Tuesday, February 09, 2010


O Tempora! O Mores!

I was going to wait until PZ Myers commented on Jerry Fodor's and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini's new book, What Darwin Got Wrong and their précis of it in New Scientist but there is an amusing ... um ... convergence that needs pointing out.

Naturally, the Undiscovery Institute was quick to jump at any hint among scientists or philosophers of science that Darwin was "wrong." Robert Crowther is at the Ministry of Misinformation ... well ... crowing that "Intelligent Design Proponents Welcome Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini to the Growing Ranks of Darwin's Critics," despite their comment at New Scientist that:

Such dissent as there is [from "neo-Darwinism"] often relies on theistic premises which Darwinists rightly say have no place in the evaluation of scientific theories.

Crowther cannot help mentioning the Altenberg 16 meeting and the terminally inept "journalist" Suzan Mazur's "reporting" on it. Along the way, he trots out Stanley Salthe:

... another materialist scientist who doubts Darwrinian evolution (and has signed the Dissent From Darwin statement to boot), to convene an e-mail discussion group that became what is now known as the Altenberg 16.

... but without mentioning that Salthe did not attend the meeting and who is on record as saying of the Dissent from Darwin sham:

... that when he signed the petition he had no idea what the Discovery Institute was. Rather, he said, "I signed it in irritation."

Which brings us to Massimo Pigliucci, one of the organizers of the Altenberg 16 meeting, who has roundly criticized the hype about the meeting generated by creationists and their fellow travelers. Pigliucci points to a review of Mazur's book as "a sane discussion of the hoopla about the 'Altenberg 16' meeting that I organzied two years ago, and an expose` of pseudo-journalist Suzan Mazur." The reviewer, Ken Perrott, points out:

Like any healthy science, evolutionary biology and philosophy is living and healthy. Research produces new information. Scientists come up with, and promote, new ideas. There is active debate about these. However, scientific debate leads to advances, not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. This active discussion and new research is not a sign that evolutionary theory is dead and needs replacing. It's not a sign of a "new evolutionary theory to replace natural selection."

But, of course, that is how many creationists, and some less ethical journalists, try to represent the science. Creationists latched on to the workshop as evidence for the death of Darwinism – much to the chagrin of the workshop participants. And Suzan Mazur effectively played this creationist ball – to the disgust of many of the scientists she had interviewed.

Which brings us full circle to the DI's attempt to enlist Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini in the ID cause. So we have a prediction: "creationists will attempt to exploit any debate within science" and confirmation all within a single day.

Almost like clockwork.

It's all part of how they reason: since it must be either p or q, any argument that decreases the likelihood of the truth of p, must increase the likelihood of the truth of q.
There is compartmentalization involved too. The "new" ideas in evolutionary theory don't challenge evolution or naturalistic accounts of it or even a cental role for natural selection. Somehow they equate Darwin and "Darwinism" with evolution, so Darwin is the p and decreasing the likelihood that he was right increases the likelihood of q.
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