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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Intelligent design and elite culture: Why evidence would not convince many top people that there is design in the universe

My lawyer friend, Ed Sisson draws my attention to the Wikipedia entry on the X Club.
That was a dinner group of 8 or 9 men, started by Thomas Huxley, whose primary purpose was to promote Darwin and combat religious influence on science. Another member, John Tyndall, gave a very popular lecture tour in the US Oct. 1872 - Feb. 1873. The X Club placed people in leading positions in science institutions -- indeed, played a key role in founding them.

At the same time, in the US there was great optimism for the future. With the civil war having resolved the great issue of slavery, with railroads, etc., there was a big push for public education and the founding of German-style research universities. The early 1870s saw the beginning of a wave of fossil hunting (see the Bone Wars entry on Wikipedia). The major institutions of science got their start in those years.

Basically, it was an era where science gave hope for the future if only it could be freed not only from religion, but from fantasists and charletons and seance-leaders, etc. Darwinism gave them a
creation story that was vital to their effort to keep free of religions, and so it has remained ever since.

The X-Club was also involved in religious matters, basically in the way Eugenie Scott's NCSE is today: promoting the idea that the Bible can't possibly be literally true, that science and religion each have their own spheres, etc. They don't really care so much about religion, they care about their way of doing science, and are happy to influence religions in a way that leaves them the freedom to continue.

If you read the Wikipedia entries on Tyndall and others, you will see people who loved to do science, and by implication, had no interest in using the teachings of religious texts such as the Bible to guide their thinking on any matter that came within their understanding of science. Tyndall comes across much as Carl Sagan did: friendly, curious, smart, caring about young people.

I don't think anything we see in the debate today is much different than it was in 1875 -- except for something that ought to have transformed the debate, but hasn't: that the data collected since Tyndall's 1872-73 US tour and Huxley's 1876 US tour refute the "natural processes are sufficient" foundation of Darwinism.

As a matter of sociology and human nature, I do not think it reasonable to expect that institutions set up 130 years ago in reliance on the "natural causes are sufficient" principle, that have trained thousands upon thousands of people whose careers are also dependent on the same principle, will ever acknowledge the refutational effect of this data, or indeed of any data.
No, I don’t think so either, Edward. And it’s not just them. The typical science journalist can look at a pattern of data from the history of life that clearly refutes Darwinism and somehow "see" Darwin in it. It's a religion, and not evidently a very inspiring one.

In my experience, a law of human nature is that when the elite try to improve on popular religion, they invent something worse. All good change comes from way above them.

I do not recommend to anyone that they pay attention to Wikipedia, except to tell us the prejudices of the age.


Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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