I’ve been informed that – due to circumstances beyond their control – Arizona CoR has had to move the screening of Creation that was scheduled for Friday to Friday March 12th. Unfortunately this means that Jane Maienschein won’t be available, but I will still be there to answer questions after the viewing. The screening is at Harkins Valley Art Theatre (Mill Ave, Tempe) and will begin at 6:30pm.
Jane Maienschein and I will be answering questions after the screening. More details here.
This week we’re going to be examining the origins and evolution of Intelligent Design Creationism. The above slides actually cover two days of lectures.
These are going to be the last slides I post until March 22nd. As I said last week, the class follows this with two weeks of viewings and then we have the mid-term examination. Following the break, we will start examining the claims of both YEC and IDC proponents.
It’s the twentieth anniversary of the famous “pale blue dot” photo – Earth as seen from Voyager 1 while on the edge of our solar system (approximately 3,762,136,324 miles from home). Sagan’s words are always worth remembering:
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
Or, gelukkige Swammerdam dag!
Thony Christie has the details.
The January 2010 issue of the Newsletter of the History of Science Society is now available online. Two articles are of note: a short piece on the Tyndall Correspondence Project and a letter by DI Fellow Richard Weikart complaining about my piece on historians and anti-evolutionism. I’ll respond to the latter at a future stage.
Monday’s class is an introduction to the logic of natural selection. As I usually do when presenting selection, I follow Ernst Mayr’s formulation of a series of facts and inferences from those facts. I then deal with some of the consequences of the idea and the prevalent misconceptions about evolution through natural selection. Some of the slides are going to be anything but self-evident, I’m afraid.
The next three lectures will be focused on the history of American anti-evolutionism and I will, of course, post those slides (starting on Wednesday).
A student of mine turned me on to this: three minute (irreverent) takes on various philosophers: Galileo, Descartes, Aquinas, Aristotle, Hume, Pythagoras, Kant and Locke. They are by an Australian by the name of S. Peter Davis. Enjoy!
Today’s class is an introduction to the history of the argument to and from design.
The issue of MN/PN came up in my class last week and in comments. I don’t really have time to adequately deal with the questions at the moment, but I do want to link to these two posts by Larry Moran and John Pieret on a talk given by Maarten Boudry, the abstract of which I give below:
In recent rounds of debate between evolutionists and supporters of Intelligent Design, the principle of methodological naturalism (MN) has been an important battleground. Creationists and intelligent design proponents have previously claimed that the commitment of evolutionists to naturalism and materialism constitutes a philosophical prejudice on their side, because it rules out any kind of supernatural causes by fiat. In response to these charges, some philosophers and scientists have argued that science is only committed to something they call methodological naturalism: Science does not deal with supernatural causes and explanations, but that does not mean that the latter do not exist. However, there has been some philosophical discussion about the correct understanding of MN. The principle of MN is often conceived of as an intrinsic and self-imposed limitation of science, as something that is part and parcel of the scientific enterprise by definition. According to this view (Intrinsic MN or IMN) – which is defended by people like Eugenie Scott, Michael Ruse and Robert Pennock and has been adopted in the ruling of Judge John E. Jones III in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case – science is simply not equipped to deal with the supernatural and therefore has no authority on the issue. It is clear that this depiction of science and MN offers some perspectives for reconciling science and religion. Not surprisingly, IMN is often embraced by those sympathetic to religion, or by those who wish to alleviate the sometimes heated opposition between the two.
However, we will argue that this view of MN does not offer a sound rationale for the rejection of supernatural explanations. Alternatively, we will defend MN as a provisory and empirically grounded commitment of scientists to naturalistic causes and explanations, which is in principle revocable by future scientific findings (Qualified MN or QMN). In this view, MN is justified as a methodological guideline by virtue of the dividends of naturalistic explanation and the consistent failure of supernatural explanations in the history of science.
We will discuss and reject four arguments in favour of IMN: the argument from the definition of science, the argument from lawful regularity, the science stopper argument, and the argument from procedural necessity. Moreover, we will argue that defining the supernatural out of science is a counterproductive strategy against ID creationism, and, for that matter, against any theory involving supernatural explanations. More specifically, IMN has been eagerly exploited by proponents of ID to bolster their false claims about the philosophical and metaphysical prejudices of evolutionists. As ID proponent Philip Johnson rhetorically noted, if science is about following the evidence wherever it leads, why should scientists exclude a priori the possibility of discovering evidence for the supernatural? Therefore, IMN is actually grist to the ID mill.
We conclude that IMN is philosophically artificial and that its attempt to reconcile science and religion is ill-conceived. QMN, alas, does not provide any such ready reconciliation either, but it does offer a sound rationale for the rejection of supernatural designers in modern science.
Another slideset. This time for tomorrow’s class covering Near-eastern ideas of creation.
Classes started this week. I’m teaching the second half of the Socratic seminar that is required of all honors students at Barrett – you can see the schedule of readings here – and my course “Origins, Evolution and Creation” which is now in its twelfth year. You can read more about that class here. Above are the slides for the first class of “Origins” – an introduction to the course. I tried to record a podcast so you all could listen along, but ran into a problem. If there is sufficient interest (let me know in the comments), I may keep uploading slide presentations as the semester goes on. You’ll need to guess at what I’m saying, but it may be useful none the less
Historian Steven Shapin has a longish article in the LRB on the 2009 Darwin festivities. I haven’t digested it all fully yet, but he makes much sense in pointing out the general weirdness of the celebrations (some of which I put down to the theological and socio-political baggage that swirls around evolutionary biology).
A few days back I noted that this year is the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of the telescope for astronomical observation (and his subsequent publication of The Starry Messenger). I forgot to note that he was preceded by an Englishman, Thomas Harriot (1560 – 1621) in the use of the telescope to study both the moon and the sun. The image above is of Harriot’s drawing – from August 5th 1609 (July 26th Julian) – of the moon. In December 1610 he observed sunspots and – as with his lunar drawings and much of his work – he unfortunately never published his observations.
Harriot is an interesting character – he served with Sir Walter Raleigh (both as a math tutor and cartographer), travelled to the Colonies, was briefly imprisoned as a result of the Gunpowder Plot, corresponded with Kepler, discovered Snell’s Law in 1602, and perhaps introduced the potato to Ireland. It is interesting to contemplate how Irish history would have unfolded had the latter not happened.
(This article notes that he also introduced tobacco and “wrote the earliest publicity blurb for smoking, a habit that killed him – the first recorded death from tobacco-related cancer.”)
- The term [Social Darwinism] is a misnomer since the central concepts of what came to be called social Darwinism were already in place prior to the 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species.
- Social Darwinism has no core theoretical framework and is a mere amalgamation of largely unconnected ideas.
- Social Darwinism lacks historical documentation concerning those deemed to be proponents of the theory itself.
This will, of course, have zero impact on the rhetoric of the Discovery Institute as historical accuracy has never been their strong point.