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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Darwinism: Why it is philosophy, not science

My most recent post talked about why Fr. George Coyne was asked to retire from the Vatican Observatory, after his vigorous campaign to oppose the Vatican's efforts to distance itself from Darwinism (or "evolutionism," as Cardinal Schoenborn likes to call it).

I shouldn't have to point this out, but hey. Sidelining Fr. Coyne does not mean that the Vatican is weighing in on the interminable US school board wars.

Yes, the Pope used the term "progetto intelligente," which is a functionally equivalent rendering of "intelligent design" in a homily. But only a naive person would imagine that the Catholic Church, which is thousands of years old, would stake all on current specific ideas of American biochemists, mathematicians, or astronomers.

Why? It need not. Philosopher David Stove has already demolished Darwinism by doing nothing more than unpacking what neo-Darwinists really expect us to believe, to help them preserve their theory.

And if you really believe all that that the Darwinists wish, you had better ask a solicitous friend to answer the door for you whenever you see two frumpy people approaching your house, armed with tracts ... .

I expect ID ideas to come thick and fast in the next few decades, and it certainly won't be the job of the Catholic Church to keep up with, let alone pass judgment on, all of them. The main thing the Church seems to want to get across is that "evolutionism" (Darwinism) fails to account for human life in the present day, which happens to be true.

A given ID hypothesis may turn out to be well or poorly supported. That, in a nutshell, is the science game. But an ancient institution like the Catholic Church can well afford to wait and see what happens, as Darwinism self-destructs.

Of course the universe and life forms show evidence of intelligent design! It is a measure of the sheer stunnedness of a materialist culture that such a proposition would even be controversial. Or that academics should be obsessing about why the American public doesn't believe in Darwinist materialism. Well, primarily because Americans enjoy the unique and enviable freedom to say that they don't believe nonsense. I hope the freedom spreads. Lots of places could sure use it right now.

Meanwhile, I was recently involved in a somewhat heated private discussion about whether Darwinism can be held in a purely "scientific" way, devoid of the philosophy that usually animates its most fervent promoters.

Well, maybe. And maybe I can wake up my old cat and learn him to play the fiddle, and then we can all have a dance ...

From everything I can see, 150 years later, Darwinism is still the creation story of materialism. That is the real reason for its persistence.

Physics has got on fine in the last century without a Grand Unified Theory, and biology could too. But materialism, unlike biology, needs a creation story in order to function as a religion - hence the value of Darwinism.

In the private debate noted above, I discovered that philosophers who argue for fine distinctions between Darwinism as a theory in science and Darwinism as a philosophy have rarely actually encountered serious Darwinists in their native state. The Thumbsmen are a case in point , and a piece of work, too (scroll down). But the philosophers are unlikely to go out and discover that for themselves.

Essentially, no Darwinist has any motive whatever to clear up the confusion between Darwinism as a theory about how species develop and Darwinism as a philosophy. The confusion is precisely what maintains Darwinism's social power.

The last thing the Darwinists want is to see Darwinism evaluated on its own merits as a strictly defined theory of the origin of species (with such issues as origin of life and human consciousness off the table because Darwinism is probably inapplicable to them). You may as well expect communists to accept an objective evaluation of the performance of Marxist economics!

To anyone who doubts this, I have three-word suggestion: Google "evolutionary psychology."

You could sink a canal barge with all the nonsense that has been talked about cave guys and gals, as a speculative explanation for the life around us. Guarantee: You will wake up in the morning, and the sun is shining and all that is still nonsense.

Indeed, Darwinists will stoop a long, long way in their efforts to prevent an objective evaluation. I am reminded of a sentence from journalist Michael Powell's masterly Washington Post piece on Richard Sternberg:
Sternberg was advised not to attend. 'I was told that feelings were running so high, they could not guarantee me that they could keep order,' Sternberg said.


Oh yes? Indeed. And yet I was informed by certain sniffy philosophers that my distrust of a point of view on account of the behaviour of those who hold is a "genetic fallacy."

I want to say here and now that I do not believe in the genetic fallacy in any systematic way.

Some points of view are only held by persons of poor character.

The eminent Darwinists who can no more be trusted to keep order than the guys in the Court Services van that shuttles between the jailhouse and the courthouse are a possible case in point ....

Here's another interesting "Darwinism" item: University of Washington psychology professor and Darwinist David P. Barash recently looked forward enthusiastically to the day when "thanks to advances in reproductive technology, there will be hybrids, or some other mixed human-animal genetic composite, in our future."

Barash objects to drawing a line between humans and other life forms: "It is a line that exists only in the minds of those who proclaim that the human species, unlike all others, possesses a spark of the divine and that we therefore stand outside nature."

There, you see. It is as plain as daylight. Barash is NOT making a secret of his aim to denigrate humans and there is NO big philosophical conundrum. If you can read a newspaper, you an understand what he is saying.

Barash's point of view is NOT the inevitable outcome of any reasonable interpretation of science, it is merely the outcome of radical materialism.

I know of no serious proposition to separate that sort of thing from the teaching of Darwinism in tax-supported schools. And that is the main reason why there is an intelligent design controversy.

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