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Is Dawkins’s refusal to reassess Darwin a sign of unscientific denial?

Friday, 6 September 2013

piltdown-skull_2416562b

 

Piltdown Man

 

By Richard Rawlinson

Richard Dawkins has said Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is ‘about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun’. He’s said that ‘understanding evolution led me to atheism’, and that he’s against religion because ‘it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world’.

Many agree: evolution is touted as a reason for disbelieving in divine creation and the eternity of the soul. Most theists also believe in evolutionary theory, and disagree that faith and science are irreconcilable. They disagree they’re blocked from trying to understanding the world on many diverse levels.

Dawkins isn’t very good at uncertainty. He’s a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of guy. I wonder what he thinks about the fact that his views are increasingly under fire—and not by religious people but by scientists questioning his discipleship to Darwin. A staggering 800 eminent scientists from Yale and Cambridge to the Russian Academy have so far signed up as Darwin dissenters, calmly and rationally skeptical about the Neo-Darwinist theory claiming that natural selection, acting on random mutations, is the primary mechanism for the development of the complexity of life. See here http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org

For decades, the media has regurgitated the scientific propaganda that only religious fundamentalists question Darwinian evolution. Clearly not so. And for decades, biology textbooks have been printing the illustrations of Darwinian Ernst Haekel, who distorted the differences between the embryos of worms, fish, birds, four-legged mammals and apes to imply man, like all species, stems from the same first cells emerging from primordial ooze.

This is far from the only time Darwin was propped up by less than scientific means. In order to prove Neanderthals were ancestral to humans, early 20thcentury paleontologist Charles Dawson announced he had discovered, in a gravel pit in Piltdown, the missing link that Darwinists needed. It was a skull which turned out to be a forgery, part human with the addition of an orangutan’s jaw, both chemically treated to make them look like a fossil.

Should educationalists stop propagating Darwin’s theory uncontested? His appeal seems to be that we desperately want to believe slime morphed into spineless worms, became aquatic skeletal creatures with eyes and fins, became amphibious creatures with legs and hair, and so forth. We want to believe Man is nothing more than an animal who happened to make himself supreme by creative brain power aided by manual dexterity.

Haekel

It’s a theory that provides a neat answer to our deepest questions. But it’s science that’s evolved since the 19th century, and it’s both scientists and we the public who have remained reluctant to admit we may have got at least some of it wrong. Denial is now slowly changing to open receptiveness to possible new truths, even if the biggest truth of all is we still don’t know the answers. The Enlightenment is yet to come.

For an essay from an academic dissenter, see here.

 

darwindawkins

 

17 comments on “Is Dawkins’s refusal to reassess Darwin a sign of unscientific denial?

  1. Kitty

    Sunday 8th September 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Thank you Richard for posting a photo of Richard Dawkins. I confess to having a slight crush on him. Unfortunately most of his books are far too difficult for me to understand. However, I did manage to read a few pages of The God Delusion including this quote from Carl Sagan (a man who has clearly inspired Dawkins)…’How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god and I want him to stay that way.” A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.’

    • Sunday 8th September 2013 at 9:59 pm

      From which I surmise that Carl Sagon was not a student of Eastern Religion 🙂
      Apologies, by the way, for my appalling spelling and punctuation on this thread…I’m using my phone and I can’t see a thing!

      • Kitty

        Monday 9th September 2013 at 9:55 am

        I’m not so sure Jenny. Read some Carl Sagan and judge for yourself.

        • Monday 9th September 2013 at 4:30 pm

          I have read some, as it happens. ‘Contact’ is one of my all time favourites!
          On the whole, the attitude in the quote is more reminiscent of the Abrahamic religions. Generally, Eastern religions have no issues with modern scientific views of the universe. 🙂
          As with all religion-connected comments, this is, of course, a generalisation.

          • Kitty

            Monday 9th September 2013 at 7:18 pm

            I thought you might have read some! As for generalisations, we’re all guilty of that – these are very big topics for blog comments.

    • Richard

      Monday 9th September 2013 at 2:05 pm

      Hi Kitty, many scientists would laugh at Carl Sagan’s claim that theists belittle the magnitude of the universe, including the scientist priest who proposed the Big Bang theory.
      Here are two more quoted opinions which don’t prove anything either, except that Sagan’s claim is unfounded.
      John O’Keefe (astronomer at NASA): ‘We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.. .. If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in’.
      Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics): ‘Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan’.

      • Kitty

        Monday 9th September 2013 at 4:28 pm

        The last thing I want to do is prove anything RR. That’s what I love about our world, our universe and us. All awesomely unfathomable. What is the meaning of life? I don’t want anyone to tell me.
        As for ‘my way or the high way’ – RD isn’t the first person I think of when I hear this. No, not you either!

  2. Sunday 8th September 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Sorry to see responses to this great article dip into ridicule, especially by my favourite Etonian! 🙂 I’m not a barmy creationist or a nutter etc. and neither are the vast majority of serious people who reach a different conclusion from the militant atheists. Also, I do have to mention this, I was trained in ship technology as an apprentice and it never fails to amaze me how so many atheists feel qualified to write off Noah’s Ark without reading up on it from a shipbuilding and shipping perspective first. For many years great scientific minds accepted that the earth was flat and ridiculed bible believers because their book did not support that view, now they have gone down in history as the ones to be ridiculed. I think ridicule is unhelpful to the genuine researcher whether they believe in atheism or theism.

  3. Rosie

    Sunday 8th September 2013 at 1:52 am

    What a lot of silliness and ignorance rolled into one.

    Add sexual selection into your knowledge. Also Neanderthals, like monkeys, have never been positioned as ancestors of man.

    And if you wish to bring pranks into the mix then how about a few fairy tales too.

    Can we keep to deathly topics and reality please.

    • Richard

      Sunday 8th September 2013 at 9:32 am

      Come on, Rosie, drawing attention to the fact that 800 eminent scientists around the world are Darwinian dissenters is not a fairy tale. Neither is drawing attention to the fact an early 20th century Darwinist tried and failed to link Neanderthal to human with a forgery. Would you rather educationalists ignored awkward facts such as these to keep the status quo unquestioned?

      • Sunday 8th September 2013 at 11:22 am

        Richard, are you having a laugh?
        For those 800 there are hundreds of thousands of Scientists who can see logic and fact. Plus millions, possibly now billions of humans who have enough about them to not fear religious tales.

        There is no need to link neanderthals to us, we are not of their line. Yes we have a common ancestor and most of us have approx. 2%of their blood in us due to interbreeding.

        I am sure there is no educationalist or scientist who tries to deny the stupidity of the hoaxer 100 years ago, it has nothing to do with anything. You are either pulling my leg or clutching at straws.

        Science will continue to provide new evidence and answers to everything. Have faith!

      • Sunday 8th September 2013 at 9:54 pm

        My understanding was that Piltdown was meant to show a missing link between apes and humans, not between Neanderthal and Homosapien. The archaic elements displayed by Piltdown are considerably more archaic than Neanderthal which is very close to us anatomically.

        Risks, I strongly suspect that the 800 scientists Richard refers to doubt the mechanism of evolution through random mutation (about which there is significant doubt in the scientific community, and not about the existence of evolution per se. 🙂

        • Sunday 8th September 2013 at 10:02 pm

          Sorry, obviously that should be’Rosie’ not risks. Sigh.

          • Monday 9th September 2013 at 10:59 am

            Hey Jenny
            That was one reason I threw sexual selection into the soup too. Fascinating stuff all of it.

  4. Richard

    Friday 6th September 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Hi James, I personally don’t think disproving aspects of Darwinism helps theists to prove some form of divine creation at all. And it certainly doesn’t give credence to the silly claims of Creationists. It does, however, take away a crutch for the laziest atheist fundamentalists whose ‘censored’ science is presented as the final word – end of story.

    • Richard

      Friday 6th September 2013 at 7:47 pm

      History reveals scientific theories are often superceded. But if scientists are in willful denial they cease to be scientific.
      Aristotelian physics was superceded by Newtonian physics. The Ptolemaic astronomic system was superceded by Copernicus’s Heliocentric model. The ‘rain follows the plough’ theory is only true to the extent that crop fields evapotranspirate more than barren wilderness.
      Phrenology and Numerology are now deemed pseudo-sciences. Ditto Astrology and yet many a tabloid reader reads the horoscope page. Homeopathy also maintains credence in affluent western circles but I defy anyone to rely on it in an AIDS clinic in Africa.
      Many also believe in conspiracies theories. MI5 killed Diana. Bush planned the 9/11 attacks. Churches are suppressing the truth that Jesus and Mary Magdalen sired a dynasty of Merovingian kings.

  5. Friday 6th September 2013 at 4:58 pm

    It is certainly true that we select evidence based on our pre-conceived stance on an issue.
    In acknowledging there are flaws in the evidence behind Darwinism, I fear an immediate flood of ‘I told you so’ from barmy creationists, with shrieks about the dimensions of Noah’s Ark, and the complete dismissal of carbon dating.
    But it does seem that there are flaws, and that a very serious evaluation needs to take place before this atheist can take on my biblical fundamentalist friends in a scientific debate.
    Is there such an evaluation from a scientist who seeks?

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