Darwin the Mythmaker

Audio of author on his book on Darwin

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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#41  Postby Arnold Layne » Oct 06, 2017 10:10 pm

I vote this topic, worst internet topic for the month of October.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#42  Postby Calilasseia » Oct 06, 2017 11:38 pm

Wortfish wrote:
Thommo wrote:
What do you want me to say? The audio link is just a book plug for a polemic that is widely reported as being biased and factually inaccurate. I haven't read the book and having heard the author and read various reviews and review extracts I'm not going to.


Negative reviews were inevitable given the provocative title of the book. But, as you have shown, the reviews are themselves emotional polemics by Darwinists


Bollocks. Interesting to see you whinge and bleat about others here purportedly not bothering to read the requisite material, when you yourself manifestly didn't do this with respect to those reviews. One of which was from an actual evolutionary biologist, Dr Adam Rutherford, who also has the distinction of having been an editor of Nature for ten years. One whose curriculum vitae includes the publication of a raft of peer reviewed papers on the genetics and evolutionary development of various eye related genes, research into which he conducted over a long period of time, both with respect to human eye disorders and the evolution of stalk eyed flies. The idea that this individual wrote "emotional polemics" is a non-starter amongst those of us who actually did read his review in full, in which he clearly listed numerous errors in A. N. Wilson's tome, errors that he was well placed to list, not only because of his scientific background, but because he too has been, in the past, been involved in biographical works covering Darwin. Indeed, one of those biographical works was turned into a film. More on this here.

The second review posted by Rumraket, was from no less a person than the curator of the Darwin Online internet repository, an accredited historian of science with several Darwin biographies to his name, in the form of John van Whye, who also lists numerous elementary and egregious errors in A. N. Wilson's work. Perhaps the funniest such error documented by van Whye being this one:

Another egregious blunder is made regarding a 1 June 1858 meeting of the Linnean Society which was supposedly cancelled because of the former president’s death on the 10th!? (p. 235) How could a meeting be cancelled in honour of someone who died 9 days later??


More serious is this one:

Equally breathtaking ignorance is shown of the large scholarly literature on Darwin. Wilson repeats the 1960s claim of anti-Darwin conspiracy theorist Loren Eiseley that the first 50 pages of Darwin’s first evolution notebook were suspiciously missing. They aren’t. They were located and published by 1967. How could anyone even vaguely competent to write a book on Darwin know so little of the literature on him?


Wortfish wrote:who consider the man to be their guru and consider Wilson's arguments blasphemous.


This is exactly the sort of bullshit creationist polemics, replete with predictable religious metaphors not applicable to the views of any modern evolutionary biologist, that we've come to expect from the lower depths of the sludge pits of creationist apologists. I'll give you a clue here, so that next time you post on the topic, you'll actually have some genuine knowledge to work with, unlike A. N. Wilson ...

Darwin is regarded as historically important because he founded the scientific discipline of evolutionary biology, and in the process, converted biology from a cataloguing exercise into a proper empirical science. The reason Darwin is considered important is NOT because he is regarded uncritically as an "authority figure" - the critical thinkers leave this sort of starry-eyed gazing to followers of the likes of William Lane Craig. Darwin is regarded as important because he was the first person to pay serious attention to reality with respect to the biosphere, with respect to the business of determining mechanisms for its development, and the first to engage in diligent intellectual labour for the purpose of establishing that reality supported his postulates with respect to the biosphere. In other words, instead of sitting around accepting uncritically mythological blind assertion, he got off his arse, rolled up his sleeves, did the hard work, put in the long hours performing the research and gathering the real world data, and then spending long hours determining what would falsify his ideas and determining in a rigorous manner that no such falsification existed. For those who are unaware of this, the requisite labour swallowed up twenty years of his life, which is par for the course for a scientist introducing a new paradigm to the world. THAT is why he is regarded as important, because he expended colossal amounts of labour ensuring that REALITY supported his ideas. That's the ONLY reason ANY scientist acquires a reputation for being a towering contributor to the field, because said scientist toils unceasingly for many years, in some cases whole decades, ensuring that his ideas are supported by reality in a methodologically rigorous fashion.

Additionally, just in case this idea hasn't crossed the mind of any creationist posting here, evolutionary biology has moved on in the 150 years since Darwin, and whilst his historical role is rightly recognised, the critical thinkers have also recognised that more recent developments have taken place that would leave Darwin's eyes out on stalks if he were around to see them. The contributors to the field after Darwin are numerous, and include individuals who contributed to the development of other branches of science making advances in evolutionary theory possible. Individuals such as Ronald Fisher, who developed the mathematical tools required to make sense of vast swathes of biological data (heard of analysis of variance? Fisher invented it), or Theodosius Dobzhansky, who combined theoretical imagination with empirical rigour, and who, amongst other developments, provided science with a documented instance of speciation in the laboratory. Other seminal contributors included Müller (who trashed Behe's nonsense six decades before Behe was born), E. O. Wilson, Ernst Mayr, Motoo Kimura, Stephen Jay Gould, Niles Eldredge, J. B. S. Haldane, Richard Lewontin, Sewall Wright, Jerry Coyne, Carl Woese, Kenneth Miller, and they're just the ones I can list off the top of my head. Pick up any half-decent collection of scientific papers from the past 100 years, and dozens more names can be added to that list.

So, anyone who wants to be regarded as an extremely low-grade chew toy here only has to erect the "evolutionist" or "Darwinist" canard, and they will guarantee this end result.

Moving on ...

Wortfish wrote:
If you want to try and provoke a fight by wittering on about "arguments from authority" where none are present, I guess that's your prerogative, but I've got better things to do.


It helps to form an opinion of your own rather than delegating this responsibility to someone else.


You rang?

Hmm, let's see, how many scientific papers have I brought here on the subject of evolutionary biology over the past 7 years? I suspect the number now runs well into the hundreds. Perhaps someone with some time on their hands can provide a full audit. I've also dealt with more than my fair share of Darwin quote mines. Again, those with the time, feel free to perform an audit.

Wortfish wrote:
Thomas Eshuis wrote:
Thommo wrote:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._N._Wilson

Wilson's biography Charles Darwin, Victorian Mythmaker, (2017), has been criticised by John van Wyhe in the New Scientist for confusing Darwin's theory of natural selection with Lamarckism at one point, as well as other scientific, historical and editorial errors.[10] Kathryn Hughes in The Guardian wrote it is "cheap attempt to ruffle feathers", with a dubious grasp of science and attempted character assassination.[11] In The Evening Standard, Adrian Woolfson says that "..while for the greater part a lucid, elegantly written and thought-provoking social and intellectual history" Wilson's "speculations on evolutionary theory," produce a book that is "fatally flawed, mischievous, and ultimately misleading".[12] Steve Jones, an emeritus of University College London, commented in The Sunday Times: "In the classic mould of the contrarian, he despises anything said by mainstream biology in favour of marginal and sometimes preposterous theories."[13] The geneticist and former editor of Nature, Adam Rutherford, called the book "deranged" and said Wilson "would fail GCSE biology catastrophically."[14][15]


Not to mention that the ToE has moved beyond the original findings and theory of Darwin.


The book is not a critique of evolutionary theory. It is a critque of Darwin's own ideas about how evolution works.


Oh wait, what did I say above about the developments that occurred after Darwin launched the discipline of evolutionary biology? Which, by definition, Darwin knew nothing about? It's entirely typical of creationist dishonesty, to try and suggest that his ideas were wrong, on the basis of developments occurring after his death, whilst hoping no one will notice the large number of ideas that were, and remain, essentially correct, and continue to form part of the bedrock of evolutionary theory even after those later developments.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#43  Postby pelfdaddy » Oct 07, 2017 2:49 am

Hi, My name is A.N. Wilson, and I am an author and columnist who has written a number of well-received pieces during my career, including biographies. Not long ago, I left the Christian faith, but then I thought better of it over time, re-converting and causing a bit of a stir in the process.

However, even though I am a recent re-convert to faith, I would never--ever--pander to the religious public, or toss them fresh red meat, by conjuring up complex conspiracy theories about the motives of a scientist who lived long ago, knowing that the vultures of the faith world would greedily wolf down this rotting flesh, regurgitating it for their young.

No sir, not me.

But I am willing to bet that Charles Darwin is the kind of guy that would fuck a person up the ass and not even have the goddam COMMON COURTESY to give him a reach-around.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#44  Postby Thommo » Oct 07, 2017 7:08 am

This isn't the first time his biographies have received extensive criticism. Something similar happened with his Hitler biography, apparently.

It's possible Wilson is better at fiction than fact.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#45  Postby Shrunk » Oct 08, 2017 12:29 am

Thommo wrote:This isn't the first time his biographies have received extensive criticism. Something similar happened with his Hitler biography, apparently.


Did he blame Hitler for Darwin?
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#46  Postby Greyman » Oct 08, 2017 1:48 am

Shrunk wrote:
Thommo wrote:This isn't the first time his biographies have received extensive criticism. Something similar happened with his Hitler biography, apparently.

Did he blame Hitler for Darwin?
No, but he apparently blames political correctness on doing the opposite to Hitler. "Hitler made homosexuals wear pink triangles, so we shall have gay marriages." f.f.s.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#47  Postby Shrunk » Oct 08, 2017 12:05 pm

Greyman wrote:
Shrunk wrote:
Thommo wrote:This isn't the first time his biographies have received extensive criticism. Something similar happened with his Hitler biography, apparently.

Did he blame Hitler for Darwin?
No, but he apparently blames political correctness on doing the opposite to Hitler. "Hitler made homosexuals wear pink triangles, so we shall have gay marriages." f.f.s.


Is that an actual quote from the book? Jesus Christ on a cheese-covered stick!

I guess Wortfish will soon be back to complain that the author of that review is part of the quasi-religious cult claiming hegemony on the interpretation of Hitler's legacy.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#48  Postby SkyMutt » Oct 08, 2017 5:51 pm

Shrunk wrote:
Greyman wrote:
Shrunk wrote:
Thommo wrote:This isn't the first time his biographies have received extensive criticism. Something similar happened with his Hitler biography, apparently.

Did he blame Hitler for Darwin?
No, but he apparently blames political correctness on doing the opposite to Hitler. "Hitler made homosexuals wear pink triangles, so we shall have gay marriages." f.f.s.


Is that an actual quote from the book? Jesus Christ on a cheese-covered stick!


Yes. It can be checked against context here.

Because we still regard him as the Demon King of history we think that if we say the opposite of what Hitler said, we shall somehow be living a better life. Hitler was a racist, so we shall be anti-racist. Hitler made homosexuals wear pink triangles, so we shall have gay marriages. Hitler was the ultimately Incorrect Person, so we shall invent Political Correctness, a system of thought which is in fact dominated by the unmentioned memory of Hitler and by being his opposite in all things, things to purge his baleful influence from the earth.


I think the final sentence in the above quote is a misprint. Rather it should read "by being his opposite in all things, thinks to purge his baleful influence."

Something that follows the quote shows a foreshadowing of Wilson's book on Darwin.

[Hitler] believed in a crude Darwinism as do nearly all scientists today, and as do all 'sensible' sociologists, political commentators and journalistic wiseacres. He thought that humanity in its history was to be explained by the idea of struggle, by the survival of the fittest, by the stronger species overcoming the weaker. Unlike the Darwinists of today, Hitler merely took this belief to its logical conclusion.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#49  Postby Shrunk » Oct 08, 2017 6:15 pm

So being not-Hitler is a bad thing. I see.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#50  Postby Rumraket » Oct 08, 2017 6:50 pm

SkyMutt wrote:

Because we still regard him as the Demon King of history we think that if we say the opposite of what Hitler said, we shall somehow be living a better life. Hitler was a racist, so we shall be anti-racist. Hitler made homosexuals wear pink triangles, so we shall have gay marriages. Hitler was the ultimately Incorrect Person, so we shall invent Political Correctness, a system of thought which is in fact dominated by the unmentioned memory of Hitler and by being his opposite in all things, things to purge his baleful influence from the earth.

Isn't it ironic that it was the nazi party under Hitler that invented political correctness? Newspapers and speeches were literally checked for their political content and changed/corrected so as to toe the party line. It wasn't invented after Hitler as some sort of anti-hitlerian move, it was invented by the Nazi's under Hitler.

It's like irony just doesn't get any thicker than the crap produced by this AN Wilson dude.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#51  Postby Calilasseia » Oct 08, 2017 7:36 pm

SkyMutt wrote:Something that follows the quote shows a foreshadowing of Wilson's book on Darwin.

[Hitler] believed in a crude Darwinism as do nearly all scientists today, and as do all 'sensible' sociologists, political commentators and journalistic wiseacres. He thought that humanity in its history was to be explained by the idea of struggle, by the survival of the fittest, by the stronger species overcoming the weaker. Unlike the Darwinists of today, Hitler merely took this belief to its logical conclusion.


This passage you've alighted upon, is, of course, complete bullshit. Not least because, if you look at Hitler's actual words, his view of biology was actually closer to creationism than anything arising from Darwin. Here's the requisite passage from Mein Kampf (pages 245-246 of my searchable electronic copy thereof):

Even a superficial glance is sufficient to show that all the innumerable forms in which the life-urge of Nature manifests itself are subject to a fundamental law - one may call it an iron law of Nature - which compels the various species to keep within the definite limits of their own life-forms when propagating and multiplying their kind. Each animal mates only with one of its own species. The titmouse cohabits only with the titmouse, the finch with the finch, the stork with the stork, the field-mouse with the field-mouse, the house-mouse with the house-mouse, the wolf with the she-wolf, etc.


This is practically as explicit an encapsulation of the creationist "kinds" fabrication as one could wish for.

Plus, the genetic monoculture that he and other racists love so much, is an anti-evolutionary a concept as one could wish for. Darwin himself recognised that variation was necessary in order for evolution to take place, as has every competent biologist since. Indeed, the drive toward monocultures has been in part some of the undoing of big agrobusiness, which now has to spend large sums of money protecting its monoculture crops from assault by an array of organisms, all capitalising upon our stupid provision of a superabundance of easily targetable food. The monoculture fetish has also contributed to a serious food waste problem in the developed world, where vegetables not conforming to an arbitrary aesthetic end up in the bin instead of on the supermarket shelves.

Plus, the sad 'survival of the fittest' soundbite did not even originate from Darwin, but instead from Francis Galton, an individual I have covered in a previous post, namely this one. Here's what I posted on the subject in that earlier post:

Indeed, I'm minded at this juncture that Darwin himself would characterise his ideas more correctly as "survival of the sufficiently competent". The tired "survival of the fittest" aphorism wasn't even his, it was due to Francis Galton, whose own views on a range of subjects were interesting to put it mildly, and I'm minded to note how Galton was described in the book Fly: An Experimental Life, covering the history of Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism in genetic research:

Martin Brookes wrote:At various times, an explorer, a scientist, an inventor and a professional racist. Sometimes he was all four things at once. He was also a regular visitor to the fringes of madness.



[Source: Fly: an Experimental Life by Martin Brookes, ISBN 0 297 64589 7]


Basically, Galton, who enjoyed far too much influence during his life with respect to eugenics (a term he also coined), latched onto this business of competition, in order to advance his own racist theories. Not that I would dispense with some of his other ideas, such as linear regression in statistics, or his contribution to forensic science with respect to fingerprints, or his prototype forays into meteorology. But among his documented racist exhortations, is a letter to The Times, published therein on June 5th, 1873, in which he advocated encouraging the Chinese to move into Africa, and displace the "inferior" blacks. You can read this letter in full here, and enjoy the combination of imperialist hubris and bigotry that Galton usually kept well hidden from too much public scrutiny, courtesy of his researches.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#52  Postby Greyman » Oct 09, 2017 11:10 am

This deserves emphasis.
Calilasseia wrote:Not that I would dispense with some of his (Francis Galton's) other ideas, such as linear regression in statistics, or his contribution to forensic science with respect to fingerprints, or his prototype forays into meteorology.
Indeed, much to the point. We can despair of his overt racism, yet still do celebrate, and use, his contributions. Ideas will stand, or fail, on their own merits, not on how naughty or nice their developers had been.
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Re: Darwin the Mythmaker

#53  Postby Calilasseia » Oct 09, 2017 2:11 pm

Greyman wrote:This deserves emphasis.

Calilasseia wrote:Not that I would dispense with some of his (Francis Galton's) other ideas, such as linear regression in statistics, or his contribution to forensic science with respect to fingerprints, or his prototype forays into meteorology.


Indeed, much to the point. We can despair of his overt racism, yet still do celebrate, and use, his contributions. Ideas will stand, or fail, on their own merits, not on how naughty or nice their developers had been.


This is a central idea that pedlars of apologetics frequently don't understand. Which has much to do with the manner in which the culture they inhabit, is one in which ideas are judged [1] by their conformity to doctrine, and [2] the individuals responsible for those ideas. Indeed, conformity to doctrine, and being the product of hallowed persons, is all too often far more important to the apologetics brigade, than the requisite ideas being supported by observational reality, being deductively sound, or possessing utility value.

I've repeatedly brought to the table here, the fact that Newtonian physics no longer constitutes cutting edge understanding of the physical world, and indeed, at least one of its core axioms - the axiom of absolute time - was destroyed by relativity years ago. But, we still teach the concepts. Because, even though that absolute time axiom is wrong, the resulting framework provides a useful approximation, with very small errors, when working with low velocities and weak gravity fields. That approximation also has the benefit of being conceptually and computationally simple, compared to the intimidating mathematical machinery needed for General Relativity. Calculus, the branch of mathematics that is needed for a proper approach to Newtonian physics, is simple enough to be taught to secondary school pupils. On the other hand, basic tensors are hard going for second year undergraduate mathematics students at university, and the Ricci Calculus is a beast of a discipline.

Consequently, I'm aware that even wrong ideas can sometimes be useful, regardless of whether or not the originator thereof happened to sit happily with my sensibilities. But I take time to understand the reasons for those wrong ideas being useful, and learn when that utility ceases. All too frequently, pedlars of doctrines aren't interested in utility full stop, and because of their doctrinal adherence, refuse point blank to consider even the possibility that ideas not conforming to doctrine can be right. Worse still, their attachment to texts and persons deemed "sacred", hobbles and handicaps their entire approach to discourse fatally.
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