I get a little exasperated when I so-often see religious dogmatists refer to evolutionary biologists as "Darwinists." I think it is just a canard to somehow conflate evolutionary theory into some kind of religious belief or ideology. Silly "scientific" creationists, your arguments aren't any more scientific than your "intelligent" design arguments are intelligent. This was a fairly obvious motif in the dog-awful film of yesteryear "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," (I can't argue with the veracity of the title.) which I only recommend watching if you want to see a sterling example of misguided religious propaganda. I haven't seen the film in years but I think their syllogism was something like:

1) Evolutionary biologists are Darwinists
2) Darwinists believe in social darwinism.
3) Nazis are social darwinists
4) Therefore evolutionary biologists are Nazis.

Yeah, pretty insulting. John Rennie, in his Scientific American article, "Ben Stein's Expelled: No Integrity Displayed," pretty well summed it up: "
Ben Stein wants you to stop thinking of evolution as an actual science supported by verifiable facts and logical arguments and to start thinking of it as a dogmatic, atheistic ideology akin to Marxism."
    I really don't get it. They don't call physicists Newtonists or Einsteinists, do they? Oh, and please, save me from semantic junk that evolution is "just" a theory. As has been often pointed out gravity is "just" a theory and we don't fall off the planet, and then there is germ theory; we still catch colds, right?
    Part of the reason I'm thinking about this is that I'm about 60 pages into what is shaping up to be a pretty good book: Brilliant Blunders, by Mario Livio. The thesis of the book is that many great scientists, including Darwin, Einstein, Pauling, and others "stumbled badly," and some of these errors were instrumental in advancing their respective fields. For example, in Darwin's case, according to Livio, he made the fundamental error of believing in "blended" inheritance. Darwin believed that if a population of white mice generated a mutant (a "sport" in the terminology of the day) black mouse, subsequent generations would gradually dilute the black pigment to the point where the population would revert to an all white population. The dilution of genetic blending would logically counter the idea of natural selection, which would allow expansion of a fixed attribute if the mutation results in a reproductive advantage. If only Darwin recognized, or was aware of, the discoveries of his contemporary Gregor Mendel he would have realized an elegant mechanism of inheritance (via what were later called genes) that would have neatly explained natural selection. All of this highlights the fact that scientific knowledge is provisional knowledge, that is, subject to change in light of a better understanding of the facts.
    Let's end this post with some fun videos related to Charles Darwin, the greatest biologist who ever lived.



01/09/2014 9:05am

You might consider writing a play featuring yourself in a burka. It could be fun.


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