evolution archive list

Fri, 28 May 1999 11:26:29 EDT

Subj: Re: evolution archive list

CC: bharper@postbox.acs.ohio-state.edu (Brian D Harper)

Hi Brian,
Another non-hostile response!! Thanks. In this acrimonious
evolution/creation battle, I often find my sympathies with the
creationists--although the truth is, I don't agree with either of you. I
feel the creationists could be accommodated, whereas the defenders of
Darwinism seem more interested in winning battles and "defeating creationism"
than in any sort of tolerant coexistence. I have heard defenders of
Darwinism claim they dare not allow a possible "divine foot in the door". I
believe it is true that any biologist who publicly expressed skepticism of
Darwinism in today's world would probably be denied tenure at most

Take the concept of "design", for instance. The universe was either created
or it arose by spontaneous generation. (Maybe there are even other
possibilities) In any case, it appears to consist of an infinite number of
complex parts, each fitting intricately together to perform specific,
interdependent functions, and it looks designed to me. Even Dawkins admits
life appears designed--but hastens to add such appearance is merely an
illusion. Dawkins is entitled to his view that what looks like reality is
really illusion, but I resent anyone trying to impose such ideas upon me as
"scientific truth". Acknowledging the possibility that the universe might be
"designed" would have no effect upon science. Science's function is to
figure out the details of the design, regardless of how it originated. As an
agnostic, I can refrain from speculating about any "designers". Questions of
ultimate origins will probably remain outside the scope of science, and one
persons speculations on the matter are as valid as another's. No opinion is
more "scientific". The creationists admit the battle is over ideology; the
Darwinists often pretend it is not.

Brian wrote:
> Darwinism is one of many possible theories that attempt to explain the
>observed facts relating to evolution.
>Your second two questions are interesting. First, there are
>many mechanisms proposed for macro evolution, though exactly
>how they work would still be in doubt in many (most?, all? :)

Even most creationists accept natural selection as a mechanism of
micro-evolution. The explanation of how "random mutation and natural
selection" gradually results in macro evolution is certainly simple
(simplistic, to some of us), but I've seen no evidence strong enough to
demand that everyone accept the theory as a description of what happened.

>IOW, uncertainty about (or lack of) a mechanism is not a
>license to speculate wildly.

True. And lack of a fully understood mechanism is no reason to insist
everyone accept a theory which seems inadequate to some of us. I sincerely
doubt wild speculations would do any harm--unless someone were trying to ban
them. Attempts to suppress ideas always arouse my interest in them.. (Can
you think of anything wilder than speculations by cosmologists about multiple

>IMHO, creationists are most likely to be guilty of propagating
>confusion about randomness. Whenever I've seen the issue of
>the randomness of mutations discussed in evolutionists'
>writings it is always emphasized that "random" in the context
>of "random mutations" means that mutations do not anticipate
>the needs of an organism. It does not mean random in the
>usual statistical sense of the word.
>BTW, are you proposing that randomness automatically implies

I imagine random, in every sense of the word, would be an important part of
the ideology of Atheists. Mutations occurring in response to the environment
would not be random. There is no way to prove mutations occurring over long
periods of time had no Lamarckian component. Why do biologists insist upon
a word with a meaning differing somewhat from common usage, which they know
will antagonize most theists?

I asked:
>>Isn't the insistence that instincts and behavior are specified in the
genome >>based upon the fact that we merely don't know what else might
control >>them? Is there any reason to believe a "altruism gene"
exists--other than >>faith that there must be a gene for everything?

Brian answered:
>I'm also not sure the best answer to this due to my lack of
>expertise. Let me just warn you that evolution is not
>equivalent to genetic reductionism.

Most scientists, even most biologists, might well be tolerant and
acknowledge no special expertise in philosophy or ideology. I fear that is
not the impression the public gets from the evolution/creation debates. The
most vociferous defenders of Darwinism appear to be pushing deterministic
materialism as the only acceptable ideology.