, the premise that precedes the logical proposition). It has to be "posited" in some sense. Once it is posited, we can begin to make some sense of the machinery. Until it is posited, the machinery makes no sense.

Already we are "lost in space," or rather, entering the territory of "Intelligent Design."

I said the survival instincts are complex & plural. Think I mentioned before watching a rabbit, once, simply give up the struggle against a Doberman, when the rabbit was out of breath, & out of cover. That is a common trait among many animals at all levels of the food chain (& it is further interesting that, from that point, animals often seem to experience neither panic nor pain). If you think about it carefully, you will see that it is behaviour that cannot possibly be explained in any conceivable Darwinist way. It can in no possible way advance the cause of rabbit survival.

But so are so many other things, inexplicable on strictly Darwinist assumptions. The survival instinct works both on the individual, as individual, & on the individual on behalf of his tribe or species or even allied species. Survival itself would be impossible without the most complex instinctual arrangements -- which are also minutely inter-dependent. All the convincing progress that has been made (by Tinbergen, contemporaries & successors) in understanding instinctive behaviour in animals has been possible only because various abstract, arbitrary, "immaterial" requirements have been assumed from the point of departure.

What I am saying is that the instinctive behaviour of animals -- conscious, semi-conscious, & entirely unconscious -- provide a parallel universe to the purely material, organic one, for the purpose of demonstrating the impossibility of development by trial & error. Not only does a machine not work when it is missing parts, or missing fuel, or has external obstacles in its way, &c; it also doesn't work when it is not driven.

Returning to the question of origins, the scandal is that the most primitive unicellular organisms discoverable on this planet are already monstrously complex, & already require genomic instructions that could fill telephone directories. Under some circumstances I'm willing to be a putz, & say, "yes, that's the product of trial & error, & it just happened to work out nicely," but this is too much for me. I am simply not capable of credulity on that scale.

But even supposing we started the day with just one happy-accident instruction, & built from there (this is where the 15 billion times 15 billion times 15 billion years for trial & error will come in really handy), I don't get why that first organism wanted to survive & reproduce? It has no way of knowing that the odds against it even existing are infinity to one. Why doesn't it just wink, & call it a day?

Even the ancient Greeks had trouble grasping why a man would want to live, given that life is full of pain. There is nothing self-evident about the survival instinct.

But some other day we may raise the stakes further by climbing from organism & instinct, to consciousness, & beyond.


From the whodathunkit? files: Dan Rather suing CBS

Rather believes that CBS made him a scapegoat when he bit into a story about US Prez Bush's unspectacular military service that turned out to be a canard. Rather and other bitten biters struggle hard to avoid the obvious lesson: In the age of the blogosphere real experts will examine your work. Yes, yes, poseurs, fakers, and combox morons will also examine your work. But so? They don't matter, because the delete key is only a couple of inches from your right hand. But you can't just delete your own life.

UPDATE: Here's Jonah Goldberg's take on it.


What Behe actually showed in Edge of Evolution ...

Here's a favorable review of Mike Behe's Edge of Evolution:
Behe shows that although random mutation and natural selection can explain marginal changes in evolutionary history, they actually explain very little of the basic machinery of life. The "edge" of evolution - that is, the a line that defines the border between random and nonrandom mutation - in reality lies very far from where Darwin thought it did. Behe argues convincingly that most of the mutations that have defined the history of life on earth have been nonrandom.

I wouldn't have put it quite that way myself. I would say simply that Behe showed that where evolution has actually been OBSERVED, it has not happened the way Darwin said it would. So much for the "overwhelming evidence"for Darwin's theory - which is simply overwhelming belief and nothing more. No wonder so many people hate Behe.

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Materialist philosopher calls Darwin doubter a "creationist"

A friend draws my attention to the following YouTube in which materialist philosopher Daniel Dennett calls biochemist Michael Denton, of all people, a creationist. He writes, "I quess a creationist now is merely someone who just doubts Darwin. Wow what a farce. The part about Denton is at the 19 minute mark." If you've got nineteen minutes to spare ...

Denton isn't anybody else's idea of a creationist, but he does make clear in Evolution: A theory in crisis and Nature's Destiny that he is no Darwinist. I gather there is some move afoot to define all non-Darwinians as "creationists". If that's the only way to keep the good ship Darwin afloat, it shows how serious the crisis over Darwinian evolution is.

Added: Another friend writes to say,
A couple of years ago, I surreptitiously attended a seminar by Dennett at my university on Darwin Day. Dennett assumed that all of the people in the room (50 or so) were atheists, and explicitly stated that his goal was to eradicate religious belief. He was remarkably disorganized, and at times seemed genuinely incoherent.

He was a big hit. The evolutionary biologists loved him (most of the senior professors wore beards just like Darwin's- it was like a satire). I said nothing, just happy to get out without being noticed as 'not one of them'.

Yes, but if Darwinism is TRUE, as he believes, then all the rest is details, and incoherence doesn't count.

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Thinkquote of the day: CS Lewis on science writing

A friend sends me the following:
While we are on the subject of science, let me digress for a moment. I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more good by that than by any directly apologetic work. The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. Every newspaper, film, novel and text book under-mines our work. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy's line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects - with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way round. Our Faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defence of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. The first step to the reconversion of the country is a series, produced by Christians, which can beat the Penguins and the Thinker’s Library on their own ground. Its Christianity would have to be latent, not explicit: and of course its science perfectly honest. (C.S. Lewis on 'Christian Apologetics', published in Compelling Reason (1998)).

Lewis died in 1963, so he can't have read some of the textbooks I have read. But if he did ...

Textbook issues at the Post-Darwinist:

Gems from Miller and Levine

Why pretend that textbooks have not gone well beyond the evidence in promoting Darwin's theory?
And this on Darwin mythmaking.

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