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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dismembering Evolution: Part 1 Darwin, Scientist or Philosopher?

I want to begin this series by talking about one of the most brilliant men, one the greatest thinkers in all of human history. I want to begin by talking about Aristotle.

For those who do not already know, Aristotle was the result of two generations of great minds being taught by other great minds. Socrates’ greatest student was Plato. Plato’s greatest student was Aristotle. As a side note, Aristotle’s greatest student was Alexander the Great himself. All of these men have shaped the world; have influenced mankind to this day. Aristotle though, he held sway over the thoughts and beliefs of humanity in a way rarely matched, and even more rarely exceeded in all of human history.

Allow me to explain.

Aristotle was both a moral, and a natural philosopher. His moral philosophy, however, while his greatest feat of his day, pales in comparison to his natural philosophy for influence throughout history. His moral philosophy was adopted in full by Alexander the Great, and ceased to be the ruling philosophy of civilized Europe with the eventual rise of Christianity, but his natural philosophy shaped the sciences for about 1,500 years.

Aristotle proposed that the most perfect of all shapes was the sphere. His reasons have filled entire treatises and I will not go into them here. As such, he reasoned that the entire universe must be comprised of ever widening spheres reaching out into infinity with Earth, this most perfect of worlds, at its very center.

This idea was not only adopted in Aristotle’s day, but remained the only accepted view of the universe until Galileo eventually proved him wrong at great personal risk and persecution.

So how did he come to this conclusion?

Aristotle, like most philosophers, looked to the natural world for answers to the deep mysteries of the universe, much the way scientists do to this day, only without the benefit of structured experimentation. Observation, he believed, would provide the clues that, once reasoned out, would provide the answers being sought. So what did he observe?

Aristotle observed the movement of the heavens from a geocentric point of view. He saw the sun, the moon, and the stars all rise in the east and set in the west every day without fail. He observed the perfection of the sphere, and the remarkable perfect beauty of the natural world. Form these observations he drew an important conclusion.

The Earth is the center of the universe, and the sun and the moon and the stars all rotate around it in perfect circles along their designated astral spheres.

Ridiculous? To our scientifically enlightened minds, of course! However, without the benefit of the information we have today it was the only logical conclusion that most people could possibly conceive of, and it was latched onto and not let go by any willing means.

This was natural philosophy at its finest. Raw observation of nature, combined with reasoning to draw conclusions about the world and the universe. Unfortunately, the observations were never truly tested for over a millennia.

So what happened in the intervening 1,500 or so years?

This philosophy was initially accepted as the only reasonable norm. then the scientific method was developed and mathematics advanced, and the answer of the Earth being the center of a geocentric universe arranged in perfect spheres needed to be proven through science and math, and for several hundred years both science and math “proved” this to be true.

Huh?

As is human nature, the majority of men who tested this theory were out to prove what they already believed to be true. Those who did otherwise, well . . . they were generally killed, and their efforts were summarily tossed out as discredited, disproved, and even heretical. In hindsight, we now know that these divergent thinkers were more right tan wrong, but at the time what they said was so outrageous it could not possibly be true.

Ptolemy was a great mathematician and astronomer who is most known for being the one who was supposed to have settled the issue of how the geocentric universe works once and for all. He began with some comparatively simple math derived from his observations that predicted the movement of astral bodies more perfectly than ever before. It took years, but the predictions based on his math came to grow more and more unreliable, so he reworked the math into a massively complex beast that ultimately solved most of the problems his initial calculations had. His model was so effective that it was considered the final scientific and mathematic proof that was needed to place the Earth squarely at the center of all creation.

Unfortunately, even these calculations eventually became less accurate predictors, and new answers were again sought.

In brief, there was a series of discoveries that ultimately led to Galileo proving once and for all that the Earth is NOT the center of the universe, and our knowledge has only grown from there.

So, how does this relate to evolution?

Like Aristotle, Darwin possessed a great analytical mind. He was truly a mental giant, and no sensible person would say otherwise. Also, like Aristotle, Darwin was a student of the natural world, observing the world and reasoning based on his observations. And, like Aristotle, Darwin never put his greatest concepts through the rigors of the scientific method.

Upon reading The Origin of the Species, one cannot help but be impressed by the genius, the sheer eloquence of it. Darwin managed to take his observations of the world ranging from geology to biology and put them together in a highly reasoned out fashion to create one of the greatest theories of all time: Evolution.

His logic, based on his observations is unimpeachable, but was also completely untested. Exactly like Aristotle’s theory of a geocentric universe. Also, like Aristotle’s theory of a geocentric universe, evolution has had its rabid supporters who have set out to “prove” it by all possible means. I shall discuss this “proof” in future installments of this series. Also, like Aristotle’s theory of a geocentric universe, the opponents of evolution suffer ridicule and persecution, albeit, evolution’s opponents suffer by having their funding removed while those who opposed Aristotle’s theory suffered by having their heads removed.

The problem both theories share is that at the time of their publication they were utterly untested, but were still presented as scientific fact. Just as Aristotle knew very little about the true workings of the cosmos, Darwin knew nothing at all about genetics, very little about the scientific method, and even acknowledged holes geology/paleontology left in his theory.

Unlike Aristotle, who claimed to have all the proof that was needed to support his theory, Darwin promoted his theory as truth while openly stating that his proof was inconclusive due to a lack of knowledge, be it his own, or that of all of humanity at the time. Darwin justified this move by stating that he was certain that future scientific discoveries would fill in the gaps in such a way as to prove him right.

In all fairness, this did seem to be the case for a long time.

Unfortunately for Darwin, just like what happened to Aristotle, the initial scientific “proof” appears to be unraveling in the face of an expanded scientific base of knowledge and understanding. The answers Darwin drew using the same methods of natural philosophers like Aristotle, while brilliant, were, and remained flawed. Evolution, as it was put forth by Darwin, was not science at all, but natural philosophy, just like the theory of the geocentric universe Aristotle promoted. There is no trace of the scientific method, no experimentation, no mathematics, nothing contained within The Origin of the Species that even hints at evolution being put the tiniest rigors of actual science. Had evolution been presented today in its original form no scientific journal, no publisher of the sciences would have accepted it for publication.

Darwin was no scientist. He was natural philosopher, possibly of comparable brilliance to Aristotle. His greatest theory was a philosophical work that science has tried to wrap itself around, just like Aristotle’s theory of the geocentric universe.

32 Comments:

  • Just to let you know, I'm changing my screen name. I received an e-mail from a person I'd rather not and thought that my blog might be slight hint as to who I was, so I change the screen name.

    MBR

    By Blogger Son of Lilith, at 3:12 PM  

  • Excellent post, Dan! Look forward to Part 2.

    By Blogger Tom, at 3:37 PM  

  • That’s a charming story, Daniel, but it is purely rhetorical. It provides no evidence to support your contention that the current theory of evolution is flawed. It also contains a misconception that needs to be corrected before you go any further with your series.

    You should stop using the words ‘prove’ and ‘proof’ when speaking about science. There is no such thing as scientific proof. Science doesn’t ever prove anything; all it does is gather evidence. Though, having said that, it is still by far the best method we have for explaining the natural world. In some cases, such as the theory of evolution, the evidence supporting a theory can be overwhelming, but the conclusions are always tentative. There may be, from time to time, observations made or evidence discovered that cause modifications to the theory of evolution, but the chances of the theory being completely wrong are vanishingly small.

    Daniel: Upon reading The Origin of the Species, one cannot help but be impressed by the genius, the sheer eloquence of it.

    Upon reading it, one also should notice that the title is The Origin of Species.

    Daniel: Darwin knew nothing at all about genetics, very little about the scientific method, and even acknowledged holes geology/paleontology left in his theory.

    Had evolution been presented today in its original form no scientific journal, no publisher of the sciences would have accepted it for publication.


    Well, there’s a surprise. Who would have thought that something 150 years out of date would be rejected by a contemporary scientific journal? But now scientists do know about genetics, have used the scientific method and have filled in many of the holes using geology and palæontology. Which prompts me to ask again; have you read anything supporting the theory of evolution that is not 150 years out of date? There is an enormous amount of evidence supporting the current theory of evolution. Have you looked at any of it? Or are you just basing your conclusion that the entire theory is false on the discredited notions of some Christian apologists?

    By Anonymous cjb, at 3:38 PM  

  • Excellent piece Dan! Some of this can even be related to issues being put forward in today's world. Looking forward to the whole series.

    By Blogger ABFreedom, at 4:53 PM  

  • Large job to tackle! I'm looking forward to Part II.

    I'll ruin the end for everyone: Evolution = Wrong. God = Right.

    By Blogger Neo-Con Tastic, at 7:57 AM  

  • Why is every animal alive today not represented throughout the fossil record and why is every animal in the fossil record not represented amongst animals alive today?

    By Anonymous Todd Sayre, at 7:58 AM  

  • I'm not sure I understand your criticism of Darwin. He built his theories the way every scientist does. He made years of observations, collected specimens, conducted experiments and eventually published his theories on common descent and natural selection as the methods of evolution. The idea that life evolves was not new to Darwin; the concept of evolution was actually considered heretical in Anglican Britain, which caused Darwin to be extremely careful in what he published.

    Every scientist who publishes a theory realizes that it has "holes" in it. That's why theories are continually tested and either fleshed out or eventually discarded. Darwin's work is a textbook example of the scientific method; why you would say he had little understanding of such is a mystery. His writings certainly don't back that assertion.

    Finally, while discussions of Darwin's moral philosophies are fascinating, they ultimately have nothing to do with his theories on evolution. Darwin was an ordained Anglican cleric until late in life, and his eventual turn from the Church is believed to be due to the death of his daughter and not his scientific studies. There is nothing whatsoever about Darwin's theories that are incompatable with the moral teachings of the Christian church, unless one chooses to believe that OT mythology is literally true. The theory of evolution deals exclusively with how life changes, not how it was created.

    I find it a very instructive glimpse into the conservative Christian mind that you began your series with an ad hominem attack on Darwin's credibility as a scientist. Even if he were the most incompetent scientists who ever lived, it would not change that evolution has 150 years of evidence and experimentation supporting it. If it didn't, scientists would no longer support it, the same way hundreds of older scientific theories are no longer supported. The scientific community is not the "Darwin cult" that Creationists would like to believe it is.

    By Blogger Samurai Sam, at 8:19 AM  

  • I'll ruin the end for everyone: Evolution = Wrong. God = Right.

    Yeah, because everyone knows that some primitive Bronze-age tribesman knew everything there was to know about the universe when they dreamed up the stories from Genesis, but thousands of years of human study of the natural world is all wrong.

    Worshipping the Bible is idolotry, you know...

    By Blogger Samurai Sam, at 8:24 AM  

  • NeoC said:

    "Evolution = Wrong. God = Right."

    And you're basing this position on what exactly? Oh, yeah! That verse in the Bible that says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth and hell, and said that hell was for those who believed in evolution..."

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 8:52 AM  

  • Neo-Con tastic:"I'll ruin the end for everyone: Evolution = Wrong. God = Right."

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA...HEHEH...

    Oh man, you crack me up!

    You should be on the stage.

    By Blogger DanProject76, at 9:28 AM  

  • I love how you can dismember a theory. I think cjb said it best. A theory is just that- a theory. While it has not been proven there is an overwhelming evidence to support it.

    I want to rip your little blog to pieces, but i'm so frustrated right now I'm only typing obscenities. Not to mention, everyone else has done an amazing job.

    One other thing- you open your blog praising a handful of dead homosexuals. I thought you didn't like homosexuals? Or is your prejudice limited to the ones that are alive today?

    By Blogger Unsigned, at 2:13 PM  

  • My apologies fo rtakin gso long to respond, I was experiencing computer problems.

    Point by point I have the following to say:

    The idea that science never proves anything is simply false. For example, science, in conjunction with math, proved beyon all doubt that the Earth orbits the sun. Science proved that the composition of water is H2O. The claim that science NEVER proves anything is nothing more than a way to say that unprovab;e theories are passable as science when, in fact, they are not.

    The scientific method was well established in Darwin;s day. The work of men such as Gregor Mendel and Louis Pateur would be publishable in moden scientific journals because they followed the scientific method. Darwin did not follow the scientific method at all.

    The fosssil record wil be discussed in a later posting in this series.

    The scientific method has several key parts. Yes, observation and records are parts of it, but experimentation done according to the scientific method is a MUST for all theories if they want to be called science. Darwin performed exactly ZERO experiments to test his theory of evolution. He failed the FIRST requirement of the scientific method. the observations and interperetation within the scientific method are based on actual experiments. I repeat, Darwin did not even attempt to to follow the most basic rules of science when he put forth his thoeiry of evolution.

    Ad Hominem? Oh yes, that is what you call a logical criticism. and here I thought it meant something more like baseless, slanderous attacks.

    While this has nothing at all to do with this post, I shall humor you this once. Sexuality has nothing to do with rationality. There are great men who were homosexuals, but thier homosexuality was wrong. I have no problem giving credit where credit is due.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 11:59 PM  

  • Okay, Daniel, perhaps I should have spelled it out more clearly. How about ‘no scientific theory is ever proven’—is that better?

    Daniel: For example, science, in conjunction with math, proved beyon all doubt that the Earth orbits the sun. Science proved that the composition of water is H2O.

    I think you need to look up the definitions of ‘fact’, ‘theory’ and ‘law’ before you proceed. In science, a theory is a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. The Earth orbiting the Sun is an observed fact as is the chemical composition of water or that the frequency of alleles in a population changes over time. These observed facts are not theories per se. They are items of evidence supporting theories such as the heliocentric theory, atomic theory or the theory of evolution.

    Oh, and I can’t believe that this:

    Neo-con: I'll ruin the end for everyone: Evolution = Wrong. God = Right.

    is a serious response. Surely no sensible person would jump to a conclusion like that before hearing the evidence?

    By Anonymous cjb, at 12:42 AM  

  • I remember when global cooling was a widely accepted theory.

    Nice job, Dan.

    By Blogger The Conservative UAW Guy, at 2:39 AM  

  • I remember when luminiferous aether was a widely accepted theory.

    Science changes with additional data. That is its strength. Scientists keep gathering more and more data and checking existing theories against that data. When data supports a theory they get more confident in that theory and when data contradicts a theory they formulate new ones. I don't see how you can consider that a weakness.


    The idea that science never proves anything is simply false. For example, science, in conjunction with math, proved beyon all doubt that the Earth orbits the sun. Science proved that the composition of water is H2O. The claim that science NEVER proves anything is nothing more than a way to say that unprovab;e theories are passable as science when, in fact, they are not.


    No, it's a concession towards reality. For example, using all the data available today, the most accurate description of the solar system says that the earth and the sun orbit each other. There is a barycenter between each of the planets and the sun. Jupiter's is external to the body of the sun. Earth's is inside the body of the sun. I think it is reasonable to say that Copernicus was unaware of this. That doesn't mean he was wrong, he was more right than Aristotle and less right than we are today. Science is full of these sorts of refinements.

    Earth Center --> Sun Center --> Barycenter

    What you mean to say is that science gets to a point where one theory best explains all available data. Today.

    But what about tomorrow? Who knows what sort of discoveries could be made tomorrow? (Well, you seem to know...) Science doesn't say anything about it, but will happily examine any new data and test existing theories against them.

    Remember: Science is constrained by available data, available theories and available tests.


    The scientific method was well established in Darwin;s day. The work of men such as Gregor Mendel and Louis Pateur would be publishable in moden scientific journals because they followed the scientific method. Darwin did not follow the scientific method at all.


    Let's review the scientific method.


    1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.

    2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.

    3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.

    4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.



    The scientific method has several key parts. Yes, observation and records are parts of it, but experimentation done according to the scientific method is a MUST for all theories if they want to be called science. Darwin performed exactly ZERO experiments to test his theory of evolution. He failed the FIRST requirement of the scientific method. the observations and interperetation within the scientific method are based on actual experiments. I repeat, Darwin did not even attempt to to follow the most basic rules of science when he put forth his thoeiry of evolution.


    Are you sure you know what science is? Is archaeology a science? Is anthropology a science? Is geology a science? Is cosmology a science? For that matter, you do realise that there has been substantial work in the field of evolutionary biology since Darwin, right?

    Darwin didn't fail the "FIRST" the requirement of the scientific method, your problem with him is in step 4. Look back at step 3, namely the part about "predict[ing] quantitatively the results of new observations". Not everything in science fits in a beaker. My favourite two lines of supporting evidence for evolutionary biology are genetics and the fossil record. One of which did not exist in Darwin's day and the other was lacking much of the maturity and data we have today. You might as well call Copernicus out for not "testing" his theory of heliocentricity because he didn't have a space shuttle.

    As another example. Look at Einstein and his theories of relativity. He didn't even perform the first test, Sir Aruthur Eddington did that and Gravity Probe B wasn't even buildable withing his lifetime.

    Archaeology can't rebuild the Mayan empire. But they can continue to dig up new sites and reinterpret existing writings. Anthropology faces similar challenges in it's study of dead civilizations. But can observe extant civilizations similar to older ones and extrapolate from there. Geology talks about plate tectonics and mountain formation that happen over millions of years. Thankfully computer models can be built which run through a million years worth simulation data in seconds. Cosmology operates on the billions level. What happened billions of years ago to objects with billions of times the mass of the Earth billions of miles away. That is before anyone was born, larger than most can imagine and farther than anyone has traveled. Observation, simulation and small-scale experimentation are the basis of all these sciences. Evolutionary biology has employed all of them since Darwin's time. Just like any other science.

    It doesn't matter if the person who proposed a hypothesis never tested it, said it was wrong on his death bed or even was a communist. A hypothesis and that data which either support or disprove it are separate from the scientist who thought it up.


    Ad Hominem? Oh yes, that is what you call a logical criticism. and here I thought it meant something more like baseless, slanderous attacks.


    I'm not so sure how much of an attack you can mount on modern evolutionary biology by attacking Darwin. "Baseless" is perhaps too strong a word, perhaps "irrelevant" would be a better term. You might as well mount an attack on Intelligent Design by pointing out that William Paley never used the phrases "molecular machines", "irreducible complexity" or "specified complexity". Not to mention Paley's never testing his idea.


    While this has nothing at all to do with this post, I shall humor you this once. Sexuality has nothing to do with rationality. There are great men who were homosexuals, but thier homosexuality was wrong. I have no problem giving credit where credit is due.


    How magnanimous of you. I hope you will similarly refrain from pointing towards anyone's Christianity as a source of their greatness.

    By Anonymous Todd Sayre, at 5:16 AM  

  • Oh, and for the genius that wrote evolution=wrong god=right here's a thought: the bible says that in the beginning god created man and woman and went on from there. But we know that humans were not the first life forms on planet Earth. There were dinosaurs and other various creatures long before humans. This has been proven through fossil records.

    So, where's the biblical answer to the dinosaurs and why humans weren't present on Earth until a billion years after it's creation and not a week?

    And where is the bible's answer to the missing 5,000 years of soil from the earth's crust?

    By Blogger Unsigned, at 8:00 AM  

  • Unsigned: Try reading Genesis 7 & 8.
    Why is that never at least thought about as an answer?

    A theory is just that: a theory.
    Darwin's theory is not perfect, neither was Darwin.

    Social attitudes influence scientific research. Anyone who doesn't believe that should read about the Dark Ages when the Pope had anyone who rejected the Ptolemaic system was excommunicated.

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 8:49 AM  

  • CJB,

    You are overlooking how facts like th ecomposition of water were dicovered. It was through scientific experimentation. At some point someone actually took some water, broke it down into its primary components, and tested the components to see what they were. That's science.

    Todd,

    I likeyour point regarding archaeology. I, naturaly, conceed that achaeology is a science. I shall also point out that archaeologists are wrong about the conclusioons they draw a great deal of the time. This is a natural consequence of working in a field where experimentation and testing is rarely possible with the exception of a few specific tests such as dating. We can reconstruct a city and we can reconstruct a dinosaur skeleton, but we cannot fully reconstruct the society any more than we can fully reconstruct a living dinosaur. It is important to acknowledge the limitations of any field of study.

    I shall be entering into the subject of the experiments that followed Darwin's theory of evolution one by one in future posts in this series.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 9:27 AM  

  • Rebekah: A theory is just that: a theory.
    Darwin's theory is not perfect, neither was Darwin.


    Yes, but in science a theory is much more than a hypothesis or conjecture as it seems you would like us to believe. See my link to a definition above. In science, there are some theories that are supported by so much evidence that they are widely considered to be facts. Gravitational theory isn’t perfect (no theory ever is), but does that mean that gravity doesn’t exist or that the next time you pick up a stone and drop it, it won’t naturally fall to the ground?

    So what if Darwin wasn’t perfect, no one is. It’s an irrelevant ad hominem remark, but you just couldn’t resist it, could you.

    By Anonymous cjb, at 2:14 PM  

  • CJB,

    "So what if Darwin wasn’t perfect, no one is. It’s an irrelevant ad hominem remark, but you just couldn’t resist it, could you."

    You mean like the one you just tossed at Rebbekah?

    From what she said I gathered that she was being more kind than anything else to Darwin. Not to mention natural. The only way you could call her comment an ad hominem attack is if you yourself actually bnelieve the opposite to be true: ie. you think Darwin was perfect.

    Like I said in my prepatory posting. Keep the debate on the subject at hand, and refrain from personal attacks on other debaters.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 4:09 PM  

  • I have some reservations about your dismissal of Darwin as a scientist, but I'll get to those later. First, I would like to make some comments about your history of geocentrism.

    ... his natural philosophy shaped the sciences for about 1,500 years. Largely because Aquinas folded Aristotelian philosophy and science into Catholic thought. The Church then made it dogma, discouraging scientific explorations that would prove Aristotle's ideas to be incorrect. In fact, most of Aristotle's physics and astronomy was just plain wrong.

    However, without the benefit of the information we have today it was the only logical conclusion that most people could possibly conceive of, and it was latched onto and not let go by any willing means. Not true. A contemporary, Aristarchus, in fact proposed a heliocentric model, but since Aristotle was much more influential, the Aristarchan proposal gained no favor. Ironically, it appears that it resurfaced in Europe in time for Copernicus to review it.

    In brief, there was a series of discoveries that ultimately led to Galileo proving once and for all that the Earth is NOT the center of the universe, and our knowledge has only grown from there.
    This is an overstatement. In Galileo's day, there was considerable debate between scholars favoring Copernicus' heliocentric theory and the geocentric theory. Using the telescope and his sharp wit, Galileo argued that his telescopic observations supported the Copernican system. He did not convince everyone, however. Meanwhile, in Austria, Johannes Kepler was hammering out the model of the solar system we accept today, one in which the planetary orbits are ellipses. Galileo may have provided telescopic evidence, but in fact his support of the Copernican model was misplaced. Kepler should get the credit, or at least share the credit in demolishing the heliocentric model.

    Ultimately, it was Newton's law of universal gravitation, the discovery of two new planets and telescopic observations that spelled the end of geocentrism.

    These men would have been quite happy with the concept that the universe was centered on our solar system. Later scientists would eventually show that our solar system is an infinitesimal mote in the outer regions of a galaxy, which is just one of millions in a vast universe.

    Also, like Aristotle, Darwin was a student of the natural world, observing the world and reasoning based on his observations. And, like Aristotle, Darwin never put his greatest concepts through the rigors of the scientific method.
    Aristotle would never have dirtied his hands to do an experiment. The Greeks believed that Reason could overcome appearances. Thus, Aristotelians in the middle ages could witness contradictions to Aristotle's science, but dismiss them as tricks of the eye. Darwin, in contrast, gathered evidence by careful observation and used that evidence to verify his theory. He in fact was more the scientist than Aristotle was.

    By Anonymous wheatdogg, at 7:04 PM  

  • Daniel: The only way you could call her comment an ad hominem attack is if you yourself actually bnelieve the opposite to be true: ie. you think Darwin was perfect.

    You seem to be misunderstanding the definition of an ad hominem argument. Yes, ad hominem means ‘at the person’, but an ad hominem argument is not merely an insult. It is an attack on the person coupled with the assumption that this personal attack somehow refutes their argument when the two are usually unrelated.

    I think Rebekah’s remark could be taken several ways. She could have meant that because Darwin wasn’t perfect, any theory he developed must have been flawed (an ad hominem argument); she could have meant that because Darwin wasn’t perfect he can’t be blamed for developing an imperfect theory (an underhanded form of ad hominem argument); or she could simply have been tossing out a gratuitous insult. I went with the first interpretation, but maybe I’m wrong. Let’s ask Rebekah what she meant by it and how she was being kind to Darwin. Rebekah?

    My observation that Rebekah couldn’t resist making an ad hominem argument was born from past experience. I wasn’t using it as an argument against her assertions; I’d already made that argument. I was just noting that it is a common tactic of creationists. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last ad hominem argument used against scientists in this discussion. Time will tell.

    By Anonymous cjb, at 8:36 PM  

  • Wheatdog,

    First, welcome to the debate.

    Now, Yes, during Aristotle's day there were many ideas being bandied about by many philosophers, a practice that continued throughout the Greek and Roman empires. Even a form of evolution was proposed by some natral philosophers, though they could not prove it any more than Darwin did, quite a bit less proof actually. Also, if I'm not mistaken, the atom was even proposed back then. The free exchange of ideas coupled with with an environment that encouraged new ideas certainly produced, big surprise, a lot of ideas.

    Ye the Roman Catholic churh added Aristotle's theory to it's dogma, but by then it had already been the popular theory for over 700 years. And yes, deviation from this theory was discouraged.

    Good point about Keppler deserving joint credit with Gallileo.

    I beg to differ rgarding darwin being more of a scientists than Aristotle. Aristotle used all of his available information, so did Darwin. both had insufficient info.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 8:42 AM  

  • Well, you haven't convinced me yet that Darwin was wrong, but I will reserve judgment until I see part 2. I suppose then you will reveal what information Darwin was missing that contradicts his theory, and the development of it since his death.

    You are probably aware of this fact already, but "natural philosophy" once referred to that branch of science we now call physics. Would you classify Newton as a scientist, or a natural philosopher?

    By Anonymous wheatdogg, at 3:55 PM  

  • Newton used math to back up his claims, as do all modern physicists. Darwin did no such thing. Also, While the term "natural Philosopher" may have referred to physicists at one time, I am using it in the modern sense.

    Also, there will be many parts to this series, not just 2. They will be posted every Wednesday until completion.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 8:57 AM  

  • Darwin had other ideas that were wrong. He believed other races and women were less developed evolutionally.
    It wasn't "Ad hominem"; are you Darwin?

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 1:34 PM  

  • Are you actually under the impression that if you can sufficiently demonstrate that Darwin was mistaken about enough things that it will disprove the theory of evolution?

    And biostratigraphy?

    And biogeography?

    And homologies?

    And vestiges?

    And atavisms?

    And ring species?

    And Haldane's Rule?

    And endogenous retroviral insertions?

    There has been a considerable amount of work in the field of evolutionary biology in the last 150 years.

    This isn't a simple matter of "Darwin said it, I believe it, and that's that!"

    The idea of descent with modification should be considered seperate from the man who wrote about it. How many slaves did the founding fathers own whilst writing about the virtues of freedom and equality?

    By Anonymous Todd Sayre, at 3:58 PM  

  • Rebekah: Darwin had other ideas that were wrong. He believed other races and women were less developed evolutionally.

    Darwin did not believe that races were different in evolutionary terms, merely in terms of civilisation. He goes to great pains in Chapter VII of The Descent of Man to point this out. He may have believed that men were superior to women, but this was probably due to his Victorian upbringing.

    Using the phrase “Darwin had other ideas that were wrong” implies that he was wrong about evolution as well, which isn’t necessarily the case. Again you are making an ad hominem argument against Darwin by using his ideas on male superiority to impugn his character and then assuming this somehow negates his argument for evolution.

    Rebekah: It wasn't "Ad hominem"; are you Darwin?

    I didn’t mean you were mounting an ad hominem argument against me; I meant you were mounting it against Darwin. You are criticising his character in an attempt to refute his argument for evolution.

    This entire discussion is irrelevant because the current theory of evolution does not depend on who Darwin was or how he behaved any more than General Relativity depends on Newton’s character.

    By Anonymous cjb, at 4:43 PM  

  • Darwin performed exactly ZERO experiments to test his theory of evolution.

    Darwin worked with animal husbandry experts to test certain aspects of the heritability of traits. Look it up in an encyclopedia if you don't believe me.

    But furthermore, even if Darwin never did one, single experiement, it doesn't matter. Thousands upon thousands have been done since Darwin's time, and they've all born out his theory. The entire field of pharmacology would be crippled if not for Darwin's theory about selection to indicate the rise of resistant strains. In fact, the theory of evolution may be one of the most tested scientific theories in existence.

    By Blogger Samurai Sam, at 1:48 PM  

  • By the way, a fallacy ad hominem does not just mean "personal attack". It means attacking the credibility of the person rather than the person's argument. That's why talking about Darwin's philosophies have no bearing on his theories. The credibility of evolutionary theory does not rest solely with Darwin.

    By Blogger Samurai Sam, at 2:02 PM  

  • He believed other races and women were less developed evolutionally.

    There is no such thing as "less developed evolutionally". All living things are equally evolved. Those that are not, are extinct.

    Darwin believed as most Victorian-era British men believed: that men were superior to women (thanks to that ridiculous Magic Apple and Talking Snake story you Creationists love so much) and that the "savage" races were inferior. That's all sociological tripe we are well rid of.

    Still doesn't change the fact that evolution is one of the foundational theories of modern science. It's just another ad hominem against Darwin.

    By Blogger Samurai Sam, at 2:07 PM  

  • And cjb made all of my points already. Guess I should read the whole thread first...

    Cheers, comrade!

    By Blogger Samurai Sam, at 2:07 PM  

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