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Why Darwin's still a scientific hotshot (Nobel laureate James D. Watson on Darwin and his influence)
LA Times Calendar Live.com ^ | September 18, 2005 | James D. Watson

Posted on 09/19/2005 3:24:26 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored

Edited on 09/19/2005 3:36:21 AM PDT by Sidebar Moderator. [history]

Why Darwin's still a scientific hotshot


By James D. Watson

September 18, 2005

Editor's Note:
"Nobel laureate James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the molecular structure of DNA, has edited and provided commentary for a new anthology of Charles Darwin's four major books, collected in one volume by Running Press. Watson's essay introducing "Darwin: The Indelible Stamp: The Evolution of an Idea" is excerpted here.


I first became aware of Charles Darwin and evolution while still a schoolboy growing up in Chicago. My father and I had a passion for bird-watching and when the snow or the rain kept me indoors, I read his bird books and learned about evolution. We also used to frequent the great Field Museum of Natural History, and my fragmentary knowledge of evolution helped guide me through the myriad specimens in the museum. It is extraordinary the extent to which Darwin's insights not only changed his contemporaries' view of the world but also continue to be a source of great intellectual stimulation for scientists and nonscientists alike. His "On the Origin of Species" was rightly praised by biologist Thomas Henry Huxley as " … the most potent instrument for the extension of the realm of natural knowledge which has come into men's hands since the publication of Newton's "Principia."

When Darwin returned from his five-year voyage aboard the H.M.S. Beagle, he turned over his various collections to experts on birds, beetles, mollusks and the like. John Gould was Darwin's bird expert. Darwin was surprised to learn from him that the finches he had collected on the Galapagos Islands closely resembled similar birds on the South American continent some 600 miles away, yet the finches of one island were different from those of the other islands…"

Excerpt. Story follows: Los Angeles Times


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Miscellaneous; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: crevolist; darwin; dna; evolution; jamesdwatson
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To: dmz
"To refer to the "law" of gravity, and the "law" of evolution as though they are "laws" enacted by some governing body, and enforced by same was cute the first time it was used in this thread, but not each subsequent time.

Please note that words sometimes have multiple meanings; the word "law" is one such word."

I think it is GOOD to point out what is the mind of an evolutionists. I know darn well what the word LAW means and it was NOT me that called evolution a law as though it is a fact.

I am having FUN with the hilarity of the ridiculous statement that evolution is a law.

Evolutionists can sure dish out the insults and heap ridicule, but boy they sure have very very thin skins in accepting a return serve.
61 posted on 09/19/2005 6:21:28 AM PDT by Just mythoughts
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To: snarks_when_bored
As usual, Watson pulls no punches.

If he's as dogmatically pro-evolution as some Frevolutionists, he'll be one of the first.

Ping for later reading.
62 posted on 09/19/2005 6:23:39 AM PDT by DaveLoneRanger (As long as liberalism and I exist, neither one of us is safe.)
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To: Just mythoughts
Hey it is a hoot. Now you got a law, then there are consequences for obeying and disobeying a law. Even gravity punishes those who seek to defy it.

So now we have established a law of evolution, there must be dominion in charge of the rewards, justice for the adherents and non-adherents regarding that law.

A law of nature can't be disobeyed. The law describes what happens and, ideally, makes predictions about what will happen (if certain conditions hold).

Evolution describes how organic beings on Earth have developed and are developing, a process likely to continue happening unless we develop the means to interfere with it in a decisive way (we've already done so to some extent, of course, through plant and animal husbandry, etc.).

63 posted on 09/19/2005 6:31:03 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored
Invasion of the mentally challenged placemarker.
64 posted on 09/19/2005 6:31:07 AM PDT by balrog666 (A myth by any other name is still inane.)
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To: bkepley

I agree with most of what you said there (although I think it unlikely that the future will bring forth any evidence for intelligent design that is not somehow interpretable in other ways). And, yes, Newton was a sort of a Christian; interestingly, his manuscripts contain far about alchemy than they do about physics and mathematics. He was a strange bird, no doubt about it.


65 posted on 09/19/2005 6:34:23 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: bkepley
It's true that the intelligent design folks are coupled to the religious folks but I don't think all of them see are religous in the sense of an interventionist God

Fair comment, point taken.

My original point wasn't stated as clearly as it should have been. Where 'Creationists' claim there are 'difficulties' in the current model of evolution, they are stating no more than scientists who are addressing questions in the current model of evolution; moreover, there is an exceedingly high probability (though never absolute certainty) that the answers to those questions will be consistent with previous findings. If they are not (and you need good science to establish if they are not), then the theory will be refined or, if necessary, rejected. That is how science works. Science, which is the ongoing quest for knowledge, welcomes challenges to its theories, welcomes new and difficult questions, because it is the pursuit of answers to those new questions that yields new knowledge, and that is the goal.

Given that, then why are Creationists making such 'special pleading'? Why are they not pursuing their challenges within science? Answer: because they are not actually doing science, which is the search for new knowledge, they are instead seeking to bend science to confirm pre-existing religious belief. That's theology--which has its place, by all means. But that place is not (and we agree on this) in a science classroom

66 posted on 09/19/2005 6:35:50 AM PDT by SeaLion ("Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man" -- Thomas Paine)
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To: rabair

Thanks for the links to those sites!


67 posted on 09/19/2005 6:38:27 AM PDT by silverleaf (Fasten your seat belts- it's going to be a BUMPY ride.)
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To: rabair

"I've read up a lot on the creation/evolution debate over the past couple years and determined that evolution is the biggest heap of garbage ever perpetrated on us. "

Well, now. That settles it, then.....


68 posted on 09/19/2005 6:41:51 AM PDT by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: snarks_when_bored

"A law of nature can't be disobeyed. The law describes what happens and, ideally, makes predictions about what will happen (if certain conditions hold). "

Nature and evolution are not synonymous, even though that is what evolutionists claim.

"Evolution describes how organic beings on Earth have developed and are developing, a process likely to continue happening unless we develop the means to interfere with it in a decisive way (we've already done so to some extent, of course, through plant and animal husbandry, etc.)."

Well you are partially correct here that evolution is man's work. Evolution does far more than describe how organic beings on earth have developed and are developing. Evolution, man's creation, elevates some men as being more equal than the rest of man. Thus the need for things like entitlement programs, cause not all are of the fittest.

Problem is evolutionists set themselves above reproach and bring out their huge ignorant stick to any and all who disagree. Seems like I remember another system who dealt with the inferiority members of society branding those as mentally deficient.


69 posted on 09/19/2005 6:43:32 AM PDT by Just mythoughts
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To: bkepley; snarks_when_bored
My penultimate sentence to you in that last post should've read:

"And, yes, Newton was a sort of a Christian; interestingly, his manuscripts contain far more about alchemy than they do about physics and mathematics."

70 posted on 09/19/2005 6:45:56 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: rabair
I have done a lot of reading and taken several college level courses. There are some major problems with evolution in my mind.
1. The origin of life on earth. (presumably prokaryotic cells in a non oxygen containing atmosphere)
2. The origin and evolution of DNA.
3. The evolution of the eukaryotic cell.

There are some other technical problems concerning the fact that some animals aren't well adapted to the environment that they exist in.
71 posted on 09/19/2005 6:47:03 AM PDT by Citizen Tom Paine (An old sailor sends)
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To: SeaLion
Given that, then why are Creationists making such 'special pleading'? Why are they not pursuing their challenges within science? Answer: because they are not actually doing science, which is the search for new knowledge, they are instead seeking to bend science to confirm pre-existing religious belief.

The impression that you give hear on FR is someone who has some claim to make against everyone interested in intelligent design. I'm not educated on what all those interested in intelligent design think and do. Some of them may just believe that evolution alone is not capable of explaining things or that they see intelligence behind things and have no interest in confirming a religious belief. They may be out to prove what they believe but that's where a lot of science starts. Even Darwin was acquainted with Evolutionary concepts before he went on his voyage and he did not come up with it entirely from his research. I'm wondering if questioning the motives of all of them is fair. But, like I say I don't know all of them or any of them.

72 posted on 09/19/2005 6:48:33 AM PDT by bkepley
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To: DaveLoneRanger
Dave! Hope your ears weren't burning...I would've pinged you with this earlier post of mine on this thread, but didn't want to seem to be starting a fight with you (which I'm not):

the biogeography problem redux

Best regards...

73 posted on 09/19/2005 6:50:20 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: Just mythoughts
Evolution, man's creation, elevates some men as being more equal than the rest of man. Thus the need for things like entitlement programs, cause not all are of the fittest.

I prefer not to mix politics and science. There's nothing in evolutionary science that implies that some men are more equal than others (I'm not sure what that even means).

Problem is evolutionists set themselves above reproach and bring out their huge ignorant stick to any and all who disagree. Seems like I remember another system who dealt with the inferiority members of society branding those as mentally deficient.

You won't find any such attitude from me. If I thought evolution wasn't a fact, I'd say so. And I don't draw any conclusions from the fact of evolution about how the weak among us should be treated. We're products of evolution, but choosing what kind of people we want to be turns out to be one of the things that we've developed the ability to do.

74 posted on 09/19/2005 6:57:27 AM PDT by snarks_when_bored
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To: bkepley
I'm wondering if questioning the motives of all of them is fair

Once again, I'm going to accept your point here--it can get dangerous to assume 'motivations'.

In partial mitigation, I would invite you to make an analysis of a few of these evolution/creation threads. It is rare (and I think it can be demonstrated) for someone arguing the Creationist side to engage with issues of science, but it is (sometimes tediously so) common to find someone on that same side object to evolutionary theory solely on the grounds it is contrary to some specific reading of Biblical Genesis. And I have yet to hear anyone propose, from the other side, that they hold evolution to be more probable on the grounds that it is superior on theological grounds.

Religion is religion, and science is science. Science cannot, and does not seek to, address supernatural matters; why do some religiously-minded folks ask it to validate what they hold to be spiritual truths?

75 posted on 09/19/2005 7:02:29 AM PDT by SeaLion ("Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man" -- Thomas Paine)
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To: Just mythoughts
Nature and evolution are not synonymous, even though that is what evolutionists claim.

Can you show me where any evolutionist on any thread ever has suggested that evolution and nature are synonyms? I've never seen it. I have seen many people suggest that evolution is one of the laws of nature, bit that is a very different point than the one you make.

76 posted on 09/19/2005 7:03:42 AM PDT by dmz
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To: Just mythoughts

No oe, ever, breaks the law of gravity.

Some people demonstrate it in uncomfortable ways, though.


77 posted on 09/19/2005 7:08:13 AM PDT by From many - one.
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To: PatrickHenry

Thanks for the ping!


78 posted on 09/19/2005 7:11:29 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Just mythoughts

Dunno who, if anyone, said evolution is a law. It's not a law. There is a scientific theory of evolution.


79 posted on 09/19/2005 7:12:52 AM PDT by From many - one.
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To: snarks_when_bored

Netwon was also a unitarian. He wasn't in favor of deity as committee.


80 posted on 09/19/2005 7:21:01 AM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch ist der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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