A Darwinian tiff

This had me in stitches. Apparently Darwinian philosopher Daniel Dennett (who’s out and about promoting his new book) has fallen out with fellow Darwinian, British-Born philosopher Michael Ruse. Ruse warns against taking evolutionary theory too far, so that it becomes an argument for atheism. Anyway, during the tiff (see here for detail) Dennett emailed Ruse suggesting he was being enlisted by the dark side. So Ruse replied:

“I am a full professor with tenure at a university known chiefly for its prowess on the football field, living out my retirement years in the sunshine ‚Äì I have no reputation to preserve, and frankly can say and do whatever the fuck I want to without sinking further‚Äù.

‚ÄúI am a hardline Darwinian and always have been very publicly‚Ķ in fact I am more hardline than you are, because I don‚Äôt buy into this meme bullshit but put everything‚Ķin the language of genes”.

Reflecting on the fall out, Ruse apparently had this to say:

“I think he [Dan Dennett] finds it very difficult when people don’t say to him ‘you were fantastic. Can I warm the bog seat for you before you take a crap?’”.

Link to Guardian article where I read about this.
Link to William Dembski’s blog – he’s an Intelligent Design Creationist who first made the saga public.

4 Comments

  1. gabe berezin
    Posted March 7, 2006 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never heard of Ruse, but as an evil atheist friend of mind mentioned, this is probably his best shot at getting his name on the internets.
    This is a clearly religious “evolutionist” with a gratingly politically-correct opinion that since evolution teaches atheism, it threatens the separation of church and state – the contradiction is laughably overwhelming. Though it is an unpleasant word (and surely nihilistic) – atheism at its very core is the embodiment of the separation of church and state, it is the response to the union of the two.
    And good or bad, evolution does argue God out of the equation, so it basically is teaching atheism, which is vital for learning science b/c it limits people from engaging too long in worthless analytical tangents based in mystical fantasy (save it for the english classes or your hobbit forums).
    Unfortunately, no one in the public realm is allowed to say that b/c we’re supposed to have this reverence for religion. And surely we’re all susceptible to the comfort we experience during the endorphin rush associated with finding an easy answer to the most complicated of questions, but it’s not a habit anyone should endorse outside of religion, especially the very scientists who are supposed to support evolution.
    That said, Ruse’s barbs were pretty funny. Still, it doesn’t bode well in the fight against creationist/intelligent design high jinks when evolutionary scientists are slinging feces at each other (pardon the monkey joke there), I think the blame rests on Ruse here.

  2. Posted March 8, 2006 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    I don’t get the impression that “Evolution teaches Atheism” but more that Darwinism teaches ignorance and the faults of arrogance.
    “Ignorace more frequently begets confidence that does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” – Charles Darwin
    Atheism is arrogance. [Darwin was Agnostic]

  3. gabe
    Posted March 8, 2006 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    your comment seems more like senseless preaching than a response to the material in this post. frankly, i find it offensive that any religious person can accuse the science community of arrogance for attempting to explain natural phenomenon – I’ve seen plenty more religious groups preaching the “word of god” in public and trying to convert people than i have rogue mobs of “darwinists” (and let’s face it, darwinists are pretty out-numbered by any religious group). i’m not concerned about arrogant scientists that happen to be right – science unlike religion has a system to determine whether any particular scientist is right or wrong – but i’m glad someone is watching out for their faulty attitude, thanks.
    agnostics are politically-correct atheists – the whole notion is founded for those with some reverence to the rest of the world that believes in some kind of god, or that aren’t quite ready to accept the total absence of a larger being. and in darwin’s time it was a big deal to be an agnostic, he’s lucky he wasn’t burned at the stake – so it’s different than today’s version. as far as what i’ve read about darwin himself, he suffered some profound loss when his mother died while he was young and his sister took over his mother’s role and also died relatively young. so it’s no surprise he got a bit caught up in the possibility of god. just b/c he’s the father of evolution doesn’t mean he wasn’t susceptible to feeling the comfort in denying the finality of death in some form.
    the religious community’s paranoid notion that evolution is edging out religion is getting worse by the minute. the argument against evolution – intelligent design (the fancy name for creationism, AKA, god in the gaps) – is functionally useless for the pursuit of answers, and always has been. it only exists to reinforce the idea of god, period. ironically, it’s always religious types that refer to “darwinism” as if it’s some kind of religion itself. science (or “darwinism” as you put it) is the antithesis of ignorance, particularly religious ignorance.
    i’m not sure how many times a darwin quote has been rebutted with one from a beatle, but i think it’s relevant here. here’s some john lennon for ya:
    God is a concept
    By which we measure
    Our pain
    I’ll say it again
    God is a concept
    By which we measure
    Our pain

  4. Posted March 8, 2006 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    First of all, you’re making assumptions about me. I merely follow a Huxley philosophy myself. I very much lean atheist, but I do not want it to get in the way of free thinking.. as Huxley puts it so well.
    “The antagonism between science and religion, about which we hear so much, appears to me to be purely factitious‚Äìfabricated, on the one hand, by short-sighted religious people who confound a certain branch of science, theology, with religion; and, on the other, by equally short-sighted scientific people who forget that science takes for its province only that which is susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension; and that, outside the boundaries of that province, they must be content with imagination, with hope, and with ignorance.”
    – Thomas Henry Huxley
    My point about arrogant evolutionist is those like Hitler or the Columbine shooters. Those that like to insist they “they are their own God”


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