December 8, 2004

MUSTN'T DESCEND TO FACT, OR THE THEORY GOES BUNG:

C. DARWIN TO G. BENTHAM (May 22, 1863)

In fact, the belief in Natural Selection must at present be grounded entirely on general considerations. (1) On its being a vera causa, from the struggle for existence; and the certain geological fact that species do somehow change. (2) From the analogy of change under domestication by man's selection. (3) And chiefly from this view connecting under an intelligible point of view a host of facts. When we descend to details, we can prove that no one species has changed [i.e. we cannot prove that a single species has changed]; nor can we prove that the supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory. Nor can we explain why some species have changed and others have not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 8, 2004 8:58 PM
Comments

In 1863, the most startling prediction of the theory of evolution by natural selection was unproven.

Particulate inheritance.

Despite your contention that Darwin simply extrapolated from domestic breeding, nothing that domestic breeders knew or thought ever suggested particulate inheritance.

Darwin never was able to propose a workable theory of how particulate inheritance might work, just as Newton never had any idea about how gravity worked.

But, surprise! Particulate inheritance turns out to be how life works.

That's how science works. You make nonobvious predictions, and when they come true, that enhances your confidence in the theory.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 8, 2004 9:41 PM

Oh, you're just a mook. I don't know how you found this quote, but if you think that it hasn't been superceded by a jillion subsequent discoveries, your mookitude is certainly certified.

Posted by: HT at December 8, 2004 10:53 PM

The quote was well selected: the lead sentence includes the word, "belief." I am most serious about this. Darwinism is always a fighting faith. All you need do to confirm this is talk to a Darwinist, who will be unable to prattle on for more than a few sentences before lapsing into the language of belief and unbelief.

The doctrine always comes down to, "Well, it just HAS to be valid, because if it is not, what we see must be caused by something else in which I do not wish to believe."

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 9, 2004 3:13 AM

Lou:

Do you "believe" in the Theory of Relativity?

Also, I know you have read more than a few sentences on this subject here--how many "believers" in Evolution have descended into language of belief and disbelief?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 9, 2004 6:44 AM

Jeff, is that a trick question?

Philosophically speaking, relativity is as beautiful an understanding of eternity as you will find, seeing "through a glass, darkly."

Darwinism is an unsatisfying substitute for creation. It has all the feel of an excuse after the fact.

Besides, even if God did use natural selection to create humans from amoebas, it would not negate creation.

Posted by: Randall Voth at December 9, 2004 8:32 AM

No one has any business 'believing' the Theory of Relativity, Special or General.

If the formulae work, fine, use them.

If another theory makes the math easier, use it.

What we are talking about here, theories, are tools.

Do you believe rock or hammer. Which is the more useful. If rock works better for you, be my guest but don't expect me to 'believe' or have 'faith' in rock. I use hammer because hammer works for me.

Believe and faith are for religion. If you believe the Theory of Relativity, that is your religion.

The head of the physics department at the college I graduated from (class of '51) believed in Classical Mechanics (Newton). None of this new fangled relativity crap for him or his students, for that matter.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at December 9, 2004 8:51 AM

Jeff: It's not so much Darwinist's using the language of faith as their unavoidable use of the language of teleology.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 9, 2004 9:40 AM

Randall:

No, it ins't a trick question. Both are material explanations of material observations. Regarding Evolution, teleological absence forces it into being an "excuse" after the fact. But you could say the same of plate tectonics. It tells you a lot about where land has been, and nothing about where it is going.

... even if God did use natural selection to create humans from amoebas, it would not negate creation.

Absolutely correct. But neither does Evolution, in as much as it hasnought to say about how the first "amoeba" came to be.

David:
The use of teleological-sounding words in discussing Evolution isn't at all unavoidable, but it is difficult to avoid using them as shorthand. I don't think that means much, though.

If you believe the Theory of Relativity, that is your religion.

Many good points, Uncle Bill. But if the head of your physics department decided to build an accelerator, he better choose a different "religion." The scare quotes because pure religious belief is immune from material tests. In this case, choosing the Newtonian religion over Einseinan would result in a very unfavorable result.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 9, 2004 12:24 PM

Jeff: How frustrating is is to make a plain statement, in plain English, and to have another misconstrue it to to point of unrecognizability.

I seem to recall having made a comment to the effect that Darwinists, in conversation, use language of belief and unbelief. Inasmuch as you challenge me to produce such a statment in their literature, I can only conclude that you BELIEVE I had accused Darwinists of being so unsubtle as to have expressed their inconsistencies in writing, which I had not. See how it works?

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 9, 2004 10:09 PM

I think I'm pretty careful not to use words of belief when talking about darwinism, Lou.

People do talk the way they are brought up. Hitler was constantly referring to God, if you read his table talk.

That doesn't mean he had any real use for god.

Jeff's right. It really does make a difference which theory you 'believe' in. Accept might be a better word.

No theory, so far, explains everything. By practical test, you want to go for the least incomplete one. Thus, Einstein over Newton, when you get down to the nittygritty.

I have been trying to think of an example of a really important, paradigm-shifting theory (one on a level with darwinism) that did not include a whacking great 'unproven' when first enunciated. Can't think of a one. Clark Maxwell didn't know about electrons any more than Darwin knew about genes. As Gail Christiansen noted in his biography of Newton, the Neo-Platonists were aghast that Newton's geometric solution (not equations) allowed for action at a distance, but Newton simply ignored them.

That is the real difference between the two camps here. The Neo-Platonists want to tell the Universe how it must behave. The scientists ask it how it does behave.

The answer is always surprising. Nobody ever came up with a useful tbeory without going out and making observations.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 10, 2004 4:12 PM
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