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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Essay: Darwinist Massimo Pigliucci on changing his mind

Yes, it’s true. Darwinist Massimo Pigliucci admits that he has changed his mind at least three times. (So he is at least barely mortal?) He writes, "As regular readers of this column know, I occasionally try to debunk the myth that skeptics are just a bunch of curmudgeons and naysayers, people who have a strong psychological need to feel superior and always right. As a small contribution to this demystification, let me tell you about not one, not two, but three (!!) instances in which I changed my mind about issues of concern to freethinkers and skeptics, and in the process try to learn when it is in fact reasonable to change opinion."

The article is fascinating for what it reveals about the mindset of at least one thorough-going naturalist. Pigliucci clearly does not think that he might actually be mistaken in his assumption that nature is all there is, and that the whole panoply of life forms came into existence with no guidance whatever.

One item of interest is that Pigliucci is beginning to wonder about the Brights movement, a whole group of people who think that nature is all there is, who also apparently think themselves smarter than their neighbors. The group features some Darwinist luminaries, such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett .

"I'm no longer sure it was such a bright idea," Pigliucci notes.

Actually, Massimo, it wasn't a bright idea at all. The world is not a grade five classroom and the great issues of philosophy and science are not merely questions blazoned on the "I can read with confidence" wall chart, where a correct answer would demonstrate that you are a bright child. Being a naturalist does not make you particularly bright. The people who disagree with you are no stupider than you. They see things about life and the universe that you don't or won't see.

Blog service note 1: Did you come here looking for any of the following stories?
- the Privileged Planet film shown at the Smithsonian, go here for an extended review. Please do not raise cain about an "anti-evolution" film without seeing it. If your doctor forbids you to see the film, in case you get too excited, at least read my detailed log of the actual subjects of the film. If you were one of the people who raised cain, ask yourself why you should continue to believe the people who so misled you about the film's actual content ...

- the showing of Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian, go here and here to start, and then this one and this one will bring you up to date.

- the California Academy of Sciences agreeing to correct potentially libellous statements about attorney Larry Caldwell, who thinks that students should know about weaknesses as well as strengths of Darwinian evolution theory, click on the posted link.

- Bill Dembski threatening to sue the Thomas More Law Center in the Dover, Pennsylvania ID case, click on the posted link and check the current daily post for updates. (Note: This dispute has apparently been settled. See the story for details. )

Blog service note 2: Now that I am back from vacation, posting is reenabled on recent stories.

Blog policy note: This blog does not intentionally accept fully anonymous posts, posts with language unsuited to an intellectual discussion, or defamatory statements. Defamatory statement: A statement that would be actionable if anyone took the author seriously. For example, someone may say “O’Leary is a crummy journalist.” Well, that’s a matter of opinion and I don’t know who would care. But if they say, “O’Leary was convicted of grand theft auto in 1983,” well that’s just plain false, and probably actionable, if the author were taken seriously. Also, due to time constraints, I rarely respond to comments, and usually only about blog service issues.

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