Because maidens with swords rule! (theswordmaiden) wrote in god_and_darwin,
Because maidens with swords rule!
theswordmaiden
god_and_darwin

When I'm annoyed, I make long posts!

I work as a cataloger in a university library so I get to see a lot of good quality books. I also see some crappy ones. Here's one book that really pissed me off, called "Divided we stand: the rejection of American culture since the 1960s."

Now, I often don't have a problem with "conservative" criticism of society, in general, but I do have a problem when it brings up that old false dilemma of religion vs. science. This book was nothing new, when I think of it.

One chapter basically compared Freud, Marx, and Darwin as all being basically the same in that they worshiped science and were anti-religion. "Of these three allegedly scientific historians, Darwin alone still has a large (though now somewhat wavering) following among scientists." What?! I thought Darwin's work is considered a breakthrough in biology with some things that need tweaking or improvement (e.g., that natural selection works but might not be the only thing that causes evolution). But then, I've heard this argument before, that fewer and fewer scientists accept "Darwinian principles."

"Scientism is the worship of science to the exclusion of any other truth, and it has been a teaching of scientism for most of the last century that man is only another animal and should scientifically breed himself. Darwin's untestable hypothesis of natural selection [?!] provides the scientific justification for contemplating such a deliberate re-creation of man." See, this is the false dilemma. Either we believe in God, or we not only worship science but use selection to breed ourselves. I know there are some people who think that science "disproves" God, but geez, these aren't the only two options.

He goes on to talk about the novel "Brave new world" and say that this would be the result of science. "Strict materialism and scientism when applied to human beings result in the idea that man is only another species of animal. Charles Darwin's view of human beings was based on that premise." Huh? "The behavior of human beings, for example, contradicts another key component of Darwinism: Darwin's idea of adaptation to an environment. Man does not behave according to that proposition. Human beings adapt their environment to suit them; they do not adapt to but rather create their environment." He goes on to say how we have no wings but can fly, etc. I'm sorry, do we control the weather? Do we have absolute control over diseases? Why do some people have sickle-cell anemia and survive malaria in the very places where mosquitoes spread the disease? Of course we adapt to our environment. We have some influence over our environment, but we don't control it. To say that natural selection happens does NOT mean it's the only thing that ever happens! This is a terrible reason to discount everything that Darwin said.

"Unlike any other species, human beings contemplate new horizons of knowledge. Man's philosophies, religions, and science are all manifestations and proofs of his exceptional nature.

"These truths are elementary. They would not have to be mentioned were there not so many denials of them today by those who embrace strict materialism and assert that man has no traits that differ in kind from those of all other species. To point out that man shares 96 percent of his DNA with chimpanzees says nothing that explains mankind--it would say nothing even if the percentage were higher than that. [?! What about common descent?] If anything, this discovery rather shows that man is a great deal more than the sum of his DNA. And to say that the linguistic ability is in any way comparable in kind to the language displayed in, say, Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream ..." OK, for my peace of mind, let me stop here now. Who said all these things? He doesn't offer citations. It's a huge generalization; it's a misunderstanding of what science is and what scientists do. Not to mention he ignores, well, us. People who accept common descent and everything else science tells us, but also know what science doesn't tell us (and isn't meant to).

And one more thing. "A third inherent difficulty with Darwin's history of the Earth's biology is that irreducibly complex biological processes have been discovered within living cells." Here it is. ID. "How could such precise, irreducibly complex arrays of biochemical processes evolve through Darwin's hypothesis of natural selection since none of their components by itself has any survival value?" Darwin answers this question in Origin of Species! Holy crap! If you're going to criticize Darwin then you should read at least his work! In fact, Darwin gives an example that to think that something as complex as the eye had evolved seems absurd. Creationists often take this quote and parrot it as "proof" that Darwin himself had this problem, ignoring that he followed this quote up immediately to explain just how such a complex eye could evolve. More recently, creationists realized their mistake and don't do this anymore (at least). But this author hasn't learned even that.

So anyway. I think that people who believe that science is all there is therefore there is no God, and people who write books like the one I just talked about, are making the exact same mistake. They are using the same misunderstanding of science and religion, and thinking that there are only two choices.
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Darwin's untestable hypothesis of natural selection [?!] provides the scientific justification for contemplating such a deliberate re-creation of man.

Apparently the author is unfamiliar with Stephen Jay Gould, a star evolutionary biologist and extremely outspoken opponent of eugenics. He is falling prey to the Naturalistic Fallacy, that you can go from an "is" (as in, natural selection does happen) to an "ought" (as in, humans should use artificial selection on themselves).

"The behavior of human beings, for example, contradicts another key component of Darwinism: Darwin's idea of adaptation to an environment. Man does not behave according to that proposition. Human beings adapt their environment to suit them; they do not adapt to but rather create their environment." He goes on to say how we have no wings but can fly, etc. I'm sorry, do we control the weather?

Your author is pretty sadly ignorant of evolutionary theory. Lots of species "adapt" to their environment by developing the ability to adapt the environment to themselves. Woodpeckers put nest holes in trees, beavers build dams, and humans farm. The adaptation is the ability to do these things.

I think the greatest problem with people with ignorance of evolution and a religious anti-evolution chip on their shoulders is that they think evolutionary theory teaches that natural selection is a sort of moral force or principle underlying the universe. They point to phenomena such as altruism and declare it's contrary to natural selection, because if species behaved according to the morality of natural selection, as they see it, there would be no altruism. But natural selection is nothing but a logical conclusion. Altruism occurs either because of natural selection (altruism toward genetic relatives) or despite it (as a complex behavior that can sometimes be maladaptive in strictest terms). There's no metaphysical principle to violate.

So anyway. I think that people who believe that science is all there is therefore there is no God, and people who write books like the one I just talked about, are making the exact same mistake. They are using the same misunderstanding of science and religion, and thinking that there are only two choices.

Agreed!
Thanks for the information, it cleared some things up for me. I hadn't even realized that our influence on our environments is actually a form of adaptation, for example.

I didn't mention everything that this author wrote about evolution, and sadly, he does mention Stephen Jay Gould and his work "The structure of evolutionary theory" where Gould talks about the fossil record and punctuated equilibrium. He says that "Darwinians" ridiculed the work and "reject the principle of the tentativeness of scientific truth and deny that the scientific discoveries of the last 147 years have any qualifying relevance to the absolute and final truth laid down in 1859 in Darwin's formulation of his idea of natural selection."

I don't know how successful Gould's theory is (in comparison with the other theories that explain evolution), but I thought Gould was taking Darwin's work and adding to it to explain some gaps in the fossil record. Not throwing it out altogether. I didn't mention this before because the author later mentions that Behe's discovery that cells are intelligently designed is even more dangerous than what Gould found, and that was quite enough for one day for me.

I guess if a non-expert is going to write about evolution, he should study the subject more carefully, without starting with an assumption as bad as the naturalistic fallacy. If possible ...
"reject the principle of the tentativeness of scientific truth and deny that the scientific discoveries of the last 147 years have any qualifying relevance to the absolute and final truth laid down in 1859 in Darwin's formulation of his idea of natural selection."

Either he did no research at all on the topic, or he is lying. It's that simple. Since Origin of Species was published, there has been continuous, and sometimes momentous, refinement of the theory that is accepted by all mainstream biologists.

I don't know how successful Gould's theory is (in comparison with the other theories that explain evolution), but I thought Gould was taking Darwin's work and adding to it to explain some gaps in the fossil record. Not throwing it out altogether.

This is exactly correct. Punctuated equilibria is a modification of the whole of evolutionary theory, not a replacement of it.
Things like this are so depressing. Newsweek recently had a cover story about why America is "flunking science." While they didn't mention evolution, I couldn't help thinking that the reason is quite obvious: a frightening portion of America (the majority, in fact!) is being brought up with anger and distrust of science. This book sounds like another example of that.

*sigh*

Btw, I'm working on my MLS right now - can't wait to join the ranks of you glorious librarians. ;D
I once read a study (a long time ago) by I think the National Science Foundation that had very sad results as well. I'll see if I can go dig it up. I remember it included that a disturbingly large proportion of Americans thought dinosaurs and humans coexisted (is this because they watched too many movies, or are fundamentalist?). Kooky.

If you're working on your MLS then you're already ahead of me. :) My job is pretty simple and didn't require a specific degree.