Re: "Bashing, choice & lamarkism" was "conservation..."

Stephen E. Jones (
Wed, 25 Aug 1999 06:00:06 +0800


On Sun, 22 Aug 1999 12:51:35 -0400, Tim Ikeda wrote:


TI>As far as I can tell, the only form of evolution Johnson
>accepts is "microevolution". That no one has a clue what
>else Philip accepts is absolutely deliberate.

Agreed. Darwinists are past masters at what Macbeth calls "best-in-field
fallacy", namely counter-attacking an opposing theory rather than
defending one's own:

"the modern Darwinians...are not greatly troubled by their failure to explain
the adaptations because they are sustained and soothed by the best-in-field
fallacy. Darwinism has had to compete with various rival theories, each of
which aimed to be a more or less complete explanation. The most famous
rivals were vitalism, fundamentalism, Lamarckism, and the hopeful-monster
suggestion of Goldschmidt. The Darwinians have shown that none of these
theories are any good. Simpson can shoot down each and every one of
them with ease. Thus the Darwinians are able to say that Darwin made a
better try than anyone else, and they find real comfort in this. Does this
mean that Darwinism is correct? No. Sir Julian Huxley says that, once the
hypothesis of special creation is ruled out, adaptation can only be ascribed
to natural selection, but this is utterly unjustified. He should say only that
Darwinism is better than the others. But when the others are no good, this
is faint praise. Is there any glory in outrunning a cripple in a foot race?
Being best-in-field means nothing if the field is made up of fumblers...

The best-in-field fallacy seems to be my own discovery. It does not appear
in books on fallacies and I have not seen it clearly expressed anywhere else.
Perhaps it appears with unusual frequency among the evolutionary
theorists, who seem to have a special weakness for it. My best example
comes from Mayr, although he is normally a highly intelligent man. In the
passage concerned he concedes that there are valid objections to his theory,
but he rules out these objections on the ground that their proponents have
not advanced a better suggestion...It seems that the standards of the
evolutionary theorists are relative or comparative rather than absolute. If
such a theorist makes a suggestion that is better than other suggestions, or
better than nothing, he feels that he has accomplished something even if his
suggestion will obviously not hold water. He does not believe that he must
meet any objective standards of logic, reason, or probability." (Macbeth N.,
"Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason", 1971, pp76-78)

So Johnson refuses to allow the Darwinists to divert attention from the
weaknesses of their theory by advancing his own.

TI>And no, it
>is not just Darwinism that he challenges, it's science in
>general. He believes that science can identify God; not
>only that but that science _must_ identify God in order
>for Christianity to be true

This is completely false and I challenge Tim to post a quote from
Johnson's writings to substantiate his claim.

Johnson is not against "science in general". He is against
*pseudo*-"science in general" and *Darwinism* in particular.


TI>Further, Johnson et al. have made the claims that a new,
>improved method of science would be here soon to replace
>methodological naturalism in science.

Johnson is indeed aiming "to replace methodological naturalism in science",
but he has not said it would be "soon". He believes it will take the best part
of the next century.

Personally I believe that if the scientific establishment refuses to
compromise on "methodological naturalism" and keeps trying to shut out
Intelligent Design, then science will split into two, with "methodological
naturalism" and Intelligent Design being competing paradigms. Since the
majority of science funding comes directly or indirectly from the general
public and since the majority of the general public are favourable to
Intelligent Design, a large part of the funding going to materialistic-
naturalistic science will be apportioned to Intelligent Design.

If materialistic-naturalistic science wants to avoid this *disaster* it had
better learn quickly to not keep shutting out ID.

TI>Others have made
>claims that IC/ID can be a testable hypothesis. Yet,
>despite the hype, we've seen nothing of the details.

The ID position is that they will indeed need to make ID "a testable
hypothesis" but they point out that the modern ID movement is relatively
young and comparatively under-resourced, and therefore this will take

They point to the fact that Darwinism has been going for 140 years and as
a general theory it is still not "a testable hypothesis":

"Our theory of evolution has become, as Popper described, one which
cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable
observation can be fitted into it. It is thus "outside of empirical science" but
not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas,
either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in
extremely simplified systems, have attained currency far beyond their
validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by
most of us as part of our training." (Birch L.C. & Ehrlich P.R.,
"Evolutionary History and Population Biology", Nature, Vol. 214, 22 April
1967, p352)


TI>...But I
>would agree that an ignorant populace should try to educate
>itself rather than repeatedly "rebutting evolution" with many
>of the same tired arguments that the ICR publishes.

This "ignorant populace" remark is the same elitism that the evolution side
revealed in this CNN debate at

MATALIN: Sure, you can rebut the evidence. And there's a lot of evidence for
creation. But that's not the issue. Why are you so afraid to have values taught
in the schools? What is so scary about that that two-thirds of the American
people agree with it? If there's nothing to it, then let it be taught. Let people
assess for themselves. And furthermore, we never got to the issue of parents
making this decision. If you don't like it, vote them out.

PRESS: No. First of all I hope the majority never rules, never rules what is
taught in the public classrooms. We'd be teaching all kinds of stupid things in
the public classrooms.

And the idea is, as you said, what about values? Yes, teach values and ethics
in religion class. That's what the professor said. He's right. Teach science in
the science class and keep the theory out of the science class.

MATALIN: This is the fundamental difference between Democrats and
Republicans. You just said it: Majority doesn't rule in the Democratic liberal
world. People don't. Elitists do. You're wrong. I'm right."

The scientific elite are going to have to learn the hard way that the
"populace" is not as "ignorant" as they smugly think!


TI>I don't and I'm sympathetic to neo-Darwinism. There are many
>Darwinists who are Christian as well, so I don't think we
>can reasonably dispute the validity of Darwinism on the
>grounds that is requires or implies philosophical naturalism
>(which is the core of Johnson's agenda).

That there are a *tiny minority* of "Christians" who are "Darwinists" is
fully recognised by "Johnson's agenda". Johnson claims that they are
heavily influenced by "philosophical naturalism" but are not metaphysical
naturalists. Johnson calls Christian theists who espouse a form of
"philosophical naturalism" (ie. methodological naturalism), "theistic

"Whether such extraordinary events as the origin of life, the origin of the
plant and animal phyla, or the origin of human consciousness can be
satisfactorily explained in terms of unintelligent natural causes should be an
open question for theists. A person who assumes a priori that such creation
events must have scientifically ascertainable material causes is a
metaphysical naturalist. If he believes in God he is a theistic naturalist, who
limits God's freedom by the dictates of naturalistic philosophy. (Johnson
P.E., "God and Evolution: An Exchange: Howard J. Van Till - Phillip E.
Johnson", First Things, June 1993.


>BV>I've yet to meet a Darwin-defender who would admit the possible
>>existence or teleology.

TI>You haven't been reading Howard Van Till's, Bill Hamilton's,
>Terry Gray', Loren Haarsma's, or Brian Harper's posts then
>(here or in the ASA list). All scientists and unabashed

This highlights yet another problem with TE/EC. The atheist/agnostics
points to them as confirmation of their atheism/agnosticism. TE/EC has
confirmed more atheist/agnostics in their atheism/agnosticism than it has
ever won atheist/agnostic to Christianity.

This alone should be a good enough reason for those "unabashed
Christians" to distance themselves clearly from naturalistic evolution, by at
least adopting a position that does not have "evolution" in its title.


TI>Nobody has passed such a law. Others have already proposed mechanisms
>which are potentially testable and if found, will be mixed with
>neo-Darwinism to form an appended theory of evolutionary mechanisms.
>For example, neutral theory was absorbed fairly readily.

That is not surprising for a theory which Gould has described as "the 'Blob,'
of movie fame," in that "it could be manipulated to account for all data in
its path":

"Similarly for neo-Darwinism, `with a little ingenuity any observation can
be made to appear consistent with it,' Saunders and Ho conclude. (Ho M.
& Saunders P., eds., "Beyond Neo-Darwinism", 1984, p.ix). Even Mayr
admitted that `Popper is right; this model is so good that it can explain
anything, as Popper has rightly complained.' (Mayr E., in Moorhead P. &
Kaplan M., eds., "Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian
Interpretation of Evolution", 1967, p47). Gould has compared it `to the
Blob, of movie fame,' in that `it could be manipulated to account for all
data in its path,' (O'Grady R., `Evolutionary Theory and Teleology", J.
Theoretical Biology, Vol. 107, 1984, pp563,575), and Leith lists some of
its victims:

`Before continental drift was discovered, the Darwinians explained the
distribution of life on earth in terms of dispersal; after the discovery of drift
they explained the same distribution without such heavy reliance on
dispersal In the 19th century, when the fossil record was seen as a history
of gradual change, the Darwinians explained evolution as a gradual
adaptive process; now that many palaeontologists interpret the fossils as a
history of 'fits and starts,' the Darwinians see evolution as a variable-rate
adaptive process. One is tempted to ask what observations the Darwinians
can't explain.'" (Leith B., Letter, "Listener", Nov. 5, 1981, p539) (italics

(Bird W.R., "The Origin of Species Revisited", Vol. II, 1991, p89)


"It might be thought, therefore, that evolutionary arguments would play a
large part in guiding biological research, but this is far from the case. It is
difficult enough to study what is happening now. To try to figure out
exactly what happened in evolution is even more difficult. Thus
evolutionary arguments can usefully be used as hints to suggest possible
lines of research, but it is highly dangerous to trust them too much. It is all
too easy to make mistaken inferences unless the process involved is already
very well understood." (Crick F., "What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of
Scientific Discovery", [1988], Penguin Books: London UK, 1990, reprint,
Stephen E. Jones | |