IDists are from Mars…

| 91 Comments

Over on UD Denyse O’Leary is complimenting Alfred Russel Wallace for his 1907 critique of Percival Lowell’s claims that Mars was inhabited by intelligent, canal-building Martians. She says:

What made Wallace so unpopular compared to Darwin is that he insisted that in science, evidence matters. Carl Sagan-style proclamations like “They’re out there! How could we be so arrogant as to think we are all alone!” do not become science just because they are proclaimed by scientists.

First, the idea that Wallace was ever wildly unpopular is ridiculous, he was a grand old man of evolution and British science when he died. Second, if Wallace insisted that evidence matters and O’Leary likes this, then I guess she considers this a strong vote for common ancestry and natural selection, both of which Wallace defended as vigorously as anyone. We evolutionists win I guess. Third, let’s have a look at what Wallace actually said about Lowell’s hypothesis that intelligent designers were the best explanations for the patterns he thought he saw on Mars:

The one great feature of Mars which led Mr. Lowell to adopt the view of its being inhabited by a race of highly intelligent beings, and, with ever-increasing discovery to uphold this theory to the present time, is undoubtedly that of the so-called ‘canals’–their straightness, their enormous length, their great abundance, and their extension over the planet’s whole surface from one polar snow-cap to the other. The very immensity of this system, and its constant growth and extension during fifteen [[p. 103]] years of persistent observation, have so completely taken possession of his mind, that, after a very hasty glance at analogous facts and possibilities, he has declared them to be ‘non-natural’–therefore to be works of art–therefore to necessitate the presence of highly intelligent beings who have designed and constructed them. This idea has coloured or governed all his writings on the subject. The innumerable difficulties which it raises have been either ignored, or brushed aside on the flimsiest evidence. As examples, he never even discusses the totally inadequate water-supply for such world-wide irrigation, or the extreme irrationality of constructing so vast a canal-system the waste from which, by evaporation, when exposed to such desert conditions as he himself describes, would use up ten times the probable supply.

Again, he urges the ‘purpose’ displayed in these ‘canals.’ Their being all so straight, all describing great circles of the ‘sphere,’ all being so evidently arranged (as he thinks) either to carry water to some ‘oasis’ 2000 miles away, or to reach some arid region far over the equator in the opposite hemisphere! But he never considers the difficulties this implies. Everywhere these canals run for thousands of miles across waterless deserts, forming a system and indicating a purpose, the wonderful perfection of which he is never tired of dwelling upon (but which I myself can nowhere perceive). [[p. 104]] Yet he never even attempts to explain how the Martians could have lived before this great system was planned and executed, or why they did not first utilise and render fertile the belt of land adjacent to the limits of the polar snows–why the method of irrigation did not, as with all human arts, begin gradually, at home, with terraces and channels to irrigate the land close to the source of the water. How, with such a desert as he describes three-fourths of Mars to be, did the inhabitants ever get to know anything of the equatorial regions and its needs, so as to start right away to supply those needs? All this, to my mind, is quite opposed to the idea of their being works of art, and altogether in favour of their being natural features of a globe as peculiar in origin and internal structure as it is in its surface-features. The explanation I have given, though of course hypothetical, is founded on known cosmical and terrestrial facts, and is, I suggest, far more scientific as well as more satisfactory than Mr. Lowell’s wholly unsupported speculation. This view I have explained in some detail in the preceding chapter.

Mr. Lowell never even refers to the important question of loss by evaporation in these enormous open canals, or considers the undoubted fact that the only intelligent and practical way to convey a limited quantity of water such great distances would be by a system of water-tight and air-tight [[p. 105]] tubes laid under the ground. The mere attempt to use open canals for such a purpose shows complete ignorance and stupidity in these alleged very superior beings; while it is certain that, long before half of them were completed their failure to be of any use would have led any rational beings to cease constructing them.

He also fails to consider the difficulty, that, if these canals are necessary for existence in Mars, how did the inhabitants ever reach a sufficiently large population with surplus food and leisure enabling them to rise from the low condition of savages to one of civilisation, and ultimately to scientific knowledge? Here again is a dilemma which is hard to overcome. Only a dense population with ample means of subsistence could possibly have constructed such gigantic works; but, given these two conditions, no adequate motive existed for the conception and execution of them–even if they were likely to be of any use, which I have shown they could not be.

Whoops! And now that I’m thinking of it, we’ve seen IDists shooting themselves in the foot with Lowell’s Martians before.

P.S.: Go vote!!

91 Comments

Mars Attacks!!!111!!one!!

Hmm, so independent parallel lines of evidence are good? Who’d a thunk it? Maybe Denyse would like to describe all the parallel independent lines of evidence for a desginer…

Nothing to do with Mars, but Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood talks a bit about Wallace and his popularity/unpopularity compared to Darwin. And IMO its a good read.

Darwin didn’t think evidence mattered? O’Leary is such a tiresome maroon.

Even if O’Leary’s argument turned out to be sound and valid, which per usual it was not, congratulating yourselves on being part of the tradition that told us…that there’s no life on Mars.…

I still wouldn’t have been impressed.

Brian

Wow, Wallace argues real evidence against the flim-flam of Percival Lowell. Hardly an icon of ID.

Then too, Wallace allows that the simplicity and rationality of the purported canals would be evidence for them, but he doesn’t see that there is this evidence. Behe had the gall to bring up “rational agents” in EoE and failed, for the 10462nd time to show that there is any rational design in any organisms (not engineered by us).

Also, Wallace argues rather commonsensically about what would be reasonable (rational) for Martians to do, and notes that the sensible thing is not done. We do this countless times with ID and organisms, and all we get out of them is the bleat that design leaves neither evidence of purpose or of design principles (except when they do claim purpose–always nebulously, and with no final purpose for, say, Plasmodium spp.)

All is forgiven Wallace, and, naturally, badly confused, probably both via O’Leary’s great ignorance of science, and her apparent disregard for truth. After all, Wallace believed mystical claptrap about the “soul.”

Nevertheless, it was Wallace who never wavered from crediting natural selection as the means of evolution, while Darwin was willing to go along with the bogus “evidence” that acquired characteristics could be inherited. Regardless of the merits or demerits of their relative positions (Darwin might have been more open-minded? Or perhaps less careful in adducing causes?), it’s Wallace who wasn’t at all pleased with magical nonsense invading the place where good causation had been inferred, at least with respect to physical origins.

Glen D

http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

How about we not let O’Leary distort Carl Sagan’s feelings about evidence. He may have sincerely and passionately believed in other life, but he also was the person who said “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

No need to pick on Percival Lowell, he was no crank – he just let his imagination carry him off. It sure would have been fun if he’d been right.

Of course there is the thudding irony of a ID advocate praising Wallace for debunking an “intelligent design inference.” This is not the first time they’ve tried to use the Martian canals to bolster their case. I suspect they recognize that the bogus Martian canals make life difficult for, say, irreducible complexity and the explanatory filter, and so they try to stake a claim as a preemptive measure.

Sigh: “C’mon, people, if you had half a case to make you wouldn’t waste your time with games like this.”

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

I sometimes wish the ID promoters would just shut up and go away.…..because every time they talk, they look even more ridiculous than before!

It looks like the software for Uncommon Descent is messed up. When you try to follow the link to http://www.uncommondescent.com/inte[…]t-habitable/

you do not see the entry. But if you go here:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/

You see this:

4 November 2008 Alfred Russel Wallace on why Mars is not habitable O’Leary Friend Malcolm Chisholm, who has a wonderful approach to information (= he reads a lot) writes to tell me of a book written by Alfred Russel Wallace (Darwin’s co-theorist) on the question of the habitability of Mars:

It is called “Is Mars Habitable?” It was written in 1907 when Wallace was living in Broadstone, Dorset (where I went to school).

Wallace takes on Percival Lowell, a supreme icon of American astronomy. Lowell thought there were Martians and they used canals etc. Wallace blows up this theory, ending the book with the statement:

“Mars, therefore, is not only uninhabited by intelligent beings such as Mr. Lowell postulates, but is absolutely UNINHABITABLE.”

Remember that Wallace has been derided for his beliefs in ID and spiritualism. Yet he was obviously not afraid to go against the scientific speculative spirit of the age.

Indeed. The introduction to the 1907 edition, scanned online, editor Charles H. Smith notes,

For many years one of Wallace’s least remembered books, Is Mars Habitable? is increasingly being recognized as one of the first examples of the proper application of the scientific method to the study of extraterrestrial atmospheres and geography–that is, as one of the pioneer works in the field of exobiology.

Here is Wallace’s conclusion: Read More »

And there’s nothing more to read!

EPIC FAIL!!!

Indeed, further investigation reveals that the ENTIRE Uncommon Descent blog is malfunctioning!

Maybe it should just be ignored from now on. They are not doing anything productive or useful at all, and have not been doing so since 2005, when they got defeated by the Dover decision.

Oh, this is hilarious!

http://www.uncommondescent.com/

Scroll down to here:

1 November 2008 [Administrative:] Need Webmaster William Dembski [UPDATE: I think we’ve got our man. Thanks to all of you who responded. –Bill]

Dear UD Community: We need webmaster with the following skill set: (1) Can move UD to new server. (2) Can transfer the domain name. (3) Can reconfigure some of the pages and layout. (4) Can restore full WordPress functionality. (5) Can remove old ads and install new ones. For someone who knows what s/he is doing, it shouldn’t take more than a day and subsequent maintenance should be absolutely minimal. We need this free of charge or at cut-rate prices. Please contact me (I’m easily tracked down on the web). –WmAD

And then their blog crashes! What incompetence their new webmaster must have had!

Third, let’s have a look at what Wallace actually said about Lowell’s hypothesis that intelligent designers were the best explanations for the patterns he thought he saw on Mars:

You’ve lost me on the link Nick. All I can see is an episode of the BBC Northern Ireland production “William Crawley meets” were he interviews Richard Dawkins.

Still, lets not forget that quite a lot of respected scientists at the time accepted Lowell’s canals explanation at the time. It was only when telescopes became sufficiently more powerful that the truth was revealed.

Similarly, Venus is also a planet where it was thought the surface was quite habitable with a sub tropical climate and liquid water at one stage. The Magellan missions, along with the Russian probe that landed on the planet have shown us otherwise. Also, in a recent Sky at night programme, Sir Patrick Moore admitted that he made seven Predictions about Venus in the 1970’s. Not one of them were correct. Sir Patrick’s no fool either.

Lowell saw lines on Mars he interpretted as canals. But there are neither canals nor lines on Mars! (Somewhere I have an old National Geographic from the 1950’s with an article on Mars that defers to Lowell ‘superior’ eyesight!)

He imagined them, just like a child sees animals and man-made objects in clouds, just like ID ‘cdesign proponentists’ (search on Panda’s Thumb if you don’t know what this means) imagine the unnamed designer throughout Nature. (Hey, what about outer space aliens as the ‘designer’? Are they not part of Nature? Can they not be investigated with the scientific method? All the more reason to continue SETI.)

The ‘cdesign proponentists’ have been inventing design in Nature since the 19th century.

Thank you Prof. Lowell.

More powerful telescopes and even digitised “photograps” of the Martian landscape don’t prevent human beings from seeing patterns that aren’t there. The human mind appears to be set up to see patterns, and it has a high “false-positive” tendency, probably a legacy of a heritage that makes it a survival trait to discern the faintest sign of a predator’s pattern. If one is there, flight-fight enhances the chances of survival; if not, fight-flight is no more than a small waste of energy.

So Lowell saw canals on Mars, and others saw a human face on a Martian mesa, and still others see the Virgin Mary on walls and the face of Jesus in the clouds or the random clumpings of hillside rocks. Darwin’s great insight was to see a pattern that is subtle, but actually exists, and to see only the pattern, not the face of God.

There is a fair bit of evidence that Lowell was seeing something real: the patterns of light reflected off his retina. See this NYT summary http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpa[…]C0A9649C8B63 .

Dale Husband said:

Indeed, further investigation reveals that the ENTIRE Uncommon Descent blog is malfunctioning!

Maybe it should just be ignored from now on. They are not doing anything productive or useful at all, and have not been doing so since 2005, when they got defeated by the Dover decision.

Maybe somebody removed a single piece of their blog, and its irreducible complexity caused it to grind to a halt.

Wheels for the win!! THAT was funny!!!

According to the pro-evolution Wikipedia, Wallace was unpopular for his unconventional ideas, such as Spiritualism, and was forgotten after his death.

Transmitted from Mars.

Well, for a guy who believed in spirits, Wallace was a great materialist thinker: cf. the last paragraph. His remarks are spot-on concerning the needs for large numbers and resources in an advanced society. And he knew how to debunk ID claims, too. That’s what science does to you, I guess!

That’s really funny. It seems that the most popular introductory biology textbook used in college courses in the United States describes Wallace as “the codiscoverer of the theory of evolution” and describes in detail his correspondance with Darwin and the role he played in prompting Darwin to publish. Man, I sure hope I’m forgotten half as much as Wallace. Obviously Wikipedia really isn’t a reliable source of information.

Anyway, if he was so completely forgotten, why does this chick care so much about what he had to say about Lowell?

Novparl said:

According to the pro-evolution Wikipedia, Wallace was unpopular for his unconventional ideas, such as Spiritualism, and was forgotten after his death.

Transmitted from Mars.

Can you please explain why you claim that Alfred Wallace has been “forgotten after his death,” while there are numerous books which celebrate Mr Wallace’s scientific contributions, especially the facts that he explored the rainforests of both Indonesia and the Amazon, and is celebrated as the first European to have ever seen live birds of Paradise?

Oh, wait, you can’t because you share the ironically named “notedscholar”’s habit of making snide and useless commentaries.

Joshua Zelinsky said:

There is a fair bit of evidence that Lowell was seeing something real: the patterns of light reflected off his retina. See this NYT summary http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpa[…]C0A9649C8B63 .

Hmm, I thought it was scratches in the telescope lens, but I could easily be wrong as my ‘mars canal’ history is fairly hazy.

In any event IDers comparing ID to Wallace’s treatment of Lowell just highlights their own failings. Lowell actually took measurements and published them for peer replication (making them available to Wallace). That’s two steps up on the entire ID movement. That Lowell’s were faulty measurements just goes to show how effective the scientific method is in weeding out errors…when someone actually performs experiments and publishes them for peer review, which IDers refuse to do.

Fail again, ID. Comparing ID to Lowell just highlights the fact that you do no science.

According to the pro-evolution Wikipedia, Wallace was unpopular for his unconventional ideas, such as Spiritualism, and was forgotten after his death.

I followed the rule ‘never trust a creationist’ (you are a creationist, are you not?) and was unable to find this on the page in question. Could you give us where exactly this quote came from?

BTW any book that has a chapter on biogeography makes mention of Wallace’s Line.

What made Wallace so unpopular compared to Darwin is that he insisted that in science, evidence matters.

Wallace was (and still is) notorious for promoting spirituality. So much for his regard for evidence.

Darwin is given more credit for developing evolution than Wallace because he spent a great deal more time documenting and considering the evidence.

Sorry, but the Wikipedia aricle on Wallace says nothing of the sort that Novparl suggests. Perhaps you were reading conervaperdia?

@ Richard Simons. Yes, I’m an OEC. SPIRITUALISM see the article’s introduction, 3d para, 1st line, and part 3 :”Spiritualism”. What part of that one word do you not understand? I just want to help. Part 6 Legacy & Historical Perception. line 5 “His fame faded quickly after his death.” @ STANTON & Dr D. What part of that do you not understand? I can write about 10 languages, which is your 1st language and I’ll try to translate. “Faded” does not mean it can’t revive later.

I realise that, to an Ayatollah of Evolution, every statement by a creationist must be said to be wrong. I’ll now revisit Wikip to see what languages the article is also available in.

Hope you’re enjoying your election day.

Hallo again.

It’s in 30 languages, including Welsh and Korean.

The French gets a star, but appears to be a translation from English. (Apres sa mort, sa célébrité s’estompa rapidement.) That won’t interest you, because everything creationists say is wrong. A curiously black & white moral universe. Created by a random explosion some 13 billion years ago. (I accept the 13 b.y.a. explosion as quite possible. So it must be wrong, cuz I’m an EOC.)

Now flatten me! I love it!

Er - EOC = Evil old creationist.

He imagined them, just like a child sees animals and man-made objects in clouds

More recently of course, there has been much debate about the supposed face on Mars:

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y[…]t24may_1.htm

surely a similar phenomenon !

The idea that Darwin didn’t insist on the weight of evidence is patently absurd. His books are packed to the brim with real-world examples and observations considered to support his conclusions. It really boggles my mind that somebody could honestly say Darwin didn’t care for amassing evidence.

Novpart says:

“Tr nsm tt d fr m [Enable javascript to see this email address.]” (sic)

It seems that Novparl is used to being disemvowelled, which says volumes about his usual discourse.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on November 4, 2008 3:09 PM.

Equus asinus was the previous entry in this blog.

Innovative Teaching of Evolution is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.361

Site Meter