Richard Dawkins

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Frayed rope about to break
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The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism

In a retrospective essay on Carl Sagan in the January 9, 1997 New York Review of Books, Harvard Genetics Professor Richard Lewontin tells how he first met Sagan at a public debate in Arkansas in 1964. The two young scientists had been coaxed by senior colleagues to go to Little Rock to debate the affirmative side of the question: “RESOLVED, that Read More ›

Open Letter to Paul R. Gross, “Politicizing Science Education”

Dear Mr. Gross: Your article, “Politicizing Science Education,” (available at http://www.edexcellence.net/foundation/publication/publication.cfm?id=43) recently came to our attention. While we share your concern for what you call “the maladies of contemporary education,” we think you have gravely misrepresented several of the key issues. Science education in this country cannot be repaired without candor and accuracy. Yet candor and accuracy are woefully lacking Read More ›

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Photo of Mars surface by NASA via Unsplash

The Sterility of Darwinism

As it struggles to comprehend nature, science sometimes has to completely re-think how the world works. For example, Newton’s laws apply to everyday objects but can’t handle nature’s tiny building blocks. Propelled by this discovery, quantum mechanics overthrew Newton’s theory. Revolutions in biology have included the cell theory of life in the 19th century, as well as the slow realization Read More ›

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Person playing poker and looking at cards
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Full House Follies

This little book is intended to correct the popular impression that “progress and increasing complexity” are characteristics of life’s course on Earth. Progress has, in the twentieth century, already been punched silly; but paleontologists seem genuinely more complex than paramecia, a point that Gould concedes, if only for reasons of professional pride. His doubts arise whenever the twig of a trend Read More ›

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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 ›

Literature Survey January 1996

Zen Biology? Jeffrey Levinton, “Life in the Tangled Lane,” a review of Stuart Kauffman, The Origins of Order, Evolution 49 (1995): 575-577. In this review of Kauffman’s magnum opus, Levinton (Ecology and Evolution, SUNY Stony Brook) is cheerfully skeptical. “Kauffman’s model,” he writes, “is at once pervasive, explaining everything. But equally, it explains why we may never be able to Read More ›

A New Beginning:

The good news this month is the appearance of Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, published by the Free Press. As far as I know, it is the first outright anti-Darwin book to have been published by a major New York house for decades; perhaps since the 1920’s. Behe (pronounced “Bee He”) is an associate professor of Biological Sciences at 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 ›