A Non-religious Critique of Darwinism

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Nikolai
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A Non-religious Critique of Darwinism

Post by Nikolai » Tue Mar 25, 2008 3:16 pm

Darwin's theory of evolution is the touchstone to understanding life on earth, including human life. From botany through anthroplogy to cognitive psychology, Darwinism is the explanatory framework employed by the life sciences.

But should we accept evolution as a truth as to what has been happening all these years. Or should we, as philosophers, ensure that the pitfalls of accepting Darwinism are not ignored.

Much criticism of Darwinism comes from the religious, often because it contradicts truths spelled out in scripture.

But rather than re-vist the religious objections of Darwinism, I think it would be interesting to think of the philosophical ones. Comments welcome ( and no this is not for an RE essay at school, I'm way too old)

Nikolai

tbieter
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Re: A Non-religious Critique of Darwinism

Post by tbieter » Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:18 pm

Hi Nikolai,

While I think that your invitation is meritorious and I expect to learn much from the discussion, I must ask why do you rule out argument from theology? Isn't this constraint on the discussion unphilosophical?

Tom
Nikolai wrote:Darwin's theory of evolution is the touchstone to understanding life on earth, including human life. From botany through anthroplogy to cognitive psychology, Darwinism is the explanatory framework employed by the life sciences.

But should we accept evolution as a truth as to what has been happening all these years. Or should we, as philosophers, ensure that the pitfalls of accepting Darwinism are not ignored.

Much criticism of Darwinism comes from the religious, often because it contradicts truths spelled out in scripture.

But rather than re-vist the religious objections of Darwinism, I think it would be interesting to think of the philosophical ones. Comments welcome ( and no this is not for an RE essay at school, I'm way too old)

Nikolai

Nikolai
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Post by Nikolai » Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:28 pm

Good point, and I guess I'm happy to include theology. Its just that 'creationist' objections are well known to me and I would be interested to hear other objections.

Despite being a social scientist who has imbibed Darwinism throughout my education/teaching I am aware that Darwnism pre-supposes positions on matter and time that are extravagantly metaphysical. Its just that I don't have any way of absorbing the face validity of evolution into any other philosophy

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Post by tbieter » Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:44 pm

I, too, am interested in non-theological objections or criticisms of evolution.
Nikolai wrote:Good point, and I guess I'm happy to include theology. Its just that 'creationist' objections are well known to me and I would be interested to hear other objections.

Despite being a social scientist who has imbibed Darwinism throughout my education/teaching I am aware that Darwnism pre-supposes positions on matter and time that are extravagantly metaphysical. Its just that I don't have any way of absorbing the face validity of evolution into any other philosophy

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Post by Nikolai » Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:53 pm

Philosophically speaking, I tend to take kant and Schopenahuer as my starting point. They would say that tensed time is a human construction and cannot explain the world as it really is. Part of their reasoning for this is that it makes no sense for time to be linear, for how, or by whose bidding coudl it possibly begin.

But the theory of evolution, along with any of the 'paleo' disciplines seem to offer a wealth of material evidence that time is linear.

How could we possibly explain something like a dinosaur bone, without the notion that it belonged to a time prior to our own. Darwinism is the same, how evolution be a valid theory without a pre-suppositon of linear time?

This is a classic lesson of how hard it is to think outside of the intellectual prejudices of our age. Yet too many philosophers take evolution as an unexamined 'given', and don't even consider alternatives.

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Rortabend
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Post by Rortabend » Wed Mar 26, 2008 12:20 pm

I like the idea behind this thread but I'm afraid all of the 'non-theological' objections to evolutionary theory have already been co-opted by the creationist lobby. They have become theological objections through this association.

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Post by mickthinks » Wed Mar 26, 2008 2:38 pm

They have become theological objections through this association.
I don't think this is possible. An objection which stands up without theology doesn't become theological just because someone has used it for theist purposes. If you know of any non-theological objections to Darwinism, I'm hoping you will share them.

Mick

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Rortabend
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Post by Rortabend » Wed Mar 26, 2008 3:33 pm

Sorry mick, I was being a bit sloppy there. What I mean is that you will find all the philosophical, scientific and theological objections in any half-decent creationist critique of evolutionary theory. Of course, you are right that this doesn't make such objections necessarily theological, rather that they serve theological purposes.

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Post by mickthinks » Wed Mar 26, 2008 3:56 pm

Thanks Rortabend. The point is that, even if they have been commandeered by the creationists, such non-theological objections would be of interest to me as well as Nikolai, but so far no one has produced any.

Nikolai has hinted that, were one to renounce linear time as a fiction, then one might have to jetison evolutionary theory as well, but this is hardly an objection for those of us who haven't yet discounted the linearity of time.

... it makes no sense for time to be linear, for how, or by whose bidding could it possibly begin.
There's a tension here certainly, but I think it is plausibly resolved by observing that 'beginning' is also a thought construction, and the thing most unsuited to its application is time itself.

Mick

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Post by Rortabend » Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:10 pm

There is a line of argument in Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box that complex cellular components like mitochondria could not have evolved by natural selection. It's basically a cellular version of the argument that says that eyes could not have evolved by natural selection.

It has been roundly trashed by other scientists and philosophers, mainly because it involves a lot of unsubstantiated claims about probabilities. This is a non-theological objection put forward by a real scientist. Unfortunately, he's also a creationist!

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Post by mickthinks » Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:26 pm

Ah, I see your point!

My problem with calling this 'an objection' is that that seems to be based on a misconception that Darwinian evolution as laid out in The Origin of Species must explain everything we observe in the living world. That something isn't Darwinian evolution is not an objection to Darwinian evolution, anymore than observing that solar eclipses aren't Brownian motion is an objection to Brownian motion.

Mick
Last edited by mickthinks on Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Nikolai
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Post by Nikolai » Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:28 pm

But it does remind us a further vastly extravagant metaphysical assumption of Darwinism, and that is that life suddenly emerged from the primeval soup.

The difference between a sugar complex like glucose and a sugar complex like DNA is of absolutely huge significance. DNA is animate - it divides and replicates itself. How did the inert matter of the cosmos suddenly develop this capacity? Darwinism says nothing of this capacity to replicate, and many self-respecting scientists reject the notion of such a vitalism.

For us to adequately understand life we would have to have certain capacities wih regard to it. For example, we should be able to perform some 'action' upon a dead body that we would revive it. If we possessed such a technology then I think we would be in a position to propose how self-replicating molecules developed out of inert molecules.

Mick,

Going back to time, I might be being very naive, and I admit that time is not a philosophical topic I've dwelt much upon, but if time is linear then how could it be beginningless. Also, if 'beginning' is a construction then does that mean that linearity is a construction as well?

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Post by Rortabend » Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:30 pm

I think evolutionary theory has to explain the evolution of cellular components just as much as it has to explain the evolution of more obvious phenotypic traits (like a giraffe's neck). So it does count as an objection in my view, albeit not a very good one.

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Post by mickthinks » Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:31 pm

... a further vastly extravagant metaphysical assumption of Darwinism, and that is that life suddenly emerged from the primeval soup.

Ah, but I don't think such an assumption is a part of Darwinism. I think it is very important not to introduce straw men into such a controversial and potentially emotive debate.

Mick

Nikolai
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Post by Nikolai » Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:35 pm

Perhaps not Darwinism as in all that Darwin the man suggested, and perhaps not soup per se.

But it is surely implicit within any theory of evolution that there must be some kind of primordial organism(s) from which everything evolved and developed. I I could be contradicted on this point then I am already making gains in the philosophy of the subject!

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