Questioning evolution

I hope all of you saw Bruce’s brilliant post on this topic.  Excerpt:

There are two prominent kinds of anti-evolutionist in public life – and by which I mean people who deny the applicability of evolution by natural selection to some aspect of humans

…it turns out that the much demonised and despised religious anti-evolutionists who are skeptical about macro-evolution of humans are in plain fact much more scientific and empirical than are those numerous and influential secular Leftists who challenge the solid, and indeed observable, reality of human adaptation or micro-evolution.

The religious anti-macro-evolutionists who acknowledge within-form adaption are indeed within the historical mainstream of biology in their focus upon form as primary; the secular Leftist anti-adaptationists are chucking-out biology altogether in favour of a political ideology which ignores the most basic level of reality-testing.

Since it is secular Leftists who control public discourse we find public discourse in the extraordinary, and scientifically indefensible, position of asserting that on the one hand macro-evolution is necessarily real and the essential form of the human species certainly arose by natural selection – which is an incremental accumulation of adaptive changes; yet on the other hand denying that micro-evolution, adaptation, has occurred within the human species.

In other words, the speculative and uncertain aspect of Darwinian natural selection is accepted as necessary, as dogma (to reject which is to move outwith the bounds of legitimate public discourse); while the empirically and experientially verifiable aspect of Darwinism is at the same time rejected.

Secular Leftists thus believe in speciation but not adaptation; they believe that humans arose by natural selection, but also that – once humans had arisen – natural selection does not apply to humans!

Before reading this article, I hadn’t quite realized just how ridiculous the Leftist line on human evolution actually is.  Of course, this says nothing about what our position should be.  I believe that speciation by natural selection is compatible with a realist position on forms (because essentialism just requires the existence of sharp boundaries, not that they can’t be crossed between generations), but greater philosophical minds of the Thomist school are known to disagree (because supposedly an effect can’t have something lacking in its cause–see here for an explanation of this disputed principle).  Unlike the Leftists, we have no reason to deny the obvious differences between the human races.

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15 thoughts on “Questioning evolution

  1. I am still stuck on taxonomy. I can’t even come to an agreement with any of the different ways to categorize creatures. If we still can’t even understand the concept of “species,” how are we going to suppose speciation?

    It appears to me that the evolutionary principle invalidates all biological categorization. For example, under a logical and consistent view of evolution, there is no such thing as a distinct transitional species; every creature is a transitional species.

    In looking for secular evolutionists who’ve come to this understanding, I found this guy, Ian Johnston, who says it well.

    http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/introser/darwin.htm

    “This point is clear enough if one reflects momentarily on the word species. For the Greeks and traditional scientists, this word had an important meaning: a species was an eternally fixed category of creation. When we defined species or studied them, we were thus dealing with the reality of things, the truth of nature. But for Darwin (and other historical biologists) the term species is simply a convenient and temporary label for something that was not there (or was very different) in the past and which will disappear or change fundamentally in the future. Hence, the very idea of species loses its claim to represent the eternal reality of nature, the truth.”

    • Isn’t your point just that you don’t like Nominalism? Nominalism is like this: You can’t really carve nature at her joints because nature has no joints except the ones we find it convenient to see there. Applied to biology, of course it means that species labels are temporary, contingent labels of convenience. Just like the elements of the periodic table or the planets.

      • I disagree about the elements of the periodic table. Every atom of matter is unambiguously one element or another, defined by the number of protons in its nucleus. By contrast, “planet” is an arbitrary label. Pluto was a planet, now it’s not. There is no essence of “planetness”. In biology there are entities that admit to classification according to clean boundaries, namely genes. Genetic code is made up of a discrete, digital code, and different alleles of a gene can be identified with precision. “Species” by contrast have fuzzy and ill-defined boundaries and fall prey to the nominalist criticism. There are fixed categories in biology, but they have names like TCGATCATCGACTAA and GGTCAGCACTGATG, not “lion”, “tiger” and “sheep”.

        Also, the idea that all species are transitional is the standard view of most Darwinists, and is clearly articulated by popularisers such as Richard Dawkins.

    • Hi Earl,

      I do think that we can maintain the idea of different species, as I try to argue in my linked article. We must certainly maintain that a human and a worm are different kinds of things, not just different in degree of something. My only objection to Darwin’s popularizers and philosophers motivated by evolution is when they try to take it as proof that there are no qualitative differences between things.

    • Earl, I think this is because, in truth, clear-cut lines between species do not exist. Take the lion and the tiger — they can still mate, and create a “Liger” or a “Tigon,” and sometimes the offspring are fertile and sometimes they are not. But no one in their right minds would say that lions and tigers are the same species. Yet, they may still mate and produce fertile offspring.

      Obviously the current “theories” on species and taxonomy are incomplete, at best.

  2. Evolution is a perfect example of a belief that Traditionalism should not dictate. The theory of evolution supports traditional values and contradicts liberal values. But this is not a reason to force traditionalists to believe in evolution. Questions of belief should be left to individuals and their religion.

    That Liberals deny the obvious implications of evolution is unsurprising. Liberals specialize in hypocrisy, and this is a very good example.

    I do believe in evolution, both macro and micro. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the implications of evolution and the conclusion I came to is that traditional religion causes positive human evolution and the lack of religion causes negative human evolution. This is something that no one wants to hear, the Liberals reject this for obvious reasons, and the religious tend not to be enthusiastic about deep analysis of evolution. I did take the time to write my thoughts in detail in an article, Human Evolution.

    • The original article is here:

      http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/features/2007/created_equal/liberalcreationism.html

      I don’t think it is really fair to say that liberals insist on dogmatic disbelief in natural selection in humans, that’s going a little too far. For starters, they have no problem acknowledging that different races have adapted to their different environments: black and white skin, epicanthic eye folds, lactose tolerance and so on are all plainly undeniable evidence of such. You could say that they deny differential natural selection of mental traits in humans, but that’s not entirely true either. A study on the evolution of Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence in Europe as a result of Jews being confined to certain professions was published a few years ago (it is mentioned in the book The 10,000 Year Explosion) and did not draw the usual liberal denunciations. The Asian-White IQ difference doesn’t really draw their ire either. Specifically, liberals have a dogmatic opposition to the idea of natural selection ever producing any difference between races that favours White people in something that liberals consider important (IQ). It’s a very narrow and specific taboo, not a general taboo against human microevolution in toto.

  3. I don’t think the liberals are holding mutually exclusive views. There are other theories of evolution besides Darwin’s: Spencer’s unfolding of innate characters (the actual meaning of evolution, a term Darwin did not at first use); and Lamarck’s transmission of acquired characters. Both Spencerism and Lamarckianism would be compatible with evolution, and both would obviate the need for natural selection. So, the liberals’ beliefs regarding human evolution might be saved. However, both Spencerism and Lamarckianism are wrong.

    It should also be noted that the orthodox Catholic doctrine, as expressed by Benedict and other Popes, is that evolution is true and, with some reservations, natural selection is the probable mechanism. See Cardinal Schomborn’s “Chance or Purpose” for the official Church teaching.

    The bottom line for the Catholic Church is that however the sperm and egg got together, a unique human soul is created at their merger. The Church doesn’t require or need anything else.

    By the way, the merger of the sperm and egg is not the creation of life. Both cells are fully alive. Life was created 3.8 billion years ago.

    • No matter what we propose as the mechanism of evolution, the mere fact of evolution is what is under consideration here: macroevolution, as of species, on the one hand, and microevolution, as within species, on the other. Charlton’s point is that it is incoherent for liberals to insist on dogmatic belief in the existence of the former, and at the same time insist on dogmatic disbelief in the existence of the latter *so far as the human species, and only the human species, is concerned.*

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  5. Chris H

    Did you know what happened about the Saletan/Slate article?

    http://isteve.blogspot.co.uk/2007/12/vdarecoms-unique-selling-proposition.html

    *

    ” It’s a very narrow and specific taboo, not a general taboo against human microevolution in toto.”

    You are mistaken in imagining that merely because sometopic or person has not *yet* been the subject of a political correctness repression that you happen to have heard of, then this area is exempted.

    I know of at least one Asian PC incident in my experience; Kanazawa and Derbyshire were writing non-PC things for years before both were subjected to a media firestorm of vilification.

    • Yes, I was aware of the controversy touched off by Saletan’s article. I linked it because Saletan was making a similar point, he likened liberal (partial) denial of microevolution to conservative denial of macroevolution with his phrase “Liberal Creationism”.

      Kanazawa got in trouble for doing research claiming Black women are less attractive than women of other races, not for writing about an Asian-White IQ gap.

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  7. I wonder if a distinction between a person and an animal really does require clear distinctions between species.

    BTW, in addition to things like ligers, there are also problems with the species/subspecies divide and things like ring species. And this isn’t just some idle problem nominalist philosophers have dreamt up, there are real practical problems here, like how to apply the Endangered Species Act. Even with immediate rewards on the line, no one has really come up with a solution.

    At this point, I’d have to say that species is more of a term of convenience, but one which reflects essences at a lower level, like molecules and ancestry, which certainly are real things. The world is certainly not whatever we make it.

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