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The following are quotes added to my Unclassified Quotes database in January 2006. The date format is dd/mm/yy. See copyright conditions at end.
[Index: Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec]
2/01/2006 "falsifiability The property of a statement or theory that it is capable of being refuted by experience. In the philosophy of science of Popper falsifiability is the great merit of genuine scientific theory, as opposed to unfalsifiable pseudo-science, notably psychoanalysis and historical materialism. Popper's idea was that it could be a positive virtue in a scientific theory that it is bold, conjectural, and goes beyond the evidence, but that it had to be capable of facing possible refutation. If each and every way things turn out is compatible with the theory, then it is no longer a scientific theory; but, for instance, an ideology or article of faith." (Blackburn, S., "The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1996, p.135. Emphasis original) 2/01/2006 "falsifiability n. A falsifiable hypothesis is one which can be put to a test by which it could conceivably be refuted. The concept is important in Karl Popper's philosophy of science, according to which the distinctive feature of any scientific theory is that its hypotheses can be put to a test. The distinctive feature of a good scientific theory is that its hypotheses pass the test. The contrast is with pseudo-science. The adherents of a pseudo-science are able to cling to its hypotheses no matter how events turn out, because the hypotheses are not testable." (Mautner, T., "falsifiability," in "The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy," , Penguin: London, Revised, 2000, p.195. Emphasis original) 3/01/2006 "KARL POPPER PROVIDES the indispensable starting point for understanding the difference between science and pseudoscience. Popper spent his formative years in early twentieth century Vienna, where intellectual life was dominated by science-based ideologies like Marxism and the psychoanalytic schools of Freud and Adler. These were widely accepted as legitimate branches of natural science, and they attracted large followings among intellectuals because they appeared to have such immense explanatory power. Acceptance of either Marxism or psychoanalysis had, as Popper observed, the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refused to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still 'un-analyzed' and crying aloud for treatment ... A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history; not only in the news, but also in its presentation-which revealed the class bias of the paper-and especially of course in what the paper did not say. The Freudian analysts emphasized that their theories were constantly verified by their 'clinical observations.' Popper saw that a theory that appears to explain everything actually explains nothing. If wages fell this was because the capitalists were exploiting the workers, as Marx predicted they would, and if wages rose this was because the capitalists were trying to save a rotten system with bribery, which was also what Marxism predicted. A psychoanalyst could explain why a man would commit murder- or, with equal facility, why the same man would sacrifice his own life to save another. According to Popper, however, a theory with genuine explanatory power makes risky predictions, which exclude most possible outcomes. Success in prediction is impressive only to the extent that failure was a real possibility. Popper was impressed by the contrast between the methodology of Marx or Freud on the one hand, and Albert Einstein on the other. Einstein almost recklessly exposed his General Theory of Relativity to falsification by predicting the outcome of a daring experiment. If the outcome had been other than as predicted, the theory would have been discredited. The Freudians in contrast looked only for confirming examples, and made their theory so flexible that everything counted as confirmation. Marx did make specific predictions-concerning the inevitable crises of capitalism, for example-but when the predicted events failed to occur his followers responded by modifying the theory so that it still `explained' whatever had happened. Popper set out to answer not only the specific question of how Einstein's scientific method differed from the pseudoscience of Marx and Freud, but also the more general question of what `science' is and how it differs from philosophy or religion." (Johnson, P.E.*, "Darwin on Trial," , InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second edition, 1993, p.147) 3/01/2006 "I know of only two alternatives to Darwinism that have been offered as explanations of the organised and apparently purposeful complexity; of life. These are God and Lamarckism. I am afraid I shall give God rather short shrift. He may have many virtues: no doubt he is invaluable as a pricker of the conscience and a comfort to the dying and the bereaved, but as an explanation of organised complexity he simply will not do. It is organised complexity we are trying to explain, so it is footling to invoke in explanation a being sufficiently organised and complex to create it." (Dawkins, R., "The Necessity of Darwinism," New Scientist, Vol. 94, 15 April 1982, pp.130-132, p.130) 3/01/2006 "So, cumulative selection can manufacture complexity while single-step selection cannot. But cumulative selection cannot work unless there is some minimal machinery of replication and replicator power, and the only machinery of replication that we know seems too complicated to have come into existence by means of anything less than many generations of cumulative selection! Some people see this as a fundamental flaw in the whole theory of the blind watchmaker. They see it as the ultimate proof that there must originally have been a designer, not a blind watchmaker but a far-sighted supernatural watchmaker. Maybe, it is argued, the Creator does not control the day-to-day succession of evolutionary events; maybe he did not frame the tiger and the lamb, maybe he did not make a tree, but he did set up the original machinery of replication and replicator power, the original machinery of DNA and protein that made cumulative selection, and hence all of evolution, possible. This is a transparently feeble argument, indeed it is obviously self-defeating. Organized complexity is the thing that we are having difficulty in explaining. Once we are allowed simply to postulate organized complexity, if only the organized complexity of the DNA/ protein replicating engine, it is relatively easy to invoke it as a generator of yet more organized complexity. That, indeed, is what most of this book is about. But of course any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as the DNA/protein replicating machine must have been at least as complex and organized as that machine itself. Far more so if we suppose him additionally capable of such advanced functions as listening to prayers and forgiving sins. To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like 'God was always there', and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say 'DNA was always there', or 'Life was always there', and be done with it. The more we can get away from miracles, major improbabilities, fantastic coincidences, large chance events, and the more thoroughly we can break large chance events up into a cumulative series of small chance events, the more satisfying to rational minds our explanations will be." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W. Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.141) 3/01/2006 "[To explain via] a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like `God was always there,' and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say `DNA was always there,' or `Life was always there,' and be done with it.' [Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker," W.W. Norton, 1986, p.141] ... Dawkins criticizes design for committing an unacceptable regress in which the designer in turn needs to be explained. The problem with this criticism is that it can be applied whenever scientists introduce a novel theoretical entity. When Ludwig Boltzmann introduced his kinetic theory of heat back in the late 1800s and invoked the motion of unobservable particles (what we now call atoms and molecules) to explain heat one might just as well have argued that such unobservable particles do not explain anything because they themselves need to be explained." (Dembski, W.A.*, "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.253,255) 3/01/2006 "There is a lot of middle ground, however, between a statement that `explains precisely nothing' and a statement that does not explain everything. Admittedly, the naked statement that `God created life' does not explain very much, but neither does the naked statement that `life somehow evolved.' That is why the validity or invalidity of the neo- Darwinian mechanism (or some precisely specified materialist alternative) is such an important question for theology and philosophy, as well as science. If I say that `the first life form was designed by intelligence,' my statement explains something, even if I can say nothing about the identity of the designer or the means by which the design was executed. What it explains (if it is true) is that we are on the wrong road if we are seeking to discover how life can be made without a designing intelligence. Detailed truth builds upon basic truth. If we base our research on counterfactual assumptions we are likely to be heading up a blind alley. It is also illogical to reject a basic starting point simply because it is a starting point, and therefore rests upon something whose origin is unexplained. The nature of explanation is that one thing is explained on the basis of something else which is taken for granted, and the chain of explanation must either end at some point or go around in an endless circle." (Johnson, P.E.*, "How Can We Tell Science from Religion?" Paper delivered at the Conference on the Origin of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Sponsored by the International School of Plasma Physics in Varenna, Italy, July 28-31, 1998. Access Research Network, 1998) 3/01/2006 "Modern theologians of any sophistication have given up believing in instantaneous creation. The evidence for some sort of evolution has become too overwhelming. But many theologians who call themselves evolutionists, for instance the Bishop of Birmingham ... smuggle God in by the back door: they allow him some sort of supervisory role over the course that evolution has taken, either influencing key moments in evolutionary history (especially, of course, human evolutionary history), or even meddling more comprehensively in the day- to-day events that add up to evolutionary change. We cannot disprove beliefs like these, especially if it is assumed that God took care that his interventions always closely mimicked what would be expected from evolution by natural selection. All that we can say about such beliefs is, firstly, that they are superfluous and, secondly, that they assume the existence of the main thing we want to explain, namely organized complexity. The one thing that makes evolution such a neat theory is that it explains how organized complexity can arise out of primeval simplicity. If we want to postulate a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution, that deity must already have been vastly complex in the first place. The creationist, whether a naive Bible-thumper or an educated bishop, simply postulates an already existing being of prodigious intelligence and complexity. If we are going to allow ourselves the luxury of postulating organized complexity without offering an explanation, we might as well make a job of it and simply postulate the existence of life as we know it!" (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W. Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.316. Emphasis original) 3/01/2006 "The same failure to think things through is evident in Dawkins' views on religion. There is nothing in Darwinism, even in its most naturalistic form, that must lead one to despise religion as Dawkins does. There is every indication that religion is natural to man and conducive, on the whole, to his survival. It can give him hope in adversity, strengthen family bonds, and motivate sacrifice for the common good. Dawkins calls it a virus; but if it is, it is one that, according to the latest research, makes us healthier. `Faith sufferers,' as Dawkins calls them, seem to suffer less from a wide array of ills. Among other things, they are less given to depression, anxiety, addiction, criminality, suicide, and divorce. To state these facts is not to preach the prosperity gospel, but to see the weakness of Dawkins' position even on its own naturalistic terms. Without religion, says Dawkins, we would not have wars of religion or religious persecution. True. And without sex, fathers, families, material possessions, and governments, we would not have sex crimes, abusive fathers, dysfunctional families, greed for material possessions, and oppressive governments. Every natural and necessary thing can be perverted, even reason. Religion has led to hateful ideas, but has any Christian writer ever published ideas as hateful as the social Darwinism of H.G. Wells? Religion has led to persecutions, but none even nearly as massive as those produced by militant irreligion. More people were killed by the `scientific atheism' of communism on an average day than the Spanish Inquisition killed in an average decade. And largely responsible for this fact was a teaching of contempt for religion of exactly the kind that Dawkins propagates." (Barr, S.M., "The Devil's Chaplain Confounded," First Things, 145, August/September 2004, pp.25-31) 3/01/2006 "Dawkins gave an interview to Belief.net recently. [Sheahen, L., "Religion: For Dummies," Beliefnet, December 9, 2003] He was asked whether he could think of anything, just `one positive, if minor, thing' that religion has done for the good. No, he replied, he really couldn't. What about great religious art? `That's not religion,' said Dawkins, `it is just because the Church had the money. Great artists like ... Bach ... would have done whatever they were told to do.' So Johann Sebastian Bach was just in it for the money. What this sordid remark reveals, apart from amazing ignorance and philistinism, is the mind of a true fanatic. It is not enough for Dawkins to say that religion is bad on the whole; it must be wholly bad. " (Barr, S.M., "The Devil's Chaplain Confounded," First Things, 145, August/September 2004, pp.25-31) 3/01/2006 "Even without his bigotry, we could not expect balanced judgment or logical consistency from Dawkins, because he is a man in a muddle. One encounters in A Devil's Chaplain at least three Dawkinses: there is Dawkins the Humanist, Dawkins the Reasoner, and Dawkins the Darwinist. Each sits on a different branch, sawing away at the branches on which the others sit. Dawkins the Humanist preaches, inveighs, denounces; he bristles with moral indignation. Dawkins the Darwinist tells him, however, that his humanism is speciesist vanity, his moral standards arbitrary, and his indignation empty. Dawkins the Humanist rebels, proclaiming himself (in human affairs) passionately anti-Darwinian. Dawkins the Reasoner joins the rebellion, declaring that our minds allow us to transcend our genetic inheritance. Dawkins the Darwinist answers with lethal effect that our brains `were only designed to understand the mundane details of how to survive in the stone-age African savannah.' The blame for this muddle lies not with humanism, reason, or even Darwinism. It lies with Dawkins' atheism and materialism, which prevent any coherent viewpoint from emerging because they deny the spiritual soul in man. That soul is indeed a blessed gift. It is precisely `what is so special about humans.' It is what enables us to be people of reason and not just animals programmed to survive on the African savannah. It is what allows us to grasp moral truth and to have the freedom to follow it rather than the laws of matter or the law of the jungle. It is what makes it possible for us to have that hope and love to which the subtitle of Dawkins' book refers, but which are absent from its pages, and about which he has nothing in the end to say." (Barr S.M., "The Devil's Chaplain Confounded," First Things, 145, August/September 2004, pp.25-31) 4/01/2006 "Meanwhile, during the same years, biologists, after decades of disagreeing over the mechanism of evolution to the point of fostering reports of Darwinism lying on its `death-bed,' began to forge a common explanation of evolution, which came to be known, perhaps misleadingly, as the modern or neo-Darwinian synthesis. Geneticists, taxonomists, and paleontologists, who had long worked virtually isolated from one another, finally began interacting-and agreeing on the centrality of natural selection in the evolutionary process. In doing so, they repudiated other evolutionary explanations, particularly ones that gave evolution the appearance of having a purpose. This created, in the words of the historian- biologist William B. Provine, an `evolutionary constriction' that squeezed any talk of supernatural design out of biological discourse. `The evolutionary constriction,' he asserts, `ended all rational hope of purpose in evolution,' thus making belief in Darwinism the functional equivalent of atheism. Many evolutionists remained devout Christians and Jews, but it became increasingly difficult to do so on the basis of the scientific evidence for evolution." (Numbers, R.L., "Darwinism Comes to America," Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1998, p.4) 4/01/2006 "The evolutionary constriction scarcely influenced the content of high school biology textbooks until after 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik into space, greatly embarrassing the American scientific establishment. Politicians and science-policy experts quickly pinpointed the inferior scientific education of Americans as the underlying cause of the country's slide to second place in the space race. To remedy the situation, the federal government began pouring large amounts of money into improving science textbooks for high school students. In biology, where leading practitioners were complaining that `one hundred years without Darwinism are enough,' the funds went to the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), which produced a series of texts featuring evolution as the centerpiece of modern biology. When these unabashedly proevolution texts descended on American classrooms in the early 1960s, they produced howls of protest from conservative Christians, who regarded the BSCS books as an ungodly `attempt to ram evolution down the throats of our children.'" (Numbers, R.L., "Darwinism Comes to America," Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1998, p.5) 4/01/2006 "For over a quarter-century after the Scopes trial in 1925, American textbook publishers tried to avoid antagonizing conservative Christians by saying as little as possible about evolution. This policy of `neutrality based on silence' began to crumble in the late 1950S, after the Soviet Union in 1957 successfully launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to circle the earth. An embarrassed United States sought to regain world leadership in science and technology by pouring millions of dollars into improving science education. Backed by generous funding from the National Science Foundation, a group of biologists in the American Institute of Biological Sciences established a center at the University of Colorado, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), to produce state-of-the-art biology texts. Responding in part to complaints from leading biologists that `one hundred years without Darwinism are enough,' the BSCS authors wove evolution into their material as `the warp and woof of modern biology.' After extensive testing in over a thousand schools, the BSCS in 1963 issued three versions of its tenth-grade text, each identified by the dominant color of its cover: blue, yellow, or green. Before long nearly half of the high schools in America were using these books or other curriculum materials developed by the BSCS-and introducing hundreds of thousands of high-school students to their apelike ancestors." (Numbers, R.L., "The Creationists: the Evolution of Scientific Creationism," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, 1993, pp.238-239) 4/01/2006 "In the early 1920s creationists succeeded in outlawing the teaching of evolution in three American states. In Tennessee in 1925, John T. Scopes was convicted of the crime of teaching evolution. The Scopes trial was widely considered a Pyrrhic victory for antievolution campaigners, but the ensuing controversy largely kept evolution out of school textbooks for another thirty years. Only after the Sputnik scare of 1957 did scientists begin writing textbooks that presented evolution as the organizing principle of biology." (Scott, E.C., "Monkey Business," The Sciences, New York Academy of Sciences, January/February 1996, Vol. 36, No. 1; pp.20-25, p.21) 5/01/2006 "`Homology: Similarity in structure of an organ or a molecule, reflecting a common evolutionary origin....' This is the definition of homology in a contemporary textbook [Alberts B., et al., "Molecular Biology of the Cell," Third edition, 1994] But although the concept lies at the heart of much of biology, it has become increasingly elusive. Has it therefore become a word ripe for burning, as J. Maynard Smith (Univ. Sussex) remarked at a meeting [Homology, Novartis Foundation, London, 21-23 July 1998] on the topic? Or is it simply enough to know that homology exists - even though we cannot define it - as D. Wake (Univ. California, Berkeley) suggested in 1994 in a review [Wake, D.B., Science, Vol 265, 1994, pp.268-269] of a book [Hall, B.K., ed., "Homology," 1994] commemorating the 150th anniversary of Richard Owen's introduction of the term?" (Tautz, D., "Debatable homologies," Nature, Vol. 395, 3 September 1998, p.17) 5/01/2006 "Owen's original concept of homology did not have a phylogenetic (evolutionary) perspective. It was based on the philosophy of identifying and grouping similarities in nature, the 'scala naturae'. Such thinking was exemplified by Charles Bonnet, who, in 1764, derived the following similarity series: fish - flying fish - aquatic birds - birds - bats - flying squirrels - tetrapods - monkey -man (A. Panchen, Univ. Newcastle upon Tyne). It is one of the great achievements of applying the principle of homology that we can now confidently reject the idea that this series reflects phylogenetic succession. On the other hand, however, we still do not know the true answer on the phylogenetic descent of tetrapods, as homology concepts tend to fail when it comes to tracing evolutionary novelties." (Tautz, D., "Debatable homologies," Nature, Vol. 395, 3 September 1998, p.17) 5/01/2006 "Further challenges arise from molecular comparisons of developmental genes. The finding that highly conserved 'master regulator' genes such as Pax6/eyeless are involved in eye development in diverse phyla [Quiring, R., et al., Science, Vol. 265, 1994, pp.785-789] brings into question the idea of the independent evolution of eyes. Similarly, the expression of distal-less homologues in insect and vertebrate legs, as well as other body outgrowths [Panganiban, G. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 94, 1997, pp.5162-5166], raises the issue of how often appendages can arise independently." (Tautz, D., "Debatable homologies," Nature, Vol. 395, 3 September 1998, p.17) 5/01/2006 "Taking phylogenetic continuity alone as the prime criterion for homology causes the problem of circularity, because phylogenies are themselves deduced from homologous characters. This of course can be avoided by using a different set of characters for the phylogeny, such as those derived from DNA sequences. But even in well-established phylogenies, it often emerges that independent evolution of similar characters (convergence) must have often occurred. There could, therefore, be dormant genes or 'latent homologies' that are not expressed in a particular 'stem' species, but that have been regained after further speciation and give the erroneous impression of convergence (A. Meyer, Univ. Konstanz)." (Tautz, D., "Debatable homologies," Nature, Vol. 395, 3 September 1998, p.17) 5/01/2006 "Strict correspondence with phylogeny might also be less important if homologues are viewed as coherent units of phenotypic evolution with constraints on the developmental and variational properties (G. Wagner, Yale Univ.). Applying such criteria, Wagner proposed a beautiful solution to the old question of the way in which the digits on the limbs of the urodeles, the newts and salamanders, are homologous to those of the other tetrapods. In tetrapods, digits 3 and 4 are the first to develop and are also the ones that are most stable against perturbations. In the urodeles, the same seems to be the case for digits 1 and 2. So if 3 and 4 are homologous to 1 and 2, digit 3 would be equivalent to digit 5 in tetrapods and digits 4 and 5 in the urodeles would be novel structures, albeit serially homologous to the other digits. Closer study of developmental characteristics and comparative analysis of Hox gene expression seem to confirm this view." (Tautz, D., "Debatable homologies," Nature, Vol. 395, 3 September 1998, p.17) 5/01/2006 "In molecular studies, the question of phylogenetic continuity becomes even more blurred. As genes can duplicate in the genome, it has long been clear that orthologous genes (which are related by phylogenetic common descent) have to be distinguished from paralogous genes that result from duplications within a genome. But if gene loss and re-duplications have to be taken into account, things become even more complex and new terminology may be required (P. Holland, Univ. Reading). Thus, sequence similarities alone are not sufficient to infer homology of structures and developmental processes. Instead, one should look for the conservation of whole regulatory networks (E. Abouheif, State Univ. New York), a concept that comes close to that of viewing homologues as coherent units." (Tautz, D., "Debatable homologies," Nature, Vol. 395, 3 September 1998, p.17) 5/01/2006 "But can we be sure that homologous morphological structures are made by homologous gene networks? For example, closely related species of sea urchin can develop directly into adults, or go through a feeding larva first, yet end up with the same adult body plan. These species show different embryonic cell lineages and differences in patterns of gene expression during early development (R. Raff, Indiana Univ.) ... . Intriguingly, however, the embryos of hybri ds between such species develop partly in a composite and partly in radically new ways. Further study of these hybrids should help in understanding evolutionary dissociations of genotype and phenotype. It has often been hypothesized that changes in regulatory interactions are involved in dissociations of this sort, but practical work on the evolution of regulatory modules (enhancers) has been scarce. Again, research on sea urchins might pave the way forward. Their enhancers seem to consist of sub-elements, which can be combined and integrated in different ways [Yuh C. H., et al., Science, Vol. 279, 1998, pp.1896-1902], possibly making them perfect targets of evolutionary change (G. Wray, State Univ. New York). But could this mean that we eventually have to identify homologues in the individual parts of complex enhancers to understand the homology of morphological structures? This would indeed make the word ripe for burning." (Tautz, D., "Debatable homologies," Nature, Vol. 395, 3 September 1998, p.17) 5/01/2006 "Homology, then, is an idealized principle that works under idealized conditions, but such conditions almost never apply. This is reminiscent of the concept of the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium in population genetics. It exists only under idealized conditions, but it is the tracing of the reasons for deviation from these conditions that is central to understanding the evolution of populations. Could one apply a similar thinking to homology?" (Tautz, D., "Debatable homologies," Nature, Vol. 395, 3 September 1998, p.17) 6/01/2006 "The same polls reporting that nearly hall of all Americans believe in the special creation of humankind also find that most of the other half accept theistic evolution. According to surveys conducted by the Gallup organization, only about one in ten Americans profess to believe in a Godless form of evolution, and even that number may overstate acceptance of the utterly blind, purposeless evolution espoused by Dawkins and company." (Larson, E.J., "Trial and Error: The American Controversy over Creation and Evolution," Oxford University Press: New York NY, 2003, pp.192-193) 7/01/2006 "Adult male baboons have been reported to risk their lives defending the rest of the troop against predators such as leopards. It is quite probable that any adult male has, on average, a fairly large number of genes tied up in other members of the troop. A gene that `says', in effect: `Body, if you happen to be an adult male, defend the troop against leopards', could become more numerous in the gene pool. Before leaving this often-quoted example, it is only fair to add that at least one respected authority has reported very different facts. According to her, adult males are the first over the horizon when a leopard appears." (Dawkins, R., "The Selfish Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1989, New edition, p.100-101) 7/01/2006 "Mistakes of this sort may, however, occasionally happen in nature. In species that live in herds or troops, an orphaned youngster may be adopted by a strange female, most probably one who has lost her own child. Monkeywatchers sometimes use the word `aunt' for an adopting female. In most cases there is no evidence that she really is an aunt, or indeed any kind of relative: if monkey-watchers were as gene-conscious as they might be, they would not use an important word like `aunt' so uncritically. In most cases we should probably regard adoption, however touching it may seem, as a misfiring of a built-in rule. This is because the generous female is doing her own genes no good by caring for the orphan. She is wasting time and energy which she could be investing in the lives of her own kin, particularly future children of her own. It is presumably a mistake that happens too seldom for natural selection to have `bothered' to change the rule by making the maternal instinct more selective." (Dawkins, R., "The Selfish Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1989, New edition, p.100-101) 7/01/2006 "There is one example of a mistake which is so extreme that you may prefer to regard it not as a mistake at all, but as evidence against the selfish gene theory. This is the case of bereaved monkey mothers who have been seen to steal a baby from another female, and look after it. I see this as a double mistake, since the adopter not only wastes her own time; she also releases a rival female from the burden of child-rearing, and frees her to have another child more quickly. It seems to me a critical example which deserves some thorough research. We need to know how often it happens; what the average relatedness between adopter and child is likely to be; and what the attitude of the real mother of the child is-it is, after all, to her advantage that her child should be adopted; do mothers deliberately try to deceive naive young females into adopting their children? (It has also been suggested that adopters and baby-snatchers might benefit by gaining valuable practice in the art of child- rearing.)" (Dawkins, R., "The Selfish Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1989, New edition, p.101- 102. Emphasis original) 7/01/2006 "Consider human male homosexuality as a more serious example. On the face of it the existence of a substantial minority of men who prefer sexual relations with their own sex rather than with the opposite sex constitutes a problem for any simple Darwinian theory. The rather discursive title of a privately circulated homosexualist pamphlet, which the author was kind enough to send me, summarizes the problem: 'Why are there `gays' at all? Why hasn't evolution eliminated `gayness' millions of years ago?' The author incidentally thinks the problem so important that it seriously undermines the whole Darwinian view of life. Trivers (1974), Wilson (1975, 1978) and especially Weinrich (1976) have considered various versions of the possibility that homosexuals may, at some time in history, have been functionally equivalent to sterile workers, foregoing personal reproduction the better to care for other relatives. I do not find this idea particularly plausible (Ridley & Dawkins, 1981), certainly no more so than a 'sneaky males hypothesis According to this latter idea, homosexuality represents an `alternative male tactic' for obtaining matings with females. In a society with harem defence by dominant males, a male who is known to be homosexual is more likely to be tolerated by a dominant male than a known heterosexual male and an otherwise subordinate male may be able, by virtue of this, to obtain clandestine copulations with females. But I raise the 'sneaky male' hypothesis not as a plausible possibility so much as a stay of dramatizing how easy and inconclusive it is to dream up explanations of this kind ... Homosexuality is, of course, a problem for Darwinians only if there is a genetic component to the difference between homosexual and heterosexual individuals. While the evidence is controversial (Weinrich 1976) assume for the sake of argument that this is the case. Now the question arises, what does it mean to say there is a genetic component to the difference, in common parlance that there is a gene (or genes) 'for' homosexuality? It is a fundamental truism, of logic more than of genetics, that the phenotypic `effect' of a gene is a concept that has meaning only if the context of environmental influences is specified, environment being understood to include all the other genes in the genome. A gene 'for' A in environment X may well turn out to be a gene for B in environment Y. It is simply meaningless to speak of an absolute, context-free, phenotypic effect of a given gene. Even if there are genes which, in today's environment produce a homosexual phenotype, this does not mean that in another environment, say that of our Pleistocene ancestors, they would have had the same phenotypic effect. A gene for homosexuality in our modern environment might have been a gene for something utterly different in the Pleistocene. So, we have the possibility of a special kind of 'time-lag effect' here. It may be that the phenotype which we are trying to explain did not even exist in some earlier environment, even though the gene did then exist." (Dawkins, R., "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1983, pp.37-38) 7/01/2006 "Lay critics frequently bring up some apparently maladaptive feature of modern human behaviour-adoption, say, or contraception-and fling down a challenge to `explain that if you can with your selfish genes'. Obviously, as Lewontin, Gould and others have rightly stressed, it would be possible, depending on one's ingenuity, to pull a `sociobiological' explanation out of a hat, a 'just-so story', but I agree with them and Cain that the answering of such challenges is a trivial exercise; indeed it is likely to be positively harmful. Adoption and contraception, like reading, mathematics, and stress-induced illness, are products of an animal that is living in an environment radically different from the one in which its genes were naturally selected. The question, about the adaptive significance of behaviour in an artificial world, should never have been put; and although a silly question may deserve a silly answer, it is wiser to give no answer at all and to explain why." (Dawkins, R., "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1983, p.36) 7/01/2006 "The jet engine superseded the propeller engine because, for most purposes it was superior. The designers of the first jet engine started with a clean drawing board. Imagine what they would have produced if they had been constrained to 'evolve' the first jet engine from an existing propeller engine changing one component at a time, nut by nut, screw by screw, rivet by rivet. A jet engine so assembled would be a weird contraption indeed. It is hard to imagine that an aeroplane designed in that evolutionary way should ever get off the ground. Yet in order to complete the biological analogy we have to add yet another constraint. Not only must the end product get off the ground; so must every intermediate along the way, and each intermediate must be superior to its predecessor. When looked at in this light far from expecting animals to be perfect we may wonder that anything about them works at all." (Dawkins, R., "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1983, pp.38-39) 7/01/2006 "Examples of the Heath Robinson (or Rube Goldberg-Gould 1978) character of animals are harder to be confident of than the previous paragraph might lead us to expect. A favourite example, suggested to me by Professor J. D. Currey, is the recurrent laryngeal nerve. The shortest distance from the brain to the larynx in a mammal, especially a giraffe, is emphatically not via the posterior side of the aorta, yet that is the route taken by the recurrent laryngeal. Presumably there once was a time in the remote ancestry of the mammals when the straight line from origin to end organ of the nerve did run posterior to the aorta. When, in due course, the neck began to lengthen, the nerve lengthened its detour posterior to the aorta, but the marginal cost of each step in the lengthening of the detour was not great. A major mutation might have re-routed the nerve completely, but only at a cost of great upheaval in early embryonic processes. Perhaps a prophetic, God-like designer back in the Devonian could have foreseen the giraffe and designed the original embryonic routing of the nerve differently, but natural selection has no foresight. As Sydney Brenner has remarked, natural selection could not be expected to have favoured some useless mutation in the Cambrian simply because 'it might come in handy in the Cretaceous'." (Dawkins, R., "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1983, p.39) 7/01/2006 "The Picasso-like face of a Catfish such as a sole, grotesquely twisted to bring both eyes round to the same side of the head, is another striking demonstration of a historical constraint on perfection. The evolutionary history of these fish is so clearly written into their anatomy, that the example is a good one to thrust down the throats of religious fundamentalists. Much the same could be said of the curious fact that the retina of the vertebrate eye appears to be installed backwards. The lightsensitive 'photocells' are at the back of the retina, and light has to pass through the connecting circuitry, with some inevitable attenuation, before it reaches them. Presumably it would be possible to write down a very long sequence of mutations which would eventually lead to the production of an eye whose retina was 'the right way round' as it is in cephalopods, and this might be, in the end, slightly more efficient. But the cost in embryological upheaval would be so great that the intermediate stages would be heavily disfavoured by natural selection in comparison with the rival, patched-up job which does, after all, work pretty well. Pittendrigh (1958) has well said of adaptive organization that it is 'a patchwork of makeshifts pieced together, as it were, from what was available when opportunity knocked, and accepted in the hindsight, not the foresight, of natural selection' (see also Jacob, 1977, on 'tinkering') ." (Dawkins, R., "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1983, p.39) 7/01/2006 "Sewall Wright's (1932) metaphor, which has become known under the name of the 'adaptive landscape', conveys the same idea that selection in favour of local optima prevents evolution in the direction of ultimately superior, more global optima. His somewhat misunderstood (Wright 1980) emphasis on the role of genetic drift in allowing lineages to escape from the pull of local optima, and thereby attain a closer approximation to what a human might recognize as `the' optimal solution, contrasts interestingly with Lewontin's (1979b) invoking of drift as an `alternative to adaptation'. As in the case of pleiotropy, there is no paradox here. Lewontin is right that `the finiteness of real populations results in random changes in gene frequency so that, with a certain probability, genetic combinations with lower reproductive fitness will be fixed in a population'. But on the other hand it is also true that, to the extent that local optima constitute a limitation on the attainment of design perfection, drift will tend to provide an escape (Lande 1976). Ironically, then, a weakness in natural selection can theoretically enhance the likelihood of a lineage attaining optimal design! Because it has no foresight, unalloyed natural selection is in a sense an anti-perfection mechanism, hugging, as it will, the tops of the low foot- hills of Wright's landscape. A mixture of strong selection interspersed with periods of relaxation of selection and drift may be the formula for crossing the valleys to the high uplands. Clearly if `adaptationism' is to become an issue where debating points are scored, there is scope for both sides to have it both ways! (Dawkins, R., "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1983, pp.39-40. Emphasis original) 7/01/2006 "My own feeling is that somewhere here may lie the solution to the real paradox of this section on historical constraints. The jet engine analogy suggested that animals ought to be risible monstrosities of lashed-up improvisation, top-heavy with grotesque relics of patched-over antiquity. How can we reconcile this reasonable expectation with the formidable grace of the hunting cheetah, the aerodynamic beauty of the swift, the scrupulous attention to deceptive detail of the leaf insect? Even more impressive is the detailed agreement between different convergent solutions to common problems, for instance the multiple parallels that exist between the mammal radiations of Australia, South America and the Old World. Cain (1964) remarks that, `Up to now it has usually been assumed, by Darwin and others, that convergence will never be so good as to mislead us' but he goes on to give examples where competent taxonomists have been fooled. More and more groups which had hitherto been regarded as decently monophyletic, are now being suspected of polyphyletic origin." (Dawkins, R., "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1983, reprint, p.40) 8/01/2006 "The Adoption Paradox. Raising someone else's child seems to make no sense from an evolutionary standpoint. So why is everyone doing it? ... Perched on my computer as I pretend to write is a snapshot of my grandfather at 87, perched at the edge of his .. bed. Standing on the bed ... is ... my daughter at age 1 1/2. We have brought her south to amuse and comfort Harry as he battles prostate cancer. Although there is no photo of Charles Darwin on my desk, I imagine him gazing down from somewhere and with befuddlement on this first photo. For my grandfather, like me, is plainly Caucasian, while my daughter is exquisitely Chinese. Why, Darwin might wonder, is this old man, contemplating at point-blank range his own extinction, comforted by the knowledge that his only grandson's only child is not of his own blood but adopted- a cuckoo in the nest?" (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "From a Darwinian standpoint, going childless by choice is hard enough to explain, but adoption, as the arch- Darwinist Richard Dawkins notes, is a double whammy. Not only do you reduce, or at least fail to increase, your own reproductive success, but you improve someone else's. Since the birth parent is your rival in the great genetic steeplechase, a gene that encourages adoption should be knocked out of the running in fairly short order. It hasn't been." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "Of course, Americans at the turn of the millennium do all sorts of strange things. We have strayed so far from the `ancestral environment,' as the evolutionary psychologists say, that one has to poke through layers of cultural and technological debris to find the logic of the genes. But a survey of human time and space finds many other cultures in which adoption has been common. In some of them, it has been far more common than it is with us. And extending the survey to the rest of the animal kingdom finds adoption, or something like it, practiced by an astonishing array of creatures, from orangutans to hermaphroditic worms." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "For me, the fact that most confounds evolutionary psychology is to be found not in Rangiroa or the Serengeti but in my heart. It is the deep happiness I feel whenever I see, hear, touch, or think about my daughter, which is a good deal of my waking life. Perhaps my emotional range is limited, but I can't imagine loving my `own' child more. Nor am I odd in this regard. Studies show that adoptive parents are, on average, as happy as genetic parents, perhaps even a little happier. Their failure to fulfill the most basic biological imperative, far from turning them into freaks, seems to leave them slightly less prone to mental illness than most parents. This is not a fact that Darwinism, in any of its forms, would have predicted." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "I found Freda in the recovery room .... She had not yet seen the surgeon, not yet been told that she had cancer and that her ovaries and uterus had been removed. ... Suddenly (or so it felt), in the 12th year of our marriage, Freda handed down an ultimatum. If I wanted kids, it was time to get moving. If I didn't, it was time to let her know so she could come to terms with her childless life- now redefined, in mediaspeak, as "child free." I came back from the library the next day with a cribful of books about surrogacy and adoption. Absorbed over the next few days, they did little to lighten the burden of decision. What did lighten the burden- what made it, on the instant, drop away- was the annual conference of the Open Door Society. Here, instead of hapless couples salving the wound of infertility with the semblance of a family, I found thousands of happy families, normal in every way but two: They seemed happier than most, and more polychrome. In workshop after workshop I heard parents attest, with wonder still fresh, that their adopted child seemed meant for them from the start, and that they could not imagine loving a "biological" child more. And when, at the workshop on adopting from China, I saw a half dozen dark- eyed infants and toddlers sporting on their parents' knees, I felt a silken cord binding itself to my heart." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "Motives for adopting may be as various as the people and animals that adopt. Among mammals, adoption has been reported in mice and rats, otters and skunks, llamas, deer and caribou, kangaroos and wallabies, seals and sea lions, as well as domestic animals such as dogs, pigs, goats, and sheep. Primates seem especially prone to adopt, as do carnivores of all sorts. A study of the largest terrestrial meat eater, the Alaskan brown bear, found foreign cubs in three of 104 litters, a percentage in the same ballpark as among North American humans. The habit can be expensive. If the adoptee is added to an existing litter, the adopter's own offspring may get less to eat. If adopting delays the next brood, the adopter's lifetime reproductive success may be reduced. Even for the infertile, adoption seems maladaptive: It siphons off resources that might otherwise be shared with close relatives who share some fraction of their genes, thus reducing their `inclusive fitness.'" (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "As evolutionists are quick to point out, the logic of kinship cuts both ways: Animals often adopt their own relatives. Indeed, one locus classicus of adoption among mammals is a small, closely related band that hunts or forages cooperatively in a harsh or dicey environment. Here adoption is just the far end of a range of `alloparenting' behaviors that may include fostering, baby-sitting, cr ching (a sort of day-care arrangement), and communal feeding. ... As biologists apply new genetic tools to the study of adoption, kinship does not provide the catchall answer that many thought it would. A female harbor seal, for example, who loses track of her pup on her crowded breeding ground will often adopt a foreign pup, whether motherless or not. Though these seals seem unable to tell kin from nonkin, scientists guessed that a female would tend to breed on the same stretch of beach where she had been bred; the resulting clustering of kin would mean that a female who adopted a nearby pup was likely to be adopting a relative, perhaps increasing her inclusive fitness. But DNA analysis of a colony on Sable Island in Canada shot down both those suppositions." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "When all else fails, Darwinians can chalk adoption up to reproductive error- the failure of parents to distinguish their own offspring from someone else's. The pandemonium of an elephant seal breeding ground, for instance, with hundreds of creatures the size of small trucks bellowing for their pups, is guaranteed to cause some mix-ups, even though the cost to the mothers can be great. Some end up trying to raise two pups, a feat that verges on the physically impossible. Of course, the idea of reproductive error doesn't help much with cases of adoption by a nonbreeding female. If you have no infant of your own, you can hardly be accused of confusing it with someone else's." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "Readings in terms of natural selection are trickier. Anthropologist Joan Silk, in a statistical analysis of the data- first from Oceania, then from the Arctic and West Africa, two other hotbeds of fosterage and adoption-found that adopters and adoptees tended to be blood-related more closely than chance alone would predict. But since adoption of nonrelatives does occur in these and many other societies, inclusive fitness offers at best a partial answer." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "If something in human nature makes us prone to adopt, it may be something we share with other primates. Spider monkeys, tarsiers, baboons, gibbons, chimpanzees, and orangutans have been caught in the act, and most other primates engage in alloparental care of one kind or another. As among humans, babies are fussed over. In some species, mothers with one infant will take in another, despite the considerable strain involved in feeding, carrying, and protecting both. Juveniles, nonbreeding adults, and mothers who have lost their own infants will sometimes be so keen to nurture that, if an orphan is not available, they will resort to kidnapping- which, if the birth mother is of lower rank or for some other reason fails to put up much of a fight, can lead to permanent adoption. ... In any case, adoption among primates can't be chalked up to `reproductive error'- not in any literal sense. Like human adopters, these apes and monkeys seem to know what they are doing." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "When the ethnographic files have been ransacked and the animal taxa accounted for, the hardest kind of adoption to explain in standard evolutionary terms may be the human, Western, modern kind- the kind my wife and I have committed. Finding a mate, warding off aggression, getting better access to resources-these may be true Darwinian explanations of adoption in some animal species, but in Homo sapiens they are more likely to be acting, if at all, on the level of learned behavior. And indeed it isn't hard to see how adoption might be encouraged by a given culture, or spread through a population as a learned behavior, or `meme.' Nor is it hard to see how adoption might be favored by "group selection"- to put it crudely, survival of the fittest populations, not just of the fittest individuals within populations. That form of Darwinism, which Darwin himself invoked to explain various kinds of altruism, became taboo in the 1960s but is now making a comeback, refined to meet logical and mathematical objections." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "But for the kind of Darwinism that rules the new field of evolutionary psychology, as well as the popular press- the kind that delights in finding the bony grimace of selfishness beneath the fleshy lips of goodness- only one theory of modern adoption is of much use: namely, that the urge to nurture has been selected for because it is, in general, hugely adaptive; and that, in the world of early humans, the likelihood that someone would squander this urge on a nonrelated child was so remote that natural selection didn't bother taking measures against it. One biologist compares this to the human love of salt, an instinct healthy on the African savanna but less so in a 7- Eleven. No father likes to think of his daughter (however addictive) in the same way as junk food, so naturally I'm inclined to poke holes in this theory. For instance, why shouldn't a strategy of reproductive parasitism- of leaving your infants at the door of an unrelated family's cave- have arisen among early humans? In that case, an instinct for rejecting all unrelated infants should have evolved too. And even if a frustrated parenting urge explains our behavior, what about that of my relatives, who have already had their quota of children? Why have my grandparents not only lavished as much great- grandparental investment on this alien dumpling as on their genetic descendants but also bragged about her even more? How can it be that the whole family- uncles, aunts, cousins- far from begrudging her a place in the nest, have made her their darling, dropping their sleekest worms into her heart-shaped mouth? I don't know the answer. Maybe the parenting urge doesn't have to be dammed to rise above its biological bed. After all, people who already have genetic children adopt too. Or maybe something else is going on here, something evolutionary psychology cannot yet explain." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "Once we had adopted, it was easy to forget how the prospect of taking my genes to the grave had unsettled me. If the latex-gloved hand of modern medicine had reached out to us, wouldn't we have clutched it? Which brings us to the oldest of biological questions, that of the chicken and the egg. Is modern medicine responding to a natural, Darwinian demand? Or is it drumming up business, aided by the drug companies' ostinato and our culture's insistence that adoption is unnatural- a fatherhood of last resort, a motherhood of necessity? The tendency of pop Darwinism- which, in one form or another, has been shaping American culture for well over a century- is to look at what we want, explain it in terms of what our genes want, and then suggest that what our genes want is what we really want. Our genes' hidden agenda-namely, their own proliferation in human bodies, from here to eternity- is supposed to be our agenda. If it is fulfilled, we are fulfilled; if it is not, we are not. This is like saying that our felicity lies in achieving a state of entropy or heat death, which seems to be the agenda of the subatomic particles that must, in the last and rather tedious analysis, set in motion all our desires." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "Adoption discloses a few of the myriad ways in which both evolution and culture soften, extend, and reticulate our rock-bottom interest in reproductive success. Rather than see these wrinkles as errors or perversions or mystifications, we should celebrate them. For without them love, art, science, and morality would not exist. .... In many animals, including humans, the drive we expect to be most deeply ingrained- the drive to reproduce- turns out to require little in the way of direct satisfaction. Most of us need sex, most of us need to raise a child, but the two don't have to be related. As a result, neither does the child. One half of the above disjunction- that sex is worth having even when it doesn't produce children- has always been obvious. But the other half-that children are worth having even if your own sex act hasn't produced them-has yet to sink in. Standing on the child side of the divide, society tells us the connection is sacred. It tells us this is what we really want. It tells us anything else is second best. And it makes adoption absurdly difficult." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "The cuckoo and the cowbird are despised in human lore for laying eggs in the nests of other species. But many birds do this to members of their own species. In one population of bluebirds, for instance, it was found that 15 percent of the mothers were tending an unrelated nestling. Such egg dumping explains the fierce catfights between bluebird females. Cliff swallows in the American West go one better: Besides egg dumping, they airfreight prelaid eggs into neighbors' nests. The neighbor, if she notices, may not protest, since she has probably done the same thing herself. In the largest colonies, 22 to 43 percent of the nests harbor an alien egg. The practice may work to everyone's benefit: As cliff swallow nests are subject to rock slides, bad weather, and other catastrophes, it is unwise to keep all one's eggs in one basket." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "Eggs cannot offer themselves for adoption, but chicks can and do in many bird species, especially those that breed in tightly packed colonies. If a white stork chick finds itself in an overcrowded nest, it may wander to a neighboring nest with fewer and younger chicks. Though chicks and parents will try to repel it, persistence pays: A study of three white stork colonies found that four out of 10 nests contained an adoptee. The runaways are fed better than they were before, but at some cost to their new nest mates. Similarly, ring-billed gull pairs that take in a foundling will, on average, fledge fewer chicks of their own than pairs that don't. Why do they, then? Biologists speak of an `intergenerational conflict' or `coevolutionary arms race' betweegate-crashing youngsters and the unrelated, gatekeehe youngsters win, sometimes the oldsters. The proportions may depend on who has the most to gain or lose- that is, on the selection pressure on each side." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "Bluebirds who have to put food in their chicks' gaping mouths may work at four times their basal metabolic rate- roughly equivalent to a human chopping wood night and day. Ducks and geese, whose chicks start foraging shortly after hatching, pay far less for an extra beak. Adoption is often reported in these species, and not only by Hans Christian Andersen. Creatures most prone to adopt don't always have a soft spot for infants. A mother herring gull that happens on another gull's chick will happily take it home and eat it. But sometimes, if the chick is still alive when the gull reaches the nest, she apparently will start feeding it, that is, adopt it. Biologists, who do not readily ascribe compassion to any creature- least of all to a shrill-voiced cannibal- seem inclined to think that such a gull has had a senior moment. Finding herself with a live chick in her beak, she can't recollect whether she is bringing home takeout or collaring an errant offspring. Rather than chance eating her own chick, she takes the risk of raising someone else's." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 8/01/2006 "It Adoption is far from rare among mammals and birds, but among fish one could call it common. Paradoxically, the two very different evolutionary game plans favored by these two groups can both make adoption a good move. Mammals and birds produce a handful of offspring in which they invest heavily, mainly by feeding them. Fish take a more actuarial approach, laying eggs in vast quantities and trusting that some of them will survive. Once you are guarding a flock of fry, adding a few fry from another fish's brood won't cost you much effort. It may even offer a payoff. If other fry are mixed in with your own, the chances that a predator will catch one of yours is correspondingly reduced: This is called the dilution effect. Your slight statistical edge may be sharpened by the confusion effect, whereby a hungry fish, dazzled by the sheer number of fry flying every which way, loses precious seconds deciding which to go after. If the adopted fry are smaller than your own, predators may seize on these easy pickings first. That is called the selfish shepherd effect. Finally, in some cases adopted fry may be placed on the edges of the brood, forming an edible buffer against marauders. That is called the selfish herd effect. With this arsenal of effects, most of them confirmed to some degree by observation and experiment, Darwinists can make adoption seem less fishy, its low cost outweighed by palpable benefits." (Eisenberg, E., "The Adoption Paradox," Discover, Vol. 22 No. 1, January 2001) 9/01/2006 "Adoption. Although allomaternal care is widespread in the primates, only under special circumstances does it lead to the full adoption of strange infants. In particular, mothers who are nursing young of their own (and are therefore best able to rear orphans) are typically hostile to strange infants who try to approach them. A possible exception is provided by the langur Presbytis johnii. Lactating females were seen by Poirier (1968) to respond permissively toward other infants. When more than one infant struggled to gain access to a nipple, mothers showed no preference for their own young. Even in species with aggressive females, orphans are probably rarely left to starve. Female macaques who have lost their own babies readily accept other infants, and they may even go so far as to kidnap them (Itani, 1959; Rowell, 1963). Since mothers are more likely to lose their infants than the reverse, it is probable that orphans will find a willing foster mother. Even if none is available, other females might be able to assume the role fully. When caged rhesus females were induced to adopt infants under experimental conditions, they began to produce apparently normal milk (Hansen, 1966). The foster mothers observed in captive groups of rhesus monkeys usually served first as helpers. This circumstance makes it more likely that in nature a relative will adopt an orphaned infant. Van Lawick-Goodall (1968a) recorded three instances of adoption in wild chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream National Park, two by older juvenile sisters and one by an older brother. Similarly, foster mothers observed by Sade (1965) in the feral rhesus population of Cayo Santiago were older sisters." (Wilson, E.O., "Sociobiology: The Abridged Edition," , The Belknap Press: Cambridge MA, 1980, p.175) 9/01/2006 "If we wish, we can define a single gene as a sequence of nucleotide letters lying between a START and an END symbol, and coding for one protein chain. The word cistron has been used for a unit defined in this way, and some people use the word gene interchangeably with cistron. ... In the title of this book the word gene means not a single cistron but something more subtle. My definition will not be to everyone's taste, but there is no universally agreed definition of a gene. Even if there were, there is nothing sacred about definitions. We can define a word how we like for our own purposes, provided we do so clearly and unambiguously. The definition I want to use comes from G.C. Williams. A gene is defined as any portion of chromosomal material that potentially lasts for enough generations to serve as a unit of natural selection." (Dawkins, R., "The Selfish Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, New Edition, 1989, p.28) 10/01/2006 "Almost all the participants in these disputes take it for granted that the factual claims of creation and resurrection at the root of Christianity are untrue." (Brown, A., "The Darwin Wars: How Stupid Genes Became Selfish Gods," Simon & Schuster: London, 1999, p.154) 10/01/2006 "Intelligent design ... is not an argument from ignorance. Precisely because of what we know about undirected natural causes and their limitations, science is now in a position to demonstrate design rigorously ... " (Dembski, W.A.*, "Introduction: Mere Creation," in Dembski, W.A.*, ed., "Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1998, p.17) 10/01/2006 "An Argument from Ignorance? Against all that has been said, many have maintained that this argument from information content to design constitutes nothing more than an argument from ignorance. Since we don't yet know how biological information could have arisen we invoke the mysterious notion of intelligent design. Thus, say objectors, intelligent design functions not as a legitimate inference or explanation but as a kind of place holder for ignorance. And yet, as Dembski has demonstrated (Dembski 1998, 9-35, 62-66) we often infer the causal activity of intelligent agents as the best explanation for events and phenomena. Moreover, we do so rationally, according to objectifiable, if often tacit, information and complexity theoretic criteria. His examples of design inferences from archeology and cryptography to fraud detection and criminal forensics-show that we make design inferences all the time, often for a very good reason (Dembski 1998, 9-35). Intelligent agents have unique causal powers that nature does not. When we observe effects that we know only agents can produce, we rightly infer the antecedent presence of a prior intelligence even if we did not observe the action of the particular agent responsible. In other words, Dembski has shown that designed events leave a complexity and information- theoretic signature that allows us to detect intelligent design reliably. Specifically, when systems or artifacts have a high information content or (in his terminology) are both highly improbable and specified, intelligent design necessarily played a causal role in the origin of the system in question." (Meyer, S.C.*, "The Explanatory Power of Design: DNA and the Origin of Information," in Dembski, W.A.*, ed., "Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1998, p.138) 10/01/2006 "While admittedly the design inference constitutes a provisional, empiricallybased conclusion and not a proof (science can provide nothing more), it most emphatically does not constitute an argument from ignorance. Instead, the design inference from biological information constitutes an `inference to the best explanation.' Recent work on the method of `inference to the best explanation' (Lipton 1991; Meyer 1994b, 88-94) suggests that determining which among a set of competing possible explanations constitutes the best depends upon assessments of the causal powers of competing explanatory entities. Causes that have the capability to produce the evidence in question constitute better explanations of that evidence than those that do not." (Meyer, S.C.*, "The Explanatory Power of Design: DNA and the Origin of Information," in Dembski, W.A.*, ed., "Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1998, pp.138-139) 12/01/2006 "Influenced by Malthus and by the social philosophy of his time, Darwin emphasized the negative aspect of biotic interaction. He painted a picture of species aiming at mutual destruction in their struggle for life. Misled by the Malthusian implication of the finite area on the surface of the Earth, Darwin (1859, p. 67) compared it to `a yielding surface, with ten thousand sharp wedges packed close together and driven inwards by incessant blows, sometimes one wedge being struck, and then another with greater force,' forcing out a previously struck wedge. `The boat is full,' as the Swiss said in justifying the closure of their borders to refugees during World War II. But the boat is not full. Darwin's younger contemporary, Peter Alexander Kropotkin, advocated the opposite view of mutual aid and symbiosis in evolution. Darwin's view of killing the competition reflected the philosophy of his time. The motto of our age is peaceful coexistence and symbiosis. Niklas (1986) pointed out that increase of species could be absorbed through a `partition of ecologic niches.' In the evolution of fossil communities, we see a picture of interdependence of plants, insects, and terrestrial animals. This evolutionary pattern indicates the constructive aspect in the history of life. The Earth was probably made inhabitable through the effort of anaerobic bacteria that gave us oxygen in the atmosphere. New groups evolved, but they did not always ride over the dead bodies of the old. They ventured out and created new ecologic niches for themselves and for others as well (Lovelock, 1980)." (Hsu, K.J., "Darwin's three mistakes," Geology, 1986, Vol. 14, pp.533-534) 12/01/2006 "Two aspects of animal life impressed me most during the journeys which I made in my youth in Eastern Siberia and Northern Manchuria. One of them was the extreme severity of the struggle for existence which most species of animals have to carry on against an inclement Nature; the enormous destruction of life which periodically results from natural agencies; and the consequent paucity of life over the vast territory which fell under my observations. And the other was, that even in those few spots where animal life teemed in abundance, I failed to find -although I was eagerly looking for it-that bitter struggle for the means of existence, among animals belonging to the same species, which was considered by most Darwinists (though not always by Darwin himself) as the dominant characteristic of struggle for life, and the main factor of evolution. ... I conceived since then serious doubts-which subsequent study has only confirmed-as to the reality of that fearful competition for food and life within each species, which was an article of faith with most Darwinists, and, consequently, as to the dominant part which this sort of competition was supposed to play in the evolution of new species. On the other hand, wherever I saw animal life in abundance ... I saw Mutual Aid and Mutual Support carried on to an extent which made me suspect in it a feature of the greatest importance for the maintenance of life, the preservation of each species, and its further evolution." (Kropotkin, P., "Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution," , Freedom Press: London, 1987, pp.12-14) 13/01/2006 "The fallacy of appeal to ignorance [The Latin name of this fallacy is argumentum ad ignorantiam] is an argument that uses an opponent's inability to disprove a conclusion as proof of the conclusion's correctness. By shifting the burden of proof outside the argument onto the person hearing the argument, such an argument becomes irrelevant. One's inability to disprove a conclusion cannot by itself be regarded as proof that the conclusion is true." (Engel, S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York, Fourth Edition, 1990, p.214) 13/01/2006 "When we consider Behe's criticisms in light of this consistent pattern, his book becomes particularly significant in that it indicates just how far creationists have had to retreat to find significant explanatory gaps in evolutionary theory. Behe is certainly correct that molecular biology has identified a host of new and heretofore unappreciated puzzles for evolutionary biologists. That they have yet to solve, or in many cases even to begin to address these puzzles, however, is mostly the unsurprising result of the fact that molecular biology is still a very new subdiscipline. Many of the most significant molecular techniques that are now allowing biologists to look inside the black box of the cell were developed just in the last decade or two. The opening of this final box has indeed revealed a new level of complexity that has yet to be explained. But what should we conclude from our ignorance about such matters? Should we applaud and encourage the new generation of graduate students in molecular biology who are now eagerly turning their attention to investigating, and perhaps discovering the solutions of these puzzles? Or should we, as Behe and other creationists suggest, judge that these explanatory gaps are uncrossable by evolutionary or any natural theory and conclude that intervention by a divine intelligent designer is the only possible explanation? We will return to a further examination of supernatural explanation and the creationists' proposed inference to intelligent design in chapter 5, but here I hope the conclusion to draw is obvious. All the creationists' challenges that "Science cannot explain X" are nothing but what philosophers call "arguments from ignorance." To point out that we are ignorant of the scientific explanation of X is hardly good reason to conclude that God is the explanation." (Pennock, R.T., "Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism," MIT Press: Cambridge MA, 1999, Fourth printing, pp.171-172) 14/01/2006 "In attributing design to biological systems, isn't intelligent design just arguing from ignorance? THIS IS PERHAPS THE MOST COMMON OBJECTION against intelligent design, and it goes by many names: argument from ignorance, argument from silence, argument from personal incredulity, god-of-the-gaps, negative argumentation, argument by elimination, eliminative induction, failure to provide a positive alternative and so on. The underlying concern here is that design theorists argue for the truth of design simply because design has not been shown to be false. In arguments from ignorance, the lack of evidence against a proposition is used to argue for its truth. Here's a stereotypical argument from ignorance: "Ghosts and goblins exist because you haven't shown me that they don't exist." The argument-from-ignorance objection has been spectacularly successful at shutting down discussion about intelligent design. In fact, among Western intellectuals it functions like a mantra. One merely repeats it whenever the question of design is raised. ... And thus design is refuted. Perhaps that's why Australian philosopher Alan Olding, in commenting on the persistent use of the argument-from ignorance or god-of-the-gaps objection against the work of Michael Denton and Michael Behe, writes, "The phrase 'god of the gaps' is nothing more than a question-begging insult meant to stop the flow of argument before it has barely started." (See his article "Maker of Heaven and Microbiology," Quadrant, January-February 2000.)" (Dembski, W.A.*, "The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design," Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2004, pp.213-214. Emphasis original) 14/01/2006 "The upshot is that DNA exhibits too much `design work' (as Cairns-Smith puts it) to be the product of mere chance, yet there are no known physical laws capable of doing the necessary work. Once we apply the tools of information theory, all the plausible candidates fall out of the race. No known physical laws produce the right kind of ordered structure: one with high information content. This is not a statement about our ignorance-a `gap' in knowledge that one might be tempted to bridge with an appeal to the supernatural. Rather, it is a statement about what we know-about the consistent character of natural laws. ... We also know, from information theory, how codes work. ... If we consult everyday experience, we readily note that objects with a high information content-books, computer disks, musical scores-are products of intelligence. It is reasonable to conclude, by analogy, that the DNA molecule is likewise the product of an intelligent agent. This is a contemporary version of the design argument, and it does not rest on ignorance-on gaps in knowledge-but on the explosive growth in knowledge thanks to the revolution in molecular biology and the development of information theory. " (Pearcey N.R.*, "DNA: The Message in the Message," First Things 64, June/July 1996, pp.13- 14. Leadership U., 9 January 1997. Emphasis original. ). 14/01/2006 "Nevertheless, it is routine among Darwinists to declare that Behe's ideas have been decisively refuted and even to provide references to the biological literature in which Behe's ideas are supposed to have been refuted. But what happens when one tracks down those references in the biological literature that are said to have refuted Behe? David Ray Griffin, a philosopher with no animus against Darwinism or sympathy for Behe's intelligent design perspective, remarks: `The response I have received from repeating Behe's claim [that the evolutionary literature fails to account for irreducible complexity] is that I obviously have not read the right books. There are, I am assured, evolutionists who have described how the transitions in question could have occurred [i.e., how, contra Behe, Darwinian pathways could lead to irreducibly complex biochemical systems]. When I ask in which books I can find these discussions, however, I either get no answer or else some titles that, upon examination, do not in fact contain the promised accounts. That such accounts exist seems to be something that is widely known, but I have yet to encounter someone who knows where they exist.' [Griffin D.R., "Religion and Scientific Naturalism: Overcoming the Conflicts," State University of New York Press: Albany NY, 2000, p.287, n.23]" (Dembski, W.A.*, ed., "Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing," ISI Books: Wilmington DE, 2004, p.xxvi) 14/01/2006 "David Ray Griffin, also no supporter of intelligent design, is a philosopher of religion with an interest in biological origins. Commenting on the evolutionary literature that purports to explain how evolutionary transitions lead to increased biological complexity, he writes (in his book Religion and Scientific Naturalism), `There are, I am assured, evolutionists who have described how the transitions in question could have occurred. When I ask in which books I can find these discussions, however, I either get no answer or else some titles that, upon examination, do not in fact contain the promised accounts. That such accounts exist seems to be something that is widely known, but I have yet to encounter someone who knows where they exist.' [Griffin D.R., "Religion and Scientific Naturalism: Overcoming the Conflicts," State University of New York Press: Albany NY, 2000, p.287, n.23]" (Dembski, W.A.*, "The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design," Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2004, p.215) 14/01/2006 "Indeed, the whole point of Michael Behe's irreducible complexity and my own specified complexity is that these are empirical features of mundane objects that reliably signal intelligent causation. Whether these mundane objects trace their causal histories through mundane or transcendent designers is irrelevant. When we see irreducible complexity or specified complexity, we know that an intelligent cause has been present and acted even if we know nothing else. This is not an argument from ignorance. Behe and I offer in-principle arguments for why undirected natural causes (i.e., chance, necessity or some combination of the two) cannot produce irreducible and specified complexity. Moreover we offer sound arguments for why intelligent causation best explains irreducible and specified complexity. " (Dembski, W.A.*, "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL., 1999, pp.276-277. Emphasis original) 14/01/2006 "Intelligent design is the systematic study of intelligent causes and specifically of the effects they leave behind. From certain observable features of the world (i.e., signs), intelligent design infers to intelligent causes responsible for those features. The world contains events, objects and structures that exhaust the explanatory resources of natural causes and that can be adequately explained only by recourse to intelligent causes. This is not an argument from ignorance. Precisely because of what we know about natural causes and their limitations, science is now in a position to demonstrate intelligent causation rigorously. Briefly, intelligent design infers that an intelligent cause is responsible for an effect if the effect is both complex and specified." (Dembski, W.A.*, "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology", InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, p.47) 14/01/2006 "Next Scott and Branch bring up the old chestnut about ID amounting to an `argument from ignorance,' relying upon `a lack of knowledge for its conclusion: Lacking a natural explanation, we assume intelligent cause.' Comment: Lacking a natural explanation of Mount Rushmore, are we making an argument from ignorance by inferring that an intelligent cause is behind it? The design inference is not an argument from ignorance. It's not just that we eliminate natural explanations (by which biologists mean explanations that involve no intelligent causation), but that in eliminating natural explanations we find features that in our experience are only the result of intelligent causation. Consider, for instance, the bacterial flagellum. This is a little outboard rotary motor on the backs of certain bacteria. It includes a propeller, a hook joint, a drive shaft, O-rings, a stator, and a bidirectional acid powered motor. We are seeing here a machine of the sort that in our experience only intelligence can produce. What's more, the biological community has come up empty on how systems like this could emerge apart from intelligence. This is not an argument from ignorance. This is an argument from what we know about the causal powers of intelligence and the shortfall of unintelligent causes." (Dembski, W.A.*, "Commentary on Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch's `Guest Viewpoint: "Intelligent design" Not Accepted by Most Scientists,'" ISCID, 2 July, 2002) 14/01/2006 "More generally, I like to apply a somewhat cynical rule of thumb in judging arguments about nature that also have overt social implications: When such claims imbue nature with just those properties that make us feel good or fuel our prejudices, be doubly suspicious. I am especially wary of arguments that find kindness, mutuality, synergism, harmony-the very elements that we strive mightily, and so often unsuccessfully, to put into our own lives- intrinsically in nature. I see no evidence for Teilhard's noosphere, for Capra's California style of holism, for Sheldrake's morphic resonance. Gaia strikes me as a metaphor, not a mechanism. (Metaphors can be liberating and enlightening, but new scientific theories must supply new statements about causality. Gaia, to me, only seems to reformulate, in different terms, the basic conclusions long achieved by classically reductionist arguments of biogeochemical cycling theory.) There are no shortcuts to moral insight. Nature is not intrinsically anything that can offer comfort or solace in human terms-if only because our species is such an insignificant latecomer in a world not constructed for us." (Gould, S.J., "Kropotkin was no Crackpot," in "Bully for Brontosaurus: Further Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1992, pp.338-339) 14/01/2006 "Religion takes a savage beating from Dawkins, especially Catholicism, for which he seems to have conceived an almost lunatic hatred. ... His theory of religion is spelled out in five essays gathered under the heading `The Infected Mind.' Religion is simply a `virus of the mind' ... He freely avows both `hostility' and `contempt' for religion, and he feels it is his moral duty to mock it as much as he can. ... Polite concealment of contempt is not a rhetorical mode that one associates with Dawkins. He is much given to invective, not all of it against religion. Here is how he characterizes the thoughts and attitudes of some of his other targets: `caterwauling shrieks,' `low- grade intellectual poodling of pseudo- philosophical poseurs,' `footling debates,' `boorish tenured confidence,' `yahooish complacency,' and `driveling ephemera of juvenile pamphleteers and the old preaching of spiteful hard-liners.' The man, as they say nowadays, has issues. ... The same failure to think things through is evident in Dawkins' views on religion. There is nothing in Darwinism, even in its most naturalistic form, that must lead one to despise religion as Dawkins does. There is every indication that religion is natural to man and conducive, on the whole, to his survival. It can give him hope in adversity, strengthen family bonds, and motivate sacrifice for the common good. Dawkins calls it a virus; but if it is, it is one that, according to the latest research, makes us healthier. `Faith sufferers,' as Dawkins calls them, seem to suffer less from a wide array of ills. Among other things, they are less given to depression, anxiety, addiction, criminality, suicide, and divorce. ... Dawkins gave an interview to Belief.net recently. He was asked whether he could think of anything, just `one positive, if minor, thing' that religion has done for the good. No, he replied, he really couldn't. What about great religious art? `That's not religion,' said Dawkins, `it is just because the Church had the money. Great artists like ... Bach ... would have done whatever they were told to do.' [Sheahen L., "Religion: For Dummies," Beliefnet, December 9, 2003] So Johann Sebastian Bach was just in it for the money. What this sordid remark reveals, apart from amazing ignorance and philistinism, is the mind of a true fanatic. It is not enough for Dawkins to say that religion is bad on the whole; it must be wholly bad." (Barr, S.M., "The Devil's Chaplain Confounded," First Things, 145, August/September 2004, pp.25-31). 14/01/2006 "PARIS (AFP) - Suicide bombers who have sown mayhem from Israel to Iraq and from Chechnya to Sri Lanka are usually far from being the madmen, religious fanatics or impoverished misfits they are often portrayed as, it was reported. ... The British science weekly New Scientist says that experts who have studied the psychological profiles and backgrounds of suicide bombers find these assailants are often secular, well-educated individuals. Many of them are born to prosperous families and take a rational decision about the path they chose, says a report in this Saturday's issue. `What this amounts to is in many ways more alarming than the ubiquitous misperception of the suicide bomber as fanatical,' New Scientist says. `It means that in the right circumstances, anyone could be one.' A study of Hamas and Palestinian suicide attackers from the 1980s to 2003 by Claude Berrebi, an economist at Princeton University, found that only 13 percent of them came from a poor background, compared with 32 percent of the Palestinian population in general. In addition, more than half the suicide bombers had entered further education, compared with just 15 percent of the general population. Similarly, a study into Hezbollah militants who died in action in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s were less like to have come from poor families and likelier to have attended secondary school than others of their age. As for the idea that suicide bombers are simply suicidal, that is discounted by Israeli psychologist Ariel Merari of Tel Aviv University. He studied the backgrounds of every suicide bomber in the Middle East since 1983, when the modern era of suicide attacks began with the truck bomb assault US embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. `In the majority, you find none of the risk factors normally associated with suicide, such as mood disorders or schizophrenia, substance abuse or history of attempted suicide,' Merari told New Scientist. Eyad El Sarraj, chairman of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, said his own studies of Palestinian `martyrs' found a common source in a traumatic childhood experience. All had experienced helplessness as a child, particularly the humiliation of their father by Israeli soldiers. Whatever the individual trigger, suicide bombers are invariably channelled by a disciplined, well-organized group into taking the path of self destruction in the fight against the enemy, the report says. This group, a result of a `peculiar mix of social, cultural and political ingredients,' forges and promotes the cult of the suicide bomber, glorifying his or her acts within the community and indoctrinating him or her, often with promises of divine reward. This `brotherhood mentality' is typically reinforced at the crucial moment by a farewell testimony in a letter or video -- a classic manoeuvre to force the attacker beyond the point of no return. `If you are in a small cell of suicide terrorists and they are all dying one by one, and you have made this commitment on a videotape saying goodbye to your family and everyone else, the psychological investment is such that it would be almost impossibly humiliating to pull back,' Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, said." ("What makes bombers tick?," The Age, May 12, 2004) 15/01/2006 "There is one other kind of fallout from current marital norms that comes into focus through the new paradigm: the toll taken on children. Martin Daly and Margo Wilson have written, `Perhaps the most obvious prediction from a Darwinian view of parental motives is this: Substitute parents will generally tend to care less profoundly for children than natural parents.' Thus, `children reared by people other than their natural parents will be more often exploited and otherwise at risk. Parental investment is a precious resource, and selection must favor those parental psyches that do not squander it on nonrelatives.' [Daly M. & Wilson M., "Homicide," Aldine de Gruyter: Hawthorne NY, 1988, p.83] To some Darwinians, this expectation might seem so strong as to render its verification a waste of time. But Daly and Wilson took the trouble. What they found surprised even them. In America in 1976, a child living with one or more substitute parents was about one hundred times more likely to be fatally abused than a child living with natural parents. In a Canadian city in the 1980s, a child two years of age or younger was seventy times more likely to be killed by a parent if living with a stepparent and natural parent than if living with two natural parents. Of course, murdered children are a tiny fraction of the children living with stepparents; the divorce and re marriage of a mother is hardly a child's death warrant. But consider the more common problem of nonfatal abuse. Children under ten were, depending on their age and the particular study in question, between three and forty times more likely to suffer parental abuse if living with a stepparent and a natural parent than if living with two natural parents. [Daly & Wilson, 1988, pp.89-91] It is fair to infer that many less dramatic, undocumented forms of parental indifference follow this rough pattern. After all, the whole reason natural selection invented paternal love was to bestow benefits on offspring. Though biologists call these benefits `investment,' that doesn't mean they're strictly material, wholly sustainable through monthly checks. Fathers give their children all kinds of tutelage and guidance (more, often, than either father or child realizes) and guard them against all kinds of threats. A mother alone simply can't pick tip the slack. A stepfather almost surely won't pick up much, if any of it. In Darwinian terms, a young stepchild is an obstacle to fitness, a drain on resources." (Wright, R., "The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life," , Vintage Books: New York NY, 1995, reprint, pp.103-104) 15/01/2006 "Stepfathers Worse Than No Father. Westerners appalled by such barbaric treatment of the fatherless should take a look at their local newspapers. Child homicide in civilized societies is nowhere tolerated, very much against the law, and uncommon. Nevertheless, in North America when the father of offspring under two years of age no longer lives in the home and an unrelated man or stepfather lives there instead, this rare event is seventy times more likely to occur. [Daly M. & Wilson M.I., "Homicide," Aldine de Gruyter: Hawthorne NY, 1988; Daly M & Wilson M.I., "Discriminative parental solicitude and the relevance of evolutionary models to the analysis of motivational systems." in Gazzaniga M., ed., "The Cognitive Neurosciences," MIT Press: Cambridge MA, 1995, pp.1269-1286] The murder of infants by stepfathers or mothers' boyfriends resembles the circumstances under which sexually selected infanticide evolved in other primates: males from outside the breeding system increase their own chances to breed by eliminating offspring sired by rivals. The superficial similarities have sometimes led to the erroneous conclusion that child abuse as we know it today is or once was adaptive. [Wray H., "The evolution of child abuse," Science News, Vol. 122, 1982, pp.24-26] Some clarification is in order. Canadian psychologists Martin Daly and Margo Wilson were the first to demonstrate increased risk to infants from having unrelated men in the house. They were careful to stress that in postindustrial human societies, neither child abuse nor infanticide is adaptive. More likely than not, the boyfriend goes to jail and the mother is prosecuted for neglect. More important, the attacker is not some invader entering the breeding system from out side it: he already has keys to the apartment and access to the mother's bed. Imagine: the mother goes off on an errand, leaving her baby in the boy friend's care. She may or may not have an inkling of the risk. Perhaps she senses that her boyfriend resents diversion of household resources, including her attention, to some other man's child. ... Perhaps boyfriend and baby are already off to a bad start all the more reason why the baby may reject such tentative comfort as this man offers. The baby cries, makes demands not willingly met by a man in no way sensitized for this task. Mother Nature has set high his threshold against altruism toward this insatiable stranger. Because of the low degree of relatedness between the man and the child, the benefits don't come close to out weighing the costs of care. [Daly & Wilson, 1980, 1988 & 1995] But beyond his lack of solicitude for an unrelated, very vulnerable but demanding dependent, the abusive boyfriend may have little more in common with an infanticidal monkey than a certain nonspecific impatience, a general predisposition to respond violently to repeated annoyance. ... A more appropriate animal analogue for a brutal stepfather would be an alloparent of either sex compelled to invest in an infant he or she has lost interest in. The motive is not to kill the infant in order to increase reproductive access to the mother, but to rid oneself of an encumbrance. What evolved is not the bizarre and maladaptive alternation of solicitude with torture that we know as `child abuse. `What evolved was a high threshold for responding in a solicitous way toward an offspring not likely to be genetically related the equivalent of emotional earplugs. [Daly, M. & Wilson, M.I., "Discriminative Parental Solicitude: A Biological Perspective," Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 42, No. 2, May, 1980, pp. 277-288]" (Hrdy, S.B., "Mother Nature: Natural Selection and the Female of the Species," Chatto & Windus: London, 1999, pp.236-237) 15/01/2006 "Darwin's theory essentially says that there is `a naturalistic explanation for things,' Chomsky elaborated. Anyone who does not believe in `divine intervention' accepts as much. The difficulty lies in determining what the correct naturalistic explanation is. Natural selection is `a factor in determining the distribution of traits and properties within these constraints. A factor, not the factor.' Darwin himself had emphasized that nonadaptive changes also occur during evolution, Chomsky said." (Horgan, J., "The Undiscovered Mind: How the Brain Defies Explanation," , Phoenix: London, 2000, p.178. Emphasis original) 15/01/2006 "Biologists could make progress in reconstructing the origins of human traits similar to those found in other animals, Chomsky said. For example, Richard Dawkins and other theorists had developed plausible computer models showing how `a flat photo-sensitive surface could turn into an eye in a not-too-large number of generations. But that's because you know something about the physics and physiology.' The same was true of the human arm. `You can find some evidence of intermediate stages. You know something about the physics and physiology. You have homologous structures in other organisms.' In the case of language and other uniquely human attributes, Chomsky said, `you don't have any of those things.'" (Horgan, J., "The Undiscovered Mind: How the Brain Defies Explanation," , Phoenix: London, 2000, p.178. Emphasis original) 15/01/2006 "Chomsky noted that we utter words one at a time, in a linear fashion. But we could conceivably have acquired the ability to emit one set of sounds from the mouth and another from the nose. The ability to utter two separate sequences of noises through both the mouth and nose would provide us with a `much more complex and rich communication. We wouldn't be bound by temporal linearity.' If humans had developed such a capacity, Chomsky said, evolutionary psychologists would no doubt have `explained' it as a product of natural selection. Actually, Darwinian theory neither prohibits nor demands language, nor does it constrain how the language capacity should be designed. `It doesn't predict anything!' Chomsky exclaimed." (Horgan, J., "The Undiscovered Mind: How the Brain Defies Explanation," , Phoenix: London, 2000, pp.178-179) 15/01/2006 "Chomsky called evolutionary psychology a `philosophy of mind with a little bit of science thrown in' If anything, evolutionary theory can explain not too little but too much. `You find that people cooperate, you say, 'Yeah, that contributes to their genes' perpetuating.' You find that they fight, you say 'Sure that's obvious because it means that their genes perpetuate and not somebody else's' In fact, just about anything you find, you can make some story for it." (Horgan, J., "The Undiscovered Mind: How the Brain Defies Explanation," , Phoenix: London, 2000, p.179) 15/01/2006 "The Evil-Father Syndrome. Evolutionary psychology is weakest when it attempts to explain unusual human behavior, such as the murder of children by their parents. To Darwinians, who view procreation as the sine qua non of life, these are the most perverse of all acts. The problem was taken up in the 1980s by Margo Wilson and her husband, Martin Daly of McMaster University in Canada, among the most respected of all evolutionary psychologists. After analyzing murder records from the United States and Canada, Wilson and Daly determined that children were roughly sixty times more likely to be killed by a stepparent-and usually a stepfather-than by a natural parent. They pointed out that this type of non-kin infanticide is common in nature; males of many species, from mice to monkeys, kill offspring that their mates conceived with another male. The selfish-gene perspective was upheld after all. Or was it? Even Wilson and Daly have warned that their results should be interpreted with caution-and with good reason. Clearly one cannot say that men have an innate propensity to kill their mate's children if the children were fathered by other men, because the vast majority of stepfathers never abuse or kill their children. Moreover, fathers who adopt children are even less likely than biological fathers to kill or abuse their children. Of course, men who adopt children are atypical, because they are screened for emotional and financial stability-but that is exactly the point. Men who abuse stepchildren are obviously atypical too. They may have assumed responsibility for a spouse's children reluctantly. They may be subject to unusual financial and emotional stresses. These are the factors that lead certain men to kill or harm a mate's children-not some instinctual urge that they share with mice or monkeys. Wilson and Daly's research is nonetheless often cited as a model of Darwinian social science, since it addresses an important issue and rests on a large empirical foundation. When the New York Times in 1997 asked leading intellectuals to name the last book they had read twice, Steven Pinker singled out Homicide, a book in which Wilson and Daly presented an evolutionary view of human violence. Ironically, Pinker later wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine that inadvertently undermined the Daly and Wilson research- and, indeed, the entire enterprise of Darwinian psychology. Pinker's article addressed a spate of incidents in which biological mothers had killed their newborn children. (In one case, a girl at a high school dance gave birth in a bathroom stall, killed the infant, and then returned to the dance floor.) Although maternal infanticide seems at first glance to be the ultimate violation of Darwinian precepts, Pinker said, it might result from natural selection. He noted that in certain stressful circumstances, our maternal ancestors would have been well advised to kill a newborn baby rather than devoting scarce resources to it, resources needed to sustain the mother and her older offspring. This innate psychological module might be switched on in modern mothers by severe stress. A few weeks after Pinker's article was published, the New York Times Magazine printed a letter from Claude Fischer, a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley. Pinker's article, Fischer complained, `illustrates how silly evolutionary explanations of human behavior have become. When mothers protect their newborns (which almost all do), it's because that behavior is evolutionarily adaptive. And now, when a few mothers kill their newborns, that's evolutionarily adaptive too. Any behavior and its opposite is `explained' by evolutionary selection.... Thus, nothing is explained.'" (Horgan, J., "The Undiscovered Mind: How the Brain Defies Explanation," , Phoenix: London, 2000, pp.183-185) 16/01/2006 "You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and so on. With every generation, the number of ancestors doubles. Go back g generations and the number of ancestors is 2 multiplied by itself g times: 2 to the power g. Except that, without leaving our armchair, we can quickly see that it cannot be so. To convince ourselves of this, we have only to go back a little way-say, to the time of Jesus, almost exactly two thousand years ago. If we assume, conservatively, four generations per century-that is, that people breed on average at the age of twenty-five-two thousand years amounts to a mere eighty generations. The real figure is probably more than this (until recent times, many women bred extremely young), but this is only an armchair calculation, and the point is made regardless of such details. Two multiplied by itself 80 times is a formidable number, a 1 followed by 24 noughts, a trillion American trillions. You had a million million million million ancestors who were contemporaries of Jesus, and so did I! But the total population of the world at that time was a fraction of a negligible fraction of the number of ancestors we have just calculated. Obviously we have gone wrong somewhere, but where? We did the calculation right. The only thing we got wrong was our assumption about doubling up in every generation. In effect, we forgot that cousins marry. I assumed that we each have eight great-grandparents. But any child of a first-cousin marriage has only six great-grandparents, because the cousins' shared grandparents are in two separate ways great-grandparents to the children. `So what?' you may ask. People occasionally marry their cousins ... but surely it doesn't happen often enough to make a difference? Yes it does, because `cousin' for our purposes includes second cousins, fifth cousins, sixteenth cousins and so forth. When you count cousins as distant as that, every marriage is a marriage between cousins. You sometimes hear people boasting of being a distant cousin of the Queen, but it is rather pompous of them, because we are all distant cousins of the Queen, and of everybody else, in more ways than can ever be traced. ... The upshot of all this is that we are much closer cousins of one another than we normally realize, and we have many fewer ancestors than simple calculations suggest. Seeking to get her reasoning, along these lines, I once asked a student to make an educated guess as to how long ago her most recent common ancestor with me might have lived. Looking hard at my face, she unhesitatingly replied, in a slow, rural accent, `Back to the apes.' An excusable intuitive leap, but it is approximately 10,000 percent wrong. It would suggest a separation measured in millions of years. The truth is that the most recent ancestor she and I shared would possibly have lived no more than a couple of centuries ago, probably well after William the Conqueror. Moreover, we were certainly cousins in many different ways simultaneously." (Dawkins, R., "River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life," Phoenix: London, 1996, pp.38-40) 16/01/2006 "Next time you are with a large group of people-say, in a concert hall or at a football matchlook around at the audience and reflect upon the following: if you have any descendants at all in the distant future, there are probably people at the same concert whose hands you could shake as coancestors of your future descendants. ... You can survey the auditorium and speculate about which individuals, male or female, are destined to share your descendants and which are not. ... Now suppose we travel back in a time machine, perhaps to a crowd in the Colosseum, or farther back, to market day in Ur, or even farther still. Survey the crowd, just as we imagined for our modern concert audience. Realize that you can divide these long-dead individuals into two and only two categories: those who are your ancestors and those who are not. That is obvious enough, but now we come to a remarkable truth. If your time machine has taken you sufficiently far back, you can divide the individuals you meet into those who are ancestors of every human alive in 1995 and those who are the ancestors of nobody alive in 1995. There are no intermediates." (Dawkins, R., "River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life," Phoenix: London, 1996, pp.40-42) 16/01/2006 "How many ancestors do you have? If you go back some number of generations, how many ancestors are there in that generation? Assuming you're the product of normal human reproduction (clones can hit the "back" button right now), you have two parents. They had two parents, so you have four grandparents -- four ancestors if you go two generations back. Going back three generations, you have eight ancestors; four generations, sixteen ancestors; and so on. In mathematical terms, if you go back n generations, you have 2n ancestors. Not! This line of argument becomes preposterous if you carry it back far enough. Go back ten generations and you have 2^10 = 1024 ancestors. Call it 1000 just to make things easier. If you go back another ten generations, each of those 1000 has 1000 ancestors, so twenty generations back from you there are 1,000,000 ancestors. Thirty generations back there's another factor of 1000, so you have 1,000,000,000 ancestors -- one (American) billion. Which can't be right. Thirty generations back is roughly 1000 years -- and there weren't a billion people on Earth then. (See "How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?") Granted, not all the people in the thirtieth generation back from you lived at the same time, but that doesn't help much. And it gets worse and worse. Ten more generations back and you have a trillion ancestors. This is about ten times more than the estimated number of people who have ever lived. Ten more generations, a quadrillion ancestors. And so on. Yet everyone has two parents. So the only way you can avoid this ridiculous conclusion is to realize that some of your ancestors must have had ancestors in common. In a simple case, if your father's grandparents on his father's side are the same people as your mother's grandparents on her father's side, then you have only six ancestors three generations back, not eight: Your father's maternal grandparents, your mother's maternal grandparents, and two more people who are the paternal grandparents of both your parents. To put it another way, there are two different paths back from you to two of your great grandparents. But if so, then your parents are first cousins. And generally, if you have ancestors who had ancestors in common -- as you now know you must -- then that means those ancestors were related. Somewhere in your ancestry, you have couples who were some sort of relatives of one another. Well, we knew that, of course. We all must have common descent from some individual ancestor, whether one of the earliest modern Homo sapiens of 50,000 years ago, or an earlier species of Homo a million or more years ago, or some other primate even earlier. And that means all couples in your ancestry (and everyone else's) were relatives of one another. But the above argument proves you must have multiple paths back to the same ancestors in much more recent times. Your parents probably have common ancestors within the past 1000 years -- and so, probably, do you and your spouse, or you and your best friend. I myself know of several cases of multiple paths back from me to ancestors in the 18th century -- some a little more scary than others! Of course if one person's ancestors all came from (say) Easter Island and another's all came from Scandanavia, their common ancestor is likely to be further back. Maybe even then, not as far back as you'd think. Douglas LT Rohde has written a paper (PDF format) reporting on a series of computer simulations which suggest all people in the world today have a most recent common ancestor (MRCA) who lived about 2000 to 5000 years ago. (Go a few thousand years further back and everyone on earth at that time who has any descendants alive today is an ancestor of everyone alive today!) Anyway, if you have any northern European (especially English or Danish) ancestry... then you and I probably have a common ancestor who lived after, say, 700 AD. Jack Lee argues that he knows who that ancestor is: Charlemagne. (Or, less flippantly, that everyone living at the time of Charlemagne who has any descendants alive today is an ancestor of everyone of European descent alive today.)" (Holmes, R., "How many ancestors?," Rich Holmes's Genealogy Web Site, September 13, 2005. Emphasis original) 16/01/2006 "Vincent Sarich ... who has never shrunk from controversy, said flatly that any fossil older than eight million years could not be human, no matter what it looked like. The alternative, recognised right away by Sherwood Washburn at Berkeley, was that the common ancestor of humans and African apes was African and a knuckle- walker. In his view, the molecular evidence was putting flesh on the invisible ancestor. This sparked the rage reaction among palaeoanthropologists, which continued throughout the 1970s. The issue was: what kind of evidence best establishes genetic relationships through time-morphology or molecules? The literature of the 1970s is peppered with angry diatribes against molecular anthropologists, especially Sarich, who presumed to insist that molecules were better evidence of genetic linkage than fragments of bones and teeth. Sarich issued this challenge to the palaeoanthropologists: "I know that my molecules had ancestors. You don't know that your fossils had descendants." (Lowenstein, J. & Zihlman, A., "The Invisible ape," New Scientist, Vol 120, No 1641, 3 December 1988, pp.56-59, p.57) 16/01/2006 "Misia Landau was sitting in Yale University's Sterling Library, its leather- covered chairs and high book stacks imposing a palpable sense of Ivy League academia. It was the middle of her doctoral years, 1979, and she was reading intensely The Morphology of a Folk Tale by Vladimir Propp, a Russian literary critic. ... Landau ...was preparing to run to the anthropology book stacks. ... `When I got to the shelves, the titles leaped out at me: The Story of Man...The Adventure of Humanity...Adventures with the Missing Link...Man Rises to Parnassus. Looking at them, I knew I had made a discovery. ... She had discovered a missing link between literature and paleoanthropology... Having completed a human-biology degree at Oxford University, England, she had enrolled in the graduate anthropology program at Yale and was hoping to uncover something significant about the evolutionary history of the human brain.....The combination of Landau's inclination to do something theoretical and Pilbeam's historical perspective launched the dissertation in a new direction: it would be some kind of analysis of early paleoanthropological ideas. However, a further ingredient was to be crucial in the new venture...literature, Landau's great love as a young girl. ... `I started reading this material, and couldn't stop. I started making connections between literature and the anthropology texts. I started thinking in terms of a plot in these books. It was very exciting. ` A friend lent her a copy of Propp's Morphology of a Folk Tale, which is a classic work in literary analysis.... On the basis mainly of Russian literature, Propp describes the hero myths of folk tales in terms of a basic structure they all follow: ... The more Landau read, the more she perceived connections. `I was sitting there, in the Sterling Library, reading Propp, and the folk tales seemed so...familiar...I suddenly realized that the tale also described human evolution, at least as written about in the books I'd been reading.' This was the point of discovery. When she got to the paleoanthropology shelves, she now recalls, `I realized that I was standing in front of a genre of literature, that I could approach the study of human evolution as a study of literature.' In other words, while Osborn, Gregory, and their colleagues considered themselves to have written scientific analyses of human evolution, they had in fact been telling stories. Scientific stories, to be sure, but stories nevertheless... Each author had his own reasons for casting the evolutionary scheme the way he did, but there is order in the apparent chaos, argues Landau, because all followed the same basic structure in their narratives: the form of the hero myth." (Lewin, R., "Bones of Contention: Controversies in the Search for Human Origins," Simon & Shuster: New York NY, 1987, pp.30-33) 17/01/2006 "It should be noted that Scripture does not always use the Hebrew word bara' and the Greek term ktizein in that absolute sense. It also employs these terms to denote a secondary creation, in which God made use of material that was already in existence but could not of itself have produced the result indicated, Gen. 1:21,27; 5:1; Isa. 6:7,12; 54:16; Amos 4:13; I Cor. 11:9; Rev. 10:6. It even uses them to designate that which comes into existence under the providential guidance of God, Ps. 104:30; Isa. 45:7,8; 65:18; I Tim. 4:4. two other terms are used synonymously with the term `to create,' namely, `to make' (Heb., 'asah; Greek, poiein) and `to form' (Heb. yatsar; Greek, plasso). The former is clearly used in all the three senses indicated in the preceding: of primary creation in Gen. 2:4; Prov. 16:4; Acts 17:24; more frequently of secondary creation, Gen. 1:7,16,26; 2:22; Ps. 89:47; and of the work of providence in Ps. 74:17. The latter is used similarly of primary creation, Ps. 90:2 (perhaps the only instance of this use); of secondary creation, Gen. 2:7,19; Ps. 104:26; Amos 4:13; Zech. 12:1; and of the work of providence, Deut. 32:18; Isa. 43:1,7,21; 45:7. All three words are found together in Isa. 45:7. Creation in the strict sense of the word may be defined as that free act of God whereby He, according to His sovereign will and for His own glory, in the beginning brought forth the whole visible and invisible universe, without the use of preexistent material and thus gave it an existence, distinct from His own and yet always dependent on Him. In view of the Scriptural data indicated in the preceding, it is quite evident, however, that this definition applies only to what is generally known as primary or immediate creation, that is, the creation described in Gen. 1:1. But the Bible clearly uses the word `create' also in cases in which God did make use of preexisting materials, as in the creation of sun, moon, and stars, of the animals and of man. ... cases, also designated in Scripture as creative work, in which God works through secondary causes, Ps. 104:30; Isa. 45:7,8; Jer. 31:22; Amos 4:13, and produces results which only He could produce." (Berkhof, L.*, "Systematic Theology," , Banner of Truth: London, 1966, reprint, pp128-129) 17/01/2006 "God as a Virus? Undeterred, Dawkins developed his meme concept in another direction - a virus of the mind. "Memes," Dawkins tells us, can be transmitted "like viruses in an epidemic." [A Devil's Chaplain, 121] Although the connection between a "meme" and a "virus of the mind" is not clarified with the precision we might expect, it is clear that, for Dawkins, the key theme in each case is replication. For a virus to be effective, it must possess two qualities: the ability to replicate information accurately, and to obey the instructions which are encoded in the information replicated in this way." Yet there is also a verbal sleight of hand at work here, a rhetorical device apparently being presented as if it is good science. As everyone knows, viruses are bad things; they are contagious, parasitic entities, which exploit their hosts. The rhetorically freighted "argument" that God is a virus amounts to little more than thinly veiled insinuation, rather than rigorous evidence-based reasoning. Belief in God is proposed as a malignant infection contaminating otherwise pure minds. Yet the whole idea founders on the rocks of the absence of experimental evidence, the subjectivity of Dawkins' personal value- judgments implicated in assessing what is "good" and "bad," and the circularity of self-referentiality. So just what is the experimental evidence that God is bad for you? Dawkins presumes that it is publicly accepted within the scientific community that religion debilitates people, reducing their potential for survival and health. Yet recent empirical research points to a generally positive interaction of religion and health. That there are pathological types of religious belief and behavior is well known; yet this in no way invalidates the generally positive estimation of religion's impact on mental health to emerge from evidence-based studies. Dawkins appears to assume that his readers will rather uncritically share his own subjective views on the malignancy of religion, and thus accept his grandiose conclusions without demur. But they are not grounded in the rigorously evidence-based analysis, based on objective observation of the impact of religion on individuals, which is typical of the scientific enterprise that both Dawkins and I admire. When, one wonders, will popular science catch up with cutting edge research here?" (McGrath, A.E., "Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life," Blackwell: Malden MA, 2005, pp.135-136. Emphasis original) 18/01/2006 "When, at Rio de Janeiro, the ship's carpenters then began making packing cases for Darwin's first consignment home, McCormick was deeply offended, to a point that would make reconciliation difficult. He was resentful that the voyage, which at first had seemed a perfect opportunity to fulfil his own ambitions, was instead a period `which I can only look back to with unavailing regret, as so much time, health, and energies utterly wasted.' [McCormick R., "Voyages of Discovery in the Arctic and Antarctic Seas and around the World," 1884, vol. 1, p.218]... No wonder then that Darwin's natural history activities were such a sore point with McCormick. Everything on board seemed to encourage Darwin's private collection rather than the surgeon's. Further than this, FitzRoy was making arrangements to ship Darwin's things home by the official routes available to the Admiralty, a considerable gift to Darwin, who had expected to pay all his own expenses. In McCormick's eyes, Darwin was receiving much more than he deserved-not only the benefits of the captain's blessing on board ship and free transport of cargo but even the right to retain ownership of these valuable commodities when they arrived in England. By making a bigger and better collection with the indulgent approval of the captain, Darwin was demolishing all McCormick's justified hopes for social, scientific, and professional advancement. `Having found myself in a false position on board a small and very uncomfortable vessel,' McCormick wrote in frustration, `and very much disappointed in my expectations of carrying out my natural history pursuits, every obstacle having been placed in the way of my getting on shore and making collections, I got permission from the admiral in command of the station here to be superseded and allowed a passage home on H.M.S. Tyne.' [McCormick 1884, vol. 1, p.219] He stalked off to buy a parrot as a souvenir before leaving the Beagle full of rancour, only four months out of Plymouth." (Browne, E.J., "Charles Darwin Voyaging: A Biography," , Princeton University Press: Princeton NJ, 1996, reprint, pp.204,10) 18/01/2006 "Also, I myself share just about every bit of Dawkins's nonbelief. ... However, I worry about the political consequences of Dawkins's message. If Darwinism is a major contributor to nonbelief, then should Darwinism be taught in publicly funded U.S. schools? ... It is true that Darwinism conflicts with the Book of Genesis taken literally, but at least since the time of Saint Augustine (400 A.D.) Christians have been interpreting the seven days of creation metaphorically. I would like to see Dawkins take Christianity as seriously as he undoubtedly expects Christianity to take Darwinism. I would also like to see him spell out fully the arguments as to the incompatibility of science (Darwinism especially) and religion (Christianity especially). So long as his understanding of Christianity remains at the sophomoric level, Dawkins does not deserve full attention. It is all very well to sneer ... but what reply does Dawkins have to the many theologians (like Jonathan Edwards) who have devoted huge amounts of effort to distinguishing between false beliefs and true ones? What reply does Dawkins have to the contemporary philosopher Alvin Plantinga, who argues that the belief that there are other minds and that others are not just unthinking robots requires a leap of faith akin to the Christian belief in the Deity? Edwards and Plantinga may be wrong, but Dawkins owes them some reply before he gives his cocky negative conclusions. ... Finally ... I do wish that he and other science writers would cease assuming that philosophical issues can be solved by talking in a brisk, confident voice. ... I agree fully with Dawkins when he writes that `Modern physics teaches us that there is more to truth than meets the eye; or than meets the all too limited human mind, evolved as it was to cope with medium-sized objects moving at medium speeds through medium distances in Africa.' But how then does Dawkins respond to the obvious retort of the religious, who have always stressed mystery? ... Perhaps one agrees that traditional religions-Christianity specifically-do not offer the full answers. But what is to stop a nonbeliever like myself from saying that the Christians are asking important questions and that they are right to have a little humility before the unknown? As Saint Paul said: `Now we see through a glass, darkly.' That apparently includes Richard Dawkins." (Ruse, M.E., " Through a Glass, Darkly." Review of "A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love," by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin, 2003. http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/28365) 20/01/2006 IF MODERN ZOOLOGY admits of anything approaching a full-blown I origin myth, it is the Cambrian Explosion. The Cambrian is the first period of the Phanerozoic Eon, the last 545 million years, during which animal and plant [sic] life as we know it suddenly became manifest in fossils. Before the Cambrian, fossils were either tiny traces or enigmatic mysteries. From the Cambrian onwards, there has been a clamorous menagerie of multicellular life, more or less plausibly presaging our own. It is the suddenness with which multicellular fossils appear at the base of the Cambrian that prompts the metaphor of explosion." (Dawkins, R., "The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution," Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston MA, 2004, p.436) 21/01/2006 "As we saw at Rendezvous 22, Chengjiang has fossils that appear to be true vertebrates, pre-dating the amphioxus-like Pikaia of the Burgess Shale and other Cambrian chordates. Traditional zoological wisdom never had vertebrates arising so early. Yet Myllokunmingia, of which more than 500 specimens have now been discovered at Chengjiang, looks pretty much like a good jawless fish, such as had previously been thought not to arise until 50 million years later in the middle of the Ordovician. ... The pushing of the vertebrates back into the middle of the Cambrian only strengthens the idea of sudden explosion that is the basis of the myth. It really does appear that most of today's major animal phyla first appear as fossils in a narrow span within the Cambrian. This doesn't mean that there were no representatives of those phyla before the Cambrian. But they have mostly not fossilised. How should we interpret this? We can distinguish various combinations of three main hypotheses ... 1. NO REAL EXPLOSION. On this view there was only an explosion of fossilisability, not of actual evolution. The phyla actually go back a long way before the Cambrian, with concestors spread out through hundreds of millions of years in the Precambrian. ... On this view, fossils were, for unknown reasons, not readily formed before the Cambrian. Perhaps they lacked readily fossilisable hard parts, such as shells, carapaces and bones. ... 2. MEDIUM-FUSE EXPLOSION. The concestors uniting the various phyla really did live reasonably close to each other in time, but still spread out over several tens of millions of years before the observed explosion of fossils. ... 3. OVERNIGHT EXPLOSION. This third school of thought is, in my opinion, bonkers. ... The third school believes that new phyla sprang into existence overnight, in a single macromutational leap. ... We can, then, with complete confidence, reject the third of our three hypotheses, the bonkers one. That leaves the other two, or some compromise between them, and here I find myself agnostic and eager for more data. As we shall see in the epilogue to this tale, it seems to be increasingly accepted that the early molecular clock estimates were exaggerating when they pushed the major branch points hundreds of millions of years back into the Precambrian. On the other hand, the mere fact that there are few, if any, fossils of most animal phyla before the Cambrian should not stampede us into assuming that those phyla must have evolved extremely rapidly. The hurricane in a junkyard argument tells us that all those Cambrian fossils must have had continuously evolving antecedents. Those antecedents had to be there, but they have not been discovered. Whatever the reason, and whatever the timescale, they failed to fossilise, but they must have been there. On the face of it, it is harder to believe that a whole lot of animals could be invisible for 100 million years than that they could be invisible for only 10 million years. This leads some people to prefer the short-fuse Cambrian Explosion theory. On the other hand, the shorter you make the fuse, the harder it is to believe all that diversification could be crammed into the time available. So this argument cuts both ways and doesn't decisively choose between our two surviving hypotheses. ... The most recently available evidence seems to me to favour, even if only slightly, a view closer to a medium-fuse explosion. This goes against my earlier bias in favour of no real explosion. When more evidence comes in, as I hope it will, I shall not be in the least surprised if we find ourselves pushed the other way again into the deep Precambrian in our quest for the concestors of modern animal phyla. Or we might be pulled back to an impressively short explosion, in which the concestors of most of the great animal phyla are compressed into a period of 20 or even 10 million years around the beginning of the Cambrian. ... I wouldn't be surprised to see either of the first two hypotheses vindicated. I'm not sticking my neck out. But I'll eat my hat if any evidence is ever found in favour of Hypothesis Three." (Dawkins, R., "The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution," Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston MA, 2004, pp.440-442, 446-448) 23/01/2006 "Darwin attempted to describe the causes of evolution in his theory of natural selection. The work of later biologists has borne out most of his basic contentions. Nevertheless, the modern theory of evolution, developed by a century of new discoveries in biology, differs greatly from Darwin's. His theory has not been overthrown; it has evolved." (Dobzhansky, T.G., "The Genetic Basis of Evolution," Scientific American, January 1950, in Srb A.M., Owen R.D. & Edgar R.S., eds, "Facets of Genetics: Readings from Scientific American," W.H. Freeman: San Francisco CA, W. H. Freeman, 1970, p.212) 23/01/2006 "`I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child.' So wrote Darwin to Alfred Russel Wallace, the biologist who had independently discovered natural selection. What prompted the purple prose? Darwin and Wallace were mutual admirers, so like-minded that they had been inspired by the same author (Malthus) to forge the same theory in almost the same words. What divided these comrades was the human mind. Darwin had coyly predicted that `psychology will be placed on a new foundation,' and in his notebooks was positively grandiose about how evolutionary theory would revolutionize the study of mind ... But Wallace reached the opposite conclusion. The mind, he said, is overdesigned for the needs of evolving humans and cannot be explained by natural selection. Instead, `a superior intelligence has guided the development of man in a definite direction, and for a special purpose.' ... Wallace became a creationist when he noted that foragers- 'savages,' in nineteenth-century parlance-were biologically equal to modern Europeans. Their brains were the same size, and they could easily adapt to the intellectual demands of modern life. But in the foragers' way of life, which was also the life of our evolutionary ancestors, that level of intelligence was not needed, and there was no occasion to show it off. How, then, could it have evolved in response to the needs of a foraging lifestyle? Wallace wrote: `.... Natural selection could only have endowed savage man with a brain a few degrees superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one very little inferior to that of a philosopher.' [Wallace A., "Natural Selection and Tropical Nature," 1895, p.202] Wallace's paradox, the apparent evolutionary uselessness of human intelligence, is a central problem of psychology, biology, and the scientific worldview. Even today, scientists such as the astronomer Paul Davies think that the `overkill' of human intelligence refutes Darwinism and calls for some other agent of a `progressive evolutionary trend,' perhaps a self-organizing process that will be explained someday by complexity theory. Unfortunately this is barely more satisfying than Wallace's idea of a superior intelligence guiding the development of man in a definite direction. ... Stephen Jay Gould, in an illuminating essay on Darwin and Wallace, sees Wallace as an extreme adaptationist who ignores the possibility of exaptations: adaptive structures that are `fortuitously suited to other roles if elaborated' ... `Objects designed for definite purposes can, as a result of their structural complexity, perform many other tasks as well. A factory may install a computer only to issue the monthly pay checks, but such a machine can also analyze the election returns or whip anyone's ass (or at least perpetually tie them) in tic-tac-toe.' [Gould, S.J., "The Panda's Thumb," 1980, p.50] I agree with Gould that the brain has been exapted for novelties like calculus or chess, but this is just an avowal of faith by people like us who believe in natural selection; it can hardly fail to be true. It raises the question of who or what is doing the elaborating and co-opting, and why the original structures were suited to being co-opted. The factory analogy is not helpful. A computer that issues paychecks cannot also analyze election returns or play tic-tac-toe, unless someone has reprogrammed it first.' (Pinker S., "How the Mind Works," , Penguin: London, 1998, reprint, pp.299-301) 23/01/2006 "So it was all the more unexpected when Wallace's next publication cut away most of the ground under their combined feet. In April 1869, in a long article in the Quarterly Review, Wallace backtracked on his commitment to natural selection. He claimed that natural selection could not account for the mental attributes of modern humans. ... He said he had changed his mind since his 1864 paper on human origins. Wallace now claimed that at some point during mankind's early history, physical evolution had stopped and some higher driving force or spirit had taken over. The human mind alone continued to advance, human societies emerged, cultural imperatives took over, a mental and moral nature became significant, and civilisation took shape. Modern mankind thus escaped the fierce scrutiny of natural selection. The development of human thought freed humanity from the inexorable laws of nature. `Here then, we see the true grandeur and dignity of man.... he is, indeed, a being apart, since he is not influenced by the great laws which irresistibly modify all other organic beings.' Mankind was composed of a material frame (descended from the apes) and an immaterial spirit (infused by a higher power) that pulled mental and cultural development onwards. [Wallace A.R., "Sir Charles Lyell on geological estimates and the Origin of Species. Quarterly Review 126, 1869, pp.359-394] "I hope you have not murdered too completely your own & my child," Darwin exclaimed in horror. [Marchant J., ed., "Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters and Reminiscences, Vol. 1, 1916, p.241] Turning over the pages of Wallace's article, he covered the text with pencil marks. `No!!!' he scrawled in the margin, underlining it three times. `If you had not told me, I should have thought that [your remarks] had been added by someone else.... I differ grieviously from you, and I am very sorry for it." [Marchant, 1916, p.241] (Browne, E.J., "Charles Darwin: The Power of Place: Volume II of a Biography," , Pimlico: London, 2003, pp.317-318) 25/01/2006 "The virtual complete absence of intermediate and ancestral forms from the fossil record is today recognised widely by many leading paleontologists as one of its most striking characteristics ... The fossils have not only failed to yield the host of transitional forms demanded by evolution theory, but because nearly all extinct species and groups revealed by paleontology are quite distinct and isolated as they burst into the record, then the number of hypothetical connecting links to join its diverse branches is necessarily greatly increased. ... The absence of transitional forms from the fossil record is dramatically obvious (even to a non-specialist without any knowledge of comparative morphology) where a group possesses some significant skeletal specialization or adaptation which is absent in its presumed ancestral type. ... There is no doubt that as it stands today the fossil record provides a tremendous challenge to the notion of organic evolution, because to close the very considerable gaps which at present separate the known groups would necessarily have required great numbers of transitional forms. Over and over again in the Origin Darwin reiterates the same point, leaving the reader in no doubt as to his belief that to bridge the gaps innumerable transitional forms would have to be postulated: `By the theory of natural selection all living species have been connected with the parent-species of each genus, by differences not greater than we see between the natural and domestic varieties of the same species at the present day and these parent-species, now generally extinct, have in their turn been similarly connected with more ancient forms; and so on backwards, always converging to the common ancestor of each great class. So that the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great. But assuredly, if this theory be true, such have lived upon the earth.' [Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species," Sixth edition, 1872, Dent: London, 1928, reprint, p.294]" (Denton M.J., "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis," Burnett Books: London, 1985, pp.165-166,172. Emphasis Denton's) 25/01/2006 "Darwin's insistence that gradual evolution by natural selection would require inconceivable numbers of transitional forms may have been something of an exaggeration but it is hard to escape concluding that in some cases he may not have been so far from the mark. Take the case of the gap between modern whales and land mammals. All known aquatic or semi-aquatic mammals such as seals, sea cows (sirenians) or otters are specialized representatives of distinct orders and none can possibly be ancestral to the present- day whales. To bridge the gap we are forced therefore to postulate a large number of entirely extinct hypothetical species starting from a small, relatively unspecialized land mammal like a shrew and leading successfully through an otter-like stage, seal-like stage, sirenian-like stage and finally to a putative organism which could serve as the ancestor of the modern whales. Even from the hypothetical whale ancestor stage we need to postulate many hypothetical primitive whales to bridge the not inconsiderable gaps which separate the modern filter feeders (the baleen whales) and the toothed whales. Moreover, it is impossible to accept that such a hypothetical sequence of species which led directly from the unspecialized terrestrial ancestral form gave rise to no collateral branches. Such an assumption would be purely ad hoc, and would also be tantamount to postulating an external unknown directive influence in evolution which would be quite foreign to the spirit of Darwinian theory and defeat its major purpose of attempting to provide a natural explanation for evolution. Rather, we must suppose the existence of innumerable collateral branches leading to many unknown types. This was clearly Darwin's view and it implies that the total number of species which must have existed between the discontinuities must have been much greater than the number of species on the shortest direct evolutionary pathway. In the diagram opposite, which shows a hypothetical lineage leading from a land mammal to a whale, while there are ten hypothetical species on the direct path, there are an additional fifty-three hypothetical species on collateral branches. Considering how trivial the differences in morphology usually are between well-defined species today, such as rat-mouse, fox-dog, and taking into account all the modifications necessary to convert a land mammal into a whale - forelimb modifications, the evolution of tail flukes, the streamlining, reduction of hindlimbs, modifications of skull to bring nostrils to the top of head, modification of trachea, modifications of behaviour patterns, specialized nipples so that the young could feed underwater (a complete list would be enormous) one is inclined to think in terms of possibly hundreds, even thousands, of transitional species on the most direct path between a hypothetical land ancestor and the common ancestor of modern whales." (Denton M., "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis," Burnett Books: London, 1985, pp.172,174) 25/01/2006 "To demonstrate that the great divisions of nature were really bridged by transitional forms in the past, it is not sufficient to find in the fossil record one or two types of organisms of doubtful affinity which might be placed on skeletal grounds in a relatively intermediate position between other groups. ... It is clear that there are formidable problems in interpreting evidence for continuity on the basis of skeletal remains. Consequently if the fossil record is to provide any grounds for believing that the great divisions of nature are not the unbridgeable discontinuities postulated by Cuvier, it is not sufficient that two groups merely approach one another closely in terms of their skeletal morphology. The very least required would be an unambiguous continuum of transitional species exhibiting a perfect gradation of skeletal form leading unarguably from one type to another. But the fact is that, as Stanley put it: `The known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic (gradual) evolution accomplishing a major morphologic transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid.' [Stanley S.M., "Macroevolution," 1979, p.39]" (Denton M., "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis," Burnett Books: London, 1985, pp.177,182) 25/01/2006 "Darwin wrote: 'Natural selection tends only to make each organic being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same country with which it has to struggle for existence.' [Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species," , First Edition, Penguin: London, 1985, reprint, p.229] The trouble with the mammal ear is that, in terms of natural selection, it has nothing of enough significance to justify its enormously complex system having emerged by natural selection. Amphibians, reptiles, and birds, all of which have only one earbone, can perceive pitch and volume at least as well as mammals, and in some cases better. The sole possible advantage is that mammals can hear to some extent stereophonically, while it is thought creatures with single earbones cannot do this quite so well. ... In the case of mammals, stereophony happens because our brains receive signals from both the outer and the inner ear, and the fractional delay in the sound impulses may enable us to estimate how far away a sound is coming from. In survival value, this might confer a minimal advantage in, for instance, spotting prey or escaping predators. But even if this ability were proved (for doubts still remain), it is hard to see how the transitional forms leading up to it could have made the ear, in Darwin's words 'slightly more perfect'. The stereophonic effect can only work when the inner and outer ears have been fully displaced." (Hitching F., "The Neck of the Giraffe: Or Where Darwin Went Wrong," Pan: London, 1982, p.93) 25/01/2006 "Natural selection tends only to make each organic being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same country with which it comes into competition. And we see that this is the standard of perfection attained under nature." (Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," , Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928, reprint, p.187) 27/01/2006 "A sudden beginning for man might be imagined as the result of the operation of some creative process, not found elsewhere. The endowment of the race by some outside force, agent, or God with a new entity `the soul' would be such a process, and of course it is not to be ruled out arbitrarily that this is what happened. Again there might, conceivably, have been a sudden genetic mutation, in one person, leading his descendants to be not only highly successful but also fertile only among themselves. We could then say that he was the first man." (Young J.Z., "An Introduction to the Study of Man," Clarendon Press: Oxford UK, 1971, p.456) 27/01/2006 "Man is indeed very different from all other animals, even from such fossils as those of Australopithecus. We feel that we must be in some way widely divergent from them, the product of some special and perhaps sudden process. This feeling is egocentric but cannot be dismissed as wholly irrational. Modern man is very different. " (Young J.Z., "An Introduction to the Study of Man," Clarendon Press: Oxford UK, 1971, p.457. Emphasis original) 27/01/2006 "Petitio Principii (begging the question) ... If one assumes as a premiss for an argument the very conclusion it is intended to prove, the fallacy committed is that of petitio principii, or begging the question. If the proposition to be established is formulated in exactly the same words both as premiss and as conclusion, the mistake would be so glaring as to deceive no one. Often, how ever, two formulations can be sufficiently different to obscure the fact that one and the same proposition occurs both as premiss and conclusion. ... In any such argument the conclusion asserts only what was asserted in the premisses, and hence the argument, though perfectly valid, is utterly incapable of establishing the truth of its conclusion. ... Thus one may argue that Shakespeare is a greater writer than Robbins because people with good taste in literature prefer Shakespeare. And if asked how one tells who has good taste in literature, one might reply that such persons are to be identified by their preferring Shakespeare to Robbins. Such a circular argument clearly begs the question and commits the fallacy of petitio principii." (Copi I.M., Introduction to Logic," , Macmillan: New York NY, Seventh edition, 1986, p.101) 28/01/2006 "... Darwin ... said: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." [Darwin C., "The Origin of Species," , Harvard University Press, reprint, 1966, p.189] Since this fact seems to have been demonstrated, if only by default, the reader will ask whether the modern Darwinians concede that the theory has broken down. The answer is a strange one-they are not greatly troubled by their failure to explain the adaptations because they are sustained and soothed by the best-in-field fallacy. Darwinism has had to compete with various rival theories, each of which aimed to be a more or less complete explanation. The most famous rivals were vitalism, fundamentalism, Lamarckism, and the hopeful-monster suggestion of Goldschmidt. The Darwinians have shown that none of these theories are any good. Simpson can shoot down each and every one of them with ease. Thus the Darwinians are able to say that Darwin made a better try than anyone else, and they find real comfort in this. Does this mean that Darwinism is correct? No. Sir Julian Huxley says that, once the hypothesis of special creation is ruled out, adaptation can only be ascribed to natural selection, but this is utterly unjustified. [Huxley J., "Evolution: The Modern Synthesis," Allen & Unwin: London, 1942, pp.430, 478] He should say only that Darwinism is better than the others. But when the others are no good, this is faint praise. Is there any glory in outrunning a cripple in a foot race? Being best-in-field means nothing if the field is made up of fumblers." (Macbeth, N., "Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason," Gambit: Boston MA, 1971, pp.76-77) 28/01/2006 "The best-in-field fallacy seems to be my own discovery. It does not appear in books on fallacies and I have not seen it clearly expressed anywhere else. Perhaps it appears with unusual frequency among the evolutionary theorists, who seem to have a special weakness for it. My best example comes from Mayr, although he is normally a highly intelligent man. In the passage concerned he concedes that there are valid objections to his theory, but he rules out these objections on the ground that their proponents have not advanced a better suggestion: "... it is a considerable strain on one's credulity to assume that finely balanced systems such as certain sense organs (the eye of vertebrates, or the bird's feather) could be improved by random mutations. This is even more true for some of the ecological chain relationships (the famous yucca moth case, and so forth). However, the objectors to random mutations have so far been unable to advance any alternative explanation that was supported by substantial evidence." [Mayr E., "Systematics and the Origin of Species," , Dover: New York, 1964, p.296] It seems that the standards of the evolutionary theorists are relative or comparative rather than absolute. If such a theorist makes a suggestion that is better than other suggestions, or better than nothing, he feels that he has accomplished something even if his suggestion will obviously not hold water." (Macbeth, N., "Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason," Gambit: Boston MA, 1971, p.78) 28/01/2006 "`T: What are your thoughts now after being with this subject of evolution for such a long time-yours I mean, your own?' N.M: `I pointed out in my book-and this may be my one, more or less, original contribution-the danger of thinking that the best theory is ipso facto a good theory. I call this the best-in-the-field fallacy and it has proved to be more important than I realized at the time. If you have several competing theories and one is a little better than another, as Darwinism is considered a little better than Lamarckism or than the Hopeful Monster, there's a great tendency, a strong temptation, to think that it's a little better than another theory that won't hold any water whatsoever. It's still no good, and I've found numerous cases where people support theories simply because they are the best in the field although they are obviously no good.'" (Macbeth, N., "Darwinism: A Time for Funerals," Interviewed by Clifford Monk of Towards magazine, Robert Briggs Associates: San Francisco CA, 1982, p.26) 30/01/2006 "The traditional universe was extremely short-lived since the six days of creation were supposed to have occurred only a few thousand years ago. In the seventeenth century, Archbishop James Ussher tried to calculate the date of creation by working back through the biblical patriarchs to Adam and fixed the year as 4004 B.C. John Lightfoot, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, declared that the final act by which man was created took place at nine o'clock on the morning of Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C. Modern creationists do not fix the date quite so precisely but still insist that the earth was formed only a few thousand years ago. By the standards of modern science, these estimates are trivial: geologists and cosmologists now put the earth's age at between four and five billion years. This vast extension of the time scale took place gradually, as geologists learned more about the extent of the changes that have taken place on the earth's surface. Frequent efforts were made to limit the amount of extra time required by geological theory. But already by Darwin's time, no educated person doubted that the earth was at least some millions of years old. (The creationist challenge on this issue is strictly a twentieth-century phenomenon.) The whole issue was made particularly sensitive by the fact that paleontologists found no evidence for the existence of man except in the most recent geological past, thus reducing human history and prehistory to but a moment in the vast panorama of the earth's development." (Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, pp.4-5) 30/01/2006 "The traditional world view was essentially static. In the six days of creation, God formed the world just as we see it today, including the plants, animals, and man himself. ... In the organic world, at least, the traditional view assumes that there cannot be any change because the forces of nature can only maintain the original forms created by God-they are not by themselves creative. This assumption was not derived purely from biblical authority but was backed up by the synthesis of Christianity with the philosophy inherited by the medieval world from the ancient Greeks. The views of Aristotle, in particular, were regarded as an important foundation of the belief that each species has a typical form maintained by the process of reproduction from one generation to the next. The hierarchy of natural forms stretching from the most primitive up to man-the `chain of being'- represented a complete and hence absolutely fixed plan of creation." (Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, p.5) 30/01/2006 "The Elimination of Design. The intention of creationism is not just to preserve a role for direct supernatural intervention in the origin of species but also to uphold the belief that each form of life has been designed by its Creator. In the classic form of the `argument from design' popular among naturalists until the early nineteenth century, the complexity of each specific form and its careful adaptation to the organism's way of life was held to be direct evidence of the Creator's wisdom and benevolence. Unaided nature never could have produced such structures; therefore, divine will had to be invoked as the only reasonable explanation of their existence. The belief that the structure or development of natural forms can only be explained by the purpose they are supposed to fulfill is known as `teleology.' The whole thrust of modern evolutionism has been to eliminate the need for a supernatural purpose in accounting for the present structure of living things. Darwin conceived his mechanism of natural selection to show that everyday forces of nature can adapt each species to its ever- changing environment, without the need to suppose that the process is intended to achieve some predetermined goal. At an even more basic level, modern biologists also believe that natural processes can account for the origin of life from nonliving matter, by a process of "chemical evolution" leading to ever more complex physical structures that eventually take on the properties of life." (Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, pp.5-6. Emphasis original) 30/01/2006 "It is important to note that the argument from design can exist independently of the biblical creation story. Many nineteenth-century paleontologists accepted the supernatural origin of new species and invoked the argument from design, although they believed that production of new forms had occurred at various stages in the earth's history. At a rather subtler level, it is also possible to argue that the Creator intended the present structure of the earth to emerge from the original form in which He created the universe. In Descartes's interpretation of the "mechanical philosophy," the earth was formed by natural means from matter distributed in space-but because God created both the original distribution and the laws that govern the behavior of matter, He had clearly foreseen the end product and could thus be said to have designed the evolutionary process itself. Even Darwin accepted the concept that God had established the general laws by which life evolves, although he was forced to concede that the details of what happened were not the result of divine forethought." (Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, p.6) 30/01/2006 "The Elimination of Miracles The Genesis story of creation is clearly meant to uphold the belief that the Almighty not only designed all things in the universe but played a direct and personal role in supervising their formation. The biblical concept of miracle, however, does not confine the Creator's activity to the beginning-it allows Him to intervene from time to time throughout the continuing history of the world. Paralleling this, we have already noted that some early paleontologists were willing to admit divine intervention at the beginning of each geological period to account for the appearance of new species. Biological evolution, however, is intended to exclude any role for supernatural intervention in the world because it assumes that natural forces by themselves are sufficient to create new species. In the eyes of Darwin and his followers, it was only by accepting this policy of `naturalism' that the question of the origin of species could be opened up to scientific investigation. To appeal to the supernatural as soon as one reached the limits of existing natural explanations was to close off the route to any further research that might generate more satisfactory hypotheses. Miracles are by definition arbitrary violations of the normal laws of nature and as such cannot be studied by the methods of science. To admit their occurrence in order to explain the origin of certain structures in the world is to concede that a phenomenon lies forever beyond our comprehension-unless we accept the dictates of supernatural revelation." " (Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, pp.6-7. Emphasis original) 30/01/2006 "The elimination of the supernatural was, however, no more straightforward than the elimination of design. The mechanical philosophy mentioned earlier eliminated the need for supernatural agencies except at the very be ginning of the universe but retained design by supposing that the Creator intended the laws of nature to produce the results we observe. This view compared the universe to a gigantic piece of clockwork, built by the `clock- maker God' to run on inexorably toward its intended goal. There would be no need for God to concern Himself with His creation once it was formed-the religious philosophy known as `deism.' Many religious thinkers, by contrast, believe that God must be involved with the universe at all times-the philosophy of `theism.' It may even be supposed that the laws of nature continue to operate only because they are upheld by His will. In this case it will be less easy to make a clear distinction between laws of nature and miracles because both equally are manifestations of divine power, one operating continuously, the other at irregular intervals. Some nineteenth- century scientists tried to argue that there must be special `laws of creation' by which God continues to shape the development of life, laws that could anticipate future goals and work toward them because they embodied divine foresight. To Darwin, such a concept of law was worse than a miracle because it allowed the nonmechanical aspects of the supernatural to interfere continually with the regular operations of nature. For science to be possible, it was necessary to conceive the laws of nature so that they operated solely in a mechanical fashion, allowing the past (but not the future) to control the present by the normal rules of causality. To introduce God's foresight as the explanation of an evolutionary trend was just as much an abrogation of the scientist's duty to search for natural causes as was the more simpleminded appeal to miracles." (Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, p.7) 31/01/2006 "Mycoplasma genitalium has the smallest genome of any organism that can be grown in pure culture. It has a minimal metabolism and little genomic redundancy. Consequently, its genome is expected to be a close approximation to the minimal set of genes needed to sustain bacterial life. Using global transposon mutagenesis, we isolated and characterized gene disruption mutants for 100 different nonessential protein-coding genes. None of the 43 RNA-coding genes were disrupted. Herein, we identify 382 of the 482 M. genitalium protein-coding genes as essential, plus five sets of disrupted genes that encode proteins with potentially redundant essential functions, such as phosphate transport. Genes encoding proteins of unknown function constitute 28% of the essential protein-coding genes set. Disruption of some genes accelerated M. genitalium growth." (Glass, J.I., et al., "Essential genes of a minimal bacterium," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, Vol. 103, No. 2, January 10, 2006, pp.425-430)
* Authors with an asterisk against their name are believed not to be evolutionists. However, lack of
an asterisk does not necessarily mean that an author is an evolutionist.
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Created: 29 December, 2005. Updated: 16 April, 2010.