What would be evidence against evolution, and very strong evidence at that, would be the discovery of even a single fossil in the wrong geological stratum….But not a single solitary fossil has ever been found before it could have evolved. Richard Dawkins (2009, pp. 146-7) Professor Dawkins is right: you can’t be older than your own grandfather, all country-western songs notwithstanding.
For many years, Jerry Fodor has been an outspoken critic of Darwinian reasoning in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind / language. As a graduate student, I saw him present a colloquium on these topics, in front of a semi-hostile audience, and admired his bravado in refusing to kneel before the Altar of Darwin. Sorry if that language seems over the top, but after the end of the Darwin Year, the steady worshipful attitude towards old Charles has finally got to me. Now, in the wake of his controversial and much discussed London Review article, Fodor — along with cognitive scientist Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini — has made his arguments fully general in What Darwin Got Wrong.
“Before going on,” said Frost, “I must ask you to be strictly objective. Resentment and fear are both chemical phenomena. Our reactions to each other are chemical phenomena. Social relations are chemical relations. You must observe these feelings in yourself in an objective manner. Do not let them distract your attention from the facts.” C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (1946) The relevance of this passage from Lewis will be clear below. But first…
Thanks to various live-bloggers, you can read summaries of all of the University of Chicago Darwin 2009 conference presentations. The conference organizers have also promised to make video podcasts available of all the lectures shortly. By contrast, what follows below is — as they say in sports television — color commentary. This will be a longer post, because much was said that calls for comment. Bottom line: this was an outstanding conference, where any ID theorist would have enjoyed himself, and learned a lot, if he didn’t mind a bit of mocking laughter along the way.
“Go to hell!” said Ron Numbers cheerfully to me, as we greeted each other at the front of Rockefeller Chapel last night. “Hey, did I say that loud enough?” he asked, looking around at the various evolutionary biology and history and philosophy of science worthies — Lewontin, Kitcher, Sober, Ruse, Dennett, Richards, and so on — milling about. Ron’s smiling insult was a mocking attempt to redress the widespread criticism that he had let me off easy in our notorious Bloggingheads conversation. A spirit of raillery was in the air, given a vigorous kick at the beginning of the evening by Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin. Little of the secular sanctimony of the 1959 Darwin centennial (see below) was in evidence. Read More ›