Thursday, February 12, 2009


Of Pandering to People

You know how the Undiscovery Institute is always on the lookout for usages by scientists of the words "intelligent design," in that order, prior to 1987, in an attempt to disprove the evidence by Barbara Forrest at the Kitzmiller trial showing how the "cdesign proponentsists" writing Of Pandas and People were just using ID as a ploy to avoid the consequences of Edwards v. Aguillard?

So, how come they haven't picked up on this usage by a guy pretty well known in biology circles, found by John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York?

The point which you raise on intelligent Design has perplexed me beyond measure; & has been ably discussed by Prof. Asa Gray, with whom I have had much correspondence on the subject. ... One cannot look at this Universe with all living productions & man without believing that all has been intelligently designed ...
That was a certain Mr. Darwin writing to John Herschel about Herschel's book, Physical Geography of the Globe. Herschel himself was one of the leading British scientists of the day, renown for his work in astronomy and geography and as a philosopher of science and the scientific method. While Darwin and Herschel were discussing the possibility of directed variation in species that would subsequently be subject to natural selection, the point translates perfectly well to the proposals of ID advocates, who frequently state that they accept a limited role for selection in biology. So why hasn't the DI picked up on this usage by two of the greatest scientists of the 19th Century?

I suppose, for one thing, they don't want to risk the uninitiated finding out that ID is really a very old idea, not the cutting edge science they'd like to pretend, that has not changed at all since the time it was more honestly known as "natural theology," with the exception of moving their examples from such macroscopic objects as the vertebrate eye to the microscopic bacterial flagellum.

Another might be the continuation of Darwin's thought:

... yet when I look to each individual organism, I can see no evidence of this. For I am not prepared to admit that God designed the feathers in the tail of the rock-pigeon to vary in a highly peculiar manner in order that man might select such variations & make a Fan-tail; & if this be not admitted ... then I cannot see design in the variations of structure in animals in a state of nature, -- those variations which were useful to the animal being preserved & those useless or injurious being destroyed.
Still another might be the really devastating critique of the idea Darwin put to Charles Lyell:

But astronomers do not state that God directs the course of each comet & planet. -- The view that each variation has been providentially arranged seems to me to make natural selection entirely superfluous, & indeed takes [the] whole case of appearance of new species out of the range of science. ... I wonder whether Herschel would say that you ought always to give the higher providential Law, & declare that God had ordered all certain changes of level that certain mountains should arise. -- I must think that such views of Asa Gray & Herschel merely show that the subject in their minds is in Comte's theological stage of science [the first of three stages in the development of knowledge].
One thing we know ... it isn't out of any sense of shame.

Do you really think they give a hoot about the continuation of the quote?
Only in so far as it can be used to make them look dishonest (to go with their being dishonest). A minor consideration for them, I admit ...
If I understand Darwin's remarks correctly, he is saying that if one takes in view the whole, then one's mind will be moved in such a way as to spontaneously, or naturally, form the belief in design; but that this belief cannot be confirmed by any particular observation. Does this sound like a correct interpretation?

It's quite interesting! I wonder if anyone has reconstructed Darwin's own metaphysical views?
Darwin himself said of them:

My theology is a simple muddle; I cannot look at the universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent design, or indeed of design of any kind, in the details. As for each variation that has ever occurred having been preordained for a special end, I can no more believe in it than that the spot on which each drop of rain falls has been specially ordained.

On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me.

David Hull, in Darwin and His Critics comments:

Bentley and Whewell had argued that God had instituted natural laws and taken care of the details. Darwin believed that perhaps God instituted natural laws, bpt-he could not be responsible for specific applications both because of the; triviality in some cases and because of their cruelty in others. But it should be recalled that by "chance" Darwin meant governed by laws not as yet known. Darwin's solution was a circuitous statement of determinism. Interpreted realistically, teleology was incredible. Given a sufficiently sophisticated interpretation, it was of no relevance to science.
I actually HAVE heard this quote from the ID people, taken out of context as usual. I wish I could remember who used it, but it may have been in the Texas Board of Education testimony, or it may not. I have read a lot of drivel from the ID people lately.
I have read a lot of drivel from the ID people lately.

So much stupidity ... so little time. I would appreciate your letting me know if you figure out where you heard it though.
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