Sunday, December 10, 2017

Does Anti-Darwinism Have a Scientific Basis?

Even though adherents of this idea seem to be the main “science consultants” of the Trump Administration, but does anti-Darwinism have a scientific basis?

By; Ringo Bones 

They say climate change / global warming is a hoax and the entire Universe is only 6,000 years old – which, unfortunately forms the salient theme of every anti-Darwinian bunch of scientists now in tenure as scientific consultants in the Trump Administration. Given the evidence at hand – or lack thereof – does anti-Darwinism have enough of a scientific basis to serve as an “alternative theory” to Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution through the basis of natural selection? 

The term anti-Darwinism refers to the position or belief that Darwinism – which holds that the scientific theory of evolution by means of natural selection is the best explanation for the available evidence – is in error and is held by a number of religious groups, primarily far-right leaning White Anglo Saxon Christian Protestantism, who seek to supplant the teaching of evolution by natural selection in schools with Biblically-based doctrine of Creationism – often in one disguise or another. Darwinism has been under attack by these groups since it was first elaborated and the attacks have become especially focused since approximately the early 1980s mainly in the United States. 

Evolution by means of natural selection has mountains of peer-reviewed scientific evidence in its support and reflects the overwhelming scientific consensus on the question of species origin and hence is entirely appropriate for a science class. Creationism – especially the Biblical Abrahamic Theology based one often extolled by far-right conservatives – has little or no peer-reviewed scientific evidence in its support and is in complete disagreement with the scientific consensus and hence is completely inappropriate for a science class. 

When early attempts to introduce Creationism into American science classes by packaging it - or rebranding it – as “Creation Science” failed in the 1980s due to the clearly religious nature of the teachings and the American legal separation of church and state – i.e. Separation - which forbids the teaching of religion in public schools, the anti-Darwinists next mounted a two-sided strategy by both attacking the validity of Separation while also stripping the overt religious references out of creationist doctrine and thereby creating “Intelligent Design”. 

The George Dubya Bush era Intelligent Design attack failed spectacularly in a 2006 court decision in Dover, Pennsylvania. Since then, the anti-Darwinists have continued their attacks on Separation while also promoting efforts to “teach the controversy” in science classes. They have also been trying, often via blatant propaganda, such as the 2008 film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, to spread the idea that the scientific establishment is unfairly “expelling” and suppressing any alternative theories without a fair hearing, rather than simply finding the alternatives so far proposed – i.e. Creationism and Intelligent Design – ridiculous and nonsensical as is the case. In general, anti-Darwinists do not seem to have any qualms about making up convenient details or even blatantly lying in order to advance their cause, which seems to be the universal rule of a particular brand of Christianity whose details are slowly coming to light – possibly Dominion-ism or something like it.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Why Are D.C. Conservatives Uncomfortable With Darwinian Evolution?

The 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial and their inherently literal interpretation of the Holy Bible may have played a part, but why are D.C. conservatives uncomfortable with Darwinian Evolution?

By: Ringo Bones 

Even though they are already laboratory procedures proving that Darwinian Evolution is more than just a theory, many in the United States – especially Washington D.C. conservatives – are still uncomfortable with the term “Darwinian Evolution”. Unfortunately, their so-called “discomfort” over a proven science principle has since disadvantaged public policy that shapes the teaching of the biological sciences in the American public education system. 

The Washington D.C. conservatives over the years may seem to have softened their hardcore stance on their literal interpretation of the Holy Bible but their public policy that shapes the American public education system since the Reagan Administration may seem to have been shaped by the legacy of the statutes that had brought William Jennings Bryant and Clarence Darrow to legal blows at Tennessee’s trial of John Scopes in 1925. In the grand scheme of things, Washington D.C. conservatives seem to continue to harbor the impression that the biological science of Darwinian Evolution has been – and is still is – a speculative, philosophical endeavor – not a field of quantitative reasoning.  

Strange as it may seem, Charles Darwin himself never used the word “evolution” in his epochal book of 1859 titled Origin of Species. In the book Origin of Species, Darwin calls this fundamental biological process “descent with modification”. Darwin, needles to say, did not shun the word “evolution” from motives of fear, conciliation, or political savvy but rather for an opposite and principled reason that can help us appreciate the depth of the intellectual revolution that Darwin inspired and some of the reasons – understandable if indefensible – for the current persistent conservative unease. But will the election of Donald J. Trump into the White House and the rise of the so-called alt-right put this intellectual debate into further disarray? 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Evolution: Not Darwin’s Original Idea?

Even though it is oft linked with the famed naturalist, but did you know that evolution is not Charles Darwin’s original idea? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Believe it or not, “Darwinism” or "Darwinian Evolution" is not synonymous with the principle of evolution, as is sometimes incorrectly stated. Charles Darwin was the first to put forward a really detailed analysis of the evidence of evolution based on his data of comparative anatomy, embryology, the common finding of rudimentary or vestigial structures in many animals, the geographical distribution of different types and – to some extent – on his observations of the fossil records of different types. He developed the hypothesis of natural selection as a mechanism to explain not only how the process of evolution could have occurred, but how it must have occurred, from the observed fact that all living organisms are subject to heritable variations. 

The general idea of evolution or “transformism” as it was commonly termed has been put forward by a number of writers long before Charles Darwin’s time. Even the Classical Greek thinker Aristotle and the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius presented vague conceptions of a “ladder of nature” which might be interpreted to suggest the idea that lower forms of life passed by a gradational series into higher forms. It has been claimed that Darwin’s own ideas developed more directly from his immediate predecessors such as Jean Baptiste de Lamarck and Robert Chambers, the author of The Vestiges of Creation (1844) that Darwin himself recognized. 

It has even been suggested that Charles Darwin lacked the historical sense in not giving due credit to his predecessors. But the theory of transformism at the time was clouded with perplexities and apparent contradictions. The pioneering attempts to formulate an evolutionary hypothesis were not acceptable to professional biologists of the first half of the 19th Century. This was partly because the scientific evidence was so freely intermingled with ill-founded and rather fanciful speculations and partly because it could provide no reasonable explanation of the mechanism for an evolutionary process. Since these earlier essays on transformism were not accepted by the biological scientists in general, they aroused no serious opposition from theologians and others who hold the conviction that the different species of living things were separate and distinct entities whose origin was determined by a creative process – either a single act of creation as described in Genesis or successive acts of creation. It is true however that before Darwin’s time, geologists had already recognized the existence in the past of extinct creatures and various attempts had been made to explain this evidence so long as to bring it into conformity with contemporary – as in 19th Century – ideas based on the Biblical record.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Vatican Now Agrees With Darwinian Evolution?

Given that the Catholic Church had always been staunchly sided with the literal Biblical explanation on the origin of life on earth, does its acceptance of Darwinian evolution represents progress? 

By: Ringo Bones 

As one of the few organizations who had purportedly saved Imperial Rome’s organized knowledge from burning into oblivion during the Dark Ages, the Catholic Church / The Vatican seems to have set it ways when it comes to what it believes when it comes to the origin of life on earth – i.e. the literal account provided by the Holy Bible. But does the recent move by Pope Francis in accepting Darwinian Evolution and also the Big Bang Theory represents “scientific progress” in The Vatican? 

As of late, unprecedented moves by the Vatican had been on the rise, remember back in 2008 when Pope Benedict XVI declared that the existence of extraterrestrial biological beings as smart as or smarter than us does not contradict the cosmic genesis story of the Holy Bible?  Forward to October 27, 2014, Pope Francis made an unprecedented declaration that Darwinian Evolution and the Big Bang Theory are not that incompatible with the Biblical Genesis. 

In the Pope’s speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope said: “When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God as a magician with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Pope Francis said. Pope Francis also added: “God created human beings and let them develop according to the integral laws that He gave to each one so they would reach fulfillment.” The Pope’s stance on Darwinian Evolution and Big Bang cosmology still leaves a room for a divine creator – i.e. the Christian God – but places His or Her role in the time before the birth of the universe as we know it says one Vatican spokesperson. 

The Vatican’s new view, obviously, doesn’t fully align with current scientific thought. Yet Giulio Giorello – a philosopher of science – said that he thinks that this move by the Pope is meant to “reduce the emotion or dispute or presumed disputes between the Catholic Church with the physical sciences that has existed for centuries. As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church has recognized (unofficially) Darwinian Evolution during the past 60 years. According to most Vatican insiders, the unprecedented move was meant by Pope Francis to bring the Church’s stance back in line with its historical position on scientific thought and away from the too literal interpretation of the book of Genesis in the Holy Bible.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Theory of Memes: Fuelling Ultra-Darwinism?

 A term better known by the general public pertaining to ideas and topical doodles going viral on the internet, is the theory of memes fuelling the current ultra-Darwinism movement? 

By: Ringo Bones 

A term more likely to be used in cultural anthropology and sociology, the term” meme” is largely seen by the general public as pertaining to topical ideas and topical doodles or topical political cartoons going viral on the internet primarily thru sharing in the major on-line social networks like Facebook and Twitter. But unbeknown to the general public, the word meme or the term “theory of memes” had been in widespread use in the A-level syllabus of academia. 

From the viewpoint of cultural anthropology and other humanist based sociological sciences, a meme is an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard meme as a cultural analog to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures. The word meme is a shortening of mimeme – from ancient Greek mimeima – meaning something imitated. 

Based on the word’s first usage in academic musings, the word meme was originally coined by the British evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins when he first published The Selfish Gene in 1976 as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles – as in Darwinian evolution – in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book, The Selfish Gene, included musical melodies, catch-phrases, fashion trends and the technology of building arches – i.e. learned skills. 

Proponents theorize that memes may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution proposed by Charles Darwin. Memes do this through the process of variation, mutation, competition and inheritance. Each of which influence a meme’s reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less proficiently may become extinct, while others may survive, spread and – for better or for worse – mutate. Memes that replicate more effectively enjoy the most success and some may replicate just as effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts. 

A field of study called memetics arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of a Darwinian evolutionary model. Criticisms from a variety of fronts had since challenged the notion that a “mere academic study” can effectively examine memes empirically. However, recent developments in neuro-imaging could make empirical study of memes a real possibility. Some commentators question the idea that one meaning can fully categorize culture in terms of discrete units. While others, including Prof. Dawkins himself, have agreed that this usage of he term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal. 

From the perspective of academia, the word meme originated with Professor Richard Dawkins’ 1976 publication titled The Selfish Gene. Dawkins cites as inspiration the work of geneticist L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, anthropologist F.T. Clark and ethnologist J.M. Cullen. Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on a particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmission – in the case of biological evolution, the gene. From Dawkins’ perspective, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution. Does this mean that Prof. Dawkins’ ontological empiricism of memes is more akin to how data is transferred in the concept Information Theory as opposed to the biochemical aspects of Darwinian evolution? 

From the consensus of mainstream academia, Dawkins used the term meme to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. Dawkins hypothesized that that one could view many cultural entities as replicators and pointed to musical melodies, fashion trends and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of behavior and information. Because humans do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine it to suit their immediate needs, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, these can result in changes over time. Dawkins likened the process by which memes survive and change through the evolution of culture to the natural selection of genes in biological evolution – i.e. Darwinian evolution. 

In The Selfish Gene, Professor Dawkins defined meme as a unit of cultural transmission or as a unit of imitation and replication, but later definitions would vary. Memes, analogous to genes, vary in their aptitude to replicate; memes that are good at getting to be copied tend to spread and remain, whereas the lesser ones have a higher probability of being ignored and forgotten. Thus “better” memes are selected but the lack of consistent, rigorous and precise understanding of what typically makes up one unit of cultural transmission remains a problem in debates about memetics. In contrast, the concept of genetics gained concrete evidence with the discovery of the biological functions of DNA. Meme transmission does not necessarily require a physical medium for its transmission unlike genetic information; Thus marking a vast gulf between traditional Information Theory and genetic science and ultimately a humanist – though sometimes a quasi-religious / quasi-mystical vindication of ultra-Darwinism.