evolution archive list

Sun, 30 May 1999 10:41:16 EDT

Subj: Re: evolution archive list
CC: bharper@postbox.acs.ohio-state.edu (Brian D Harper)

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the delightful response. If anything were to cure me of
stereotyping, more posts such as yours might do it. Isn't stereotyping
attributing the characteristics of a minority to the whole group? It's
pretty difficult, when one so rarely encounters the so-called non-stereotype.

>One problem that I have thus far with your criticisms is that they
>seem so one sided. As if it is only evolutionists that are
>"defending the faith" so to speak.

You are right, my criticisms are one sided. The creations frankly admit
their argument is one of ideology, I'm grateful to them for pointing out some
of the weaknesses of Darwinism, they are generally polite, and I have no
desire nor expectation of persuading any of them to change their beliefs.
Maybe there are other reasons, but, emotionally I find myself siding with
them, and I don't have that much choice about where my emotions land me. (In
an attempt to cure myself of stereotyping, I will refrain from listing what
bothers me about Darwinists.)

>Now, let me offer some advice. If you really want to learn about
>the science of evolution then you have to discipline yourself
>not to take too seriously what you read in the public debate
>about evolution/creation. Sure, it is interesting to follow,
>but don't rely on that as being representative of the real science.

You are right. If the scientists don't object to being misrepresented, why
should I care?

>. It is my experience
>that there are certain extremists (fundamentalists) on both sides
>who are not content to show someone is wrong, they have to show
>they are stupid or immoral or evil ... The reason I believe has
>to do with the politics surrounding the public debate. So, I
>personally don't take anything I read from public debates as
>being reliable.

>I am very skeptical about this claim. (That anyone publicly expressing
>skepticism of Darwinism would be denied tenure.) First, I happen to know
>that there are many biologists who have publicly expressed skepticism
>about Darwinism. The natural follow up to this might be to ask
>whether those individuals already had tenure at the time. I have
>no idea.

Again, I'm sure you are right. In the only case I know of, Dean Kenyon at
SF, the rest of the faculty came to his defense when the biology department
tried to take his classes away from him. (He had tenure.)

>Let me give a word of caution. Conspiracy theories tend to
>be self confirming. For example, I might try to give reasons
>why I'm skeptical about your claim. But then someone may
>whisper in your ear "well, what do expect him to say, he is,
>after all, one of THEM."

>Well, of the various reasons for skepticism I might give,
>I believe the most persuasive would be to look at the legal issues.
>What you need to try to appreciate is that Universities have
>to protect themselves in this age of law suits. There have
>been several high profile law suits at Ohio State involving
>denial of tenure to an assistant professor. I imagine there
>have been many others that haven't made the front pages. If
>a law suit is filed, the university must show objective criteria
>according to which the candidate was found unsuitable. If a
>university can't do this, their in trouble. When I was hired
>it was explained to me in no uncertain terms what I would
>have to do to get tenure. The three most important ingredients
>are (1) external funding of research (2) publications in quality
>journals (3) good teaching evaluations. If someone establishes
>themselves in these three areas, yet doesn't get tenure, then
>there will be hell to pay, pardon my french :).

>If anyone has evidence to the contrary then let's here it.
>I will be the first to take the side of any qualified
>assistant professor who fails to get tenure because they
>are a creationist. I'm sure that there would be many who
>would join me.

>Despite what you may have read, the idea that
>macroevolution is just microevolution extrapolated is not
>universally accepted, not by a long shot. So, we agree on
>this, it is simplistic, IMHO.

If this were to become public knowledge, the both creationists and I might
have to find something else to argue about, wouldn't we?

>Agreed, multiple universes is pretty wild. But bear in mind that
>we've switched subjects to the Anthropic Principle wherein
>almost everything is speculation, some of it pretty wild.

>Let me give an interesting quote taken from one of the most
>often cited papers in the Anthropic Principle literature.
>It is taken from the closing paragraph. I'm giving it in the
>hopes that you may have second thoughts about the stereotypes
>that you seem to have developed. Here's the quote:

>There does exist a line of thinking that _is_ in direct
>competition with the anthropic principle. Edward Harrison,
>in his textbook _Cosmology_, advises his readers early on:
>"We shall occasionally refer to the anthropic principle,
>and the reader may, if it is preferred, substitute the
>alternative theistic principle." The theistic principle
>is quite straightforward: the reason the universe seems
>tailor-made for our existence is that it _was_ tailor-made
>for our existence; some supreme being created it as a home
>for intelligent life. Of course, some scientists, believing
>science and religion mutually exclusive, find this idea
>unattractive. Faced with questions that do not neatly fit
>into the framework of science, they are loath to resort to
>religious explanation; yet their curiosity will not let
>them leave matters unaddressed. Hence, the anthropic principle.
>It is the closest that some atheists can get to God.
>-- Pagels, H. (1985). "A Cozy Cosmology," <The Sciences>
> 25(2):35-38. also in <Physical Cosmology and Philosophy>,
> Ed. J. Leslie, Macmillan, New York, 1990, pp. 174-180.

> But according to my reading, deterministic
>materialism is not a particularly popular view among scientists in
>general. Once again, though, this will very much depend upon exactly
>what one means by materialism and determinism. Also, you seem to
>be crossing swords with yourself a little now as random and
>deterministic are opposites.

Right again. Hadn't thought of that. And it is heartening that you believe
deterministic materialism is losing it's hold over science. I have a web
page, by the way, but it doesn't have much to do with evolutioh.