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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Textbooks: Backing away from materialism?

The story regarding flunking students sympathetic to intelligent design theory is here.

Meanwhile, evolutionary biologist Larry Moran (yes, der flunker) advises me that there was a slight error in an earlier quotation/link re a textbook by Douglas Futuyma. It should have read,
Darwin's immeasurably important contribution to science was to show how mechanistic causes could also explain all biological phenomena, despite their apparent evidence of design and purpose. By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. In the decades that followed, physiology, embryology, biochemistry, and finally molecular biology, would complete this revolution by providing entirely mechanistic explanations, relying on chemistry and physics, for biological phenomena. But it was Darwin's theory of evolution, followed by Marx's materialistic (even if inadequate or wrong) theory of history and society and Freud's attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, that provided a crucial plank to the platform of mechanism and materialism—in short, of much of science—that has since been the stage of most Western thought. [Futuyma's emphasis]

Moran acknowledges that "the sense hasn't been changed much." No, I would not have thought so. My source tells me that the quote was from the second edition (1986), and was attributed to the similar 1998 3rd edition.

Now here is the really interesting part: Apparently, the 2005 edition does not contain the quote, and my source thinks that Futuyma's book has cut way back on the superfluous materialist philosophy.

Well, good for Futuyma. People who want philosophy should sign up for it, and write the exam.

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