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Monday, May 12, 2008

David Warren on how animals differ from machines, and other topics, including bizarre fur seal sex

The bizarre sex part got you reading, didn't it? Yes, well, buried in this pot pourri is a link to a truly bizarre story from the wild. But first, David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen often finds himself in discussions with Darwinists - people who believe that natural selection is an awesome creative force rather than a means of weeding out losers. He sometimes shares with me his correspondence with them.
On your points a. & b., I am trying to communicate a conceptual problem that you share with all Darwinoids, though not with all Darwinian evolutionists. It is a mistake that e.g. Aristotle didn't make, & it appears, no one made until modern times. It is the belief that animals are essentially inanimate.

Let me try to explain this again. Animals move. Their "source" of movement is not external to themselves, in the way the source of a mountain's movement is external to itself. They are not "laws of nature" but rather, laws unto themselves. They are, like us insofar as we are animals, under severe constraints from the laws of nature. In that sense alone they "obey" the laws of nature, which includes becoming extinct when they fly in nature's face.

If you want to say that they were, as it were, "created by natural laws," then you are going to have to create a few new natural laws such as "the will to life of all creatures." This talks its way around the problem, but leaves you with a law that cannot be tested.

No forces now known to physics can explain such behaviour as the actual independent "movement" of animals (in the broadest sense of "movement," including the growth & wiring & re-wiring of their bodies & brains).

That is just a big "given" in Darwinism, a fundamental problem that cannot be overcome.

>>Kelley makes the point that an intelligent engineer would have done a better job (if his objective were to prepare humans for the 21st Century). <<

This is the old Marxist & Stalinist argument, that an "intelligent engineer" could "easily" outdo nature. It leads to where Marxism & Stalinism led. (Nature won.)

"Intelligent engineers" design robots that can't even climb stairs reliably.
He adds, "We try to educate them. We really do." He also quotes Etienne Gilson (in, From Aristotle to Darwin & Back Again): "We say that primitives take a watch for an animal, but only the genius of Descartes has been able to take animals for watches."

While we are here, Warren notes, in sex news from the Beeb, the odd case of a fur seal trying to mate with an adult king penguin noting (both parties male), adding "This has got everything: sexual selection, randomness, gradualism, gay activism." Perhaps the seal needs waterproof contact lenses. Also, male jumping spiders reflect ultraviolet B rays from their body to apprise females that they are available. Humans cannot see UVB and apparently scientists had assumed that animals couldn't either. It's unclear as yet just how the do see it. But where there is a will ...

Oh, and this too: Under the heading "Trying to explain intelligent design to a New Yorker", he writes,
Another way to explain this. I'm sure you have heard of baseball. This is a game with laws. The laws themselves have evolved somewhat, from cricket or whatever, whereas, so far as we can see, natural laws do not evolve but remain absolutely fixed. So in that sense it is a poor analogy. You will have to pretend that the laws of baseball, unlike the laws of nature, were fixed & immutable from the beginning of baseball in the first nanosecond after the Big Baseball Bang.

What you are saying is that "the laws of baseball" are responsible for creating Wee Willie Keeler, Roger Peckinpaugh, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, ... & all the other famous New York Yankees.

Laws do not create things. They only regulate.

Only socialists believe that regulations can create anything.

You would be right in guessing that Warren is not a socialist.

While we are here, his comments on the uproar around the Expelled film linking German Darwinism and the death camps single out John Derbyshire, who - he thinks - is overreacting on the subject:
I am no great fan of Ben Stein, & would begin by clarifying, that science & murder are not natural bedfellows. More precisely, SCIENTISM & murder go together well, & scientism in the service of murderous regimes was a commonplace of the 20th century.

But science, in the sense of free empirical inquiry, is just a big open season. It offers no conclusive view of anything; by definition it cannot; it is just a vast, constantly updated manual on how things work.

I agree that Darwin would have wished nothing to do with Hitler. In his own mind, "survival of the fittest" was an observation, not an ideological prescription.

On the point of fact, the equally excitable Derbyshire probably doesn't realize that what Stein is saying is technically true. Hitler's death camps were run by people who presented themselves as scientists, acting upon racial "theories," & they often had scientific or medical credentials, some of them from quite respectable institutions. And Stein's immediate ancestors were indeed among their victims. So I quite understand Stein's excitability on the issue.


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