Monday, September 25, 2006

Richard Dawkins Website

Thanks to Janiebelle and kristine for leading me to Richard Dawkins' new website. It is definitely worth a look. Also, apparently, this article was originally posted to the site but has been withdrawn. DaveScot on Uncommon Descent attempts to slam the article, which he savages in the manner of a dead sheep. I really can't see what the problem is. Are Dawkins' personal opinions really that outrageous, or is it that he expresses himself so persuasively?

What is Darwinism? by Poul Willy Eriksen

Coral Ridge Ministries release of the book and video Darwin's Deadly Legacy has accentuated the concept of 'Darwinism'. I have done some research into the subject, and I must say it isn't easy to figure out, what exactly is meant by Darwinism. Therefore I would appreciate some ideas about, what people understand by this word. Richard Dawkins uses it, Phillip Johnson uses it; but I doubt they mean exactly the same. Or do they?

In Germany Ernst Haeckel became the leading proponent of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Haeckel also used the term 'Darwinism', and a definition can be found in The Evolution of Man, vol. I chap. V, "The Modern Science of Evolution". Here Haeckel writes:

We owe so much of the progress of scientific knowledge to Darwin’s Origin of Species that its influence is almost without parallel in the history of science. The literature of Darwinism grows from day to day, not only on the side of academic zoology and botany, the sciences which were chiefly affected by Darwin’s theory, but in a far wider circle, so that we find Darwinism discussed in popular literature with a vigour and zest that are given to no other scientific conception. This remarkable success is due chiefly to two circumstances. In the first place, all the sciences, and especially biology, have made astounding progress in the last half-century, and have furnished a very vast quantity of proofs of the theory of evolution. In striking contrast to the failure of Lamarck and the older scientists to attract attention to their effort to explain the origin of living things and of man, we have this second and successful effort of Darwin, which was able to gather to its support a large number of established facts. Availing himself of the progress already made, he had very different scientific proofs to allege than Lamarck, or St. Hilaire, or Goethe, or Treviranus had had. But, in the second place, we must acknowledge that Darwin had the special distinction of approaching the subject from an entirely new side, and of basing the theory of descent on a consistent system, which now goes by the name of Darwinism.

In other words, earlier attempts to explain the origin of living things and of man had failed due to lack of a consistent system, and Darwin provided such a system. But which system? Continuing, Haeckel writes:

Lamarck had unsuccessfully attempted to explain the modification of organisms that descend from a common form chiefly by the action of habit and the use of organs, though with the aid of heredity. But Darwin’s success was complete when he independently sought to give a mechanical explanation, on a quite new ground, of this modification of plant and animal structures by adaptation and heredity. He was impelled to his theory of selection on the following grounds. He compared the origin of the various kinds of animals and plants which we modify artificially—by the action of artificial selection in horticulture and among domestic animals—with the origin of the species of animals and plants in their natural state. He then found that the agencies which we employ in the modification of forms by artificial selection are also at work in Nature. The chief of these agencies he held to be “the struggle for life.” The gist of this peculiarly Darwinian idea is given in this formula: The struggle for existence produces new species without premeditated design in the life of Nature, in the same way that the will of man consciously selects new races in artificial conditions. The gardener or the farmer selects new forms as he wills for his own profit, by ingeniously using the agency of heredity and adaptation for the modification of structures; so, in the natural state, the struggle for life is always unconsciously modifying the various species of living things. This struggle for life, or competition of organisms in securing the means of subsistence, acts without any conscious design, but it is none the less effective in modifying structures. As heredity and adaptation enter into the closest reciprocal action under its influence, new structures, or alterations of structure, are produced; and these are purposive in the sense that they serve the organism when formed, but they were produced without any pre-conceived aim.

And "[t]his simple idea is the central thought of Darwinism," Haeckel continues.

To me it sounds as if Haeckel considers adaptation to be an active principle that by itself will produce new or altered structures. The driving force behind this principle is the struggle for existence.

But leave that as it is. For Haeckel, Darwinism is inductive and therefore, since humans are living, the origin of man must follow the same rule as the origin of any other living things:

It is important to understand this very clearly. If all living things come from a common root, man must be included in the general scheme of evolution. On the other hand, if the various species were separately created, man, too, must have been created, and not evolved. We have to choose between these two alternatives. This cannot be too frequently or too strongly emphasised. Either all the species of animals and plants are of supernatural origin—created, not evolved—and in that case man also is the outcome of a creative act, as religion teaches, or the different species have been evolved from a few common, simple ancestral forms, and in that case man is the highest fruit of the tree of evolution.

Now, if the various forms of life are related through adaptation and heredity, the conclusion is that:

The general adoption of the theory of evolution has definitely closed the controversy as to the nature or definition of the species. The word has no absolute meaning whatever, but is only a group-name, or category of classification, with a purely relative value.

Modern day creationists have accepted this in so far as they do not consider species to be the units of creation; that role has been assigned to the originally created kinds, the baramins.

Haeckel ends the book in vol. II chap. XXX, "Results of Anthropogeny", with the words:

It is clear that the prejudices that stand in the way of a general recognition of this “natural anthropogeny” are still very great; otherwise the long struggle of philosophic systems would have ended in favour of Monism. But we may confidently expect that a more general acquaintance with the genetic facts will gradually destroy these prejudices, and lead to the triumph of the natural conception of “man’s place in nature.” When we hear it said, in face of this expectation, that this would lead to retrogression in the intellectual and moral development of mankind, I cannot refrain from saying that, in my opinion, it will be just the reverse; that it will promote to an enormous extent the advance of the human mind. All progress in our knowledge of truth means an advance in the higher cultivation of the human intelligence; and all progress in its application to practical life implies a corresponding improvement of morality. The worst enemies of the human race—ignorance and superstition—can only be vanquished by truth and reason. In any case, I hope and desire to have convinced the reader of these chapters that the true scientific comprehension of the human frame can only be attained in the way that we recognise to be the sole sound and effective one in organic science generally—namely, the way of evolution.

This would be what was originally understood by 'Darwinism'. But what does it mean today?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

John Davison defends criticism of his Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis

John is banned at Pandas Thumb and After the Bar Closes (and many other places) but is able to post at ISCID and Uncommon Descent. He often complains of being ignored by Darwinists, but moderation policy at ISCID and UD largely prevents any honest debate.

So I am calling Johns bluff. I guarantee this thread will be free from moderation (subject to "my mother wouldn't like it" rule on obscenity) and look forward to hearing from John in due course if he so wishes.

One point I would like to hear from him on is why he claims that is is the chromosome and not the gene that is the vehicle of inheritance.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Guest Posts Welcomed

One reason I set up this blog was to enable discussion between those of differing views on neutral ground, so that, for example, arbitrary moderation does not intervene. I have only deleted three comments for obscene content, other than that anyone can express themselves freely.

In fact I am very happy to receive submissions that I will paste as threads from anyone who would care to make one. The simplest way to do this is to email me attaching the text in a common file format (Word, Adobe etc.) and I will post it.

Please note, I am not neutral on the question of ID, but I promise the moderation will be.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Intelligent Design, My Part in it's Downfall

Ed Brayton has a post on Pandas Thumb linking to an article on his own blog, referring to an earlier post which itself links to a comment on this thread at Pandas Thumb. (Phew!)

So, allow me to relive my fifteen minutes of fame, with my tiny contribution to the undermining of Michael Behe's credibility on the "peer review, but much more rigorous" testimony at the Dover trial. Thanks Ed Brayton for bringing it up.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ken Miller is a Creationist

I have pasted a thread and comments from Uncommon Descent for Carlos and Crandaddy to continue their conversation should they wish, Carlos having just been banned and Crandaddy expressing an interest in continuing.

September 9, 2006
Ken Miller is a creationist — although you didn’t hear it from me

Paul Myers, no longer content to shoot himself in the foot, is now focusing on more vital parts of his anatomy. Check out the following: Ken Miller is the best friend Myers and his merry band of atheists ever had, putting a veneer of respectability and religious tolerance over the village atheism of Darwin’s most ardent followers.
Filed under: Evolution, Darwinism, Science — William Dembski @ 10:35 pm



I guess the Creationist vs ID has its counterpart in Materialistic Naturalism vs “Religion friendly” Evolution.

Comment by jpark320 — September 9, 2006 @ 10:42 pm

Thanks, Dr Ken! I know what side you’re on, now…it’s you and the creationists, best friends 4ever! Did they promise to let you strike the match at the atheist-burning?

If that doesn’t make it clear it’s not about science for them nothing will.

Comment by tribune7 — September 9, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

I’ve noticed a lively debate among the Pharyngula commenters — some of them taking Myers to task, others congratulating him. It’s an interesting read.

I guess the Creationist vs ID has its counterpart in Materialistic Naturalism vs “Religion friendly” Evolution.

To some extent — insofar as supernaturalists and militant atheists aren’t willing to accept any compromise with an alternative conceptual/evaluative framework, or indeed, willing to consider that irremediable problems that arise from within their respective frameworks may be resolvable from the perspective afforded by an alternative. And of course there are many such alternative frameworks.

Intelligent design is an attempt at constructing a science that’s compatible with a certain interpretation of Abrahamic theology; theistic evolution (TE) is an attempt at constructing a theology that’s compatible with roughly a neo-Darwinian theory of evolution.

To each extreme, IDers and TErs seem to have compromised on the very points that are most essential.

And of course, human psychology being what it is, IDers regard TErs as closet materialists, whereas TErs see IDers as closet supernaturalists.

It’s a nice family drama, all right.

Comment by Carlos — September 9, 2006 @ 11:06 pm

Intelligent design is an attempt at constructing a science that’s compatible with a certain interpretation of Abrahamic theology

Oh, you should know better than this by now! Why is it so hard to believe that ID is based on evidence of informational complexity and probability? Why the western bias? The three book religions are not the only ones in the world. I have little interest in Abrahamic theology, yet I agree with ID.

To each extreme, IDers and TErs seem to have compromised on the very points that are most essential.

What are those?

Comment by avocationist — September 9, 2006 @ 11:42 pm

Ken Miller, the best I can tell, you believe in creation “by law”. Your position seems much like Denton’s expresses in “Nature’s Destiny”. Denton recognises that if God engineered all that is by fine-tuning the big bang, then we are still the design of God. The By Law position, as far as I can see, and as far as Denton can see is an ID position.

Dr. Miller, why not follow the truth that you know, and recognize that you believe that God made all of this, that He designed it. Let this be the day that you come out of the closet and admit, “I am an IDer.”

Comment by bFast — September 10, 2006 @ 12:03 am

Why is it so hard to believe that ID is based on evidence of informational complexity and probability?

Speaking strictly for myself, it’s because I think the notions of “informational complexity and probability” at work in ID theory are vacuous by contemporary standards of empirical and mathematical precision.

Theologically, avocationist, I consider you a sort of Neoplatonic emanationist. Neoplatonism is the skeleton of Abrahamic mysticism, whether Christian, Jewish (Kabbalah), or Muslim (Sufism). I suppose I haven’t considered carefully enough the role that “Eastern” (Hindu? Buddhist? Taoist?) influences play on your theology — though I should pay more attention to your use of “nondual,” which should have alerted me right off.

What are those?

Militant atheists consider theistic evolutionists to have strayed off the reservation of evidence as construed by contemporary scientific methods. (E.g. personal experience isn’t “evidence,” since it isn’t reproducible, quantifiable, objective, etc.) So Myers criticizes Miller, and even calls him “the c-word”(!), because Miller reconciles personal faith with NDE.

(Incidentally, I’ve read most of Finding Darwin’s God, and while I applaud his attempt to have his cake and eat it, too, it really does look like more “god-of-the-gaps” stuff.)

I’m not sure what criticisms supernaturalists make of intelligent design theorists, but I’m sure that someone else here can flesh out this half of the picture.

Comment by Carlos — September 10, 2006 @ 12:16 am

PZ Myers writes as follows

“To those who disagree with my calling Miller a creationist: tough. I’ve read his book, I’ve listened to several of his talks.

He believes that evolution is insufficient to explain our existence, and has to postulate a mysterious intelligent entity that just happens to be the Christian god as an active agent in our history,

and further, he believes he can make common cause with more overt creationists by highlighting his religious beliefs.

Theistic evolutionists are part of the wide spectrum of creationist beliefs, and that he personally endorses the power of natural processes in 99.99% of all cases does not change what he is, it just means we’re haggling over the degree.”

Comment by — September 10, 2006 @ 12:17 am

Miller doesn’t like the interventionist conception of God that he thinks is implied by ID. He doesn’t like to think of God as a tinkering mechanic. Whether a theistic IDer is committed to that conception of God is an interesting question. A theistic ID response to Miller’s theistic evolutionism would be interesting, I think. Has anyone tried doing this?

I’m going to start using TID, theistic intelligent design, to distinguish intelligent design that is explicitly or implicitly theistic. AID, atheistic or agnostic intelligent design, would designate intelligent design theorists and supporters who are either undecided on the identity of the designer or who think that the designer couldn’t be God, but could be an advanced alien race, e.g. “the Progenitors.”

Comment by Carlos — September 10, 2006 @ 12:21 am


If ID simply meant God fine tuned the beginning, then at best it would support a Deistic view of the Universe. While I agree, this can be seen as an ID view, it is a very general definition of ID that does encompass theistic evolution. The most common I.D. view is that the Universe is fine tuned, but not fine tuned enough for life to be able to form, radiate and adapt on its own. The vast majority of the I.D. movement doesn’t accept the common descent of all species either, so the most common definition of I.D. out there clearly requires a scenario that is compatible with the Old Testament. (types being formed individually)
While I understand that ID is simply about detecting design in biological organisms, it should have the ability (since it’s trying to remain grounded in science) to formulate time tables of design events over the course of the geological time scale. If I.D. is going to be THE alternative to evolution, then it needs to be able to explain all that evolution attempts to explain. If not, then it’s not an alternative theory. Examples would be design events, radiation events, extinction events, newer design events, etc. If it does accept change over time, make phylogenic trees for the speciation events it does accept. It’s not doing any of this. Instead it’s spending its time on the political front, attacking Wikipedia web pages, and basing Darwin’s theory in every conceivable fashion. (as if they’d win by default if Darwin’s ideas were shown to be incorrect)

Comment by Fross — September 10, 2006 @ 12:28 am

Carlos is no longer with this forum. –WmAD

Comment by William Dembski — September 10, 2006 @ 1:19 am

“The vast majority of the I.D. movement doesn’t accept the common descent of all species either, so the most common definition of I.D. out there clearly requires a scenario that is compatible with the Old Testament.”

Whoever defines this so-called movement doesn’t define ID the scientific endeavour as forwarded by the scientists proposing it.

” If I.D. is going to be THE alternative to evolution, then it needs to be able to explain all that evolution attempts to explain. If not, then it’s not an alternative theory.”

ID is not an alternative and does not purport to be. ID is compatible with evolution.

“I’m going to start using TID, theistic intelligent design, to distinguish intelligent design that is explicitly or implicitly theistic.”

“A theistic ID response to Miller’s theistic evolutionism would be interesting, I think. Has anyone tried doing this?”

What do you mean? Is this what you are you looking for?


In Finding Darwin’s God, Miller (1999, 241) writes: “The indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations, the activation of individual neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay.”"

Behe has responded that ID is not incompatible with complete front-loading of all information at the Big Bang, or with design being expressed in quantum events, a la Miller.


“Intelligent design is not a theory about the frequency or locality at which a designing intelligence intervenes in the material world. It is not an interventionist theory at all. Indeed, intelligent design is perfectly compatible with all the design in the world being front-loaded in the sense that all design was introduced at the beginning (say at the Big Bang) and then came to expression subsequently over the course of natural history much as a computer program’s output becomes evident only when the program is run. “

“In plain language, this means that Michael Behe and I share an evolutionary view of the natural history of the Earth and the meaning of the fossil record; namely, that present-day organisms have been produced by a process of descent with modification from their ancient ancestors. Behe is clear, firm, and consistent on this point. For example, when Michael and I engaged in debate at the 1995 meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, I argued that the 100% match of DNA sequences in the pseudogene region of beta-globin was proof that humans and gorillas shared a recent common ancestor. To my surprise, Behe said that he shared that view, and had no problem with the notion of common ancestry.”


Comment by Charlie — September 10, 2006 @ 1:26 am

Sorry for the bad format, the last quote is from MIller, on Behe.

These easy-to-remember points really should be part of a FAQ page.

Comment by Charlie — September 10, 2006 @ 1:29 am

It may or may not be appropriate to comment as I have before, that the Judeo/Christian view of salvation history looks to many like “tinkering”. If that is how salvation looks, it may be that the biosphere will look like that too. It may be intellectually uncomfortable or it may indicate one of the meanings of the term “living God”.

Comment by — September 10, 2006 @ 1:37 am

Paul Myers, no longer content to shoot himself in the foot, is now focusing on more vital parts of his anatomy.

Oh boy! Poor fellow evidently doesn’t have the mental capacity to realize the gun is pointing in the wrong direction. I’m thankful for PZ; I really am. Without people like him around, this world would be a lot less entertaining! :lol:

BTW, it’s too bad Carlos isn’t around anymore. I wanted to ask him a question about comment #6.

Comment by crandaddy — September 10, 2006 @ 2:07 am

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Professor Davison's Lament

at ISCID, that graveyard of IDers, Professor Davison complains that no-one is responding to his "Evolutionary Manifesto".

It is increasingly obvious that I am doing little more than carrying on a monologue with my Manifesto. Surely if there are serious problems with it, there would be some critical comments made wouldn't you think?

Am to believe that everyone accepts my convictions that -

1. allelic mutations had and still have absolutely nothing to do with creative evolution beyond possibly playing a role in extinction?

2. the primary role for sexual reproduction had and still has that of stabilizing species and bringing creative evolution to a complete halt?

3. natural selection prevents rather than promotes creative evolution and artificial selection cannot produce new species?

4. creative evolution is finished?

5. no evolutionary event of any significance ever took place gradually?

6. internal "prescribed" information has played a large if not exclusive role in phylogeny just as it so obviously does in ontogeny?

7. evolution is irreversible and was orthogenetic and goal-directed rather than random?

8. there are laws that have controlled evolution?

9. the only role for the enviroment was to release an inner potential?

10. the individual, rather than the population, was and still is the origin and the instrument of all genetic changes including those producing creative evolution?

11. Mendelian genetics had nothing to do with phylogeny beyond that of the production of varieties and subspecies neither of which are incipient species?

12. evolution will not resume?

Those are all implicit in the evidence presented in the Manifesto.

Or are there other possible reasons for the silence with which these challenges have been met? I suggest that one reason for this silence may be summarized in a single word - FEAR - fear that everything one has held dear all of ones professional life may be a myth without a shred of reality, nothing but an illusion based on the stubborn inistence that ontogeny and phylogeny both have been caused by factors outside the organism. In my opinion, THAT IS NOT TRUE.

Of course there is another possible explanation for the silence with which my challenges have been met both here and everywhere else I have presented them.

"Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn."
George Bernard Shaw

or more recently

"I get no respect."
Rodney Dangerfield

I sure haven't received any from David Springer here or anyplace else have I?

A real scientist, which I regard myself to be, does not give a fig about respect as he is interested in one thing only, which is ultimate undeniable truth. As far as I am concerned, "I have found it," the literal translation of Archimedes famous EUREKA.

If others think I am wrong they should be willing and anxious to prove it. Pretending I don't exist or heaping abuse on me is cowardly, revealing and totally unprofessional. For those reasons -

I love it so!

"A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable."
John A. Davison

Firstly, John, it is the height of hypocrisy to complain about a lack of response. The moderation policy at ISCID allows idiots such as Walter ReMine, Peter Borger, Bruce Fast, Sal Cordova, David Hagen (and yourself) free reign to spout arrant nonsense whilst preventing any real criticism from rational people. You have never been able to respond civilly to honestly expressed scepticism about your hypothesis, thus most rational people that have made some effort to communicate with you no longer bother.

That said, I would not want you to think that a lack of response was implicit agreement with your statements quoted above.

So 1,2,3 and 4 are completely wrong. 5 depends on how you define event and gradually. A mutation, such as a copying error, is instantaneous. So I could in a sense agree with this statement. 6 and 7 are assertions for which there is no scientific evidence. 8 is meaningless. 9, 10 and 11 are wrong. 12 is based on a false premise (that evolutionary processes have stopped).