UPDATE: September 4, 2005
: In the original version of this essay I referred to the crossing of an English cocker spaniel with a French poodle as an example of hybridization. As several commenters pointed out, that is not technically correct, since the cocker spaniel and the poodle are members of the same species. “Artifical selection” is the more appropriate term for what happens when breeders mate a cocker spaniel with a poodle to produce a new breed. I have corrected that error, and I thank the commenters for calling my attention to it.
If I do this blog for a hundred years I don't think I will ever understand what prompts people to write lengthy essays on subjects they know nothing about.
Consider this essay
. The author is not identified by name, which is probably a good thing.
We will consider it in full (get comfortable):
Most people do not understand the meaning of the terms being bandied about recently regarding “Evolution” or “Darwinism” and “Intelligent Design”. For a proper understanding of the heated debate, a definition of terms is in order.
It's nearly always a bad sign when a right-wing website tells you that they understand things most people don't. And since outfits like RedState exist primarily to stoke the flames of partisan debate, it's an equally bad sign when they suggest they are going to bring clarity to heated discussions.
Darwinism is actually an archaic term that is used generically to refer to the concept of “macro-evolution”. Macro-evolution is Darwin's theory that random mutations over billions of years and survival of the fittest can account for the diversity and complexity of life on earth. This concept can also be generally called “naturalistic evolution”.
We're descending quickly. We haven't quite reached total insanity yet (that's still to come), but everything here is a bit off. Well, not quite everything. “Darwinism” is indeed an archaic term, and one that most modern biologists prefer not to use. It tends to give the impression that evolutionary biology hasn't progressed since 1859.
Another problem with the term “Darwinism” is that it means different things to different people. In his book One Long Argument
, Ernst Mayr writes:
Charles Darwin was the most talked about person of the 1860's. T. H. Huxley, always a coiner of felicitous phrases, soon referred to Darwin's ideas as “Darwinism”, and in 1889 Alfred Russell Wallace published a whole volume entitled Darwinism. However, since the 1860's no two authors have used the word “Darwinism” in precisely the same way. As in the old story of the three blind men and the elephant, every writer on Darwinism seemed to touch upon only one of the many aspects of Darwinism, all the while thinking that he had the real essence of what this term signifies. (P. 90).
In the glossary to his textbook Evolution
, Mark Ridley provides the following definition of Darwinism:
Darwin's theory that species originated by evoluton from other species and that evolution is mainly driven by natural selection. Differs from neo-Darwinism mainly in that Darwin did not know about Mendelian inheritance.
I suspect this is what most modern scientists have in mind when they use the term.
But “Darwinism” is surely not synonymous with “macroevolution.” Furthermore, macroevolution is not a theory about anything. It is simply a term of convenience to refer to large-scale evolution above the species level. Ridley again:
macroevolution: Evolution on the grand scale. The term refers to events above the species level. The origin of a new higher group, such as the vertebrates, would be an example of a macroevolutionary event.
You can accept the reality of macroevolution without accepting that natural selection is the main driving force behind it. To put it another way, the phenomenon of macroevolution is something that Darwinism attempts to explain.
And you're welcome to refer to this as “naturalistic evolution” if you want, but then to be consistent you should refer to the idea that the planets orbit the Sun as “naturalistic heliocentrism.” Makes about as much sense.
Red State continues:
Darwinists believe that during Earth's infancy, from a mix of water-born chemicals, weather and atmospheric conditions, known as Primordial Soup, sprang the first primitive living organism. From this first life form all living things evolved, including human beings. The skeptical saying goes “from primitive goo to me and you by way of the zoo”. Darwinism postulates evolution from lower life forms to higher life forms, including human beings.
Most Darwinists do, indeed, believe that the first life form was the result of the physics and chemistry of the early Earth, but that view is not, strictly speaking, implied by the term “Darwinism” However, evolutionists bristle at the terms “lower life forms” and “higher life forms” which imply some amount of progressivity in evolution that is not justified by anything in modern biology. And they definitely reject the view that human beings should be regarded as the highest life form in any meaningful biological sense. That view is plainly implied by the author of this essay.
Since the time of Darwin, much of his macro-evolutionary theory has been whittled away by the revelations of more sophisticated scientific methods. Darwin's more modern followers have “evolved” the theory of Darwinism to fit what they believe is a defensible position. The correct nomenclature for this modern iteration of Darwinism is “neo-Darwinism”. In essence, this continues to be the theory of macro-evolution by the mechanism of micro-evolution.
Now we have hit the total insanity I referred to earlier. As we saw from Ridley's earlier definition of “Darwinism,” neo-Darwinism does not represent some whittling down of Darwin's original ideas. Just the opposite. The triumph of neo-Darwinism was a vindication of Darwin's arguments from The Origin
As we saw before, the heart of Darwin's theory is generally regarded to be the claim that all modern species are the result of descent with modification of prexisting species, coupled with the assertion that natural selection is the primary shaper of that descent. (We should note, however, that Mayr shaves things finer and describes five distinct arguments in Darwin's work). The biological community quickly accepted the first claim (common descent) but were very skeptical of the second (natural selection). This skepticism was well-founded, since almost nothing was known at that time about the mechanism of inheritance. Consequently, many biologists proposed alternative mechanisms that had a certain plausibility at the time. (We will reutrn to this momentarily).
Neo-Darwinism was the integration of Mendelian genetics with Darwin's original ideas. The work of mathematical population geneticists like Fisher, Haldane and Wright in the twenties and thirties established that large-scale evolution could be plausibly explained via natural selection acting on small genetic variations. The term “the modern synthesis,” synonymous with neo-Darwinism, comes from the title of a 1942 book by Julian Huxley. Huxley pointed out that data from many branches of the life sciences could be understood as the consequence of evolution by natural selection acting on small-scale genetic changes. The synthesis was contributed to by several other landmark books by people like Ernst Mayr, Theodosious Dobzhansky, G. Ledyard Stebbins, and George Gaylord Simpson.
Darwin's two claims were at the heart of neo-Darwinism, and they remain at the heart of modern evolutionary theory today. As rich and multi-faceted as modern evolutionary biology is, it is still Darwin's theory at its core. That, after all, is why people do still talk about Darwinism. So to suggest that neo-Darwinism is some sort of fallback position clung to by biologists desperate to salvage anything from Darwin's writing is completely absurd.
See what I mean about shamelessness? What the author is describing here is so far from the truth that we really must wonder where he got this from. He certainly did not get it from the writing of any marginally competent biologist. However, the claim that neo-Darwinism was the fallback position of desperate evolutionists is quite common in the writings of creationists. Likewise, the only place you will find the phrase “From goo to you via the zoo,” is in the writings of creationists. So it sure looks like the author of this essay is simply parroting talking points he go out of some creationist tract.
Let's move on:
A critical concept to grasp is that while neo-Darwinian theory is widely disputed, micro-evolution is essentially settled science. Micro-evolution is the process whereby small changes occur within species that may result in adaptive differentiation within species. An example is the mating of an English Cocker Spaniel and a French Poodle; the result is the popular mixed breed, the American Cockapoo. It should be noted that even conservative Biblical Creationists acknowlege that micro-evolution is settled science.
For sake of brevity, we will use the terms Darwinism, neo-Darwinian theory and macro-evolution interchangably. This is where the controversy resides, given the almost universal agreement on micro-evolution.
Among scientists, the part of neo-Darwinian theory that is disputed, though I would not say widely so, is the emphasis on natural selection of small genetic variations as the main driving force. Someone like Stephen Jay Gould, for example, would argue that over vast stretches of geological time, other sorts of processes become relevant that are not so important over shorter time scales. Meanwhile, Lynn Margulies believes that the importance of symbiosis has not been adequately recognized, while Stuart Kauffman would argue that the self-organization of complex systems underlies much of the order we find in organisms. These are all fascinating disputes, and big books get written on them.
But Gould, Kauffman and Margulies have no problem at all with macroevolution or common descent.
I'm pleased that the author describes microevolution as settled science. There was a time, after all, when creationists rejected even that. But mating an English Cocker Spaniel with a French poodle is not an example of microevolution. It is an example of artifical selection. Ridley again:
artificial selection: Selective breeding, carried out by humans, to alter a population. The forms of most domesticated and agricultural species have been produced by artificial selection; it is also an inportant experimental technique for studying evolution.
microevolution: Evolutionary changes on the small scale, such as changes in gene frequencies within a population.
Not exactly the same thing. Microevolution is not a difficult concept, but it seems to have completely defeated the author of this article. Shameless, shameless, shameless.
Back to the essay:
It is worth noting that some ardent Darwinists will sometimes state vociferously that evolution is "settled science", like gravity is settled science. If they are referring to micro-evolution, they are correct. However, there is ambiguity in the terminology. Macro-evolution (or neo-Darwinian theory) is far from settled science.
If by “settled science” you mean that the overwhelming majority of professionals in the relevant disciplines accept it, with the only holdouts being a handful of people who make patherically weak arguments based primarily on ignorance and general brain-deadness, then evolution is most definitely settled science.
Intelligent Design (ID) has its own issues of nomenclature. Critics claim there is no theory or even scientific hypothesis of Intelligent Design. This is not the case. Intelligent Design works by way of established good science. ID scientists work from emperical scientific method, as do most biologists, physicists, chemists, etc.
It's lovely that ID folks works “from empirical scientific method,” but what's the theory? The auhtor never tells us, for obvious reasons.
But Intelligent Design, like Darwinism, can be understood as a “movement”. As such, ID can be understood by way of two primary positions.
First, ID has done a thorough review of Darwinian evolutionary theory. Darwinisms beginnings start from the thoughts of naturalist philosophers like David Hume, from the 18th century. Darwin wrote “Origin of the Species” in 1859. ID propents believe there are numerous foundational problems with Darwinism. This first position of ID is to “teach the controversy” between comtemporary science and neo-Darwinian hypotheses.
Second, Intelligent Design uses multiple scientific studies to demonstrate that origins of the universe, life on earth as well as complexity in living organisms is not explainable by way of naturalistic, or Darwinian hypotheses. ID uses the scientific genres of biology, chemistry, physics, geology, archaeology, cosmology, among others to demonstrate that Darwinism falls critically short of its goals. Further, ID says that the complexity observed via emperical scientific observation and experiment yields life structures and processes that observationally look like non-living structures that are only a function of intelligent design.
Being charitable for the moment, there have been a handful of people throughout history who have tried to turn Darwinism into something more than a nifty scientific theory. In that sense you can just barely say that Darwinism is a “movement” Michael Ruse has been making a good living lately pointing that out. But these people are a tiny minority of evolutionists generally, and most evolutionists frown upon such people.
And that notwithstanding, there is a huge and obvious difference between evolution and ID. Whatever else evolution is, it is also a fully professional science with more than a century of bona fide results to point to. ID exists solely as a religious movement, specifically designed to introduce creationism into the schools in a constitutionally acceptable way. It has nothing in the way of scientific results to point to, and has only a motley collection of long discredited criticisms of evolution for substance.
Next, identifying the roots of Darwinism in the writings of David Hume is one of those delightful bits of nonsense pseudointellectuals like to toss off. It's nonsense. Hume had some enlightening things to say about the argument from design, but his points were entirely philosophical, not scientific.
Meanwhile, it is certainly true that ID folks believe there are foundational problems in evolution, but everything else in this paragraph is very misleading. The controversy ID folks want taught is not between contemporary science and neo-Darwinism. It is between the vast majority of the scientific community on the one hand, and the trumped up, fallacious assertions of a handful of malcontents on the other.
Next, naturalistic hypotheses are most definitely not the same things as Darwinian hypotheses. Darwinism has nothing whatever to say about the origin of the universe ot the origin of life, and it is simply wrong to use the term in conjunction with these questions.
As for the remainder of the paragraph, it's not so much wrong as it is just silly. ID proponents certainly make references to the branches of science the author mentions, but they make very little use of the techniques or findings of those sciences. And the observation that complex biological systems have certain attributes that are reminiscent of human-made machines is one that every biologist in the history of the world has made. The unique contribution of ID is to ignore the myriad ways in which biological systems differ from human devices, while simultaneously claiming that their poorly reasoned argument from analogy constitutes a revolution in science.
Intelligent Design does not make claims regarding who or what the intelligent designer might be. ID, like neo-Darwinian theory, is an observational field of study. It looks and makes statements. Neither Darwinism nor Intelligent Design contribute much to experimental biology; they are both focused on telling the history of the universe and life on earth.
“Looks and makes statements” is an excellent description of ID, but it is a lousy description of neo-Darwinism. The author is here ignoring the vast literature in which the statements made by neo-Darwinism are tested over and over again in the field and the lab. Likewise, while it is certainly true that ID contributes nothing at all to modern experimental biology, the same can not be said for neo-Darwinism.
As it happens, P. Z. Myers recently addressed this question: Click here
and follow the links therein. But I have my own way of finding out what's relevant to practitioners of various branches of science. I just walk over to the library and browse through the relevant research journals. When I look at the biology section I find dozens, if not hundreds of journals devoted specifically to evolutionary biology in all of its forms. And the biology journals that don't specifically mention evolution in their titles routinely contain articles of evolutionary significance nonetheless.
I don't need to take anyone's word for it that evolution plays a vital role in experimental biology; I need only look at what biologists actually do. Such observation is apparently beyond the author of this essay. Looks and makes statements indeed. Shameless.
It is interesting to note that both Darwinians and ID proponents have philosophical underpinnings. But contrary to the conventional wisdom, Intelligent Design has less inference to religion than Darwinism.
Nothing worth reading ever followed a paragraph like that. But, what the heck, we've come this far...
Philosophically, Darwinism points to an atheistic world view; often called naturalistic atheism. As such, there is one overriding philosophical premise in neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. It can be summed up with the phrase “Anything But Design”. This means essentially that any naturalistic process is possible to potentially explain the history of life on earth. The only possible causes that are rejected by Darwinists are those involving the potential for Intelligent Design, or “Anything But Design” (ABD).
Here, off the top of my head, are some evolutionary mechanisms that people have seriously proposed that are nowadays rejected: Group selection, Mutationism, The inheritance of acquired charcteristics, Saltationism, Orthogenesis, and Storms of genetic material from space. Meanwhile, things like hierarchical selection, symbiosis, self-organization and horizontal gene transfer are all plausible mechanisms of evolution whose relative importance is vigorously debated. In light of these entirely familiar and elementary facts, I'd say the author's assertion here amounts to little more than a smear against scientists.
Meanwhile, the only way Darwinism point to atheism is if the sole argument for theism is the premise that Darwinism is false. Otherwise the connection between Darwinism and atheism is based entirely on bad logic and bad theology.
And I defy you to find the phrase “natuarlistic atheism” in any serious book on these topics.
ID, on the other hand, begins from a different position. Intelligent Design relies on “emperical scientific method” to determine the origins of the universe, life on earth and life's incredible diversity and complexity. Contrary to the outcry of critics, ID makes no comment regarding either atheism or theism. Intelligent Design has no connection with the Biblical Creationism movement, which typically calls for a “young earth” (10,000 or so years old) and a strict interpretation of life on earth by way of the book of Genesis.
I just love the sneer quotes around the phrase `empirical scientific method'.
The critics, incidentally, are perfectly aware that in public the ID folks take no stand on the identity of the designer. It's simply that the critics, less credulous than the author of this essay, recognize that the reticence on the part of the ID folks to identify the designer stems entirely from legal and political concerns, and not from scientific integrity.
Meanwhile, in public the young-Earthers likewise do not talk about religion. They talk about `scientific creationism', and they make precisely the same claims to scientific leigtimacy as the ID folks. In particular, they claim their conclusions about the age of the Earth and the like stem from a detailed consideration of the best available scientific evidence. It is only a happy coincidence, in their telling, that the evidence points to the total reliability of the Bible.
In other words, there is no distinction to be made between ID and YEC on this score.
The specific scientific findings Intelligent Design has made state that structures and processes of living organisms compare to inorganic structures and process that are most certainly designed by an intelligent method or agent. ID analyzes living systems via standard scientific methodology and forms conclusions based on the emperical evidence, without any prior commitment to either atheism or theism. The origin or identity of the designer that is strongly inferred is not of interest to Intelligent Design. ID merely states and delineates the emperical presence of design in living organisms.
Having run out of things to say, the author has taken to repating himself.
Darwinism has a long history and paper trail. Intelligent Design is a more recent field of study, dating to the late 1980s. But ID has offered up some compelling work that merits even-handed consideration. For the debate on the relative merits of the opposing movements, a clear understanding of what each movement believes is critical.
I look forward to outlining the case for Intelligent Design going forward. This will include a careful evaluation of the shortcomings of Darwinism, including examples of scientific and educational fraud. Given the ongoing barrage of emotional outcry from lay-Darwinists claiming Intelligent Design is religion, I feel it is important to clear the air of that misidentification. Finally, I will outline the compelling scientific observations demonstrated by way of the science of Intelligent Design.
Is the author of this essay seriously implying that he's something more than a lay observer of these issues? As I have argued he is not even that. He is simply a fraud, strutting and preening for the benefit of ignoramuses too lazy to actually learn something about the theory they attack with such venom.
I suspect I could write the follow-up essays the author promises at the end of this essay. I predict they will consist entirely of a mindless parroting of standard ID talking points. I further predict that he will not even parrot these points properly.