Ramblings about what I encounter within the realm of the geosciences, as well as the occasional rant about nonsense.

24 November 2009

Origin 150th Anniversary

Today is the 150th Anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species". I figured I would be able to quickly find a story and post a link and be done with it. Sadly, it is not that easy. Doing a quick news search yielded a top hit titled "Darwin Debate Rages on 150 Years After Origin". Of course the media has to trot out this canard.
Even 150 years after it first appeared in print, Charles Darwin's "On The Origin of Species" still fuels clashes between scientists convinced of its truth and critics who reject its view of life without a creator.
Really? This is a sad day for journalism indeed. I feel it is important to note that 'critic' must have been redefined to 'any boob pushing superstition'. I know that our media has this odd notion that objective journalism must include both sides of an issue, but that presupposes that reality has more than one valid view. Evolution says nothing about religion, nor should it attempt to. Science stays strictly in the natural world. Any attempt to move beyond the natural world moves beyond the realm of science.

The article moves on:
[N]o consensus is in sight, probably because Darwinian evolution is both a powerful scientific theory describing how life forms develop through natural selection and a basis for philosophies and social views that often include atheism.
Natural Selection is not synonymous with Social Darwinism or Atheism (and Atheism is also not synonymous with Social Darwinism, nor is Atheism 'evil'). This is a logical fallacy known as 'Poisoning the Well'. Essentially, the author is attempting to blame science for people abusing science. Science can make no moral judgment. Science is merely a self-correcting examination of the natural world. Science takes no philosophical position, but ignores philosophy by and large.

The rest of the article moves further away from the anything relevant to "On the Origin of Species". It begins to talk about Islam and Intelligent Design. They don't even quote an evolutionary biologist, or historian of science in this article. What? Were they all on vacation? How about a neat article on how Natural Selection is as important (maybe more important) to Biology as Plate Tectonics is to Geology.

All this pandering to insecure superstitious saps seems to have made me a bit glum. Since I want to end on a positive note, here is a beautifully elegant image to complement Darwin's sketch of the Tree of Life. I, and I assume many other bloggers, saw Evogeneao's booth at the GSA conference in Portland, OR. It is an amazingly cool conceptualization of the tree of life.
Happy 150th Anniversary Origin.


Garry Hayes said...

We both attacked the "giving both sides" canard in journalism at about the same moment (http://geotripper.blogspot.com/2009/11/disasters-literary-and-literal.html). Good article!

Bryan said...

Haha, so we did.

It must, hopefully, be reaching a tipping point. With any luck journalistic integrity will kick in and people will realize that it isn't good journalism to give the kooks equal footing with rational experts.

BrianR said...

I saw that article and felt the same way ... you nicely articulated the problems.

And thanks for the Tree of Life link, I hadn't seen that yet.

Graham said...

But surely.. :-D

To attempt to live, or to assert that one lives, without reference to philosophy (for example, to assume or deduce the non-existence of god) is itself a philosophical position?

To practice science while predicating either the non-existence of god or the irrelevance of god to science, is surly itself a philosophical position?

If any god exists, as creator of all that is (and any 'god' conceived as not-being-the-creator is not in my terms god at all), then the attempted Gouldian segregation of science and religion into non-overlapping realms dissolves. For could god create without giving indications about himself in the material world, and would a god-created material reality not legitimately be expected to differ from a non-god-created reality?

The attempt to step outside philosophy in one's thinking is, I submit, self-contradictory.. a canard. Why some people would wish to do so, or to assert that they have done so, is an interesting question!

Is it not an attempt to lay claim to a superior objectivity, to impress and influence others by one's opinions, as if they were not subjective interpretations of facts like anyone else's - a form of browbeating (or chest-thumping) primate social-dominance display?

Bryan said...

Overlooked my commenting policy I see. No worries, I 'get it', it is below a long list of other blogs I link to, so you probably overlooked it in your eagerness to do a bit of 'chest-thumping' yourself. Here it is [with a bit of pertinent emphasis]:

"It it is the policy of ITV to allow comments on this blog. However, I reserve the right to delete comments that are deemed off topic or abusive. I also reserve the right to moderate comments. After 12 weeks comment moderation is automatically turned on, and comments will be posted at my discretion. This isn't meant to discourage comments on older posts, it merely provides me the opportunity to refresh myself on a thread before a discussion continues. Thank you for your interest in In Terra Veritas".

Existing, or claiming to exist, outside of philosophical reference has nothing to do with the media falsely claiming there is a valid scientific controversy regarding natural selection and evolution, and it has nothing to do with the sentiment 'Yay! It's been an arbitrary number of years since Origin of Species was first published'.

As this is only your first infraction, I will let it slide this time.

I didn't say I exist outside philosophy, I only said "[Science] ignores philosophy by and large". This is to say, science only 'exists' in a realm where claims can be empirically tested and potentially disproved. This misunderstanding, on your part, creates a straw-man which invalidates the rest of this line of argument.

Your paragraph about the existence or non-existence of god is a red-herring (doubly so since your entire post is a red-herring). God's existence, or lack thereof, is irrelevant to asserting one lives without reference to philosophy.

Additionally, as there is only this one reality available for us to test, we can't test your assertion that a 'god-created reality' differs from a 'non-god-created reality'. Therefore, it also isn't science. (not to mention an 'all-powerful god' should be able to do whatever it feels like, including creating a reality identical to a 'non-god-created reality'). However, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out a 'non-god-created reality' is more parsimonious.

If you want to post further comments here, I suggest you stay within the bounds of the original post's topic. Which, in this case, is: the media didn't write a good article ('balance' does not equate with 'objective reporting') and Happy 150th anniversary Origin of Species.


All the Latin on this page is from my vague recollections from High School. There are mistakes in the text. I just was trying to get the point across

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM
The photo of the travertine spring was taken in the small opening in the center of the image.

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