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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mary Midgley: Philosopher who questions the "Selfish Gene"

The recent Guardian profile of British philosopher Mary Midgeley, basher of ultra-Darwinist Richard Dawkins, is interesting for the way in which it seems to withhold praise for a generally admirable woman who made the mistake of questioning ultra-Darwinism during her philosophy career.

"I'm not anti-science," she maintains. "What I object to is improper science sold as science. I understand Dawkins thinks he was talking about the survival potential of certain lines rather than the motives of the genes themselves, but I believe he is mistaken. Scientists in this country have little cultural overlap with the arts and humanities and ... they are unaware of when they start bringing their own political and psychological views into the argument. There's nothing wrong with scientists having such views as long as they are aware of what they are doing ... Dawkins may argue that he is using selfishness as a metaphor but he must have been aware of how the concept might be interpreted and used. And Dawkins has to take some responsibility for that."

Obviously, naturalism (materialism) is an impotent ideology if any genuine criticism, on whatever ground, is seen as "anti-science." In fact, evolutionary psychology (EP), which Midgley rightly criticized in her disaproval of the "selfish gene", would be a big embarrassment to Darwinism IF the latter were itself more securely founded on fact.

You know the kind of thing we hear constantly from EP: If kids don't eat their greens, that's because "evolution" is protecting them from poisoning. Or if they do, well that must be because "evolution" is encouraging them to have strong bodies. Yeah right.

(Avoidance of chewy, non-greasy vegetables with complex flavours couldn't have anything at all to do with easy access to soft, greasy, sugary fast food in recent years. It must be shipped back hundreds of thousands of years in the past and called "evolution," ... possibly to assuage guilt?)

One reason I know Darwinism is on the way out is that Darwinists do not seem anxious to rise up, as a group, and drive this stuff off the scene. That fact alone implies that most arguments for Darwinism are similarly poorly founded.

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