Blogging Live from Darwin / Chicago 2009

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Ingrid Laas and I, members of Wisconsin Citizens for Science and Madison Science Pub, will be blogging from the Darwin / Chicago 2009 event from October 29 - 31 in Chicago. You can find the posts at Madison Science Pub. Follow us and intrepid advisor Flightless Frank as we cover the talks, sample the food, and go behind the scenes of the vast, worldwide Darwinian conspiracy and report on its seedy underbelly… and Frank’s.

28 Comments

remember a few weeks ago watching a program on NOVA about new discoveries that environmental conditions at particular points in the lives of grandparents life, had effect on their DNA/ genes that would express it’s self two generations later on the grandchildren. It was a very interesting program and I found it fascinating.

Then Today as I was doing a little reading when I came across this. Charles Darwin wrote in pg. 7 chapter 1 variation under domestication, On the origin of species 1859 But I am strongly inclined to suspect that the most frequent cause of variability may be attributed to the male and female reproductive elements having been affected prior to the act of conception. Several reasons make me believe in this; but the chief one is the remarkable effect which confinement or cultivation has on the functions of the reproductive system; this system appearing to be far more susceptible than any other part of the organisation, to the action of any change in the conditions of life.

I was immediately reminded of your program. Is this another one of Darwin‚s predictions coming true?

I just watched a presentation on the emerging field of Eco Eco (evolutionary ecology) and the presenter showed a quote from The Origin where Darwin discussed the affect evolving organisms may have on their environment.

The ol’ boy nailed it again.

Although there have been discussions during some talks of what he got wrong as well.

So while he was quite a guy, he wasn’t perfect, and no one around here is “worshiping” him the way creationists like to claim.

Just honest respect for a damn good scientists.

Being an atheist, it would be unlikely I would worship anyone.

Thanks,,,

I just completed a biography on Charles Darwin; although sympathetic with the plight of the savages he ran into on his journey he discoursed at length regarding the superiority of white Euro man and had he/she/it higher up the evolutionary food chain than the noble-but-poor savage. Can anybody help me rationalize his position (ignorance of the 19th century,perhaps?)also the family was involved with the burgeoning eugenics movement and inspired it. True and false?

Secondly, I have heard that he was an atheist from the get-go; others say he was a theist until his research led him towards atheism. Thanks

Um… you completed a biography, and now you’re asking these questions?

Or did you mean you just finished reading one? There are others.

JJJ III,

Darwin was probably slightly less racist than average for his time, but his nomenclature was “unenlightened” by today’s standards. However, re “evolutionary food chain”, you’re conflating Social Darwinism’s “evolutionary ladder” (yes, popular after his time, and mistakenly attributed to him) with his real position. I urge you to figure out the difference.

Re the eugenics movement, false, by any reasonable definition of “involved” and “the family”.

Re his religion, it’s pretty well documented that his faith waned over the years. Whether or not it was due to research is hard to prove.

GuyeFaux said: Re his religion, it’s pretty well documented that his faith waned over the years. Whether or not it was due to research is hard to prove.

I think the standard ‘story’ of Darwin attributes his loss of faith more to losing his daughter than his scientific research.

eric said:

GuyeFaux said: Re his religion, it’s pretty well documented that his faith waned over the years. Whether or not it was due to research is hard to prove.

I think the standard ‘story’ of Darwin attributes his loss of faith more to losing his daughter than his scientific research.

Or more generally, the problem of evil and cruelty. His daughter, yes, but also the ichneumon wasp. From his 1860 letter to Asa Gray:

I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.

Darwin was a nineteenth-century Englishman of the upper class, a “gentleman” in the contemporary sense. He was a product of his time and his background, as are we all. He certainly thought of non-Europeans as less “advanced”, on the basis, essentially, of their technology and polity.

This was also the universal opinion of Europeans of his day and far later. There was practically no dissent from the opinion that the possession of the steam engine and the nation-state demonstrated that European-derived civilisation represented the highest stage of human development. That attitude was really only challenged after the First World War. Gandhi’s waspish remark about “European civilisation” would only have produced puzzled bemusement, earlier.

However Darwin also certainly thought of indigenous people as human beings like himself, and he deplored and denounced their slavery, subjugation, ill-treatment and genocide. Personally, he was universally described as kindly and gentle, and he was a devoted and beloved father and husband. As the letter quoted above shows, he was unable to reconcile the cruelty, suffering and pain he saw in nature with the idea of a benevolent and loving Heavenly Father.

I can’t fault his reasoning. If God damned him for that, then God’s a monster.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCNftnJZX1Y

This video contains quotes which show Darwin’s deep respect for foreign cultures and ethnicities. You might google for the quotes and find the context in an online edition of Darwin’s works.

Dave:

You are correct in your comments re: Darwin being part and parcel of his times. He was a kind and sympathetic person towards other races. It does not let him off the hook. One cannot being excused for his cultural-built philosophies (nee “theories”) than his 19th century understanding of the simple, dumb cell being the foundation of life. So when the 21st century builds on his scientific work, and finds that he was ignorant due to when he was alive and the advancement of science at that time, so too we can look at his methodological naturalism as naive and in need of a greater understanding. He puzzled over the Cambrian Explosion. He left that for later generations to take a whack at; science has and guess what they found – his theory has been proven (a prepondeerence of the evidence) wrong. Why hang on to that simple 19th century opinion from his orign of life theory? He would likely be a member of the (apostate) Discovery Institute and the new, fresh ideas they are generating. As he was a game breaker for his time now a new generation is “breaking on through to the other side.” [Jim Morrison]

Dave:

God does not “damn” Darwin. Not the Biblical God, anyhoo. If Darwin is damned it is due to his own unbelief. That free will thing that was intelligently designed.

Eric: Thanks. My wife and I have buried two of our three children. the first time we ran from Him; the second time we ran towards him. As St. Paul taught me, Lord, I don’t ask why bad things happened to me; I only ask what I can learn through this pain.

Eugenics: gotta look up the facts. Take a gander at his grandfather’s writings, as well as those Darwinists descended on Darwin’s personal tree of life. There is direct involvement. Not undirected, though.

JJJ III:

his theory has been proven (a prepondeerence of the evidence) wrong.

This is incorrect. No evidence has ever been shown to disprove Darwininian evolution; though we have refined the pool of available mechanisms.

If you have genuine counterevidence feel free to produce it, but I caution against using the arguments most creationists offer.

Yeah, don’t just accuse scientists as a group of continually ignoring some well known basic principle or evidence. One scientist might miss something simple, but would a large number of them miss the same things at the same time, while competing with each other for funding and recognition? I don’t think so.

Henry

It’s the “open with the naive and disinterested seeker of truth routine” routine…

Deja vu all over again.

Wow, two for the price of one non-sequitur in one sentence:

So when the 21st century builds on his scientific work, and finds that he was ignorant due to when he was alive and the advancement of science at that time, so too we can look at his methodological naturalism as naive and in need of a greater understanding.

Listen: unlike you, we do not respect a person’s ideas because of his sainthood.

Anyhow, forget Darwin and methodological naturalism. Imagine for a second that neither existed. What’s your theory to account for the diversity of life on the planet? What happened when?

JJJ wrote:

“He puzzled over the Cambrian Explosion. He left that for later generations to take a whack at; science has and guess what they found – his theory has been proven (a prepondeerence of the evidence) wrong.”

OK I’ll bite (although I know I will regret it already). Exactly what do you think that Darwin was wrong about? Exactly why do you think that he was wrong? Exactly what “theory” are you referring to? Exactly what evidence are you referring to? Is this just some crap you read on some lying creationist web site?

Look, I’ll make this really simple for you. Darwin was wrong about lots of stuff. He was not wrong about descent with modification. He was not wrong about natural selection. He was not wrong about the Cambrian explosion. He didn’t know everything, so what? No one does.

Look, if you think that Darwin was just some quack who got everything wrong, why did you do a biography on him (or even read one)?

Oh and by the way, Darwin did not invent methodological naturalism, nor is it “wrong” in any meaningful sense. If you don’t like it fine, don’t use it. If you have a better alternative then fine, please use it. But don’t use modern technology to denigrate the methods that have been used to create that technology. There is a word for people who do that.

Rilke’s granddaughter:

This is incorrect. No evidence has ever been shown to disprove Darwininian evolution… If you have genuine counterevidence feel free to produce it

I’ll be even more generous.

Forget evidence against evolution, JJJ. That puts you at the disadvantage of having to prove a negative.

Instead, assume that there was no Charles Darwin. Assume that the Beagle capsized a mile out of Portsmouth, killing all hands. There was no voyage of discovers, there was no “Origin”.

You have a clean slate, and an open field. Please give us one bit of empirically verifiable evidence which supports ID, JJJ.

One little piece. Surely, after 2000 years of searching, creationists have that, right?

But please, no “irreducible complexity”, the inventor of that term, one Michael Behe, testified under oath for three days in the Dover evolution trial, and was abjectly unable to provide the slightest scrap of evidence in support of his theories, or, significantly, to explain the voluminous evidence demonstrating that that he was, in fact, totally wrong. Behe drowned in a sea of research papers, slowly slipping below the data till all that was left was a little white flag flying from a tiny flagellum.

And please, no “complex specified information”, at least until the creator of that term, a mathematician named Bill Dembski can actually specify what complexity he’s talking about and how we go about actually measuring it.

For the head of his own “research department” at Baylor, Dembski has been remarkably reticent about actually publishing any actual research. You now, research, ideas and information that other mathematicians can actually analyze for accuracy.

How reticent? Oh, about 20 years. Hmmm… now I wonder why Dembski might be unwilling to let anybody else see his equations…

But other than that, JJJ, if you have any evidence for ID, please, the floor is yours, please enlighten us.

That there “Cambrian explosion” was simply the period in which hard parts became common enough to have left some fossils that people have found. What other explanation is really needed for that?

Now whether they diverged from one type that developed hard parts once, or several evolved this rather expensive trait due to evolutionary pressure from enemies that had already done so (or were in the process of doing so), could be an interesting question. (And has probably already been answered by the experts.)

Henry

I’ll let the actual scientists try science on JJJ. I know that science consists of finding objective evidence and drawing conclusions only from that evidence. Hence the request for JJJ to produce his evidence and show his reasoning from it. He will, I predict, either fail to produce any or go on from here to win a Nobel Prize.

First, allow me to commiserate with JJJ about the death of his children. I cannot imagine what I would do if I lost my only child, my son. I doubt very much that I would bear it with JJJ’s fortitude. And believe me, I am quite sincere about that. The shiver of dread that passed over me when I read that was absolutely real. We have come close to losing him, twice.

Lacking in science, I take up JJJ’s idea that Darwin may be damned for his unbelief. (I quite take the point that JJJ did not say he was.)

It appears from this that JJJ thinks that God allows eternal torment to be the consequence, not of any moral failing, and not for any specific evil, but simply for not believing, and also that God is just and loving.

I cannot comprehend how it is possible to believe both. I don’t believe the former; if I did, the only conclusion I could reach from it is the one I gave: that God’s a monster.

stevaroni Wrote:

Instead, assume that there was no Charles Darwin. Assume that the Beagle capsized a mile out of Portsmouth, killing all hands. There was no voyage of discovers, there was no “Origin”.

You have a clean slate, and an open field. Please give us one bit of empirically verifiable evidence which supports ID, JJJ.

Can someone tell me why so many of you make such an excellent buildup, only to knock it down just before it’s finished?

The “assume that there was no Darwin” was a brilliant start, but what JJJ needs to answer is what he thinks the current evidence would point to in terms of “what happened when,” not whether it “supports ID,” whatever that means.

JJJ: My sincere condolences in your undeserved tragedies. I may not have had as many personal tragedies, but my faith in God has been tested, and it survives stronger than ever. Part of that faith requires me to avoid bearing false witness. So even though I greatly object to how Michael Behe misrepresents evolution, I must concede that he is correct on many points, such as that the evidence confirms that the Cambrian phyla existed ~540 MY ago, descended from common ancestors, and included chordates that are ancestral to us. Do you agree with him, and if not, what is your alternate conclusion, and how do you support it independently of any problems you might have with the Darwinian mechanism?

Before nitpicking, I’ll join with DS and Stevearoni. If you only respond to one bit of my post, respond to this: say evolution is wrong. Its gone - no longer on the table. What specific hypothesis or theory do you propose to explain speciation?

JJJ III said: He [Darwin] puzzled over the Cambrian Explosion. He left that for later generations to take a whack at; science has and guess what they found – his theory has been proven (a prepondeerence of the evidence) wrong.

I’m not sure what theory you’re talking about here. Gradualism? The Cambrian Explosion occurred over a span of about 30 million years, so it was pretty gradual. To put it in perspective, we’ve seen a “Mammalian Explosion” in the last 65 million years - a time period of the same order of magnitude. Yet I don’t see anyone claiming that the time period since the dinosaurs poses a problem for evolution.

As for “preponderance of evidence,” I think a basic literature search of scientific publications over the past 20 years would show that the ratio of evolution-supporting research results to evolution-rejecting research results is approximately tens of thousands to none. The only way you can get to “preponderance” is by counting creationist web pages and books as evidence instead of scientific research publications.

Why hang on to that simple 19th century opinion from his orign of life theory?

We don’t. There’s this thing called the “new synthesis.” It modifies Darwin’s ideas with modern knowledge of this subject called “genetics.”

What progress has ID made since Paley? If anything, you’ve gone in reverse - ID understands less about the designer than (earlier types of) creationism did.

He would likely be a member of the (apostate) Discovery Institute and the new, fresh ideas they are generating.

Fresh ideas are not the end state of science, they are the beginning of it. In twenty years the DI has yet to move from “idea” to research. In contrast, a typical science grad student does that in a semester.

Well, I can only speak for myself, of course, but I always go for the “Assume there was no Darwin” because it quickly removes the false dichotomy of the ID argument and goes directly to the real issue, that the Emperor has no clothes.

For decades, the ID argument has been almost exclusively given in terms of “evolution is wrong”. I understand why they want to argue that way - it’s easy.

Evolution is the natural enemy, and in their eyes, this is an obvious zero-sum game. To them, since the answer is obviously special creation, anything that casts doubt on evolution is evidence for their side.

Since they perceive evolution as a competing religion, if you can demonize Charles Darwin in the process, so much the better.

I like to just give them the ball and an open field, and watch them either 1) fumble immediately or 2) (if they’re smart) refuse to touch the ball at all. Either way, it’s pretty demonstrative.

Past that, I’m open to either line of questioning, I tend to gravitate to “give me one little scrap of positive evidence”, which invariably results in them delivering nothing, hopefully very publically. But “What happened when” is also pretty good, since (unless you’re dealing with a YEC who will actually admit what he believes) it requires immediate evasion.

Why hang on to that simple 19th century opinion from his origin of life theory?

Geeze, I don’t know. After all, why do we hang on to simple 19th century concepts like Maxwells’ equations in the age of semiconductors?

Why do we hang on to simple 18th century concepts like Newtonian physics when we have since discovered that there are subtler things going on like quantum mechanics and relativistic effects?

Hell, why do we hang onto the ancient Greek value of pi when we can now calculate it to millions of places?

Could it be that maybe it’s because these guys got the basic framework right all those years ago, and once someone figures it out there’s no need to change the basic model?

Adding to stevaroni’s examples:

Why do they keep drawing benzene with three double bonds when we know know that’s wrong?

As you know, and creationists either don’t or pretend not to, it’s because, like Newtonian physics and Darwinian evolution, it’s useful and instructive even when modern advances (in this case molecular orbitals) are ommitted because they may confuse those new to the subject.

Why do they keep drawing benzene with three double bonds when we know know that’s wrong?

Cause that makes it easy to count the number of bonds attached to each atom? It’s elementary!

Henry J Wrote:

Cause that makes it easy to count the number of bonds attached to each atom? It’s elementary!

Exactly. Like PV=nRT, the other example I often use, it’s instructive. The “whole truth” is a bit more complicated, and thus less instructive.

Alas, no matter now many times I would say “4 bonds per carbon” back when I was teaching organic chem ~30 years ago, some students would draw structures with as many as 7 bonds.

I’m no expert on educational methods, so I could be wrong. But I think if evolution teachers first make it clear how we know that life is arranged in a ~4-billion year old “tree” before jumping into natural selection (“red in tooth and claw” connotation and all), fewer students would be turned off to it. And if students are truly are incredulous of “RM + NS” because of “insufficient evidence” rather than unwarranted implications, they would realize even if their incredulity were warranted, it just does not follow that life must be arranged in something other than a ~4-billion year old “tree.”

None of that will affect any future scam artists in the class, but at least they might have fewer potential victims.

But I think if evolution teachers first make it clear how we know that life is arranged in a ~4-billion year old “tree” before jumping into natural selection

Yep. That “tree” is the evidence that evolution happened, and that separate species accumulated changes independently of each other. The variation plus selection thing is the explanation for why the changes are independent rather than being routinely copy/pasted from one group to another.

(That’s aside from those pesky microbes that swap DNA promiscuously with whoever else might be around. Antics like that do tend to mess up the tree.)

Henry

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This page contains a single entry by Skip published on October 29, 2009 10:51 AM.

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