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Monday, July 24, 2006

Aussie poli sci prof: Darwin's main claim to fame was his social status

In a recent post, Sanity moment: Charles Darwin is not a saint, I introduced the spot-on observations of Australian political scientist Hiram Caton, on the ridiculous hagiography of Charles Darwin, posh Victorian Brit. Of course, given that Darwinism is the creation story of materialism, it makes sense that Darwinists would consider its author a saint, but Caton was finding the obsequies a bit much. Ditto me.

(Oh, and some of the greatest of these are following in the master's footsteps and building a replica of the ship he sailed on, The Beagle, for a mere three million Brit lbs and change. About the latter, ... don't anyone ever bug me about the Crystal Cathedral again!)

But in another article Caton also deflates the importance that the materialist gospel assigns to their Book of Genesis, Darwin's Origin of Species, in promoting the materialist outlook:
... Darwin's celebrated book did not deliver an earth-shaking new vision of nature, as creationists believe. The Origin of Species came nowhere close to the bestseller list. It sold about one-third as many copies as did Vestiges. Darwin's main claim to novelty, the discovery of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution, was implicit in Spencer's theory and indeed had been clearly stated three decades previously by the Scot Patrick Matthew, who aptly styled it "the natural law of selection".

From the point of view of public uptake, Darwin's most important contribution was his high social status, for it meant that an outlook that previously lacked the necessary social credentials had acquired them.

Based on my reading, Caton is mostly right. Darwin wrote the Book of Genesis for a materialist worldview that had already received its Gospel during the 18th century. But I wouldn't underestimate, as he does, the importance of Darwin's completion of the canon.

He also notes the hypocrisy underlying the science establishment's current spaz about the ID Visigoths at the gates.
The science establishment's horror at the thought of the pollution of biology teaching by pseudo-science is certainly sincere but of doubtful consistency, with its many compromises with social currents too strong to resist. Not only science but all subjects have been made over to be supportive of multiculturalism, equality of the sexes, identity politics, environmentalism and other preferred beliefs. The postmodernist catchphrase critical thinking has been adopted in the titles of biology teaching texts and teacher aids.

Now there, Caton is partly right. No one could be a textbook editor, as I have been for many years, and fail to notice the hijacking of most curricula by fact-lite agendas and fads. (Indeed, I would love to see the science establishment take on the multi culti nonsense, but no dice.) But "critical thinking" is not a mere post-modern catchphrase. Critical thinking is the only weapon the student can wield against overwhelming ideologies, increasingly backed by sanctions against doubters. The postmodernists assault the student, yes, but they have thrown him a sword as well.

Thinkquote of the day: Why career scientists cannot afford to consider challenges to Darwinism

Lawyer Edward Sisson writes with considerable insight about the career scientist's dilemma:

There is also a unique reason why scientists are particularly averse to developing an opinion that the theory of unintelligent evolution cannot explain all of the diversity of life on earth, and that an intelligent-designer theory may be necessary to explain at least some of the diversity of life. In litigation, even if a lawyer does develop an internal belief about the data that conflicts with the presentation he or she needs to make in court, the lawyer is expected to keep that belief private. The lawyer's obligation is not to be actually sincere but to appear sincere. Thus there is no danger to the lawyer's livelihood if the lawyer develops a private understanding of the data that conflicts with the understanding to be presented in court. But in science the rule is different. Scientists are supposed to be actually sincere. They are supposed to develop genuine, individual opinions about the data and then express those opinions. Thus it is vital to a scientist's career not to develop opinions which, if expressed, will end that career, because opinions once developed are supposed to be expressed, not hidden in favor of expressing opinions the scientist does not sincerely believe. For brevity's sake, we may call this the `sincerity rule.' Because of the fear that to admit the presence of intelligent design would undermine the social predominance of science (and thus its funding and prestige), no leader of a major American scientific institution can publicly abandon the paradigm of unintelligent evolution and yet retain his position of leadership. As in any human organization, the people who most effectively advance the interests of the scientific establishment are the ones chosen to lead the establishment. Those who impede the achievement of the establishment's ends are rejected. Thus, there is simply no purpose for scientists to take the time to consider the challenges to the paradigm and develop an individual response, because if that response is a rejection of the paradigm, the scientist must either suppress it (and violate the rule that scientists should be sincere) or else express it (and likely end his career). Everyone below the top on the hierarchy ladder knows that to question unintelligent evolution will mean the end of career advancement; so for them, too, there is simply no incentive to consider that the challenges to unintelligent evolution might be valid. On the contrary, there are very strong incentives not to consider those challenges in any way that might lead to accepting them. The `sincerity rule' means that if scientists develop a disbelief in unintelligent evolution, they must express it. Thus, preservation of career advancement opportunities is predicated on the maintenance of belief in unintelligent evolution...

(Sisson E., "Teaching the Flaws in Neo-Darwinism," in Dembski W.A., ed., Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing , ISI Books: Wilmington DE, 2004, pp.87-88. Emphasis in original.)

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?

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 ?

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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