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Thursday, August 20, 2009

How can you lose playing tic tac toe with a pigeon? Don't watch the board. (You can be sure he will.)

In "What Darwin should have learned from pigeons," (Evangelicals Now, August 2009) British physicist David Tyler writes,

Charles Darwin was fascinated by them. To help develop his thinking, he kept many different varieties and joined two local pigeon clubs to meet breeders. From one ancestral species, the rock-pigeon, hundreds of domestic breeds have been brought into existence. Darwin referred to the process as artificial selection: birds with desired characters are selected by the breeder for mating. Offspring with the strongest presence of desired characters are again selected for further breeding. By repeating the process, remarkable traits can be isolated, leading to characteristics that are novel and distinctive. Darwin wrote: ‘The diversity of the breeds is something astonishing’. However, his understanding of this diversity was seriously mistaken.

Breeder and environment

Crucial to Darwin’s thinking is that the ‘breed’ is just part of a continuum of variation. Beyond these are new species, new genera, new families, and so on. Apart from timescales, artificial selection was considered to be essentially the same as processes operating in the natural world. He wrote in his chapter on natural selection: ‘As man can produce and certainly has produced a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection, what may not nature effect?’ Instead of the breeder, we have the changing environment. Instead of intelligent and purposeful selection, we have unintelligent and unplanned processes that bring gradual changes to breeding populations of animals and plants.

To a large extent, this was Darwin’s direct evidence for evolutionary change (all the other evidences for his theory involved inferences from observation). With artificial selection, he could argue that his theory was supported by the routine practices of animal and plant breeders. Many have found these evidences very convincing. It is not unusual to find modern-day Darwinists pointing out that pigeons, or dogs (or some other animal group) provide us with real-time evidence of evolutionary transformation.

Misleading appeal

But Darwin was wrong - and so are his modern-day followers. Their appeal to ‘evidence’ is misleading. Even in Darwin’s day, the argument in the Origin was challengeable. Alfred Russel Wallace knew that domestic varieties tended to return to the wild type if they were released into the wild.

Uh, yes. Go here for more.

There has never been any good evidence that domestic breeding is in any way comparable to natural selection because, as Wallace correctly noted, natural selection usually results in a basic type of animal, not an infinite variety, because only the basic type can survive in nature.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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Okay, I did it again ... Blew my stack ...

I confess, I blew my stack again, and hung up on someone.

It was a Conservative party organizer who wanted my vote (and a donation, I expect).

I started by politely pointing out that I'd had to petition to find out if I was on Lynch's List of supposed enemies of the state who are citizens of Canada - a list totally supported by the Conservative party's government, so far.

At least, what have they ever really done to rein these people in?

Having dealt with that, I just was not in any mood to hear a spiel for money from the government's Party.

Okay, so go ahead and tell me that the Liberals would be worse. Well, how worse is worse?

Sure, the Liberals, when they come to power, could give every single one of the Canadian Human Rights Commission's self-styled Nazis the Order of Canada. I would think that a very bad idea, but how would it directly affect me?

When the Prime Minister's Office fails to act in the face of rampant abuse, while claiming to support traditional Canadian values like due process - values that date back to Magna Carta - that does directly affect me.

A friend writes to advise me about the Ontario Human Rights Commission's new ramped-up powers. I wonder if they will develop an enemies list too? If so, I sure hope no Ontario political party tries phoning me for support or donations.

The excellent Franklin Carter at the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee also suggests a number of other interesting links, as follows:


Kalvin Reid comments on Brampton's To Kill a Mockingbird dispute. His opinion appears in The Standard of St. Catharines, Ontario:

[From Denyse: Apparently, you can't any longer discuss a novel whose express intent is to denounce racism if racist terms are used in it. Gee, wow, that is sure going to help fight racism. Fighting in total darkness is a really smart move compared to fighting in daylight.]


Yale University Press prepares to publish a scholarly book about the Danish "Mohammed cartoons" but declines to show readers what they look like. Patricia Cohen reports in The New York Times.

(From Denyse: Anyone who buys the book would be well advised to have their financial affairs put in the hands of a trustee. Who cares what a bunch of eggheads think about cartoons you can't see? How do I know the eggheads ever saw them themselves? They may say so, but who knows if they won't print them?)

Middle Eastern and North African countries are among the most heavily censored regions in the world, according to a report prepared by the OpenNet Initiative. United Press International summarizes ONI's report.

(From Denyse: The fact that they are among the least developed countries in the world is relevant. If people decide to spend their time censoring other people's ideas, they will not spend it developing their own ideas in a sophisticated way. That is a fundamental principle of life that no one can evade, no matter what their religion or culture. No one can bend the arrow of time.)

Ian Harris comments on the U.N. Human Rights Council's campaign to criminalize "defamation of religion." His opinion appears in the Otago Daily Times of New Zealand.

(From Denyse: My own view is that a religion that can't be defamed can't be believed either.)

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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