Monday, May 02, 2005

Ophelia beat me to it

I was going to comment more extensively on this article about Michael Ruse's new book The Evolution-Creation Struggle, but Ophelia Benson got there first and did it better than I probably could. While I can see Ruse's point, I can't really agree with his contention that, boiled down to its essence, is that it is scientists' own fault that evolution is so fiercely resisted by highly religious people. Particularly misguided is this:
Ruse argues that evolutionism has often constituted a ''religion'' itself by offering ''a world picture, a story of origins, and a special place for humans,'' while its proponents have been ''trying deliberately to do better than Christianity.''
He's falling right into the creationists' trap, giving them ammunition when they make the fallacious claim that evolution is "just a theory" or, even worse, just another "religion." For someone who claims to understand science, how can he say that? What are we supposed to do, not call creationist pseudoscience for what it is when we see it? (As I've said before, I don't have a problem so much with the concept of intelligent design, but rather the attempt of fundamentalists to have it taught as "science," when it is in fact not science. If they wanted to teach it as philosophy or religion, they'd get no argument from me.) And what's wrong with trying to explain the origins of life "better than Christianity"? Any religion that rejects out of hand new knowledge that science produces isn't worth following. Even the Catholic Church, one of the most conservative and slow-to-change institutions in existence, has managed to reconcile itself with evolution. If Pius XII and John Paul II could, do it, then why can't ID advocates?

End of rant.

8 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 5/02/2005 12:09 PM, Blogger HaloJonesFan said...

>And what's wrong with trying to
> explain the origins of
>life "better than Christianity"?

Because by doing this, you're effectively making the claim that Christians did have a worldview which had been logical and valid until someone else came along. Our model of mechanics did not suddenly become "wrong" when we realized how wierd things got at the atomic scale; it just got more detailed. Intelligent Design isn't a model that gets more detailed with further study, it's wishful thinking tarted up with jargon cribbed from Discover magazine.

I do agree with Ruse that many arguers for evolutionary theory often are only "right" based on where they chose to stand. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are people arguing against Creationists, in favor of Lamarckian evolution.

 

At 5/02/2005 4:18 PM, Anonymous A gadfly said...

This comment probably belongs on some other blog about the nature of science and religion, but I haven't been to one of those yet, and I like Orac's blog and want to contribute.

My observation is that according to Durkheim's model of religious forms, evolution lacks two key ingredients to be considered a religion. The totem, and the sense of the sacred.

Maybe the study and discussion of evolution appears religious to those who question it becuase you science types are so damn stubborn and fail to realize that god is a magnificient trickster.

 

At 5/02/2005 4:23 PM, Anonymous A gadfly said...

This comment probably belongs on some other blog about the nature of science and religion, but I haven't been to one of those yet, and I like Orac's blog and want to contribute.

My observation is that according to Durkheim's model of religious forms, evolution lacks two key ingredients to be considered a religion. The totem, and the sense of the sacred.

Maybe the study and discussion of evolution appears religious to those who question it becuase you science types are so damn stubborn and fail to realize that god is a magnificient trickster.

 

At 5/03/2005 2:57 AM, Blogger Socialist Swine said...

Orac,

If Pius XII and John Paul II could, do it, then why can't ID advocates?

Short answer: they're dumb-asses.

Long answer: they're unbelievably dumb assed dumb-asses.

-Socialist Swine

 

At 5/03/2005 5:42 AM, Anonymous Sharon said...

OK, a few comments.

One, it seems to me generally a good idea to read a book, as opposed to newspaper articles about a book, before seriously commenting on its arguments. (This is more generally something that often irritates me about bloggers.)

Two, what I did take away from reading the article was that Ruse's main beef is with sociobiologists (or evolutionary psychologists or whatever they're called now), something that I suspect I'd have a lot of sympathy with. But as I say, not having read the book, I won't judge.

 

At 5/03/2005 6:43 AM, Blogger Orac said...

My beef wasn't just with the book, which, given that it won't be released until later this month, I haven't read. My beef was also with his general thesis that evolution is a "religion."

 

At 5/03/2005 7:06 PM, Blogger Socialist Swine said...

Orac,

I actually have to defend Ruse on this one. I've actually had the opportunity to talk to him about this kind of stuff and I don't think he's equating evolution with religion. He does believe that some people treat evolution in a manner in which others treat religion, namely as "a world picture, a story of origins, and a special place for humans," but he thinks this is a mistake made by people. He doesn't think this is an inherent aspect of the theory of evolution, it's just that some people have adopted evolutionary views as being some sort of alternative to religion (indeed, I would argue that many people I know are guilty of that crime).

I think Ruse has a much simpler message that people are missing. Namely, that religion shouldn't inform science and vice versa. Though I haven't had a chance to read his manuscript (I do actually have it kicking around somewhere, my advisor gave me a copy that he was proofing for Ruse) I would assume, from my conversations/correspondence with Ruse, that he's just noting that science and religion should be understood as different sorts of inquiry and never the twain should meet. Though, I have heard him say things like, "if there's any reason to be religious it's the elegance of evolution by natural selection" (or something to that effect, I don't remember his exact words).

That all said, perhaps someone should talk to someone like Charles Alt who's actually studying with Ruse who'd have more insights on what Ruse might actually be thinking, or even fire off an e-mail to Ruse himself. He's a pretty friendly guy who's always willing to chew the fat.

-Socialist Swine

 

At 7/21/2005 4:29 PM, Blogger Gadfly said...

I disagree with Capitalist Pig's second post.

Science needs to inform religion on a variety of events unless religion wants to become irrelevant not just on its knowledge of science, but on some very specific moral issues whose understanding is potentially influenced by modern science.

Take homosexuality. Throwing out Dean Hamer's "gay gene," it is still pretty clear that a definite tendency toward homosexuality is genetic, and that a further tendency is caused by an uncontrollable environmental cause, the womb environment.

But fundamentalists refuse to face this challenge to a literalistic reading of 2,000-3,000-year-old scripture.

That's just one of many scientific matters that impinge on specific biblical issues. You have radioisotape dating and the age of the earth and many others as well, which impinge upon fundamentalist morality, metaphysics or both.

 

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