Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Old Cons for Neocons
After noting the unease that a number of neoconservatives, epitomized by Gertrude Himmelfarb and Irving Kristol, have with natural selection, Shapiro opines that:
. . . part of the neoconservative position has to do less with particular intellectual claims than with the special sensitivities of a broadly conservative coalition. The writer David Frum has said that, though he himself believes in evolution, he doesn't "believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."
The two groups share a profound distaste for materialism, a philosophy of knowledge that leaves no room for phenomena -- like God, the human soul and transcendent morality -- that can't be explained by an appeal to physical principles.
There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work.
The problem is that it won’t work:
Richard Owen, a 19th-century English anatomist, privately conceded that "The Origin of Species" was the best explanation "ever published of the manner of formation of species"--but because he thought that natural selection denied the possibility of human uniqueness, he savaged the book in public. ...
At a time when the life sciences are advancing at an astonishing pace, it is simply too late to be taking up Owen's mantle. There is no longer any serious dispute about the evidence for natural selection ...
The late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould proposed that science and religion be considered "non-overlapping magisteria," each profiting from dialogue with the other. ... If Gould's idea were to be taken more seriously, the fear of Darwin and natural selection might go the way of [the extinct transitional species] Tiktaalik, without harming society thereby.
Proponents of intelligent design, like the mathematician William Dembski, argue that we don't understand the origins of various biological systems and never will, because they can't be broken down into smaller parts that could be explained by natural selection. Therefore, we should give up on Darwin and accept the existence of a designer. Alas, this kind of argumentum ad ignorantium flies in the face of an ever-increasing amount of evidence from molecular biology, and hardly measures up to the neoconseratives' rigorous intellectual standards.
1) "Either life arose as the result of purely undirected material processes or a guiding intelligence played a role."
2) There is an "appearance of design."
3) This appearance is "unexplained by the mechanism -- natural selection -- that Darwin specifically proposed to replace the design hypothesis."
DNA functions like a software program. We know from experience that software comes from programmers.