Monday, March 06, 2006

Less is More


Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Andrew Brown: When evolutionists attack

Dennett...is regarded as something of a demigod in the philosophical community. I think he finds it very difficult when people don't say to him, 'You were fantastic. Can I warm the bog seat for you before you take a crap?'

I can't remember if I made up the proverb, "You can't go wrong with a tautology" or if it's just an old chestnut like "One man's modus ponens is another's modus tollens." Doesn't matter, because it's true: the less you say, the more likely you are to be right.

In the midst of the Clash of Civilizations and Evolution Wars, with anti-religious sentiment amongst secularists at a high water mark, Dennett has taken the opportunity of publishing an anti-religious book. Nothing particularly wrong with that--but don't let's pretend that it will stop Islamicist suicide bombers in their tracks or dissuade school board members from pushing to include Intelligent Design in the curriculum.

Ruse is right: "I think that you and Richard [Dawkins] are absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design ... neither of you are willing to study Christianity seriously and to engage with the ideas - it is just plain silly and grotesquely immoral to claim that Christianity is simply a force for evil, as Richard claims - more than this, we are in a fight, and we need to make allies in the fight, not simply alienate everyone of goodwill."

Anyone who is seriously interested in defending proper science teaching in the public schools should be making the case that Darwin's theory of evolution says less rather than more, in particular that it isn't inconsistent with religious belief. It's pretty clear that making the case that if you buy evolution you must reject religious belief will not convert anyone and will only induce the majority of religious believers to play modus tollens: "I'm a Christian, so I reject evolution." This is in fact why, shockingly, about half of Americans are skeptical about the theory of evolution. They're not Biblical literalists, they have no axes to grind but they're religious believers. The pope has declared that evolution is a scientific fact and not a mere theory, clergy from all mainline denominations have said the same, but the loudest voices, the ones they hear, are the voices of Fundamentalists and militant athiests with axes to grind who are at one in holding that religious belief is inconsistent with the theory of evolution.

5 comments:

Boofykatz said...

"The pope has declared that evolution is a scientific fact and not a mere theory,.."

And the Pope is a respected biolo..., a respected scient....' a self-important ass too narrow minded to admit the dreadful misdeeds, past and current, of Vatican doctrine.
Ruse was ill-mannered to let W.Dumbski post the correspondence, and evolutionary biology is convincing enough to any person unencumbered by excessive mythology that we don't need friends like Ruse; whereas we do need honest princpled men and women like Dennett and Dawkins and Barbara Forrest and Susan Blackmore.
Scientific theories may be more or less fashionable depending upon their proponents, but as there is no scientific theory competing with evolution the religiosity or otherwise of its proponents is immaterial, except to witless fools.

H. E. said...

True, but irrelevant.

This is a pragmatic argument about how you win hearts and minds in a country where over 90% of the population claim to believe in God. In the US, whether you're selling evolution or soap powder, getting the Pope's endorsement is going to do a much better job than getting Dennett's approval. "We are in a fight and need to make allies" as Ruse said.

Boofykatz said...

So you think that the end justifies the means?

H. E. said...

Hello? I'm a Utilitarian. That's the program (of course it depends on the costs, benefits and risks of the means and ends in question...)

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