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Friday, July 08, 2005

My next book: Why people are not just clever apes

I am co-authoring a book, to be published by Harper San Francisco, on the neurological EVIDENCE for the spiritual nature of human beings, to be published Fall 2006.

The lead author is neuroscientist Mario Beauregard of the University of Montreal.

This project will keep me very busy, and require me to learn a great deal about the human brain (no kidding!).

Many of my posts hereafter will probably relate to neuroscience, but so far as I can see, any reasonable account of the human brain is unlikely to be Darwinian in character, so my posts will remain relevant to blog reader interests.

I will post any official information from the publisher about the forthcoming book, as it becomes available.

This is what I have for now:

But you can be sure there will be way more later.

cheers, Denyse

Blog service note: Did you come here looking for any of the following stories?
- the Privileged Planet film shown at the Smithsonian, go here for an extended review. Please do not raise cain about an "anti-evolution" film without seeing it. If your doctor forbids you to see the film, in case you get too excited, at least read my detailed log of the actual subjects of the film. If you were one of the people who raised cain, ask yourself why you should continue to believe the people who so misled you about the film's actual content ...

- the showing of Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian, go here and here to start, and then this one and this one will bring you up to date.

- the California Academy of Sciences agreeing to correct potentially libellous statements about attorney Larry Caldwell, who thinks that students should know about weaknesses as well as strengths of Darwinian evolution theory, click on the posted link.

- Bill Dembski threatening to sue the Thomas More Law Center in the Dover, Pennsylvania ID case, click on the posted link and check the current daily post for updates. (Note: This dispute has apparently been settled. See the story for details. )

Blog policy note: This blog does not intentionally accept fully anonymous Comments, Comments with language unsuited to an intellectual discussion, URLs posted without comment, or defamatory statements. Defamatory statement: A statement that would be actionable if anyone took the author seriously. For example, someone may say “O’Leary is a crummy journalist”; that’s a matter of opinion and I don’t know who would care. But if they say, “O’Leary was convicted of grand theft auto in 1983,” well that’s just plain false, and probably actionable, if the author were taken seriously. Also, due to time constraints, the moderator rarely responds to comments, and usually only about blog service issues.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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Roman Catholic Church helping to sink Darwinism?

The Roman Catholic Church, after years of silence and confusion on the subject, has begun to weigh in on Darwinism, and, from the sounds of things, this is not going to be good news for Darwinists. According to Cardinal Archbishop Christoph Schonborn of Vienna,

The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

Reading this was an amazing experience, because, for once, the difference between Darwinism and evolution is clarified. He goes on,

In an unfortunate new twist on this old controversy, neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our new pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist. They have quoted a sentence about common ancestry from a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission, pointed out that Benedict was at the time head of the commission, and concluded that the Catholic Church has no problem with the notion of "evolution" as used by mainstream biologists - that is, synonymous with neo-Darwinism.

The commission's document, however, reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature. Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul's 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that "the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe."

The rest of Cardinal Schonborn's op-ed is worth reading too, even though you have to register with the Times and get a password.

Michael Behe, a Roman Catholic biochemist and author of Darwin's Black Box, which advances intelligent design theory, comments,

I think this is enormously important. Not to put too fine a point on it, this essentially says in so many words that neo-Darwinism is wrong and ID is right. It says that the conclusion that life is designed is not a matter of faith, but a matter of physical evidence. It says the denial of that evidence is itself ideology; in other words, the denial of the evidence is the faith, the affirmation of the evidence is rational.

I strongly suspect that this op-ed was instigated by Pope Benedict himself. It seems very unlikely that Cardinal Schonborn would publish an op-ed in the New York Times expounding Catholic understanding of evolution, taking on the Darwinists, and quoting Benedict himself without at least the Pope's tacit approval, and more likely his active encouragement. I take this to mean that Benedict thinks this issue is very important, and is very interested in setting matters straight.

If so, it is about time, and past time. Many Darwinists have benefited from the fact that the Catholic Church supports the idea of evolution (seen ONLY as change in life forms over time, as guided by God), in order to advance the view that it supports Darwinian evolution, which is evolution not guided at all. Thus they have been able to promote an atheistic religion at public expense in school systems that are not supposed to be advancing any religion, without any objection from Catholics.

For an example of (perhaps unintentionally) misleading statements, see Case Western Reserve physicist Lawrence M. Krauss insists:

The Roman Catholic Church, ... apparently has no problem with the notion of evolution as it is currently studied by biologists, including supposedly "controversial" ideas like common ancestry of all life forms.

Popes from Pius XII to John Paul II have reaffirmed that the process of evolution in no way violates the teachings of the church. Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, presided over the church's International Theological Commission, which stated that "since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism."

Fair enough, but Darwinists claim that it all happened by chance. That's the point of Darwinism, as the key statements quoted below make clear. Schonborn explicitly contradicts the Darwinist view in the statement above, and endorses a view much closer to intelligent design.

In case anyone is wondering whether Darwinism truly insists that there is no design, purpose, or creator, consider the following key thoughts by Darwinian thinkers:

The functional design of organisms and their features would seem to argue for the existence of a designer. It was Darwin’s greatest accomplishment to show that the directive organization of living beings can be explained as the result of a natural process, natural selection, without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent. . . . Darwin’s theory encountered opposition in religious circles, not so much because he proposed the evolutionary origin of living things (which had been proposed many times before, even by Christian theologians) but because his mechanism, natural selection, excluded God as the explanation accounting for the obvious design.
Francisco Ayala, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

The real core of Darwinism . . . is the theory of natural selection. This theory is so important for the Darwinian because it permits the explanation of adaptation, the design of the natural theologian, by natural means, instead of by divine intervention. (Mayr, E., "Foreword," in Ruse M., "Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies," [1982], Addison-Wesley: Reading MA, 1983, Third Printing, pp.xi-xii)

Ernst Mayr Ernst Mayr, evolutionary biologist

"Darwin's theory uses the same invisible hand, but formed into a fist as a battering ram to eliminate Paley's God from nature. The very features that Paley used to infer not only God's existence, but also his goodness, are, for Darwin, but spin-offs of the only real action in nature-the endless struggle among organisms for reproductive success, and the endless hecatombs of failure." (Gould S.J., "Darwin and Paley Meet the Invisible Hand," in "Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History," Jonathan Cape: London, 1993, pp.149-150)

Stephen Jay Gould, evolutionary biologist

Clearly, Darwinism means the opposite of what the Catholic Church teaches about whether or not there is any meaning or purpose in the origin and development of life. The intelligent design controversy has never been about how old the Earth is, but about whether there is detectible evidence of design in the universe and life forms.

The Darwinists may be right in what they say, but who knows? For many years, any other story than theirs has been banned from science classrooms. As the "Privileged Planet" controversy shows (see the Blog service note at the end of this page), that's not about evidence.

To his credit, one person who clearly understood the difference between the Roman Catholic Church's understanding of evolution and the typical Darwinist's is ultra-Darwinist Richard Dawkins. Here is an item I wrote last year on the subject, that may never have been published by the B.C. Catholic. So, for convenience, I am reproducing it here. You will find Dawkins's attack on John Paul II in the article below:

So the Pope supports “evolution”? — Check it out!

by Denyse O’Leary

For several years now, the Christian schools started by British car dealer Sir Peter Vardy in underprivileged parts of Britain have rankled the progressive education establishment. Sir Peter insists on a disciplined approach to learning. His students perform better than students in free-and-easy schools. Sir Peter’s sin (embarrassing the education establishment) had to be punished, but given that he was mostly popular with parents, the establishment was not sure how to punish him.

Finally, the establishment got something on Sir Peter: His schools allow students to question Darwinian evolution, the religion of Britain’s smart set.

Darwinian evolution (Darwinism) is a theory whose express purpose is to explain how the whole of life, including ourselves, can arise without any design whatsoever. As arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins puts it, “the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” Dawkins is said to be Britain’s number one public intellectual, and he regularly attacks the Vardy schools.

In a Guardian article ridiculing the schools, journalist Tim Adams launched what he hoped would be a serious assault on their credibility: “Even the Pope,” he announced, “accepts Darwinian theory as truth.”

Now, if that were true, it would obviously be very bad news for the Catholic Church. But does the Pope really support Darwinian evolution?

Here’s what John Paul II actually said: In 1996, speaking to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he acknowledged that the theory of evolution was “more than a hypothesis” and that there were significant arguments in its favour. So the media rushed to report that he supported Darwinism, the specific theory of evolution that Dawkins describes above (blind, pitiless indifference).

But in reality, John Paul II went on to note that there are materialist, reductionist, and spiritualist interpretations of evolution. The materialist interpretations were, he said,“incompatible with the truth about man” and not able to “ground the dignity of the person.”

Basically, that means he does not agree with Darwinian evolution, because the whole point of Darwinian evolution is to deny special significance to man by saying that material nature is all there is.

John Paul II has made a number of other statements that make clear that any evolutionary theory that does not understand human beings as having a spiritual nature as well as a physical nature is simply wrong.

If any further evidence were needed that the Pope is no friend of Darwin, note that Dawkins has described John Paul II’s views as “fundamentally” antievolutionary, and as “obscurantist, disingenuous doublethink.” Hardly what you’d expect if John Paul II were smoothing the path for Dawkins and other Darwinists.

The question is not whether life forms change over time or how old the Earth is. The Pope was content to leave those matters to specialists. The question is whether the processes are blind, purposeless, and unguided. That is what Darwinism teaches. It is entirely at odds with a Catholic view, which assumes that God guides the processes of life.

If you have children in a Catholic school system, you might want to find out what they are taught about evolution. Are the teachers instilling Darwinism while reassuring parents that “the Pope supports evolution”? They might be.

While researching By Design or by Chance?, an overview of the intelligent design controversy, I was struck by how much our popular culture simply accepts Darwinism in an unthinking way, even though it is under serious assault right now on factual grounds.

One Toronto teacher taught Darwinian evolution for about 24 years at a Catholic school before he read a book by Catholic biochemist Mike Behe, Darwin’s Black Box (Free Press, 1996), in which Behe explains why Darwinism just cannot be true and why intelligent design explains life better. The teacher then began to encourage his students to think critically about Darwinism. (Note: That teacher will be teaching a course at the University of Toronto on intelligent design theory in the spring of 2006. If you are interested and live within driving distance of Toronto, you may wish to consider signing up.)

Today, when so many ideas contend for a place in our lives, we must be clear what our faith is, and what it isn’t. What the Church means by evolution is not what Charles Darwin meant, and there is no such thing as Catholic Darwinism. If you are a Catholic, you can accept evolution as a process guided by God, but you cannot be a Darwinist, as many intellectuals today are.

In other words, you are not the result of an unguided process. Take heart, however crazy life seems, there is a reason for your existence and you were meant to be here.

Excerpts from what Pope John Paul II has said about evolution:

- If we analyze man in the depth of his being, we see that he differs more from the world of nature than he resembles it. Also anthropology and philosophy proceed in this direction, when they try to analyze and understand man's intelligence. freedom, conscience and spirituality. (1978)

- The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator. (1985)

- It is therefore clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy, which view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity. (1986)

- ... theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the mind as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person. (1996)

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Are Christians playing "a losing game" by seeing evidence for God in the universe?

Science writer Margaret Wertheim warns us in Why Science Can't Show Us God against taking the evidence for God based on the structure of the universe seriously, saying

By equating God with the "structure and function" of the material world, Christians play a losing game. As the Jesuit philosopher Michael Buckley has pointed out, rational inference can never substitute for personal experience of the divine - which is, and must remain, the grounding of faith.
Interestingly, Wertheim likes to describe herself as a "long lapsed Catholic", which makes me wonder why she is anxious to instruct practising Christians in how they should understand their faith in relation to matters of public fact, such the structure and function of the material world. Personal experience of the divine that is divorced from public fact risks being a delusion.

School board addresses intelligent design issue for years without controversy

A school board in Bluffton, Indiana, seems to me a model of good sense, compared to some, in how it approaches the intelligent design controversy.
“The intent of this board directive is not to replace the teaching of the theory of evolution with the theory of intelligent design or any other theory. On the contrary, the intent is to discuss the scientific evidence — not religious evidence — for and against appropriate theories at all grade levels where this topic is discussed,” Gerber read from his one-page statement.
Half of me feels bad about even mentioning Bluffton, for fear the Blufftonites will become the target of anti-freedom groups (see the post below) that will attempt to tie them up in costly litigation, even though there has been little or no local controversy.
High school principal Steve Baker told the board that for the last six years he had never received a phone call from a parent who thought too much or too little evolution or intelligent design was being taught at the high school.
Perhaps the local public is tired of bullying by the Darwin lobby, and just wants curriculum to reflect the range of science-based views on origins?

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Why I won't be an internal critic of intelligent design theory at this point

In response to a demand from a Thumbsman on my Design or Chance? Yahoo discussion group that I become an internal critic of ID, I replied:

When the ID people cease to be harassed by academic fascists, internal criticism - of which I happen to know there is a lot - will become public.

However, so long as, every time an ID-friendly paper is published, essentially fascist groups like NCSE target the author or even the editor for career destruction, you can forget about hearing internal criticism.

First, the ID people must win the battle for intellectual freedom decisively, and discredit all the anti-freedom groups out there.

The fact that these groups act allegedly in the name of secularism changes nothing. Their character is anti-freedom.

Once they are off the landscape, one can talk about things that might really be wrong with ID.

cheers, Denyse
P.S.: As a journalist, I am in no position to evaluate the science claims of ID. I have said that repeatedly. But I know incipient fascism when I see it. My patronage of the ID guys arises in large part from my loathing of fascist conclaves. As a journalist, I come by that honestly. I won't soon forget Eugenie Scott saying of Steve Meyer's paper, that it was too bad Proceedings published it. As if a generalist Darwin flak like her should have anything to say about an academic paper in a specialist journal getting published! It is an intellectual disgrace, slowly being remedied, that people like that have become powers in the system - it also shows clearly that the Darwinist paradigm is dying. I realized that years ago, and my news judgement is pretty good. - d.

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