Thursday, July 31, 2008

Warren on Evolution

If you've ever suffered from low blood pressure or a total lack of annoyance in your life, I invite you to read the collected works of David Warren. He's a man who wields his ignorance like a club and the Ottawa Citizen is proud to give him a lifetime supply of clubs.

He makes frequent, ignorant tirades on the subject of evolution. Here is the latest.

He first goes off on a completely information free rant about the fact that a biologist wants to stop using the term "Darwinism" to discuss evolution. Warren then declares that "genes" would utterly "wipe Darwinism" from biology.

The reason that the term Darwinism is a misnomer is because so much more is known about evolution than was in Charles Darwin's time. While Darwin understood natural selection - basically by comparing the effects of breeders intentionally selecting animals for mating purposes to the selective power of nature - he didn't understand neutral drift, kin selection, probably some eusocial behaviour and a whole host of other mechanisms of evolution. Neutral drift, in fact, is known to be a stronger factor than natural selection.

That's why "Darwinism" is such a misnomer.

And genes wouldn't "wipe Darwinism" from biology. The genetic similarities between similar organisms are one of the most important pieces of evidence demonstrating that evolution has happened. With those genetic similarities, we don't even need the fossil record to demonstrate that evolution has happened. It's obvious from the hierarchical arrangement of genes in similar species.

Warren goes on:
... the whole idea of The Origin of Species -- that new species could emerge from the gradual accumulation of small random mutations “selected” by an impersonal nature for their survival value alone -- remains to this day utterly undemonstrable.

Really, David? You've looked in to this deeply have you? Would you mind defining a biological species for us so we could see that you know what you're saying? I suppose the fossil record and genetic similarities between humans and chimpanzees aren't a good example of speciation? I googled "example speciation" and found these in a matter of seconds. I guess that's "utterly undemonstrable" in David Warren's book, but maybe the Google is too complicated.

But let's get down to the meat of David Warren's rant. What is he really, really worried about?
“Darwinism” survives not as a science, but as an ideal: to eliminate God from any consideration of how nature works.

Ah yes. The old "Science is a giant god-hating conspiracy" nonsense.

Not only does David Warren need some education (or access to google) on the theory of evolution, he also needs to learn about "science". Science is about finding naturalistic explanations to questions. If Newton, Kepler, Rutherford, Curie and a host of others had simply said that gravity and atoms behaved that way because God wanted them to, we would hardly be where we are today. Any scientist who stops part way through his research and declares a line where "God did it" is simply guilty of intellectual cowardice. The goal of science is to understand.

David Warren would have us cease in our undertaking to understand the universe. He would declare that certain topics are off limits. He would demand that the intelligent design movement and the creationists be allowed to do their own research and teach their beliefs to children.

The problem is that those ID proponents and creationists (I will not call them scientists) have no science. They have no theory. They point at a thing that scientific research has understood and another thing that science has not yet understood and shout, "God did it!" and demand the right to teach this to children. They have no evidence beyond their own beliefs and a few books of misquotes of real scientists.
“There is order in the universe.” The reader, or any scientist, may accept or reject this assertion, which is consistent only with the religious point of view.

Really? Only the religious can find order in the universe? How perverse. The entire foundation of science is finding repeatable results to repeatable experiments. For example, when Miller and Urey did their experiments with the chemicals of the Earth's primordial oceans - when they found that striking these chemicals with electricity produced amino acids - they were not initially believed. Other repeated these experiments to demonstrate whether or not they had been done properly. It turns out they were.

If the universe does not have order, how could science ever hope to work?
For the [Darwinist] is constantly confronting examples of order, that he must be at pains to explain away.

Now we plumb the true depths of how thoroughly the writer misunderstands science. The whole target of the scientific endeavour, whether in astronomy, biology, physics, chemistry or any other pursuit, is to unravel the order of the universe. Scientists don't try to hide the fact that the universe has order. They try to understand that order so that it can be manipulated. And here Warren pretends that this is some kind of curse.

This is a man who, by his own admission, simply doesn't like the idea of things happening without his deity being involved. It offends his sensibilities. So when the subject comes off, he spouts off without knowledge or research, without an understanding of evolution of science, and declares himself correct by his own lack of evidence.

It's only sad that he's given a platform for this behaviour and so is given a chance to reinforce similar ignorance and beliefs in others.

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1 comment:

Catelli said...

Well said. I wholeheartedly agree.

I followed your profile from Chet's blog and read some of your blog.

I just found another worthy addition to my blog roll!