Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More about "Darwinian Fairytales"

I have finished David Stove's book, which was a very interesting read. Stove was not a creationist, or even a Christian - he describes himself as "of no religion". However, he lays various charges at darwinism - both as it was presented by Darwin and his contemporaries and as it is presented today by neodarwinists.

The heart of the charge that he levels against darwinism is that, insofar as it is used to explain humans, it is "a ridiculous slander on human beings." He points out:

- human life is not a "continual free fight" in the sense that Darwin envisaged necessary as a driver of natural selection;

- the human population has never increased to the limit of the food available;

- specifically, more privileged (better educated, richer, more socially advanced) humans have generally shown themselves less successful at reproducing than those less privileged;

- infant mortality is nothing like the level that Darwin's theory expected it to be;

- the "problems" raised by sociobiology are actually not problems of organisms (they are observations) but problems within darwinism;

- the "discovery" of memes is not a scientific advance akin to the discovery of genes, but simply a truism - "Sometimes such things as beliefs, attitudes, etc., are transmitted non-genetically from one person to another";

- if altruism is linked to the number of shared genes (a widely held position), then people should be as altruistic towards their egg or sperm cells as they are to their offspring;

- in regarding genes as more intelligent and capable than humans, sociobiologists are effectively establishing a new religion;

- although neodarwinists claim that they don't believe in purposiveness, their language about genes contradicts this. "For every once that Dawkins says that genes are not purposive, he says a hundred things ... which imply that genes are purposive."

- it is stupid to describe homosexuality, altruism, celibacy etc. as "errors of heredity". They are simply observations. If there is an error, then it is with the theory that can't accommodate the observations.

This quick summary doesn't do the book justice. His writing is literate and funny. On every other page was a paragraph I would like to have quoted. There were issues where I felt that his arguments failed to reflect "the state of the art" in darwinism. But suffice it to say that his book at least does a great deal to undercut darwinism as it relates to humans at its popular level.