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Friday, September 23, 2005

 

Intelligent Design? More like Inelegant Contraptionism

I am, I declare here, a contraptionist.

Proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) see nature differently to most people; what others understand to be the products of evolution are, in fact, too complex and intricate to be the products of anything other than an intelligent designer. While remaining wedded to my evolutionary world-view, I did concede the persuasiveness of that argument, particularly among the more ‘casual’ observers of the natural world.

This persuasiveness can, however, be undermined. Not through recourse to popular scientistic evolutionism, which those tempted by ID have already rejected or ignored. Rather, we can turn the mechanismal metaphors of ID against anti-evolutionism.

William Paley, in Natural Theology, used the watchmaker analogy as an argument for the existence of a divine creator and designer of nature. Simply put, the argument runs; “If we find a watch when walking on the moors, and investigate its workings, we will find that it is too complex to be an assemblage of parts ordered by a natural process, we must therefore assume that there is (or was) a watchmaker who was responsible for its creation.” Seductive, is it not, at least to the untutored.

So let us examine the complex machines that are our own bodies. Do they run like machines designed by an intelligent engineer? The answer to this can only be: no. We are a mass of inefficiencies, or redundancies and antagonistic systems. What sort of designer would design into his machines the ability to be incapacitated by pain at the very times when action is of the essence? What sort of designer would build a taste for the sweet and fatty into machinery clogged into terminal seizure by these fuels? It is no defense to argue that the designer could not anticipate the environment his machines would operate in, for this designer is the Designer, the maker of nature in toto. What sort of designer would build an immune system that overreacts to otherwise the harmless plant and animal matter that are also the products of His Design?

Considering these features of the human body as the features of a machine, we must think, for a moment, of the source of our popular fascination with machines. What sort of machines fascinate and excite our imaginations? Compare, for example, a smooth, efficient, superbly designed Volvo, with a home made jalopy, a Scrap Heap Challenge vehicle, a jerry-rigged machine built from parts intended for use elsewhere. We are, at least in the majority, fascinated by the contraption, the machine built inexpertly and inefficiently from found components. These machines are inelegant, their parts in contest almost as often as they are in co-operation.

Considered as mechanisms, human beings, bodies, plants, animals, ecosystems and indeed the whole of nature are, at best, inelegant contraptions. We marvel at them, and the instinct of the untutored in our technological, mechanistic age is to presume that there is a designer. But, what we must conclude about this Designer is either; that He works with parts that are not of His own design, that he finds in a nature not of His making, or, that He made the parts but can neither take a role in the combination of these parts or anticipate the use to which they will be put. Both of these effectively reduce Him to an irrelevant rump, either casting Him into the pre-Universal, as creator but not actor, or transforming Him from creator in impotent tinker.

Of course, I would rather that the proponents of ID simply tossed aside their belief in Him, the Designer. But I will settle, here, for pointing out that nature is not a smooth running machine but an inelegant contraption, and that if they must cling to Him, this necessarily transforms the (often unstated but implied Christian) nature of the Him they invoke as their Deus ex Machina.

Comments:
Hehe, very good. One minor comment: Christian IDers are the most media aware, but having done a PhD at Leeds, I can assure you that Muslim IDers most certainly exist, and they use almost exactly the same arguments, except that they are often a bit more explicit about the designer being Allah.

I've often thought that blisters are a most absurd "design": if you're doing a mechanical task which causes blisters to form, then that task is almost certainly essential (else you would have stopped with the pain, but before the blister). Then the blister just causes more pain, but does nothing to stop the tissue damage. Why couldn't God have given me a mechanism to form a blister once I've stopped walking, and then collapse said blister again when I needed to walk again? Now, *that* would be design...
 
Were you to transpose the notion of ID with evolution throughout your essay, it would be just as convincing, that is, not very.
 
In that case, Duff, you miss the point. I was addressing, undermining in fact, the mechanismal metaphor at the heart of the persausiveness of ID arguments. This metaphor is not central to evolutionary thought, or its persausiveness.

Given that, in my past two discussions with you, you have appeared to argue, to use a generous term, against the pretty straightforward idea that words are given their meaning by their historical, social and linguistic context, and now, against evolution, I have to ask you which tag you prefer:

Idiot

or

Contrarian arse?
 
Methnks you are lumping to many groups together.


ID is like nothing new, the first expression I know of it was from the 1200’s.

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa theological, First part, Question 2,Article 3

And the statement does not depend on whether or not the theory evolution is true. The physical processes termed evolution has produced homo sapiens sapiens could also be the result of ID.


However I think you are referring to what some of our North American Evangelical Protestants call ID. I have heard several explanations “id” from that source, some of which deserve your comments. They are trying to prove more than the concept claims.

Please do not put every Christian in the same boat.
 
"I have to ask you which tag you prefer:

Idiot

or

Contrarian arse?"

Coming from you, Andrew, I'll take both, if that's not greedy, but I must beg you to be careful of your temper lest your own, personal "home made jalopy, a Scrap Heap Challenge vehicle, a jerry-rigged machine built from parts intended for use elsewhere" blows a gasket.

Yet again I find myself confused by your intellectual rhetoric, for example, you write:

"Considered as mechanisms, human beings, bodies, plants, animals, ecosystems and indeed the whole of nature are, at best, inelegant contraptions. We marvel at them..."

Why would we "marvel" at them if they are as you describe?

And when you poo-poo the notion of a designer on the grounds that no designer would produce a jerry-built jallopy, but instead imply that he would go for "a smooth, efficient, superbly designed Volvo", I think you may have forgotten that the first production model cars were, indeed, jallopies; and in addition you obviously did not know (and why shouold you?) that my own "smooth, efficient, superbly designed" Mercedes ground to a halt just recently because of a component failure. In other words, artifacts and mechanisms assembled by designers appear to share *exactly* the same characteristics as the products of evolution.

None of that is an argument in favour of intelligent design, but as I hinted up above, nothing of what you wrote convinced me of evolution, in fact just the opposite, it gave me rather more doubts!

It is always distressing, but alas, all to common, to hear the slamming shut of minds, so allow me to paraphrase some wise words:
'There are more things in heaven and earth, Andrew, than are dreamt of in your philosophy'.
 
As an atheist, I would deny the existence of God, but that is not what I was doing here. I wasn't trying to lump all Christians together, or even all those who believe in a creator God. I was trying, as I said to David Duff, to undermine the persausive argument that argues that the apparent design of living things is evidence of the very active hand of God.

By actually exmining that metaphor, I would argue that, at best, living systems are inelegant, but fascinating, contraptions, built from 'found' parts not designed for job that they now perform. This, I argue, assigns the Designer the role of either a principal parts-maker with imperfect foresight and a hands-off role with regard to their combination, or as a tinker engineer, combining parts not of His own making.

This isn't meant as a watertight argument against ID, but rather as a rhetorical parry and riposte to the seemingly effective thrust of the watchmaker analogy.
 
We marvel at jerry-rigged contraptions because of their ingenuity, their use of 'found' parts in making a machine to perform an entirely new task. This is a perfectly suitable analogy for the conservation of components we find in evolution.

The first cars were jalopies - yes - and why? Because they were built from parts, and with tools, orginally designed for other purposes. Yes, your car breaks down. It is not a perfect machine, and it operates in a world that was not designed to be complementary to its operation. This is the whole point (are you being deliberately obtuse?); the machines of human production are necessarily built by people of finite power and extremely limited understandings and foresight.

This is not what is claimed as being the characteristics of an Intelligent Designer. The Intelligent Designer of ID is not simply the maker of one machine, but the whole universe, of all the other machines.

The point about inelegant contraptionism is that, if you want to retain a Creator God, you have to accepts some quite strict limits on His power and His activity in the universe. And proponents of ID, by disengenously using a mechnismal metaphor that ignores the inelegant contraptionism of human creations, are not claiming that life is created by a God who lacks foresight, a God who lacks an understanding of the laws of nature, a God who lacks the ability to design parts from scratch, a God who lacks the ability to combine parts without limit or contraints.

They use the mechanismal metaphor to say, "look, the world is perfect, look, at the efficiency of life - it is as if it were a designed machine". And this, persuasive as it is, is ripe for undermining. It ignores the reality of both the natural world and the designs of man. They may be similar, but the ways in which they are similar undermines arguments for an Intelligent Designer.

Duff, the point that I think that you missed is this; I was not arguing for evolution. I was not arguing against intelligent design as it could exist, but as it does exist; as a invocation of a Supreme Being in the continuing creation of living systems.
 
Well, at least I'm glad, Andrew, that as an athiest you share one characteristic with theists, that is, faith! The existence or non-existence of God can neither be proved nor dis-proved and so belief in either is a matter of faith. As a profound but weak-minded agnostic myself, I wonder, but I do not commit.

Also, if you dredge round long enough and wide enough you will find some-one to say anything, but none of the *scientific* writers I have read on the subject, whilst proffering the *hypothesis* of an intelligent designer, have never claimed perfectibility on His part. They say, quite rightly and properly in my humble opinion, that there appear to be gaps in Darwinian theory which the Darwinians have failed to explain, not least because they are so busy squabbling and arguing amongst themselves.

As a service to you and your readers, I recommend, tentatively, "Chaos and Life" by Richard J. Bird. I write "tentatively" because I have not yet started it, and I have a foreboding that I will struggle with the mathematics, but I am keen to try and understand any hypothesis that fills the gaps in Darwinian theory, a theory, I might add, which I think explains an enormous amount - but not everything.
 
Look Duff, I do suggest that you read a modern book on epistemology; the philosophy of knowledge. Or even simply the philosophy and history of science.

Look, whether or not the existence of God can be proved or disproved is beside the point. We all believe things, and many of these beliefs are perfectly reasonable and rational. And logical, once we have accepted the limitations of what can be logically proven - which is very little indeed, by the way.

My belief that God does involve faith, as you put it. That is because you and I can know almost nothing directly and according to watertight logic. The rest of your knowledge is based on induction, is underdetermined by the data available, and most often is delivered through the testimony of others.

If you are going to come on my blog and spout off about what it is possible to know, at least don't do it in total ignorance. Oh, I know, you are going to denigrate philosophy and other academic pursuits. In which case, why on earth come here?
 
Andrew, if I may say so, I don't think you have quite got this patronising thing right. It is much better delivered on the point of a foil than the edge of a broadsword. For example, taking an almighty swing like this: "Look Duff, I do suggest that you read a modern book on epistemology; the philosophy of knowledge. Or even simply the philosophy and history of science", and missing, leaves you looking rather silly.

I have read some books on epistemology, I even attended some lectures on it. It came up at a seminar I attended at Oxford run by Dr. David Deutsch, he of the 'multi-universe' fame, when he was discussing Popper's theory on scientific methodology. Naturally induction was examined in detail but I remained sceptical bearing in mind Russell's parable of the chicken and the farmer's wife, with which, no doubt, you are familiar. I remain, probably unhealthily, under the influence of Popper's epistemology despite reading Dr. David Stove's onslaught.

Of course, Andrew, in this intellectual pissing contest that you insist on, I admit that my contribution is a mere trickle against the mighty flow of 'e-piss-temology' that you can produce, but even so, it is a mistake, I think, to assume that when some-one disagrees with you they are *necessarily*, as we philosophers put it, pig-ignorant!

Now, perhaps, we can return to the main point at issue, which is your essay up above in which, arguing at a metaphorical level, far from undermining the ID hypothesis you actually re-enforced it for the reasons I gave.

By why argue over metaphors when the science, particularly what passes for neo-Darwinian science, is so meagre and full of holes. The only Darwinian to come out of this peculiar version of what I can only call scientific hysteria, is Darwin himself. He recognised the weaknesses in his own theory from the beginning, and hoped that future discoveries would confirm his it. Patently, they have not. He, himself, being a scientist of the highest and most honourable character, would have owned up long ago to the transparent fact that his theory is not nearly so all-embracing as his modern 'disciples' (I choose that word with deliberation!) aver with an intensity bordering on the fanatical. In fact, a fanaticism matched only by those who believe, against all evidence, that the world is only 6,000 years old.

A pox on both their houses, I say!
 
Firstly, you have missed the point of my original post. It was not a pro-evolution peice. It was a puncturing of the central metaphor used in the propogation of ID. Patently, this was not succesfully communicated, at least in your case.

Secondly, don't mistake a normative set of rules for what scientists ought to do with either a description of what scientists actually do, or a description of how we do know things.

Thirdly, what was a man who has expressed virulent hatred of all parts of the non-technological academy doing at a seminar on theoretical physics? Is your web personality a front? Your obstuse contrariness would suggest so.

And last, what did you mean to imply that you remain sceptical of induction?
 
Ah, now this gets interesting! Nothing to add just now, but happy to lurk.
 
Sorry, 'thesisville', unexpected visitors, bottles opened, contents consumed, general lassitude and so to bed.

In which I will probably lay tossing and turning trying to think of something coherent, if not intelligent, to say to Andrew tomorrow. He's such a bully! (Bloody hell, what was all that induction stuff about ......)
 
Right, off we go again, and it is probably best if I take Andrew's points in order.

1: Yes, you did fail to puncture the central metaphor that *you* ascribe to proponents of ID, because it isn't a metaphor they would choose.

2: If what you are saying is that scientists are arrogant, ambitious, tricky and deceitful when they think they can get away with it, happy to do down rivals and so on - well, it's nice to know that they're human - er, but actually I think I knew that already, thanks.

3: "[W]hat was a man who has expressed virulent hatred of all parts of the non-technological academy doing at a seminar on theoretical physics?" If memory serves, I think Deutsch was talking on the application of quantum mechanics to the concept of a quantum computer based on the assumption(!) that certain sub-atomic particles can be in different locations simultaneously. I think even you will agree that it doesn't get much more "technological" than that.

I should add that I have nothing but admiration for true scholarship; and nothing but contempt for the very large percentage of dross that is spewed forth from Humanities departments every year on subjects whose worth is even less than the worthless degrees that go with them.

"Is your web personality a front?" No, what you see is what you get. I left school at 16 with 5 'easy-peasy' 'O'-levels. I was bright-ish, but lazy and I had no desire or intention of going to university. Instead I spent a desultory 2 years in a drawing office in a futile attempt to study architecture. With a cheer I jacked that in and joined the army where, after a brilliant career lasting 9 years I reached the dizzy heights of, er, corporal! (Still, as recent history has shown, it does not do to ignore ex-corporals!) I came out, racketed around for awhile and then ended up in that final refuge for scoundrels and second sons, the second-hand car trade.

However, in mitigation, there were certain things I remembered from my school days that stuck with me as being of above average interest. Later in life I began to investigate some of them - an activity that persists to this day. For example, in a bookshop one day, I saw a book entitled "Philosophy Made Simple", a sort of "John and Janet" book that you would undoubtedly sneer at. I bought it and was fascinated - an excellent book, by the way, I still have it and use it in order to find simple explanations clearly stated, in contrast to the convoluted propositions emanating from many professional philosophers!

That led me into all sorts of areas, not just philosophy but including science and economics, hence my passing knowledge of Popper, Hayek and others, and then on to physics, quantum mechanics and, of course, not least, Darwinism. I joined Adult Education and enjoyed argumentative lectures from some excellent Oxford dons, and took part in week-end seminars at Oxford. In other words, Andrew, I am a self-taught, semi-educated 'oik'. I may well be "contrary", but as I pointed out to you recently, it would be a mistake for you to believe that anyone who disagrees with what you hold to be certainties, is necessarily "obtuse".

I assumed you were familiar with Russell's parable of the chicken that grew up in a farmyard in which, dead on 8 o'clock every morning, the farmer's wife came out and scattered corn for it to feed on. Using induction, the chicken supposed this to be the fixed way of the world for ever, which it was, up until the morning she came out and rang its neck!

Popper, as I'm sure you know, was even more distrustful of induction as a means of knowing, but, to my distress, David Stove produced a book utterly demolishing Popper and all his works. I have the most enormous admiration and respect for both of them, and even worse, I haven't actually got the intellect to decide between them!

Finally, I am very happy that you were not putting forward a pro-evolution argument. That was wise of you, it a threadbare theory that is on the cusp of following phlogiston into history. Best to leave Larry and his ilk to continue making fools of themselves on their own, don't you agree?
 
1. I must be mistaken, then, if ID-propagandists do not use the well-designed machine as their central analogy.

2. No. Though scientists are human beings and have all the traits you ascribed to them on my behalf, my point is that scientific knowledge is not created by some Popperian method.

3. Congratulations on your education. Seriously. Though I wonder what it really is that you have a problem with. What are the as yet un-named objects of your ire?

4. Look, your 'problem' with induction is nothing special, but if you really behaved as if knowing through induction were a problem then you wouldn't get out of bed in the morning.

5. I believe that you are wrong about evolution, and can't see why you would believe otherwise. As a student of science, and someone who might be charged with philosophical relativism, I realise that our truths, both moral and scientific, are the product (but not just the product) of historical and social contingency. So when you write "it would be a mistake for you to believe that anyone who disagrees with what you hold to be certainties, is necessarily "obtuse"", I reject the implied charge. I accused you of being obtuse as I had assumed that you were deliberately missing the point of my post, determined as you were to argue at cross-purposes. I was not accusing you of believing in something different to me, and arguing for it. I was accusing you of arguing in bad faith.
 
Duffer, I really don't get it. In your last post, you write:

"That was wise of you, it [evolution] [sic] a threadbare theory that is on the cusp of following phlogiston into history."

And yet, above, you write:

"Darwinian theory, a theory, I might add, which I think explains an enormous amount - but not everything."

Now, are those two statements not in severe contradiction with each other? Or are you suggesting that a remotely good scientific theory is one which explains everything? Because, if so, that's absolute rubbish, and I doubt there's a scientist alive who believes it: scientific theories are always contingent, and are always (usually rather good) approximations. So I fail to see how Darwinian evolution can both "explain an enormous amount" and yet be "on the cusp of following phlogiston into history".
 
Good post Andrew. Your contraptionism does to ID what the Problem of Evil does to the idea of an omnipotent benevolent God - i.e utterly floor it and leave it's proponents muttering unpersuasively about "mysteries" and there being "more things in heaven and earth..."

I'm not going to argue with Duff because he's (a) obviously talking crap, and (b) a silly old fart.
 
This first is a quick reply to Matt Daws who has me (apparently!) on the hip, but anyway, provides us all with an excellent example of why these discussions in 'Blogdom' are so invigorating. Unlike their predecessors - long, boozy arguments in pubs years ago - debates here are written and thus subject to instant and careful scrutiny. That is exactly and precisely why I like them. Make an error, or a contradiction, and they're on you like a pack of dogs - not that I'm likening Matt to a mutt, I hasten to add.

Anyway, the reason for my contradiction, well spotted by Matt, is simple - in between I read a book! I have been devouring it for the last three days. Up above I recommended (whilst admitting I had not yet read it) a book by Richard J. Bird. I had put this to one side on account of its mathematical content with which I know I will struggle. Instead I turned to the other book I had bought, "The Naked Emperor" by Anthony Latham (both available from Amazon).

Like just about everyone else, I had read several of 'Archbishop' Dawkins's books. (I give him the honourific on the grounds that faced with any criticism, he behaves exactly as some of the 19th c. Anglican bishops behaved when Darwin published, that is, hysterically.) Still, his works were, and are, highly persuasive. However, in the end I began to doubt. I was struck by his personal arrogance, and by the implication that Darwin's theory was a total, all-embracing scientific explanation of all livng things. But Popper had taught me that there is no such thing as an all-embracing explanation for anything. He taught that scientific propositons must be capable of being falsified because always, sometimes at the extremities, they failed. So, I asked myself, why should Darwin be any different?

Then I read David Stove. And I laughed and cheered all the way to the last page as he showed up Dawkins for the bumptious twerp he undoubtedly is. Then I read Behe's book which attacked neo-Darwinism where it hurts, that is, at the level of biochemistry - not a level with which the 'Archbishop' is too familiar, I suspect!

The first of these books convinced me that Darwin's evolution did *not* apply to humans; the second convinced me that there were some huge gaping holes at the micro-biological level that required answers, and from what I could judge from the angry re-actions of the neo-Darwinists, answer came their none if you don't count abuse!

Even so, I was prepared to accept that Darwin's theory seemed to explain an enormous amount concerning the proliferation of living forms, hence my comment earlier in this discussion. Now, however, I have nearly finished Latham's book, and I have to say that it mounts a sustained and very convincing attack on the main tenet of Darwin's theory. Latham accepts the process of micro-evolution (the sort of thing we see in all the different breeds of dogs, all of which remmain dogs no matter how different), but denies absolutely the notion of macro-evolution in which entirely new taxa are formed, hence my second comment.

Now, before 'dear Larry' arrives like a whirling Dervish, let me make clear that I have no axe to grind on either side. I am neither a theist or an athiest. Oddly enough, because of my Popperian sympathies, I have rather more respect for Darwin's theory *now*, because it has been subjected to scientific criticism. In turn, of course, that criticism itself will be subject to scrutiny, and thus, inch by inch, in accordance with Popperian methodology, we shall edge closer to the Truth.

The crucial thing is to keep an open mind, keep listening to the opposite point of view, and don't be afraid to change your mind, as Matt has illuminated in my cae.
 
Fascinasting Duff, truly fascinating. I particularly like this bit:

I had read several of 'Archbishop' Dawkins's books. (I give him the honourific on the grounds that faced with any criticism, he behaves exactly as some of the 19th c. Anglican bishops behaved when Darwin published, that is, hysterically.)

It's the way you tell 'em David. I've heard it 8 times now, but it still has me rolling on the floor every time.

Did you even read Andrew's post? He explicitly DOESN'T talk about the details of evolution in it. So why are you banging on about that crank Behe, and that scientifically illiterate fraud David Stove yet again?

Perhaps you're just tring to hijack yet another comments section again, to peddle you barking mad theories of "Agnostic Creationism".
 
He he he, nice one Larry. You can come round mine for a cuppa any time!
 
'Dear Larry' you must have been a tiresome child. If you read as carefully as you like to give the impression, you will notice that I am *not* replying to Andrew but to Matt (a really careful reader), in order to explain my apparent contradiction. I know this will ruin Andrew's evening, but I intend to reply to him later on. Oh, and if you find my writing so tedious and repetative, well, the solution will occur to a PhD thinker like you, I'm sure - given sufficient time! Still, I'm inclined to be charitable because you managed several sentences *without* a four-letter expletive. Well done!
 
Mr Duff, could you please use the phrase 'trot lot' in your next post? I've nearly got a full house here, you see.

By the way, could anyone tell me the proper word for an older gentleman who chooses to hang around in a 'creche' bothering the children?

Cheers and all!
 
This is against my better judgement. But I do feel I should warn people off from getting into a discussion on these topics with David Duff. Previously, he said:

"The crucial thing is to keep an open mind, keep listening to the opposite point of view, and don't be afraid to change your mind."

But these are, I'm afraid, hollow words.

Here, and elsewhere, I and others, attempted at length to point out Mr Duff's *very basic* misunderstandings of evolutionary theory. During the course of that conversation it became clear that evolution, as understood by him, not only fails to apply to humans, but it also fails to apply to a vast range of organisms from stick-insects to sloths, via pandas, earthworms, pine-trees, the HIV virus, lemmings, termites, and meerkats.

But of course the crucial phrase is evolution, as understood by him, which differs significantly from evolution as understood by anyone who actually understands evolution.

Unforunately, for all his noble words, and for all the books and names he cites, Mr Duff is either uninterested or incapable of correcting his *profound, elementary confusion* on the subject.

As an example, (and in case you think I'm being unfair), he belives that the theory of evolution has it that "all living species increase their populations to just above the level of food supply" and that the primary evolutionary force is the "struggle to the death for food resources" in which organisms from the same species are constantly engaged.

But if you try to explain to him that some species suffer no (or rare) food shortages, and that predation, disease, exposure, competition BETWEEN species, etc. are equally important forces to consider, he will turn a deaf ear to you. If you try to explain to him how co-operation can be a good evolutionary tactic, he will pay you not the blindest bit of attention, but instead spout reams of irrelevant quotations from The Origin of Species.

So don't bother, unless you want to hear him cracking his hilarious jokes about "archbishops", alleging that scientists are dismissive of crackpot theories such as ID simply out of the jealous desire to protect their jobs, and proudly trumpeting his ignorance from the roof-tops as if it's an opinion worth hearing.

It isn't.
 
What an exuberent little fellow that Larry is, to be sure. Talk about 'getting your retaliation in first'! He's full of wind and piss but I'm fond of him, not least because he reminds me of me at his age (dread thought!) Anyway, for reasons which I am about to explain I will not deal in detail with his comment other than to say that it is typical of the confusion amongst 'Darwinistas' that they deride the words of *Darwin himself* as "reams of irrelevant quotations from The Origin of Species". That's the sort of thing a Darwin-doubter like me ought to be saying, not them.

But enough - for the moment - I want to apologise to Andrew for failing to reply to his last comment. The fact is, he has kick-started what passes for my brain, and that, plus the contents of a book I have just finished, has got me thinking and, alas, my thoughts are so involved that I think it would be an imposition to fill up his comment space with them. Also, it may take me soem time to work out how I am going to say what I want to say.

So, I will be posting the results of my cogitation, under the title "Duck! Here comes Darwin", over at my place, hopefully during the weekend and before I go off to France for a few days. Before Larry starts lacing up his 'bovver boots', I intend it to be an insult free zone - and that includes me! I will be looking for closely reasoned counter-facts and arguments rather than point scoring rhetoric.
 
The Duffer's understanding of science: Darwinian Evolution has not changed since the time of Darwin, so it's fine to use The Origin of Species as if it's the last word on the matter. Watson + Crick never happened, the genetic revolution never occured, complexity theory has no possible application to biology etc. Taking this to heart, I'm currently composing a critique of gravity based upon the writings of Newton: in particular, his clearly highly dodgy use of "The Calculus".

(Ps: I am aware that most of Newton's work on gravity actually used geometric methods and not infintesimal calculus, but I'm trying to make a point).
 
And if you want to know what I mean by "closely reasoned counter-facts and arguments rather than point scoring rhetoric", Matt has just supplied an exact example of what I *don't* want!
 
It what sense? How about this:

Darwin's "The Origin of Species" was the first book (well, in some sense) to advance what we now refer to a Darwinian evolution, or simply evolution. There has been over a century of refinement and study of these ideas, along with some profound discoveries: for example, DNA and genetics.

To advance an argument *for* evolution, it is reasonable to quote The Origin of Species. To advance an argument *against* evolution by quoting The Origin of Species is meaningless, as one is ignoring all of that century's worth of refining and discovery.

So, when Larry says:

...instead spout reams of irrelevant quotations from The Origin of Species.

He is precisely complaining about this fact. You counter this argument by saying:

...'Darwinistas' that they deride the words of *Darwin himself* as "reams of irrelevant quotations from The Origin of Species".

But that is to precisely suggest that anything important to say about evolution is in The Origin of Species and that, conversely, anything in The Origin of Species must be correct. This is absurd: of course Darwin got things wrong, incomplete etc.: THAT'S HOW SCIENCE WORKS! If you are to critique evolutionary theory, you need to critique the theory AS WE UNDERSTAND IT NOW, and not how it was understood a century ago. To do otherwise is to erect and then burn down one massive Straw-Man. Hence it is quite legitimate for Larry or anyone else to say that Darwin's own words are, sometimes, not correct.

So, is that better David? I fail to see how I've said anything differently, except that I've been somewhat more verbose.
 
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