Re: That idiot Darwin

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Sat Jan 13 2001 - 04:18:35 MST

At 11:19 PM 12/01/01 -0800, john marlow wrote:

>**If you can observe the universe, the order, the
>mathematical precision--and conclude that this is all
>one big happy coincidence,

Sorry, pal, this is the standard ignorati travesty of darwinist
evolutionary theory. I'm shocked to see it mentioned here in this gun
forum, but as I said earlier I'm not surprised, given a number of your
earlier remarks.

Evolution is precisely *not* a theory of coincidence. It's a model of how
heritable random genotypic and thence phenotypic variations subjected to
contest in the real unforgiving world are thereby sieved, and improvements
preferentially conserved. Natural *selection*, geddit?

>well, I just don't know
>what to say.
>**I see intelligent direction; you see happenstance.

We both see a high degree of order. You, I gather, see a Mind from outside
the system intervening top-down to produce an echo of Its own order. I,
like most of the scientists in the world, see the painfully cruel accretion
organization over billions of years from a state of utter noise, driven
ultimately by gravitational and other energetic gradients in an expanding
universe. Whether or not there are ancillary aspects of the universal
substrate conducting to spontaneous order (as, say, Stuart Kauffman
argues), the fact remains that darwinian selection is the best available
explanation for the diversity of phenomena we observe - including, as Lee
Smolin and others argue, the very features of the local universe that
conduce to organic life evolving in the first place.

This last is not an Intelligent Mind reaching out of Platoland to stir the
muck with a Finger; it's a cosmic crap shoot where even the very unlikely
happens eventually. At this enormous level, yes, it's happenstance. Beyond
that, once the substrate emerges, everything is randomness *plus* that
ceaseless selective sieve, and the great energy gradient powering it all.
What's difficult to grasp in this wonderful explanation?

To address a general point: the Singularity talk I gave at a university the
other day was quickly interrupted by a young man who made somewhat similar
points to yours, although he was quite proud to call himself a creationist;
under pressure he admitted that he was a Christian creationist (why the
reluctance? because it showed him as a partisan). Reflecting later, I
concluded that I ought to have answered him thus:

Q. Don't forget that the *theory* of evolution is only a *theory*, not a
*fact*. Indeed, most leading scientists from the Billy-Bob College of
Ineffable Knowledge have conclusively demonstrated that--

A: Hang on a moment. You're right - biological evolution is indeed `just a
theory' - that is, an always provisional broad framework for organizing our
many observations of the living world and allowing competent scientists
trained in the discipline to make powerful, unexpected and falsifiable
predictions. In the same way, the *theories* of relativity (the universe at
the very large, very fast scale) and quantum theory (the universe at the
very smallest scale) are also *theories*. They are very good theories, too,
since their logic has held up extraordinarily well under powerful attempts
to break it down, and their predictions are repeatedly corroborated in ways
highly counterintuitive to common sense, with a startling degree of
accuracy to many decimal points.

Creationism, on the other hand, is *not* a *theory*. It is a *dogma*. In
the final analysis it derives its claim to legitimacy not from concerted,
falsifiable attempts to understand the natural world by observation,
theory-building and test, but directly from a purported revelation from the
Supreme Being or Creator. Despite some admitted translation hazards, its
claims--drawn from a revelation given directly by the divine to human
creatures-- ought not be put to the test, for this would be impiety.
Creation *science*, therefore, is an oxymoron, since by its own premises it
must speak the timeless and unchallengeable truth: its proper name,
therefore, is Creation *Doctrine*.

Since we are discussing science rather than dogma here today, I'm afraid we
must put your interesting religious observations to one side and proceed
with the scheduled program.


Damien Broderick

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