a super(b) paper on human evolution

Mike_Cahill at sil.org Mike_Cahill at sil.org
Wed Aug 10 14:10:28 UTC 2005

I'm fascinated by people's thinking processes on ID and natural selection
(we call it NS so it doesn't suffer from acronym envy?) and theories in

Bickerton said, inter alia,

      ID is just like the old God of the Gaps, doomed to do a similar
      vanishing number.  So natural selection may not be the answer.  I
      could live with that, if someone would show me a theory that
      explained all that NS explains plus some more.  That's how "bright
      thinkers" go from one theory to the next.  They don't jump out of a
      leaky lifeboat just because a rotten plank floats by. They see if the
      leaks can be mended or if someone can bring on a more seaworthy
      vessel.  No testable theory has ever existed that didn't have flaws
      in it here and there.  That's called "science".  The rest is

      Bottom line:  ID is BS.

The assumption here is that one needs to have a theory to hold on to,
otherwise you (metaphorically) drown. And that's how people usually act.
But what about a position that says "Here are some theories, but we know
that none of them is adequate."? That would seem to be more of an
intellectually honest position, and (extending his metaphor) you have your
feet on solid ground rather than being asea.  (This point would hold for
linguistic theories as well as biological and physical ones - we may
eventually get back to linguistics here...)   I commend a very interesting
and accessible book, The Great Evolution Mystery (Harper & Row) by Gordon
Taylor, an evolutionist, who nonetheless amasses arguments and evidence
that the process of natural selection is not adequate to explain what
actually exists in nature. If he (and others) are right, could we live with
an agnostic position that says "Natural selection isn't adequate, and I
don't know what the mechanism is."?

I am glad that the "hysteria over ID" that Rude mentions has not hit
Bickerton, but there is definitely a reaction that is attributable to more
than just a clash of ideas, but goes much deeper, to a difference in
worldviews. When I merely mentioned ID to one linguist at LSA this January,
his voice raised, he got red in the face, and he started calling ID names.
When it gets to the stage of name-calling, it's difficult to have any
useful discussion.

Cheerfully yours,

Mike Cahill

P.S. It's a rabbit trail , but I just can't resist a comment on the "God of
the Gaps" phrase. In practice, something very similar is invoked by
evolutionists. Examples: 1) It is assumed that feathers developed from
reptilian scales, but no fossil transitions have been found, and no
detailed mechanism for the gradual genetic changes has been proposed. 2)
Reptiles are cold-blooded, birds are warm-blooded. The assumed change from
reptiles to birds involves an incredible host of changes of metabolic
strategy, but again, no intermediates have been found (for some time the
assumption was that there should be living intermediates, but no dice) and
no detailed mechanisms proposed (such as what COULD an intermediate system
be like?). These cases could be multiplied into the hundreds. The point -
in such cases, evolutionists wave their hands and say "We don't know how,
but Evolution just did it."   Evolution of the gaps... It's a tie...

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