Sunday, February 15, 2009

Darwinian Fundamentalism

Last Thursday was the 200 anniversay of the birth of Charles Darwin, the intellectual progenitor of the theory of natural selection. Just about every mainstream publication's run some essay or another on Darwin's impact, for example, the New York Times, "Darwin, Ahead of His Time, Is Still Influential."

What's interesting to me about this latest round of "Darwinmania" is the rekindling of the politics of evolution versus divine creation; and as a "scientist" (a political scientist actually, trained in positivist ontological methods), folks might have wondered where I come down on all of this?

Well, as a believer in the essential compatibility of faith and reason, I'm not one to get too worked up about the conflicts between the science of national selection and the theological origins of man. It's a complicated thing, especially in terms of historical timelines (the natural life of the earth is said to be in the billions of years; the Biblical creation just a few thousand), although we can at least make reference to Stephen Jay Gould's
doctrine of nonoverlapping magisteria, in which he argues that evolution is "both true and entirely compatible with Christian belief ..."

In any case, debates over religion and society have been particularly intense following last year's general election and the passage in three states of initiatives making marriage available to one man and one woman exclusively. Radical critics attacked people of faith mercilessly, and the left's meme is that "Christianists" have increasingly become the core cell of a "Talibanized Republican Party" (if that makes any sense ...).

In any case, here's a snippet from Stephen Jay Gould's 1997 essay, "
Darwinian Fundamentalism":

I am amused by an irony that has recently ensnared evolutionary theory. A movement of strict constructionism, a self-styled form of Darwinian fundamentalism, has risen to some prominence in a variety of fields, from the English biological heartland of John Maynard Smith to the uncompromising ideology (albeit in graceful prose) of his compatriot Richard Dawkins, to the equally narrow and more ponderous writing of the American philosopher Daniel Dennett (who entitled his latest book Darwin's Dangerous Idea). Moreover, a larger group of strict constructionists are now engaged in an almost mordantly self-conscious effort to "revolutionize" the study of human behavior along a Darwinian straight and narrow under the name of "evolutionary psychology" ....

The radicalism of natural selection lies in its power to dethrone some of the deepest and most traditional comforts of Western thought, particularly the notion that nature's benevolence, order, and good design, with humans at a sensible summit of power and excellence, proves the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent creator who loves us most of all (the old-style theological version), or at least that nature has meaningful directions, and that humans fit into a sensible and predictable pattern regulating the totality (the modern and more secular version).

To these beliefs Darwinian natural selection presents the most contrary position imaginable. Only one causal force produces evolutionary change in Darwin's world: the unconscious struggle among individual organisms to promote their own personal reproductive success—nothing else, and nothing higher (no force, for example, works explicitly for the good of species or the harmony of ecosystems). Richard Dawkins would narrow the focus of explanation even one step further—to genes struggling for reproductive success within passive bodies (organisms) under the control of genes—a hyper-Darwinian idea that I regard as a logically flawed and basically foolish caricature of Darwin's genuinely radical intent.

The very phenomena that traditional views cite as proof of benevolence and intentional order—the good design of organisms and the harmony of ecosystems—arise by Darwin's process of natural selection only as side consequences of a singular causal principle of apparently opposite meaning: organisms struggling for themselves alone. (Good design becomes one pathway to reproductive success, while the harmony of ecosystems records a competitive balance among victors.) Darwin's system should be viewed as morally liberating, not cosmically depressing. The answers to moral questions cannot be found in nature's factuality in any case, so why not take the "cold bath" of recognizing nature as nonmoral, and not constructed to match our hopes? After all, life existed on earth for 3.5 billion years before we arrived; why should life's causal ways match our prescriptions for human meaning or decency?
I'll have more later, dear readers ...

14 comments:

Grace Explosion said...

My understanding is below. Bottom-line, God created the heavens and the earth. Verse 1. There is no measure of time between verse 1 and 2. But the earth existed in a formless and thus void state. The materials of earth existed... but not the form. When God said, "Let there be..." without question there was a "big bang". :) When God says, "Let there be..." to a swirling mass of formless earth and heaven as He hovers over it by His Spirit... and light explodes into being... there's a "big bang", I'm going to believe. (Oh, speaking of "big bangs"... I began my grace discussion "grace explosion" group Thursday. I expect God to eventually move in Shekinah (tangible manifest) glory of sufficient clarity and power to launch a Great Awakening in clear illumination of grace. But I digress.) Anyway, there is much we cannot know or see on the basis of the scripture relative to time until the first day (which had a morning and an evening so I take as a literal day). We do know that God created all things in a formed state as animals Adam named. Adam, as the first man, is historical - not pre-historical. Furthermore, we think we understand "carbon dating" -- but I'm not so sure there isn't a "missing link" of information which clarifies how to measure the actual time length of somethings material existence. The component parts of things (like carbon??) may have existed for what we would term millions or billions of years when the material of the earth existed prior to being formed by God into earth between verses 1 and 2. Also, there were giants in the land during period of time after Adam's creation. There were anomalies. We have animals appear to go extinct now. Why couldn't animals have existed prior to the flood that subsequently went extinct?? (Like dinosauers,etc.) Man may have seen it as in his best interest to render dinosauers extinct. And, also, how long were Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in perfection before the fall of man?? Is it not possible that "time" as we know it today... really did not exist in a state of perfection?? For all we know, the galaxy was to great extent stationery prior to the fall of man... and it was the fall of man that set time, as we know it, into existence. Time pre-fall and time post-fall could be two very different "states of time" in nature. So time, as we know it, has only existed since the fall of man. But from the time God created the heaven and earth without form... to the fall of man... is unknown. No one can or will scientifically "prove" the Bible's tale of creation "false". They will only think themselves wise as God in His Heaven laughs and holds them in derision as they imagine themselves beings not formed and ruled over by their Creator. I look forward to entering His realm fully in body as I am presently in His realm in spirit seated at the right hand of God. My spirit is in Christ RIGHT NOW... and in Him I live and breath and have my being.

Anyone who says differently... is, quite basically, ignorant. I was taken to Heaven when I was 3 years old. I've seen Jesus Christ in the Spirit personally face to face. Don't anyone try to tell me they've logically "figured out" there is no God. You might just as well as tell me I don't have a human father. Yes, I do. I know him personally. Same principle. Here's part of the scripture:
Genesis 1
The Beginning
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Kevin T. Keith said...

As with most religiously-bent commentators on evolution, you don't seem to understand what the issues actually are.

You seem to be laboring under the impression - almost universal among creationists - that "evolution", "Darwinism", and "natural selection" are all more or less synonymous terms, and that they encompass the entire general field of evolution theory. You do not seem to recognize that "natural selection" has a very specific meaning in evolution theory, and is only one small part of that theory, or that "Darwinism" is a kind of broad-brush description of one minority approach, within other types of approaches, to evolution studies (none of which gives comfort or support to creationism).

When Gould rails against "Darwinism", he is not saying anything against the work of Darwin himself or the mainstream modern theory of evolution. He is certainly not saying anything favoring or supporting creationism. Creationists often quote his criticism of "Darwinism" out of context as an attack on evolution theory in general - his many instances of outspoken speeches, writings, and sworn court testimony against that claim should be ample proof of what he thought of it. (And his statements about the compatibility of science and religion should not be given too much emphasis either. When he said they were "non-overlapping magisteria", what he meant was that one was the province of material fact, and the other the province of . . . whatever . . . and those two fields are completely separate; they are not in conflict simply because they have nothing in common.)

In brief: "natural selection" is the name for one particular process by which evolution occurs. It is the process of differing reproductive success, spurred by differences in characteristics contributing to greater or lesser likelihood of survival or mating. By this process, the characteristics that lead to greatest reproductive success thereby become more heavily represented in the succeeding generation, and those that do not contribute to success are less represented - the population thus shifts gradually to incorporate the more successful characteristics and away from the unsuccessful ones. Natural selection is what most people who know only a little about evolution think of as "evolution" itself - but, again, it is just one process by which evolution occurs. It is also one of the processes most emphasized by Darwin in his Origin of Species.

However, there are other mechanisms by which evolution occurs. Some of these were also known to Darwin, and he wrote about them: one is "sexual selection" (the choice of mates, usually by the female of the species, on the basis of some characteristic that may or may not be directly related to survival - such as the male peacock's long colored tail). Darwin devoted an entire book to that subject, as well. And since Darwin's time, much more theoretical work has been done in identifying various mechanisms by which new species may arise or genes may shift within populations, and of course modern genetics has thrown vast light on entire areas of evolutionary processes that Darwin could never have imagined.

So, the modern theory of evolution (called the "modern synthesis") is a mix of sub-theories encompassing the mechanisms described by Darwin himself, theories developed by his intellectual descendants, modern theories of population dynamics and genetics, and so on. Within this general field there are theories about a variety of different mechanisms of evolution, and those various theories are in some cases widely accepted and in others more controversial.

Gould was a proponent of a controversial theory that held that evolution proceeded at a non-steady pace - not gradually over long periods, but rapidly for short periods separated by long periods of stasis. This theory has been generally rejected in its most radical form, but somewhat accepted in a weaker form. Its strongest opponents were defenders of a theory of long-period gradual evolution, mostly by way of natural selection (which, again, is just one of many recognized mechanisms of evolution). Because this vision of evolution is similar to Darwin's original theory (though it does not deny any of the modern discoveries), it is often called "Darwinism", and it espouses "natural selection" as its major theoretical component. But it is vital to understand that "Darwinism" is not evolution theory in general - it is one minority theory within the general field of evolution studies - one that emphasizes the same things Darwin himself emphasized and not the more recent discoveries. The opposite of "Darwinism", to an evolution scientist, is not creationism. It would simply be another firmly mainstream theory of evolution - one that would emphasize other mechanisms of evolution in addition to natural selection, and possibly acting at faster rates. In opposing "Darwinism", Gould was defending that alternative version of evolution theory - the farthest thing possible from opposing evolution theory itself.

In other words, the debate over "Darwinism" is a highly technical debate among experts in modern evolution theory over exactly which form of that theory is most correct. Everyone in that debate "believes in" evolution with perfect certainty; none of them are creationists, and if it turns out that "Darwinism" is defeated in the debate, that will not mean that creationism is one millimeter closer to being correct - it will only mean that faster and more complicated mechanisms of evolution are more influential than certain people now believe.

So when Gould criticizes the proponents of "a Darwinian straight and narrow", or the idea that "the radicalism of natural selection lies in its power to dethrone some of the deepest and most traditional comforts of Western thought", he is in no way advocating creationism or the equivalence of creationism and real science, nor is he denying that the scientific view of the world makes certain religious presumptions untenable. When he criticizes the claim that "only one causal force produces evolutionary change in Darwin's world: the unconscious struggle among individual organisms to promote their own personal reproductive success—nothing else" he is certainly not criticizing the idea of evolution itself. To an evolution scientist, remember, "Darwinism" is not the idea that evolution takes place, but the idea that evolution takes place only, or almost only, by the particular mechanism of natural selection. That is the "one causal force" he refers to, and his preferred alternative is not some sort of supernatural force or Biblical fairy story, but simply a thoroughly scientific and materialist theory of evolution that encompasses other mechanisms than just natural selection.

This is demonstrated in the same essay by Gould, from the sections you did not quote:

"I (along with all other Darwinian pluralists) do not deny either the existence and central importance of adaptation, or the production of adaptation by natural selection. . . . I know of no scientific mechanism other than natural selection with the proven power to build structures of such eminently workable design [as eyes or feet]. . . . But selection cannot suffice as a full explanation for many aspects of evolution; for other types and styles of causes become relevant, or even prevalent, in domains both far above and far below the traditional Darwinian locus of the organism."

"In other words, I agree with Darwin that natural selection is 'not the exclusive means of modification.'"

"What an odd time to be a fundamentalist about adaptation and natural selection—when each major subdiscipline of evolutionary biology has been discovering other mechanisms as adjuncts to selection's centrality."

Gould was certainly a foe of "Darwinian fundamentalism" - but he was no friend of creationism, nor of religion intruding itself where it was not wanted. The "Darwinians" he criticized were a small sub-group of his peers within the large and robust scientific field founded by Darwin, all of whose practitioners, including the "anti-Darwinists" like Gould, admired and celbrated Darwin and his towering achievement. Gould would be the last person to deny the power of evolution science (he was widely recognized as one of its greatest champions) or to comfort those who saw evolution as the enemy of any reasonable view of the material world founded on any non-rational basis (he often testified against them in court - always successfully).

Donald Douglas said...

Kevin T. Keith: I don't need a lecture, particularly as you're imputing things to me that cannot be found at the post. Particularly, I'm not a "creationist," but rather a man of faith and reason who is interested in the intersection of these debates. Not just that, I make no assertions at to whom Gould is directing his comments. It should be clear from the post that Gould was discussing a narrow debate within the research paradigm (with references to scientists in narrow ranges of interests) so your rant here is intellectual chest-thumping, hardly worth a response at that. And of course, you don't mention nonoverlapping magisteria at all, which is exactly where the debated intersection of evolution and creation resides.

But I think the larger point is that you have a problem with " religiously-bent commentators ..." not the extent of said commentators knowledge on the issues under consideration. Frankly, I'm not impressed with your commentary here, as I'm not interested in reading warmed-over Ph.D. qualifying exams. The post is just throwing this stuff out there for consideration and review, and certainly one of your background should be able to avoid arguments that are predicated in ad hominem foundationalism. Gould's theories in "Wonderful Life" are still debated as you note, but the fact that you've jumped up to defend your manhood like a primate threatened by an out-group incursion is probably the main thing that's going on here.

Tootaloo big boy!

Donna B. said...

The only problem I have with creationists is that they have made such a stink about getting it taught in schools, that science teaching as a whole has suffered.

I ran across this piece yesterday: "Aquinas vs. Intelligent Design"

http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2008/0811fea4.asp

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Donna B.

Michael said...

I don't believe evolution and creationism is compatible despite what Stephen Jay Gould and others said. Fundamental Darwinists know this as well, but view evolution as more than a science theory. More like an idol of ideals or beliefs that everyone must believe in, similar to that of Christianity.

I view evolution as a massively complex metaphysical research program which in Dawkin's own words said was a "spectacular statistical improbability." Both views (creation and evolution) hold to the fact a miracle is needed for the creation, and precise fine tuning of the Universe.

Also, I don't believe science has suffered because creationists or intelligent design proponents who would like to have alternatives being taught in the public schools. Creationism is already taught in religious or Christian private schools. Some people annoyed with the prospect, I would say, "yes."

Kevin T. Keith said...

Donald Douglas:

Not only do you not seem to understand what Gould wrote, you don't seem to understand what you yourself wrote.

Your original post quotes Gould in support of your claim regarding "the essential compatibility of faith and reason"; it then complains that "radical critics attacked people of faith mercilessly", and immediately quotes Gould again on "Darwinian fundamentalism". But you do not seem to recognize that Gould had only scathing contempt for people who posit some kind of factual controversy between scientific evidence and stories written in the Bible, as you do, or that the highly technical debate within evolution theory that your long quote from Gould discusses has nothing at all to do with social controversies over "religion and society". It is sadly evident that you do need a lecture on these subjects, as your discussion of them is grossly ill-informed. It is sadder that you learned nothing from mine, but in the spirit of generosity I'll try again.

I make no assertions at to whom Gould is directing his comments.

You quote Gould immediately after stating that "debates over religion and society have been particularly intense" and that "radical critics have attacked people of faith mercilessly". I can only assume you believed that the passage from Gould that you cite is somehow relevant to these questions of social policy. I can only further assume you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, because the passage from Gould addresses only the controversy between professional scientists specializing in evolution theory over the rate of formation of new species over time - an arcane and technical subject that has no conceivable bearing on gay marriage or any related issue. The introduction of this material in that context is so nonsensical that is serves as an incontrovertible demonstration that you simply have no comprehension what Gould is actually saying. However, this mistake is identical to that of the equally confused misrepresentations of Gould by creationists, who constantly seize on his criticism of slow-rate evolution theorists ("Darwinists", in the parlance of actual scientists) as being a rejection of evolution theory itself ("Darwinism", in the ignorant language of creationists). Gould referred to such people as "yahoos", railed against the misuse of his technical writings in social disputes of that kind, and repeatedly testified in court against conservative Christians who attempted to falsely invoke him in support of their political agendas. Either your comprehension of this subject is as deficient and backward as theirs - the obvious conclusion - or you are playing some sort of elaborate intellectual prank.


And of course, you don't mention nonoverlapping magisteria at all

As I noted in my comment: "[Gould's] statements about the compatibility of science and religion should not be given too much emphasis either. When he said they were 'non-overlapping magisteria', what he meant was that one was the province of material fact, and the other the province of . . . whatever . . . and those two fields are completely separate; they are not in conflict simply because they have nothing in common."

I do rather think that constitutes a mention of "non-overlapping magisteria", inasmuch as those words appear explicitly in what I wrote. More importantly, they constitute an explanation why your own reliance on that concept is misguided and unavailing.

Gould defended religion in his book Rocks of Ages by declaring that it had its own "magisterium" - a word he borrows self-consciously from the Catholic church, meaning "teaching authority". Specifically, however, the magisterium of religion is restricted to the things that cannot be determined by empirical investigation of the natural world. That lies within the magisterium of science. And anything that can be determined by science must be, by his definition, out of bounds for religion (and vice versa, but that's not a problem, because scientists do not generally investigate religious phenomena). So, in his view, science and religion are "compatible" simply because they do not conflict, and they do not conflict because, as I explicitly said, they have nothing in common. That is precisely what "non-overlapping" means - there is no area in which science and religion address the same subject. Unfortunately, this makes your further remark:

which is exactly where the debated intersection of evolution and creation resides.

. . . rather obviously uninformed and nonsensical. For Gould - whom you quote as the source of this claim above - there is no "intersection" of creation and evolution. There certainly can be no such intersection between creationism and evolution theory, which is where the "magisteria" of science and religion conflict (to religion's invariable discredit, according to Gould). Gould said as much explicitly and devoted much of his time to blocking efforts to gin one up artificially in the schools. Because each field has its own magisterium, and evolution theory is a question of materialist science, religion has nothing to say about it - religious teachings do not "overlap" that subject. Gould could not have been clearer on that matter.

But there can also be no intersection between the actual processes of (aside from theories about) evolution and creation, not precisely because of "non-overlapping magisteria" - that concept refers only to the bounds of the content of science and religion as fields of study (so here again you are wrong to invoke it to support your claim) - but because, as simple matter of fact, there is nothing religious about evolution. It is a straightforwardly materialist process of the natural world; you don't need religion to explain it, and there is no evidence for believing it takes place by religious mechanisms, but rather overwhelming evidence that it's just an ordinary part of biological science like any other. Gould said that, again and again, also, and his frequent testimony against "creation science" or "intelligent design" was predicated on the fact that those fields are not science, and thus, from his perspective, outside the "magisteria" of science. Once more, there is nothing in religion that "overlaps" science; the concept of "non-overlapping magisteria" is not one that coddles religion as having some sort of privileged place to comment on natural phenomena, but instead one that tells it to shut up and go away entirely, because it has no business doing so at all.



But I think the larger point is that you have a problem with " religiously-bent commentators ..."

I have a problem with you being grossly wrong, and a bigger one with you falsely citing science and scientists in support of your religious position on social issues, especially when the ones you cite personally rejected that use of their work.


not the extent of said commentators knowledge on the issues under consideration.

Every statement I made, here and previously, was directed precisely at the factual content of your claims, and relied upon a detailed factual discussion of the work you misrepresented, and the reasons why your discussion of it was incorrect.


Frankly, I'm not impressed with your commentary

You seem to persist in thinking that how you choose to see things is somehow relevant to what is factually true. That explains your many factual errors, but is otherwise irrelevant to the issues you yourself raised.


Gould's theories in "Wonderful Life" are still debated as you note

Actually, Wonderful Life has been universally dismissed, because later research demonstrated that the basic factual material it was grounded on - the re-interpretation of Cambrian phyla based on re-examination of the Burgess Shale fossils - was incorrect. The scientist who published that interpretation, whom Gould profiles in that book, has admitted so, and has in fact published an entire book refuting the claims Gould made about his own work in Wonderful Life. Gould's broader conceptual point - the "contingency" of evolutionary history - remains a topic of debate, but has also been largely rejected; at any rate it has very little to do with any social controversies surrounding biology or evolution. Gould's major theoretical contribution - the theory of "punctuated equilibriam" in the rate of evolution, which is so often misused by creationists - was not the subject of Wonderful Life. It was covered in a number of technical articles, and finally in his last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

You simply don't seem to know anything about evolution, or even what Gould actually said in the various books of his you keep citing. It is bizarre that you raise his name in the context of your complaints about how little respect conservative Christians get for trying to inject religion into public policy - Gould was one of their strongest critics. (Thought that didn't keep them from doing it - as you demonstrate.) It is simply wrong beyond comprehension or explanation that you cite a passage on a technical debate over the rate of speciation immediately after, and as a commentary on, those complaints. And you wander off into ignorant flailing when you try to bolster that quote with an utterly unrelated, and equally random, reference to a book on "contingency" and the Cambrian explosion, which you apparently believe is actually about punctuated equilibrium, which is also completely irrelevant to your original claim.

Just stop.

Kevin T. Keith said...

Donald Douglas:

Not only do you not seem to understand what Gould wrote, you don't seem to understand what you yourself wrote.

Your original post quotes Gould in support of your claim regarding "the essential compatibility of faith and reason"; it then complains that "radical critics attacked people of faith mercilessly", and immediately quotes Gould again on "Darwinian fundamentalism". But you do not seem to recognize that Gould had only scathing contempt for people who posit some kind of factual controversy between scientific evidence and stories written in the Bible, as you do, or that the highly technical debate within evolution theory that your long quote from Gould discusses has nothing at all to do with social controversies over "religion and society". It is sadly evident that you do need a lecture on these subjects, as your discussion of them is grossly ill-informed. It is sadder that you learned nothing from mine, but in the spirit of generosity I'll try again.

I make no assertions at to whom Gould is directing his comments.

You quote Gould immediately after stating that "debates over religion and society have been particularly intense" and that "radical critics have attacked people of faith mercilessly". I can only assume you believed that the passage from Gould that you cite is somehow relevant to these questions of social policy. I can only further assume you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, because the passage from Gould addresses only the controversy between professional scientists specializing in evolution theory over the rate of formation of new species over time - an arcane and technical subject that has no conceivable bearing on gay marriage or any related issue. The introduction of this material in that context is so nonsensical that is serves as an incontrovertible demonstration that you simply have no comprehension what Gould is actually saying. However, this mistake is identical to that of the equally confused misrepresentations of Gould by creationists, who constantly seize on his criticism of slow-rate evolution theorists ("Darwinists", in the parlance of actual scientists) as being a rejection of evolution theory itself ("Darwinism", in the ignorant language of creationists). Gould referred to such people as "yahoos", railed against the misuse of his technical writings in social disputes of that kind, and repeatedly testified in court against conservative Christians who attempted to falsely invoke him in support of their political agendas. Either your comprehension of this subject is as deficient and backward as theirs - the obvious conclusion - or you are playing some sort of elaborate intellectual prank.


And of course, you don't mention nonoverlapping magisteria at all

As I noted in my comment: "[Gould's] statements about the compatibility of science and religion should not be given too much emphasis either. When he said they were 'non-overlapping magisteria', what he meant was that one was the province of material fact, and the other the province of . . . whatever . . . and those two fields are completely separate; they are not in conflict simply because they have nothing in common."

I do rather think that constitutes a mention of "non-overlapping magisteria", inasmuch as those words appear explicitly in what I wrote. More importantly, they constitute an explanation why your own reliance on that concept is misguided and unavailing.

Gould defended religion in his book Rocks of Ages by declaring that it had its own "magisterium" - a word he borrows self-consciously from the Catholic church, meaning "teaching authority". Specifically, however, the magisterium of religion is restricted to the things that cannot be determined by empirical investigation of the natural world. That lies within the magisterium of science. And anything that can be determined by science must be, by his definition, out of bounds for religion (and vice versa, but that's not a problem, because scientists do not generally investigate religious phenomena). So, in his view, science and religion are "compatible" simply because they do not conflict, and they do not conflict because, as I explicitly said, they have nothing in common. That is precisely what "non-overlapping" means - there is no area in which science and religion address the same subject. Unfortunately, this makes your further remark:

which is exactly where the debated intersection of evolution and creation resides.

. . . rather obviously uninformed and nonsensical. For Gould - whom you quote as the source of this claim above - there is no "intersection" of creation and evolution. There certainly can be no such intersection between creationism and evolution theory, which is where the "magisteria" of science and religion conflict (to religion's invariable discredit, according to Gould). Gould said as much explicitly and devoted much of his time to blocking efforts to gin one up artificially in the schools. Because each field has its own magisterium, and evolution theory is a question of materialist science, religion has nothing to say about it - religious teachings do not "overlap" that subject. Gould could not have been clearer on that matter.

But there can also be no intersection between the actual processes of (aside from theories about) evolution and creation, not precisely because of "non-overlapping magisteria" - that concept refers only to the bounds of the content of science and religion as fields of study (so here again you are wrong to invoke it to support your claim) - but because, as simple matter of fact, there is nothing religious about evolution. It is a straightforwardly materialist process of the natural world; you don't need religion to explain it, and there is no evidence for believing it takes place by religious mechanisms, but rather overwhelming evidence that it's just an ordinary part of biological science like any other. Gould said that, again and again, also, and his frequent testimony against "creation science" or "intelligent design" was predicated on the fact that those fields are not science, and thus, from his perspective, outside the "magisteria" of science. Once more, there is nothing in religion that "overlaps" science; the concept of "non-overlapping magisteria" is not one that coddles religion as having some sort of privileged place to comment on natural phenomena, but instead one that tells it to shut up and go away entirely, because it has no business doing so at all.



But I think the larger point is that you have a problem with " religiously-bent commentators ..."

I have a problem with you being grossly wrong, and a bigger one with you falsely citing science and scientists in support of your religious position on social issues, especially when the ones you cite personally rejected that use of their work.


not the extent of said commentators knowledge on the issues under consideration.

Every statement I made, here and previously, was directed precisely at the factual content of your claims, and relied upon a detailed factual discussion of the work you misrepresented, and the reasons why your discussion of it was incorrect.


Frankly, I'm not impressed with your commentary

You seem to persist in thinking that how you choose to see things is somehow relevant to what is factually true. That explains your many factual errors, but is otherwise irrelevant to the issues you yourself raised.


Gould's theories in "Wonderful Life" are still debated as you note

Actually, Wonderful Life has been universally dismissed, because later research demonstrated that the basic factual material it was grounded on - the re-interpretation of Cambrian phyla based on re-examination of the Burgess Shale fossils - was incorrect. The scientist who published that interpretation, whom Gould profiles in that book, has admitted so, and has in fact published an entire book refuting the claims Gould made about his own work in Wonderful Life. Gould's broader conceptual point - the "contingency" of evolutionary history - remains a topic of debate, but has also been largely rejected; at any rate it has very little to do with any social controversies surrounding biology or evolution. Gould's major theoretical contribution - the theory of "punctuated equilibriam" in the rate of evolution, which is so often misused by creationists - was not the subject of Wonderful Life. It was covered in a number of technical articles, and finally in his last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

You simply don't seem to know anything about evolution, or even what Gould actually said in the various books of his you keep citing. It is bizarre that you raise his name in the context of your complaints about how little respect conservative Christians get for trying to inject religion into public policy - Gould was one of their strongest critics. (Thought that didn't keep them from doing it - as you demonstrate.) It is simply wrong beyond comprehension or explanation that you cite a passage on a technical debate over the rate of speciation immediately after, and as a commentary on, those complaints. And you wander off into ignorant flailing when you try to bolster that quote with an utterly unrelated, and equally random, reference to a book on "contingency" and the Cambrian explosion, which you apparently believe is actually about punctuated equilibrium, which is also completely irrelevant to your original claim.

Just stop.

Kevin T. Keith said...

Donald Douglas:

Not only do you not seem to understand what Gould wrote, you don't seem to understand what you yourself wrote.

Your original post quotes Gould in support of your claim regarding "the essential compatibility of faith and reason"; it then complains that "radical critics attacked people of faith mercilessly", and immediately quotes Gould again on "Darwinian fundamentalism". But you do not seem to recognize that Gould had only scathing contempt for people who posit some kind of factual controversy between scientific evidence and stories written in the Bible, as you do, or that the highly technical debate within evolution theory that your long quote from Gould discusses has nothing at all to do with social controversies over "religion and society". It is sadly evident that you do need a lecture on these subjects, as your discussion of them is grossly ill-informed. It is sadder that you learned nothing from mine, but in the spirit of generosity I'll try again.

I make no assertions at to whom Gould is directing his comments.

You quote Gould immediately after stating that "debates over religion and society have been particularly intense" and that "radical critics have attacked people of faith mercilessly". I can only assume you believed that the passage from Gould that you cite is somehow relevant to these questions of social policy. I can only further assume you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, because the passage from Gould addresses only the controversy between professional scientists specializing in evolution theory over the rate of formation of new species over time - an arcane and technical subject that has no conceivable bearing on gay marriage or any related issue. The introduction of this material in that context is so nonsensical that is serves as an incontrovertible demonstration that you simply have no comprehension what Gould is actually saying. However, this mistake is identical to that of the equally confused misrepresentations of Gould by creationists, who constantly seize on his criticism of slow-rate evolution theorists ("Darwinists", in the parlance of actual scientists) as being a rejection of evolution theory itself ("Darwinism", in the ignorant language of creationists). Gould referred to such people as "yahoos", railed against the misuse of his technical writings in social disputes of that kind, and repeatedly testified in court against conservative Christians who attempted to falsely invoke him in support of their political agendas. Either your comprehension of this subject is as deficient and backward as theirs - the obvious conclusion - or you are playing some sort of elaborate intellectual prank.


And of course, you don't mention nonoverlapping magisteria at all

As I noted in my comment: "[Gould's] statements about the compatibility of science and religion should not be given too much emphasis either. When he said they were 'non-overlapping magisteria', what he meant was that one was the province of material fact, and the other the province of . . . whatever . . . and those two fields are completely separate; they are not in conflict simply because they have nothing in common."

I do rather think that constitutes a mention of "non-overlapping magisteria", inasmuch as those words appear explicitly in what I wrote. More importantly, they constitute an explanation why your own reliance on that concept is misguided and unavailing.

Gould defended religion in his book Rocks of Ages by declaring that it had its own "magisterium" - a word he borrows self-consciously from the Catholic church, meaning "teaching authority". Specifically, however, the magisterium of religion is restricted to the things that cannot be determined by empirical investigation of the natural world. That lies within the magisterium of science. And anything that can be determined by science must be, by his definition, out of bounds for religion (and vice versa, but that's not a problem, because scientists do not generally investigate religious phenomena). So, in his view, science and religion are "compatible" simply because they do not conflict, and they do not conflict because, as I explicitly said, they have nothing in common. That is precisely what "non-overlapping" means - there is no area in which science and religion address the same subject. Unfortunately, this makes your further remark:

which is exactly where the debated intersection of evolution and creation resides.

. . . rather obviously uninformed and nonsensical. For Gould - whom you quote as the source of this claim above - there is no "intersection" of creation and evolution. There certainly can be no such intersection between creationism and evolution theory, which is where the "magisteria" of science and religion conflict (to religion's invariable discredit, according to Gould). Gould said as much explicitly and devoted much of his time to blocking efforts to gin one up artificially in the schools. Because each field has its own magisterium, and evolution theory is a question of materialist science, religion has nothing to say about it - religious teachings do not "overlap" that subject. Gould could not have been clearer on that matter.

But there can also be no intersection between the actual processes of (aside from theories about) evolution and creation, not precisely because of "non-overlapping magisteria" - that concept refers only to the bounds of the content of science and religion as fields of study (so here again you are wrong to invoke it to support your claim) - but because, as simple matter of fact, there is nothing religious about evolution. It is a straightforwardly materialist process of the natural world; you don't need religion to explain it, and there is no evidence for believing it takes place by religious mechanisms, but rather overwhelming evidence that it's just an ordinary part of biological science like any other. Gould said that, again and again, also, and his frequent testimony against "creation science" or "intelligent design" was predicated on the fact that those fields are not science, and thus, from his perspective, outside the "magisteria" of science. Once more, there is nothing in religion that "overlaps" science; the concept of "non-overlapping magisteria" is not one that coddles religion as having some sort of privileged place to comment on natural phenomena, but instead one that tells it to shut up and go away entirely, because it has no business doing so at all.



But I think the larger point is that you have a problem with " religiously-bent commentators ..."

I have a problem with you being grossly wrong, and a bigger one with you falsely citing science and scientists in support of your religious position on social issues, especially when the ones you cite personally rejected that use of their work.


not the extent of said commentators knowledge on the issues under consideration.

Every statement I made, here and previously, was directed precisely at the factual content of your claims, and relied upon a detailed factual discussion of the work you misrepresented, and the reasons why your discussion of it was incorrect.


Frankly, I'm not impressed with your commentary

You seem to persist in thinking that how you choose to see things is somehow relevant to what is factually true. That explains your many factual errors, but is otherwise irrelevant to the issues you yourself raised.


Gould's theories in "Wonderful Life" are still debated as you note

Actually, Wonderful Life has been universally dismissed, because later research demonstrated that the basic factual material it was grounded on - the re-interpretation of Cambrian phyla based on re-examination of the Burgess Shale fossils - was incorrect. The scientist who published that interpretation, whom Gould profiles in that book, has admitted so, and has in fact published an entire book refuting the claims Gould made about his own work in Wonderful Life. Gould's broader conceptual point - the "contingency" of evolutionary history - remains a topic of debate, but has also been largely rejected; at any rate it has very little to do with any social controversies surrounding biology or evolution. Gould's major theoretical contribution - the theory of "punctuated equilibriam" in the rate of evolution, which is so often misused by creationists - was not the subject of Wonderful Life. It was covered in a number of technical articles, and finally in his last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

You simply don't seem to know anything about evolution, or even what Gould actually said in the various books of his you keep citing. It is bizarre that you raise his name in the context of your complaints about how little respect conservative Christians get for trying to inject religion into public policy - Gould was one of their strongest critics. (Thought that didn't keep them from doing it - as you demonstrate.) It is simply wrong beyond comprehension or explanation that you cite a passage on a technical debate over the rate of speciation immediately after, and as a commentary on, those complaints. And you wander off into ignorant flailing when you try to bolster that quote with an utterly unrelated, and equally random, reference to a book on "contingency" and the Cambrian explosion, which you apparently believe is actually about punctuated equilibrium, which is also completely irrelevant to your original claim.

Just stop.

Kevin T. Keith said...

Donald Douglas:

Not only do you not seem to understand what Gould wrote, you don't seem to understand what you yourself wrote.

Your original post quotes Gould in support of your claim regarding "the essential compatibility of faith and reason"; it then complains that "radical critics attacked people of faith mercilessly", and immediately quotes Gould again on "Darwinian fundamentalism". But you do not seem to recognize that Gould had only scathing contempt for people who posit some kind of factual controversy between scientific evidence and stories written in the Bible, as you do, or that the highly technical debate within evolution theory that your long quote from Gould discusses has nothing at all to do with social controversies over "religion and society". It is sadly evident that you do need a lecture on these subjects, as your discussion of them is grossly ill-informed. It is sadder that you learned nothing from mine, but in the spirit of generosity I'll try again.

I make no assertions at to whom Gould is directing his comments.

You quote Gould immediately after stating that "debates over religion and society have been particularly intense" and that "radical critics have attacked people of faith mercilessly". I can only assume you believed that the passage from Gould that you cite is somehow relevant to these questions of social policy. I can only further assume you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, because the passage from Gould addresses only the controversy between professional scientists specializing in evolution theory over the rate of formation of new species over time - an arcane and technical subject that has no conceivable bearing on gay marriage or any related issue. The introduction of this material in that context is so nonsensical that is serves as an incontrovertible demonstration that you simply have no comprehension what Gould is actually saying. However, this mistake is identical to that of the equally confused misrepresentations of Gould by creationists, who constantly seize on his criticism of slow-rate evolution theorists ("Darwinists", in the parlance of actual scientists) as being a rejection of evolution theory itself ("Darwinism", in the ignorant language of creationists). Gould referred to such people as "yahoos", railed against the misuse of his technical writings in social disputes of that kind, and repeatedly testified in court against conservative Christians who attempted to falsely invoke him in support of their political agendas. Either your comprehension of this subject is as deficient and backward as theirs - the obvious conclusion - or you are playing some sort of elaborate intellectual prank.


And of course, you don't mention nonoverlapping magisteria at all

As I noted in my comment: "[Gould's] statements about the compatibility of science and religion should not be given too much emphasis either. When he said they were 'non-overlapping magisteria', what he meant was that one was the province of material fact, and the other the province of . . . whatever . . . and those two fields are completely separate; they are not in conflict simply because they have nothing in common."

I do rather think that constitutes a mention of "non-overlapping magisteria", inasmuch as those words appear explicitly in what I wrote. More importantly, they constitute an explanation why your own reliance on that concept is misguided and unavailing.

Gould defended religion in his book Rocks of Ages by declaring that it had its own "magisterium" - a word he borrows self-consciously from the Catholic church, meaning "teaching authority". Specifically, however, the magisterium of religion is restricted to the things that cannot be determined by empirical investigation of the natural world. That lies within the magisterium of science. And anything that can be determined by science must be, by his definition, out of bounds for religion (and vice versa, but that's not a problem, because scientists do not generally investigate religious phenomena). So, in his view, science and religion are "compatible" simply because they do not conflict, and they do not conflict because, as I explicitly said, they have nothing in common. That is precisely what "non-overlapping" means - there is no area in which science and religion address the same subject. Unfortunately, this makes your further remark:

which is exactly where the debated intersection of evolution and creation resides.

. . . rather obviously uninformed and nonsensical. For Gould - whom you quote as the source of this claim above - there is no "intersection" of creation and evolution. There certainly can be no such intersection between creationism and evolution theory, which is where the "magisteria" of science and religion conflict (to religion's invariable discredit, according to Gould). Gould said as much explicitly and devoted much of his time to blocking efforts to gin one up artificially in the schools. Because each field has its own magisterium, and evolution theory is a question of materialist science, religion has nothing to say about it - religious teachings do not "overlap" that subject. Gould could not have been clearer on that matter.

But there can also be no intersection between the actual processes of (aside from theories about) evolution and creation, not precisely because of "non-overlapping magisteria" - that concept refers only to the bounds of the content of science and religion as fields of study (so here again you are wrong to invoke it to support your claim) - but because, as simple matter of fact, there is nothing religious about evolution. It is a straightforwardly materialist process of the natural world; you don't need religion to explain it, and there is no evidence for believing it takes place by religious mechanisms, but rather overwhelming evidence that it's just an ordinary part of biological science like any other. Gould said that, again and again, also, and his frequent testimony against "creation science" or "intelligent design" was predicated on the fact that those fields are not science, and thus, from his perspective, outside the "magisteria" of science. Once more, there is nothing in religion that "overlaps" science; the concept of "non-overlapping magisteria" is not one that coddles religion as having some sort of privileged place to comment on natural phenomena, but instead one that tells it to shut up and go away entirely, because it has no business doing so at all.



But I think the larger point is that you have a problem with " religiously-bent commentators ..."

I have a problem with you being grossly wrong, and a bigger one with you falsely citing science and scientists in support of your religious position on social issues, especially when the ones you cite personally rejected that use of their work.


not the extent of said commentators knowledge on the issues under consideration.

Every statement I made, here and previously, was directed precisely at the factual content of your claims, and relied upon a detailed factual discussion of the work you misrepresented, and the reasons why your discussion of it was incorrect.


Frankly, I'm not impressed with your commentary

You seem to persist in thinking that how you choose to see things is somehow relevant to what is factually true. That explains your many factual errors, but is otherwise irrelevant to the issues you yourself raised.


Gould's theories in "Wonderful Life" are still debated as you note

Actually, Wonderful Life has been universally dismissed, because later research demonstrated that the basic factual material it was grounded on - the re-interpretation of Cambrian phyla based on re-examination of the Burgess Shale fossils - was incorrect. The scientist who published that interpretation, whom Gould profiles in that book, has admitted so, and has in fact published an entire book refuting the claims Gould made about his own work in Wonderful Life. Gould's broader conceptual point - the "contingency" of evolutionary history - remains a topic of debate, but has also been largely rejected; at any rate it has very little to do with any social controversies surrounding biology or evolution. Gould's major theoretical contribution - the theory of "punctuated equilibriam" in the rate of evolution, which is so often misused by creationists - was not the subject of Wonderful Life. It was covered in a number of technical articles, and finally in his last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

You simply don't seem to know anything about evolution, or even what Gould actually said in the various books of his you keep citing. It is bizarre that you raise his name in the context of your complaints about how little respect conservative Christians get for trying to inject religion into public policy - Gould was one of their strongest critics. (Thought that didn't keep them from doing it - as you demonstrate.) It is simply wrong beyond comprehension or explanation that you cite a passage on a technical debate over the rate of speciation immediately after, and as a commentary on, those complaints. And you wander off into ignorant flailing when you try to bolster that quote with an utterly unrelated, and equally random, reference to a book on "contingency" and the Cambrian explosion, which you apparently believe is actually about punctuated equilibrium, which is also completely irrelevant to your original claim.

Just stop.

Kevin T. Keith said...

Donald Douglas:

Not only do you not seem to understand what Gould wrote, you don't seem to understand what you yourself wrote.

Your original post quotes Gould in support of your claim regarding "the essential compatibility of faith and reason"; it then complains that "radical critics attacked people of faith mercilessly", and immediately quotes Gould again on "Darwinian fundamentalism". But you do not seem to recognize that Gould had only scathing contempt for people who posit some kind of factual controversy between scientific evidence and stories written in the Bible, as you do, or that the highly technical debate within evolution theory that your long quote from Gould discusses has nothing at all to do with social controversies over "religion and society". It is sadly evident that you do need a lecture on these subjects, as your discussion of them is grossly ill-informed. It is sadder that you learned nothing from mine, but in the spirit of generosity I'll try again.

I make no assertions at to whom Gould is directing his comments.

You quote Gould immediately after stating that "debates over religion and society have been particularly intense" and that "radical critics have attacked people of faith mercilessly". I can only assume you believed that the passage from Gould that you cite is somehow relevant to these questions of social policy. I can only further assume you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, because the passage from Gould addresses only the controversy between professional scientists specializing in evolution theory over the rate of formation of new species over time - an arcane and technical subject that has no conceivable bearing on gay marriage or any related issue. The introduction of this material in that context is so nonsensical that is serves as an incontrovertible demonstration that you simply have no comprehension what Gould is actually saying. However, this mistake is identical to that of the equally confused misrepresentations of Gould by creationists, who constantly seize on his criticism of slow-rate evolution theorists ("Darwinists", in the parlance of actual scientists) as being a rejection of evolution theory itself ("Darwinism", in the ignorant language of creationists). Gould referred to such people as "yahoos", railed against the misuse of his technical writings in social disputes of that kind, and repeatedly testified in court against conservative Christians who attempted to falsely invoke him in support of their political agendas. Either your comprehension of this subject is as deficient and backward as theirs - the obvious conclusion - or you are playing some sort of elaborate intellectual prank.


And of course, you don't mention nonoverlapping magisteria at all

As I noted in my comment: "[Gould's] statements about the compatibility of science and religion should not be given too much emphasis either. When he said they were 'non-overlapping magisteria', what he meant was that one was the province of material fact, and the other the province of . . . whatever . . . and those two fields are completely separate; they are not in conflict simply because they have nothing in common."

I do rather think that constitutes a mention of "non-overlapping magisteria", inasmuch as those words appear explicitly in what I wrote. More importantly, they constitute an explanation why your own reliance on that concept is misguided and unavailing.

Gould defended religion in his book Rocks of Ages by declaring that it had its own "magisterium" - a word he borrows self-consciously from the Catholic church, meaning "teaching authority". Specifically, however, the magisterium of religion is restricted to the things that cannot be determined by empirical investigation of the natural world. That lies within the magisterium of science. And anything that can be determined by science must be, by his definition, out of bounds for religion (and vice versa, but that's not a problem, because scientists do not generally investigate religious phenomena). So, in his view, science and religion are "compatible" simply because they do not conflict, and they do not conflict because, as I explicitly said, they have nothing in common. That is precisely what "non-overlapping" means - there is no area in which science and religion address the same subject. Unfortunately, this makes your further remark:

which is exactly where the debated intersection of evolution and creation resides.

. . . rather obviously uninformed and nonsensical. For Gould - whom you quote as the source of this claim above - there is no "intersection" of creation and evolution. There certainly can be no such intersection between creationism and evolution theory, which is where the "magisteria" of science and religion conflict (to religion's invariable discredit, according to Gould). Gould said as much explicitly and devoted much of his time to blocking efforts to gin one up artificially in the schools. Because each field has its own magisterium, and evolution theory is a question of materialist science, religion has nothing to say about it - religious teachings do not "overlap" that subject. Gould could not have been clearer on that matter.

But there can also be no intersection between the actual processes of (aside from theories about) evolution and creation, not precisely because of "non-overlapping magisteria" - that concept refers only to the bounds of the content of science and religion as fields of study (so here again you are wrong to invoke it to support your claim) - but because, as simple matter of fact, there is nothing religious about evolution. It is a straightforwardly materialist process of the natural world; you don't need religion to explain it, and there is no evidence for believing it takes place by religious mechanisms, but rather overwhelming evidence that it's just an ordinary part of biological science like any other. Gould said that, again and again, also, and his frequent testimony against "creation science" or "intelligent design" was predicated on the fact that those fields are not science, and thus, from his perspective, outside the "magisteria" of science. Once more, there is nothing in religion that "overlaps" science; the concept of "non-overlapping magisteria" is not one that coddles religion as having some sort of privileged place to comment on natural phenomena, but instead one that tells it to shut up and go away entirely, because it has no business doing so at all.



But I think the larger point is that you have a problem with " religiously-bent commentators ..."

I have a problem with you being grossly wrong, and a bigger one with you falsely citing science and scientists in support of your religious position on social issues, especially when the ones you cite personally rejected that use of their work.


not the extent of said commentators knowledge on the issues under consideration.

Every statement I made, here and previously, was directed precisely at the factual content of your claims, and relied upon a detailed factual discussion of the work you misrepresented, and the reasons why your discussion of it was incorrect.


Frankly, I'm not impressed with your commentary

You seem to persist in thinking that how you choose to see things is somehow relevant to what is factually true. That explains your many factual errors, but is otherwise irrelevant to the issues you yourself raised.


Gould's theories in "Wonderful Life" are still debated as you note

Actually, Wonderful Life has been universally dismissed, because later research demonstrated that the basic factual material it was grounded on - the re-interpretation of Cambrian phyla based on re-examination of the Burgess Shale fossils - was incorrect. The scientist who published that interpretation, whom Gould profiles in that book, has admitted so, and has in fact published an entire book refuting the claims Gould made about his own work in Wonderful Life. Gould's broader conceptual point - the "contingency" of evolutionary history - remains a topic of debate, but has also been largely rejected; at any rate it has very little to do with any social controversies surrounding biology or evolution. Gould's major theoretical contribution - the theory of "punctuated equilibriam" in the rate of evolution, which is so often misused by creationists - was not the subject of Wonderful Life. It was covered in a number of technical articles, and finally in his last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

You simply don't seem to know anything about evolution, or even what Gould actually said in the various books of his you keep citing. It is bizarre that you raise his name in the context of your complaints about how little respect conservative Christians get for trying to inject religion into public policy - Gould was one of their strongest critics. (Thought that didn't keep them from doing it - as you demonstrate.) It is simply wrong beyond comprehension or explanation that you cite a passage on a technical debate over the rate of speciation immediately after, and as a commentary on, those complaints. And you wander off into ignorant flailing when you try to bolster that quote with an utterly unrelated, and equally random, reference to a book on "contingency" and the Cambrian explosion, which you apparently believe is actually about punctuated equilibrium, which is also completely irrelevant to your original claim.

Just stop.

Kevin T. Keith said...

Donald Douglas:

Not only do you not seem to understand what Gould wrote, you don't seem to understand what you yourself wrote.

Your original post quotes Gould in support of your claim regarding "the essential compatibility of faith and reason"; it then complains that "radical critics attacked people of faith mercilessly", and immediately quotes Gould again on "Darwinian fundamentalism". But you do not seem to recognize that Gould had only scathing contempt for people who posit some kind of factual controversy between scientific evidence and stories written in the Bible, as you do, or that the highly technical debate within evolution theory that your long quote from Gould discusses has nothing at all to do with social controversies over "religion and society". It is sadly evident that you do need a lecture on these subjects, as your discussion of them is grossly ill-informed. It is sadder that you learned nothing from mine, but in the spirit of generosity I'll try again.

I make no assertions at to whom Gould is directing his comments.

You quote Gould immediately after stating that "debates over religion and society have been particularly intense" and that "radical critics have attacked people of faith mercilessly". I can only assume you believed that the passage from Gould that you cite is somehow relevant to these questions of social policy. I can only further assume you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, because the passage from Gould addresses only the controversy between professional scientists specializing in evolution theory over the rate of formation of new species over time - an arcane and technical subject that has no conceivable bearing on gay marriage or any related issue. The introduction of this material in that context is so nonsensical that is serves as an incontrovertible demonstration that you simply have no comprehension what Gould is actually saying. However, this mistake is identical to that of the equally confused misrepresentations of Gould by creationists, who constantly seize on his criticism of slow-rate evolution theorists ("Darwinists", in the parlance of actual scientists) as being a rejection of evolution theory itself ("Darwinism", in the ignorant language of creationists). Gould referred to such people as "yahoos", railed against the misuse of his technical writings in social disputes of that kind, and repeatedly testified in court against conservative Christians who attempted to falsely invoke him in support of their political agendas. Either your comprehension of this subject is as deficient and backward as theirs - the obvious conclusion - or you are playing some sort of elaborate intellectual prank.


And of course, you don't mention nonoverlapping magisteria at all

As I noted in my comment: "[Gould's] statements about the compatibility of science and religion should not be given too much emphasis either. When he said they were 'non-overlapping magisteria', what he meant was that one was the province of material fact, and the other the province of . . . whatever . . . and those two fields are completely separate; they are not in conflict simply because they have nothing in common."

I do rather think that constitutes a mention of "non-overlapping magisteria", inasmuch as those words appear explicitly in what I wrote. More importantly, they constitute an explanation why your own reliance on that concept is misguided and unavailing.

Gould defended religion in his book Rocks of Ages by declaring that it had its own "magisterium" - a word he borrows self-consciously from the Catholic church, meaning "teaching authority". Specifically, however, the magisterium of religion is restricted to the things that cannot be determined by empirical investigation of the natural world. That lies within the magisterium of science. And anything that can be determined by science must be, by his definition, out of bounds for religion (and vice versa, but that's not a problem, because scientists do not generally investigate religious phenomena). So, in his view, science and religion are "compatible" simply because they do not conflict, and they do not conflict because, as I explicitly said, they have nothing in common. That is precisely what "non-overlapping" means - there is no area in which science and religion address the same subject. Unfortunately, this makes your further remark:

which is exactly where the debated intersection of evolution and creation resides.

. . . rather obviously uninformed and nonsensical. For Gould - whom you quote as the source of this claim above - there is no "intersection" of creation and evolution. There certainly can be no such intersection between creationism and evolution theory, which is where the "magisteria" of science and religion conflict (to religion's invariable discredit, according to Gould). Gould said as much explicitly and devoted much of his time to blocking efforts to gin one up artificially in the schools. Because each field has its own magisterium, and evolution theory is a question of materialist science, religion has nothing to say about it - religious teachings do not "overlap" that subject. Gould could not have been clearer on that matter.

But there can also be no intersection between the actual processes of (aside from theories about) evolution and creation, not precisely because of "non-overlapping magisteria" - that concept refers only to the bounds of the content of science and religion as fields of study (so here again you are wrong to invoke it to support your claim) - but because, as simple matter of fact, there is nothing religious about evolution. It is a straightforwardly materialist process of the natural world; you don't need religion to explain it, and there is no evidence for believing it takes place by religious mechanisms, but rather overwhelming evidence that it's just an ordinary part of biological science like any other. Gould said that, again and again, also, and his frequent testimony against "creation science" or "intelligent design" was predicated on the fact that those fields are not science, and thus, from his perspective, outside the "magisteria" of science. Once more, there is nothing in religion that "overlaps" science; the concept of "non-overlapping magisteria" is not one that coddles religion as having some sort of privileged place to comment on natural phenomena, but instead one that tells it to shut up and go away entirely, because it has no business doing so at all.



But I think the larger point is that you have a problem with " religiously-bent commentators ..."

I have a problem with you being grossly wrong, and a bigger one with you falsely citing science and scientists in support of your religious position on social issues, especially when the ones you cite personally rejected that use of their work.


not the extent of said commentators knowledge on the issues under consideration.

Every statement I made, here and previously, was directed precisely at the factual content of your claims, and relied upon a detailed factual discussion of the work you misrepresented, and the reasons why your discussion of it was incorrect.


Frankly, I'm not impressed with your commentary

You seem to persist in thinking that how you choose to see things is somehow relevant to what is factually true. That explains your many factual errors, but is otherwise irrelevant to the issues you yourself raised.


Gould's theories in "Wonderful Life" are still debated as you note

Actually, Wonderful Life has been universally dismissed, because later research demonstrated that the basic factual material it was grounded on - the re-interpretation of Cambrian phyla based on re-examination of the Burgess Shale fossils - was incorrect. The scientist who published that interpretation, whom Gould profiles in that book, has admitted so, and has in fact published an entire book refuting the claims Gould made about his own work in Wonderful Life. Gould's broader conceptual point - the "contingency" of evolutionary history - remains a topic of debate, but has also been largely rejected; at any rate it has very little to do with any social controversies surrounding biology or evolution. Gould's major theoretical contribution - the theory of "punctuated equilibriam" in the rate of evolution, which is so often misused by creationists - was not the subject of Wonderful Life. It was covered in a number of technical articles, and finally in his last book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

You simply don't seem to know anything about evolution, or even what Gould actually said in the various books of his you keep citing. It is bizarre that you raise his name in the context of your complaints about how little respect conservative Christians get for trying to inject religion into public policy - Gould was one of their strongest critics. (Thought that didn't keep them from doing it - as you demonstrate.) It is simply wrong beyond comprehension or explanation that you cite a passage on a technical debate over the rate of speciation immediately after, and as a commentary on, those complaints. And you wander off into ignorant flailing when you try to bolster that quote with an utterly unrelated, and equally random, reference to a book on "contingency" and the Cambrian explosion, which you apparently believe is actually about punctuated equilibrium, which is also completely irrelevant to your original claim.

Just stop.

Kevin T. Keith said...

Wow - my apologies for the multiple posting. Don't know what happened.

Jack Reylan said...

Carbon dating is far from accurate. It is more accurate in today's time because th eparts of it we use are almost linear, but the big assertions against religion are based on the most non-linear and hardest to judge parts. Scientists feel very nice telling you how the Atlantic was formed frm Gondwana or Pnagaeia, but they forget to tell you this is the same story as Noah, Deucalius, Utnapistus, and Atlantis, all of which are said to have occured six thousand years ago, when dragons, or dinosaurs, were recorded by men to exist. However, this mistaken carbon dating method lead them to put both events tens of millions of years ago. If they were so good, why don't they cure cancer or fix the economy or make cheap, non-polluting gasoline before they take on such big and sacred things?