Daily Archives: 21/11/2011

Prior commitments – 2: theistic

My last post showed the prevalent, and crippling, metaphysical bias of those who assess the evidence for evolution with a materialistic prior commitment. Richard Lewontin makes the case eloquently. Despite the popular rhetoric, though, theism as such has very much less at stake in the matter. Not to put too fine a point on it, God could have created using evolution, or in pretty much any other way. In practice things are not that simple, if we look at specific examples.

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Prior commitments – 1: atheistic

In some e-mail correspondence over the weekend I mentioned the unwillingness of biologists to engage seriously with mathematical challenges to random mutation in protein synthesis. My correspondent replied that he didn’t share a theist’s need to prove the biologists wrong. I answered that the issue might equally involve materialist biologists’ need to prove the mathematics wrong. The exchange got me to thinking about prior commitments in relation to evolution, especially as I happened to turn up the original source  for Richard Lewontin’s much-quoted statement on the matter. Indeed, only today it is cited in an excellent article by David Berlinski .

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Spotting design

I caught the last few minutes of The Natural World on BBC Radio 4 as I woke up yesterday morning. The naturalist being interviewed was talking about the way a species of ladybird only reaches sexual maturity after several days of cold weather. He explained that it was an evolutionary strategy, for a purpose I didn’t quite catch. But “evolutionary strategy” is surely an oxymoron. The whole point of evolution is that it has no strategy. So did he intend to say that the behaviour pointed to evolution, or that it was a strategy? It can’t be both if Neodarwinism is true. The context actually made it clear that he … Continue reading

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Here’s who

The quote in the previous post is actually by zoologist and leader in the field of population genetics, Richard Lewontin. It comes from Testing the Theory of Natural Selection  published in Nature on  March 24, 1972,  p.181. Lewontin’s other famous quotation about science’s prior commitment to materialism comes from a book review of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, which is posted in full  at http://www.drjbloom.com/Public%20files/Lewontin_Review.htm. It says quite a lot about Neodarwinism, quite a lot about Lewontin, a fair bit about Sagan and even a little about Richard Dawkins. I’ll return to it in a future post.

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