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Saturday, May 15, 2010

New English Review: Darwinism as “grand and stupid prejudice”

In “Triumph of Maya,” New English Review (May 10), Mark Antony Signorelli addresses the poverty of current cultural Darwinism, critiquing it from a Hindu perspective:
When I speak here of Darwinism, I am not referring to the scientific theory of evolution as it is currently expounded, which is a matter for scientists to debate; I am referring to the apotheosis of that scientific theory into an all-explanatory, totalizing doctrine, with all sort of implications of a necessarily philosophical purport. This is the true Darwinism to which I refer,[iv] and which has spread like a pestilence through the corridors of Western academia. Of course, in this respect, Darwinism merely displays that positivism, or scientism, which is one of the grand and stupid prejudices of the modern mind, and arguably lies at the root of all the others. The belief that because science has explained some things well, it can explain all things well, and that therefore the only legitimate form of inquiry partakes of scientific methodology, pervades our era, though nobody now so much as pretends to offer a rational defense of such assumptions. On the occasion that such a defense was attempted, it was a crashing failure. The logical positivists, those masters of sterility, gathered amidst the pallor of early twentieth century decadence for the express purpose of restraining men’s thoughts, for all time, to the wholly material and observable. ... Clutching this blatantly self-refuting doctrine in their little withered fists, they warned men that henceforth there would be no more metaphysics. These were men who believed that prakriti (material) was all, and who wished to cajole their fellow man into the like conviction, yet their project ended in such a perfect and irremediable failure that their efforts remain as a kind of startling monument to the absurdity of philosophical presumption. And still, the ranks of the academic materialists are filled with haughty men convinced that the general position of the logical positivists, so nakedly erroneous, is a self-evident truth. We still routinely read the claim, made or insinuated by authors whom we are supposed to take seriously, that metaphysics is a passé and useless discipline, as though a complete and systematic explanation of the universe were possible without a metaphysics, any more than a satisfactory account of wages were possible without an economics, or an explanation of tragedy without a poetics. The Darwinians unreflective belief that scientific explanations alone are valid, then, is hardly unique to themselves, but one which they clearly caught from the linguists, psychologists, and anthropologists with whom they rub shoulders in the dining halls and faculty meetings of our desolate universities.
Funny thing, I just got done proofreading an academic article that exactly fits Signorelli’s description.

For one thing, the authors have an itch to argue away consciousness, a sure sign of trouble. This sort of nonsense is not harmless; it is part of a pattern which saw the campus become a very oppressive place over the years, as more and more academics have piled into social engineering, convinced that they are only manipulating wayward neurons. (This article by Crick and Koch will be one of the Nature of Nature essays in the forthcoming book of that name.)

Which reminds me, there is a Hindu-sponsored intelligent design book out there: Nature’s I. Q. is most interesting, and offers stunning photographs. It differs from the typical Western approach in focusing on behaviour rather than physical form, but makes similar points.

A friend praises the article as one of the few whose author actually knows something about classical, intellectual Hinduism.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


Journal aims at serious discussion of ID issues

A friend writes to say,

The Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture is the best known think tank sympathetic to intelligent design. They manage to enrage all the right tax burdens. Here is one recent activity along that line:

"I am excited to call your attention to a new on-line journal, called BIO-Complexity, that has recently been launched." See here for details. Its stated purpose:
BIO-Complexity is a peer-reviewed scientific journal with a unique goal. It aims to be the leading forum for testing the scientific merit of the claim that intelligent design (ID) is a credible explanation for life. Because questions having to do with the role and origin of information in living systems are at the heart of the scientific controversy over ID, these topics—viewed from all angles and perspectives—are central to the journal's scope.
My friend notes,
To achieve its aim, BIO-Complexity is founded on the principle of critical exchange that makes science work. Specifically, the journal enlists editors and reviewers with scientific expertise in relevant fields who hold a wide range of views on the merit of ID, but who agree on the importance of science for resolving controversies of this kind. Our editors use expert peer review, guided by their own judgement, to decide whether submitted work merits consideration and critique. BIO-Complexity aims not merely to publish work that meets this standard, but also to provide expert critical commentary on it.
This should prove much more interesting than the usual unfalsifiable Darwin defense sludge one encounters in many journals, which reminds me of nothing so much as a cult defending its fixed beliefs. (Everything and its opposte, truth nonsense, and falsehood all prove Darwin was right, you see. But after all, biology is the sociology of science, so one might expect this, and increasing numbers of well-thought-out books are written about it.)

She asks,
I'd like to ask your help to promote the journal's success. First, read the articles, and check back regularly. More will be published as they become available. Second, cite the articles in your blogs and scientific research articles when appropriate. Third, sign up as readers, and register to be able to make on-line comments. (Go here for instructions, then scroll down to Online Comments.)

This will allow you to post comments on specific articles. You may also be asked to review papers relevant to your own area of expertise.

Finally, consider submitting your own scientific research articles here, or encourage others to do so. The journal is registered with, and every article is assigned its own searchable doi.
Note that, by "comments",my friend means intelligent critues, not screeds from some Darwinist troll hole. We have all heard enough of that.

More here:
For years, scientists and other scholars who want to pursue design-theoretic research have had to deal with a Catch-22. Though many big scientific ideas appear in books, specialized science develops, in large part, through the peer-reviewed publishing process. At the same time, anyone with the slightest acquaintance with the subject knows that arguing explicitly for design in an article submitted to a scientific journal is a sure-fire way to prevent the article from seeing the light of day. But it looks like that is about to change.

As we learned recently with the “Climategate” controversy, despite the merits of the peer-review concept, it can often be used as an ideological gatekeeper. This is nowhere more true than with ID. So ID-oriented scientists have been forced either to avoid the subject in their scientific publishing, or, when dealing with design-relevant evidence, to write in such an elliptical fashion that that relevance is thoroughly disguised.

It’s a Catch-22, of course, because critics claim that ID “isn’t science” since it’s not in the peer-reviewed literature. (That’s not true; but the Catch-22 means that explicitly ID-oriented work is vastly under-represented in that literature.)

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


Off topic: Advice to the government re abortion funding

A friend asked me to write to the Prime Minister, advising against funding abortion in Third World countries, and I thought I may as well oblige, as I think it a poor policy. I also thought I would post my reasoning here:

Mr. Prime Minister and excellent minister Bev Oda:

Please stand firm against the people who will get money from aborting babies in other countries, if you cave in.

This is for a number of non-religious reasons:

1. There is NO reason to believe abortion will even be voluntary. And what can we do if it isn't? It is better if we Canadians just do not fund it. (If people in other countries want to force women to be aborted, to meet grant-based population reduction quotas, we cannot stop them. But at least we had nothing to do with it, right? It's not like the cheque is stamped 'From a grateful CANADA'. Surely, there are some shames we cannot stoop to.)

2. Contrary to population whackos, most of the world is in steep demographic decline. This is bad news for business, pension plans, etc. Why add to the problem? Right now, YOUR government is advertising for healthy young workers from abroad. So we should kill their successors?

3. Abortion clinics are run by people who do not mind killing babies for a living. Even if you didn't agree that that is a problem, a number of other evils result, including: Teachers molest underage girls and ship them to clinics for discreet abortions, unbeknown to their parents. Abortion clinics may also function on the adoption black market. = Would you keep it for a while instead of killing it, if we get you some money?

4. No one should believe anything an abortion clinic operator says about not killing viable babies. If he really cared about stuff like that, he would not likely do what he does now. So you can assume, for practical purposes, it is unreliable.

5. Some babies may be sold for research that should never be done on a human being, but remember that they do not technically exist.

Stand firm! Most of the criticism I hear about your government comes from NOT standing up for traditional Canadian values. Most of the praise I hear is for doing so.

And REPEAL Section 13 and FIRE Jennifer Lynch. Quit fooling around about that too. People are really angry.

Traditional values and civil rights are important to the people who would re-elect you.
People debate whether unborn children deserve the protection of law. I think they do, but in this case, that is not really the point. Rather, sending money abroad for these purposes means sending it into jurisdictions where laws against the situations described above may not exist or may be unenforced and unenforceable. Or the government may be tacitly or openly supporting it. And the last thing I would expect is a straight story out of anyone involved. Now back to work.

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