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Friday, December 24, 2010

Wallace’s basic disagreement with Darwin about man

Alfred Russel Wallace, 

About Darwin’s much-maligned co-theorist, Alfred Russel Wallace, a friend writes,
Darwin had overlooked one important thing and that was how much of an exception Man was to the theory of evolution. By contrast Wallace was aware that the language and culture component of Man's makeup did not fit with Darwin's view. (Of course, language and culture includes justice, religion and art.) Darwin seemed hemmed in by his animal studies, whereas Wallace intuitively knew that all Mankind, from the most "primitive" to the most technologically advanced, used language and symbols to form a culture. In addition, there was no apparent difference in either the structure or size of the human brain between natives who hunted and gathered for a living in Tierra del Fuego, and a modern European who might have played and composed music in a 19th century university town.

How did that fit with Darwin's theory given the completely different environments in which these two groups lived? To this day nobody has come up with a credible answer, probably because of the dubious assumption that hunting and gathering required less brainpower than that needed for someone to live "comfortably" in a modern city. ...
More on Wallace here.


The selfish gene is NOT to blame for being selfish ...

Just wanted to get that straight.

In the Wall Street Journal, physicist Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, “The Lies of Science Writing” (December 23, 2010) explains,
Writing about science poses a fundamental problem right at the outset: You have to lie.

I don't mean lie in the sense of intentionally misleading people. I mean that because math is the language of science, scientists who want to translate their work into popular parlance have to use verbal or pictorial metaphors that are necessarily inexact.
Of course, it works the other way around too. Efforts to reduce complex matters like elder care to equations will end in frustration for all concerned.
Consider another famous scientific metaphor, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins's idea of the "selfish gene." This is a brilliant and simple way to explain that natural selection relies on the self-perpetuation of genes that promote higher rates of survival. But for some critics, it suggests an intentionality that is absent in the process of evolution. Others worry that it implies an immoral world where selfishness wins out.
Hmmm. I wonder where the others got that idea? Meanwhile, lots of critics are still waiting for evidence that either natural selection or the selfish gene play anything like the role that Dawkins and other ultra-Darwinists claim.

If I wanted to avoid any notion of intentionality in a gene, I would not label it "selfish." It would give the air of sneaking something in that I officially proclaimed I didn't agree with. ;)


Climate change debate - its significance to intelligent design theory

The significance of the climate change debate to ID is not that climate change, yes or no, is a prediction of design theory.

If the universe and life forms show evidence of design, there is no particular reason why humans could not cause climate change. A design theorist would simply say, follow the evidence with an open mind.

It is not self-evident that everything modern is bad, or that there are too many people in the world living too high off the hog.

The significance is principally that it enabled many people who had never considered the matter before to see how disconfirming data can be systematically suppressed once a consensus takes hold.

That makes the people who learn about any one of a number of instances much less likely to simply assume - in another situation - that "Those scientists wouldn't do that! Science is about [fill in the blank with some earnest wish here: ___________]"

Or worse and more oily, "Do you really believe, ladies and gentlemen, that these virtuous and high-minded men and women who so diligently ... "

If O'Leary is one unit of the captive audience, persons seated nearby might hear a mutter, "Yes indeed. I do believe it. See Climategate, for example. And you're here to defend that one - or a different one? Already? Details. I need the details."

Basically, a discipline does not ennoble its practitioners. The process works the other way - or else doesn't.

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