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Monday, October 30, 2006

Quick posts: Recent events in the intelligent design controversy

- Having listened to arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins take decades off from his career as a zoologist and professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford to rant against religion, journalist Dines D’Souza reasonably asks, how does atheism survive, when it is so poorly adapted to life?
Russia is one of the most atheist countries in the world, and there abortions outnumber live births 2 to 1. Russia's birth rate has fallen so low that the nation is now losing 700,000 people a year. Japan, perhaps the most secular country in Asia, is also on a kind of population diet: its 130 million people are expected to drop to around 100 million in the next few decades. And then there is Europe. The most secular continent on the globe is decadent in the literal sense that its population is rapidly shrinking. Lacking the strong Christian identity that produced its greatness, atheist Europe seems to be a civilization on its way out. We have met Nietzsche's "last man" and his name is Sven.
[ ... ]
My conclusion is that it is not religion but atheism that requires a Darwinian explanation. It seems perplexing why nature would breed a group of people who see no purpose to life or the universe, indeed whose only moral drive seems to be sneering at their fellow human beings who do have a sense of purpose. Here is where the biological expertise of Dawkins and his friends could prove illuminating. Maybe they can turn their Darwinian lens on themselves and help us understand how atheism, like the human tailbone and the panda's thumb, somehow survived as an evolutionary leftover of our primitive past.

Good question, actually. If the universe is intelligently designed, then the current situation is precisely what you should expect to see insofar as atheists are poorly adapted to it. Thus, you can be a Darwinist only if you are not an atheist. Actually, I have been appealing for years for a social scientist or anthropologist to study Darwinism as a cultural phenomenon. It cries out for that treatment.

For example, I have discovered from experience, that the average Darwinist sees absolutely nothing wrong with taxpayers and parents being compelled to forward money and children to help advance his point of view. Most people in the Western world, of whatever belief system, will tend to pause at that point ... but not the Darwinist. It would make a great trade book after the journal articles were all in print.

- The learned biologist Stephen e. Jones has provided some very interesting comments from the great origin of life researcher J.B.S. Haldane which antedate the ID movement by decades. Now that Harvard has decided to sink serious money into refuting intelligent design at the origin of life, it may be as well to learn what others have said.

One thing ID is certainly not turning out to be is a science stopper.

Here is an edited version of what I told some friends on the subject recently:
So Harvard, at least, has come down on the side of saying that ID is "falsifiable" as opposed to "unfalsifiable." [One shell game played by materialists over the years is to claim that ID is unfalsifiable but - as it happens - also falsified. If your head is spinning, give it a twist in the other direction, okay?]

So, ...

- If Harvard really gets a ton of money to falsify ID, does that demonstrate that ID is an important idea?

- If, as various pundits proclaim, ID is fading away, must Harvard kiss goodbye to the money?

- Does the money mean is that Harvard can't afford to let ID die? Have they become co-dependent with it?

- Now, here's the money shot: If ID is correct, the Harvard group, spending their own money, will probably identify the specific points at which materialist explanation fails. So won’t that provide an opportunity to work on ID explanations?

- While speaking in Minnesota, columnist Mike Adams, a defender of academic freedom, attracted the attention of PZ Myers, a Minnesotan Darwinist, who had earlier commented on his blog as follows:
Mike S. Adams, columnist for TownHall, Horowitzian shill, anti-feminist, creationist clown, homophobic bigot, warrior for free speech, professional racist, gun kook, academic-by-accident, beauty contest judge, and just generally contemptible far, far right-wing nutcase.

This is average for PZ, an adult toddler who blogs at the Darwinist Thumblog.
Apparently, Myer’s subsequent account of the confrontation is at some odds with the videotape, but read more at Adams’ column.

- Lamarckian evolution - the theory that life forms can bequeath to their offspring characteristics that developed during their lifetime - has always been anathema to Darwinists, because it suggests that processes other than natural selectin, random drift, or possibly random mutation could play a role in evolution. A study linked on this site argues that there is some basis for Lamarckism, which may well be true. This much I know: The mere fact that Darwinists attack it is no barrier to its truth.

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.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?
My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy att he University of Minnesota.
A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism
A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.
A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy
A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy
A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.
O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.
An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.
O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being granted tenure at Baylor after a long struggle - even after helping in a small way to destroy the Baylor Bears' ancient glory - in the opinion of a hyper sportswriter.
Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
Blog policy note:Comments are permitted on this blog, but they are moderated. Fully anonymous posts and URLs posted without comment are rarely accepted. To Mr. Anonymous: I'm not psychic, so if you won't tell me who you are, I can't guess and don't care. To Mr. Nude World (URL): If you can't be bothered telling site visitors why they should go on to your fave site next, why should I post your comment? They're all busy people, like you. To Mr. Rudeby International and Mr. Pottymouth: I also have a tendency to delete comments that are merely offensive. Go be offensive to someone who can smack you a good one upside the head. That may provide you with a needed incentive to stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. To Mr. Righteous but Wrong: I don't publish comments that contain known or probable factual errors. There's already enough widely repeated misinformation out there, and if you don't have the time to do your homework, I don't either. To those who write to announce that at death I will either 1) disintegrate into nothingness or 2) go to Hell by a fast post, please pester someone else. I am a Catholic in communion with the Church and haven't the time for either village atheism or aimless Jesus-hollering.


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