Thursday, February 28, 2013
There They Go Again!
As the blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State reports, the Chambersburg Area School District School Board in Pennsylvania is willing to go them one better ... they are prepared to saddle the students in their care with a sizable court award that will rob them of the resources to get the education they deserve. The lesson unlearned: the Okeechobee County (Florida) School Board paid $326,000 in attorneys' fees to the ACLU for denying students the right to form a GSA club. I think even high school students could come up with better uses of such money ... even if the board cannot.
But, as usual, irony is what tickles me into commenting:
GSA President Amber Fogelsonger said one of the board members who voted against the group said that the alliance is similar to the existing multi-cultural group and therefore would be unnecessary.However, as Americans United pointed out, the Chambersburg Area Senior High School has not one, but two Christian clubs open to students.
Do you suppose the board told either of them that they are so similar that only one needed to exist?
Naw, I didn't think so either.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
What's the Line?
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Of course, the DI's Gofer General, Casey Luskin, continues the grand tradition of creationist rewriting of history. According to Luskin:
Discovery Institute's policy on these issues is nothing new. As I recounted in detail last year, this was our policy long before the Dover case, and after it.Apparently, not everyone got the memo ... undoubtedly because it was never sent. As Richard Thompson, the Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center and leader of the defense of the school board in the Kitzmiller case said shortly before Judge Jones rendered his decision:
They [the DI] wrote a book, titled "Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula." The conclusion of that book was that, um:Not to mention that several DI stalwarts, including Stephen C. Meyer, Program Director of The Center for Science and Culture, were so opposed to the school board's attempt to mandate ID as an alternative to evolutionary science that they agreed to be expert witnesses on behalf of the school board ... until the way the wind was blowing became clear enough that, shortly before the trial was to begin, the rat lifeboats were lowered and the board was left holding the $1 million bag.
"Moreover, as the previous discussion demonstrates, school boards have the authority to permit, and even encourage, teaching about design theory as an alternative to Darwinian evolution -- and this includes the use of textbooks such as Of Pandas and People that present evidence for the theory of intelligent design." ...and I could go further. But, you had Discovery Institute people actually encouraging the teaching of intelligent design in public school systems. Now, whether they wanted the school boards to teach intelligent design or mention it, certainly when you start putting it in writing, that writing does have consequences.
As always with the DI, no lie will be left untold, no fact will be left undistorted, no shame will be left unembraced.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Destroy It To Save It
Not so much now:
Several pastors spoke against the Gay-Straight Alliance, but urged the school board to find a way to protect the other clubs.Would it surprise anyone to learn that one of those other clubs is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes?
Besides the hypocrisy, plain ol' stupidity reared it ugly head:
Others spoke out against the alliance, saying the real issue is bullying. Students, they said, would not find the support they need in a gay-straight group.Of course not! Students banning together for the civil rights of other students and to prevent bullying are just like the Crips gearing up for the Bloods.
"It's like gangs," said Lori Pitner, a Tavares resident who spoke in opposition. "More kids in gangs end up killed than are not in gangs. I don't see this as any different."
"That your decision is based upon students. It's not based upon the ACLU, who I would consider a very large bully," said the Rev. Brooks Braswell from the First Baptist Church of Umatilla.Riiight! Just like this:
Recently a gay student at Carver Middle School was told he was going to be hanged in front of the school to set an example. The next day the student who threatened him brought a noose.Oh, wait a minute! The ACLU is just telling the school board that they will ask a court of law to make the board grant its students equal rights, not threatening to lynch them.
The good news is that Heather Jablonski and two other brave teachers have agreed to sponsor the GSA club and that a large group of supporters showed up at the meeting.
Oh, and one last thing. One of the other clubs that are now under threat is "cup stacking." I hadn't a clue what that was, so I looked it up:
While I stand in awe of Emily Fox's hand-eye coordination, somehow I think a club concerned with civil rights is every bit as important to student development, if not a tad more so.
Monday, February 18, 2013
We Can't Have Gay Marriage and the First Amendment
I believe we should be free in America to discriminate against homosexual behavior.Now get on your running shoes and go like hell so you can survive the logical leap:
Because if we don't, then it will be people of faith who will be discriminated against.Because, you see, religious freedom means people of faith have the right to use the power of the state to discriminate against people they don't like and if society doesn't enforce their bigotry, you are discriminating against the bigots.
This could have all sorts of fun applications.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Would You Like Another Cup?
I've previously pointed to the critical review of Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, by Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg, entitled "Do You Only Have a Brain?".
Thanks to Neil Rickert at The Heretical Philosopher, I've learned of Mohan Matthen's review, "Thomas Nagel's untutored reaction of incredulity," which I found very instructive.
Here are some more reviews:
"Remarkable Facts: Ending Science As We Know It" by Elliott Sober.
"Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False" by John Dupré.
"Awaiting a New Darwin" by H. Allen Orr.
"Two Perspectives on Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos" by Louis B. Jones and P. N. Furbank.
Also helpful is Jennifer Schuessler's N.Y. Times article, "An Author Attracts Unlikely Allies."
No doubt the creationists will have their usual reaction ... the venom of the reviews shows how much Nagel's criticisms have stung the "Darwinists" ... but, if Nagel was ignored, they would claim it was because the "Darwinists" have no answer to his arguments. Dishonesty always find a way to "win."
The theory of evolution makes me so angry. I was wondering if anybody thinks about the first two syllables of the word and sees what it sounds like: Evil.Heh! "Evilution" is hardly an original thought ... and the rest of Mr. Hayne's letter displays the same ... er ... creativity:
People have made evolution an idol. They worship it. If anybody looks up the word religion in the dictionary, they will find the meaning of it is any system of faith and worship, and the people that teach it do worship it."Worship," of course, means looking at the scientific evidence and reaching a supportable conclusion.
Therefore, if they worship it, it's a religion, and if it's a religion, what about the new so called law of separation of church and state?New separation of church and state? Even if you don't count the First Amendment, effective in 1791, and only count the Supreme Court's modern understanding of the concept in the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education, 65 years hardly counts a "new. " Trust me, I know about that!
But the notion that any thing that some nut calls "religion" is banned from public schools is amusing/frightening. Heliocentrism need not apply to public school textbooks!
Just in case you thought that Mr. Hayne had any clue what the Constitution says, there is this:
I don't believe that the religion evolution should be taught in schools. Also, I believe that the religion Christianity should be taught in schools.In other words, separation of church and state means he can separate any "religion," except his own, from the state.
I don't have migraines, I just keep smacking my forehead.
Callan was contacted by the Discovery [sic] Institute for permission to use the picture for its latest bit of dishonesty, something to be called Darwin's Doubt: The Explosion of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.
Despite being offered the munificent reward of $100 and a complimentary copy of the book, Callan refused:
Thanks for your interest.Not so surprisingly, that did not go down well with the DI drone, Andrew McDiarmid, who approached Callan. Much more surprisingly, for an organization dedicated to public relations flackery, instead of science, McDiarmid gave Callan a barn door to drive though:
I hold the Discovery Institute in the lowest regard, and it sounds like the new book will be a further perversion of reason in the name of pseudoscience. As a science educator, I could never support such an effort! I will not grant reproduction rights to any of my photos or drawings to any creationist effort such as the one you describe here.
Best wishes for your good health, and the speedy demise of the sham institution that employs you.
I'm sorry to learn that you do not support true freedom of scientific inquiry. As Charles Darwin himself stated, "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."Callan's response to it all is beyond my power to add to, so go read it.
I only hope the materialist, reductionist scales fall off your eyes one day. Until then, I feel sorry for your students.
My interest was, however, additionally piqued by the fact that the DI huckster was quote mining Darwin. As I previously pointed out, the context is:
This Abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors will have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this cannot possibly be here done.Far from advocating that every insupportable "theory" like ID or Sasquatch or alien-built pyramids deserves "equal time" with science, Darwin was pointing out that that he had many more facts in support of his theory but could not fit them all in the scant 490 pages he had at his disposal in the Origin.
I also want to point out Callan's subsequent post about intelligent geologic folding.
Friday, February 15, 2013
Fish Nor Fowl
Newton's real claim to fame was that he had come up with the cause of the precisely observed but as yet unexplained orbits of the Copernican Revolution— gravity. It was this that made him the icon of science to Darwin's mentors. However, what exactly does one mean when one talks of "cause"? It is clearly something that makes other things work or move, but how does one know that one has a cause? How does one know that one has what Newton somewhat mysteriously called a vera causa or "true cause"? Here the authorities divided somewhat. [John F. W.] Herschel was more of an empiricist and wanted observational evidence, direct or indirect. [William] Whewell was more of a rationalist and wanted a sufficient explanation of all the facts, even if we do not see the cause at all.
Thus, for Herschel, the example was of the attraction between the earth and the moon. How do we know that gravity is a vera causa keeping the two together? Because we have all seen objects drop to the ground or have swung a stone around at the end of a piece of string and felt the pull required to keep the stone from flying off. We have directly sensed the cause— or something analogous. Empiricist though he may have been, Herschel thought that all natural force was a product of God's will, as the tug on the circling stone is a product of our will. Whewell would have none of that. He wanted a kind of global explanation, with the vera causa to bring together and unite diverse phenomena under a single explanation. He referred to this unifying feature of a theory as a "consilience of inductions."
The Consilience of Inductions takes place when an Induction obtained from one class of facts, coincides with an Induction from another different class. This Consilience is a test of the truth of the Theory in which it occurs." (William Whewell, Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, p. 1840)"Consilience" comes from the same root as "reconcile," and inductions are logical arguments based on observations. Thus a consilience of inductions is the bringing together of scientific observations derived from different disciplines and showing that they have a common cause. Newtonian physics met this ideal because a single entity, gravity, could be shown to explain phenomena as diverse as the movement of planets around the sun, of the moon around the earth, ocean tides, or the fall of an apple from a tree.
To grasp the difference between Herschel and Whewell's philosophy, think of a murder. We find a body lying in a pool of blood with a murder weapon, a knife, lying beside it. After an investigation, someone is charged with the murder. Why? Did the investigation reveal a vera causa? A Herschelian would be satisfied only if the accused were seen killing the victim. A Whewellian would instead be satisfied with the establishment of a means, motive, and evidence that directly linked the accused with the crime, such as his fingerprints on the knife. Why should we need eyewitness testimony? Evidence alone can establish guilt. ...
We can see Darwin's dedication to Herschel's emphasis on vera causa in the opening chapter of the Origin, where he begins with a discussion of artificial selection. Darwin, who grew up in a rural district during the British industrial revolution, had seen artificial selection in action. ... Darwin, coming from rural Britain— his uncle Josiah was a gentleman farmer trying to upgrade sheep production— knew all about breeding. So, early in his quest for a mechanism, Darwin sensed that selection, which meant breeding from the good forms and rejecting the inadequate, was the key to organic change. ...
... By introducing artificial selection and then arguing to natural selection, he was providing a Herschel-type vera causa. He was arguing from a force we know, a force we cause ourselves, to a force of nature. ...
The big problem now facing Darwin was how to get a natural equivalent of the breeders' artificial selection. What could make a force so strong and persistent that selection could operate efficiently in the wild?
At the end of September 1838, Charles Darwin read a late edition of Thomas Robert Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population, where Malthus observed that human populations can increase in size faster than does their ability to produce food, causing a struggle for existence. At once Darwin seized on this struggle, generalizing it to animals and plants. Darwin put exponential population growth together with artificial selection, and he had his mechanism. His notebooks of 1838 show that he had arrived by then at natural selection as the mechanism that causes evolution.
Darwin was as sensitive to Whewell's concept of a consilience of inductions as he was to Herschel's concept of vera causa. After the mechanism of selection is introduced, and after some other matters are attended to— for instance, the introduction of the secondary mechanism of sexual selection, the principle of divergence, some rather unsatisfactory speculations about the causes of heredity— the Origin turns precisely to such a survey of biology, showing the big problems and showing how selection speaks to them. In fact, the bulk of the Origin is devoted to this consilience of inductions.
- Michael Ruse, Introduction, The "Origin" Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the "Origin of Species," David N. Reznick, Princeton University Press. (2011)
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Truth Will Out
What every theologian should know about creation, evolution and design
William A. Dembski
From its inception Darwinism posed a challenge to Christian theology. Darwinism threatened to undo the Church's understanding of creation, and therewith her understanding of the origin of human life. Nor did the challenge of Darwinism stop here. With human beings the result of a brutal, competitive process that systematically rooted out the weak and favored only the strong (we might say it is the strong who constitute the elect within Darwinism), the Church's understanding of the fall, redemption, the nature of morality, the veracity of the Scriptures, and the ultimate end of humankind were all in a fundamental way called into question. Without exaggeration, no aspect of theology escaped the need for re-evaluation in the light of Darwinism.
Well, a lot has happened since the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. Theology that is academically respectable has long since made its peace with Darwinism. Indeed, respectable theologians have long since had their understanding of the origin of life thoroughly informed by Darwinism and its interpretation of natural history. Thus when a group of Christian scholars who call themselves design theorists begin to raise doubts about Darwinism and propose an alternative paradigm for understanding biological systems, it is the design theorists, and not Darwin, who end up posing the challenge to theology.
As a card-carrying design theorist, I want to examine the challenge that design poses to the contemporary theologian. What continues to intrigue me is that the group of academicians design theorists have the hardest time engaging is not the secular scientists, but theologians and cross-disciplinary scientists whose cross-discipline happens to be theology (e.g., Nancey Murphy and Howard van Till). Why is this? The short answer is that mainstream theologians perceive design theorists as theological greenhorns who unfortunately have yet to fathom the proper relation between theology and science. Of course, design theorists think it is rather the mainstream theologians who have failed to grasp the proper relation between theology and science. (Emphasis added)
Though design theorists believe Darwinism is dead wrong, unlike the creationist movement of the 1980's, they do not try to win a place for their views by taking to the courts. Instead of pressing their case by lobbying for fair treatment acts in state legislatures (i.e., acts that oblige public schools in a given state to teach both creation and evolution in their science curricula), design theorists are much more concerned with bringing about an intellectual revolution starting from the top down. Their method is debate and persuasion. They aim to convince the intellectual elite and let the school curricula take care of themselves. By adopting this approach design theorists have enjoyed far more success in getting across their views than their creationist counterparts.Funny, I seem to remember something about model legislation clearly intended to get around the fact that the “intellectual elite” still isn't buying that there is any scientific “controversy" over evolution.
Oh, well. The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley.
On the Twelfth Day of Darwin
Monday, February 11, 2013
On the Eleventh Day of Darwin
The other point in her character, which made her joyousness & spirits so delightful, was her strong affection, which was of a most clinging, fondling nature. When quite a Baby, this showed itself in never being easy without touching Emma, when in bed with her, & quite lately she would when poorly fondle for any length of time one of Emma’s arms. When very unwell, Emma lying down beside her, seemed to soothe her in a manner quite different from what it would have done to any of our other children. So again, she would at almost anytime spend half-an-hour in arranging my hair, “making it” as she called it “beautiful”, or in smoothing, the poor dear darling, my collar or cuffs, in short in fondling me. She liked being kissed; indeed every expression in her countenance beamed with affection & kindness, & all her habits were influenced by her loving disposition.
Besides her joyousness thus tempered, she was in her manners remarkably cordial, frank, open, straightforward natural and without any shade of reserve. Her whole mind was pure & transparent. One felt one knew her thoroughily & could trust her: I always thought, that come what might, we should have had in our old age, at least one loving soul, which nothing could have changed. She was generous, handsome & unsuspicious in all her conduct; free from envy & jealousy; goodtempered & never passionate. Hence she was very popular in the whole household, and strangers liked her & soon appreciated her. The very manner in which she shook hands with acquaintances showed her cordiality.
Her figure & appearance were clearly influenced by her character: her eyes sparkled brightly; she often smiled; her step was elastic & firm; she held herself upright, & often threw her head a little backwards, as if she defied the world in her joyousness. For her age she was very tall, not thin & strong. Her hair was a nice brown & long; her complexion slightly brown; eyes, dark grey; her teeth large & white. The Daguerrotype is very like her, but fails entirely in expression: having been made two years since, her face had become lengthened & better looking. All her movements were vigorous, active & usually graceful: when going round the sand-walk with me, although I walked fast, yet she often used to go before pirouetting in the most elegant way, her dear face bright all the time, with the sweetest smiles. Occasionally she had a pretty coquettish manner towards me; the memory of which is charming: she often used exaggerated language, & when I quizzed her by exaggerating what she had said, how clearly can I now see the little toss of the head & exclamation of “Oh Papa what a shame of you”.— She had a truly feminine interest in dress, & was always neat: such undisguised satisfaction, escaping somehow all tinge of conceit & vanity, beamed from her face, when she had got hold of some ribbon or gay handkerchief of her Mamma’s.— One day she dressed herself up in a silk gown, cap, shawl & gloves of Emma, appearing in figure like a little old woman, but with her heightened colour, sparkling eyes & bridled smiles, she looked, as I thought, quite charming.
She cordially admired the younger children; how often have I heard her emphatically declare. “what a little duck, Betty is, is not she?”.—
She was very handy, doing everything neatly with her hands: she learnt music readily, & I am sure from watching her countenance, when listening to others playing, that she had a strong taste for it. She had some turn for drawing, & could copy faces very nicely. She danced well, & was extremely fond of it. She liked reading, but evinced no particular line of taste. She had one singular habit, which, I presume would ultimately have turned into some pursuit; namely a strong pleasure in looking out words or names in dictionaries, directories, gazeteers, & in this latter case finding out the places in the Map: so also she would take a strange interest in comparing word by word two editions of the same book; and again she would spend hours in comparing the colours of any objects with a book of mine, in which all colours are arranged & named.—
Her health failed in a slight degree for about nine months before her last illness; but it only occasionally gave her a day of discomfort: at such times, she was never in the least degree cross, peevish or impatient; & it was wonderful to see, as the discomfort passed, how quickly her elastic spirits brought back her joyousness & happiness. In the last short illness, her conduct in simple truth was angelic; she never once complained; never became fretful; was ever considerate of others; & was thankful in the most gentle, pathetic manner for everything done for her. When so exhausted that she could hardly speak, she praised everything that was given her, & said some tea “was beautifully good.” When I gave her some water, she said “I quite thank you”; & these, I believe were the last precious words ever addressed by her dear lips to me.
But looking back, always the spirit of joyousness rises before me as her emblem and characteristic: she seemed formed to live a life of happiness: her spirits were always held in check by her sensitiveness lest she should displease those she loved, & her tender love was never weary of displaying itself by fondling & all the other little acts of affection.—
We have lost the joy of the Household, and the solace of our old age:— she must have known how we loved her; oh that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly we do still & shall ever love her dear joyous face. Blessings on her.—
April 30. 1851.
- Charles Darwin, Memorial of Anne Elizabeth Darwin
Sunday, February 10, 2013
On the Tenth Day of Darwin
De Candolle, in an eloquent passage, has declared that all nature is at war, one organism with another, or with external nature.
Seeing the contented face of nature, this may at first well be doubted; but reflection will inevitably prove it to be true. The war, however, is not constant, but recurrent in a slight degree at short periods, and more severely at occasional more distant periods; and hence its effects are easily overlooked. It is the doctrine of Malthus applied in most cases with tenfold force. As in every climate there are seasons, for each of its inhabitants, of greater and less abundance, so all annually breed; and the moral restraint which in some small degree checks the increase of mankind is entirely lost. Even slow-breeding mankind has doubled in twenty-five years; and if he could increase his food with greater ease, he would double in less time. But for animals without artificial means, the amount of food for each species must, on an average, be constant, whereas the increase of all organisms tends to be geometrical, and in a vast majority of cases at an enormous ratio. Suppose in a certain spot there are eight pairs of birds, and that only four pairs of them annually (including double hatches) rear only four young, and that these go on rearing their young at the same rate, then at the end of seven years (a short life, excluding violent deaths, for any bird) there will be 2048 birds, instead of the original sixteen. As this increase is quite impossible, we must conclude either that birds do not rear nearly half their young, or that the average life of a bird is, from accident, not nearly seven years. Both checks probably concur. The same kind of calculation applied to all plants and animals affords results more or less striking, but in very few instances more striking than in man.
Many practical illustrations of this rapid tendency to increase are on record, among which, during peculiar seasons, are the extraordinary numbers of certain animals; for instance, during the years 1826 to 1828, in La Plata, when from drought some millions of cattle perished, the whole country actually swarmed with mice. Now I think it cannot be doubted that during the breeding-season all the mice (with the exception of a few males or females in excess) ordinarily pair, and therefore that this astounding increase during three years must be attributed to a greater number than usual surviving the first year, and then breeding, and so on till the third year, when their numbers were brought down to their usual limits on the return of wet weather. Where man has introduced plants and animals into a new and favourable country, there are many accounts in how surprisingly few years the whole country has become stocked with them. This increase would necessarily stop as soon as the country was fully stocked; and yet we have every reason to believe, from what is known of wild animals, that all would pair in the spring. In the majority of cases it is most difficult to imagine where the checks fall—though generally, no doubt, on the seeds, eggs, and young; but when we remember how impossible, even in mankind (so much better known than any other animal), it is to infer from repeated casual observations what the average duration of life is, or to discover the different percentage of deaths to births in different countries, we ought to feel no surprise at our being unable to discover where the check falls in any animal or plant. It should always be remembered, that in most cases the checks are recurrent yearly in a small, regular degree, and in an extreme degree during unusually cold, hot, dry, or wet years, according to the constitution of the being in question. Lighten any check in the least degree, and the geometrical powers of increase in every organism will almost instantly increase the average number of the favoured species. Nature may be compared to a surface on which rest ten thousand sharp wedges touching each other and driven inwards by incessant blows. Fully to realize these views much reflection is requisite. Malthus on man should be studied; and all such cases as those of the mice in La Plata, of the cattle and horses when first turned out in South America, of the birds by our calculation, &c., should be well considered. Reflect on the enormous multiplying power inherent and annually in action in all animals; reflect on the countless seeds scattered by a hundred ingenious contrivances, year after year, over the whole face of the land; and yet we have every reason to suppose that the average percentage of each of the inhabitants of a country usually remains constant. Finally, let it be borne in mind that this average number of individuals (the external conditions remaining the same) in each country is kept up by recurrent struggles against other species or against external nature (as on the borders of the Arctic regions, where the cold checks life), and that ordinarily each individual of every species holds its place, either by its own struggle and capacity of acquiring nourishment in some period of its life, from the egg upwards; or by the struggle of its parents (in short-lived organisms, when the main check occurs at longer intervals) with other individuals of the same or different species.
But let the external conditions of a country alter. If in a small degree, the relative proportions of the inhabitants will in most cases simply be slightly changed; but let the number of inhabitants be small, as on an island, and free access to it from other countries be circumscribed, and let the change of conditions continue progressing (forming new stations), in such a case the original inhabitants must cease to be as perfectly adapted to the changed conditions as they were originally. It has been shown in a former part of this work, that such changes of external conditions would, from their acting on the reproductive system, probably cause the organization of those beings which were most affected to become, as under domestication, plastic. Now, can it be doubted, from the struggle each individual has to obtain subsistence, that any minute variation in structure, habits, or instincts, adapting that individual better to the new conditions, would tell upon its vigour and health? In the struggle it would have a better chance of surviving; and those of its offspring which inherited the variation, be it ever so slight, would also have a better chance. Yearly more are bred than can survive; the smallest grain in the balance, in the long run, must tell on which death shall fall, and which shall survive. Let this work of selection on the one hand, and death on the other, go on for a thousand generations, who will pretend to affirm that it would produce no effect, when we remember what, in a few years, Bakewell effected in cattle, and Western in sheep, by this identical principle of selection?
To give an imaginary example from changes in progress on an island:—let the organization of a canine animal which preyed chiefly on rabbits, but sometimes on hares, become slightly plastic; let these same changes cause the number of rabbits very slowly to decrease, and the number of hares to increase; the effect of this would be that the fox or dog would be driven to try to catch more hares: his organization, however, being slightly plastic, those individuals with the lightest forms, longest limbs, and best eyesight, let the difference be ever so small, would be slightly favoured, and would tend to live longer, and to survive during that time of the year when food was scarcest; they would also rear more young, which would tend to inherit these slight peculiarities. The less fleet ones would be rigidly destroyed. I can see no more reason to doubt that these causes in a thousand generations would produce a marked effect, and adapt the form of the fox or dog to the catching of hares instead of rabbits, than that greyhounds can be improved by selection and careful breeding. So would it be with plants under similar circumstances. If the number of individuals of a species with plumed seeds could be increased by greater powers of dissemination within its own area (that is, if the check to increase fell chiefly on the seeds), those seeds which were provided with ever so little more down, would in the long run be most disseminated; hence a greater number of seeds thus formed would germinate, and would tend to produce plants inheriting the slightly better-adapted down.
Besides this natural means of selection, by which those individuals are preserved, whether in their egg, or larval, or mature state, which are best adapted to the place they fill in nature, there is a second agency at work in most unisexual animals, tending to produce the same effect, namely, the struggle of the males for the females. These struggles are generally decided by the law of battle, but in the case of birds, apparently, by the charms of their song, by their beauty or their power of courtship, as in the dancing rock-thrush of Guiana. The most vigorous and healthy males, implying perfect adaptation, must generally gain the victory in their contests. This kind of selection,1 however, is less rigorous than the other; it does not require the death of the less successful, but gives to them fewer descendants. The struggle falls, moreover, at a time of year when food is generally abundant, and perhaps the effect chiefly produced would be the modification of the secondary sexual characters, which are not related to the power of obtaining food, or to defence from enemies, but to fighting with or rivalling other males. The result of this struggle amongst the males may be compared in some respects to that produced by those agriculturists who pay less attention to the careful selection of all their young animals, and more to the occasional use of a choice mate.
Saturday, February 09, 2013
On the Ninth Day of Darwin
For example, even in Darwin's own day, F.J. Pictet contended in his review of the Origin of Species (1860) that he would not accept Darwin's deductions until he saw for himself the evolution of a new organ. By 1864, Pictet had been converted and in 1866 published a paper in support of evolutionary theory. Needless to say, the direct proof he required had not been supplied. Instead, he had been convinced by the numerous indirect proofs of evolutionary theory. On this score special creation and evolution by natural selection were on different footings. No one had seen a new species evolve anymore than they had seen one specially created, but unlike the special creationists, Darwin had presented a mechanism for evolution. Certain implications of his theory could be checked and his theory as a whole gradually confirmed or disconfirmed without the direct observation of species evolving. Special creation was little more than a bald assertion. Whether as a natural event lacking any scientific explanation or as a supernatural event, special creation could be checked only by direct observation.
- David L. Hull, Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community (1973)
Friday, February 08, 2013
On the Eighth Day of Darwin
But at that time I overlooked one problem of great importance; and it is astonishing to me, except on the principle of Columbus and his egg, how I could have overlooked it and its solution. This problem is the tendency in organic beings descended from the same stock to diverge in character as they become modified. That they have diverged greatly is obvious from the manner in which species of all kinds can be classed under genera, genera under families, families under sub-orders, and so forth; and I can remember the very spot in the road, whilst in my carriage, when to my joy the solution occurred to me; and this was long after I had come to Down. The solution, as I believe, is that the modified offspring of all dominant and increasing forms tend to become adapted to many and highly diversified places in the economy of nature.
Early in 1856 Lyell advised me to write out my views pretty fully, and I began at once to do so on a scale three or four times as extensive as that which was afterwards followed in my Origin of Species; yet it was only an abstract of the materials which I had collected, and I got through about half the work on this scale. But my plans were overthrown, for early in the summer of 1858 Mr Wallace, who was then in the Malay archipelago, sent me an essay On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the Original Type; and this essay contained exactly the same theory as mine. Mr Wallace expressed the wish that if I thought well of his essay, I should send it to Lyell for perusal.
The circumstances under which I consented at the request of Lyell and Hooker to allow of an extract from my MS., together with a letter to Asa Gray, dated September 5, 1857, to be published at the same time with Wallace's Essay, are given in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society, 1858, p. 45. I was at first very unwilling to consent, as I thought Mr Wallace might consider my doing so unjustifiable, for I did not then know how generous and noble was his disposition. The extract from my MS. and the letter to Asa Gray had neither been intended for publication, and were badly written. Mr Wallace's essay, on the other hand, was admirably expressed and quite clear. Nevertheless, our joint productions excited very little attention, and the only published notice of them which I can remember was by Professor Haughton of Dublin, whose verdict was that all that was new in them was false, and what was true was old. This shows how necessary it is that any new view should be explained at considerable length in order to arouse public attention.
- Charles Darwin, The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, Collins, Nora Barlow, ed. (1958)
Thursday, February 07, 2013
Via Greg Laden
On the Seventh Day of Darwin
- Charles Darwin, The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, Collins, Nora Barlow, ed. (1958)
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
On the Sixth Day of Darwin
Darwin, who was at this time residing in Cambridge, did not learn of the details of Gould's analysis until he moved to London in early March of 1837 in order to have closer contact with the specialists working on his collections. Gould's findings, communicated to Darwin during a meeting with the eminent ornithologist, provided Darwin with a number of surprises. While in the Galapagos, Darwin had been rather unclear about the precise relationship among the various finchlike species he had encountered there. In particular, he had misidentified several finch species as the forms that they, through extensive evolutionary radiation, now appear to mimick. For example, he had considered the Cactus Finch, Cactornis scandens, to be a member of the Icteridae (the family of the orioles and blackbirds); and he had classified the Warbler Finch, Certhidea olivacea, as a 'wren', or warbler. It appears, moreover, that Darwin initially distinguished as separate species of finches only 6 of the eventual 13 forms that Gould named in early 1837. Hence Darwin's finches only really became Darwin's finches after Gould rectified many of Darwin's earlier field misclassifications, and thereby clarified the unity and complexity of the group. More important still for Darwin's evolutionary thinking, Gould (1837d) declared that 3 of the 4 island forms of Galapagos mockingbird brought to England by Darwin were distinct species, a possibility that Darwin had already asserted 'would undermine the stability of Species'. For the Galapagos as a whole, Gould pronounced 25 of the 26 land birds as new and distinct forms found nowhere else in the world. Darwin was frankly stunned, not only by the realization that three separate species of mockingbirds indeed inhabited the different islands of the Galapagos, but also by the fact that most of these Galapagos species, even though new, were closely related to those found on the American continent. His conversion to the theory of evolution, which took place shortly after his meeting with Gould in March of 1837, was a direct consequence of these two conclusions.
- Sulloway, Frank J. 1982. The Beagle collections of Darwin's finches (Geospizinae). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Zoology Series 43, no. 2: 49-94.
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
To Tell the Truth ... Orly
Orly Taitz hasn't.
When we last left the Taz, she had been ordered by Federal District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford to show cause in writing why she should not be sanctioned for lying to the Court.
She had already pissed the judge off by, as he described it, acting “extremely unprofessionally in this Court of the United States of America by rolling her eyes and exhibiting gestures of contempt” when he wouldn't let her launch into yet another of her frequent tirades against all and sundry who are remotely involved in her delusions. Her opponent, and equally deranged birther, Philip Berg, has also exasperated the judge and he had previously order the parties, in preparation of his stated intention to end the madness in his court, to inform the Court immediately of any actions taken on pending ethical, disciplinary, or related matters concerning any of the parties now appearing in this case.
Orly told the judge that she didn't have any pending matters but Berg disagreed. When I last wrote about this, it wasn't clear whether Berg's allegation concerned the state court sanctions Orly got for abuse of process in her attempt to subpoena Occidental College's records on President Obama or something else. Now Orly has responded to the charge and, in fact, it is the Occidental case that is the crux of the matter.
Orly insists that the costs imposed are not sanctions but that, instead, “the award of $4,000 by Judge Marginis was for discovery, that it was indeed a cost shifting of attorneys fees related to discovery” under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1987.2. The only problem is that the relevant portion of Section 1987.2 reads:
[T]he court may in its discretion award the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred in making or opposing the motion, including reasonable attorney's fees, if the court finds the motion was made or opposed in bad faith or without substantial justification or that one or more of the requirements of the subpoena was oppressive.Frankly, the only way I can see Orly avoiding another major sanction is if Judge Guilford decides to show mercy on someone too stupid to understand the law. I'm not betting on it however.
On the Fifth Day of Darwin
W My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won't do. — Imagine living all one's day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. — Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro' St.
Freedom to go where one liked — choice of Society & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs — Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. — to have the expense & anxiety of children — perhaps quarelling — Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings — fatness & idleness — Anxiety & responsibility — less money for books &c — if many children forced to gain one's bread. — (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)
Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool —
When? Soon or Late
But then if I married tomorrow: there would be an infinity of trouble & expense in getting & furnishing a house, —fighting about no Society —morning calls — awkwardness —loss of time every day. (without one's wife was an angel, & made one keep industrious). — Then how should I manage all my business if I were obliged to go every day walking with one's my wife. — Eheu!! I never should know French, — or see the Continent — or go to America, or go up in a Balloon, or take solitary trip in Wales — poor slave. — you will be worse than a negro — And then horrid poverty, (without one's wife was better than an angel & had money) — Never mind my boy — Cheer up — One cannot live this solitary life, with groggy old age, friendless & cold, & childless staring one in ones face, already beginning to wrinkle. — Never mind, trust to chance —keep a sharp look out — There is many a happy slave —
- Charles Darwin, 'This is the Question Marry Not Marry' [Memorandum on marriage]
Monday, February 04, 2013
On the Fourth Day of Darwin
- Charles Darwin, Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the Command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N., 2d edition. London: John Murray.
Sunday, February 03, 2013
On the Third Day of Darwin
I was very successful in collecting and invented two new methods; I employed a labourer to scrape during the winter, moss off old trees and place [it] in a large bag, and likewise to collect the rubbish at the bottom of the barges in which reeds are brought from the fens, and thus I got some very rare species. No poet ever felt more delight at seeing his first poem published than I did at seeing in Stephen's Illustrations of British Insects the magic words, "captured by C. Darwin, Esq."
- Charles Darwin, The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, Collins, Nora Barlow, ed. (1958)
Saturday, February 02, 2013
On the Second Day of Darwin
- Charles Darwin, The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, Collins, Nora Barlow, ed. (1958)