Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Real Darwinist Agenda

I got back Sunday from the American Maritain Association conference in Nashville. I had a great time. I'll write more about the conference later, but for now I just wanted to tell you about some of the interesting ideas about the actual doctrine of Darwinists.

Before I get to that, I should mention that there were a variety of (philosophical) perspectives on Darwinism at the conference. Mark Ryland's plenary talk explored the similarities between Darwinism and Intelligent Design (ID: capital I, capital D), beginning with Paley. In the final session, the speakers were Fr. Edward Oakes, Michael Behe, and Peter Pagan. Fr. Oakes spoke on the compatibility of (an understanding of) Darwinism with traditional theism. Dr. Pagan was critical of Darwinism and Intelligent Design Theory. Only Dr. Behe spoke against Darwinism and in favor of ID.

A central argument of Dr. Behe's talk dovetailed with the argument of an earlier talk by Richard von Sternberg on "Is Darwinism Anti-Logos by Chance or Design?". It is this talk that I want to turn to first.

Dr. Sternberg's talk posed the question, "[I]s Darwinism neutral with respect to logoi and the Logos [i.e., divine order in nature, and the Divine Archetype]? To answer these questions it is necessary to examine Darwinian responses to empirical challenges." Darwinists like Ernst Mayr have conducted repeated purges of scientists who would observe any sort of order in nature. This behavior shows they are against finding any sort of order in nature: they believe only in complete randomness.

Unfortunately for these ideological Darwinists, science is self-correcting in the long-run: the truth cannot help coming out eventually. (And besides, you really can't do science without believing in some sort of order in nature.) Hence, evolutionary theory is currently in a phase of "Damage Control", as Dr. Sternberg labelled the era since 1976 to the present, in which neo-Darwinists like Richard Dawkins scramble to claim the order bursting from scientific research as feathers in their own cap.

Other interesting details from Dr. Sternberg's talk:

  1. Population genetics models assume infinite population size. But metazoans (multi-cellular animals) lack an "effective population size" for natural selection to operate. The models that support Darwinism don't apply to reality.
  2. Almost all the race biologists in Nazi Germany were Darwinists.
  3. Marx wanted to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin, who warmly declined for P.R. purposes.

Dr. Sternberg concluded that Darwinism is purposely anti-logos.

Michael Behe's talk in the last session supported Dr. Sternberg's claims about the Darwinists' true agenda. Dr. Behe said that in evaluating the meaning of Darwinism, one should not look at the "tamest" possible version of the theory (Fr. Oakes's project), but at what the Darwinists actually say about the theory.

In 1995 the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) defined evolution to exclude any compatibility with belief in a Creator:

The diversity of life on Earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments. (h/t: Metanexus)

Under public pressure, the statement was later revised to omit the words "unsupervised, impersonal," but (as expressed elsewhere) with the understanding that "natural" includes these concepts. (Current statement)

In September 2005, 39 Nobel laureates (many them biologists) wrote a letter (PDF) to the Kansas School Board:

Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.

The words "unguided, unplanned" are exactly those used by Cardinal Schonborn in his NYT op-ed. It is very clear that Darwinism as represented by Darwinists is against any sort of design in nature ("intelligent design" in all lowercase).


Citations in Sternberg's Slides

Abigail Lustig, "Biologists on Crusade," Darwinian Heresies (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

A. Desmond, Archetypes to Ancestors (University of Chicago Press, 1986).

A. Desmond, The Politics of Evolution (University of Chicago Press, 1992).

N.A. Rupke, Richard Owen (Clarendon Press, 1995).

P.J. Bowler, The Eclipse of Darwinism (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983).

G.S. Levit and K. Meister, "The History of Essentialism vs. Ernst Mayr's 'Essentialism Story': A case study in German Idealistic Morphology," Theory in Biosciences 124:281-307.

13 comments:

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

11 11 06

Random eh? Darwinism is a religion just as others are.

John said...

Please check out this essay on the dismal reductionism of both scientism and exoteric religion.
We westerners do not have any esoteric religion! Such a possibility disappeared a long time ago.
1. www.dabase.net/noface.htm

This essay is on the dreadful politics & "culture" created in the image of both scientism and exoteric religion.
2. www.dabase.net/coop+tol.htm

Plus something on a lighter side.
3. www.dabase.net/2armP1.htm#ch1b

Lawrence Gage said...

Thanks for the links, John. It would be more helpful to actually speak your peace here, instead of simply referring us to documents elsewhere. Otherwise, it seems like a mere advertisement.

LG

Travis Vocino said...

How do these speakers claim to have an understanding of evolutionary theory when the term "random" is used countless times, even in your own post.

A theory of randomness and Darwinian evolution or natural selection would contradict each other. That's kind of the whole idea: it's not random.

In my opinion, to propose that the current theories are a matter of Randomness (Evolution) vs. Order (Creationism, by whatever name you'd like to give it) is to misrepresent the Theory of Evolution and Darwinian Natural Selection.

The universe does have order. Any real physicist will tell you. Yes, it does have a certain amount of randomness in current theories (primarily dealing with quantum mechanics). However, the goal of science is obviously to pursue more with order than with sheer randomness, which it sounds like you don't agree with. Once one concedes to randomness, then there is no point in moving forward in science. Stephen Hawking specifically comes to mind, with his exceptional understanding of the order of the universe and his pursuit of the knowledge of that order.

Personal note: I enjoy reading your blog (as you see I've linked to it, and thank you for the reciprocation) even if I don't necessarily agree with the content. I think that's the true nature of science and what makes it so exciting.

Lawrence Gage said...

Travis,

Thanks for the compliments, and for the link!

How do these speakers claim to have an understanding of evolutionary theory when the term "random" is used countless times, even in your own post.

Maybe I'm missing your point, but I'm loathe to claim that an expert like Rick Sternberg doesn't understand evolution. Aside from demonstrating a thorough command of the subject and history of evolution, he has Ph.D.s in two separate fields of biology--that's two more than I have! But perhaps you have a comparable expertise?

The universe does have order. Any real physicist will tell you. Yes, it does have a certain amount of randomness in current theories (primarily dealing with quantum mechanics). However, the goal of science is obviously to pursue more with order than with sheer randomness, which it sounds like you don't agree with.

First of all, I hope I count as a real physicist! Second, I do think that science looks for order, as I think I've made clear in several posts here (for example Purpose and Order in Nature); I don't know what would give you an idea otherwise.

The current post is revealing and disputing the agenda of the mainstream neo-Darwinists to disprove all order, to support their atheistic ideology. Perhaps it is written unclearly?

LG

Travis Vocino said...

LG,

Thanks for the reply. Yes, I understand that the post was geared toward "neo-Darwinists," using Richard Dawkins as an example. I don't think anyone would disagree that he has passionate views on atheism and not just biology in general (I mean, I assume we both read The God Delusion, heh, no question after that).

My only objection, for lack of a better term, is in stating a theory of randomness. Rick Sternberg does indeed have two Ph.D.s, and I did not hear the same specific lecture as you did, so I'm only going on what you tell me. However, if he said that Darwinian evolution is essentially random events that just so happen to have ended up with what we see today, then no, he doesn't understand natural selection or he is choosing his words carefully, deliberately leaving out the major factors of the theory, in order to support a point.

Even biologists as outspoken as Richard Dawkins don't make any claims about the universe not having order. In fact, quite the contrary. We know the universe has order. No one really disputes that (that I know of). The question remains whether the laws of nature were set forth (pre-singularity) by "unknown entity." For Dawkins, obviously he is willing to suggest that he does not need to create a God or Gods to fill that void.

Anyhow, I think I'm getting a bit long and perhaps even off-topic. I don't want to fill your comments with a discussion (unless, of course, that's what you'd prefer).

I enjoy your writing. Thanks for all the effort!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gage,
how\where can I or anyone else for that matter get a copy\tape
of Sternberg's lecture?

thanks.....

Lawrence Gage said...

I don't believe it was recorded, but your best bet is to ask Dr. Sternberg through the link of his name in the post.

LG

Lawrence Gage said...

Travis,

Finally responding to you....

Yes, I actually do like discussions in the comments. There really can't be an intellectual life without discussion. (And the subject is rather on-topic, too!)

However, if he said that Darwinian evolution is essentially random events that just so happen to have ended up with what we see today, then no, he doesn't understand natural selection or he is choosing his words carefully, deliberately leaving out the major factors of the theory, in order to support a point.

I suspect you're failing to make the distinction between the two parts of Darwin's theory. Natural selection is certainly a teleological (teleonomic) process, but it needs genetic novelty to weed through--clearly there need to be natural forms in the first place. The genetic novelty in Darwin's theory comes from random mutation.

Certainly scientists like Dawkins can't entirely deny order in the universe (such a denial would be as senseless as saying "there is no meaning in words"), but by their actions they seek to surpress evidence of any particular mechanism causing random mutation. The discovery of such a mechanism would eliminate randomness as the "explanation" (or "uncause").

I recommend you read the books that Dr. Sternberg cited in his presentation. I haven't read them myself, but I have the utmost respect for Dr. Sternberg and am wary of gainsaying him. I'll consult the notes from the presentation to try to find which particular one would be most helpful.

LG

Lawrence Gage said...

Travis,

It looks like the Lustig reference speaks the most directly to the surpression of dissent. From the notes, it looks like Levit and Meister will tell you about "Richard Goldschmidt and the Two Minutes of hate", as well as the attack on Idealistic Morphology.

LG

Lawrence Gage said...

It turns out the story that Marx offered to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin is a myth.

A letter found in Marx's papers from Darwin turning down the offer of a dedication is the basis of the story. It turns out the letter was to Edward Aveling, author of The Students' Darwin and lover of Marx's daughter Eleanor. Aveling had filed the letter among Marx's papers. Aveling's letter to Darwin (dated the day preceding Darwin's to him) asking permission for the dedication has been found among Darwin's papers, which confirms the theory. (More here.)

I apologize for the misinformation.

LG

The Dreadlocked Geekgrrl said...

Lawrence:

You mentioned the following:

Almost all the race biologists in Nazi Germany were Darwinists.

Okay, let's say that was true. It is *also* true that nearly all the people who were segregationists in America were theists (the vast majority of them being Christians). Does that prima facie impute Christianity? Is that an indictment of theism generally that people who believe in god, used that belief as a justification for, to take one salient example, denying blacks the right to vote even *after* many of these same blacks (my father included) fought with valor in WWII?

Whether or not Nazi's were Darwinists or not is entirely irrelevant to whether or not Darwinian theory is true. If you argue that it *is* relevant, then it is *also* relevant that Christians in America used their religion to justify American Apartheid. Arguing that 'these weren't really Christians' doesn't carry any water since *they* identified themselves as Christians and they would've met any functional definition of Christian you care to proffer *except* one that states that a Christian is someone who is not a racial segregationist.

While imputing X (where X is whatever you don't like) by associating with the Nazi's (I'm waiting for the day that some poster on the net says that Hitler and the Nazi's used Macs or somesuch) might seem like a good idea, it is an inherently weak argument.

Lawrence Gage said...

Dear Dreadlocked Geekgrrl,

More than just an accidental association, Nazi rhetoric was famous for invoking "Darwinian" theories of fitness. Nazis insofar as Nazis have always justified their racial theories with Darwinism (or at least Galton's take on his cousin's theory).

The association of Christian with slavery (insofar as Christians) is pretty weak. There have been plenty of Christians who have been against racism of any kind... most famously the abolitionists and later Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There was also the earlier work of Bartolomé de Las Casas in fighting for human rights of American Indians--most of the Christian world was way ahead of Americans in outlawing slavery. Christianity goes back a couple millennia, as you may recall, and the Roman Empire's adoption of the Faith was the reason it dropped slavery.

I don't think that Darwinism (in the strictly scientific sense) is a problem. What is a problem is puffing Darwinism up to be a complete description of the world--once you do this, there is no room for a moral order rooted in the reality of the universe. In fact the natural order described by Darwinism (in this bloated sense) seems to call for us to participate enthusiastically in the ruthless struggle for survival (or passing on genes).

A later post stimulated a vigorous discussion on this very topic: The Darwinian Holocaust. You may find it helpful.

LG