Bayesian Selection. Trouble Brews.

All natural functional biological complexity arose through the mechanism of non-teleological heritable variation and natural selection. That’s the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, in a nut-shell, and it’s the cornerstone of biology. The Neo-Darwinian synthesis may be divided into two professions, so to speak, the union of which constitutes the orthodoxy. Jacques Monod called them “chance” and “necessity,” and it’s a useful shorthand. Monod’s “chance” means absence of design. Chance means random in the sense of lacking teleology. There is no purpose in the raw material of Darwinian evolution. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the “random heritable variation” generator doesn’t obey natural laws. It does, like everything else, but it has no foresight. It’s random like flipping a coin is random. The Read More ›

Who Would Connect “the Legacy of Darwin,” Medicine, and Eugenics?

P.Z. Myers and I finally agree on something! In a recent post, I described several actual Darwinian medicine “theories”: ‘Children Hate Vegetables Because of Ancestral Reproductive Advantage of Avoiding Toxins’ or ‘We Will Evolve Oiler Skin Because of Frequent Bathing’ or ‘X-Linked Color Blindness Evolved to Help Paleolithic Male Hunters See Camouflage.’ As I pointed out in my original post, these theories are real, and in fact represent the cutting edge of Darwinian medicine. Myers refers to these Darwinian medicine research projects as “silly”: No, none of those very silly talks were given. And he’s right. What he fails to note, however, is that these theories differ little in substance from the ephemeral corpus of Darwinian just-so stories. These silly Read More ›

Darwinian Medicine and Military History

Several Darwinist bloggers have taken exception to my observation that Darwinian stories about the origin of diseases contribute little of significance to medical education, research, or practice. Orac responds: …that creationist neurosurgeon with a penchant for laying down hunks o’ hunks o’ burnin’ stupid on a regular basis, that Energizer Bunny of antievolution nonsense, Dr. Michael Egnor has spouted off on evolution again in a way that got my attention. It came in response to a post by PZ about a conference he attended entitled Understanding evolution: the legacy of Darwin, which served as a launching pad for Dr. Egnor to go right down the rabbit hole…The stupid, it burns. It sears. My neurons are crying out in pain. Once Read More ›

The Mind and Materialist Superstition

Materialism Philosophy. The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena. Superstition 1 a: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation b: an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition 2: a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary Mind (in a human or other conscious being) The element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges. Materialists have taken note of the growing efforts by non-materialist neuroscientists to point out the deep problems with the Read More ›

Is P.Z. Myers Attending a Conference on Eugenics?

Re: P.Z. Myers’ recent post: I’ll be spending my day at this symposium, “Understanding evolution: the legacy of Darwin”, most of today. It’s about to start, so I’m not going to say much before I focus on the lectures, but it is open to the public, so if you’re in the Penn neighborhood, come on down to Claudia Cohen hall, room G17 (which we have since learned is the famous old surgical demonstration auditorium), and listen in. I’ll report later on the contents of the talks. I’m having trouble finding the program Myers is referring to (why wasn’t I invited!?), but Claudia Cohen Hall is on the medical campus at Penn, so I surmise that the presentations will be on Read More ›