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Michael Stuart Kelly

Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design

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Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design

by Charley Reese

May 5, 2008

LewRockwell.com

© 2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

In my evaluation, this is an outstanding article. It is only a collection of opinions based on observation. There are no graphs, quotes from learned sources, demonized targets on one side or the other, examples that try to prove that one side is good and the other evil, etc., not even any sarcasm or mocking. There are only opinions.

I don't know the work of Mr. Resse, either, so I cannot say whether this is typical of his thinking or an anomaly. I do know that it is op-ed kind of writing at its best. (I mean by this the general overview with opinion kind of writing.)

The epistemological method is not to accept a false dichotomy, but to stay within the bounds of the known and leave the unknown open to be learned. This resounded strongly in me because this is the system I used to overcome my Randroidism and crack addiction at the same time. I think using this system is the true start of self-approval (in terms of being certain about what you think) and nowadays I cannot imagine using any other.

Here are a few quotes that I endorse. They spoke to me on a deep level. I did not quote all the passages, since that would have meant reproducing the entire essay.

As to evolution, ID, etc., I lean more toward evolution than anything else, but I am not expert enough in the subject to issue anything more than a semi-educated opinion. I am not afraid to say it, either.

I am an agnostic when it comes to explaining the origin of life. I don't believe yet in evolution, creationism or intelligent design. I can see flaws in all three. I just simply don't know and frankly don't think it matters whether we know or not.

My main conflict with the evolutionists is that they wish to assert their theory as fact and to employ government power to ban discussion of creationism and intelligent design on the grounds that they are unscientific or, worse from their point of view, religious. I am against banning any idea, theory, speculation or body of guesses. Human history shows us to be far too error-prone to go around eliminating dissent by majority vote of one of the more ignorant classes in our society, namely politicians.

. . .

I believe in the separation of church and state. I also believe in the separation of science and state. In fact, I believe in the separation of practically all aspects of life from the state, which should basically tote the mail and guard the coast.

. . .

True science means simply the search for truth, but a search conducted with an open mind and tolerance for dissent. There is nothing wrong with a person believing that a dinosaur evolved into a canary, but there is also nothing wrong with someone believing that God created the first man and woman. I've never seen any physical evidence to support either belief, and one is no more improbable than the other. The only fact is that some beliefs have to be accepted on the basis of faith, and that goes for evolution as well as creationism.

This might rankle some people and collide with their serenity or beliefs, but I think it is eloquently stated. I could not have said it better myself. I look at those words and see myself as if in a mirror.

I am happy in my ignorance when I truly don't know something because I know that someday I might learn it. It is good to know that I am not sabotaging my mind thinking that speculation is fact. That is true certainty and it feels damn good. This anchors the best form of curiosity and delight in existence. It is my intellectual motor.

If I can keep that intact and never ever lose it now that I have found it at great cost, I know I will not need anything else to get along in life—not any specific book, prophet, theory or body of knowledge, for as helpful as they may otherwise be. I know I will be living to my highest potential regardless of context.

I think with my own mind.

Michael

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Reese:

>> [...] My main conflict with the evolutionists is that they wish to assert their theory as fact and to employ government power to ban discussion of creationism and intelligent design on the grounds that they are unscientific or, worse from their point of view, religious. I am against banning any idea, theory, speculation or body of guesses. Human history shows us to be far too error-prone to go around eliminating dissent by majority vote of one of the more ignorant classes in our society, namely politicians. <<

MSK:

> This might rankle some people and collide with their serenity or beliefs, but I think it is eloquently stated. I could not have said it better myself. [...] <

Well, this is a twist, though hardly a very interesting one.

I agree with Reese's general point, although his smearing of "the evolutionists" as a group is hardly accurate, as many in and out of professional science do not support the suppression of any such debate in government schools. The root problem, as ever, is with the government schools and their coerced support, as many (libertarians and not) have repeatedly pointed out.

My surprise is with Michael accepting Reese's point here, when he resisted it in regard to anthropogenetic global warming.

Some of us repeatedly brought up how nearly all of the vocal, tax-paid shills for AGW — again, in and out of professional science — have openly called for some degree of using force to suppress opposing views. Certainly, starting in the shaping of government-school curricula, but for some, up to and including Nuremberg-style trials and mass executions of scientists opposed to it.

Michael wasn't at all fazed by this. (At the very least, if he ever saw this as being improper, it wasn't in response to any post of mine about it, nor was it within any discussion I read in that torrent of verbiage on all sides.)

Which is it, Michael? Do you oppose, as such, the active suppression of dissent on any issue by government entities and their employees and grantees? Or don't you?

Are you going to stand on principle, one way or the other?

... here we go again ...

Edited by Greybird
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"My main conflict with the evolutionists is that they wish to assert their theory as fact and to employ government power to ban discussion of creationism and intelligent design on the grounds that they are unscientific or, worse from their point of view, religious."

That is precisely why discussion of evolution alternatives should certainly be banned - in schools. Outside of schools, discuss to your heart's content but the basic concept of schools should include at least include some degree of academic merit of the subject matter. Evolution alternatives have no academic merit and have no place in education. Asserting it as 'fact' is irrelevant. It's by far the best theory we have, and until and if there's a better model, then it should damn well be asserted.

FWIW, my formal education is a Medicice/Biology/Physics combination called Medical Biophysics and for me to read something like:

"The only fact is that some beliefs have to be accepted on the basis of faith, and that goes for evolution as well as creationism."

strikes me as totally preposterous. Utter nonsense.

So what I'm saying is that if you've studied evolution, most would agree it's a very strong, evidence-based theory. What's next, is it OK not to 'believe' in mathematics? Do we need to accept Chemistry on faith?

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac
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There are a couple of telling quotes from the article, though I would encourage people to read it in its entirety to see just how horrific it is! This guy is ignorant of science and seems to be very proud of the fact.

On the origin of life: "I just simply don't know and frankly don't think it matters whether we know or not."

On belief: "...there is also nothing wrong with someone believing that God created the first man and woman."

There are several very bad implications from these statements.

The author implies that beliefs of this type are on equal footing with scientific knowledge, just because the author is ignorant of the facts.

He also implies that those who try to learn the facts of reality are not engaging in a noble pursuit, since it's just as valid to believe a fairy tale you were taught as a child.

He also implies that it is not important to learn the truth. This reflects a naive view that scientific discoveries have no practical applications - that they fundamentally don't matter. It's sort of like the child who complains that he's never gonna use algebra so why does he have to learn it. (It's telling that the author actually makes this complaint in his article!)

Would the author also agree that "there is also nothing wrong with someone believing that he can flap his arms while jumping off a cliff and live to tell about it" or "there is also nothing wrong with someone believing that he can build a skyscraper out of 2x4s and it will be just as sturdy as one made with steel beams"?

Ayn Rand opposed the idea that philosophy was just a parlor game. She taught that philosophical ideas have a profound effect on mankind's well-being. This author is implying that even science is just a parlor game. I think it's disgusting.

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If I can keep that intact and never ever lose it now that I have found it at great cost, I know I will not need anything else to get along in life—not any specific book, prophet, theory or body of knowledge, for as helpful as they may otherwise be. I know I will be living to my highest potential regardless of context.

I think with my own mind.

Let me just say that I applaud the above sentiment. But Evolution vs ID are not worthy adversaries in any sense and that's the only thing I object to....

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My surprise is with Michael accepting Reese's point here, when he resisted it in regard to anthropogenetic global warming.

Steve,

I suggest you reread the threads. I was against all governement involvement. Still am.

I also came to the conclusion that all the yelling and intimidation back and forth were because scientists wanted a slice of the government money pie—on both sides. The debate conjures up an image in my mind of dogs fighting over bones while pretending the issue is another.

That is still my position. All you have to do is read and you will see it.

Michael

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The author implies that beliefs of this type are on equal footing with scientific knowledge, just because the author is ignorant of the facts.

He also implies that those who try to learn the facts of reality are not engaging in a noble pursuit, since it's just as valid to believe a fairy tale you were taught as a child.

He also implies that it is not important to learn the truth.

Laure,

Which facts? I didn't get the impression that the author was ignorant of the facts at all, nor even the theories. Granted, he did not discuss them, but that does not mean he was ignorant of them. On what do you base that claim?

I also did not get the impression that Reese considered each theory valid. On the contrary, I got the impression that he considered each theory as invalid, i.e., without physical proof. He was not proposing. He was rejecting. That's the gist I got from this statement of his: "I've never seen any physical evidence to support either belief, and one is no more improbable than the other." Don't forget that he just characterized evolution as canaries evolving from dinosaurs.

btw - Refusal to claim evolution as fact was Rand's view. Here is an exact quote from her: "I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent." This is from The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. II, No. 17 May 21, 1973, "The Missing Link--Part II."

I understand Reese to be saying he, also, is neither supporter nor opponent. In terms of Rand, Reese is very much on her wave-length. You seem to read a different meaning into his words and I am curious as to how you arrived at that.

Finally, where do you get the implication that Reese claims that it is not important to learn the truth? I got the exact opposite impression. I read him as saying that until we know the truth, the theories are not all that important (essentially because of the partisan fighting and the fact that they have no practical application). I even understood him to say that only the truth (stuff that is actually known) should be taught in school.

Michael

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Bob,

I have a personal opinion about this that I did not express in my opening post. Of course I consider evolution as science-based and ID as religion-based. They are still both theories, though, and they are developed logically from certain premises inherent in each side. I am not opposed to teaching both in school, but I am opposed to teaching ID as if it were science, just as I would oppose teaching evolution as if it were religion (i.e., present in scriptures).

I hold the exact opposite opinion about teaching religion in school than is the popular view. I think religion should be taught. I think all the essential tenets of the world's major religions should be presented in a secularized "information only" kind of presentation in school as part of the standard curriculum. After all, most of mankind's history developed around one religion or the other. Religion has been the conduit of philosophy throughout the ages. Wars were and are constantly fought over religion. Nations were and are founded on religion.

Whether we admit it or not, religion has been and is a major influence on human affairs. So it makes sense to me to expose children to the playing field they will encounter out in society as part of their education. In fact, I think such exposure would lessen the noxious effect that religious clashes have had on peace throughout the ages.

Michael

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(snip)

btw - Refusal to claim evolution as fact was Rand's view. Here is an exact quote from her: "I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent." This is from The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. II, No. 17 May 21, 1973, "The Missing Link--Part II."

(snip)

Michael

You cite Rand correctly. I don't that was one of her better moments, however. I think that evolution just hadn't garnered enough interest on Rand's part to warrant her attention. I think her comment suggests that she had never looked at the matter carefully - not that she had looked and found the matter ambiguous.

Alfonso

Edited by Alfonso
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Bill (Afonso),

Actually, Nathaniel Branden reports conversations with her where she was in doubt about evolution.

If you are interested in an in-depth discussion, here is an excellent article by by Neil Parille: Ayn Rand and Evolution.

Also, you might have missed a lot of discussions on this issue on Objectivist forums. Those in favor of ID (and there were several) kept mentioning that, although there is observable proof of evolutionary changes within a species, the rub hits on going from one species to another. Several views and speculations were battered about, but the surprising fact (to me at the time) is that there are no hard facts to point to.

The most reasonable explanation was once given by Dragonfly in a discussion I had with him online. The gist was that the birth of a species would take so long that it would not be noticeable. That seems reasonable (in fact, the most reasonable explanation in my opinion), but it is still speculation.

Michael

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Bill (Afonso),

Actually, Nathaniel Branden reports conversations with her where she was in doubt about evolution.

If you are interested in an in-depth discussion, here is an excellent article by by Neil Parille: Ayn Rand and Evolution.

Michael

Michael -

I think you cited the key Rand quote from her published writings above - to the effect that she had not studied the question, and hence was neither a supporter or an opponent on the issue.

Are the NB reports published? I'd be interested if the reports of doubts refer to her not having investigated the question carefully (in her own evaluation), or to her having investigated the question carefully and found the matter unclear. Those are, of course, two very different matters, and I'd like to understand which is the case.

Alfonso

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...I also did not get the impression that Reese considered each theory valid. On the contrary, I got the impression that he considered each theory as invalid, i.e., without physical proof.

...I understand Reese to be saying he, also, is neither supporter nor opponent. In terms of Rand, Reese is very much on her wave-length. You seem to read a different meaning into his words and I am curious as to how you arrived at that.

Finally, where do you get the implication that Reese claims that it is not important to learn the truth? I got the exact opposite impression. I read him as saying that until we know the truth, the theories are not all that important (essentially because of the partisan fighting and the fact that they have no practical application). I even understood him to say that only the truth (stuff that is actually known) should be taught in school.

Michael

Reese considers all theories invalid. It is unclear when he would ever be able to declare something a "fact". He makes no distinction between the scientific method and blind faith, and says that "theories" derived from either method are equally invalid. He never states that he personally has not studied the subject and thus has not come to a conclusion. His position is that NOBODY knows the facts of the origin of life on Earth, even those who have made a life's study of the subject. He is elevating his own ignorance to be on an equal footing with the partial knowledge of scientists who have devoted their lives to study. His characterization of scientists as being just like priests, dogmatic, and completely biased by their own personal agendas, leads me to believe that he's never actually met a real live scientist.

He is totally, totally NOT on Rand's wavelength. (Not that that is relevant.) The whole article reeks of "we can't know anything", "who do these scientists think they are."

Where do I get the implication that he claims that it is not important to learn the truth? He comes right out and says it, "I just simply don't know and frankly don't think it matters whether we know or not."

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Bob,

They are still both theories, though, and they are developed logically from certain premises inherent in each side.

Calling them both theories is like calling the Queen Mary and a rowboat both 'watercraft'. They cannot be compared in any reasonable way. teaching religion in schools is fine, just like teaching Greek Mythology is fine too because of historical implications and such. But Evolution and ID are NOT alternatives. One is evidence-based and the other is nonsense. As long as that's clear, then we're OK.

Bob

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Bill (Afonso),

Actually, Nathaniel Branden reports conversations with her where she was in doubt about evolution.

If you are interested in an in-depth discussion, here is an excellent article by by Neil Parille: Ayn Rand and Evolution.

Michael

Michael -

I think you cited the key Rand quote from her published writings above - to the effect that she had not studied the question, and hence was neither a supporter or an opponent on the issue.

Are the NB reports published? I'd be interested if the reports of doubts refer to her not having investigated the question carefully (in her own evaluation), or to her having investigated the question carefully and found the matter unclear. Those are, of course, two very different matters, and I'd like to understand which is the case.

Alfonso

Ellen's objections notwithstanding, IMHO I believe Rand was aware that Evolution threatened a number of her views and therefore avoided all discussion. I'd love to find more evidence for this. However, the fact that she avoided it so forcefully makes me highly suspicious of her motives here.

From Neil's Article

_____

In “Racism,” Rand rejects the contention that a person’s character or intelligence is inherited or produced by his “internal body chemistry.” (p. 126.

_____

I think at the very least, Rand had to know that Evolution had essentially proven, or at least implied that this idea was false.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac
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Bill (Afonso),

Actually, Nathaniel Branden reports conversations with her where she was in doubt about evolution.

If you are interested in an in-depth discussion, here is an excellent article by by Neil Parille: Ayn Rand and Evolution.

Also, you might have missed a lot of discussions on this issue on Objectivist forums. Those in favor of ID (and there were several) kept mentioning that, although there is observable proof of evolutionary changes within a species, the rub hits on going from one species to another. Several views and speculations were battered about, but the surprising fact (to me at the time) is that there are no hard facts to point to.

The most reasonable explanation was once given by Dragonfly in a discussion I had with him online. The gist was that the birth of a species would take so long that it would not be noticeable. That seems reasonable (in fact, the most reasonable explanation in my opinion), but it is still speculation.

Michael

Michael: Are you referring to (From Benefits and Hazards):

I remember being astonished to hear her say one day, "After all, the theory of evolution is only a hypothesis." I asked her, "You mean you seriously doubt that more complex life forms — including humans — evolved from less complex life forms?" She shrugged and responded, "I'm really not prepared to say," or words to that effect. I do not mean to imply that she wanted to substitute for the theory of evolution the religious belief that we are all God's creation; but there was definitely something about the concept of evolution that made her uncomfortable.

or to some further discussion by Nathaniel Branden?

Alfonso

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Are the NB reports published? I'd be interested if the reports of doubts refer to her not having investigated the question carefully (in her own evaluation), or to her having investigated the question carefully and found the matter unclear. Those are, of course, two very different matters, and I'd like to understand which is the case.

Alfonso

I don't think that a person with her mental abilities who had "investigated the question carefully" would have written something so...uninformed (polite description) as that "Missing Link" article.

Ellen

___

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Are the NB reports published? I'd be interested if the reports of doubts refer to her not having investigated the question carefully (in her own evaluation), or to her having investigated the question carefully and found the matter unclear. Those are, of course, two very different matters, and I'd like to understand which is the case.

Alfonso

I don't think that a person with her mental abilities who had "investigated the question carefully" would have written something so...uninformed (polite description) as that "Missing Link" article.

Ellen

___

Ellen -

I agree. I doubt that she ever spent much time looking at the question. Her own statement indicates that she had not. Also, as you indicate - the cofew things she said on the subject are most consistent with what would likely be said by someone whose attention had never been riveted on the question.

Alfonso

Edited by Alfonso
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Ellen's objections notwithstanding, IMHO I believe Rand was aware that Evolution threatened a number of her views and therefore avoided all discussion. I'd love to find more evidence for this. However, the fact that she avoided it so forcefully makes me highly suspicious of her motives here.

Bob

That isn't actually the substance of my objections to remarks you've made, Bob. I, too, think that she was aware enough to be aware that Evolution threatened a number of her views -- but not specifically in the ways you've spoken of. She wasn't aware of implications of "sociobiology" and descendants. They came too late in her life. That her view on the enormous gap between the consciousness types of other animals and man would be false if evolution is true, I think she had to have sensed. But that's a much more abstract and broad issue than the particular details you've claimed she had to have been aware of and which I'd say clearly she didn't know enough about the subject TO have been aware of.

Ellen

___

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From Neil's Article

_____

In “Racism,” Rand rejects the contention that a person’s character or intelligence is inherited or produced by his “internal body chemistry.” (p. 126.

_____

I think at the very least, Rand had to know that Evolution had essentially proven, or at least implied that this idea was false.

Bob

You edited while I was posting. I -- who know evolutionary theory well, unlike Rand -- don't agree with you that evolution proves "that a person's character or intelligence is inherited or produced by his 'internal body chemistry.'"

There's an example of what I mean when I say that you're speaking of some specifics which you claim Rand had to have ignored; it's on her having to have ignored those specifics on which I disagree with you. And, as added, I don't even agree with the details of what you claim has been proven. (It would be possible to restate the statement you made above in a way with which I would agree, but not the way you put it.)

Ellen

___

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Calling them both theories is like calling the Queen Mary and a rowboat both 'watercraft'.

The Queen Mary and a rowboat are both "watercraft." How about...the Queen Mary and a kite? Or some such comparison?

;-)

E-

___

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Ellen's objections notwithstanding, IMHO I believe Rand was aware that Evolution threatened a number of her views and therefore avoided all discussion.

I think you're right, Bob. There's considerable tension between theoretical individualism and genetics. In a wider sense, philosophical inquiry is conceptual, empirical science driven by evidence, and it's customary to shrug and concede to each his own, like the grumpy detente between business and government. Higher math and statistics attempt to explain everything from gravitation to garbage collection, convincing no one of anything in particular, not even mathematicians.

On balance, I agree with Charlie Reese. I don't care how life on earth began. I don't much care what happens in Africa, Russia, China, India, or South America. I try to avoid spending time or emotional concern with other people as a general rule. I don't care what's taught in schools. The purpose of schooling is not to teach anybody anything, but to learn socialization and its inevitable injustice, boredom, spectacle and heartache.

:)

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I think with my own mind.

Michael

I'm glad you cleared that up. :)

--Brant

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Reese considers all theories invalid. It is unclear when he would ever be able to declare something a "fact".

Laure,

I am giving this some attention because I am truly curious. I think you are mischaracterizing Reese's points (I will discuss a few and give my reasons for thinking this below). I have suffered similar mischaracterizations online enough times to wonder where it comes from. I certainly do not think of you as a dishonest or stupid person. On the contrary, I have the highest respect for you and I value you greatly. You think with your own mind. But in the present case, I cannot relate to your thinking. And I am fully aware that you are expressing what is in your heart and mind and not trying to fool anybody or put on airs.

So please take the following comments as an attempt to understand, not as criticism. As for me saying "I am right and you are wrong," I not only admit the possibility that I am not seeing something, I am seeking to see it. But for now, I have to start somewhere.

His position is that NOBODY knows the facts of the origin of life on Earth, even those who have made a life's study of the subject. He is elevating his own ignorance to be on an equal footing with the partial knowledge of scientists who have devoted their lives to study. His characterization of scientists as being just like priests, dogmatic, and completely biased by their own personal agendas, leads me to believe that he's never actually met a real live scientist.

In my understanding, nobody does know such facts because they haven't been found. Every expert I have read calls evolution a theory. The problem is with one species becoming another and no longer being able to reproduce in that species (and vice-versa). I don't know of anyone who would deny that species adapt to their environments, not even religious people. The results at the supermarket with genetic engineering are too evident for even laypeople to deny.

But when this is applied to evolutionary theory, even here, there is a lot of speculation. I remember a book I read years ago by Arthur Koestler called The Case of the Midwife Toad. This concerned some experiments on the inheritance of changes (called Lamarckianism), which is one of the few ways a biological change can possibly take place and endure in a species, except nobody believes it anymore. Paul Kammerer was found to have falsified research data and was shunned by the scientific community, with heaping helpings of scorn that would do a fanatical cult proud. He denied doing the fraud and claimed an assistant must have done it. There was a lot of controversy with no lack of Nazis, Soviets and spies, but in the end, he bit the bullet, accepted that he was disgraced and committed suicide.

Most people, even scientists, accepted his suicide as proof that he was guilty. (And that sounds more and more like religion, not science.) The interesting thing to me is that Kammerer's totally authentic experiments on salamanders and newts are practically ignored by the scientific community. If you are interested in the case, here are a few links:

The Case of the Midwife Toad (Hoaxipedia)

Paul Kammerer (Wikipedia)

How one toad destroyed one man's entire career

Incidentally, Kammerer's work on seriality could be seen as a form of scientific support for the Law of Attraction which is in vogue among Oprah fans and similar. Einstein, according to the Wikipedia article, called his idea "Interesting, and by no means absurd." (I just threw that in to stir up some crap. Otherwise, disregard. :) )

My point in this example was to show a case where the scientific community acted just like a band of religious zealots. After oodles of investigations over decades, the full truth about Kammerer is not known. What is known is that he was first set up as a worldwide publicity darling, then denounced and condemned from one minute to the next. From Saint to Satan in a heartbeat.

If Reese had only this case in mind when he made his comments, I fully understand where he is coming from. I suspect he had more knowledge of irrational disputes between scientists, but just did not find it useful for his article, whereas you claim he is "elevating his own ignorance."

I may end up disagreeing with him later, but I am not convinced of his ignorance. His opinions reflect my own observations. I may be a layman, but I have read some things. I suspect this is Reese's case.

The whole article reeks of "we can't know anything", "who do these scientists think they are."

I find this statement amazing because I cannot smell what you do. To me, he stated clearly that we do know many things and they should be taught, not that we can't know anything. He even mentioned biological things we do know. I don't find the idea you attribute to him even implied in his words.

Also, I like his idea of separation of science and state. If a scientist wishes to become a politician and make laws, let him run for office like everyone does and become a politician. I think if a scientist wishes to impose his particular brand of science on others by law, but from the wings, I also say, "who do these scientists think they are?"

Hell, scientists can't even agree among each other. So which one would you have making the laws? A or B or C? They all say different things. For example, which scientists should make laws about global warming? There are plenty of respected and renowned scientists with peer-reviewed studies of all stripes.

I always have difficulty with this point in these discussions. To me, it is obvious as all get out that one scientist would make one kind of law and another would make the opposite. Hell, forget "would." Just look at what they are doing. It's all over the mainstream press. Do you see any consistency of class? I don't.

So if that is the standard, I'm with Reese. This compares against religion quite nicely. I am not claiming this for all standards, just for partisan bickering, backstabbing, greed and power lust. :)

Where do I get the implication that he claims that it is not important to learn the truth? He comes right out and says it, "I just simply don't know and frankly don't think it matters whether we know or not."

I think you dropped the context to make that general statement. I do not see Reese disparaging human knowledge in general. He was clear that his context was practical issues and partisan bickering. If he implied anything, it was that education should be for practical issues.

Within this context, I even agree with him. It doesn't matter whether we know or not where human beings came from.

But, for the advancement of human knowledge, obviously it does matter. In fact, once that is discovered qua fact and not qua theory, we will be able to make human beings to order. The implications of that are staggering.

From your sweeping statement about Reese, he would be against calling this kind of implication important. I think that is stretching it way too far.

So getting back to my original curiosity, do you not see the exaggerations in your accusations against Reese? I'm asking seriously. I see your criticisms of him dropping context and exaggerating his statements to attribute meanings to them they do not communicate and I seriously doubt he holds.

Where are you coming from? What is it I am not seeing?

Michael

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I need to amend something I wrote earlier, in reply to Bob Mac. Here's the whole post repeated, including his remarks:

Ellen's objections notwithstanding, IMHO I believe Rand was aware that Evolution threatened a number of her views and therefore avoided all discussion. I'd love to find more evidence for this. However, the fact that she avoided it so forcefully makes me highly suspicious of her motives here.

Bob

That isn't actually the substance of my objections to remarks you've made, Bob. I, too, think that she was aware enough to be aware that Evolution threatened a number of her views -- but not specifically in the ways you've spoken of. She wasn't aware of implications of "sociobiology" and descendants. They came too late in her life. That her view on the enormous gap between the consciousness types of other animals and man would be false if evolution is true, I think she had to have sensed. But that's a much more abstract and broad issue than the particular details you've claimed she had to have been aware of and which I'd say clearly she didn't know enough about the subject TO have been aware of.

Ellen

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I need to amend my statements:

"I, too, think that she was aware enough to be aware that Evolution threatened a number of her views";

and:

"That her view on the enormous gap between the consciousness types of other animals and man would be false if evolution is true, I think she had to have sensed."

I've had a "click" just today about Ayn Rand and evolution. For one thing the wording I used doesn't match my feeling of AR's sense of confidence in the rightness of her own views. It isn't that, if she sensed a disparity between her views on human consciousness and those entailed by evolutionary theory, she would have had a submerged worry that her views were wrong. Instead -- as in the case of aspects of 20th-century physics -- she'd have assumed that the scientific view was in error, with the errors resulting from bad philosophy.

So I don't think it's the case that she avoided evolutionary theory; I think she just wasn't much interested, since she didn't see its relevance to the "essential" characteristic, in her opinion, of the human, i.e., the human type of consciousness (as she saw that type of consciousness).

Second, I've had a feeling of fully recognizing -- as if with the thought, "Oh, yes, of course, that's why" -- the feature of her evolution remarks in "The Missing Link" which made me cringe with a shudder of embarrassment when I first read the piece, and which has lingered as an "ick."

Here is the key wording:

THE MISSING LINK

Part II, May 21, 1973

Vol II, no. 17,

The Ayn Rand Letter

pg. 3

The common denominator of all such gangs is the belief in motion (mass demonstrations), not action - in chanting, not arguing - in demanding, not achieving - in feeling, not thinking - in denouncing "outsiders," not in pursuing values - in focusing only on the "now," the "today" without a "tomorrow" - in seeking to return to "nature," to "the earth," to the mud, to physical labor, i.e., to all the things which a perceptual mentality is able to handle. You don't see advocates of reason and science clogging a street in the belief that using their bodies to stop traffic, will solve the problem. [Comma error is in the original.]

pg. 5-6, the concluding paragraphs

I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent. But a certain hypothesis has haunted me for years; I want to stress that it is only a hypothesis. There is an enormous breach of continuity between man and all the other living species. The difference lies in the nature of man's consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty. It is as if, after aeons of physiological development, the evolutionary process altered its course, and the higher stages of development focused primarily on the consciousness of living species, not their bodies. But the development of a man's consciousness is volitional: no matter what the innate degree of his intelligence, he must develop it, he must learn how to use it, he must become a human being by choice. What if he does not choose to? Then he becomes a transitional phenomenon - a desperate creature that struggles frantically against his own nature, longing for the effortless "safety" of an animal's consciousness, which he cannot recapture, and rebelling against a human consciousness, which he is afraid to achieve.

For years, scientists have been looking for a "missing link" between man and animals. Perhaps that missing link is the anti-conceptual mentality.

.

Here's what emerged into central clarity for me: She did not understand what the issue of the "missing link" was all about. It was basically a past-tense issue, though lots of details were still unclear, by the time she wrote that article -- had been for more than a decade. But she didn't understand what it was. You see, she so completely believed her own theory of the difference between animal and human consciousness, she was thinking of the issue in terms of a missing consciousness link. Instead, the issue was transitional forms, the gap in the fossil record. There was the search for transitional skeletons leading to the human anatomy. The gap had started to be filled in by the early 60s.

What the passage indicates is how far she was from understanding the theory of evolution, or the problems evolutionists were considering in regard to human evolution. So I think that whatever she "picked up" on the subject from readings and conversations, she must have been mostly not interested and the details weren't registering.

I hope that Anne Heller has managed to interview Robert Efron. He I think is the person who would be the most informative on how much she did/didn't know/imagine on the subject of evolution.

Ellen

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Laure,

I think one can overstate the importance of evolution. Most of what we know and believe would be the same if evolution isn't true. For example, if an evolutionist had a disease and the best surgeon available was a creationist, most evolutionists would go to the creationist surgeon, notwithstanding the repeated claims that "evolution is foundational to biology." Ideas aren't as interlinked as Rand thought. Maybe this is what Reese is getting at (I haven't read his article).

Ellen,

On Larry Arnhart's blog Darwinian Conservative, one of the "anons" said that Harry Binswanger said recently at the ARI that Rand said in later years that she accepted evolution.

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