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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

David Warren on Darwinism as just another failed “ism”

So far as it sticks to science -- that is, investigates empirical phenomena & proposes vaguely testable or even merely fruitful explanations of how they work & came to be -- yes, what you call "Darwinism" (& I call, neutrally, "evolutionary biology") can go on forever, & not one philosopher's nose will be out of joint.

It is only when some Darwinoid (& Dawkins is the perfect contemporary example) starts rendering judgements on the ontological status of man, on ultimate cause, on the metaphysical foundations of morals, on the existence or non-existence of God, & other such things beyond the reach of empirical science, that we will raise any question about his licence to get up in the morning.

So once again: I have no objection to the pursuit of evolutionary biology. I have a big objection to having my children taught that "science has now proved that philosophy is a crock, & religion is dangerous & silly.

More generally: there is no room for "isms" in science, because "isms" are not empirical. "Isms" must be defended philosophically. I am not targeting "Darwinism" especially. "Communism," "Nazism," "Islamism," & "Lamarckism" are also out of play. We do not call gravity "Newtonism," or thermodynamics "Kelvinism," or relativistic physics "Einsteinism." And such terms as "Lamarckian," "Darwinian," & "Mendelian" must be understood to refer to the
history of science, or to past, present, or future extra-empirical tendencies -- not to biology, per se.

This is an area of philosophical etiquette where even the great & admired Ernst Mayr sins casually & frequently.

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