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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On Progress And Darwin

posted by on December 26 at 15:30 PM


I. Consider the three ways scientific understanding of the world to progresses:

1. A new observation

2. A new technology for making observations

3. A new way of thinking about existing observations

Of the three, the last is the most powerful and profound, the most unpredictable and precious.

A properly conveyed conception can rewrite our sense of the universe without changing a single fact. With a new interpretation that better fits human knowledge we can better predict outcomes and gain mastery.

II. Darwin developed few new techniques, observed few new things. Even the concepts behind evolution were simmering before his time.

Darwin’s achievement was one of presentation, of setting the ingredients into a formidable whole, of a crystal clear distillation of complex ideas.

1. Life, through random mutation, generates variation.

2. The most successful variants reproduce more than the less successful.

From these concepts, all of the rest follows.

III. The political action of the modern creationist is to prevent untainted exposure to these ideas, until it is too late.

Our exposure to the Christian creation story is early and pervasive—in art, in popular culture, in song, in school and in our homes.

The observations behind creationism fit better in an evolved world. An evolved world explains more, of what we’ve observed since, of what we’ve observed with new abilities and of what we’ll observe in the future.

Denial of this is as hopeless, requiring an adult’s capacity to disassociate a sense of reality from reality itself.

I don’t fear, Annie.

RSS icon Comments


Oooooooooh! Deviation!

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 26, 2007 3:58 PM

Darwin was a very religious man up until he, well, unintentionally debunked the whole thing. He would be very distressed about all the creation vs reality controversy if he were alive today.

Posted by maxine | December 26, 2007 4:23 PM
The observations behind creationism fit better in an evolved world. An evolved world explains more, of what we’ve observed since, of what we’ve observed with new abilities and of what we’ll observe in the future.


Posted by annie | December 26, 2007 4:35 PM

@3 Ha!

in other words: All the 'proof' constantly cited to support creationism is better explained by evolution. Most everything observed about life in the past several thousand years does so as well, as does most everything we've learned with molecular biology.

Heh. I should totally pull this post.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | December 26, 2007 4:46 PM

I knew what you meant. Even though it reads pretty weird.

Except that creationists don't really believe in the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum or missing transitional fossils anything like that. They just use those arguments opportunistically. They would rather nobody had ever invented a microscope or made an expedition to collect samples in the first place.

What's really behind creationism isn't any observation, but rather the desire to put an end to questions and make people believe what they are told to believe.

Posted by elenchos | December 26, 2007 5:13 PM

Don't pull this!

The I three ways totally make sense. That's probably why human can't pass their knowledge through reproductive system to their offspring.

Posted by VDD | December 26, 2007 6:11 PM


It wasn't unintentional:

...we see some distant approach to this [religious] state of mind in
the deep love of a dog for his master, associated with complete submission, some fear, and perhaps other feelings...

...The same high mental faculties which first led man to believe in unseen spiritual agencies, then in fetishism, polytheism, and ultimately in monotheism, would infallibly lead him, as long as his reasoning powers remained poorly developed, to various strange superstitions and customs. Many of these are terrible to think of--such as the sacrifice of human beings to a blood-loving god; the trial of innocent persons by the ordeal of poison or fire; witchcraft, etc.--yet it is well occasionally to reflect on these superstitions, for they shew us what an infinite debt of gratitude we owe to the improvement of our reason, to science, and to our accumulated knowledge.

--Descent of Man

The religion of the creationists is nothing like the religion of Darwin.

Posted by E | December 26, 2007 6:32 PM

". . . the Christian creation story" is not Christian (it's Jewish) and it's not "the" story. For one thing, read the first 3 chapters of Genesis closely and you'll see there are actually 2 creation stories (I kid you not), and while some call it "the" Christian story, many of us (including the Vatican) do not see it as a scientific explanation of Creation at all. You guys always assume all Christians are a bunch of nuts. In reality, creationists are a straw man for you to kick over in order to prove your superior intellect.

Posted by parsonbrown | December 26, 2007 8:05 PM

elenchos watched the same PBS special I did.

Posted by Sam | December 26, 2007 10:35 PM

No, Darwin observed a zillion new things, which is why his theory was so overwhelming--he marshalled armies of evidence he had personally and painstakingly collected over many years, representing practically every branch of science. Also, I think creationism vs. natural selection is a false dichotomy. Darwin himself saw our animal past as evidence of Original Sin: "the Devil under form of Baboon is our grandfather," he wrote, distraught, in his diary. Darwin is consistent with anti-creationism, but equally with a creationism that admits reality.

Posted by Tim Appelo | December 26, 2007 10:40 PM

This reads like a Mudede post. I approve.

Posted by laterite | December 27, 2007 12:08 AM

"In reality, creationists are a straw man for you to kick over in order to prove your superior intellect."

why would we need straw-men when we have this radical and crazy thing called Reason combined with those oooh so far-out and wacky notions of Skeptical Inquiry that help use intellect for something besides comforting ourselves with empty delusions of god?

Posted by point x point synopsis | December 27, 2007 2:40 AM

@12: The better question is why, since your beloved reason has already settled the God question for you, do you feel the need to contend with the creationists at all? They're nuts, and you have nothing to gain by arguing with them.

Posted by Greg | December 27, 2007 7:43 AM

Dept. of Obscured Meaning
Okay, I can't believe nobody mentioned this yet:

Consider the three ways scientific understanding of the world to progresses:

Spend some time with that one. Get to know it. Is it making any sense yet? Didn't think so.

Jon, please fix this so that it is at least grammatically correct.

Posted by Greg | December 27, 2007 8:25 AM

I have a strange feeling Charles (not Charles Darwin) had some hand in writing this since it tries to be flowery. But I could be wrong because there are no "sexy women" or "Star Wars" references.
Speaking of Star Wars. Where does Chewbacca fit into creationism. Oh and that Jabba blob thing. Did he evolve from a snail. If not was he in the Garden of eden chewin on leaves waiting for an opportunity along with all those Valosoraptors. Damn Adam and Eve must have been constantly running.
Jurassic Park IV "EDEN"
Oh right Star Wars is fantasy. Adam and Eve like totally "true" like.

Posted by -B- | December 27, 2007 8:44 AM

Oh Greg, you and your Jebus.

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 27, 2007 8:55 AM

Just for clarity's sake, it's not a "Christian" creation story (jeez, anyone showing their bias here?), it's a "Biblical" creation story.

Read Genesis, it's waay before Jesus Christ. Christ is about chapter 50 or so. Genesis is 1.

Honestly, sometimes the Christian bashing gets in the way of the facts.

To the extent you try to be some kind of reasonable commentary site, you should avoid complete errors of this sort. God, you sound like a Republican or something. Professional politcians.


Posted by The Wet One | December 27, 2007 9:17 AM

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