Research on Intelligent Design

To put together scientific advances from the perspective of Intelligent Design.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Mendel, Paley and Babbage, casting down Darwinian Fairytales

Even if you may not agree with everything that David Stove wrote, there are valuable observations made by him in his book Darwinian Fairytales, for example of the historical developments of XIX Century discoveries compatible to the current framework of Intelligent Design:

“The discovery of genes… was remarkably long drawn out in time. It extended from Mendel's work in the 1860s on crossing various strains of peas, through the rediscovery of that work in 1900, to at least the early breeding experiments of T.H. Morgan during the first world war. Now, was any of this effortless? Surely, on the contrary, Morgan and his associates had first to acquire a good deal of biological information, and their work rather hard and long with their heads and hands, to design, perform and interpret their experiments? in 1900 Bateson perceived, though few other people did, what Mendel’s experiments on peas really meant: and I suppose that this difference between Bateson and most other people must have had something to do with his vast fund of biological information and with prolonged and severe exercise of his penetrating intelligence.”

“But in all of this, easily the greatest feat of intellectual penetration was that of Mendel himself. The phenomena of inheritance are so bewilderingly various, that no one before Mendel, not even the most expert breeders of plants and animals, had ever been able to 'see the wood for the trees'. Yet in order to be understood, these phenomena only required to be looked at in the light of two ideas - that the 'factors' of inheritance do not blend in the offspring, and that they assort themselves independently of one another - ideas which, as R.A. Fisher suggested [for example, Fisher, R. A. (1930, Oxford University Press: l958), The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, Dover Publications, New York, pp. 7-9.], had been as available to anyone, for thousands of years, as they were to Mendel. What… Mendel did - he tried harder: he concentrated his mental gaze for years on the vast jumble of apparently meaningless ratios of inherited characteristics in his peas, until he obliged these speechless witnesses to yield their secret.”

“During his life, of course, and for 16 years after his death, Mendel’s achievement went-not only unappreciated but unnoticed. If only, now, he could have had a Dawkins to advise him on literary marketing! But this comparison, between the laborious but glorious scientific discovery of genes, and Dawkins' effortless philosophical pseudo discovery of 'memes', is too painful to be pursued for long. It excites too much indignation and contempt for the latter.”

p. 132

Essay X - Paley's Revenge or Purpose Regained

p. 178

"... the famous old 'design argument' for the existence of God ...received its classic formulation in William Paley's Natural Theology, (1802). But of course Paley did not invent the argument. For centuries before he wrote, it had been carrying conviction to almost every rational and educated mind."

"It continued to do so for another 50 years after Paley wrote. This is a historical fact which deserves to be known and reflected upon, yet it has been almost completely forgotten. Far from having suffered a fatal blow at Hume's hands in 1779, the design argument entered the period of its greatest flourishing only between 1800 and 1850. In 1829, for example, the Earl of Bridgewater provided a large sun in his will for a series of books to be written by the ablest authors, which would argue, not from revelation or from authority but rationally, for 'the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation.' [From a 'Notice' prefixed to Bell, Sir C. (1874), The Hand, (9th edition), George Bell and Son, London.]"

"The 'Bridgewater Treatises' duly came to be published, and they where written by the best authors. In retrospect, one in particular stands out. This was The Hand, (1833), by Sir Charles Bell: the greatest of all British physiologists after Harvey. Yes, that's right a whole book on the human hand, as evidence of the existence, intelligence, power and benevolence of God, only 26 years before The Origin of Species appeared! And it is - even if no one in the whole world now cares to know the fact - a very good book indeed."

p. 181

"... that sacred particle [the seed]."

Paley, Natural Theology (below, link to this book Online)

“We would all say, because we all know it to be true, that calculating-machines, automobiles, screwdrivers and the like, are just tools or devices which are designed, made, and manipulated by human beings for their own ends. Now, you cannot say this without implying that human beings are more intelligent and capable than calculators, automobiles, screwdrivers, etc.”

P. 171

"... someone who has tried in recent decades, as I have, to convince silly undergraduates of the merits of Paley's classic book..."

"... in the last 30 years, Paley has had his revenge on Darwinism, for more than a century of undeserved contempt. The explanation of adaptation by reference to the purposes of intelligent and powerful agents has come back into its own. And its reinstatement has turned out to require only some comparatively minor changes to the theology involved."

p. 182

"It is important to realise, (and pleasant to record), that the vulgar contempt for the design argument was never shared by Darwin, or by any intelligent Darwinians who belong to what might be called 'the pure strain' of intellectual descent from him. Well, this fact might have been anticipated. In any game, the formidable players are the best judges as to which of their opponents are formidable, and which are not."

"When he [Darwin] was an undergraduate at Cambridge, Darwin was required to study Paley's Evidences of Christianity, (1794). He tells us in his autobiography that 'the logic of this book and, as I may add, of his "Natural Theology", gave me as much delight as did Euclid.' Again: 'I do not think I hardly ever admired a book more than Paley's "Natural Theology". I could almost formerly have said it by heart.' [The first of these passages is from Darwin, F. (ed ) (l888), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, John Murray, London, Vol. l, p. 47; the second passage is from ibid., Vol. II, p.219.]

"Richard Dawkins, likewise, is full of a proper respect for Paley's explanation of adaptation. He even thinks so well of it that he cannot, he tells us, 'imagine anyone being an atheist at any time before 1859' [the year of agnostic Darwin's Origin of Species; quoted from Dawkins, R. (1986), The Blind Watchmaker, Longman, p. 5.]"

"Dawkins has some disagreements with Paley, of course; but this really is a matter of course. When did two theists ever agree on all points? For example, Paley believed in the benevolence of God: see his chapter XXCI, 'Of the Goodness of the Deity'. Dawkins, on the other hand, as we saw in Essay VII, ascribes to the gods of his religion a ruthlessly selfish character."

p. 183

"... Williams, as though he felt he had still not done enough homage to the author of Natural Theology, goes out of his way to quote and praise a passage of Paley, on the subject of - of all shop soiled examples! - the human eye. The passage is instructive, but too long to be quoted here [Williams, G. C. (1974), Adaptation and Natural Selection, Princeton Paperback, pp.258-9]. I suspect that Williams wrote it partly for the purpose of shocking the duller witted, or more historically ignorant, of his fellow Darwinians."

p. 185

“Dawkins, in order to make clear the great difference between the Paleyan explanation of adaptation and his own Darwinian one, writes (for example) as follows. 'Natural selection ... has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all.' [Dawkins, R. (1979), The Selfish Gene, Paladin Books, p. 5]"

p. 186

“Darwinians have always owed their readers a translation manual that would 'cash' the teleological language which Darwinians avail themselves of without restraint in explaining particular adaptations, into the non-teleological language which their own theory of adaptation requires. But they have never paid, or even tried to pay, this debt.”

"Nor have any Darwinians ever given, to this day, any such reconciliation of their theory with the teleological language which they employ as freely as though they were disciples, not of Darwin, but of Paley. Presumably the reason that they have not, is the same as the reason Darwin did not.”

“I am not suggesting that Darwin should not have used, or that a Darwinian should not use, teleological language when trying to explain particular adaptations. That would be a hopelessly doctrinaire and impracticable suggestion. A biologist, whether of Darwin's time or ours, can hardly frame a single thought, concerning adaptations, which does not involve intendedness on purposefulness. To ask him to purge his mind of all such thoughts, and never to use words like 'purpose', 'function', or 'contrivance', would amount in practice to telling him to stop thinking about adaptation altogether."

"I do say, though, that Darwinians cannot reasonably expect, any more than anyone else can, to be allowed to have things both ways. They cannot, on the one hand, describe adaptations as contrivances for this or as designed for that, while denying that they mean that these adaptations were ever intended; and on the other hand, decline to explain what they do mean by expressions like 'designed for' and 'contrivance for'."

"Darwinians, then, have never paid, or even acknowledged, the debt they have all along owed the public: a reconciliation of their teleological explanations of particular adaptations, with their non-teleological explanation of adaptation in general. And not only have they never paid this debt: they have in fact become progressively less conscious, with time, of the fact that they owe this debt."

p. 191

“…Darwinians, rather than admit that their theory is simply not true of our species, brazenly shift the blame, and designate all of those characteristics 'biological errors'…”

p. 221


Note: Stove's emphasis. In bold, the pages where the quotations (above of them) are to be found in the original book:

David C. Stove. Darwinian Fairytales (pp. 82 & 113), (pdf in big zip file, 16.3mb)

Links for the topics of this excerpts:

The Classic Genetic Works of Mendel, Bateson, Morgan et al:

Paley’s Natural Theology
[William Paley. Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity. 12th Ed. Printed for J. Faulder. London. 1809.]

William Paley. Evidences of Christianity. 1794

Biography of William Paley.

The Bridgewater Treatises On the Power Wisdom and Goodness of God As Manifested in the Creation

The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, 1837. Charles Babbage (2nd ed. London, 1838.)

Euclid's books Online:

Sir Charles Bell, author of the Bridgewater Treatise named "The Hand".

Other excerpts by David Stove related to design and teleology.


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