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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ottawa Citizen's David Warren vs. the Darwinoids

Here David Warren sends up the attempt - most recently fronted in the New York Times to expunge the word "Darwinism" from our vocabulary, so that evolution can mean whatever anyone anywhere wants it to mean, and therefore no nonsense can ever be confuted:
Olivia Judson, the house cheerleader for Darwinian evolution, was trying to retire the word “Darwinist.” Her typically breathless argument was that we know so much more about evolutionary processes today, than could be known in the age of Darwin, that the term has become useless.

Genes, for instance. Darwin knew nothing whatever about the genetic processes later discovered by the Polish Catholic monk, Gregor Mendel -- observations that would have wiped Darwinism clean out of biology were there not something else in Darwinism that people wanted to preserve.

Indeed, our “modern evolutionary synthesis” consists, in a candid view, of 100 parts of Mendel to zero parts of Darwin, and the whole idea of The Origin of Species -- that new species could emerge from the gradual accumulation of small random mutations “selected” by an impersonal nature for their survival value alone -- remains to this day utterly undemonstrable. It moreover flies in the face of the observed evidence, which is for dramatic, sudden, yet extremely complex changes.

“Darwinism” survives not as a science, but as an ideal: to eliminate God from any consideration of how nature works. It is intrinsically no more nor less rational than using God as the sole explanation for every event in view. The words, “Darwinism,” “Darwinian,” or as I prefer, “Darwinoid,” correctly describe those who continue loyal to this ideal, in the face of everything we now know about evolutionary biology.
I wrote on the same thing here, noting,
Darwinian evolution is in no fit state to be disproved. If it were, that would be progress.

To some, it means "cosmic Darwinism," to others, the "selfish gene" that creates "memes" that rule our minds, to others, group selection (long a no-no). To some, it still means a parsimonious, testable idea: Natural selection acting on random mutation to produce new species.

But there is only weak evidence that new species commonly arise that way. There are a number of ways that they might in fact arise, including gene-swapping, neoteny, and front-loaded design.

Some think that sexual selection, Darwin's other theory, should be included, but the problem is that at least one of its legendary icons (the peacock's tail) is in serious trouble.

Similarly, even common ancestry, long accorded the status of a religious belief, is showing cracks. For one thing, gene swapping, where it occurs, makes ancestry irrelevant, unless you mean where a given gene came from - information that may not be available or even important.

(Note: The image is from Real Clear Politics.)

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