Re: Popper

Stephen Jones (
Tue, 14 Apr 98 05:21:14 +0800


On Tue, 7 Apr 1998 16:31:32 -0500 (CDT), Wesley R. Elsberry


>WE>Given what Popper said, the sounds coming from Australia are
>>best classified as gnat straining and camel swallowing.
>>I'm with Harper on this one.

>SJ>Expression of brotherly evolutionist solidarity noted! Now
>>how about *you* actually *answering* the specific points I

WE>I think that "gnat-straining and camel-swallowing" plus reading
>what Popper wrote is a sufficient answer. The indicated
>'difficulty' below demonstrates this.

OK. See my reply below.

>SJ>In particular, if Popper really recanted, how come he left
>>his claim that Darwinism was an untestable metaphysical
>>research program in his autobiography through *three* editions
>>over *eight* years?

WE>Is Stephen suggesting that every mistake that someone makes in
>their life be expunged at the next available edition of their
>autobiography? It's that sort of practice that gives
>autobiographies a bad name, and I'm glad to hear that Popper
>didn't indulge in sweeping-under-the-rug antics.

This is just special pleading. If Popper had updated his autobiography
with his alleged `recantation' Darwinists would have been the first to
commend him for it!

In any event, while updating ordinary autobiographies is no doubt
rare (it's hard to think why anyone would do it?), in this case it is no
ordinary autobiography-it is Popper's *intellectual* autobiography, ie.
an account of the development of his *philosophy*. Popper himself
says that it "was originally written to form a part of the two volume
work `The Philosophy of Karl Popper'" (Popper K.R., "Unended
Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography," 1982, Revised Edition, p5)

But whatever is the norm for autobiographies in general, the fcat
remaints that in the specific case of Popper's autobiography, it
has been revised three times. Here are the citations:

First published as "Autobiography of Karl Popper" in The
Philosophy of Karl Popper in The Library of Living Philosophers, ed.
Paul Arthur Schilpp, by Open Court Publishing Company, La Salle,
Illinois, 1974
First published in this revised edition by Fontana 1976
Second Impression October 1976
Third Impression June 1977
Fourth Impression, with corrections, October 1978
Fifth Impression September 1980

New material in this revised edition first published by Open Court
Publishing Company 1982

(Popper K.R., "Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography,"
[1974], Open Court: La Salle, Ill., 1982, Revised Edition, p2)

As you can see, Popper's 1974 autobiography was revised in "1976",
"1978", and "1982".

In fact the very section (37) in which he says that "I have come to
the conclusion that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory,
but a metaphysical research programme" (Popper K.R., "Unended
Quest," 1982, p167), Popper has a footnote saying he has revised
something in that section:

"Reading this section again after six years, 292a I feel the need for
another summary to bring out more simply and more clearly how a
purely selectionist theory (the theory of "organic selection" of
Baldwin and Lloyd Morgan) can be used to justify certain intuitive
aspects of evolution, stressed by Lamarck or Butler or Bergson,
without making any concession to the Lamarckian doctrine of the
inheritance of acquired characteristics." (Popper K., "Unended
Quest:", pp179-180)

WE>But we may not even have to infer integrity on Popper's part. ;-)
>I looked back at Stephen's message of March 9, and it quoted the
>1982 *reprint* of "Unended Quest". A reprint doesn't imply any
>involvement from the author, simply the publisher's decision to
>print more copies. Even if Stephen misstated that, and we really do
>have a series of revised editions, my comment on the purpose of an
>autobiography still applies.

I actually said *both* "revised edition" and "reprint" but I indeed
"misstated that", for which I apologise. My 1982 edition of "Unended
Quest" is a *revised edition*, not a "reprint". In case you have
deleted it above, here is the full citation again:

"New material in this revised edition first published by Open Court
Publishing Company 1982" (Popper K.R., "Unended Quest," 1982,
Revised Edition, p2).

Your "comment on the purpose of an autobiography" does *not*
apply in this case, because Popper did in fact revise his autobiography
in three different editions where his thought had changed. But he did
not revise his conclusion that "Darwinism is not a testable scientific
theory, but a metaphysical research programme" (Popper K.,
"Unended Quest", 1982, p168), which indicates that his thought
hadn't changed on that point.

WE>From my perspective, Stephen's "interpretation" just looks like
>a lot of special pleading in the gnats-and-camels tradition.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle `black'! I have quoted the *facts*
from Popper's *actual* autobiography *which I own* (and which I
doubt you have even read), and all you have done is "special
pleading" with irrelevant observations about autobiographies in

WE>Interestingly enough, not accepting that Popper's recantation
>was a recantation is a trait Stephen shares with Laurie Appleton.

This is just an irrelevant ad hominem based on guilt-by-association, a
sort of inverted argument from authority. It is especially irrelevant
because few on this list would even know who "Laurie Appleton" is.

But for the record, I haven't debated on the same forum with Laurie
since March 1996, and I can't even remember what his views (if any)
were on "Popper's recantation".

But if mine and another creationist's assessment of "Popper's
recantation" happen to coincide, so what? The real question is what
does the *evidence* say. I have cited that evidence *from Popper's
writings*, which is more than you have done to date! Your resort to
an ad hominem only underlines the bankruptcy of your argument!

The hard facts for Darwinists are that Popper had *ample*
opportunity to revise his 1974 view that "Darwinism is not a
testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme"
but he never did so, not in his autobiography, nor in articles he
wrote on the topic.


Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, West Australia v "Test everything." (1Thess 5:21)