Custom Search

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Neurosurgeon: Darwin doesn't matter

Award-winning neurosurgeon Michael Egnor makes the obvious clear: Contrary to promotional campaigns aimed at students - at taxpayer expense - Darwinian evolution is not a useful asset to a medical doctor.

Of course not. Basically, the doctor has to deal with a human patient in front of her today. Suppose the doctor has a patient just diagnosed with adult onset diabetes - we'll call her Mrs. Plunkett (wow, does she love sugar in her tea). What difference would it make if cave women never got diabetes? Or always did? The information would be interesting - but not useful. The doctor must persuade Mrs. Plunkett to quit smoking, give up her charge account at Fanny Farmer's, get more exercise, and lose some weight. And so forth. Whatever the evolutionary history of diabetes is, it's just history. The doctor is concerned with futures - specifically, Mrs. Plunkett's future, especially if she doesn't listen to the wise advice she is offered.

Egnor now blogs with the evil Discos (follow the link above).

Labels: , ,

John McCain: Can a man be US president if he listens to both sides?

William F. Buckley, addressing the horror felt by some when they discovered that US presidential contender John McCain (R) was speaking at a lunch hosted by ID central, the Discovery Institute in Seattle, offers,
It seems an ancient controversy, and of course it is. Fifteen minutes after Charles Darwin explained his theory of evolution, his disciples—apostles—ruled out any heresy on the subject of the naturalist explanation for human life. Young people are educated to think of the question in the grammar of the Scopes Trial, Clarence Darrow vs. William Jennings Bryan. That trial made for great naturalist theater. Mr. Bryan was not born either to become president or to explain how God could tolerate chicken pox, so Clarence Darrow wiped him into dust.

Buckley reminisces about his own introduction to the intelligent design controversy on his Firing Line show. He is unusually forthright about the fact that Darwinian evolution has generally been promoted to students as a sort of theology (or anti-theology):
In outlining epochal events in this quarrel, Johnson quoted the official directive on teaching evolution as it appeared in the 1995 position statement of the National Association of Biology Teachers. “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable, and natural process.”

That's why I have so little time for Christians in science who soothe that God and evolution are compatible. Of course they are, but evidence and Darwinism are not compatible, and Darwinism has long been upheld as an ersatz religion.
Check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?.

Labels: , ,

Templeton Prize goes to Canadian Charles Taylor, longtime foe of reductionism

Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has
won the Templeton Prize:
Taylor has long objected to what many social scientists take for granted, namely that the rational movement that began in the Enlightenment renders such notions as morality and spirituality as simply quaint anachronisms in the age of reason. That narrow, reductive sociological approach, he says, wrongly denies the full account of how and why humans strive for meaning which, in turn, makes it impossible to solve the world’s most intractable problems ranging from mob violence to racism to war.
"The deafness of many philosophers, social scientists and historians to the spiritual dimensions can be remarkable," Taylor said in remarks prepared for the news conference. "This is the more damaging in that it affects the culture of the media and of educated public opinion in general."

The Foundation noted that Taylor's selection as the 2007 Templeton Prize Laureate will launch a broad, online discussion of the question, "What role does spiritual thinking have in the 21st Century?" at its website,

Wow. Does he know how to spell e.v.o.l.u.t.i.o.n.a.r.y p.s.y.c.h.o.l.o.g.y ? I mean, if he was looking for a virtual laboratory example, there it is.

Labels: ,

Molecular clocks: Right twice a day?

Jeffrey H. Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh's Departments of Anthropology and History and Philosophy of science and Bruno Maresca of the Department of Pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Salerno, Italy, have state that "there is no basis" for the view that a "molecular clock" (a presumed calculable rate of evolution) can determine the evolutionary history of a species. In an interesting and mostly quite readable paper published in Biological Theory (1(4) 2006, 357-371, and available online, Schwartz and Maresca show how fossil findings and molecular clocks have simply not matched.*

For example, in reviewing an attempt to make sense of human-ape differences, they write,
First among the inconsistencies is the admission that the accepted model of molecular change and its phylogenetic interpretation were assumptions, and then the declaration that, since these assumptions were widely accepted, one could embrace them as truths. But they are assumptions and testable.

They end up questioning whether the molecular clock theory is even tenable. It appears to have been held because it provides information, but as the information comes from untested assumptions, it is of unknown worth.

(*To see what this means, suppose you tried to construct a timeline for family events based on the assumption that your grandmother was born in 1924 - because her birth certificate say so. But when her age is given in other dated official documents, she seems to have been born in 1926. And everyone who could help you straighten out the problem is dead. Your choice of birth date will affect the timeline, especially when you are dealing with events for which your source recalls only, "That happens when your grandma was 47 ....")

This paper is must reading for people who think that we know much for certain about human evolution. As the Eurekalert press release notes,
..., it is not only the current molecular theory that intrigues Schwartz, but the failure of the scientific community to question an idea that is more than 40 years old: "The history of organ life is undemonstrable; we cannot prove a whole lot in evolutionary biology, and our findings will always be hypothesis. There is one true evolutionary history of life, and whether we will actually ever know it is not likely. Most importantly, we have to think about questioning underlying assumptions, whether we are dealing with molecules or anything else," says Schwartz.

(Note:Jeffrey H. Schwartz should not be confused with non-materialist psychiatrist Jeffrey A. Schwartz, lead author of The Mind and the Brain. )
Check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?.


Thinkquote of the day: Darwinism and traditional religion

A friend sends me some comments from British philosophy of science prof John Dupré'sDarwin's Legacy: What Evolution Means Today (Oxford University Press, 2003), on Darwinism and traditional religion:

While seen by some as providing a novel account of God’s ways of world-making, others have seen the theory as the last essential element in a naturalistic and materialistic view of the universe, and as thereby removing the last hiding place for God or gods. (p. 2)

Darwinism undermines the only remotely plausible reason for believing in the existence of God. And, some extreme liberal versions of Christianity apart, belief in the existence of God does seem to be a minimal condition for Christianity. Consequently, and contrary to the orthodox philosophical view of the matter, I believe that Christians—not merely fundamentalist Christians—are quite right to try to undermine Darwinism, and Richard Dawkins is quite right that, since their attempts to do this are wholly unsuccessful, there is nothing worthwhile left of the argument from design. More contentiously, I want to insist that without the argument from design there is nothing very credible left of theism generally, and Christianity in particular. Hence Ruse’s argument for compatibility, while generally successful, seems to me largely beside the point. (pg. 46)

And to think - people wonder why there is an intelligent design controversy! The main reason there is an intelligent design controversy, of course, is that materialism (and Darwinism happens to be materialism's creation story), is failing for lack of evidence, as Mario Beauregard and I show in The Spiritual Brain. However, a secondary reason is that, no matter how many "Clergy Projects" are fronted - to convince people otherwise - most committed Darwinists think as Dupré does. Indeed, believing as they do, they must think as he does, by a rather obvious chain of logic.
My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

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 recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the 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.

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. Rudesby 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.

Labels: , ,

Who links to me?