Monday, February 06, 2006

Replying to Shulevitz

I never got around to blogging about Judith Shulevitz's review, for The New York Times, of Eugenie Scott's book Evolution and Creationism, and Michael Ruse's The Evolution-Creation Struggle. The article wasn't bad enough to merit a frothing at the mouth refutation, but wasn't good enough to really be worth reading. It was the usual pap that you get when a non-scientist has to find something to say about this subject. Those poor, beknighted, pointy-headed, ivory-tower intellectuals, thinking this is about science, she seems to say. Don't they realize that creationism is a cultural and anthropological phenomenon? Yawn.

Her article sure did provoke some good letters though. Paleontologist Niles Eldredge offers these wise words:

Judith Shulevitz's essay (“When Cosmologies Collide,” Jan. 22) contends that scientists often do not acknowledge the broader social implications of “evolutionism,” the mélange of often conflicting philosophical conclusions that have been drawn by disparate people from the very idea that life has evolved. It is this evolutionism, she says, that continues to inspire much of the resistance to evolution. But she gives short shrift to the fact that nearly all of the rhetoric of creationists, including contemporary “intelligent design” proponents, consists of ill-informed attacks on evolutionary biology itself, rather than on the inchoate philosophical ramifications of “evolutionism.”

Beyond the cardboard assertions of “irreducible complexity” in the supposed outboardmotor- like apparatus of bacterial flagella, and a few other oneliners in the current intelligent design canon, lie reams of tired old assertions of the supposed failings of evolutionists to explain natural phenomena. There is every reason for us evolutionary biologists to fight back, especially when the stakes are so high: the further dilution of integrity in science teaching in our nation's secondary schools.

Well said. And here's Skeptic's Society president Michael Shermer offering similarly wise words:

Although it is occasionally true that evolutionism can turn into bad philosophy in the hands of a rabid anti-theist, intelligent design (I.D.) creationism is always bad science and bad theology. We saw in the Dover trial why I.D. is bad science. I.D. is bad theology because it turns God into a mere garage tinkerer, a fumbling watchmaker, a Dr. Frankenstein cobbling together biochemical parts from the primordial soup into complex organisms. Such a God cannot be the omniscient and omnipotent God of Abraham; indeed, the I.D. God would have the same skill sets as an advanced extraterrestrial intelligence capable of genetic engineering and other feats.

Far more nourishing than the original article.


At 8:15 PM, Anonymous John M said...

Though the habit may be hard to break, I think we should stop using terms such as "evolutiuonism" or "Darwinism".

Why -- because I think the "ims" ending suggests a belief system or religion rather than a scientific hypothesis or theory.

Even go a little further and refuse to accept calling evolutionary theory as "Darwin's" theory or so on. Rather simply say Darwin was an early contributor to the theory of evolution and that the theory has been modified and expanded many fold since Darwin's contributions.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger cecillia said...

Nice info. Thank you.
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