Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

So You Think You Are a Darwinian?
Royal Institute of Philosophy ^ | 1994 | D. C. Stove

Posted on 02/08/2003 7:54:52 AM PST by Ethan Clive Osgoode

Darwinism's Dilemma (part I: Cave Man)

Darwinism's Dilemma (part II: Hard Man)

So You Think You Are a Darwinian?

David Stove

 Most educated people nowadays, I believe, think of themselves as Darwinians. If they do, however, it can only be from ignorance: from not knowing enough about what Darwinism says. For Darwinism says many things, especially about our species, which are too obviously false to be believed by any educated person; or at least by an educated person who retains any capacity at all for critical thought on the subject of Darwinism.

Of course most educated people now are Darwinians, in the sense that they believe our species to have originated, not in a creative act of the Divine Will, but by evolution from other animals. But believing that proposition is not enough to make someone a Darwinian. It had been believed, as may be learnt from any history of biology, by very many people long before Darwinism, or Darwin, was born.

What is needed to make someone an adherent of a certain school of thought is belief in all or most of the propositions which are peculiar to that school, and are believed either by all of its adherents, or at least by the more thoroughgoing ones. In any large school of thought, there is always a minority who adhere more exclusively than most to the characteristic beliefs of the school: they are the "purists" or "ultras" of that school. What is needed and sufficient, then, to make a person a Darwinian, is belief in all or most of the propositions which are peculiar to Darwinians, and believed either by all of them, or at least by ultra-Darwinians.

I give below ten propositions which are all Darwinian beliefs in the sense just specified. Each of them is obviously false: either a direct falsity about our species or, where the proposition is a general one, obviously false in the case of our species, at least. Some of the ten propositions are quotations; all the others are paraphrases. The quotations are all from authors who are so well-known, at least in Darwinian circles, as spokesmen for Darwinism or ultra-Darwinism, that their names alone will be sufficient evidence that the proposition is a Darwinian one. Where the proposition is a paraphrase, I give quotations or other information which will, I think, suffice to establish its Darwinian credentials.

My ten propositions are nearly in reverse historical order. Thus, I start from the present day, and from the inferno-scene - like something by Hieronymus Bosch - which the "selfish gene" theory makes of all life. Then I go back a bit to some of the falsities which, beginning in the 1960s, were contributed to Darwinism by the theory of "inclusive fitness". And finally I get back to some of the falsities, more pedestrian though no less obvious, of the Darwinism of the 19th or early-20th century.

1. The truth is, "the total prostitution of all animal life, including Man and all his airs and graces, to the blind purposiveness of these minute virus-like substances", genes.

This is a thumbnail-sketch, and an accurate one, of the contents of The Selfish Gene (1976) by Richard Dawkins. It was not written by Dawkins, but he quoted it with manifest enthusiasm in a defence of The Selfish Gene which he wrote in this journal in 1981. Dawkins' status, as a widely admired spokesman for ultra-Darwinism, is too well-known to need evidence of it adduced here. His admirers even include some philosophers who have carried their airs and graces to the length of writing good books on such rarefied subjects as universals, or induction, or the mind. Dawkins can scarcely have gratified these admirers by telling them that, even when engaged in writing those books, they were totally prostituted to the blind purposiveness of their genes. Still, you have to hand it to genes which can write, even if only through their slaves, a good book on subjects like universals or induction. Those genes must have brains all right, as well as purposes. At least, they must, if genes can have brains and purposes. But in fact, of course, DNA molecules no more have such things than H20 molecules do.

2 "it is, after all, to [a mother's] advantage that her child should be adopted" by another woman.

This quotation is from Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, p. 110.

Obviously false though this proposition is, from the point of view of Darwinism it is well-founded, for the reason which Dawkins gives on the same page: that another woman?s adopting her baby "releases a rival female from the burden of child-rearing, and frees her to have another child more quickly." This, you will say, is a grotesque way of looking at human life; and so, of course, it is. But it is impossible to deny that it is the Darwinian way.

3. All communication is "manipulation of signal-receiver by signal-sender."

This profound communication, though it might easily have come from any used-car salesman reflecting on life, was actually sent by Dawkins, (in The Extended Phenotype, (1982), p. 57), to the readers whom he was at that point engaged in manipulating. Much as the devil, in many medieval plays, advises the audience not to take his advice.

4. Homosexuality in social animals is a form of sibling-altruism: that is, your homosexuality is a way of helping your brothers and sisters to raise more children.

This very-believable proposition is maintained by Robert Trivers in his book Social Evolution, (1985), pp. 198-9. Professor Trivers is a leading light among ultra-Darwinians, (who are nowadays usually called "sociobiologists"). Whether he also believes that suicide, for example, and self-castration, are forms of sibling-altruism, I do not know; but I do not see what there is to stop him. What is there to stop anyone believing such propositions? Only common sense: a thing entirely out of the question among sociobiologists.

5. In all social mammals, the altruism (or apparent altruism) of siblings towards one another is about as strong and common as the altruism (or apparent altruism) of parents towards their offspring.

This proposition is an immediate consequence, and an admitted one, of the theory of inclusive fitness, which says that the degree of altruism depends on the proportion of genes shared. This theory was first put forward by W. D. Hamilton in The Journal of Theoretical Biology in 1964. Since then it has been accepted by Darwinians almost as one man and has revolutionized evolutionary theory. This acceptance has made Professor Hamilton the most influential Darwinian author of the last thirty years.

6. "no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers [or offspring], or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins."

This is a quotation from the epoch-making article by Professor Hamilton to which I referred a moment ago. The italics are not in the text. Nor are the two words which I have put in square brackets; but their insertion is certainly authorized by the theory of inclusive fitness.

7. Every organism has as many descendants as it can.

Compare Darwin, in The Origin of Species, p. 66: "every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers"; and again, pp. 78-9, "each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio". These page references are to the first edition of the Origin, (1859), but both of the passages just quoted are repeated in all of the five later editions of the book which were published in Darwin's lifetime. He also says the same thing in other places.

But it would not have mattered if he had not happened to say in print such things as I have just quoted. For it was always obvious, to everyone who understood his theory, that a universal striving-to-the-utmost-to-increase is an essential part of that theory: in fact it is the very "motor" of evolution, according to the theory. It is the thing which, by creating pressure of population on the supply of food, is supposed to bring about the struggle for life among con-specifics, hence natural selection, and hence evolution. As is well known, and as Darwin himself stated, he had got the idea of population permanently pressing on food, because of the constant tendency to increase, from T. R. Malthus's Essay on Population (1798).

Still, that every organism has as many descendants as it can, while it is or may be true of most species of organisms, is obviously not true of ours. Do you know of even one human being who ever had as many descendants as he or she could have had? And yet Darwinism says that every single one of us does. For there can clearly be no question of Darwinism making an exception of man, without openly contradicting itself. "Every single organic being", or "each organic being": this means you.

8. In every species, child-mortality - that is, the proportion of live births which die before reproductive age - is extremely high.

Compare Darwin in the Origin, p. 61: "of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive"; or p. 5, "many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive". Again, these passages, from the first edition, are both repeated unchanged in all the later editions of the Origin.

Proposition 8 is not a peripheral or negotiable part of Darwinism. On the contrary it is, like proposition 7, a central part, and one which Darwinians are logically locked-into. For in order to explain evolution, Darwin had adopted (as I have said) Malthus's principle of population: that population always presses on the supply of food, and tends to increase beyond it. And this principle does require child-mortality to be extremely high in all species.

Because of the strength and universality of the sexual impulse, animals in general have an exuberant tendency to increase in numbers. This much is obvious, but what Malthus's principle says is something far more definite. It says that the tendency to increase is so strong that every population, of any species, is at all times already as large as its food-supply permits, or else is rapidly approaching that impassable limit. Which means of course that, (as Malthus once put it), the young are always born into "a world already possessed". In any average year, (assuming that the food-supply does not increase), there is simply not enough food to support any greater number of the newborn than is needed to replace the adults which die. But such is the strength of the tendency to increase that, in any average year, the number of births will greatly exceed the number of adult deaths. Which is to say, the great majority of those born must soon die.

Consider a schematic example. Suppose there is a population, with a constant food-supply, of 1000 human beings. Suppose - a very realistic supposition, in fact a conservative one - that 700 of them are of reproductive age. Suppose that this population is already "at equilibrium", (as Darwinians say): that is, is already as large as its food can support. According to Malthus's principle, people (or flies or fish or whatever) will reproduce if they can. So, since there are 350 females of reproductive age, there will be 350 births this year. But there is no food to support more of these than are needed to replace the adults who die this year; while the highest adult death-rate which we can suppose with any approximation to realism is about 10%. So 100 adults will die this year, but to fill their places, there are 350 applicants. That is, there will this year be a child-mortality of 250 out of 350, or more than 70%.

It was undoubtedly reasoning of this kind from Malthus's principle which led Darwin to believe that in every species ?but a small number? of those born can survive, or that "many more" are born than can survive. What did Darwin mean by these phrases, in percentage, or at least minimum-percentage, terms? Well, we have just seen that Malthus's principle, in a typical case, delivers a child-mortality of at least 70%. And no one, either in 1859 or now, would dream of calling 30 or more, surviving out of 100, "but a small number" surviving. It would be already stretching language violently, to call even 23 (say), surviving out of 100, "but a small number" surviving. To use this phrase of 30-or-more surviving, would be absolutely out of the question. So Darwin must have meant, by the statements I quoted above, that child-mortality in all species is more than 70%.

Which is obviously false in the case of our species. No doubt human child-mortality has often enough been as high as 70%, and often enough higher still. But I do not think that, at any rate within historical times, this can ever have been usual. For under a child-mortality of 70%, a woman would have to give birth 10 times, on the average, to get 3 of her children to puberty, and 30 times to get 9 of them there. Yet a woman's getting 9 of her children to puberty has never at any time been anything to write home about; whereas a woman who gives birth 30 times has always been a demographic prodigy. The absolute record is about 32 births. (I neglect multiple births, which make up only 1% of all births.) As for the last 100 years, in any advanced country, to suppose child-mortality 70% or anywhere near it, would be nothing but an outlandish joke.

It is important to remember that no one - not even Darwinians - knows anything at all about human demography, except what has been learnt in the last 350 years, principally concerning certain European countries or their colonies. A Darwinian may be tempted, indeed is sure to be tempted, to set all of this knowledge aside, as being of no "biological" validity, because it concerns only an "exceptional" time and place. But if we agreed to set all this knowledge aside, the only result would be that no one knew anything whatever about human demography. And Darwinians would then be no more entitled than anyone else to tell us what the "real", or the "natural", rate of human child-mortality is.

In any case, as I said earlier, Darwinians cannot without contradicting themselves make an exception of man, or of any particular part of human history. Their theory, like Malthus's principle, is one which generalizes about all species, and all places and times, indifferently; while man is a species, the last 350 years are times, and European countries are places. And Darwin's assertion, that child-mortality is extremely high, is quite explicitly universal. For he said (as we saw) that "of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive", and that "many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive". Again, this means us.

9. The more privileged people are the more prolific: if one class in a society is less exposed than another to the misery due to food-shortage, disease, and war, then the members of the more fortunate class will have (on the average) more children than the members of the other class.

That this proposition is false, or rather, is the exact reverse of the truth, is not just obvious. It is notorious, and even proverbial. Everyone knows that, as a popular song of the I 930s had it,

The rich get rich, and
The poor get children.

Not that the song is exactly right, because privilege does not quite always require superior wealth, and superior wealth does not quite always confer privilege. The rule should be stated, not in terms of wealth, but in terms of privilege, thus: that the more privileged class is the less prolific. To this rule, as far as I know, there is not a single exception.

And yet the exact inverse of it, proposition 9, is an inevitable consequence of Darwinism all right. Malthus had said that the main "checks" to human population are misery - principally due to "famine, war, and pestilence" - and vice: by which he meant contraception, foeticide, homosexuality, etc. But he also said that famine - that is, deficiency of food - usually outweighs all the other checks put together, and that population-size depends, near enough, only on the supply of food. Darwin agreed. He wrote (in The Descent of Man, second edition, 1874), that "the primary or fundamental check to the continued increase of man is the difficulty of gaining subsistence", and that if food were doubled in Britain, for example, population would quickly be doubled. But now, a more-privileged class always suffers less from deficiency of food than a less-privileged class does. Therefore, if food-supply is indeed the fundamental determinant of population-size, a more-privileged class would always be a more prolific one; just as proposition 9 says.

William Godwin, as early as 1820, pointed out that Malthus had managed to get the relationship between privilege and fertility exactly upside-down. In the 1860s and '70s W. R. Greg, Alfred Russel Wallace, and others, pointed out that Darwin, by depending on Malthus for his explanation of evolution, had saddled himself with Malthus's mistake about population and privilege. It is perfectly obvious that all these critics were right. But Darwin never took any notice of the criticism. Well, trying to get Darwin to respond to criticism was always exactly like punching a feather-mattress: "suddenly absolutely nothing happened".

The eugenics movement, which was founded a little later by Darwin's disciple and cousin Francis Galton, was an indirect admission that those critics were right. For what galvanized the eugenists into action was, of course, their realisation that the middle and upper classes in Britain were being out-reproduced by the lowest classes. Such a thing simply could not happen, obviously, if Darwin and Malthus, and proposition 9, had been right. But the eugenists never drew the obvious conclusion, that Darwin and Malthus were wrong, and consequently they never turned their indirect criticism into a direct one. Well, they were fervent Darwinians to the last man and woman, and could not bring themselves to say, or even think, that Darwinism is false.

A later Darwinian and eugenist, R. A. Fisher, discussed the relation between privilege and fertility at length, in his important book, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, (1930). But he can hardly be said to have made the falsity of proposition 9 any less of an embarrassment for Darwinism. Fisher acknowledges the fact that there has always been, in all civilized countries an inversion (as he calls it) of fertility-rates: that is, that the more privileged have always and everywhere been the less fertile. His explanation of this fact is that civilized countries have always practised what he calls "the social promotion of infertility". That is, people are enabled to succeed better in civilized life, the fewer children they have.

But this is evidently just a re-phrasing of the problem, rather than a solution of it. The question, for a Darwinian such as Fisher, is how there can be, consistently with Darwinism, such a thing as the social promotion of infertility? In every other species of organisms, after all, comparative infertility is a sure sign, or even the very criterion, of comparative failure. So how can there be if Darwinism is true, a species of organisms in which comparative infertility is a regular and nearly-necessary aid to success?

Fisher's constant description of the fertility-rates in civilized countries as "inverted", deserves a word to itself. It is a perfect example of an amazingly-arrogant habit of Darwinians, (of which I have collected many examples in my forthcoming book Darwinian Fairytales). This is the habit, when some biological fact inconsistent with Darwinism comes to light, of blaming the fact, instead of blaming their theory. Any such fact Darwinians call a "biological error" an "error of heredity", a "misfire", or some thing of that kind: as though the organism in question had gone wrong, when all that has actually happened, of course, is that Darwinism has gone wrong. When Fisher called the birth-rates in civilized countries "inverted", all he meant was that, exactly contrary to Darwinian theory, the more privileged people are the less fertile. From this fact, of course, the only rational conclusion to be drawn is, that Darwinism has got things upside-down. But instead of that Fisher, with typical Darwinian effrontery, concludes that civilised people have got things upside-down!

Fisher, who died in 1962, is nowadays the idol of ultra-Darwinians, and he deserves to be so: he was in fact a sociobiologist "born out of due time". And the old problem for Darwinism, to which he had at least given some publicity, even if he did nothing to solve it, remains to this day the central problem for sociobiologists. The problem (to put it vulgarly) of why "the rich and famous" are such pitiful reproducers as they are.

Of course this "problem" is no problem at all, for anyone except ultra-Darwinians. It is an entirely self-inflicted injury, and as such deserves no sympathy. Who, except an ultra-Darwinian, would expect the highly-privileged to be great breeders? No one; just as no one but an ultra-Darwinian would expect women to adopt-out their babies with maximum expedition. For ultra-Darwinians, on the other hand, the infertility of the privileged is a good deal more than a problem. It is a refutation.

But they react to it in accordance with a well-tried rule of present-day scientific research. The rule is: 'When your theory meets with a refutation, call it instead "a problem", and demand additional money in order to enable you to solve it.' Experience has shown that this rule is just the thing for keeping a "research program" afloat, even if it leaks like a sieve. Indeed, the more of these challenging "problems" you can mention, the more money you are plainly entitled to demand.

10. If variations which are useful to their possessors in the struggle for life "do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive), that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed."

This is from The Origin of Species, pp. 80-81. Exactly the same words occur in all the editions.

Since this passage expresses the essential idea of natural selection, no further evidence is needed to show that proposition 10 is a Darwinian one. But is it true? In particular, may we really feel sure that every attribute in the least degree injurious to its possessors would be rigidly destroyed by natural selection?

On the contrary, the proposition is (saving Darwin's reverence) ridiculous. Any educated person can easily think of a hundred characteristics, commonly occurring in our species, which are not only ?in the least degree? injurious to their possessors, but seriously or even extremely injurious to them, which have not been "rigidly destroyed", and concerning which there is not the smallest evidence that they are in the process of being destroyed. Here are ten such characteristics, without even going past the first letter of the alphabet. Abortion; adoption; fondness for alcohol; altruism; anal intercourse; respect for ancestors; susceptibility to aneurism; the love of animals; the importance attached to art; asceticism, whether sexual, dietary, or whatever.

Each of these characteristics tends, more or less strongly, to shorten our lives, or to lessen the number of children we have, or both. All of them are of extreme antiquity. Some of them are probably older than our species itself. Adoption, for example is practised by some species of chimpanzees: another adult female taking over the care of a baby whose mother has died. Why has not this ancient and gross "biological error" been rigidly destroyed?

"There has not been enough time", replies the Darwinian. Well, that could be so: perhaps there has not been enough time. And then again, perhaps there has been enough time: perhaps even twenty times over. How long does it take for natural selection to destroy an injurious attribute, such as adoption or fondness for alcohol? I have not the faintest idea, of course. I therefore have no positive ground whatever for believing either that there has been enough time for adoption to be destroyed, or that there has not. But then, on this matter, everyone else is in the same state of total ignorance as I am. So how come the Darwinian is so confident that there has not been enough time? What evidence can he point to, for thinking that there has not? Why, nothing but this, that adoption has not been destroyed, despite its being an injurious attribute! But this is palpably arguing in a circle, and taking for granted the very point which is in dispute. The Darwinian has no positive evidence whatever, that there has not been enough time.

Mercifully, Darwinians nowadays are much more reluctant than they formerly were, to rely heavily on the "not-enough-time" defence of their theory against critics. They have benefited from the strictures of philosophers, who have pointed out that it is not good scientific method, to defend Darwinism by a tactic which would always be equally available whatever the state of the evidence, and which will still be equally available to Darwinians a million years hence, if adoption (for example) is still practised then.

The cream of the jest, concerning proposition 10, is that Darwinians themselves do not really believe it. Ask a Darwinian whether he actually believes that the fondness for alcoholic drinks is being destroyed now, or that abortion is, or adoption - and watch his face. Well, of course he does not believe it! Why would he? There is not a particle of evidence in its favour, and there is a great mountain of evidence against it. Absolutely the only thing it has in its favour is that Darwinism says it must be so. But (as Descartes said in another connection) "this reasoning cannot be presented to infidels, who might consider that it proceeded in a circle".

What becomes, then, of the terrifying giant named Natural Selection, which can never sleep, can never fail to detect an attribute which is, even in the least degree, injurious to its possessors in the struggle for life, and can never fail to punish such an attribute with rigid destruction? Why, just that, like so much else in Darwinism, it is an obvious fairytale, at least as far as our species is concerned.

It would not be difficult to compile another list of ten obvious Darwinian falsities; or another one after that, either. But on that scale, the thing would be tiresome both to read and to write. Anyway it ought not to be necessary: ten obvious Darwinian falsities should be enough to make the point. The point, namely, that if most educated people now think they are Darwinians, it is only because they have no idea of the multiplied absurdities which belief in Darwinism requires.


TOPICS: Chit/Chat
KEYWORDS: crevolist
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 221-225 next last
To: Junior
It doesn't matter whether or not evolution is true, it must be suppressed "for the good of the children."

And so far it is the best argument the evos have against creation. But you all have convinced me that your problem is not with creation, but with a Creator, not with the belief, but with the believers, else you would have simply blown us all away with a demonstration of logic and evidence.

21 posted on 02/08/2003 4:04:23 PM PST by Dataman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Cicero
Not that it will persuade any Darwinists. Nothing will.

Esp not on FR, although at least two have left darwin's plantation.

22 posted on 02/08/2003 4:06:53 PM PST by Dataman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Ethan Clive Osgoode
the love of animals

I must be a Darwinist, 'cause I am a slave to 4 cats. Why else would I put up with a houseful of cat hair, the ever present threat of stepping in a hairball, claw "antiquing" on my walnut windowsills, $2000 vet bills, etc., etc.

23 posted on 02/08/2003 4:34:22 PM PST by HiTech RedNeck (more dangerous than an orangeneck)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Ethan Clive Osgoode
"Most educated people nowadays, I believe, think of themselves as Darwinians."

Refer to the last two articles that this guy wrote, which were posted on this site. He has a knack for beginning his articles with something either false or pointless.

24 posted on 02/08/2003 6:30:07 PM PST by Voice in your head (Nuke Baghdad)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Ethan Clive Osgoode
I Rather Think I Am A Darwinian

Simon Blackburn

When I read the late David Stove’s essay ‘So You think you are a Darwinian?’ in this journal, I supposed that biologists or philosophers of biology would have been quick to respond.[1] But the last eighteen months have shown no sign of this happening. Perhaps people professionally involved with evolutionary theory have better things to do, and in some circumstances silence is indeed the best reaction. But not, I think, on this occasion. Darwin himself spoke wearily of ‘the standard of criticism not uncommonly reached by theologians and metaphysicians when they write on scientific subjects’; by perpetuating that unfortunate standard we do philosophy a great disservice. Stove’s essay is also reprinted in a collection of his works - a collection with accolades by no less than David Lewis and Stephen Stich on the cover.[2] A book-length expansion of his views is now published, although in this paper I shall confine myself to replying to his arguments as they have appeared in this journal.[3] People who do not know better will think that there must be something right in his criticisms. People who do know better may think that philosophy richly deserves its exile to the margins of serious intellectual pursuit. So I hope a very brief comment by a philosopher may do something to restore our tattered dignity.

Stove presents a list of ten Darwinian falsities, and tells us that there are many more. The ten are:

1. The truth is ‘the total prostitution of all animal life, including Man and all his airs and graces, to the blind purposiveness of these minute virus-like substances’, genes. (Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene)

2. '…it is, after all to a mother’s advantage that her child should be adopted’ by another woman. (ibid.)

3. All communication is ‘manipulation of signal-receiver by signal-sender’ (ibid.)

4. Homosexuality in social animals is a form of sibling-altruism: that is, your homosexuality is a way of helping your brothers and sisters to raise more children. (Robert Trivers, Social Evolution)

5. In all social mammals, the altruism (or apparent altruism) of siblings towards one another is about as strong and common as the altruism (or apparent altruism) of parents towards their offspring.

(W. D. Hamilton, The Journal of Theoretical Biology, 1964)

6. … no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but … everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers (or offspring), or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins. (ibid. p. 269)

7. Every organism has as many descendants as it can.

8. In every species child-mortality - that is, the proportion of live births which die before reproductive age - is extremely high.

9. The more privileged people are the more prolific: if one class in a society is less exposed than another to the misery due to food-shortage, disease, and war, then the members of the more fortunate class will have (on the average) more children than the members of the other class.

10. If variations which are useful to their possessors in the struggle for life ‘do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive), that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. (Charles Darwin)’

These ten are billed as central, indispensable and characteristic theses of Darwinism. However, Stove also notices that some of them are only held by some evolutionary biologists. These he calls ‘ultras’, or in other words those who have been most enthusiastic in applying Darwinian explanations to a whole variety of behavioural or other features of people and animals. But although he urges that it is fair to attack a doctrine or approach by attacking its ‘ultras’, this is surely false. For whereas Darwinism claims that some features of living things are adaptations, in a sense we define below, the ‘ultras’ either think that all of them are, or at least that certain favourite (alleged) features of people or animals are. This is not so much an extreme version of Darwinism, as a recipe for misapplication of it. The ultras are also apt to deliver glib interpretations of the significance of Darwinism, and this point becomes important when we return to the first three falsities that Stove presents, all taken from the writings of the ‘ultra’ Richard Dawkins. But rather than go through his ten Darwinian falsities, in his order, I shall start with the worst example, which also serves to introduce the basics.

The sixth of the parade is supposed to come from W. D. Hamilton, whose paper ‘The Genetical Evolution of Social Behaviour’ has been the fountainhead of much modern evolutionary theory.[4] Here again is the quotation Stove uses, in the words he gives:

… no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but … everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers [or offspring], or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins. (p. 269)

Stove scrupulously explains that the italicization is his own, and so is the insert in square brackets. But they are scarcely necessary to justify his own scathing denunciation of Hamilton’s view. It is one of the characteristic Darwinian propositions, Stove tells us, which is obviously false: ‘either a direct falsity about our species or, where the proposition is a general one, obviously false in the case of our species, at least’. The publisher’s advertisement for Stove’s book also claims that Stove has ‘falsified’ the ‘prediction’ that an animal will sacrifice itself for three siblings. And the unwary reader might well think Stove has a point, for the proposition is obviously false about our species, so if Hamilton and Darwinians believe it, they must be badly astray.

But here is the actual quotation from Hamilton:

To express the matter more vividly, in the world of our model organisms, whose behaviour is determined strictly by genotype, we expect to find that no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but that everyone will sacrifice it when he can thereby save more than two brothers, or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins … (p. 16)

By missing out the first twenty-five words, Stove presents a mathematical truth about Hamilton’s model as a contingent falsehood about human beings.

If Stove knew what he had done, then I think he can only be defended in the words Sir Peter Medawar used of Teilhard de Chardin in his famous review in Mind, 1950: ‘its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself’. But if on the other hand he did not see how the omission matters then Stove is in effect committing one of the very fallacies that critics claim lie at the heart of vulgar or ‘pop’ sociobiology, which is that of inferring actual propensities to behaviour and their explanations, from genetic models (other fallacies imputed include that of inferring the existence of a gene ‘for’ any aspect of the phenotype, just because it exists, and that of inferring the identity of kinds of behaviour and of evolutionary history, from superficial analogies across species).

Why does the omission matter so much? Hamilton’s paper was centrally a contribution to population genetics. It was the first formal presentation of the concept of ‘inclusive fitness’: roughly, the extent to which the genetic material of an organism is represented in future generations. Hamilton saw that this measure will sometimes increase if a gene ‘codes for’ self-sacrificial behaviour. In particular, sacrifices of the type described, in a population, such as we are, whose members get half their genetic material from each parent, will actually lead to more of an individual’s genetic material being represented in the next generation than a non-sacrificial alternative. So, under stable evolutionary conditions, if there is a variant of a gene (an allele) that ‘codes for’ such behaviour, then we would expect animals in which it is present to become predominant in a population, compared with those with an allele that does not code for such behaviour. Hamilton went on to apply the model to solve a famous problem for Darwinian theory: how it can be that in species of hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps), sterile workers exist? Why would evolutionary pressures not have weeded them out? The answer is that sterility could have evolved under pressure of selection because, given the particular way genetic material flows through the population, sterility of the worker can actually increase its genetic representation in future generations: the sterile worker ‘farms’ its mother to produce more sisters, to whom it is more closely related than it would be to its own offspring. So from the standpoint of ‘inclusive fitness’ sterility can be adaptive and it would not be weeded out by evolution. This is a possibility theorem, similar, for example, to Haldane’s earlier answer to the question of how the gene for sickle cell anaemia, which is almost always lethal, could persist in human populations. The answer is that although 80% of people with sickle cell anaemia die before reproducing, the condition requires the homozygote (SS), the person having received the S gene from each parent. However, people with the heterozygote (AS) have other advantages over those who are AA, notably resistance to malaria. It is as if there is an urn in which a proportion of balls are S, and a proportion A. Drawings are made two at a time: SS means none go back, AA means one of the two quite fairly often goes back, but AS or SA means that one of the two much more often goes back, and that explains why S persists in the population in the urn. In fact, the S gene is more prominent in precisely those populations that are more at risk from malaria.

Now return to self-sacrifice. Nothing in the theory so far predicts that we, or any other species should behave self-sacrificially in just the way Haldane and Hamilton described. Why not? Obviously, one reason alone suffices: the naturalized epistemology is too demanding. That is, it is obviously extremely hard to recognize the degrees of relatedness that Hamilton describes, and to adjust any behaviour efficiently to reflect them accurately (especially remembering the smaller fractions involved as degrees of relatedness decrease). A likely economical solution might be an approximation or kludge: sacrifice yourself more readily for animals that look like your parents or that smell familiar, for example. Or even: don’t sacrifice yourself at all under any circumstances. But furthermore, we don’t know the costs that would attach to having behaviour determined by any more accurate device. In some circumstances, obviously, there would be costs in terms of interference with other interesting and potentially adaptive mechanisms such as that of reciprocal altruism regardless of kin.

But quite apart from this, nothing in Darwinian theory allows you to say that because some pattern of behaviour would increase the amount of some type of genetic material in future generations, therefore it will exist. It does not as it were allow you to say that whatever is right, is. Nor does it allow you to say that because some trait exists, therefore it is an adaptation, so that whatever is, is right. Darwin himself was not a Panglossian: he thought that natural selection is 'insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life’. But he did not think that opportunity is always offered (in fact, he specifically discusses circumstances favourable or unfavourable to the operation of natural selection, in chapter 4 of the Origin). He also thought that natural selection is but one agent of change, and one factor responsible for the features of species and their members at any time.

Why does opportunity not always offer? Genes flow through populations through time, their numbers in any generation varying with many factors, but centrally with the reproductive success of organisms that possess them. This means is that if the difference between the presence of one allele at a locus and the presence of another allele, causes a difference in the properties of the organism carrying the gene, and if that difference causes superior reproductive success of the organism, then the frequency of the occurrence of the one allele will rise compared to that of the other. If this is what explains the presence of the phenotypical difference, then the property is called an adaptation. This is just definition and mathematics. The empirical and testable question whether a particular trait is in fact an adaptation. So the first reason why opportunity does not always offer is that it is history and chance that determine whether one allele and another exist, and get into the competitive situation in which natural selection can operate in the first place. All this is standard theory. Even the ‘ultra’ Dawkins, for instance, offers a list of six ‘constraints on perfection’, and discusses still others. The six are: time lags (animals are often out of date); the biological patchwork apt to be generated by historical constraints, or in other words the fact that evolution has to work by degrees on what is already present; the available genetic variation that exists for evolutionary pressure to work upon; constraints of costs and materials, imperfections at one level arising because of adaptations at another; and finally the existence of ‘malevolence’ in the environment: perfection in the python is death for the monkey.[5] Interestingly, Darwin was well aware of the general nature of these constraints, and himself suggested the principle of ‘functional change in structural continuity’ to explain the evolution of incipient forms of structures that only gain their present use later.

Hamilton’s result certainly led to the search for kin-related sacrificial and altruistic behaviour in nature. It also led to various incautious claims that the phenotypical trait, here a propensity to adjust behaviour to degrees of relationship, is found in various human contexts, although the anthropological consensus is that this is not so (typically social kinship matters to us more than blood ties, although of course they may coincide). It led to the search for other traits that might, if they are the expression of a genetic variation, be likely to stabilize or increase in a population not because of direct reproductive success, but only through factoring in Hamilton’s indirect effects, or ‘inclusive fitness’: patterns of fighting, warning, mating, caring, adoption, infanticide, and so on.

Where does this leave Stove? He certainly finds a familiar target in his first quotation from Richard Dawkins, for nothing in evolutionary biology supports the image of ourselves as blind, or unable to pursue our own purposes, nor do they justify the rhetoric of us as prostituted to other, hidden purposes, possessed by ‘virus-like substances’ within us. Stove is perfectly within his rights to join many commentators in finding Dawkins’s language completely inappropriate. Of course, Dawkins knows and often says that genes have no brains, and hence no purposes and no self-interest. His problem is that he wants to say this, but at the same time to promote an interpretation of the biological facts that is actually inconsistent with it (but formed the core of his populist appeal). Thus he believes that our only hope in moral and political affairs to 'defy the selfish genes of our birth’ and ‘rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators’; had Stove confined himself to pointing out that nothing in the literal science gives any license to us to think that we do, or could do, or need to do, any such thing, then he might have performed a useful service.[6] What he should not do is read the unhappy rhetoric back into the doctrines of evolutionary biology. Dawkins’s peculiar vision of us as mere vehicles for purposive genes is of his own making. It is not a tenet of Darwinism. But Stove is not within his rights to ignore Dawkins’s technical use of terminology, as Dawkins pointed out in his rebuke to Mary Midgley in this journal a long time ago, and it is this that is at work in the second and third thesis.[7]

Hamilton’s result led to work, such as that of R. Trivers that Stove goes on to cite, suggesting the we do find direct expression of ‘inclusive fitness’ in patterns of behaviour.[8] The idea is that there are patterns of behaviour that can be interpreted as illustrating an unconscious calculus of genetic flow. Trivers speculates that the rate of homosexuality in populations is one such. Now although Trivers’s work is relatively unguarded it is not to be criticized as expressing outright psychological falsity. Trivers does not suppose, as Stove implies (p. 269) that homosexuals are ‘really’ saying to themselves: ‘let me promote the reproductive success of my relations. How can I do that best? I know, I shall opt out of the reproductive race, by coupling only with others of my own sex.' Sure enough, if this were homosexual psychology, then presumably gays would spend less time cruising and more time nurturing siblings, nieces and nephews (and in fact, could perhaps do better for their genes by just confining themselves to these laudable activities, and giving up sex altogether). But one of the points of Trivers’s work is to show that a pattern of behaviour can exist without an organism planning, or even having the capacity to plan, in terms of it (in fact, the relevant example in his book Social Evolution is lesbianism amongst gulls).[9] All the homosexuals are doing is finding members of the same sex attractive. But the theorist asks: why they are doing this? And how is it possible that a gene for doing it (if it is an adaptation) should survive, when it is obviously harmful to direct reproductive success? The answer might, in principle be given by the Hamiltonian calculation, just like the sterility of worker bees or ants. But it might not be: the explanation is speculative, and faces all the obstacles I have mentioned, and perhaps more.

A theory such as this is speculative because we have to know the heritability and the plasticity of human patterns of behaviour before even beginning to theorize about which features of it are adaptations, in the sense given above. To take the classic example: if we lived only in an English speaking environment, and observed the remarkable rapidity with which infants learn English, we might conclude that there is a ‘gene for’ speaking English. We would clearly have been misled; at best there might be a gene for learning whichever language is spoken by those around us. Perhaps the threat of ‘genetic determinism’ is less troublesome once we realize that in many respects we may only be determined to be flexible. There are certainly genetic, heritable, instructions for growing proteins, and hence for growing the general-purpose cognitive and emotional engine called the brain. Equally certainly the brain imposes some limits: limits on what we can see or hear, or the size of our long or short term memories, for example, just as gravity puts limits on the size we can grow, or the distance we can fly. But more interesting behaviour is a different matter. Psychologically and culturally the empirical evidence shows massive flexibility within whatever limits there are, just as it shows it linguistically. A priori then, homosexuality in humans is at least as likely to be a consequence of various social and cultural factors as any kind of adaptation.[10]

This kind of defence may seem too good to be true, and it may be appropriate here to make one remark about the question of whether Darwinism is an empirical, testable scientific theory, or whether it deflates into the tautology that survivors survive. The correct response is that these are not the only alternatives. Darwinism is better seen as a framework within which the right questions can be asked. It does not itself tell us which phenotypical properties are adaptations. But it does imply that some are, and the empirical work comes in discovering which ones these are. It is applying the genetic model in any particular way that leads to falsifiable empirical science, and there are many classic studies showing how it can be done.[11]

Stove’s main further point (supposed to refute all but the final one of the ten falsities) is that human beings obviously do not reproduce as prolifically as they can. This is certainly true, and the anthropological evidence is that cultural norms show great flexibility and variation in what counts as an ‘appropriate’ pattern of childbearing. So, says Stove, the human being falsifies a central plank of Darwin’s theory, which is that ‘every organism has as many descendants as it can’. Stove says roundly: ‘there can clearly be no question of Darwinism making an exception of man, without openly contradicting itself’ (p. 271).

Unfortunately it is simply untrue that Darwinism implies that every organism has as many descendants as it can, in the sense Stove intends, in which it means bears or begets as many children as is biologically possible for it to do (Stove must mean this, or the subsequent calculations of mortality rates become irrelevant). A kind of organism that did breed to its biological limit could easily be selected against: most obviously if all its many offspring promptly starved, where fewer would have survived. This is why Stove’s gloss is not at all equivalent to the quotation from Darwin that he actually gives, which talks of the striving (tendency would have been better) to maximize numbers, something which can sometimes best be done by restraint in child-bearing.

To understand this situation let us suppose a constant environment in which the number of human beings cannot grow significantly beyond its present level. Suppose the population is one of Trimmers, who find it less costly, more healthy, to restrain their rate of reproduction to roughly two children per couple, and the status quo is thereby maintained. Suppose the population now is invaded by a number of Breeders, who devote a great deal of energy to breeding up to their biological limit of ten or fifteen children per female. Suppose that a propensity to breed or to trim is controlled by a single gene. Would we expect the Breeders to displace the Trimmers? Not at all. We know that in the end, the actual number in the population remains the same: this is Malthus’s grim truth. So the question is going to be: who is dying? The environment is one in which two people can be replaced by two people. Breeders are trying to rear ten or fifteen. Their children are less likely to get fed properly, are therefore weaker, more prone to disease, and are less able to survive. Perhaps the parental investment in breeding leads to less investment in upbringing, so that breeders are not intelligent or strong, and therefore fail to be sexually selected by the healthiest partners. Perhaps Trimmers find the reversion to Malthusian controls on population sufficiently abhorrent to mount other strategies against the Breeders, and so on. In fact, in biological theory, producing a small number of intensively cared-for offspring leads to one kind of selection (K-selection); it is distinguished at least by degree, from producing the largest possible number of offspring (r-selection). Birds produce few eggs, and care for them intensively; fish produce huge numbers of eggs, and don’t care for them at all. We are like birds, but whereas they have presumably no control over the mechanisms that regulate the size of their clutch, we do.

Again Stove might more reasonably have applied the fact that many human beings don’t care to reproduce to Dawkins rather than Darwin. That is, a good way of ridding oneself of his image of us as robots under the control of our purposive genes is to reflect that the goal of reproducing at all, let alone reproducing prolifically, is one that many people simply do not have. Nor need there be any huge psychological cost, as if such people were constantly fighting a strong innate urge to reproduce, forced on them by the swarming armies of purposive genes inside them. But when thinking about Darwin himself, we must remember that, quite apart from its description in the Origin of Species (e.g. in chapter 4), parts two and three of The Descent of Man, that is, two thirds of the entire book (and it is not short), concern sexual selection in animals and human beings. Darwin considered sexual selection (the differential preference of members of one sex for members of the other) as a major agent of evolutionary change through time, comparable to human breeding of domesticated animals. A bird, for instance, refrains from mating with another bird who is not preferred; Darwin describes in chapter 14, and returns later to, the vivid case of several peahens who, ‘when debarred from an admired male, remained widows during a whole season rather than pair with another bird’ (chapter 21). But by exercising sexual selection an animal refrains from the indiscriminate urge to reproduce whenever biologically possible. So Stove is in the extraordinary position of holding that Darwin’s most discussed agent of evolutionary change is in fact inconsistent with a central, indispensable tenet of the theory.

Because he misinterprets Darwin, Stove’s calculations of infant mortality rates in a stable population in which people do reproduce as often as they can, are quite beside the point (pp. 271-272). Of course all human societies take steps to control their fertility, by late marriages, long periods of suckling, restraints on permissible periods of intercourse, and so on, just as in birds there are mechanisms that regulate the size of clutches of eggs. There is no ‘theorem’ of Darwinian biology that if a variation appears that has larger clutches it will oust the others: it all depends on what happens next.

As for Stove’s last thrust, in which he finds Darwinism inconsistent with the existence of injurious attributes in animals, it simply depends on taking a rhetorical passage of Darwin’s for a non-negotiable literal tenet of the science (p. 275). Darwin knew that we get diseases, just as he knew that we have parasites, and eventually die. Injurious traits such as alcoholism and aneurism are not inevitably weeded out, any more than things which are more clearly under genetic control, such as sterility or susceptibility to malaria are weeded out, and, ironically, it is work such as Hamilton’s or Haldane’s that explains why. The single example above, of the persistence of a gene for the horrible disease of sickle cell anaemia should be enough to show why evolutionary biology is committed to no such optimism. How could it possibly be? As we have already said, typically a success in one organism is a difficulty for another.

To anticipate misunderstandings, I should repeat that none of this is any kind of defence of any of the interpretations, or misinterpretations of Darwinian theory that go under the banners of sociobiology, or evolutionary psychology. On the contrary, the point about the evolution of a flexible, multi-purpose brain is precisely intended to unsettle any crude inference from human phenotype (as discovered, for instance, in the tendencies of some human population at some time) back to genetic determination, or from genetic model to actual behaviour. The sociobiologists or ‘ultras’ may sometimes commit these fallacies (perhaps the second underlies falsity number five, which I have not attempted to defend). But we simply share it with them if we fail to distinguish their misinterpretations of Darwin’s legacy from the legacy itself. In his paper Stove chose not to attack the perversions of Darwinian theory, but the theory itself. I believe philosophers need to understand that his weapons were hopelessly ill-adapted to doing this.[12]
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

1 D. C. Stove, `So You Think You are a Darwinian?’ Philosophy 69, 1994, 267—277. This is the not the first of Stove’s appearances in this journal on the subject: see also ‘A New Religion’ Philosophy 67, 1992, 233-240.
2 Cricket versus Republicanism (Sydney: Quakers Hill Press, 1995).
3 Darwinian Fairytales (Aldershot: Avebury Books, 1996).
4 W. D. Hamilton, 'The Genetical Evolution of Social Behaviour’, The Journal of Theoretical Biology VII ,1964, 1-52.
5 R. Dawkins, The Extended Phenotype, (Oxford University Press 1982), ch 3.
6 R. Dawkins The Selfish Gene (Oxford University Press, 1976). The quotations are from pp. 200-201 of the 1989 edition. See also p. 332. That Dawkins is in a muddle is evident from the assertion that ‘we, that is our brains, are separate and independent enough from our genes to rebel against them’: a remarkable feat, one would have thought. We don’t rebel against our brains by using them. Of course we can think up a sense in which it might be true: we 'rebel’ against our genetically coded height, for example, every time we climb a ladder. But in this sense it is not true that we ‘alone on earth’ rebel against our genes. A bear sheltering in a cave is rebelling against its genetically coded tendency to freeze in bad weather, in just the same sense. Like many others, Dawkins was trying, but failing, to derive some sweeping human or philosophical interest from the biology and of course it was the belief that he had done that which gave the book, interesting as it is in its literal science, its wider reputation. This is also why there is something a little disingenuous in simply sheltering behind the claim that words like 'selfish’ or ‘advantage’, or ‘purpose’ or 'manipulate’ are being used in a technical sense. If I write and profit from a book on popular biology which I call, say, The Nazi Within, it is a little cheeky of me to say that I was simply using the term ‘Nazi’ in a technical sense in which it means ‘bit of chemical that replicates itself over time’. This is, I think, the real point buried in Midgley’s paper (p. 448) that Dawkins failed to answer.
7 R. Dawkins ‘In Defence of Selfish Genes’, Philosophy 56, 1981, 556-573; M. Midgley, ‘Gene Juggling’, Philosophy 54, 1979, 439-458. The second and third of Stove’s list of Darwinian falsehoods depend upon misreading technical uses of terms 'advantage’ and 'manipulation’ as they are used in Dawkins’s writings. But see also the previous note.
8 R. L. Trivers, ‘The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism’. Quarterly Review of Biology, 46, 35-37.
9 R. L. Trivers, Social Evolution (California: Benjamin/Cummings, 1985) , 198-200.
10 The superficiality of the genetic story is scathingly criticized in Not in Our Genes, Steven Rose, Leon Kamin, and R. Lewontin, (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1984), 260-261.
11 H. Kettlewell, The Evolution of Melanism (Oxford University Press, 1973) is one of the most revered. One wonders what Stove’s explanation of the relative frequency of black and speckled moths in town and country would be.
12 I would like to thank James Maclaurin and David Braddon-Mitchell for helpful conversation and biological information.

25 posted on 02/08/2003 6:47:29 PM PST by general_re (ABSURDITY, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: general_re
Why doesn't your author stop holding back and tell us what he really thinks of Stove's work?


26 posted on 02/08/2003 7:05:21 PM PST by longshadow
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: longshadow
I think if you read between the lines, he's subtly hinting that he's not impressed ;)
27 posted on 02/08/2003 7:42:47 PM PST by general_re (ABSURDITY, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: balrog666
In my experience, "Darwinian" or "Darwinist" as a term, exists only in the vocabulary of anti-evolution Creationists.

Whatever. It seems to me that it says a lot about evolutionists if they are so quick to dismiss and bury the founder of their theory. But hey, who am I to say, after all, I am not an evolutionist.

28 posted on 02/09/2003 7:10:22 PM PST by gore3000
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Junior
It's the old "argument from consequences."

Seems to me that is the very argument that the evolutionists make. For after all what is 'natural selection' other than an argument from consequences? That is the central argument of evolution. Therefore, so if you want to defend your atheist theory, it seems to me that you need to take his argument seriously instead of dismiss it with rhetorical nonsense.

29 posted on 02/09/2003 7:13:41 PM PST by gore3000
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: jlogajan
Oh slay he the mighty strawman!

It seems that evolutionists always say that refutaions of their theory have nothing to do with evolution. However, they always seem to turn around the next day and use the very same arguments that have been refuted the very next day.

How is this article a strawman argument? What does it say that is not true about evolution? Have you anything to say besides what is essentially a rhetorical dismissal of the article or would you care to give some evidence that it is incorrect?

30 posted on 02/09/2003 7:18:19 PM PST by gore3000
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: TightSqueeze
This whole article stinks, reminds me of the "Who Wrote This, Ted Kazinsky(sp?) Or Al Gore" article, pompous straw man BS.

Well actually, Ted Kazinsky (sp?) had Al Gore's book in his hut (or whatever you wish to call it) and it was thoroughly underlined. So your statement is absolutely false and shows you to be a Clintonian disinformationist.

31 posted on 02/09/2003 7:21:20 PM PST by gore3000
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: and the horse you rode in on
The fact that some Darwinians believe some or all of these things has nothing to do with whether or not anyone else has to believe any of them to be a Darwinian.

Well, that may be true, however, the above only shows the truth of the statement by one of the greatest intellectuals on FR - "evolution is whatever lie you want it to be" by f.christian.

32 posted on 02/09/2003 7:24:09 PM PST by gore3000
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: gore3000
It seems to me that it says a lot about evolutionists if they are so quick to dismiss and bury the founder of their theory.

I reserve a fair portion of my contempt for idiots who do the whole personality cult thing. Darwin isn't a religious icon, he was just a dude with some ideas. You could even say the same about Jesus or Newton or Galileo. The point being that the message is important, not the messenger. If you fixate on the messenger, you've likely missed the message.

The creationist camp seems far more prone to putting people on pedestals, and assuming that everyone else does as well, though it certainly isn't restricted to that crowd. Since this is essentially a fallacious premise, I don't see anything wrong with evolutionists or anyone else dismissing Darwin as being relevant to the issue. If your point doesn't hold after you've dismissed your figureheads and sacred cows, you didn't have much of a point to begin with.

33 posted on 02/09/2003 7:25:18 PM PST by tortoise
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: Ethan Clive Osgoode
Evolution is an immensely powerful creative process. From the intricate biochemistry of individual cells to the elaborate structure of the human brain, it has produced wonders of unimaginable complexity. Evolution achieves these feats with a few simple processes--mutation, sexual recombination and natural selection--which it iterates for many generations.

Now computer programmers are harnessing software versions of these same processes to achieve machine intelligence. Called genetic programming, this technique has designed computer programs and electronic circuits that perform specified functions.

In the field of electronics, genetic programming has duplicated 15 previously patented inventions, including several that were hailed as seminal in their respective fields when they were first announced. Six of these 15 existing inventions were patented after January 2000 by major research institutions, which indicates that they represent current frontiers of research in domains of scientific and practical importance.

Some of the automatically produced inventions infringe squarely on the exact claims of the previously patented inventions. Others represent new inventions by duplicating the functionality of the earlier device in a novel way. One of these inventions is a clear improvement over its predecessor. Genetic programming has also classified protein sequences and produced human-competitive results in a variety of areas, such as the design of antennas, mathematical algorithms and general-purpose controllers. We have recently filed for a patent for a genetically evolved general-purpose controller that is superior to mathematically derived controllers commonly used in industry. ...continued at the Scientific American Digital

source at
34 posted on 02/09/2003 7:30:01 PM PST by js1138
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
"Not going to waste much time here" placemarker.

Yup, I am sure you will not. There is nothing to bash, no Christianity to insult and since it is true, there is nothing to refute. Better let the thread die eh? Like the leftist media, when you cannot bash the opposition you just try to make sure it does not get a hearing.

35 posted on 02/09/2003 7:31:07 PM PST by gore3000
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: tortoise
check this out from scientific american.
36 posted on 02/09/2003 7:31:43 PM PST by js1138
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 33 | View Replies]

To: gore3000
You have only a few years left to ignore such things as genetic programming. Just for the record, it answers the question of where the "information" comes from. It does not need to come from precognition of cause and effect. mutation and selection are sufficient.
37 posted on 02/09/2003 7:38:18 PM PST by js1138
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 35 | View Replies]

To: general_re
When I read the late David Stove’s essay ‘So You think you are a Darwinian?’ in this journal, I supposed that biologists or philosophers of biology would have been quick to respond.[1] But the last eighteen months have shown no sign of this happening.

Has it occurred to you (or the author of the above) that perhaps the reason for the lack of response is that what the article says is true?

… no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but … everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers [or offspring], or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins.

Well, regardless of the semantic argument about numbers, the point is that an organism is 'hard coded' genetically or however, to do what is good 'for the species'. This is obviously false as the many examples of criminals, sociopaths, and Clintonites show quite well. Their morals are quite explicitly 'if you do not get caught, it's okay.

Dawkins’s peculiar vision of us as mere vehicles for purposive genes is of his own making. It is not a tenet of Darwinism.

Stove must be saying something right when your 'refutation" of Stove needs to bash the prime living Neo-Darwinist in an attempt to refute him. If Dawkins is an idiot (as your author and I agree) then we certainly must throw away all his excuses for evolution out the window must we not??????

38 posted on 02/09/2003 7:48:11 PM PST by gore3000
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: tortoise
It seems to me that it says a lot about evolutionists if they are so quick to dismiss and bury the founder of their theory.-me-

I reserve a fair portion of my contempt for idiots who do the whole personality cult thing.

Well, humans are human and hence not perfect, so we can agree on that. However, it seems to me that when in order to defend the theory of evolution you have to attack the founder, the originator, the person who laid the basis for the whole theory and who set its parameters, then I think that maybe, perhaps, it can be argued that it is the theory that is the problem and not the originator? I mean, how can the person who started the theroy by absolutely wrong in the details of the theory and the theory still be correct???????????

39 posted on 02/09/2003 7:53:28 PM PST by gore3000
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 33 | View Replies]

To: js1138
For better or worse, genetic programming and other evolutionary systems have limited application in making interesting things happen on standard computers. The problem is that you have to severely constrain the domain or your application will wonder off and do things that have no application to the problem you are actually trying to solve. To make matters worse, standard computational models don't do nearly as well as biological or non-biological chemical systems in being even remotely scalable enough for interesting evolution in a relatively unconstrained domain. The net result is that you can do interesting evolutionary work in chemical systems but not on computer systems, so lacking practical chemical computers genetic programming has been shelved for the most part. In other words, an engineering problem.
40 posted on 02/09/2003 8:01:10 PM PST by tortoise
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 34 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 221-225 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson