‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Will scientists and creationists spoil Darwin's big day?

The Sunday Times has an interesting article about the forthcoming Darwin Day celebrations, taking a thoughtful angle compared to some of the Darwin hysteria seen in some of the programming from the BBC For God’s sake, have Charles Darwin’s theories made any difference to our lives? - It is the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth but creationists and scientists alike may spoil the party

A number of interesting points come out of this article by Bryan Appleyard. Dr James Le Fanu has a new book out Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves. Le Fanu is a journalist and a medical doctor and is reported in the Sunday Times as saying that "new biological discoveries have overthrown Darwin. The old man is “screwed”, he says gruffly."

The article continues to quote Le Fanu's view; "Perhaps most startling is the discovery from the deciphering of the human genome that we have only between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. We were previously thought to have 100,000. A mere 25,000 doesn’t seem to be enough to sustain our vast complexity and yet genes are supposed to be the heavy lifters of the Darwinian enterprise. “I wouldn’t get out of bed for 25,000 genes,” says Le Fanu, “and we don’t find form in the genome. We share most of our DNA with chimpanzees, but nowhere in the genome have we found what it is that makes us so different from chimps.”

Appleyard comments that Le Fanu considers that Darwin is directly implicated in a contemporary cultural malaise: “He changed the world fundamentally. Along with those now fallen idols Marx and Freud, he accounts for the secularisation of western society. Darwinism is the foundational theory of all atheistic, scientific and materialist doctrines and of the notion that everything is ultimately explicable and that there is nothing special about it – the self-denigration and self-hatred, the great ‘nothing but’ story.”

Appleyard further comments on the division in modern biology as a result of the complexity now observed. "Even among Darwinists, this unexpected complexity has produced confusion and rancour, not least in the deep disagreements between Dawkins and the late American evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould." and "The division remains, deep and unresolved. And beyond that, there are even some scientists who think Darwinism is, in effect, a sideshow. In their book Form and Transformation, Brian Goodwin, a developmental biologist, and Gerry Webster, a philosopher, argue that it is in the mathematics of complex systems that we shall find the real solution to the problem of life. The theory of evolution provides “only limited insight”; what matters is the dance of possible forms within nature."

The article goes on to comment that "Almost from its first appearance, the Darwinian idea has been used to justify appalling behaviour." Citing the writing of Herbert Spencer and the influence that Darwinism had on Hitler, Appleyard finishes by commenting that although Darwinism might be an 'amazing story' no one knows what it really means for humanity.
Andrew Sibley

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