Darwin-L Message Log 41: 26–39 — January 1997
Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences
Darwin-L was an international discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences, active from 1993–1997. Darwin-L was established to promote the reintegration of a range of fields all of which are concerned with reconstructing the past from evidence in the present, and to encourage communication among scholars, scientists, and researchers in these fields. The group had more than 600 members from 35 countries, and produced a consistently high level of discussion over its several years of operation. Darwin-L was not restricted to evolutionary biology nor to the work of Charles Darwin, but instead addressed the entire range of historical sciences from an explicitly comparative perspective, including evolutionary biology, historical linguistics, textual transmission and stemmatics, historical geology, systematics and phylogeny, archeology, paleontology, cosmology, historical geography, historical anthropology, and related “palaetiological” fields.
This log contains public messages posted to the Darwin-L discussion group during January 1997. It has been lightly edited for format: message numbers have been added for ease of reference, message headers have been trimmed, some irregular lines have been reformatted, and error messages and personal messages accidentally posted to the group as a whole have been deleted. No genuine editorial changes have been made to the content of any of the posts. This log is provided for personal reference and research purposes only, and none of the material contained herein should be published or quoted without the permission of the original poster.
The master copy of this log is maintained in the Darwin-L Archives (rjohara.net/darwin) by Dr. Robert J. O’Hara. The Darwin-L Archives also contain additional information about the Darwin-L discussion group, the complete Today in the Historical Sciences calendar for every month of the year, a collection of recommended readings on the historical sciences, and an account of William Whewell’s concept of “palaetiology.”
---------------------------------------------- DARWIN-L MESSAGE LOG 41: 26-39 -- JANUARY 1997 ---------------------------------------------- DARWIN-L A Network Discussion Group on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences Darwin-L@raven.cc.ukans.edu is an international network discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences. Darwin-L was established in September 1993 to promote the reintegration of a range of fields all of which are concerned with reconstructing the past from evidence in the present, and to encourage communication among academic professionals in these fields. Darwin-L is not restricted to evolutionary biology nor to the work of Charles Darwin but instead addresses the entire range of historical sciences from an interdisciplinary perspective, including evolutionary biology, historical linguistics, textual transmission and stemmatics, historical geology, systematics and phylogeny, archeology, paleontology, cosmology, historical anthropology, historical geography, and related "palaetiological" fields. This log contains public messages posted to Darwin-L during January 1997. It has been lightly edited for format: message numbers have been added for ease of reference, message headers have been trimmed, some irregular lines have been reformatted, and some administrative messages and personal messages posted to the group as a whole have been deleted. No genuine editorial changes have been made to the content of any of the posts. This log is provided for personal reference and research purposes only, and none of the material contained herein should be published or quoted without the permission of the original poster. The master copy of this log is maintained on the Darwin-L Web Server at http://rjohara.uncg.edu. For instructions on how to retrieve copies of this and other log files, and for additional information about Darwin-L and the historical sciences, connect to the Darwin-L Web Server or send the e-mail message INFO DARWIN-L to firstname.lastname@example.org. Darwin-L is administered by Robert J. O'Hara (email@example.com), Center for Critical Inquiry in the Liberal Arts and Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A., and it is supported by the Center for Critical Inquiry, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the Department of History and the Academic Computing Center, University of Kansas. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:26>From KOLB@ucla.edu Mon Jan 6 17:21:42 1997 Date: Mon, 6 Jan 1997 15:21:39 -0800 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Jack Kolb <KOLB@ucla.edu> Subject: Johnson on Lewontin It would be nice if Professor Johnson were a disinterested party. He's not: for a record of his interestedness, consult, for instance, the SKEPTIC list (information available upon request). Jack Kolb Dept. of English, UCLA email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:27>From firstname.lastname@example.org Mon Jan 6 08:07:41 1997 Date: Mon, 6 Jan 1997 09:07:38 -0500 (EST) From: John Staddon <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Lewontin in NY Review of Books Cc: email@example.com RESOLVED, that we should accept scientific materialism as the only begetter of truth, and hence reject as irrational all explanations for our existence that invoke a supernatural cause. It is not that we know that materialism is true because of any facts that science has discovered. Rather, our *a priori* adherence to materialism requires us to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations -- no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. We cannot countenance the existence of an omnipotent deity, because that would imply that miracles may happen." ------------------------- I enjoyed Philip Johnson's post, but his penultimate paragraph (above) is indefensible. I believe he is right that advocates for science believe things that cannot be proved. Science is not "entirely rational," whatever that means. What science depends on are the following three unprovable beliefs namely that (a) there is an external reality that remains the same across time; (b) that it follows laws (this is almost the same as (a)); and (c) that some, perhaps all, these laws can be discovered by the methods of science. But science does not, need not -- and can not -- assert that every "true" thing can be discovered by the methods of science. As for "materialism" all that science requires is that its explanations be susceptible to some kind of test, not that they be "materialistic". One is perfectly free to explain nature by the action of angels, so long as (a) the angels follow definable laws and (b) these laws can be tested. As I understand it, religious accounts by definition are not susceptible to test: religion requires faith. Indeed, that is almost a defintion of religion. But Johnson is right in implying that science also requires faith. The difference is just faith in _what_? Science requires only faith in an orderly universe, not in any specific form of universe -- but it's faith just the same. John Staddon firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:28>From KOLB@ucla.edu Tue Jan 7 21:02:08 1997 Date: Tue, 7 Jan 1997 19:01:41 -0800 To: email@example.com From: Jack Kolb <KOLB@ucla.edu> Subject: Review of _Reason in the Balance_ I thought this might be of interest to the list after Professor Johnson's post on Lewontin and Sagan. Jack Kolb Dept. of English, UCLA firstname.lastname@example.org >Date: Tue, 7 Jan 1997 21:46:22 -0500 >From: email@example.com (SKEPTIC List Owner) >To: firstname.lastname@example.org >Cc: "John Forester" <email@example.com> >Subject: Review of _Reason in the Balance_ > > Here's a review by John Forester, who gave me permission to >post it. I'll put a (very) short version in our bibliography. > >------- Start of forwarded message ------- > >*Unbalanced Reason*, a review of Phillip E. Johnson's *Reason in the >Balance: The Case Against NATURALISM in Science, Law, and Education;* >Intervarsity Press; 1995; 245 pgs including notes, appendix, and index. >By John Forester, copyright 1997 John Forester > > Johnson pretends that he is presenting an argument for reason, >rationality, and intellectual fair play, but in fact his book contains >much that is intellectually dishonest special pleading for >Christianity. In his most obvious flaw, Johnson makes much of the fact >that all events in evolutionary history have not been demonstrated to >scientific satisfaction, arguing that certain events require a >designer. From this argument, which can be discussed on the basis of >reason and knowledge, he jumps, without any further discussion, to >quoting St. Paul's Letter to the Romans as justification for his >views. A designer of genetic information, or a designer of the >universe, is not necessarily the god that Christians worship. It could >equally be any of the creator gods described by any human religion, or >not yet described at all. There is neither a priori nor empirical >evidence available to decide whether any of these is the true >designer, even if one is. In short, Johnson is not following reason to >its logical or empirical ends but is merely berating science because >science has practically dismissed his favored Christian religion. > > Johnson is not a fundamentalist; he frequently berates naturalists >(scientists) for arguing against fundamental Christianity as if it >were the normal form of Christianity instead of being a variant that >is easy to disprove. (However, at no point does he describe just what >parts of Christianity he chooses to believe.) The position of both >parties is understandable. Because fundamentalists have presented the >loudest challenge to science ever since Darwin, aiming to get their >version of Christianity ensconced in the schools and in government, >naturalists see them as the typical opponents. Johnson, however, aims >to resuscitate the more moderate versions of Christianity that have, >in his opinion, committed the fatal error of following the false >principle of separating scientific knowledge from religious knowledge >and allowing independent spaces for each. I say resuscitate, because >Johnson argues, I think correctly, that the naturalistic view >practically prohibits any useful space for religion. > > Along his way, Johnson commits many more intellectual >dishonesties. He refers to his earlier argument (in *Darwin on Trial*) >that "science has not shown that biological creation either can or did >occur by the Darwinian mechanism, or by any other unintelligent and >unguided process. ... I felt no obligation to offer my own theory >about how life was created in the first place, or how complicated >things like plants and animals might have evolved from simpler >organisms - if indeed they did." He does not show that science has >shown that it is impossible for complex organisms to have arisen from >simpler organisms, only that science has shown neither the precise >mechanism nor an actual example, despite showing that change and >selection do occur (which he admits), and showing that the same theory >would account for the development of more complicated organisms from >simpler ones. Instead of making the assumption that further work will >disclose more knowledge of the same kind, he makes the assumption that >what we have not yet discovered is the work of the Christian god. The >assumption of naturalism is at least consonant with what is now known; >the assumption that complex evolution is the work of the god of the >Christians is something for which there is no evidence whatever. Since >Johnson is not a fundamentalist, he cannot formally argue that the >evidence exists in the Bible, yet he argues as if it were. > > Johnson opens his book with analysis of two legal cases, Lambs's >Chapel and Edwards. In Lamb's the Supreme Court held that school >boards must permit the after-school showing of James Dobson's films >about family values, despite their religious basis, because family >values was a school subject and to prohibit one view would be >viewpoint discrimination. In Edwards the Supreme Court rejected >Louisiana's attempt to require teaching "creation science" as >sincerely as teaching evolution, because that would be teaching >religion. Johnson argues that both cases should have been decided in >favor of religious presentation: "neither the Supreme Court nor the >legal community in general understood that the two case were >profoundly similar, although apparently quite different." Johnson >reaches that view by holding that creationism is as valid a view in >the field of science as Christian values are in the field of family >values. Is that so? Family values are in strong debate and are not >strongly susceptible to scientific analysis; a Christian viewpoint may >be as valid as a Hindu one. On the other hand, evolution is a >scientific subject in which there is strong, although not complete, >evidence for the neo-Darwin synthesis, and there is no scientific >evidence for the kind of creation Johnson advocates, and much evidence >against the kind of Biblical creationism that was the object of >Louisiana's legislators. > > Johnson argues against the distinction between science and religion. >"This distinction is superficial, however, because the validity of >religious morality is inextricably linked to the validity of the >factual propositions that support it. If God really did create us >'male and female,' and intended male and female to play different >roles in the family, and intended sexual intercourse to be confined to >the marital relationship, then the system of traditional family >morality makes sense. In that case the new sexual morality taught in >the progressive curriculum is inconsistent with reality and likely to >end in frustration and misery." Sure, Johnson puts in the necessary >`if,' but he argues as if that if did not exist. Social science is not >as sharp and definite as is physics, but its better practitioners try >to operate on the basis of observation, experiment, and explanation in >the scientific manner, while Johnson advocates propositions for which >there is no supporting evidence whatever. > > Johnson writes that the United States used to have an established >religion, a generalized Protestantism, although not an established >church, and that now we have changed to a new established religion, >`scientific naturalism and liberal rationalism,'" a phrase he often >shortens to "modernism." Johnson lists "a formidable list of >advantages and justifications [for modernism], but in the end >everything depends on the first argument: the God of Christian theism >and of the Bible is unreal, the product of a pre-scientific human >imagination. Grant that premise, and everything else follows. But >reject that premise, and everything on the list becomes doubtful." >Johnson prejudicially misstates naturalism's premise. That premise is >that all gods and all supernatural events in religious books are >unreal. There is no reason to reject that premise, and many reasons >for retaining it. If one irrationally does reject it, then one is left >with a multiplicity of mutually incompatible gods and events, from >which no morality can be derived. > > Johnson considers the "Grand Metaphysical Story of Science." In >doing so, he spends considerable space decrying (making fun of is too >broad a description) the physicists' "theory of everything," as if >this was intended to cover biological and social sciences also. The >Grand Unified Theory, if it is discovered in the future, will merely >tie together the ultimately small particles and the known forces, all >the items with which particle physicists are concerned. Only in that >sense do they call it the "theory of everything," and it has no >practical connection, or even proposed theoretical connection, with >other sciences, physical or social. > > Johnson criticizes the basis of rational thought: "the only >validation of the mind's reasoning power that science can provide is >Darwin's principle of natural selection ... But one cannot avoid the >problem of self-reference by invoking another theory in this >way. Darwin's theory is just another product of the human mind, whose >reasoning is still governed by the hypothetical theory of everything, >so the problem of reliability is merely displaced rather than solved." >At another place he argues that "the existence of conscious, reasoning >minds has no logical connection to a natural order ... that cares for >nothing but survival and reproduction and therefore ought to have been >satisfied with cockroaches and weeds." Instead of considering the >development of minds that are tested and selected by the accuracy with >which they observe and understand reality, Johnson proposes that the >only valid source of minds is that they are created in the image of a >rational creator. Again, Johnson dismisses an hypothesis for which >there is considerable observational and theoretical support and >proposes something for which there is no support beyond semantic >nonsense. > > The grand metaphysical story of science, in Johnson's view, is that >everything in the natural world is capable of being explained in >naturalistic terms, even though not everything has yet been so >explained. "Modernism rests on the grand metaphysical story of >science, and the degree to which the story has been successfully told >rests largely on the Darwinian theory of evolution. For scientific >naturalists the story and the theory are virtually sacrosanct, but >theistic realist can afford to take a critical look at both." > > Johnson distinguishes biological variation from >speciation. Variation is "the capacity of [various species] to vary >within limits, not of a process capable of creating [various >species]." He admits that Darwinian selection operates on variation, >but asserts that it is not the cause of speciation. He criticizes >Dawkin's account of the creation of the wing that makes a bat a bat. I >summarize. Many mutations would be required. Since most mutations are >unfavorable, there must be many more mutations that occur without >killing off the species. The selective advantage of being on the road >to flight is not strong enough to cause selection in the first place. >Consider Johnson's arguments. There is plenty of time for a sufficient >number of mutations. Unfavorable mutations occur frequently in all >species today, and those individuals with them are selected out >without killing off the species. The selective advantage of being on >the road to flying must be considerable, because there have been so >many kinds of flying or near- flying organisms: many insects, >pterodactyls, birds, bats, flying fish, flying squirrels, baby spiders >(flying on spider-web kites), in the animal kingdom. Plant seeds that >are dispersed by flying on the wind should be included also. The >particular cases of flying fish and flying squirrels have particular >significance. Neither species actually flies, but both are on the road >to flying because of the advantages that this near flight provides >them. The flying fish leaves the water and is supported, for a time, >by aerodynamic means as a glider, in order to escape predatory fish. >The flying squirrel glides downward from branch to branch, using the >skin stretched between front and hind legs as his airfoil, thereby >achieving greater mobility and escape from predators, just like the >hypothetical primitive bat. Rather than consider such matters, Johnson >postulates a mechanism for which there is no evidence whatever. > > Johnson plays with the "differing evolutionary theories of Gould and >Dawkins" to argue against evolution in general. These theories "cannot >be resolved, because the observations that scientists have been making >are at odds with the presuppositions of the blind watchmaker thesis." >I say that Johnson plays with the differences because I think that he >seriously misstates the real discussion. Dawkins considers the genetic >mechanism by which evolution operates, while Gould observes the >results of that evolution in complete organisms. Dawkins considers the >gradual change over time produced by mutations in genetic code, while >Gould considers the effect of such changes when the organism is >subjected to different levels of selection pressure. A species subject >to intense competition may die out by having no survivors. Instead, if >it has few survivors, then it will develop because those few survivors >will be those that are best suited to a very difficult >environment. Also, a species that finds itself next to an unoccupied >environmental niche is likely to have some of its individuals living >in that niche, and thereby developing different characteristics from >the original population, and therefore starting on the way to becoming >a different species. (The process known as radiation of species.) >Contrary to what Johnson tries to make out, there is no >incompatibility between the two explanations of Dawkins and Gould. > > Johnson argues that in the support of modernism and the opposition >to theism, "the issue is one of cultural power and intimidation, not >truth," quoting Nancey Murphy's *Theology in the Age of Scientific >Reasoning*."Many Christians in science, philosophy, and theology are >still haunted by the idea of a `God of the gaps.' ... Many Christians >are wary of invoking divine action in any way in science, especially >in biology, fearing that science will advance, providing the >naturalistic explanations that will make God appear once again to have >been an unnecessary hypothesis." Contrary to Johnson's argument, that >position looks to me more like being afraid of the truth rather than >fear of intimidation. > > Johnson argues that the National Academy of Sciences invalidated the >theory that living chemicals evolved from non-living chemicals by >invoking Darwinian selection. He comments: "even though Darwinian >selection by its very nature can appear only when life processes (use >of nutrients and reproduction) are already in existence." He does not >understand that a very simple chemical combination, in the absence of >more developed life forms, can operate processes of extending itself >to encompass more material, which becomes reproducing itself. We don't >observe this operation today because more developed life forms have >used up all the energetic chemicals that make simple processes >possible. > > Having demolished the basis of naturalism, as he thinks, Johnson >then moves into more abstract and more social areas. His first >excursion is into philosophy. He argues that the traditional values >taught in universities are based on "objective standards of >`rationality, intelligence, truth, validity, and general intellectual >merit.'" (The interior quotation is from John Searle's lecture *Is >There A Crisis in American Higher Education?") In contrast to the >traditional values, he argues that "postmodernism, deconstruction, >radical feminism, ... Afrocentrists, gender feminists, gay >liberationists, ... [the works of] deconstructionist literary critic >Jacques Derrida and philosophers Thomas Kuhn and Richard Rorty" all >are based on naturalism. The argument seems to be peculiar, to say the >least. The objective standards are those of the naturalistic school, >describing those things that can be measured, while the rantings of >the others (I think that he accepts a popular but prejudiced >misstatement of Kuhn's thesis, something that he practically admits) >are the result of unscientific theorizing without checking by >observation or experiment. Johnson describes Rorty's philosophy as >"philosophers don't provide accounts that mirror how the world is, >because the whole idea of language mirroring or corresponding to >reality is flawed from the beginning." Johnson likes the traditional >school and its values, and dislikes the politically correct school, >but because he advocates a hypothesis that is just as absurd as those >of the afrocentrists and the literary deconstructionists, he has to >try to find an argument that puts him on the side of the angels when >he belongs among those whom he despises. I think that the attempt >fails. > > Johnson's next excursion is into his own specialty of law, >concentrating on abortion, family values and individual responsibility >From what he considers to be a natural law perspective. By natural >law, Johnson means a law that is based on real moral principles. He >asserts that "given the scientific understanding of reality, natural >law in a normative sense cannot exist." A large part of his discussion >concerns family values, responsibility for one's children and toward >society, in which he asserts that if a scientific understanding of >reality is used as the guide, there can be no moral reason to support >one's children or to work for the combination of individual reward and >societal support. The statement is absurd. If we know, for example by >scientific study, the consequences of fatherless children and lazy >adults, then we have a good basis for laws that reduce and ameliorate >these conditions. That is what I would consider a natural basis for >law. In the same way, Johnson argues that the abortion question cannot >be decided in a scientific manner, but must be decided on the basis of >his natural law. This also is absurd. The abortion question can be >decided on the basis of scientific knowledge about the development of >the person, and possibly about the method of abortion or infanticide >that may be used, call it what you will. The reason that the current >decision is still controversial is not the lack of scientific >knowledge but the refusal of some persons to accept it, making claims >that are not scientific at all. Having argued against basing laws on >the scientific view of reality and for natural law, Johnson's actual >recommendations show how difficult it is to sustain such a view in the >field in which one is as expert as Johnson is in his own field of >law. "The way to reduce a moral deficit is to reinforce the sense of >duty, honor and prudence - and to discourage the impression that `the >world owes me a living.' Fortunately, this can be done not by lying to >people or manipulating them, but by telling them the truth about the >human condition." That is, to use our knowledge of objective reality >as the moral basis of law. Johnson's own argument, made when >considering his own specialty, denies the thesis of his arguments made >in the rest of the book about subjects in which he is not an expert. > > Johnson deplores what he considers to be the modern liberal >education, which he sees as the avoidance of authoritarianism in the >effort "to produce self-defining adults who choose their own values >and lifestyles from among a host of alternatives. ... Liberal >educators aim to free the children under their care from what they see >as authoritarian parents, meaning parents who have traditional views >of gender roles or religious morality." Johnson obviously considers >this aim to be bad, which shows the narrow-mindedness of his >reasoning. Would he support parents who teach their children that >polygamy is appropriate? Or want their daughters subjected to >clitoridectomy? Or arranged and compelled marriages? Or sold into >servitude? Or simply sold for a bride price? Or able to be divorced >merely by having the husband say the magic words thrice? Or ethnic >cleansing of Bosnians (or Serbians) is a desirable career? These are >all "traditional views of gender roles or religious morality," to use >Johnson's own words when describing the category of things that he >deplores changing. When he wrote his words he wasn't thinking any >further than complaining that his Christian values were being >subverted by scientific knowledge and a scientific view of the world. > > As one would expect, sex education arouses Johnson's prejudiced >ire. In summary, he considers that it encourages premarital and >adulterous sexual activity, without offering any data on the >subject. Johnson clearly favors a policy of sexual ignorance, in the >hope that thereby sexual intercourse will retain an air of special >exclusiveness that will prop up marriage. Again, he offers no data >that this occurs. > > Johnson's discussion of the different ways used in teaching of >values and of scientific knowledge well illustrates his thought. He >writes that modernists teach values by asking children to consider >moral problems that are beyond their maturity, thus encouraging >relativism and "tend[ing] to train the students in rationalizing >whatever they are inclined to do." On the other hand, he writes that >modernists teach evolution without allowing discussion, on the grounds >that thereby "people without scientific training - fourteen-year-old >students, for example - are asked to decide a complex issue on partial >evidence." The appropriate ages or academic maturity at which to >introduce children to complex ideas and to complicated knowledge is >worthy of much discussion, but Johnson fails to do this. He merely >sees the modern teaching practice as perverse, because he sees proper >values and morals as fixed while he considers the theory of evolution >to be so questionable that it is a proper subject for debate by young >people without scientific training. As I have commented before, there >is considerable empiric and theoretical evidence for evolution, and >practically none against, except that it hasn't yet explained >everything within its compass. We can understand, even Johnson >should, by his own arguments, the educators' reluctance to accept >debate when teaching about evolution, because the points that >school-children raise are the thoroughly discredited Biblical >literalist errors that even Johnson argues against. On the other >hand, Johnson's values and moral principles (except when he bases them >on empiric data in his chapter on the law) have no factual support >whatever; they come from the supernatural world. > > Johnson writes that universities hold religion in contempt, but >enforce their contempt inequitably, giving two examples. Bishop taught >exercise physiology to prospective teachers of physical education at U >of Alabama. In class he stated that he was a dedicated Christian, >"made no secret of his skepticism about the orthodox doctrine that the >human body evolved by purely naturalistic and material processes such >as random mutation and natural selection." He invited students to >participate in "a voluntary, after-hours meeting at which he lectured >on `evidences of God in human physiology.'" (Internal quotation >evidently from court records.) The administration ordered Bishop to >cease; Bishop challenged in court, and lost. Johnson writes that the >court opinion in the Bishop case expressed sarcasm, and implied >dishonesty, although in my opinion it merely states the facts. The >other case concerned Schaefer, a world-famous quantum chemist at U of >Georgia. Schaefer, an evangelical Christian, gives "voluntary, >after-hours classes to students in which he explains his Christian >faith and approach to science, including his skepticism toward some of >the claims made about evolution." Some other professors tried to ban >religious advocacy from the campus, but "the university's president >ruled that Schaefer was exercising his right of free speech and thus >avoided the embarrassment of proceeding against Georgia's most >prestigious scientist on the ground that he was violating the canons >of scientific orthodoxy." There is a great difference between the two >cases but, in his desire to show the maltreatment of Christianity, >Johnson fails to see it. Bishop introduced the subject of >Christianity during his class and then, after hours, lectured on the >connection between Christianity his subject. Students in Bishop's >class could easily conclude that if they were to learn the knowledge >necessary to pass his examination they would be wise to attend his >supposedly voluntary classes. Schaefer, on the other hand, taught >chemistry, did not mention Christianity in class, and in after-hours >discussions he explained his approach to science and his skepticism >about evolution, neither of which has much connection to >chemistry. There is no indication that any student of chemistry would >conclude from this behavior that it would be wise to attend Schaefer's >religious discussions. > > Johnson concludes with what he considers to be an appeal to truth >and reason. Under the heading of `First Principles,'he writes: "But >what is the truth about first principles? If it is that the universe >was created by God for a purpose, the truth claims of Jesus Christ may >well be credible and meaningful." Truth, in his sense, includes more >than the natural world because he regards as arbitrary scientism the >act of defining science to exclude the supernatural. "To ask whether >theism or naturalism is true is therefore to move the discussion onto >ground where theists are more comfortable than naturalists. In fact, >one way to define theism is that it is a story about the universe that >proclaims the reality of the true, the good and the beautiful. It is >these things, and not the unified physical theory envisaged by the >`theory of everything' physicists, that are the starting point for >those who want to know the mind of God." > > Johnson's claims are unreasonable and prejudiced. If the universe >and living organisms were created by an individual for a purpose, >which is the only claim that Johnson has been arguing from a >scientific viewpoint, then it does not follow that we know anything >about that creator or his purposes. There is no evidence that mankind >has learned the explanation, and if that explanation does exist among >the many religious explanations that mankind has devised, we have no >evidence to show which one it is. As for Johnson's scornful reference >to the `theory of everything:' as I wrote above, that catchphrase >concerns only particle physics, not the entire physical and social >world that we recognize. As to truth, goodness, and beauty, there are >good reasons for including them in the natural world. Truth is >largely agreement between statement and reality, a cardinal virtue >within the naturalistic system that Johnson says cannot contain truth. >(Truth may also be agreement between statements, a semantic virtue.) >As for goodness, in his chapter on his specialty of law, Johnson >himself defined that by reference to objective reality: "by telling >them the truth about the human condition." As for beauty, secular >investigators have gone a considerable way toward an encompassing >theory by explaining that many of our impressions of beauty refer to >biologically beneficial conditions. In short, secular investigators >have done far more than Johnson is willing to admit is possible >towards a theory of the good life that does not involve supernatural >concepts. For Johnson to fail (or more likely to refuse, considering >his education), to recognize that secular thought has accomplished so >much, and to thereby postulate the Christian religion, is merely >evidence of unbalanced reason. > >John Forester >firstname.lastname@example.org 726 Madrone Ave. >408-734-9426 Sunnyvale, CA 94086-3041 > >------- End of forwarded message ------- _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:29>From email@example.com Thu Jan 9 04:07:24 1997 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Date: Thu, 9 Jan 1997 11:03:29 +0200 Subject: non-selective forces in evolution In the message Lewontin in NY Review of Books I read something awkward: Dawkins's vulgarizations of Darwinism speak of nothing in evolution but an inexorable ascendancy of genes that are selectively superior, while the entire body of technical advance in experimental and theoretical evolutionary genetics of the last fifty years has moved in the direction of emphasizing *non-selective forces in evolution*. [my emphasis] As an artificial intelligence student, I am of course a layman on biology topics. Though, I must say, I am very interested in evolution. Authors just like Dawkins with books like The Blind Watchmaker fed my curiosity. Evolution is change - its direction is determined by natural (or artificial in case of breeding) selection. So screaming something like *non-selective forces in evolution* to me seems to be at most a contradictio in terminis or at least an argument that still does not undermine the value of selection as decisive element in evolution - not any Divine Being. When these non-selective forces do influence ;-) fitness, then they are selective forces after all. (I can imagine forces like gravity inhibiting human legs to become 2 meters or more.) When these forces do not have any direct nor indirect influence, how can they be interesting to the phenomenon of evolution? Are biologist looking for the 'embodiment' of natural selection?! Is Dawkins actually being scorned for his extension of darwinism to universal darwinism? Is that the issue Lewontin makes when he says they each of whom has put *unsubstantiated assertions or counter- factual claims* at the very center of the stories they have retailed in the market. [my emphasis added] I have read Plotkin's The Nature of Knowledge and Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. In my opinion they both provide means to eventually put artificial intelligence on a firm scientific basis. It turnes out Nature made some decent inventions in order to solve problems locally, which in the end have global effects. Please take into account the moboticist movement of Brooks et al. at the MIT AI Lab. Think of neural nets (and Edelman's Neural Darwinism!), genetic algorithms, genetic programming, artificial life - all inspired by biology, with evolution by natural selection as its central concept. Dear readers of Darwin-L, could you help me out as I am very confused now. Joost Jonker firstname.lastname@example.org [home page under construction] student artificial intelligence Utrecht University, Netherlands Post Scriptum: This is the first time I sent a message to your mailing list. I have not formally introduced myself, but as the list itself is pretty informal, I hope you do not have a problem with it. If you were to have any questions on whoever I might be - of course, I would be pleased to answer them. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:30>From GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu Thu Jan 9 13:16:34 1997 Date: Thu, 9 Jan 1997 11:16:13 -0800 (PST) From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: THE CRITICISM OF THE FUTURE A good account of the lapse into tautological language by biologist when defining 'fitness' can be found in A. Rosenberg, _The Structure of Biological Science_ Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, pp. 126-128. The fallacies of scientistic uses of 'bean-bag' genetics has been widely discussed by folks like D. Hull, M. Ghiselin, and R. Lewontin, among many others. Ghiselin hits the nail on the head when he writes of mathematical population geneticists having "In the fianal analysis .. simply hypostatized their methodology." Some of the issue involved are well discussed in A. Rosenberg, _Instrumental Biology or the Disunity of Science_ Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1993. See also my 1992 paper "Insuperable Limits to Reduction in Biology", available on the Web at: http://members.aol.com/gregransom/biolimits.htm Greg Ransom Dept. of Philosophy UC-Riverside firstname.lastname@example.org http://members.aol.com/gregransom/ransom.htm _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:31>From email@example.com Thu Jan 9 16:11:47 1997 Date: Thu, 9 Jan 1997 17:10:57 -0500 (EST) From: Bayla Singer <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Archeological find? To: email@example.com John Schooley might be well served by posting his message to firstname.lastname@example.org That is a history of technology list, read by a diverse and international group of scholars. I would have forwarded the message, but my system couldn't handle the attachments; I would suggest that if he does post to htech-l, the "sketch" etc be rendered in ascii characters and sent as part of the message. I send this message to the whole list, since questions of this sort have appeared with some frequency on darwin-l. --Bayla email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:32>From GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu Fri Jan 10 13:22:12 1997 Date: Fri, 10 Jan 1997 11:21:58 -0800 (PST) From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu> To: DARWIN-L@RAVEN.CC.UKANS.EDU Subject: historical phen. of human institutions I'd like to recommend several recent surveys of the contemporary literature within economics departments aiming to provide explanatory strategies for dealing with human institutions, esp. in the context of exchange & production phenomena. These are: Malcom Rutherford, _Institutions in Economics: The Old and the New Institutionalism_, Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1994. Jack Vromen, _Economic Evolution: An Enquiry Into the Foundations of the New Institutional Economics_ London: Routledge, 1995. Thomas Rawski, et al, _Economics and the Historian_, Los Angeles: U. of California Press, 1996. I particularly recommend Rutherford's outstanding survey of institutional economics, both old and new. I'd also like to recommend for those interested in the evolution and historical explanation of networks of human linguistic and symbolic significance P.M.S. Hacker's outstanding account of Wittgenstein and the history of 20th century British philosophy found in his new _Wittgenstein's Place in Twenteith-Century Analytic Philosophy_ Oxford: Blackwell, 1996. Hacker is particularly effective is debunking and refuting the strawman arguments which have been targeted at the Oxford philosophers and the later work of Wittgenstein, which has become embedded in so much of the contemporary lore of the American philosophers. The book also provides an effective account of the case against the picture of language and symbolic significance embedded in the work of Quine and his followers, and along with it the picture of knowledge and science built within it. Highly recommended. Greg Ransom Dept. of Philosophy UC-Riverside firstname.lastname@example.org http://members.aol.com/gregransom/ransom.htm _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:33>From email@example.com Fri Jan 10 18:33:05 1997 Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: non-selective forces in evolution Date: Fri, 10 Jan 1997 19:32:31 EST From: Joshua Lederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: email@example.com re your reaction to Lewontin: <<<< " Dawkins's vulgarizations of Darwinism speak of nothing in evolution but an inexorable ascendancy of genes that are selectively superior, while the entire body of technical advance in experimental and theoretical evolutionary genetics of the last fifty years has moved in the direction of emphasizing *non-selective forces in evolution*." [my emphasis] >>>> Darwin having laid the principal grounding for the role of natural selection, it is indeed true that many recent advances have restored respect for non-selective factors. That is not to say that natural selection is unimportant, and I would disagree with Lewontin if that were his claim. It is the "nothing but" that gives Lewontin some legitimate basis of complaint. And his "entire body" is a bit strong. If all possible genetic constitutions could be materialized, and each given a comparable exposure to natural selection, one could then lean more strongly to the "nothing but" position. The combinatoric is so huge, one does have to give some attention to the kinetic pathways of its generation -- including genetic control of mutability and pheno-mutators; a lot to drift of nearly neutral mutations under mutational pressure; and a much more detailed consideration of which mutational changes get past the repair systems (and why); and of life cycles, ecological interactions, symbiotic complexes, and so. Historical contingency accounts for as much as we now see as the products of evolution as does any algorithm written in the language of natural selection. I suggest you look at: Aa Sapp, Jan TI Evolution by association: a history of symbiosis. CL 255 p. PP New York: Oxford University Press. DA 1994. Aa Jablonka, Eva Ab Lamb, Marion J TI Epigenetic inheritance and evolution CL 346 p. PP Oxford: Oxford University Press. DA 1995. (and I didn't say I agree with every word here either) --- For a crude example in your field, you'd wait a long time for a successful program if you simply imposed a selective filter on the programs generated by monkeys on the keyboard. I know! -- See 289 Lindsay, Robert K., Buchanan, Bruce G., Feigenbaum, Edward A. and Lederberg, Joshua. Dendral: A Case Study of the First Expert System for Scientific Hypothesis Formation. Artificial Intelligence 61(2): 209-261, 1993. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:34>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Sat Jan 11 16:02:44 1997 Date: Sat, 11 Jan 1997 16:51:32 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Ancient prosopography (fwd from HUMANIST) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro Here's an interesting example of historical research being made available on the web: a database of all individual persons known by name from ancient Athens. Bob O'Hara (email@example.com) --begin forwarded message-------------- Date: Fri, 3 Jan 1997 10:56:24 +0000 () From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> Subject: Athenian prosopography Prosopographers and classicists will be interested to know about the Web page of the Athenians Project, at <http://www.chass.utoronto.ca:8080/attica/> The work of the Project is being published on paper, but the Web site offers the ability to search the growing database. An excellent example of online publishing where it is needed. WM ------------------------------------------------ Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer King's College London / Strand / London WC2R 2LS +44 0171 873-2784 / Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk http://www.kcl.ac.uk/kis/schools/hums/ruhc/wlm/ --end forward message------------------ _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:35>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Thu Jan 16 14:03:56 1997 Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 15:02:31 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Conference on museums and the web (fwd from MUSEUM-L) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro --begin forwarded message-------------- Date: Tue, 14 Jan 1997 12:37:18 -0500 From: "David A. Wallace" <davidw@LIS.PITT.EDU> To: MUSEUM-L@HOME.EASE.LSOFT.COM --------------------------------------------------------------- CONFERENCE PROGRAM AVAILABLE Museums and the Web: An International Conference March 16-19, 1997 Los Angeles, California --------------------------------------------------------------- Archives & Museum Informatics is pleased to announce that the full program for the Museums and the Web conference is available at: www.archimuse.com. The program describes in detail: * Workshops: 14 half-day and 2 full-day. * Sessions: Over 50 papers in 17 sessions (including a Technical Briefings session) by speakers from 13 countries. * Informal Breakfasts: Continental breakfasts will be served Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for unstructured discussions. The conference web site also includes: * Conference and workshop registration forms. * Hotel and travel information. * Sponsorship opportunities. * Exhibition opportunities for the Commercial Exhibition. --end forwarded message---------------- _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:36>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Mon Jan 20 14:34:15 1997 Date: Mon, 20 Jan 1997 15:33:19 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Orphaned collections website (fwd from nhcoll-l) To: email@example.com Organization: University of NC at Greensboro --begin forwarded message-------------- Date: Tue, 7 Jan 1997 21:16:22 -0800 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: ICAL-Paleontology on-line The Interactive Collections Availability List is now operating at www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/ICAL/. This Web Site was funded by the National Science Foundation so that orphaned (no longer wanted by their owners) and underutilized (owners open special collections for study by interested experts and students) fossil collections can be provided with appropriate homes or study. ICAL is designed to post information about such collections and to automatically notify subscribers to the service about them. Anyone can view these records or post new ones, however. The aim is to get those in possession of collections together with those who will properly curate, store or study them. Please take a look at the site. It contains much more information about this subject and how to use the site. If you have or know of collections that are or will become orphaned in the near future, please inform the current owners about ICAL. Such collections may now be in museums, universities, departments, industry, or private hands. Post any collections! This is the final version and it is open for business!! Jere H. Lipps, Director Museum of Paleontology University of California Berkeley, California 94720 USA Voice: 510-642-9006. Fax: 510-642-1822 Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org WWW: http://ucmp1.berkeley.edu/jlipps/jlipps.html --end forwarded message---------------- _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:37>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Mon Jan 20 14:44:59 1997 Date: Mon, 20 Jan 1997 15:30:25 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: CFP: Society for Literature and Science (fwd) To: email@example.com Organization: University of NC at Greensboro --begin forwarded message-------------- Date: Fri, 17 Jan 1997 09:47:10 -0600 (MDT) From: "Ross B. Emmett" <emmer@Corelli.Augustana.AB.CA> Subject: CFP: Society for Literature and Science To: CIRLA-L@vivaldi.Augustana.AB.CA CALL FOR PAPERS, 1997 Meeting of the Society for Literature and Science Marriott Hotel, Pittsburgh City Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 30-November 2, 1997. Instructions for submitting abstracts and proposals are available at http://mickey.la.psu.edu/~hquamen/SLS_97.htm Program Chairs: Susan Squier, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and Richard Nash, email: email@example.com Deadline: February 28, 1997 --end forwarded message---------------- _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:38>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Mon Jan 20 14:54:08 1997 Date: Mon, 20 Jan 1997 15:42:52 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Concluding the thread on materialism (from the list owner) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro Phillip Johnson's response to the series of messages about materialism will follow this message. Johnson's response will conclude this thread, and any further follow-ups should be directed to the individual participants. Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner Robert J. O'Hara (email@example.com) Cornelia Strong College, 100 Foust Building The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A. _______________________________________________________________________________ <41:39>From firstname.lastname@example.org Sun Jan 12 09:00:38 1997 Date: Sun, 12 Jan 1997 06:57:04 -0800 From: Phillip E Johnson <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Lewontin and Materialism To the Darwin List: None of the persons who responded to my message about Richard Lewontin's essay seems to have grasped the point, so I'll respond mainly with a simplified version. The point is to note the difference between (1) the question Lewontin and Carl Sagan argued to the people of Arkansas in 1964; and (2) The question as Lewontin puts it to the readers of the NY Review of Books in 1997. My closing comment drew attention to the likely consequences if the general public were to see the issue as the one Lewontin poses today instead of the issue defined in the 1964 debate. Now let's review a very abridged summary of the essay: The 1964 Debate: Lewontin and Sagan went to Arkansas to debate the positive side of this proposition: "RESOLVED, That the Theory of Evolution is as proved as is the fact that the Earth goes around the sun." There is nothing here about the need to assume a controversial philosophical position, (i.e., materialism) in order to come to the right conclusion. We would not say, for example, that the proof that the Earth goes around the sun depends upon an a priori commitment to materialism. Lewontin presents a much more philosophically-oriented understanding of the question in his NYR essay. In part, this is because he is skeptical of many claims, especially those advanced by Richard Dawkins, which are presented to the public as "fact." He is aware that official science makes promises it can't keep, indulges in hype to increase its budget, and tolerates "just-so" stories that have little basis in real science. Why, then, should we trust science? Here we come to the crucial paragraph: "We take the side of science *in spite of* the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, *in spite of* its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, *in spite of* the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our *a priori* adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen." That's how LEWONTIN poses the issue: Any critics who would prefer to state the relationship between science and materialism otherwise should complain to him. In brief, Lewontin is telling us that scientific materialists like himself ("we") don't believe in materialism because they are convinced by the broad claims of evolution. Rather, it is they other way around. They believe that the entire history of life can be explained by materialistic processes (evolution) because of their prior commitment to materialism. Now do you see how stating the issue this way might have a dramatic effect on the public debate? Biologists have some authority to tell the public the facts of biology. They have no similar authority to tell the public it must adopt materialism as a philosophy. Once the issue is put on philosophical grounds, non-biologists may come into the debate with questions like these: Even assuming that scientists should proceed in strictly professional matters from an a priori adherence to materialism, should non-scientists do the same for other purposes? Assuming that neo-Darwinism really is the best materialistic speculation about the history of life that science can produce, does it follow that the theory is true? Can materialism itself be false? If one scientist argues that organisms are designed by intelligence (Michael Behe), and another says that purposeless material processes are responsible for the appearance of design (Richard Dawkins), is the dispute to be settled by examination of the evidence or by philosophical presupposition? Who has the power to impose a philosophical presupposition on the society, and where did they get that power? All these questions boil down to a single one: "Is materialism the same thing as rationality, or can it be rational to dissent from materialism?" That is the subject of my book *Reason in the Balance.* Lewontin concludes his essay with this comment: "It is not the truth that makes you free. It is your possession of the power to discover the truth. Our dilemma is that we do not know how to provide that power." What Lewontin means by that is that the important thing is not to teach the ordinary people "facts" (or just-so stories a la Dawkins), but to convince them to adopt the correct philosophy -- scientific materialism. In his words: "Rather, the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth." I would say that the way to provide the people with "the power to discover the truth" is to bring the philosophical issue out in the open for public debate, rather than burying it by treating questions like the origin of new complex organs as simple issues of "fact," which science has solved with a demonstrated mechanism. Of course, giving the people the power to discover the truth for themselves is a dangerous course of action. What if the people don't come to the conclusions that Professor Lewontin favors? How is the scientific community to retain control of the situation if citizens are allowed to question the foundations of scientific materialism? That possibility of losing control sometimes introduces a state I call "metaphysical panic" in the minds of followers of the materialist faith. This leads them to make wildly ill-judged statements. Consider, for example, the professor of English at UCLA who divides the world into those who are "disinterested" (i.e., think like himself) and those who are disqualified for being "interested" (i.e., those who think otherwise). Can you imagine how such a naive distinction would be received at a meeting of the Modern Language Association -- or by an acute Marxist like Richard Lewontin? What happened just now on this List, where the moderator quickly shut down the topic (after reading the responses), illustrates the problem of loss of control. Once the metaphysical issue is put on the table, many Darwinists don't know how to approach it as a rational subject for intellectual discussion. They would be well advised to learn, because they will increasingly face outside critics who know the difference between facts and philosophy. Phillip E. Johnson Professor of Law University of California, Berkeley Articles available for download at this web site: http://www.arn.org/arn P.S. I would be glad if someone were to pass this comment on to Professor Lewontin. He is welcome to reply to me personally, and perhaps the moderator would even be tempted to make an exception and pass his reply on to the List. _______________________________________________________________________________ Darwin-L Message Log 41: 26-39 -- January 1997 End
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