Re: Lewontin's Divine Foot

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Wed Sep 24 2003 - 20:53:52 EDT

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    Thanks for the link, to an interesting review that I
    had not read before.

    FWIW, I would not equate superstition with folk
    religion per se, although folk religion may have
    superstitious elements.

    I also do not necessarily mean anything pejorative by
    folk religion, just its technical sense as a term used
    to describe a set of beliefs, superstitions and
    cultural practices transmitted from generation to
    generation, *in addition to* the formally stated
    creeds and beliefs of a codified major religion, but
    you probably know that.

    --- Sarah Berel-Harrop <> wrote:
    > Re: RFEP & IDIt blew past me that someone made
    > reference to the
    > "divine foot" paragraph by Lewontin. I am not sure
    > whether he got it from an ID source or read the
    > article.
    > Here is the article.
    > My comments,
    > I think the ID people got a lot of mileage on a
    > statement
    > that was easy to misinterpret if you don't read a
    > lot of
    > L's work. There are a lot of ways to interpret what
    > he
    > meant. First recognize that this in a certain sense
    > a highly
    > negative review. He is not saying don't read the
    > book but
    > he is saying that he thinks Carl Sagan is wrong to
    > popularize science using the angle he does. In that
    > sense
    > what you have here is a somewhat sarcastic
    > articulation
    > of Sagan's view. If you read the preface to _It
    > Ain't
    > Necessarily So_ you will see L does this very same
    > thing over I can't remember the subject, maybe
    > genomania. So I think he's making fun of
    > materialists
    > a little bit here. I don't think he's setting out a
    > research
    > methodology, as has been portrayed by the ID'rs.
    > Here is another clue: look at the paragraph
    > immediately
    > following, the divine foot paragraph, where he notes
    > "The
    > mutual exclusion of the material and the demonic has
    > not
    > been true of all cultures and all times." Remember,
    > he
    > is a Marxist. He here and in other writings has
    > noted
    > that the rules of science are situated in a social
    > context,
    > and he's describing here the way it's played these
    > days.
    > I don't think he's passing a normative judgement
    > here,
    > in the sense that I think he would say ALL science
    > is socially situated, in fact I am pretty sure he
    > has
    > stated (the comment, racists do racist science in
    > the review of Mismeasure of Man comes to mind).
    > And the juxtaposition of Newton and LaPlace is
    > interesting, not least because Newton was highly
    > religious albeit Arian and LaPlace also a devout
    > Catholic. Whether intentional or not, he shows here
    > Newton put God in the Gap and LaPlace took Him
    > out. Then back to the class thing.
    > And that is what I think this essay is really about.
    > He is
    > saying it is wrong to take superstition - the
    > "demon-haunted
    > world" or maybe Dr Nelson would say folk religion -
    > and
    > replace it with a superstitious trust in science.
    > It's wrong
    > because it doesn't change the situation for those
    > who are
    > not in the elite, it just changes the master. The
    > final
    > paragraph articulates that, how do we teach lay
    > people how
    > to evaluate claims? And that is really quite an
    > important
    > question that got lost in the hype over this quote.
    > ---
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