Custom Search

Monday, May 11, 2009

Darwinism: Scientific American in trouble?

In "Scientific American’s Editor and Its President to Step Down", (New York Times, April 24, 2009), Stephanie Clifford notes
In a shake-up at Scientific American, the longtime editor John Rennie and the magazine’s president, Steven Yee, are leaving.
Rennie had been around since 1994, and was associated by various people I talked to with an aggressive slant toward Darwinism and multiverse theory.

This article by Max Tegmark, promoting four layers of multiverses - essentially to avoid the implications of the fine tuning of the only universe whose existence we can verify - may have been the oddest moment in the history of a magazine that dates back to 1845.

I've heard various figures quoted about the staff reductions, ranging from 5-30%. But it's hard to say because many staff may have gone freelance (or, as the elite would prefer it, "became consultants") or been reassigned to other divisions of the parent company, MacMillan.

Some friends have supposed that the decline was due to the ideological slant of the mag, which was increasingly at odds with that of the public. I think it had more to do with the recent 18% drop in ad revenue. A friend remembers glossy car ads, but these days that may even be politically incorrect.

Some of my friends cancelled their subscriptions to Scientific American, when it became increasingly political. However, most readers probably did not stop reading media like SciAm because they became more ideological. The process was actually the opposite. Magazines like SciAm became more ideological when they became less necessary for the purpose of delivering information.

In general, the more necessary a news source is, the less ideological it can afford to be.

If there is only one local weather forecaster in a rural county, he better not be using his forecast to stump at length for some odd cause. The farmers will make short work of him.

And I wonder how often air traffic controllers are allowed to bug pilots with their opinions about the government or the economy?

It is now so easy to get news from so many different sources that the readers scattered, and major media could no longer maintain their ad rates.

This is happening at major media worldwide. Some commentators are calling for government bailouts, and many journalists’ lists sound like a shearing shed somewhere in Australia [bleat, bleat, bleat].

(I can’t think of a worse solution than a bailout, of course, because the change is a natural one, caused by the redundancy of information sources. Should the government have rescued companies that sell carbon paper and whiteout in the 1990s? Why?)

Anyway, we shall see.


Christian Darwinists attempt to douse doubt in Turkey

From the Faraday Institute, we learn of an effort to combat intelligent design in Turkey:
A significant event during the past month has been the Darwin Anniversary Conference organized by The Faraday Institute and held in Istanbul. As one of our Turkish speakers remarked: "It was the first time for evolutionary discussions in Turkey that both vulgar positivism and religious fundamentalism were excluded". The main two-day Symposium was attended by 50 faculty biologists from universities all over Turkey, 10 PhD students and 10 observers in the field of education, and drew an international platform of speakers, including Prof. Francisco Ayala (University of California at Irvine), Prof. Aykut Kence (Middle East Technical University, Ankara), Prof. Nidhal Guessoum (American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates), Prof. David Lordkipanidze (Director General of the Georgian National Museum), Prof. Vidyanand Nanjundiah (Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore) and Prof. Simon Conway Morris FRS (Cambridge University). Whereas the main focus of the conference was evolutionary biology, time was also given to the challenge of teaching modern biology today in Turkey and beyond. Details in English and Turkish may be seen [here]. Talks and summaries will be posted at this site as they become available.

On the final night of the Symposium a Public Event was held attended by 430 people, mainly students from different Istanbul universities.

The programme included a number of short talks about Darwin and evolution, the first performance of Re:Design in Turkey (the dramatisation of the Darwin-Gray correspondence performed by the Menagerie Theatre Company), and a televised Panel Discussion on ‘The Hard Questions’ in which the audience posed questions about Darwin and evolution to a panel of experts. The event drew extensive media coverage with clips on the Turkish evening news and 17 journalists in attendance resulting in full-page articles and interviews in publications such as Turkish Newsweek.
Francisco Ayala: Some notes of interest

I don't know much about most of these people, but the first-mentioned, Francisco Ayala, is here described, accurately in my view, by Phillip Johnson:
The leading Darwinist authorities are frank about the incompatibility of their theory with any meaningful concept of theism when they are in friendly territory, but for strategic reasons they sometimes choose to blur the message. When social theorist Irving Kristol published a New York Times column in 1986 accusing Darwinists of manifesting doctrinaire antitheism, for example, Stephen Jay Gould responded in Discover magazine with a masterpiece of misdirection. [Gould, S.J., "Darwinism Defined: The Difference Between Fact and Theory," Discover, January 1987, pp. 64-70]

Quoting nineteenth century preacher Henry Ward Beecher, Gould proclaimed that 'Design by wholesale is grander than design by retail,' neglecting to inform his audience that Darwinism repudiates design in either sense To prove that Darwinism is not hostile to 'religion,' Gould cited the example of Theodosius Dobzhansky, whom he described as `the greatest evolutionist of our century, and a lifelong Russian Orthodox.' As Gould knew very well, Dobzhansky's religion was evolutionary naturalism, which he spiritualized after the manner of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

A eulogy published by Dobzhansky's pupil Francisco Ayala in 1977 described the content of Dobzhansky's religion like this: `Dobzhansky was a religious man, although he apparently rejected fundamental beliefs of traditional religion, such as the existence of a personal God and of life beyond physical death. His religiosity was grounded on the conviction that there is meaning in the universe. He saw that meaning in the fact that evolution has produced the stupendous diversity of the living world and has progressed from primitive forms of life to mankind. Dobzhansky held that, in man, biological evolution has transcended itself into the realm of self- awareness and culture. He believed that somehow mankind would eventually evolve into higher levels of harmony and creativity.' [Ayala, F.J., "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," _Journal of Heredity_, Vol. 68, January-February 1977, pp. 3, 9] Evolution is thoroughly compatible with religion-when the object of worship is evolution. (Johnson, P.E., "Darwinism and Theism", in Buell J. & Hearn V., eds., "Darwinism: Science or Philosophy?" , Foundation for Thought and Ethics: Richardson TX, 1994, pp.43-44.)
Religion with no meaningful content

Looking over the Faraday Institute's offerings in general, it all sounds basically like religion with no meaningful content. It reminds me of dying churches in Canada. Picture a dialogue like this:
They: O'Leary, it is okay to write about science while believing in God.

Me: Well, it had better be okay, because I do it every day.

They: ... as long as you don't think that the universe or life forms show concrete evidence of design.

Me: The problem is that they do, beyond all reasonable doubt.

They: Ah, but that's just where you are wrong. You must accept God's existence on faith alone. Look, it is okay to believe in God. It's true that the prominent atheists who run the show around here say that it's not okay. But trust us, not them. We will protect you from them.

Me: I don't trust you. And I should not need you to protect me. And why should I believe on faith alone, when I have evidence as well?

They: Because that is how science is done!

Me: So science is a front for atheism? Look, once I find my bus token, I'm getting out of here. There's got to be better answers than this.
I just got done reading a book published in Turkey called Evolution Deceit, which helps me understand why Turkey alarms many materialists - but more on that later. Doubts about Darwin in Turkey have alarmed enough people, I guess, that the Faraday Institute felt it had to go there to try to patch up the leaks.

More later, but it seems Turks doubt from a number of perspectives, and not only religious fundamentalism. Could it be that the evidence for Darwinism is not good? More later.

My key concern

My key concern is that Turks may not realize that theistic evolutionism is - as the term is often used today - practical atheism. First, notice the Faraday term "vulgar positivism". Who uses that term except them? Positivism ceased to be of much interest a long time ago and, while it is highly controversial, whether it is vulgar is a matter of opinion.

The main issue today revolves around the ridiculous Darwin worship that enables mediocre academics to act like big shots while fronting ideas supported by very little evidence. How come the Institute is not dealing with that, when it is front and centre today?

The thing to keep in mind, in my view, is that most Darwinian evolutionary biologists, according to Will Provine's study, are pure naturalists. No God and no responsibility for one's actions. That can't be an accident. And it isn't.

I think the explanation is that many people go into evolutionary biology because they are attracted by pure naturalism and willing to believe its superstitions. This is a barrier to real science.

I also think that Turks deserve better than this, and hope that they get it. They might begin by reading a translation of biochemist Michael Behe's Edge of Evolution, which explores the evidence for what Darwinian evolution can - and can't - really do.

Real theistic evolution

As I have often pointed out, if "theistic evolution" only means that God can create through evolution if he wants to, then I am a theistic evolutionist, as is Behe. Both of us would acknowledge that God could create that way, if he liked. Yet both of us are routinely described as "creationists."

Why? Because, we ask the dreaded question: Does the evidence suggest that large amounts of new information can be acquired through Darwinian evolution?

Answering that question requires looking at evidence. The evidence does not support Darwinian evolution as a source of much new information.

So, if you believe in God, it seems that God did not do it that way. If you do not believe in God, then someone or something else did not do it that way.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

Labels: ,

Intellectual freedom: The freedom to raise one's hand

A friend draws my attention to this comment on the recent Texas science standards battle: The Darwin cult vs. people who ask questions:
"If our students do not feel the freedom to simply raise their hand and ask a question in science class, then we are no longer living in the United States of America."

Common sense, combined with the pressure of at least 14,000 constituent communications in favor of allowing students to discuss all sides of science theories, finally prevailed.
Well, good. Asking questions is fundamental to science, and allowing students to ask the questions they are really thinking about is fundamental to education.

Of course, the United States is said to be changing, and perhaps it is moving in the direction of ruling many questions unsafe to discuss. It won't be a better country for that, as Canadian experience shows.


Genome mappers Crick and Watson: Was Crick the brains of the team?

Re Nobel Prize-winning genome mapper James Watson (who, with Francis Crick, developed the double helix model) A friend who reads the Scientific American blog (February 26, 2009), wrote recently to tell me that,
At a panel discussion at the New York Academy of Sciences, Watson let it all hang out, according to a post at Scientific American. While he said some good things, he veered toward the all-too-familiar barbs. According to Watson, young scientists should not be encouraged to be nice. "Christian values don't make any sense," he said, adding that young people should be selfish in their pursuit of science in order to beat out the competition. He also chimed in with his views on science teachers today: "Part of the problem is too many of our teachers are dumb"he said.
What he said, specifically (or so we are told) was

He noted that a lack of money in the sciences meant that people had to be nice to each other, because they need to grovel for the limited research dollars. And, according to Watson, there's nothing worse than forcing young, ambitious scientists to be nice. "Christian values don't make any sense," he said, explaining that young people should be selfish and aim for success.

That's one reason he likes Russians, he said, like biologist Andrey Pisarev, and would hire them in a heartbeat – presumably because they are more worried about surviving than about being nice.

Pisarev must feel suitably honoured, I suppose.

I am sympathetic to the view of other friends who say that Crick, not Watson, was the brains of that operation. Crick had some astonishing views, to be sure (such as, "you are nothing but a pack of neurons") . But compare that to Watson opining that black employees are inferior to white employees.

The obvious question is, why bother with science achievements, if that's how you think?

Any white yokel can mumble that under his breath, after being let go for noonday drunkenness on the work site. Presumably, a black yokel, fired for similar reasons, would mumble the opposite - and to what purpose?


Who links to me?