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January 27, 2009

Twelve Days Debunking Darwinism: A Counter-Celebration

Darwin Over the next few weeks, hundreds of events in dozens of countries will be held to celebrate the bicentennial birthday of Charles Darwin, occurring on February 12. “Darwin Days,” as the event has been called, will honor the celebrant and showcase the evolutionary theory he popularized. Organizers will be offering lectures, museum exhibits, and workshops, as well as reenactments of the Scopes Trial and Darwin’s journey on the HMS Beagle. And that’s just for starters.

In response, we're planning an event of our own right here at The Point. But first, some background.

It is doubtful that any figure in the last 200 years has had as much influence on modern society as Charles Darwin. Today, everything from black holes to black magic is being attributed to some evolutionary process that traces its beginning to the ideas Darwin advanced in On the Origin of Species. As one prominent scientist remarked about his field of expertise, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

According to Darwin, all life descended from a common, ancient ancestor through a gradual process of random variation, adaptation and natural selection. Although his theory only applied to the diversification and complexification of life, not its origin, its thoroughgoing naturalism convinced people, charmed by Enlightenment thinking, that a grand materialistic narrative could be crafted to replace various theistic accounts, especially the benighted one of Genesis.

Today, no one expresses that confidence more openly than Richard Dawkins. With characteristic candor, Dawkins famously quipped, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Soaring confidence notwithstanding, evolutionary enthusiasts like Dawkins have constructed their worldview on a foundation of quicksand.

Strengths or weaknesses
The strength of Darwinism, say the faithful, comes from its many lines of supporting evidence. Trumpeting the praises of the fossil record, drug-immune bacteria, morphological and genetic similarities, “junk” DNA, species variation and the like, Darwinists sound like Don King hyping the arsenal of a heavyweight champ. But, as George Foreman learned in his 1974 match-up against Muhammad Ali, a champ’s strengths can be his biggest weakness.

Billed as the most powerful boxer in the history of the sport, Foreman pounded Ali against the ropes, round after bone-crushing round. Then, in the seventh, Ali leaned into his opponent and taunted, “Is that all you got, George?” Foreman later confessed, “I knew something strange was happening in my life especially because that was all I had."

In the following round, the heavy-breathing, heavy-armed champ was KO’d after a rapid-fire of viper-like strikes sent him to the canvas. The champ faded into the ignominy of exhibition matches, as his challenger went on to dominate heavyweight boxing for the next four years.

Ali’s “rope-a-dope” tactic is instructive for those engaged in the origins debate.

The un-celebration
As was true for George Foreman, Darwinism’s greatest strengths are its biggest weakness. For generations, evolutionary theorists have been going round after round, pounding out “just-so” stories for public consumption. Now, after 150 years of flailing the air, the champ is showing signs of fatigue. 

Historian Paul Johnson tells it straight: “[T]he Darwinian brand of evolution is becoming increasingly vulnerable as the progress of science reveals its weaknesses.” Indeed, with each passing year, it is clearer that Darwinian evolution far overreaches – and, in some cases, ignores -- what has been, or even can be, scientifically demonstrated.

As the lumbering champ begins to wobble it is time to lean in, stand toe-to-toe, and dismantle his fantastical narrative one tale at a time. To that end, in counter-celebration of Darwin Days, I will be weighing in with “Twelve Days Debunking Darwinism” on The Point blog. Starting February 1st, each day I will slug away at one iconic feature, or evidence, of modern evolutionary theory.

For this un-celebration, I invite you to join my corner, or his, with your comments, insights, and criticisms. Or, just set back and enjoy the “Darwin Daze” and score the match between this no-name contender and the Darwinian champ!
 
A fair result could be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts on both sides of each question.” –Chas. Darwin

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Comments

LeeQuod

Regis, I suspect you hold The Point's records for Most Comments Per Post, Longest Comment On A Post, and this series will probably give you Most Comments Overall, if you don't already have it too. Heavyweight Champeen indeed, fighting the good fight and going the distance.

I just hope Gina doesn't end up on her "bicycle", pedaling furiously as Ali did versus Leon Spinks. (Should we take up a collection for that Evelyn Wood class?)

Regis Nicoll

LeeQuod--I dunno about all those questionable stats, but I do know that I would be honored to have you in my corner during the slugfest. Did Gina just crank up the Rocky theme?

LeeQuod

Regis, I'd be absolutely delighted and humbled - although as a mere welterweight myself, I'd hope I wouldn't be expected to adopt some goofy nickname like "Sugar Lee" Quod or somesuch.

And I thought the music for "The Italian Stallion" was Gina's theme song, even though she's nothing like a stallion... ;-) ...OW! Hey, G, those sucker punches hurt!!

Terrell

Regis, I am really looking forward to the 12 Days!!! and to LeeQuods cheering. It will be interesting to see the vague rebuttals from bad science. Go get em!!!!

vikingmother

Would love to have an aeronautical engineer describe the functions in the human cell.

On the EXPELLED DVD< they just barely touched on the concept that some researchers are looking at stuf reviewed by science "as if it was designed".

My favorite is the clip showing the animation of the "turbine like" thing in the cell.

Regis Nicoll

vikingmom--Yes, that's the flagellum -- a motorized propeller that a bacterium uses to navigate in its watery environment. I'll be addressing that biological marvel on day 9. Stay tuned!

Wolf Paul

Regis Nicoll,

you write,

“Darwin Days,” as they have been called, will honor the celebrant and showcase the evolutionary theory he popularized.

However, according to the dictionary, a celebrant is one who celebrates, not one who is being celebrated. There doesn't seem to be such a convenient term for the subject of a celebration.

Perhaps, since the occasion is Darwin's bicentennial birthday, one could call him, as a derivative of centenarian, the bicentenarian. But he is definitely not the celebrant.

JT

I think you kind of missed the point with Darwin's theories. They sparked a wave of scientific exploration both to prove and disprove what he had documented. And while I feel that it is a good thing to critique someone's work after new scientific evidence is found, it seems as though you are willing to attack the theories that a man made after he saw physical evidence while claiming that by making these observations it makes him an atheist. I think that his work makes it able to at least question the authority that holds sway over peoples minds, with or without validity.

LeeQuod

(Drat, now I need a new nickname for Jason Taylor.)

JT wrote: "I think that his work makes it able to at least question the authority that holds sway over peoples minds, with or without validity."

Hmmm, well, currently evolution is the authority that holds sway over most people's minds. Per your sentence I quoted, then, is it OK to question evolution itself?

And as to atheism, all the current major New Atheists - Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens - were raised as Christians and became atheists when they understood evolution. Charles Darwin himself is certainly a more ambiguous case, but he appears to be an atheist in his practice if not in his belief - and we can't directly observe a man's beliefs, but we can observe his practices.

Finally, it seems to me that Regis has done a fantastic job of showing how the principles of pure science actually refute much of the theory of evolution. So in that sense, this is simply an attempt to disprove what Darwin said, and finding an affirmative. Any objective scientist would simply accept this result and determine its implications.

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