Saturday, July 09, 2005

Debate in Darwinian Territory

In case you're interested and have nothing better to do, you might like to read the brief offensive I launched Thursday in the wake of Cardinal Schönborn's op-ed "Finding Design in Nature" (which I posted about same day). This Darwinian fire-fight1 took place in the New York Times's online backyard. I don't know that I took any prisoners, but I at least inflicted a few thought-provoking questions. These were unanswered: hardboiled materialists seem rather impervious to thought.

A couple responses were themselves thought-provoking, and raise some issues worth investigation. Not all of the correspondents were that lucid, but these provided unparallelled entertainment. It's always fun to read the frustrated sputterings of secular humanists, particularly when their worldview is straitjacketted to what the Times editors see fit to print. We can only pray that someday, they'll realize they can't beat objective reality, but will just have to join it.

Here are links to my first post and last post at the New York Times Forum. Please note that you do have to sign up for access to the site, but there is no charge.


1. "Darwinian fitness contest" might be more appropriate, but the inevitable associations with Richard Simmons don't fit the combat metaphor.

UPDATE: another Times article:

Cornelia Dean and Laurie Goodstein, "Leading Cardinal Redefines Church's View on Evolution," New York Times (July 9, 2005). (Hat tip to Thoughts on Christianity and Science)


Lawrence Gage said...

Just ran across this worthy post at the Times Forum:

ccnnghm1 - 6:44 AM ET July 9, 2005 (#4093 of 4107)

More than one hypothesis

When Pope John Paul spoke in passing about evolution to a group of scientists, his original words were mistranslated for some reason.

The original meant that evolution was "more than ONE hypothesis," not "more than AN hypothesis." It was a recognition that there are multiple theories of evolution, some compatible with Catholic faith, and others not.

For instance, modern theories of evolution that consider humans to be only material beings, and that deny that each human is a unique soul created from nothing by God, are neither compatible with Christian faith nor supportive of the individual's infinite human dignity.

The late Pope said exactly that in his address to the scientists.

Cardinal Schoenborn moves the debate forward, not backward, by calling into question the issue of undirected natural selection as a moving force in evolution. Those Catholic scholars like Michael Behe who say that the scientific evidence, particularly in biochemistry, favor an element of design in evolution, are pushing our understanding of biological development forward, not backward.

Long ago, while I was studying with Dr. Pauling, the father of evolutionary biochemistry, I wondered how, for instance, the Krebs cycle could have arisen from a series of evolutionary steps in the cell. After all, many of the steps produce chemicals that poison the cell in adequate concentrations, and so the enzymes that move the process forward would have had to be evolved simultaneously for the system to work at all.

Now, thirty plus years later, we are no closer to answering that puzzle. The design inference says that some intelligence put the puzzle together at once, and moved the evolutionary process forward in one massive thrust.

If Behe and Schoenborn and all the others working in this field are denied the opportunity to add to the discussion, let's all go back to believing in phlogiston.

One final thing--at no time since Darwin has the Church "taught" evolution. The Church doesn't teach science, which answers the what and how questions of life. The Church teaches the Faith, which answers the who and why questions of life. So let's stop talking about the Church "supporting" or "denying" evolution as if that were part of Her mission.

Lawrence Gage said...

Another worthy post. Though only tangentially related to Darwinism, it is directly related to the subject of this blog. MJ

wordsmyth1 - 8:54 AM ET July 9, 2005 (#4099 of 4108)
bj flanagan

Second Foundation

"Quantum mechanics (and Bell's inequality) imply that randomness is irreducible in the universe. There are NO hidden variables." [from previous post]

Bell believed in hidden variables (private communication) and Hartle, Holland, Peres, 't Hooft et al. have recently revived this line of inquiry. Moreover, Gell-Mann has been quoted in Scientific American to the effect that Bohr and Heisenberg "brainwashed" a generation of physicists into thinking quantum mechanics was a finished work. A show of hands conducted by the authors (Wheeler & Tegmark) indicated that around half of the physicists in the room no longer subscribed to the Copenhagen dogma.

The possible consequences of the ongoing work could scarcely be more profound, for when the foundations of physics shift, so too with all that rests upon those foundations -- meaning, all the rest of science and its attendant technology. The last time this happened, we got lasers, transistors and the Bomb.

David M. Smith said...


Here is another funny debate. If your not worn out, you might want to pile on.