Derbyshire linked it because it comforts him in his atheism, but it isn’t much of an article. Like most scientists, the author is undoubtedly good at working within a model in his field, but not so good at thinking about issues of methodolgy and sociology of science. Implicit in his writing is a 1950ish Popperian understanding of scientific method, which has long since been abandoned in its naive form as a result of work by Kuhn, Imre Lakotos, and others. In his response to someone commenting on Anthony Flew’s abandonment of atheism Barr incredibly says it had nothing to do with intelligent design, but rather had to do with the Anthropic Principle. Yet, the whole point of Wheeler’s long ago paper (1973) on the Anthropic Principle was that the physical constants in the universe give rise to a reasonable inference that the universe was designed to support human life. Fred Hoyle has said the same thing, just to name another prominent physicist.
Oddly, Barr, a physicist, is trying to write an obituary on a theory (ID) that, in the form he is discussing it, has to do with biology. While I don’t know whether ID will eventually be vindicated or not, I think that it is clear that Darwinism is only supported by group think in the universities. Random mutation won’t bear the burden of the work it has to do in the theory. Gould and others have recognized this, as well as other problems, but Richard Lewontin has been the most outspoken in demanding that Darwinism be defended - at least to the public - because he doesn’t want God to get a foot in the door. People need to understand that while science has always been subject to agendas and politics, the politicization is more intense now than ever, largely because of the massive amounts of government money that flows through the system, IMHO.
I can’t believe I am posting on this because these threads are virtually always an annoying waste of time...
Please don’t consider your post a waste of time as it is the first that has inspired me to comment here.
Regarding Darwin and evolution. Darwin (and Wallace) developed their ideas based on detailed observations. They developed their theories in a period when Uniformitarianism was the orthodoxy of science. Under this idea, viewing evolution as a long slow process of gradual changes where statistically, the more fit would be more likely to reproduce made sense.
However, anyone who has been following Sunken Civ’s ping list Catastrophism, or was already aware of this, knows that the evolutionary world has also been influenced by a number of very severe world wide catastrophes. An argument was made that Darwin himself was concerned about the “Cambrian Explosion” when new life forms became numerous and widespread. We now know that there was probably a major extraterrestrial crash on earth that preceeded the “Explosion”. Other major boloids may have caused the great Permian extinction which destroyed about 97% of all species. It took millions of years for the earth to recover from that one, but then the dinosaurs had their great 150 million year flowering. Until the great Yucatan boloid crashed and made their continued life impossible 65 million years ago. We now know that a number of great and lesser events caused the dying off of creatures that were probably quite fit, but were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. After each of these events there has been a great movement and diversification of the survivors.
Relatively recently, 74,000 years ago, the megavolcano Toba in Indonesia exploded leaving a crater 18 miles by 65 miles in diameter. Scientists now are inclined to believe that this event reduced the human population to no more than 5 or 10,000 individuals. Certainly fitness helped those who were not killed in the first terrible years to survive. However, we do not know how many people more fit were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Unfortunately, the scientific work on boloid effects and megavolcanoes is relatively new, and as each science is specialized and isolated, it takes time for new learning in one are to permeat and influence the thinking and hypothosese of another.
Meanwhile, fascinating work is being done in the field of evolutionary developmental biology, evo devo for short. Here they show that the genetics of development is amazingly conservative (in the sense of conserving). For example the segments of an earthworm, of an insect, and the spine of a human all have the same genetic roots. Thus rather than having to totally reinvent the wheel, evolution springboards from preexisting genetic material as new variations are mutated. Thus the amount of time it takes to develop new creatures should be much shorter than if everything had to be developed from scratch. I encourage anyone who wants to know more about this exciting young field to read: Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo, by Sean B. Carroll, 2005.