Richard Dawkins

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Keeping an Eye on Evolution: Richard Dawkins, a Relentless Darwinian Spear Carrier, Trips Over Mount Improbable.

The theory of evolution is the great white elephant of contemporary thought. It is large, almost entirely useless, and the object of superstitious awe. Richard Dawkins is widely known as the theory’s uncompromising champion. Having made his case in The Blind Watchmaker and River out of Eden, Dawkins proposes to make it yet again in Climbing Mount Improbable. He is Read More ›

Message in a bottle
Message in a bottle on the beach
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DNA: The Message in the Message

We are so conditioned to expect scientific breakthroughs that exceed our expectations, Barr observed, that we reflexively reject any idea that science has limits. Yet science reveals not only the rich possibilities of nature but also its limitations. To give obvious examples, we know that we will never fulfill the alchemists’ dream of chemically transmuting lead into gold. We know that a parent of one species will never give birth to offspring of another species. Science reveals consistent patterns that allow us to make negative statements about what natural forces cannot do. To persist in seeking natural laws in such cases, Barr suggested, is as irrational as any primitive myth of the thunder gods. Read More ›

Disbelieving Darwin–And Feeling No Shame!

Science, we are told, is tentative. And given the history of science, there is every reason for science to be tentative. No scientific theory withstands revision for long, and many are eventually superseded by theories that flatly contradict their predecessors. Scientific revolutions are common, painful, and real. New theories regularly overturn old ones, and no scientific theory is ever the Read More ›

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Charles Darwin on India postage stamp
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The Deniable Darwin

Charles Darwin presented On the Origin of Species to a disbelieving world in 1859 — three years after Clerk Maxwell had published "On Faraday's Lines of Force," the first of his papers on the electromagnetic field. Maxwell's theory has by a process of absorption become part of quantum field theory, and so a part of the great canonical structure created by mathematical physics. By contrast, the final triumph of Darwinian theory, although vividly imagined by biologists, remains, along with world peace and Esperanto, on the eschatological horizon of contemporary thought. Read More ›

Intelligent Design is not Optimal Design

I was recently on an NPR program with skeptic Michael Shermer and paleontologist Donald Prothero to discuss intelligent design. As the discussion unfolded, it became clear that they were using the phrase “intelligent design” in a way quite different from how the emerging intelligent design community is using it. The confusion centered on what the adjective “intelligent” is doing in Read More ›

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Someone gazes at a hazy background
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Metaphysics Matters

In his influential book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins asserts that “Like successful Chicago gangsters our genes have survived . . . in a highly competitive world, . . . [and so] a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness.” Therefore, “We are survival machines-robot vehicles programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” Read More ›