From: Derek Gatherer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed 30 Nov 2005 - 09:04:22 GMT
So is Natural History going to publish your responses, then, Ted?
At 20:53 27/11/2005, you wrote:
>Richard Dawkins contributes the introductory article to a special section on
>"Darwin & Evolution" in the November issue of Natural History. The full
>text is located here:
>Here's a few excerpts from his article, "The Illusion of Design," followed
>by my responses:
>"The world is divided into things that look as though somebody designed them
>(wings and wagon-wheels, hearts and televisions), and things that just
>happened through the unintended workings of physics (mountains and rivers,
>sand dunes, and solar systems). Mount Rushmore belonged firmly in the second
>category until the sculptor Gutzon Borglum carved it into the first. Charles
>Darwin moved in the other direction. He discovered a way in which the
>unaided laws of physics - the laws according to which things 'just happen' -
>could, in the fullness of geologic time, come to mimic deliberate design."
>With the phrase, "unaided laws of physics," Dawkins seriously misrepresents
>Darwin's approach. While Darwin obviously never claims that the behavior of
>organisms defies physics, he doesn't assert that physics is sufficient,
>unaided, to explain organisms and evolution. "Throw up a handful of
>feathers," he writes in *The Origin of Species,* "and all fall to the ground
>according to definite laws; but how simple is the problem where each shall
>fall compared to the action and reaction of the innumerable plants and
>animals." In other words, we'll never work out the main issues of life and
>evolution by relying on the abstract principles of physics. This isn't to
>say that we must rely on a life-force but simply that we must take into
>account the will of the whole organism acting in its interests.
>According to Neal C. Gillespie, author of *Charles Dawin and the Problem of
>Creation* (University of Chicago, 1979) Darwin was a materialist only in the
>pragmatic sense, not in a metaphysical sense, as Dawkins seems to believe.
>"Darwin frequently rejected scientific theories that touched on
>philosophical materialism: his ambivalence about spontaneous generation; his
>Lamarck-like insistence on the role of individual will and volition in
>originating the now inherited expressions of emotions in man and in the
>higher animals; his dissent from Huxley's notion of animal automatonism, all
>come to mind." (p 141) That Darwin was a mechanist who viewed organisms as
>physically determined assemblages of molecules is a projection of Dawkins.
>"The breathtaking power and reach of Darwin's idea... is matched by its
>audacious simplicity. You can write it out in a phrase: nonrandom survival
>of randomly varying hereditary instructions for building embryos."
>This is not Darwin's idea by Dawkins' idea or rather August Weismann's.
>Darwin explicitly rejected the notion that natural selection depends on
>random variations in germ-plasm. As he writes in *The Origin of Species,*
>modification occurs "chiefly through the natural selection of numerous,
>slight, favorable variations; aided in an important manner by the inherited
>effects of the use and disuse of parts; and in an unimportant manner... by
>variations which seem to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneously." For
>Darwin, what counts is the organism's "use and disuse" in the course of
>adapting to external conditions. The variations feeding the mill of natural
>selection come about primarily from willed adaptation rather than
>spontaneous mutation of "germ-plasm," i.e. genes.
>Furthermore, Darwin rejected the idea that the form of the organism arises
>strictly from "hereditary instructions." He pointed out that such a scheme
>would inevitably produce monstrosities, since a change in the instructions
>for one organ could cause it to grow out of proportion with the rest of the
>organism. The influence of hereditary instructions would thus have to be
>complemented by a "coordinating power" that brings "the parts into harmony
>with each other." (*The Variation of Animals and Plants Under
>Domestication,* 1875, vol 2, p 354).
>"Yet, given the opportunities afforded by deep time, this simple little
>algorithm generates prodigies of complexity, elegance, and diversity of
>apparent design. True design, the kind we see in a knapped flint, a jet
>plane, or a personal computer, turns out to be a manifestation of an
>entity - the human brain - that itself was never designed."
>It's odd that Dawkins would contrast a jet or a computer with an organism
>given that he views the organism as a set of components under the domination
>of physical law, precisely the definition of a jet or a computer. Equally
>odd is that Dawkins claims to be dismissing design in organisms despite the
>fact that his phrase, "hereditary instructions," can only be interpreted as
>a kind of design. It seems that Dawkins himself has fallen prey to the
>"illusion of design," not the intentional design of a deity but the
>unintentional design of physics. Either way, the local causation of willful
>creatures adapting to real-world environments is replaced with universal
>causation of one type (theological) or another (physical).
>Dawkins claims that "the skepticism that often greets Darwin's idea is a
>measure of its greatness." Yet the issue isn't Darwin's idea, which has
>been swept under the rug, but Weismann's idea. Where Darwin saw the
>adapting organism as the key source of variations to be accepted or rejected
>by natural selection, Weismann saw randomly varying germ-plasm as the
>ultimate source of evolution. It's this view that is greeted with
>widespread skepticism, not Darwin's. A theory of evolution that sees no
>role for the adaptive organism is inherently implausible. It is, after all,
>the organism, not the gene, that must survive in the wilds. Correcting
>Dawkins, "the skepticism that often greets Weismann's idea is a measure of
>"Yet the highly improbable does exist in the real world, and it must be
>explained." Here Dawkins begs the question. He assumes Weismannian
>evolution is true. Therefore the fact that it's improbable doesn't mean it
>should be subjected to scrutiny but that this implausibility must somehow be
>explained away. But we need not reflexively accept an improbable view of
>evolution. If we recognize what Darwin really said, we find that a
>plausible view of evolution is already at hand.
>This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
>Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
>For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
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