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Re: [OriginsTalk] Darwinism is beside the point

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  • Susan Cogan
    ... from that article: There are many diseases as yet uncontrolled by vaccination, and new diseases are sure to emerge through evolution by mutation and gene
    Message 1 of 8 , Aug 6, 2007
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      > > >This means there are other information platforms on which our life may
      >> >be dependent and I wonder how naturalists would invoke evolution if,
      >> >lo and behold, "science" finds absolutely no natural platform with
      >> >this information on it. The story of evolution is dead in more ways
      >> >than you might think.
      >>
      >>We need to know about evolution because we need to know how viruses and
      > >other pathogens evolve.
      >
      >Darwinism is irrelevant to learning how viruses and other
      >pathogens adapt.
      >
      >See, for example, _Vaccines: past present and future /
      >Nature / Stanley A. Plotkin / Nature / Volume 11,
      >Number 4 / April 2005.


      from that article:
      "There are many diseases as yet uncontrolled by vaccination, and new
      diseases are sure to emerge through evolution by mutation and gene
      exchange, interspecies transfer or human exposure to new environments"

      the flu evolves into a "new" disease every year

      >
      > >Did you get a flu shot last year? Do you plan to get one this year?
      >
      >Not a single member of my family - my parents, my husband, my
      >children - has gotten a flu shot. Ever.


      Why do you withhold the benefits of modern medicine from your
      children? How far do you go with it?


      > >Do you know why you have to take the flu shot every year?
      >
      >Nobody has to take a flu shot any year.


      they do if (a) they don't really enjoy being sick (b) they have a
      fragile immune system and the flu might kill them or (c) they live or
      work around someone with a fragile immune system whom the flu might
      kill

      of course, you have to CARE about all of that. Otherwise, no, you
      don't ever have to take a flu shot.


      > >Evolutionary biologists study the viruses and guess which ones will
      >>be the most successful and make a vaccine that will work on them. If
      >>you take last year's flu shot this year, you will get sick. And you
      >>will have made yourself sick because of your ignorance about
      >>evolution.]
      >
      >Again, you've conclusively refuted your own assertion:
      >microbiologists "study [flu] viruses and GUESS which
      >ones will be the most successful"....
      >
      >Flu vaccines aren't panaceas. For instance, the 2004
      >A/Fujian/411/2002 "guess" was a miserable failure;
      >the vaccine failure rate was UNUSUALLY high during
      >the 2004-05 flu season.

      so what? They know for certain that the flu virus has evolved and
      last year's vaccines won't work. If they did, then the flu shot you
      had in 2003 would have worked in 2004. Since mutations are random you
      can't predict how a virus is going to mutate. You can make an
      educated guess (there, is that better?) but you can't predict it
      without a margin of error. The vaccine USUALLY works, not always.
      It's a heck of a lot better than trying to prevent the flu by
      crossing your fingers--or yourself.


      >Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of
      >Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, likes to
      >invoke the much-quoted declaration of famed 20th-
      >century biologist Theodesius Dobzhansky that
      >"nothing in biology makes sense except in the light
      >of evolution" (the title of a 1973 essay). "In fact,
      >over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded
      >independent of evolution, except
      >evolutionary biology itself," Kirschner declares.
      >"Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have
      >not taken evolution into account at all."

      Does this snippet accurately represent Kirschner's views? Let's find
      out, shall we? These are the two paragraphs that follow that one:

      As a result, scientists working on genetics, cells, and molecules-a
      background Kirschner and Gerhart share-have not always considered how
      components of an organism reveal both its physiological properties
      and evolutionary properties and provide a window into the history of
      the organism. Evolutionary science, argue Kirschner and Gerhart, will
      advance as more biologists place their lab research within this
      evolutionary framework.

      Nonetheless, many scientists think a convergence of biology's
      disciplines is now at hand. Whereas evolutionary biologists have
      famously debated whether the gene, organism, or even species is the
      proper unit of natural selection, current research increasingly
      integrates these things. ''This is where it's happening," says Daniel
      Hartl, an evolutionary geneticist at Harvard. ''Evolutionists and
      others in the field are not arguing about reductionism any more.
      What's exciting is putting it all together, from the genetic level to
      the organism."
      http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/10/23/missing_links/?page=1

      ----------
      my goodness, it looks like Kirschner's views have been
      misrepresented. Imagine that. Paging Dave Oldridge!

      Susan


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • James G. Goff
      DARWINISM IS BESIDE THE POINT Clare: Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, likes to invoke the
      Message 2 of 8 , Aug 8, 2007
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        DARWINISM IS BESIDE THE POINT

        Clare: "Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems
        Biology at Harvard Medical School, likes to invoke the much-quoted
        declaration of famed 20th-century biologist Theodesius Dobzhansky that
        'nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution' (the
        title of a 1973 essay). 'In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of
        biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology
        itself,' Kirschner declares. 'Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology,
        have not taken evolution into account at all.'"
        Susan: "Does this snippet accurately represent Kirschner's views?
        Let's find out, shall we? These are the two paragraphs that follow that
        one...my goodness, it looks like Kirschner's views have been
        misrepresented. Imagine that."

        Actually, I think it's abundantly clear that Clare's intent wasn't
        to represent Kirschner's "views," but to cite his quite apt observation
        that biology (except for evolutionary biology) owes practically nothing to
        Darwinian theory. Kirschner's observation is a demonstrable fact, not a
        personal "view." While he laments the general uselessness of Darwinism to
        most areas of biological research, he doesn't deny it (although he's
        hopeful that Darwinism will become more useful in the years ahead, as "the
        two paragraphs that follow that one" show).

        In the August 2005 edition of "The Scientist," chemist and National
        Academy of Science member Philip S. Skell described the irrelevance of
        Darwinian theory to most biological research in this way:

        "I recently asked more than seventy eminent researchers if they
        would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin's theory
        was wrong. The responses were all the same: no. I also examined the
        outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double
        helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes;
        research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production
        and sanitation; the development of new surgeries and others. I even queried
        biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm
        to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to
        antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin's
        theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the
        breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss."

        With regard to his own work in developing antibiotics, Skell wrote
        that his "own research with antibiotics during World War II received no
        guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution." It's quite silly
        to suppose that researchers would have never noticed that bacteria adapt to
        antibiotics - and that they need to adjust their drug-development
        strategies accordingly - without Darwinism. Rather than being the
        organizing principle of biology, Darwinian evolution is largely beside the
        point in most areas of biological research. I think its importance to
        biology has been grossly oversold for ideological or philosophical reasons,
        not because "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of
        evolution." If biology is a senseless science without Darwinism, one has to
        wonder what the pioneers of modern biology - men who lived before Darwin -
        thought they were up to. Did anatomy make no sense to 16th-century
        anatomist Andreas Vesallius? Did physiology make no sense to 16th-century
        physiologist William Harvey? Did botany make no sense to 17th-century
        botanist John Ray? Were the 17th-century founders of microbiology (Robert
        Hook and Anton van Leewenhoek) engaged in senseless biological research?
        Were the pre-Darwin founders of systematics (Carolus Linnaeus), modern
        embryology (Caspar Friedrich Wolff), and paleontology (Georges Cuvier) also
        engaged in senseless biology? Darwinian theory has contributed to our
        understanding of the biological world, but clearly much (if not most) of
        biology makes sense without any reference whatsoever to Darwinism.
        Dobzhansky's famous remark was propaganda, not science.

        Jim in Vermont
      • Phil Schuster
        ... Susan Cogan: Does this snippet accurately represent Kirschner s views? Let s find out, shall we? These are the two paragraphs that follow that one: As a
        Message 3 of 8 , Aug 13, 2007
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          Clare W Parr:
          >Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of
          >Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, likes to
          >invoke the much-quoted declaration of famed 20th-
          >century biologist Theodesius Dobzhansky that
          >"nothing in biology makes sense except in the light
          >of evolution" (the title of a 1973 essay). "In fact,
          >over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded
          >independent of evolution, except
          >evolutionary biology itself," Kirschner declares.
          >"Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have
          >not taken evolution into account at all."




          Susan Cogan:
          Does this snippet accurately represent Kirschner's views? Let's find
          out, shall we? These are the two paragraphs that follow that one:

          As a result, scientists working on genetics, cells, and molecules-a
          background Kirschner and Gerhart share-have not always considered how
          components of an organism reveal both its physiological properties
          and evolutionary properties and provide a window into the history of
          the organism. Evolutionary science, argue Kirschner and Gerhart, will
          advance as more biologists place their lab research within this
          evolutionary framework.

          Nonetheless, many scientists think a convergence of biology's
          disciplines is now at hand. Whereas evolutionary biologists have
          famously debated whether the gene, organism, or even species is the
          proper unit of natural selection, current research increasingly
          integrates these things. ''This is where it's happening," says Daniel
          Hartl, an evolutionary geneticist at Harvard. ''Evolutionists and
          others in the field are not arguing about reductionism any more.
          What's exciting is putting it all together, from the genetic level to
          the organism."
          http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/10/23/missing_lin
          ks/?page=1

          ----------
          my goodness, it looks like Kirschner's views have been
          misrepresented. Imagine that. Paging Dave Oldridge!

          Susan




          Phil S:
          I noticed that James Goff ignored this quote when he replied to your
          post, Susan. But does it really matter that many advances have been
          made without using a theoretical framework to guide research? It only
          vouches for the objectivity of the reasearch. Does it matter that the
          linnean classification system was put together without knowledge of
          evolution or that the relative dating of geological strata along with
          indicator fossils was well established before Darwin? Nested
          groupings in taxonomy and the fossil record are still comgruent with
          the other evidence for evolution and we have the added assurance that
          there was no "Darwinian" bias involved. The same can be said for
          other areas of research & discovery. But what do you think the
          creationists & ID advocates would say if all of these discoveries
          were guided by an evolutionary framework? They would complain about
          alleged bias as they wield the flip side of their double edged sword.
        • James G. Goff
          DARWINISM IS BESIDE THE POINT Phil: I noticed that James Goff ignored this quote when he replied to your post, Susan. Good grief. How did you fail to notice
          Message 4 of 8 , Aug 13, 2007
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            DARWINISM IS BESIDE THE POINT

            Phil: "I noticed that James Goff ignored this quote when he replied
            to your post, Susan."

            Good grief. How did you fail to notice that I specifically
            mentioned the quote provided by Susan? Granted, I didn't copy and paste it
            (on the assumption that readers would either remember it or refer back to
            it), but I certainly didn't ignore it. Susan's quote (i.e., "the two
            paragraphs that follow" the quote provided by Clare) showed only that
            Harvard biologist Marc Kirschner laments the fact that Darwinism has been
            quite irrelevant to most biological research, not that he denies that fact.
            Clare quoted Kirschner to highlight the historical uselessness of
            Darwinism, not to misrepresent his "views" (as Susan falsely charged). His
            view that Darwinism might become more useful does nothing to belie the fact
            that it's been largely beside the point in most areas of biological
            research.

            Phil: "But does it really matter that many advances have been made
            without using a theoretical framework to guide research?"

            What matters is that the claim that Darwinism is the central
            organizing principle of biology - that (in Dobzhansky's words) "nothing in
            biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" - is false. The claim
            is propaganda intended to cow people into thinking they're not "with it"
            (scientifically speaking) if they have doubts about Darwinism.

            Jim in Vermont
          • Clare Wilson Parr
            ... On June 1, 2007, Susan Cogan wrote re: No Evidence for a Designer/Glass ... all. A Templeton guy. Actually a kind of creationist.
            Message 5 of 8 , Aug 14, 2007
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              On 8/13/2007, Phil Schuster wrote:

              >>Clare W Parr:
              >> >Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of
              >> >Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, likes to
              >> >invoke the much-quoted declaration of famed 20th-
              >> >century biologist Theodesius Dobzhansky that
              >> >"nothing in biology makes sense except in the light
              >> >of evolution" (the title of a 1973 essay). "In fact,
              >> >over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded
              >> >independent of evolution, except
              >> >evolutionary biology itself," Kirschner declares.
              >> >"Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have
              >> >not taken evolution into account at all."
              >
              >>Susan Cogan:
              >>Does this snippet accurately represent Kirschner's views? Let's find
              >>out, shall we? These are the two paragraphs that follow that one:
              >>
              >>As a result, scientists working on genetics, cells, and molecules-a
              >>background Kirschner and Gerhart share-have not always considered how
              >>components of an organism reveal both its physiological properties
              >>and evolutionary properties and provide a window into the history of
              >>the organism. Evolutionary science, argue Kirschner and Gerhart, will
              >>advance as more biologists place their lab research within this
              >>evolutionary framework.
              >>
              >>Nonetheless, many scientists think a convergence of biology's
              >>disciplines is now at hand. Whereas evolutionary biologists have
              >>famously debated whether the gene, organism, or even species is the
              >>proper unit of natural selection, current research increasingly
              >>integrates these things. ''This is where it's happening," says Daniel
              >>Hartl, an evolutionary geneticist at Harvard. ''Evolutionists and
              >>others in the field are not arguing about reductionism any more.
              >>What's exciting is putting it all together, from the genetic level to
              >>the organism."
              >>http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/10/23/missing_lin
              >>ks/?page=1
              >>
              >>----------
              >>my goodness, it looks like Kirschner's views have been
              >>misrepresented. Imagine that. Paging Dave Oldridge!
              >
              >Phil S:
              >I noticed that James Goff ignored this quote when he replied to your
              >post, Susan.

              On June 1, 2007, Susan Cogan wrote re: No Evidence for a Designer/Glass
              Houses :

              >Harvard biologist Marc W. Kirshner (himself a Darwinist) lamented
              >the uselessness of Darwinism in this way: "Over the last one
              >hundred years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of
              >evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology,
              >biochemistry, physiology,have not taken evolution into account at
              all."

              A Templeton guy. Actually a kind of creationist.
              http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OriginsTalk/message/14439
              ----

              I noticed that you ignored the very same quote posted by
              Jim Goff two and a half months ago, and the false retort
              posted by the same person who a couple of days ago
              falsely accused me of having misrepresented Kirschner by
              posting that very quote.

              Which is it? Is Kirschner "a kind of creationist" whose
              ideologically tainted "views" must be dismissed out of
              hand as irrational, or have I "misrepresented"
              Kirschner's views?

              On 8/8/2007, James G. Goff wrote:

              Actually, I think it's abundantly clear that Clare's intent wasn't
              to represent Kirschner's "views," but to cite his quite apt observation
              that biology (except for evolutionary biology) owes practically nothing
              to Darwinian theory. Kirschner's observation is a demonstrable fact, not
              a personal "view." While he laments the general uselessness of Darwinism
              to most areas of biological research, he doesn't deny it (ALTHOUGH HE'S
              HOPEFUL THAT DARWINISM WILL BECOME MORE USEFUL IN THE YEARS AHEAD, AS "THE
              TWO PARAGRAPHS THAT FOLLOW THAT ONE" SHOW).
              http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OriginsTalk/message/14768

              Since Jim's point is lost on you, I'll spell it out:

              The paragraph I quoted,

              "Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of
              Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, likes to
              invoke the much-quoted declaration of famed 20th-
              century biologist Theodesius Dobzhansky that
              "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light
              of evolution" (the title of a 1973 essay). 'In fact,
              over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has
              proceeded independent of evolution, except
              evolutionary biology itself,' Kirschner declares.
              'Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have
              not taken evolution into account at all.'"

              is not a "misrepresentation" of Kirschner's "views,"
              as the two following paragraphs,

              As a result, scientists working on genetics, cells,
              and molecules-a background Kirschner and Gerhart
              share-have not always considered how components of
              an organism reveal both its physiological properties
              and evolutionary properties and provide a window
              into the history of the organism. Evolutionary
              science, argue Kirschner and Gerhart, will advance
              as more biologists place their lab research within
              this evolutionary framework.

              Nonetheless, many scientists think a convergence of
              biology's disciplines is now at hand. Whereas
              evolutionary biologists have famously debated whether
              the gene, organism, or even species is the proper
              unit of natural selection, current research
              increasingly integrates these things. ''This is where
              it's happening," says Daniel Hartl, an evolutionary
              geneticist at Harvard. ''Evolutionists and others in
              the field are not arguing about reductionism any more.
              What's exciting is putting it all together, from the
              genetic level to the organism."
              ----

              quite unambiguously demonstrate. As Jim noted, the two
              subsequent paragraphs underpin the meaning of the
              first by discussing that Kirschner, et al, are
              "HOPEFUL THAT DARWINISM WILL BECOME MORE USEFUL IN THE
              YEARS AHEAD."

              >But does it really matter that many advances have been
              >made without using a theoretical framework to guide research? It only
              >vouches for the objectivity of the reasearch. Does it matter that the
              >linnean classification system was put together without knowledge of
              >evolution or that the relative dating of geological strata along with
              >indicator fossils was well established before Darwin? Nested
              >groupings in taxonomy and the fossil record are still comgruent with
              >the other evidence for evolution and we have the added assurance that
              >there was no "Darwinian" bias involved. The same can be said for
              >other areas of research & discovery. But what do you think the
              >creationists & ID advocates would say if all of these discoveries
              >were guided by an evolutionary framework? They would complain about
              >alleged bias as they wield the flip side of their double edged sword.

              On 7/19/2007, Clare Wilson Parr wrote re: Darwinism
              is beside the point:

              >We need to know about evolution because we need to know how viruses and
              >other pathogens evolve.

              Darwinism is irrelevant to learning how viruses and
              other pathogens adapt.
              ----

              You've missed the point. The point, as Dr. Michael Egnor,
              a professor of neurosurgery, who works and teaches at a
              medical school, does brain research, and has performed
              over 4000 brain operations, rightly notes:

              "Without using evolutionary theory, doctors and scientists
              have discovered vaccines (Jenner, in the 18th century,
              before Darwin was born), discovered that germs cause
              infectious diseases (Pasteur, in the 19th century, who
              ignored Darwin), discovered genes (Mendel, in the 19th
              century, who was a priest and not a supporter of Darwin's
              theory), discovered antibiotics, and unraveled the secrets
              of the genetic code (the key to these discoveries was the
              discovery of the apparent design in the DNA double helix).
              Heart, liver, and kidney transplants, new treatments for
              cancer and heart disease, and a host of life-saving
              advances in medicine have been developed without input
              from evolutionary biologists. No Nobel prize in medicine
              has ever been awarded for work in evolutionary biology. In
              fact, I think it's safe to say that the only contribution
              evolution has made to modern medicine is to take it down
              the horrific road of eugenics, which brought forced
              sterilization and bodily harm to many thousands of
              Americans in the early 1900s. That's a contribution which
              has brought shame - not advance - to the medical field."

              and as Dr. Behe has rightly noted,

              "The relationship between Darwinism and real science is
              parasitic. The theory's main use is for Darwinists to
              claim credit for whatever biology discovers. If
              research shows that humans are selfish, Darwinism can
              explain that. If science shows we are unselfish, why,
              it can explain that, too. If we are a combination of
              both­no problem. If cells are simple or complex, if
              sexual reproduction is common or rare, if embryos are
              similar or different, Darwinism will explain it all for
              you. The elasticity of the theory would make Sigmund
              Freud blush."
              ----

              and as Dr. Phillip Skell has rightly noted,

              "Darwinian evolution is an interesting theory about the
              remote history of life.... Modern biology is engaged in
              the examination of tissues from living organisms with
              new methods and instruments. None of the great
              discoveries in biology and medicine over the past
              century depended on guidance from Darwinian evolution
              - it provided no support.

              "For those scientists who take it seriously, Darwinian
              evolution has functioned more as a philosophical
              belief system than as a testable scientific hypothesis.
              This quasi-religious function of the theory is, I
              think, what lies behind many of the extreme statements
              that you have doubtless encountered from some
              scientists opposing any criticism of neo-Darwinism in
              the classroom. It is also why many scientists make
              public statements about the theory that they would not
              defend privately to other scientists like me.

              "In my judgment, this state of affairs has persisted
              mainly because too many scientists were afraid to
              challenge what had become a philosophical orthodoxy
              among their colleagues. Fortunately, that is changing
              as many scientists are now beginning to examine the
              evidence for neo-Darwinism more openly and critically
              in scientific journals.

              "Intellectual freedom is fundamental to the scientific
              method. Learning to think creatively, logically and
              critically is the most important training that young
              scientists can receive."
              ----

              The only people doing the ignoring and misrepresenting
              are you and Susan Cogan.
            • hucklebird@aol.com
              In a message dated 8/14/07 8:45:54 AM Pacific Daylight Time, ... The self lovers of said icon can hardly be asked to put their beloved Darwin to the said test!
              Message 6 of 8 , Aug 14, 2007
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                In a message dated 8/14/07 8:45:54 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
                JimGoff@... writes:


                > Phil: "But does it really matter that many advances have been made
                > without using a theoretical framework to guide research?"
                >
                > What matters is that the claim that Darwinism is the central
                > organizing principle of biology - that (in Dobzhansky's words) "nothing in
                > biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" - is false. The claim
                > is propaganda intended to cow people into thinking they're not "with it"
                > (scientifically speaking) if they have doubts about Darwinism.
                >
                > Jim in Vermont
                >






                The self lovers of said icon can hardly be asked to put their beloved Darwin
                to the said test! Too much self love and their can be no attempted refutation
                of Darwin's thesis following Popper's criterion. If there is no test there is
                no science by Popper. Where has his thesis been tested? Where has the bold
                claims of Dennett in "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" been tested?

                Darwin's theory of evolution did not predict biological symbiosis, convergent
                evolution or biochemical complexity at the level of the cell. Darwin theory
                did not anticipate the Hox system of genes, or the fewness provided by our mere
                25,000 genes. Darwin's theory does not predict altruism despite the claims of
                evolutionary psychology as caricature maker. What Darwin's theory does is
                rationalize itself after the facts of observation, shamefully.

                Intelligent design can be recast as Darwin’s antithesis; and no mentioned of
                a white-haired designer need be made. If Darwin’s theory is science, then so
                is its antithesis. One does not need a thesis in the positive sense to do
                Popper's science, one can approach science in the negative sense (i.e., working to
                refute a thesis that has been stated positively). There is no valid reason in
                philosophy to be found where Darwin’s antithesis can be locked out of science
                on a-priori ground, otherwise I can only conclude that Darwin's theory is not
                science as it has become pseudo-science. For science to remain as science, the
                innate emotionality must be dealt with, otherwise Darwinism as projected by
                Dawkins and company is not science; it is scientism. Science has the
                responsibility to study reality the way reality is, and not as reality ought to be for
                scientism. Dawkins' new expertise in religion is not an outgrowth of science,
                it is from scientism. Why does Dawkins embrace a straw dog?

                You would think that it would be possible for scientists to admit that
                Darwin's theory is all about micro-evolution, rather than projecting the theory into
                areas where it finds little supporting evidence. What is wrong with admitting
                that macro evolution is beyond Darwin's theory?

                The politics of power is not science but an innate vitality that in itself
                can also be studied with the best science; but only if the scientists are mature
                enough to put their self lovers to the test. This is the ultimate expression
                of nihilism, not confused by the likes of Dennett, Dawkins and Nietzche.
                Dennett's dissolving acid can be put on the caricature itself, and this is the only
                way to see what is beneath the veneer.

                Stephen








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                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • James G. Goff
                DARWINISM IS BESIDE THE POINT In an essay published in The Scientist (August 29, 2005), chemist Phillip Skell (member, National Academy of Science)
                Message 7 of 8 , Aug 15, 2007
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                  DARWINISM IS BESIDE THE POINT

                  In an essay published in "The Scientist" (August 29, 2005), chemist
                  Phillip Skell (member, National Academy of Science) challenged Theodosius
                  Dobzhansky's claim that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light
                  of evolution." Skell's thesis emerged in two key paragraphs:

                  >Darwin's theory of evolution offers a sweeping explanation of the
                  history of life, from the earliest microscopic organisms billions of years
                  ago to all the plants and animals around us today. Much of the evidence
                  that might have established the theory on an unshakable empirical
                  foundation, however, remains lost in the distant past. For instance, Darwin
                  hoped we would discover transitional precursors to the animal forms that
                  appear abruptly in the Cambrian strata. Since then we have found many
                  ancient fossils - even exquisitely preserved soft-bodied creatures - but
                  none are credible ancestors to the Cambrian animals.
                  >Despite this and other difficulties, the modern form of Darwin's
                  theory has been raised to its present high status because it's said to be
                  the cornerstone of modern experimental biology. But is that correct? "While
                  the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius
                  Dobzhansky's dictum that 'nothing in biology makes sense except in the
                  light of evolution,' most can conduct their work quite happily without
                  particular reference to evolutionary ideas," A.S. Wilkins, editor of the
                  journal 'BioEssays,' wrote in 2000. "Evolution would appear to be the
                  indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous
                  one."<

                  Predictably, although Skell's claim that experimental biology owes
                  virtually nothing to Darwinism is demonstrably true, a number of scientists
                  wrote replies arguing that he had overlooked certain areas where Darwinism
                  had been useful. Allowed to respond to his critics, Skell wrote:

                  >My essay about Darwinism and modern experimental biology has
                  stirred up a lively discussion, but the responses still provide no evidence
                  that evolutionary theory is the cornerstone of experimental biology.
                  Comparative physiology and comparative genomics have certainly been
                  fruitful, but comparative biology originated before Darwin and owes nothing
                  to his theory. Before the publication of "The Origin of Species" in 1859,
                  comparative biology focused mainly on morphology because physiology and
                  biochemistry were in their infancy and genomics lay in the future; but the
                  extension of a comparative approach to these subdisciplines depended on the
                  development of new methodologies and instruments, not on evolutionary
                  theory and immersion in historical biology.
                  >One letter mentions directed molecular evolution as a technique to
                  discover antibodies, enzymes, and drugs. Like comparative biology, this has
                  certainly been fruitful, but it is not an application of Darwinian
                  evolution - it is the modern molecular equivalent of classical breeding.
                  Long before Darwin, breeders used artificial selection to develop improved
                  strains of crops and livestock. Darwin extrapolated this in an attempt to
                  explain the origin of new species, but he did not invent the process of
                  artificial selection itself.
                  >It is noteworthy that not one of these critics has detailed an
                  example where Darwin's Grand Paradigm Theory guided researchers to their
                  goals. In fact, most innovations are not guided by grand paradigms but by
                  much more modest, testable hypotheses. Recognizing this, neither medical
                  schools nor pharmaceutical firms maintain divisions of evolutionary
                  science. The fabulous advances in experimental biology over the past
                  century have had a core dependence on the development of new methodologies
                  and instruments, not on intensive immersion in historical biology and
                  Darwin's theory, which attempted to historicize the meager documentation.
                  >Evolution is not an observable characteristic of living organisms.
                  What modern experimental biologists study are the mechanisms by which
                  living organisms maintain their stability, without evolving. Organisms
                  oscillate about a median state; and if they deviate significantly from that
                  state, they die. It has been research on these mechanisms of stability, not
                  research guided by Darwin's theory, which has produced the major fruits of
                  modern biology and medicine. And so I ask again: Why do we invoke Darwin?<

                  The answer to Skell's question lies in the commitment of so many
                  biologists to philosophical materialism. Because Darwinism and materialism
                  have developed a mutually dependent relationship, praises must be sung to
                  Darwinism even when they're empty.

                  Jim in Vermont
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