Tuesday, December 05, 2006


The Eclipse of Sense

William Dembski, over at Uncommonly De-sensed, has brought up a quote of G. K. Chesterton that includes this:

. . . The Darwinians have this mark of fighters for a lost cause, that they are perpetually appealing to sentiment and to authority. Put your bat or your rhinoceros simply and innocently as a child might put them, before the Darwinian, and he will answer by an appeal to authority. He will probably answer with the names of various German professors; he will not answer with any ordinary English words, explaining the point at issue.
Besides the fact that Wild Bill and his band of merry sycophants seem to miss the gob-smackingly obvious irony of dredging up an 85 year old quote about a supposedly "lost cause" that happens to be, nonetheless, still going strong, they are certainly breaking the number one rule of ID and making empirically testable claims.

As I sit here I am 10 feet away from a bookshelf containing some 17 books by Stephen Jay Gould, amounting to several thousand pages, all in plain enough English for any reasonably educated person to understand (I know!), dedicated to explaining in loving detail and without any appeal to authority (though with a large appeal to facts) just those things Chesterton asks to have answered. In addition, there are a number of books by Richard Dawkins, Niles Eldredge, Steve Jones, David Quammen, Kenneth Miller, Ernst Mayr, Carl Zimmer, Matt Ridley, Henry Gee, Edward J. Larson and a number of others, all aimed at explaining evolutionary theory, and the evidence for it, in terms simple enough for anyone to understand, if they will make the modest investment of time and effort it takes. And my library is the barest scratch on the surface of the available works explaining the points at issue in ordinary English words.

Chesterton may possibly be forgiven, depending on the real context of the quote, since it was written during the "eclipse of Darwin," when few scientists thought that natural selection was a sufficient explanation for evolution. If Chesterton was being more exact about "Darwinians" than IDers are about "Darwinists," he might have been right ... temporarily. It wasn't until the "synthesis" of natural selection with genetics, into "population genetics," by Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane and R. A. Fisher in the 1930s, that it became clear how natural selection could function as a major force in evolution, particularly in adaptation.

Dembski is, no doubt, fully aware of these facts and is merely playing the "scientists are elitists" card for his more ignorant (and proud of it) minions. The minions are mistaking the result of having their fingers in their ears and blinders on their eyes for an absence of an attempt to educate them.

Via Red State Rabble.

Take a look at the conclusion of the essay by Chesterton:
"And I will add this point of merely personal experience of humanity: when men have a real explanation they explain it, eagerly and copiously and in common speech, as Huxley freely gave it when he thought he had it. When they have no explanation to offer, they give short dignified replies, disdainful of the ignorance of the multitude."
Where is the "real explanation" from the ID advocates?

Opps, too short.
It seems the debate is shifting to other areas. Until last night, I was unaware of an ongoing debate that Rachel Carson was wrong (if not a liar) and DDT got a bad rap and humans should consider it as a food additive like salt.
I usually don't listen to the local talk radio station but in shifting the dial while driving, I hit an interview with a guy who was saying that Carson was all wrong, promoted a private political agenda and had caused untold human suffering through this agenda.
I thought the DDT (having worked with it in the past) debate was over and that even if the claims were false, public health measures were much more efficacious than indiscriminate spraying of insecticides over large areas of wetlands and caused much less ecological damage.
Has the whole of science been reopened for reverification?
Then there is this flyer from the local Flat Earth Society...........
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