Custom Search

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Darwinism and popular culture: One for the "unabashed bigotry" files

At Britain's Daily Telegraph, Christopher Booker assures us that he is familiar with "the unabashed bigotry of staunch Darwinists."

Well, so am I, because they glory in their ignorance. Mr. Booker writes,
As an old hand at tangling with Darwinists, I was well aware that a howl of furious protests would greet my item last week describing their curious inability to recognise just how much of the story of evolution Darwin's theory cannot explain, For pointing out that they rely on no more than an unscientific leap of faith to believe that an infinite series of minute variations could bring about all those extraordinary leaps in the evolutionary story, such as the emergence of the eye and countless others, I was derided as "stupid", "idiotic" and "scientifically illiterate". Clearly I was unaware all these riddles had been solved by genetics and the decoding of the human genome.

The trouble is that, as my colleague Dr James Le Fanu has lucidly set out in his admirable new book Why Us? How Science Rediscovered The Mystery Of Ourselves (Harper Press, £18.99), the unravelling of the genome has done nothing of the kind. When mice, men and chimpanzees all turn out to be made of almost identical genetic material, the unknown factor which determines why the same building blocks should give rise to such an astonishing variety of different life-forms leaves the Darwinian thesis as full of holes as ever. To believe that genetics have solved the riddle relies as much on a leap of faith as that Biblical 'Creationism' which causes the more fanatical Darwinians to foam at the mouth.
But the difference is that the Darwinists have the law on their side = in a corrupt administration, the right to persecute whomever they please.

Meanwhile a bunch of well-meaning upper class Brit idiots has written to the Daily Telegraph advising the world that
We are concerned that, according to recent research by ComRes for the public theology think tank Theos, only 37 per cent of people in the United Kingdom believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution is (to quote the question used in this survey of more than 2,000 respondents) “so well established that it’s beyond reasonable doubt”.

Evolution, we believe, has become caught in the crossfire of a religious battle in which Darwin had little interest. Despite his own loss of Christian faith, he wrote shortly before his death: “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist.”
Notice that these people - despite being supposedly smart - never ask themselves the obvious question, let alone answer it - so why did Darwin lose his faith then? And why are we not allowed to think that the answer to that question matters much?

So we're all just stupid unquestioning churchgoers, hollering for Jesus in a damp, smelly tabernacle somewhere?

But, toffs, what if we are, um, not. What if we are smarter than you, and much more numerous - but not nearly as privileged, at present? Did you ever think of that? Did you ever think of what it means for your future?

I don't believe anyone should "believe in" Darwin's theory of evolution, but it turns out that I don't need to spend time or money on the problem. The people who signed the letter, who have "called for an end to the fighting" are doing it all for me.

By the way, education consultant Dr. Alistair Noble, whom I met last year, writes to the Telegraph to say,
SIR – Intelligent design is not creationism, nor is it a religious position. It is the application of design theory to the natural and living world. Intelligent design theorists point to the existence of precise physical laws and the fine tuning of universal constants, the staggering complexity and nanotechnology of the living cell, and the digitally-coded information content of DNA as evidence for a designing intelligence. The latter is particularly persuasive as all our experience indicates that information of the quality in DNA only arises from prior intelligence.

An intelligent design paradigm for nature could embrace evolutionary processes, though I doubt the scientific evidence sustains full-blown neo-Darwinism.

Dr Alastair Noble
Eaglesham, Scotland
Of course the scientific evidence doesn't sustain "full-blown neo-Darwinism." It is cheap propaganda from the same sort of people who insisted that human embryonic stem cells are essential for research.

Getting these people out of positions of publicly funded influence is not going to be easy - we can only hope that the recession will help. Hereafter, we must fund stuff that is true and works and makes sense in a world where things make sense in general.

Labels: ,

Animal Planet: Extinction confronted

I am informed by Animal Planet that most animals that have ever lived have gone extinct. This looks like a very interesting series, and it raises an issue that I think should properly be part of any discussion of evolution: How and why do life forms go extinct?

Here is one way of looking at it: How did medicine get to be such a useful discipline?: Not by explaining how and why people stay alive, but by explaining how and why they die (and - what we are really paying for, of course - how to prevent early death).

So thanks, Animal Planet, for starting to unpack the question of how all existing members of a life form can just die out. Are they doing something wrong? More important, is it something we could actually prevent?

Let's say we learned that the "Weird Macaque" is dying out, due to a monkey version of AIDS (yes, yes, of course I made up both the species and the disease, for illustrative purposes). Should we try to prevent that? How much should we invest in the problem, as opposed to investment in human health or in the welfare of less obviously endangered species?

This just in: I am also informed by Animal Planet that every monkey knows his place until he is pushed too far. I would have said the same about anteaters and coyotes, one of whom recently killed a chihuahua in Toronto. I am happy to report that almost everyone has sided with the coyote.

Look, here in Toronto, we have standards, okay? Just because you can breed a dog that looks like a rat ... don't push your luck! In the priceless words of the Toronto Star (Web edition),
Coyotes usually feed on rabbits, squirrels and mice but have been known to go after cats.
So, while I am here anyway, keep your overfed pussy indoors. It's better for her for a number of reasons; this is just another one to pay attention to, not the only one.

This is a coyote - a canine somewhat smaller than a wolf.


Evolutionary psychology: Another reason to ignore it

In "Art, sex and Darwin in the spotlight" in the Otago Daily Times, New Zealand (February 21, 2009), we read that art is an instinct:
To take just a couple of examples - Why did people worldwide, when polled about their artistic preferences, seem drawn to realist paintings of a certain kind?

"What everybody wanted was the Pleistocene savanna landscape," Dutton explained at the AEI.
Nonsense: The grossly overrated Denis Dutton obviously doesn’t live in Canada.

Here, people go for vicious, toothed mountains and really, really deep, cold lakes.

Makes us feel right at home, which we are.

And I don't care whether Ape Man or Cave Dude would feel at home. This is OUR home and we like it here, even if they wouldn't.

Lots of people - especially new immigrants - have complained that my own province, Ontario, could use more vicious, toothed mountains. Aesthetically much nicer. I agree, but look - we got lots of water, okay. Lots. Come anyway.
I think that's Lake Louise, in Alberta, pictured above. I've seen people make coat buttons out of that photo. I would if I knew how.

Labels: ,

Who links to me?