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Thursday, May 22, 2008

More textbook chronicles: To Goodwill, to Goodwill, to buy us a text

A friend tells me that Goodwill is a great place to buy used textbooks. Recently he discovered William A. Haviland’s textbook, Anthropology*, which - he advises me - promotes materialism.

I should have brought the feather duster to knock myself over with, right?

Anyway, Haviland apparently states that our origin “was made possible only as a consequence of historical accidents” and was an “essentially random event.”

This type of observation is quite common among textbook authors, and notice what it depends on: The materialist knows by faith alone that our origin was an "essentially random event." If he didn't know that by faith, he could not know it at all, since he would have to analyze the evidence in some detail, and much of the evidence is lost and much of what isn't lost points in another direction.

From the text, we learn,
The history of any species is an outcome of many such contingencies. At any point in the chain of events, had any one element been different, the final result would be markedly different. As Stephen Jay Gould puts it, “All evolutionary sequences include … a fortuitous series of accidents with respect to future evolutionary success. Human brains did not evolve along a direct and inevitable ladder, but by a circuitous and tortuous route carved by adaptations for different reasons, and fortunately suited to later needs."

(William A. Haviland, Anthropology, pg. 123-124 (10th ed., Thomson-Wadsworth, 2003).)
Again, how does Haviland know that the history of any species is an outcome of many such contingencies? Or that "had any one element been different, the final result would be markedly different"?

Even if one were a pure naturalist, there are a number of reasons for supposing otherwise. For one thing, form is limited by function. As Michael Denton pointed out in Nature's Destiny, the marsupial mammals of Australia organized themselves in pretty much the same way as the placental mammals did. The marsupial wolf skull was quite similar to that of the placental wolf. But that similarity makes sense if we keep in mind that a wolf of any kind must do certain things, one of which is to fell large prey animals. That rules out a variety of types of skull immediately.

But function is also limited by form. Could insects be as intelligent as people? Well, it would help if they were much bigger, were warmblooded and had actual brains, wouldn't it? Absent those qualities insects are not likely headed to Harvard any time soon, except as subjects of study.

Anyway, you will hardly be surprised to learn that my friend thought that this was "one of the worst texts" he had ever seen. I'll take his word for that, though I am sure I've seen worse.

*The linked text is actually the 2007 edition. I can't find 2003 at the 'Zon just now.


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