Monday, June 23, 2008

Interaction with Wiker and Witt

Opponents of teleology don't believe I have done justice to the critical commentary on Berlinski ("The Devil's Delusion") or Wiker/Witt ("A Meaningful World").

I'll come back to Berlinski another time. Here is some interaction with AMW on Panda's Thumb. Let me get to the substance of the interaction. I'll embolden the bits that are actually response to the text, rather than the culture war that exists between the forces of light and the forces of darkness (whichever side you are on).
... Most of the book is taken up with blaming “Darwinism” for a “loss of meaning” in all areas of life, particularly literature, but also chemistry, mathematics, etc. All in all it conforms remarkably well to the longer-term goals of the Wedge Strategy, which was all about defeating “Darwinism” and then moving on to convert all other fields of academia to the fundamentalist view of the world.

Not too surprising, really, but then I came across this remarkable passage. Witt and Wiker are discussing Darwin’s views on the term “species” and in what sense “species” are, or are not, “real” (an aside: someone call Wilkins to see if they even got Darwin’s view on species right). Their conclusion about the implication of Darwin’s views is somewhat surprising, especially since it comes near the end of the book and appears to be the heart of the argument tying evolution to all of the aforementioned evils. Read it carefully:

Quoted extract and citation

You heard that right – Darwin spent a lifetime studying organisms in captivity and in the wild, and came to the view that “species” are not absolute, unchanging categories – and in doing so, he undermined counting and mathematics.

There is not much more for me to say here because every time I read this passage, I just splutter at the absurdity of what is on the page, and my brain, in an effort to protect its overloaded logic circuits, automatically assumes that Douglas Adams returned from the dead to ghost-write this part of the book in an highly successful effort to make ID look even sillier than it already looks.

Thus, this is the silliest thing I have read this week.
And that's it. Did you notice it? Interaction consisting of a splutter at the absurdity of one paragraph (with no attempt to refute it), and an assertion that the book is all about blaming darwinism for a loss of meaning (with no attempt to demonstrate this from the text). Not much more for me to say? Well, you certainly couldn't say much less!

I have to say that I did come across this page when I was searching for anti-ID interaction with the book, but I wouldn't have wanted to provoke Panda's Thumb by making greater claims for it than it merited. "The God Delusion" is full of half-baked argument - and yet it sold millions and was dignified with about six book-length responses - each of which dismantled it in different ways. "A Meaningful World", which isn't actually about how darwinism takes away meaning, but is about how meaning is present in the universe regardless of the insistence of ateleologists to the contrary, results in a splutter and a wave of a hand.

Seriously, guys. How about, if you are serious in your ateleology, you make a proper attempt to dismantle "A Meaningful World"?