Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Review of David Stove: Darwinian Fairytales (essay 11)

In Essay XI, "Errors of Heredity or The Irrelevance of Darwinism to Human Life", Stove starts with mentioning that we are all hereditary errors according to Darwinians (p. 212):

Do you realise, reader, that you are an error of heredity, a biological error? Anyway you are, whether you realise it or not. And not only an error, but an error on an enormous scale. At least, Darwinians say you are. And who knows more about biology and heredity, pray, than they do?

Or, at least those who waste their time on reading Darwinian Fairytales are.

A paragraph later Stove tells us, what it's all about:

A biological error, or error of heredity, is an organism which does not have as many descendants as it could have, or a characteristic of an organism which prevents it having as many descendants as it otherwise could.

Stove then gives some examples, such as this one on p. 213:

Here is a famous Darwinian, C.D. Darlington, on the subject of the naturally celibate. 'According to Galton's way of thinking, which all later study confirms, the natural celibate is an individual lying at the end of a curve of errors. He arises, as we may say, by a combination of errors of heredity.' That was, indeed, 'Galton's way of thinking', but not only his: it was 100 years ago, and still is, the way of thinking of all Darwinians.

This is the example Stove is particularly concerned about. According to him, 19th century Darwinists were particularly hostile towards the Roman Catholic clergy for its celibacy. For Stove, this is the "old anti-clericalism, and sexual emancipation" of the Enlightenment (cf. p. 219).

On p. 220, Stove then writes:

One of them is, that a scientific theory cannot possibly reprehend, in any way at all, any actual facts. It can explain them, predict them, describe them, but it cannot condemn as errors. Astronomy cannot criticise certain arrangements of stars or planets as erroneous, and no more can biology criticise certain organisms, or characteristics as erroneous.

This is, of course, correct; but things aren't quite like Stove reports them. While Charles Darwin isn't Francis Galton, I suppose that he can count as equally much a Darwinian. And I have found nine occurences of 'celibacy' in The Descent of Man, of which the following from chapter 5 is representative:

Natural selection follows from the struggle for existence; and this from a rapid rate of increase. It is impossible not to regret bitterly, but whether wisely is another question, the rate at which man tends to increase; for this leads in barbarous tribes to infanticide and many other evils, and in civilised nations to abject poverty, celibacy, and to the late marriages of the prudent.

Celibacy is here considered something negative, but also as a consequence of the "rate at which man tends to increase"; that is, celibacy is explained as a way to avoid the struggle for existence, so it is still explained as a consequence of that struggle. Of course, we can in the quoted passage pick down on the expression 'many other evils' and say that such moral judgments do not belong in a scientific text; but even that doesn't change the fact that Darwin sees celibacy as a civilized aternative to barbarous infanticide - and that independently of whether he sees things right or wrong.

Later on p. 220, Stove writes:

Wherever Darwinism is in error, Darwinians simply call the organisms in question or their characteristics, an error! Wherever there is manifestly something wrong with their theory, they say that there is something wrong with the organisms. Their theory implies that there is no such thing as natural celibacy, contraception, or feticide, and where all other species are concerned, it is true that there is no such thing. But in our species, those and many other anti-reproductive characteristics do exist.

Please hold your horses here, Mr. Stove, will you? Stove in the very best traditions of quote-miners has found a quote that lets him start beating the war drum without bothering to check, whether the quote tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We don't even know in what sense Galton used the word 'error'. Say I made a theory about the number of typing errors people made; would it then be something wrong with my theory if I made a curve of errors and had some individual lying at the one end?

On pp. 222-223, Stove quotes the opening paragraph from The Origin of Species, chapter 4, "Natural Selection", the one containing the statement "... we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed." And bootom p. 223 to top p. 224, Stove writes:

In fact, far from every attribute being rigidly destroyed which is in the least degree injurious, in our species there is precious little except injurious injurious attributes. Nearly everything about us, or at least nearly everything which distinguishes us from flies, fish, or rodents - all the way from practising Abortion to studying Zoology - puts some impediment or other in the way of having as many descendants as we could. From the point of view of Darwinism, just as from the point of view of Calvinism, there is no good in us, or none worth mentioning. We are a mere festering mess of biological errors.

Well, why pick down on Darwinists? There are far more Calvinists and feminists in this world, and they are after all much worse, and no one is allowed to speak against them, in particular not against feminists.

However, Stove has found his tree to bark up, and he continues p. 224:

Which means, of course - once you turn that statement the right way up - that on the subject of our species, Darwinism is a mere festering mass of errors: and of errors in the plain honest sense of that word too, namely, falsities taken for truths. Darwinism can tell you lots of truths about plants, flies, fish, etc., and interesting truths too, to the people who are interested in those things. But the case is different, indeed reversed, where our own species is in question. If it is human life that you would most like to know about and to understand, then a very good library can be begun by leaving out Darwinism, from 1859 to the present hour.

Seeing that Stove claimed that every component of Darwinism - except for an explanation of adaptation - was in place before 1859, this sounds somewhat odd. And turning things around, the problem that Stove apparently sees is that Darwinists makes him feel that he is an error, just as Calvinists do, because he doesn't fit into their rules, or what he considers to be their rules. That is, what Stove objects against is that he is not left the right to make his own choice.

Yet, things are not so simple as that. One day, when I was in a supermarket, I - as I always do - first went to the check-out line after having gathered all the (not very many) goods I was to buy. At the back of the line was a shopping cart with goods in it, but no person behind it. However, I placed myself behind the cart, expecting its owner to show up very soon. Customers occasionally leave their carts for a very short term, while fetching the last thing or two on a neighby shelf, and I thought that might be the case here. But no one showed up, and the line in front of the cart moved forward, and of course the cart and I then had to follow. Occasionally shop personnel use carts while putting goods on the shelves and leave them, if they momentarily are called to do something else. Also, occasionally, customers simply abandon their carts and leave the shop, if they get tired of waiting in line. That is, from prior experience I had reason to think that the cart might not be 'standing' in line. Still, I decided to keep my place and see, if the owner of the cart didn't show up. The line in front of the cart then moved one more customer forwards, and since the cart didn't show the least intention to follow, I decided that I had to be an abandoned cart, and I moved to the back of the active part of the check-out line. In that very moment a woman came to the cart and yelled at me: "You were sure quick there!" Apparently, in here mind I was an egocentric exploiting the situation. Since fighting about a place back or forth in a check-out line is very low on my priority list of things I consider worth fighting about, I went back to my old place behind the cart without a word, and the woman pushed the cart up to the back up the line, also without a word.

My point with this story is that the behavior of the woman could be considered very egocentric. What right did she have to park her shopping cart in the check-out line before she was finished gathering what she was going to buy? She projected her own egocentrism on me, unaware of that my behavior was the result of a longer deliberation and not something about being quick. Since then I have been studying check-out line behavior, and I can tell you that 50% of all women in a check-out line are unable to stand in it for more than one minute without needing to go out and gather more goods. Men only do this, if together with a woman that tells them to do it. Why is this so? Would I find the explanation in a feminist book? Of course not, such books only contain political correct statements that say that everything women do is good, and everything men do is bad. Would I find the explanation in a Calvinist book? Well, there's that story about a fruit that just had to be plucked and eaten, but where does the talking snake fit in? What's left? Darwinist books and David Stove's Darwinian Fairytales! Now, I have read Darwinian Fairytales and not found the explanation there, so ...

Denyse O'Leary's review of chapter XI can be found here.

In her second paragraph, O'Leary writes:

Now, he reasons, among plants or cockroaches, there is no biological error. They do not fail to have as many descendants as they can. Yet humans routinely do so, for a number of reasons, ranging from natural or voluntary celibacy through lifestyle choices that reduce fertility through heroic self-sacrifice.

While Stove does mention heroism, he does not mention it as a 'biological error'. Stove mentions it because he disagrees with R.A. Fisher's claim that heroes are people that themselves bring about the situation that let them display their heroism. Stove might consider heroism to be self-sacrifice, but he doesn't mention any such thing.

Concerning the same subject, O'Leary writes:

In Fisher's world, there is no need for self-sacrifice, not even on 9-11. But heroes do apparently insist on coming along and making trouble. I wonder what he would have made of the two young men who jumped into the pit of the Toronto subway in 2005, to pull out an older woman who had fainted? In what sense can we say that their "hazardous enterprise" was unnecessary? Dangerous, yes, and not at all likely to improve their chances of leaving descendants. Transit officials perform their duty, of course, when they counsel riders against such heroism. But very few of us would admire the young men more for taking the officials' advice.

Actually, 99.999999% of all heroes "insist on coming along and making trouble"; they make the situation that turns them into heroes in their own mind. Such as people yelling and screaming aggressively at other people for no other reason than to mark themselves as heroes. For example, 99.99999999% of all cases of "sexual assaults" by men on women only exist in the minds of people that see a chance of playing heroes. Why are so many men running along with the feminist war against male sexuality? Not because they think their sexuality is a crime, but because it gives them an excuse to push other men away from women.

O'Leary's next paragraph is:

As Stove points out, Fisher is living in a different mental space from most human beings on this point. Most of us, even if we accept religious teachings against artificial contraception, have never attempted to maximize the number of our descendants.

Then "[m]ost of us" are living in sin, because Genesis 1:28 clearly says that, "[a]nd God blessed them [the humans]: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (ASV). So, if we are to do as God has commanded, we are to replenish, that is, completely fill the earth, and I think there's a few empty spots still left vacant.

Also, if most of us accept religious teachings against artificial contraception, why do we then do that, if it isn't in order to maximize the number of our descendants?

A few paragraphs later, we find O'Leary caressing her pet peeve:

One thing his account certainly clarifies for me is why Darwinists today need to entrench their theory in school systems, contrary to public opinion. They must get students to accept it implicitly and uncritically, because it will not withstand common-sense criticism such as Stove supplies. The child must learn that Darwinism is absolutely true and accepted by all scientists before he learns that most adults do not embrace parenthood nearly as readily as a child assumes - before he learns, for example, about the rapidly growing demographic crisis of low birth rates . That way, he won't be tempted to blurt out embarrassing questions in biology class, with the devil to pay later.

But the variety of Darwinism taught in school isn't the one addressed by Stove; it is only concerned with biology, not the more controversial subject of human behavior. O'Leary, for some reason, doesn't bother to mention that as far as purely biological details are concerned, Stove fully endorses Darwinism. By the way, O'Leary is Roman catholic, not Calvinist; but you'll be hard pressed to spot the difference, even if the devil asked you to.

O'Leary ends with the following words:

On the other hand ... the willingness to think clearly cannot be so easily suppressed as the Darwinist supposes. In the end, Stoves [sic] main achievement in Darwinian Fairytales is to show that the theory was always conceptually flawed in important ways. Its status as an ideology is its best protection.

O'Leary is again waving her ID flag without telling that Stove in no way endorses ID; the only thing Stove endorses is that human beings should be allowed to do what pleases them without having to ask a priesthood for permission.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Review of David Stove: Darwinian Fairytales (essay 10)

In Essay X, "Paley's Revenge or Purpose Regained", Stove first mentions G.C. Williams' book Adaptation and Natural Selection from 1966. Stove writes p. 179:

Its subject, however, is not altruism. It is something which lies equally close to the heart of Darwinism, and is far more widespread and prominent in organisms than altruism is: namely, adaptation. Organisms differ from inanimate objects in being, in countless ways, adapted or adjusted or fitted to the circumstances which surround them. Every one of their organs, structures, processes, phases, has a function or purpose: something that it is for. It is in order to explain this great fact of life, and to explain it along the most severely Darwinian lines, that Adaptation and Natural Selection is written.

After that, Stove takes us on a little, historical tour beginning with David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), in which Hume argues against 'the design argument', continuing with William Paley's Natural Theology (1802), in which Paley argues for 'the design argument', and ending with Darwin's The Origin of Species (1859). According to Stove, this book explained the origin of new species by natural selection that progressivly would lead to a new species.

Then Stove writes p. 182:

Such was, in essence, the Darwinian explanation of adaptation. In addition to its intrinsic merits, it had the advantages, over the Paleyan or theistic explanation, of being completely down to earth, and of explaining many other things beside adaptation. After all Darwin, in the Origin, had not been trying to explain adaptation: he had been trying to explain the origin of species! And yet, as Williams observes, the natural selection theory is actually a better explanation of the preservation and accumulation of adaptations, than it is of the origin of species.

Ok, that explains the title of Williams' book.

According to Stove, the explanation of adaptation by natural selection with one blow sent the theistic explanation into "a steep and apparently irreversible decline", and 'Natural theology' which was intended to limit the advance of atheism "found that its principal support had been removed" (ibid.).

However, according to Stove, while Paley by 1960 was considered to be "a fool or hypocrite or both" (ibid.), the situation has changed since then. Ironically, Paley has had his revenge. As Stove writes bootom p. 182:

The explanation of adaptation by reference to the purposes of intelligent and powerful agents has come back into its own. And its reinstatement has turned out to require only some comparatively minor changes to the theology involved.

Now, of course, Stove is not here referring to William Dembski's celebration of Paley. No, it is Richard Dawkins again, who, as Stove correctly mentions, is "full of a proper respect for Paley's explanation of adaptation" (ct. p. 183). For Stove, this is not surprising, since Dawkins is a theist himself. As Stove writes p. 183:

It is not in the least surprising that Dawkins should feel a profound intellectual sympathy with Paley's great book. It would be astounding if the opposite were the case. For he is a theist himself, as I [David Stove] have pointed out in Essay VII and IX. He agrees with Paley, that the adaptations of organisms are due to the purposive agency, (more specifically, the selfish and manipulative agency), of beings far more intelligent and powerful than humans or any other organisms.

This is -almost - true. In The Blind Watchmaker, chapter 1, Dawkins writes:

The watchmaker of my title is borrowed from a famous treatise by the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley. His Natural Theology - or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature, published in 1802, is the best-known exposition of the 'Argument from Design', always the most influential of the arguments for the existence of a God. It is a book that I greatly admire, for in his own time its author succeeded in doing what I am struggling to do now. He had a point to make, he passionately believed in it, and he spared no effort to ram it home clearly. He had a proper reverence for the complexity of the living world, and he saw that it demands a very special kind of explanation. The only thing he got wrong - admittedly quite a big thing! - was the explanation itself. He gave the traditional religious answer to the riddle, but he articulated it more clearly and convincingly than anybody had before. The true explanation is utterly different, and it had to wait for one of the most revolutionary thinkers of all time, Charles Darwin.

So, yes, Dawkins indeed feels a profound intellectual sympathy with Paley's great book. But Stove ignores a detail, the word 'Blind' in The Blind Watchmaker. As Dawkins writes, Paley begins his book with this passage:

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there.

As the story continues, Paley argues that from the complexity of the watch, each part precisely fitted to function together with the other parts, we conclude without hesitation that the watch is designed. That is, we conclude from watch to watchmaker, from the fact of the watch to the necessity of the watchmaker. Dawkins isn't denying this line of reasoning with respect to organisms as well, only that the watchmaker needs to be able to see into the future; that is, the necessity of any conscious purpose.

Therefore, Stove's argumentation doesn't quite hold. Dawkins exactly does not claim that any "purposive agency" is at play.

On p. 184-185, Stove picks up Adaptation and Natural Selection again and supplies a few quotes that should give the impression that Williams just as Paley saw design in organisms. For example bottom p. 184 to top p.185:

'[E]very adaptation is calculated to maximise the reproductive success of the individual, relative to other individuals ...' An adaptation is 'a mechanism designed to promote the success of the individual organism, as measured by the extent to which it contributes genes to later generations of the population of which it is a member.' 'Each part of the animal is organised for some function tributary to the ultimate goal of the survival of its own genes.'

So, according to Stove, little was left for Dawkins to popularize this new religion of genes, and it is all simply paraphrases of Paley

Stove acknowledges that neither Williams nor Dawkins referred to any real purpose or intelligence. As Stove writes p. 186:

Dawkins in order to make clear the great difference between the Paleyan explanation of adaptation and his own Darwinian one, writes (for example) as follows. 'Natural selection ... has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all.'

Continuing, Stove claims that this would be true, even if we substituted 'natural selection' with 'artificial selection', since artificial selection doesn't have a purpose in mind either - it is cattle breeders that have. Yet, no one would claim that "purposeful intelligent agents play no part in bringing about artificial selection!"

This is quite true, but not all that relevant - the word 'artificial' implies human activity. An artifact is something made by humans, and in archaeology it is important to be able to tell the difference between an artifact and a natural object; but that doesn't imply that an artifact has a purpose in mind itself, while a natural object doesn't.

However, Stove's complaint is really about the reification of natural selection, which just as artificial selection cannot have a purpose. It is about the causal agents, the genes, we need to ask, whether they are purposeful. According to Stove, a purpose needs not be conscious. He mentions p. 187:

People quite often realise that they have been, for some time, intending or 'purposing' to bring a certain state of affairs about, without having been conscious at the time of having any such purpose. It cannot be doubted that much of the activity of dogs is purposive; but whether any of it is consciously so, may very reasonably be doubted.

Well, isn't Stove here undermining his own position? This is epiphenomenalism; that is, the idea that the consciousness really plays no role in making decisions, all purposes really only exist in the subconscious and therefore belong to physiology. But our physiology isn't a result of our own intelligent design, it's a result of our genes. So, Stove is apparently a sociobiologist himself!

Anyway, Stove admits that Dawkins "has returned a clear 'no', not only to the question whether natural selection is purposive, but to the question whether genes are so." (ibid.), so where is the problem? However, Stove doesn't accept that denial, because Dawkins, and Williams as well, many more times describe genes as purposeful than they deny that genes are purposeful, ans, as Stove writes later p. 187:

If the writer of a book says a certain thing twice or once or never, but implies the opposite over and over again throughout his book, a rational reader will take it that the writer's real opinion is the one which he constantly implies; not the other one.

Not necessarily so. In The Blind Watchmaker, chapter 1, Dawkins writes:

Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Physics is the study of simple things that do not tempt us to invoke design. At first sight, man-made artefacts like computers and cars will seem to provide exceptions. They are complicated and obviously designed for a purpose, yet they are not alive, and they are made of metal and plastic rather than of flesh and blood. In this book they will be firmly treated as biological objects.

That is, Dawkins here writes that "computers and cars" will be treated as biological objects, so obviously he is using words in a non-standard way. Continuing, he writes:

The reader's reaction to this may be to ask, 'Yes, but are they really biological objects?' Words are our servants, not our masters. For different purposes we find it convenient to use words in different senses. Most cookery books class lobsters as fish. Zoologists can become quite apoplectic about this, pointing out that lobsters could with greater justice call humans fish, since fish are far closer kin to humans than they are to lobsters. And, talking of justice and lobsters, I understand that a court of law recently had to decide whether lobsters were insects or 'animals' (it bore upon whether people should be allowed to boil them alive). Zoologically speaking, lobsters are certainly not insects. They are animals, but then so are insects and so are we. There is little point in getting worked up about the way different people use words (although in my nonprofessional life I am quite prepared to get worked up about people who boil lobsters alive). Cooks and lawyers need to use words in their own special ways, and so do I in this book.

So, consider yourself warned - Dawkins is using words to mean what he wants them to mean, which should be ok, as long as he states in which way he uses words in a deviant sense relative to, what the intended audience would expect.

Unfortunately, Dawkins doesn't directly define how he uses the word 'purpose'. At the beginning of chapter 2, Dawkins writes:

Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning. The purpose of this book is to resolve this paradox to the satisfaction of the reader, and the purpose of this chapter is further to impress the reader with the power of the illusion of design.

Note that here Dawkins uses the word purpose three times. First to imply that natural selection has no purpose in view, then to indicate the purpose of the book in general and chapter 2 in particular. Now, a book and a chapter don't have any purposes in view either; but still it is clear that Dawkins' purpose is to describe biological objects in a way so the reader will first be impressed with the illusion of design and then to show that it's only an illusion - in the case of, what's usually understood by 'biological objects'. This may of course be peculiar to The Blind Watchmaker; yet even if so, in the other books, the same idea may apply, although the authors may have been to sloppy to inform the readers; but that's a different problem than that they really meant that genes are purposeful in the same way, e.g., humans are.

But Stove isn't the kind of guy to let linguistic sloppyness simply pass by. On page 189, he writes:

Dawkins told the readers of The Selfish Gene that, if they objected to his describing genes as selfish, he could easily 'translate [that statement] back into respectable language'. Well, I do object to it, and one of the grounds on which I object to it is, that it implies that genes are purposive. So I would like to know what the 'respectable translation' is of 'genes are selfish'.

Since Dawkins, according to Stove, didn't supply that translation, Stove is going to try to work it out for himself. Needless to say, this project doesn't succeed; but Stove kicks back claiming that no one else, including Dawkins, has provided such a translation. While this is certainly a valid objection, the problem is that Stove's claim that 'selfish gene theory', as Stove calls it, is a new religion only holds true in a purely linguistic sense. Of course, Stove is entitled as well to use words according to his own rules.

Anyway, Dawkins' point is that genes, not individual organisms, are the unit of selection. That is, to trace evolution, we need to trace genes. Therefore Dawkins describes genes with words that would usually be used to describe individual organisms. And further, it's not the single instance of the gene that is the unit of selection, it's the gene pattern.

On p. 191, Stove mentions Darwin's book The various Contrivances by which Orchids are Fertilised by Insects, and here he complains about the word 'Contrivances', which also indicates purposeness. Stove writes that everybody understood that Darwin didn't use the word in that meaning, but in which meaning then?

This leads up to this general accusation (ibid.):

Darwinians, then, have never paid, or even acknowledged, the debt they have all along owed the public: a reconciliation of their teleological explanations of particular adaptations, with their non-teleological explanation of adaptation in general.

The problem really is that human language is, well, human language, and we tend to detect purposeness in each other. This is of importance for human cooperation; but unfortunately it also leads to many false accusations for unaccepted purposes. The "you did that on purpose!" warcry always means that you are in trouble, even if the claim is wrong. The teleological explanations are therefore simply due to that are purposefully designed by humans to be understood by humans, and that's all there is to it. Don't let yourself be lured by the contrivances of language, and everything should come out just fine. And we probably shouldn't ignore either that anthropomorphic language spawns some human interest in an area that might otherwise not have spawned that interest.

On p. 194, Stove claims that before 1600 bce, no one thought of using adaptation of organisms as a design argument; in return this argument 'ran riot' in the 17th and 18th century.

For once, Stove is actually making sense; let's see, how well he can keep up the standard. On p. 195, he writes:

By 1800, adaptation had become not merely the main, but virtually the only empirically evidence appealed to, to establish the divine existence and purposes. Paley sufficiently indicates that he himself attached little value to the design argument when it is based on anything other than adaptation. And yet when Plato or Aristotle or Cicero or Aquinas had employed a design argument, it had never been from adaptation. It was always from some fact, or supposed fact, of astronomy, or of general or terrestrial physics: from almost anything in the world, in fact, except the adaptations of organisms.

I had hoped that Stove would mention that after it had been accepted that there was no difference between the sub-lunar world and the super-lunar world, astronomical arguments for design simply weren't hard currency anymore. But he doesn't. In return, mid p. 196, he argues for that teleolical arguments should not be translated into non-teleological terms, because

If organisms weree indifferent towards their own survival and reproduction, or if they positively leaned to the Buddhist side of those issues, there would be no struggle for life, hence no natural selection, and hence no evolution, according to the Darwinian theory. So very far is that theory, then from according no causal role in evolution to purpose.

That is, I suppose, to say that there is nothing wrong with purposes. Over the next pages, Stove develops the idea of purposeness, and on pp. 198-199, he even mentions the sexuality of plants, about which he has several interesting things to say. For istance that it was a blow to our anthropocentrism, becaus eit showed that even palnts weren't here merely for "our sustenance, delight, or use: that on the contrary, they had a purpose of their own, an overriding purpose too, and one which they share with all other organisms - to survive and reproduce themselves." Continuing, Stove writes:

But the discovery of the sexuality of plants was not only intellectual dynamite: it was moral and political dynamite as well. For the Christian religion, after all, had waged war from its very start against the sexual impulse in man: not just against its hypertrophy, but against the thing itself. It had always been obvious to every thoughtful person that the sacrement of Christian marriage was no more than an uneasy compromise with the deadly sin of concupiscence. And yet, how could something which not just we and the 'beasts' do, but which wheat and apples and roses and oaks do, be an offense against the divine nature and purpose? The conclusion which was bound to be drawn, and was drawn, was that, in spite of St Paul, sexual intercourse is innocent.

Well, while Paul isn't known to have been much of an admirer of sexuality, I cannot recall that he anywhere says that it's a crime - though, of course, deviant sexual behavior is the sure ticket to hell. However, according to Stove, the "pursuit of happiness" was given a little twist by this discovery.

Stove's main point in these pages is that all the components of Darwinism - that all organisms strive to survive, reproduce and increase in a struggle against each other - were in place long before Darwin was even born; actually they were in place before Paley wrote Natural Theology.

From bottom p. 201 to top p. 203, Stove deals with Arthur Schopenhauer, "the Philosopher of Pessimism", who operated with 'the will to live', an purposive force, which wasn't conscious, but simply a driving force.

On p. 203, Stove treats us to his own version of

The conception of life, then, which we rightly call Darwinian though it owes nothing to Darwin, is this. All organisms strive to the utmost to survive, reproduce, and increase; everything they do, and all their adaptations, are contributory to that end; and it is only (or near enough only) the limitness of their food, and the struggle for life in which it embroils conspecifics, which prevents them increasing without limit.

Not necessarily so - depending on the meaning of 'organisms'. Darwin had no idea of genes, as we know them today, though he entertained the Pangenesis theory. However, Darwin doesn't make an always clear distinction between individual organisms and populations, and indeed theories of society as a single organism are quite common. On the frontispiece of Hobbes' Leviathan is shown the picture of the Sovereign, whose body is made up of the people; the idea being that with the Sovereign as its head, the people can work as one cooperating body instead of as a number of bodies fighting against each other. This is an important, though not well-integrated, aspect of Darwin's theory of evolution. Think about it, the earliest organisms were single-celled, then came multicellular organisms, then came societies of such organisms. Darwin's idea of common descent was not simply evolution, but to stretch the sympathy between members of a society to all that had the same common descent. Stove, by focusing only on the struggle between individual organisms doesn't catch this aspect.

On p. 204, Stove first mentions that

no effect of that kind [the conception of life above] can ever be brought about by intelligence, or by consciousness. Indeed, according to this conception of this, there could be no greater error than to tjink of intelligence and consciousness as external to the struggle for life, or as a possible source of interference with it. On the contrary, intelligence and even consciousness are just some of the means which have evolved in certain species for use in the struggle of life, and for nothing else; just as, in certain other species, a hard shell, or fleetness of foot, or a certain kind of dentition, has evolved.

So, it's not that Stove disagrees with Darwinists, as long as they don't make a new religion out of it. Against this we might ask, where this purposeness resides? That is, assuming Stove doesn't have it to be some kind of soul. Is Stove a monist or a dualist?

After this, Stove mentions the "ancient philosophical idea: 'the principle of plenitude'", whereby is meant that "the world is full - plenum - in the sense that there are no unrealised possibilities." This is turns means that everything is the only way it possibly can be. According to Stove, a child or an uneducated adult believes that there are many unrealised possibilities, but an educated adult knows better. Also scientific discoveries work this way: informing us that something isn't possible. For Stove, Darwinism is part of this process. As he writes p. 206:

In the same way, Darwinism says, biological science will in the end dispel all illusions of our being free and able to act otherwise than we do. We do not feel the universal striving to increase, or the struggle for life, any more than we feel gravitation, inertia, or air pressure, and yet the former forces really do constrain us just as rigidly as the latter do. The striving to increase, in our species as in every other, never sleeps, never tires, and never neglects an opportunity for reproduction.

This is Darwinism according to Stove; but I'm not fully convinced that all Darwinists will sign this declaration without having a few extra paragraphs in small print on the back of the paper.

Anyway, Stove claims (ibid.):

This conception of life, (as I [David Stove] have pointed out in earlier essays), is not true, because it is not true of human life. Despite Darwin - and despite Hume, Malthus, and Schopenhauer too - human life is not a plenum: it contains countless unrealised possibilities of reproduction.

By this, Stove means that humans don't have all the children they might have had. We have been through all this before, so we won't go through it again.

Stove ends Essay X on p. 207 with:

The basic idea of the new religion, then, that humans and all other organisms are mere means to the ends of more powerfull intelligent agents, is not an innovation of the last few decades. On the contrary, it was present all along, in the conception of life which Darwin shared with Schopenhauer and some others. The purposive gene gods of the new religion are the Life Force of Schopenhauer or the striving to increase of Darwin; only broken up into a multitude of little independent life forces or strivings to increase, in each single organism, and 'given a local habitation' in its body. That is how the new religion came about.

We could go further back; in the Homeric epics and classical Greek dramas, humans are the puppets of the gods, wars betweeb humans are caused by disagreements between the gods, and who's to win and who's to loose a battle is decided by the ever changing moods of the gods. Particularly interesting here is Euripides' play Hippolytos, a description of which can be found at the University of Nottingham, Department of Classics:

Aphrodite is determined to destroy Theseus' son Hippolytos because he will not worship her, preferring Artemis. She has therefore caused his step-mother Phaidra to fall in love with him. Phaidra wishes to keep silent and let herself waste away, but her interfering old nurse prises the secret out of her and approaches Hippolytos. He rejects Phaidra, whom he believes to have set up the approach; she, fearing exposure, hangs herself, leaving a note which claims that Hippolytos had raped her. Theseus believes this note despite Hippolytos' protestations, and curses his son. A terrible bull emerges from the sea, and Hippolytos is mangled trying to control his stampeding horses. Artemis tells Theseus the truth and he is reconciled to his dying son.

So, the idea of humans as victims of forces greater than themselves is even older than the 19th century, something which Stove hasn't denied either. The idea of human free will has never really existed except as a legitimation for punishments, so what's really Stoves's point?

Denyse O'Leary's review of Essay X can be found here.

As usually, O'leary basically follows Stove. But not quite, where she writes:

As many have pointed out, looking only one per cent like a bird dropping will not save a caterpillar from a hungry bird. Probably not even five percent or ten. Some purpose working behind the scenes is required to sustain major projects over the long periods in which they do not appear to pay.

That's where the selfish gene comes in. It attempts to get itself replicated in as many descendants as possible. It will persist through many iterations until it succeeds, and is thus capable of these apparently miraculous transformations.

This is not Stove's claim, but O'leary's imagination.

Later O'Leary writes:

In other words, in attempting to explain complex adaptations, Darwinism transferred purpose from an unselfish God to selfish genes, without giving any clear account of how or why genes should do all that Darwinists need them to do. Nor have Darwinists ever demonstrated that they actually do.

Again not quite Stove's point. It is true that Paley in Natural Theology claimed the creator to be benevolent; but that's not exactly the same as unselfish.

O'Leary ends with her usual complaint:

Because he is not a religious believer, philosopher Stove does not write with the intention of substituting a more conventional theistic explanation for the Darwinian religion of the selfish gene (he describes it as such). He is content to point out that it is a religion, which transfers the debt of purpose to the gene. Indeed, the religious character of Darwinism has often been remarked on by other sources. Dawkins has famously said that Darwinism made him feel fulfilled fulfilled [sic - doubly fulfilled] as an atheist.

That's as may be, but forcing it on the public as the only acceptable explanation for a variety of puzzling life forms is increasingly, and very understandably, controversial.

Again not quite Stove's point, which O'Leary partly omits - by mentioning that Stove doesn't have "the intention of substituting a more conventional theistic explanation for the Darwinian religion". Maybe O'Leary should have paid more attention to what Stove really is saying rather than just try to use him to have ID accepted in public schools.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Review of David Stove: Darwinian Fairytales (essay 9)

In Essay IX, "A New Religion", Stove continues his assult on sociobiology, more precisely on its demonology, the genetic determinism. Except that now genes are not demons, but gods. On p. 171, he writes:

A person is certainly a believer in some religion if he thinks, for example, that there are on earth millions of invisible and immortal non-human beings which are far more intelligent and capable than we are.

We must assume that Stove wasn't aware that genes were rejected in the Soviet Union under Stalin with that same argument: they were invisible and could therefore not exist and therefore not have any influence.

Stove continues:

But that is exactly what sociobiologists do think, about genes. Sociobiology, then is a religion: one which has genes as its gods.

Well, I searched through Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker and found the following occurences of 'intelligent':

  • Chapter 2, p. 21:

    We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose, such as flying, swimming, seeing, eating, reproducing, or more generally promoting the survival and replication of the organism's genes.

    The word 'intelligent' here is an adjective to 'engineer', which apparently denotes a human. Genes are mentioned, but not as intelligent in themselves. The apparent intelligence of the genes would really here be the intelligence of the engineer.

  • Chapter 5, p. 114:

    In the first generation there will be some dozens of intelligent young mulattoes, much superior in average intelligence to the negroes. We might expect the throne for some generations to be occupied by a more or less yellow king; but can any one believe that the whole island will gradually acquire a white, or even a yellow population, or that the islanders would acquire the energy, courage, ingenuity, patience, self-control, endurance, in virtue of which qualities our hero killed so many of their ancestors, and begot so many children, these qualities, in fact, which the struggle for existence would select, if it could select anything?

    This is actually part of a quote beginning p. 113. As Dawkins writes, a Scottish engineer Fleeming Jenkins had claimed that blending inheritance (which was the common assumption back then, before Mendel's theory of discrete inheritance became known and accepted) ruled out natural selection as a plausible theory of evolution. Darwin who was worried by Jenkins' argument then wrote a parable about a white man shipwrecked on an island inhabited by 'negroes'. And this, of course, superior white man becomes king of the island. Dawkins tells us to not "be distracted by the racist assumptions of white superiority"; but he has his own reasons for that. Not that I disagree with Dawkins; but I don't even think that we should take those assumptions seriously here - they appear to be driven into the extreme for the sake of argument. Jenkins' point was that blending inheritance would lead to a uniform population over time, and therefore natural selection would have nothing to select from. Darwin - by going into extremes - tries to make that idea look ridicolous.

    Anyway, the word 'intelligent' (and 'intelligence') is also here applied to humans.

  • Chapter 6, p. 141:

    But of course any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as the DNA/protein replicating machine must have been at least as complex and organized as that machine itself.

    Here the adverb 'intelligently' is applied to 'designing something', the designer being a god; but apparently not a gene - what is designed (or rather not designed, according to Dawkins) is the "DNA/protein replicating machine", which includes the genes. So same situation as on p. 21.

  • Chapter 6, p. 145:

    Suppose the origin of intelligence is so improbable that it has happened on only one planet in the universe, even though life has started on many planets. Then, since we know we are intelligent enough to discuss the question, we know that Earth must be that one planet.

    Here again, the word 'intelligernt' (and 'intelligence') is applied to humans (and possibly animals), not to genes.

  • Chapter 6, p. 158:

    Could it be that one far-off day intelligent computers will speculate about their own lost origins?

    Well, here 'intelligent' is an adjective applied to computers, those silicon-based thingies that are on everybody's desktop, not to genes.

  • Chapter 7, p. 183-184:

    But van Valen's evolutionary Red Queen effect is not paradoxical at all. It is entirely in accordance with common sense, so long as common sense is intelligently applied.

    We won't worry about the deeper meaning here. The word 'intelligently' is applied to 'applied', and the subject is 'common sense'. Now, who is able to apply common sense? Shall we agree that Dawkins most likely refers to humans?

  • Chapter 10, p. 263:

    Such is the breathtaking speciesism of our Christian-inspired attitudes, the abortion of a single human zygote (most of them are destined to be spontaneously aborted anyway) can arouse more moral solicitude and righteous indignation than the vivisection of any number of intelligent adult chimpanzees!

    Here 'intelligent' is an adjective applied to 'adult chimpanzees', not to genes.

So, shall we agree that at least Richard Dawkins doesn't claim that genes are more intelligent than we are?

At page 172, Stove supplies a number of quotes from Richard Dawkins and Edward Wilson that are supposed to indicate that these two consider organisms to be only tools used by DNA. The problem here is that the quotes are very short, hardly a full sentence each, so what the authors meant is not necessarily, what Stove wants us to think. Sure, the metaphorical language used by sociobiologists is suggestive; but since we humans are tool-users, our language reflect that.

Stove continues p. 172-173 referencing The Extended Phenotype, in which Dawkins allegedly claims that genes are manipulating and capable of just about everything - through their organisms. I haven't read The Extended Phenotype; but I'd Guess that Dawkins' point is that all this is possible without genes having any conscious purposes. Stove mentions that "beaver genes (not beaver) manipulate logs and water to make a dam". It is well-known that beavers build dams, and apparently they don't need to go to engineering school to learn to do it; it's simply part of being a beaver; that is, the dam-building activity is encoded in the beavers' genes, and that's probably Dawkins' point: an activity, to which we would ascribe conscious purpose, if performed by humans, can be encoded in genes that have no consciousness. A beaver is conscious; but is it conscious about genes?

The rest of Essay IX is just Stove still not getting the point.

Denyse O'Leary's review of Essay IX can be found here.

O'Leary commits the same misunderstanding as Stove:

One problem is that, while sociobiologists (adherents of selfish gene theory) claim on the one hand that genes are not really selfish or consciousness or purposeful, they write as though they in fact are. For example, Dawkins informs us (in The Extended Phenotype) that when the cuckoo lays its egg in the nest of a reed warbler, the cuckoo's genes are manipulating the reed warbler's genes, to the cuckoo's advantage. But manipulation implies intelligence and purpose (though causation as such does not necessarily imply that.

And she ends writing:

It is not really surprising that most people who are drawn to religion prefer traditional monotheism to this stuff.

Such as a religion that tells them that they are created in the image of an invisible, manipulating god?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pre-Darwinists (4) Edward Blyth

Edward Blyth - a short biography
Varieties of animals
Cuvier's The Animal Kingdom

One of the stranger articles at AnswersInGenesis is Darwin’s illegitimate brainchild by Russell Grigg. What makes it strange is that rather than the standard attack on Darwin's theory of evolution, the article attacks Charles Darwin personally for being unoriginal; that is, in attacking Darwin, the article implicitly admits that there were several precursors, which in turn means that the usual attacks on evolution for being a theory made by an insane atheist loose all their relevance.

Biography One of these precursors is Edward Blyth. The article claims that Darwin knew about Blyth's articles in The Magazine of Natural History from 1835-37, in which natural selection was described, but didn't credit Blyth. This would appear to be an inconsistency on behalf of Grigg, since he mentions that the idea of natural selection was around as early as 1794; that is, long before Blyth wrote his articles.

Grigg asks the question: "Why did [Charles Darwin] not cite Blyth’s papers that dealt directly with natural selection?" and suggests the following two reasons:

  1. Blyth was a Christian and what we would nowadays call a ‘special creationist’. E.g. concerning the seasonal changes in animal colouring (such as the mountain hare becoming white in winter), Blyth said that these were ‘striking instances of design, which so clearly and forcibly attest the existence of an omniscient great First Cause’ [Blyth (1835)]. And he said that animals ‘evince superhuman wisdom, because it is innate, and therefore, instilled by an all-wise Creator’ [Blyth (1837)].

  2. Blyth correctly saw the concept of natural selection as a mechanism by which the sick, old and unfit were removed from a population; that is, as a preserving factor and for the maintenance of the status quo—the created kind [Wieland, C., Muddy waters: Clarifying the confusion about natural selection]. Creationists like Edward Blyth (and English theologian William Paley) saw natural selection as a process of culling; that is, of choosing between several traits, all of which must first be in existence before they can be selected.

Evolutionist Loren Eisely's book Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X from 1979 is Grigg's main source for the claim that Darwin stole his theory from Blyth.

This same book is also the main source for creationist James M. Foard's article The Darwin Papers - Edward Blyth and Natural Selection. This article and Loren Eisely's book is critiqued by evolutionist Roland Watts in a No Answers in Genesis article". Foard's article contains a response to Watt's article.

Edward Blyth - short biography

Edward Blyth (1810-1873)  was born as the eldest child of a poor family in London. His father died, when Edward was ten years old, leaving his mother to raise the four children. However, the situation of the family was well enough for Edward to be sent to school, where he excelled in chemistry and natural history, spending his every spare moment at the British Museum.

1832 - Blyth buys a druggist's business in Lower Tooting, London, and worked as a chemist, while still keeping his zoological interest. Blyth is a frequent speaker at naturalist meetings in London, and from 1835 to 1837 he publishes articles on the subject of natural selection in The Magazine of Natural History (Vols. 8, 9, and 10). While there is evidence that Charles Darwin, while in Peru in 1835 during his voyage on the Beagle has read at least the first of Blyth's articles, these very creationist articles have little in common with Darwin's use of natural selection.

1837 - the druggist's business fails, and Blyth moves to Brixton, Surrey.

1838 - Blyth is appointed curator (possibly honorary) of the Ornithological Society of London.

1840 - Blyth translates and edits the 'Mammalia, Birds, and Reptiles' section of the English version, The Animal Kingdom, of Cuvier's Regne animal distribué d'après son organisation (1817). See Cuvier's The Animal Kingdom for details.

1841 - Blyth goes to India as the curator of the museum of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta, where he reorganizes the catalogues and is a prolific publisher on behalf of the society; but he is censured in 1947 due to his difficult behavior.

1854 - Blyth marries a young widow, whom he had known previously in England before her first marriage, and who is visiting relatives in India.

1855 - An extensive correspondence between Blyth and Charles Darwin begins.

1857 - The happy marriage ends with the death of Blyth's wife, an event from which he suffers extreme psychological trauma leading to severe illness.

1862 - Blyth leaves Calcutta and returns to England. He formally retires from the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1863; but is made a honorary member in 1865.

Varieties of Animals (1835)

In The Magazine of Natural History, Vol. 8, No. 1., January, 1835, pp. 40-53, we find the article "An Attempt to Classify the 'Varieties' of Animals with Observations on the Marked Seasonal and Other Changes Which Naturally Take Place in Various British Species, and Which Do Not Constitute Varieties", or "Varieties of Animals" for short, by Edward Blyth.

Blyth begins by noting that the word 'variety' is "very commonly misapplied to individuals of a species, which are merely undergoing a regular natural change, either progressing from youth to maturity, or gradually shifting, according to fixed laws, their colours with the seasons". That is, Blyth considers 'variety' only to be applicable to "a departure from the acknowledged type of a species, either in structure, in size, or in colour", where the 'departure' isn't a change of the individual organism due to age or season. Worth noting here is the existence of an "acknowledged type of a species"; that is, there is standard against which the variety can be decided to be a variety. Continuing the sentence, Blyth writes that 'variety' "vague in the degree of being alike used to denote the slightest individual variation, and the most dissimilar breeds which have originated from one common stock." To clear up this vagueness, Blyth proposes a classification of varieties into four classes: "simple variations, acquired variations, breeds, and true varieties."

In more details, these fours classes of varieties are defined as follows:

  1. Simple Variations. About these, Blyth writes: "The first class, which I propose to style simple or slight individual variations, differs only in degree from the last, or true varieties; and consists of mere differences of colour or of stature, unaccompanied by any remarkable structural deviation; also of slight individual peculiarities of any kind, which are more or less observable in all animals, whether wild or tame, and which, having a tendency to perpetuate themselves by generation, may, under particular circumstances, become the origin of true breeds (which constitute my third class of varieties), but which, in a state of nature, are generally lost in the course of two or three generations." That is, simple variations are only in degree different from true varieties, and in a state of nature they are generally lost within few generations. As an example of a simple variation, Blyth mentions albinos.

  2. Acquired Variations. About these, Blyth writes: "The second class of varieties which I would designate thus, comprises the various changes which, in a single individual, or in the course of generations, are gradually brought about by the operation of known causes: such as the greater or less supply of nutriment; the influence of particular sorts of food; or, either of these combined with the various privations consequent upon confinement; which changes would as gradually and certainly disappear if these causes were removed." That is, aquired variations are those that are caused by environmental factors affecting the development of individuals, either a single individual or in the course of generations. Apparently Blyth believed such aquired variations to be hereditary, although dependent on the continuation of the environmental factors. As examples of aquired variations, Blyth mentions that domesticated animals become more "bulky and lazy", because they don't have to seek their own nutrition, and their "muscles of the organs of locomotion" become "rigid and comparatively powerless", because they are not used much and therefore not developed to full size.

  3. Breeds. About these, Blyth writes: "It is a general law of nature for all creatures to propagate the like of themselves: and this extends even to the most trivial minutiae, to the slightest individual peculiarities; and thus, among ourselves, we see a family likeness transmitted from generation to generation. When two animals are matched together, each remarkable for a certain given peculiarity, no matter how trivial, there is also a decided tendency in nature for that peculiarity to increase; and if the produce of these animals be set apart, and only those in which the same peculiarity is most apparent, be selected to breed from, the next generation will possess it in a still more remarkable degree; and so on, till at length the variety I designate a breed, is formed, which may be very unlike the original type." That is, 'peculiarities' are inherited and increased, if both parents have the same 'peculiarity'. As examples of breeds, Blyth mentions "many of the varieties of cattle, and, in all probability, the greater number of those of domestic pigeons".
    Blyth further writes that "[t]he original form of a species is unquestionably better adapted to its natural habits than any modification of that form;" and that this adaptation to natural habits is kept up, because "the sexual passions excite to rivalry and conflict, and the stronger must always prevail over the weaker, the latter, in a state of nature, is allowed but few opportunities of continuing its race." Blyth even uses the phrase "the struggle for existence": "In a large herd of cattle, the strongest bull drives from him all the younger and weaker individuals of his own sex, and remains sole master of the herd; so that all the young which are produced must have had their origin from one which possessed the maximum of power and physical strength; and which, consequently, in the struggle for existence, was the best able to maintain his ground, and defend himself from every enemy."
    And more of the same: "In like manner, among animals which procure their food by means of their agility, strength, or delicacy of sense, the one best organized must always obtain the greatest quantity; and must, therefore, become physically the strongest, and be thus enabled, by routing its opponents, to transmit its superior qualities to a greater number of offspring." This makes you wonder, why it's called 'social Darwinism' and not 'social Blythism', doesn't it? This struggle for existence, serves, according to Blyth, to keep a species true to its type: "The same law, therefore, which was intended by Providence to keep up the typical qualities of a species, can be easily converted by man into a means of raising different varieties; but it is also clear that, if man did not keep up these breeds by regulating the sexual intercourse, they would all naturally soon revert to the original type." That is, for Blyth, the struggle for existence is a divine commandment, "which causes each race to be chiefly propagated by the most typical and perfect individuals." So, why is everybody yelling at Darwinists?

  4. True Varieties. About these, Blyth writes: "The last of these divisions to which I more peculiarly restrict the term variety, consists of what are, in fact a kind of deformities, or monstrous births, the peculiarities of which, from reasons already mentioned, would very rarely, if ever, be perpetuated in a state of nature; but which, by man's agency, often become the origin of a new race." That is, true varieties are freaks of nature, which in a state of nature would be weeded out. As examples of true varieties, Blyth mentions "the breed of sheep, now common in North America, and known by the name of ancons or otter sheep", "[t]he solidungular variety of swine, tailless cats, back-feathered, five-toed, and rumpless fowls, together with many sorts of dogs, and probably , also the race of fan-tailed pigeons".
    Unlike the above, "[t]he deviations of this kind do not appear to have any tendency to revert to the original form". Blyth suggests that such a deviation, that is a true variety, "most probably, could only be restored, in a direct manner, by the way in which the variety was first produced," whereby he would most likely have meant a new deviation to counter the first one.
    Of special interest is that Blyth suggests that "[t]o this class may be also referred, with more than probability, some of the more remarkable varieties of the human species."

Blyth continues his discussion under the fourth class by the subject of human skin color to determine, where this feature should go in his classification. Basically, he considers sun-tanning of white people to be an aquired variety, while the color of black people is not, since it is kept even in cold climates. Further, Blyth writes:

There is one fact, however, here to be observed, which is very well worthy of attention; and this is, that coloured varieties appear to have been chiefly produced in hot countries; which seems almost to induce the conclusion that they were originally efforts of nature, to enable the skin to withstand the scorching produced by exposure to the burning rays of a tropical sun.

We may, I suppose, wonder, what Blyth means by "efforts of nature"; it sounds almost as if he attributes consciousness to nature.

Apparently, Blyth considers white skin color to be original:

Wherever a black individual was produced, especially among rude nations, if the breed was continued at all, the natural aversion it would certainly inspire would soon cause it to become isolated, and, before long, would, most probably, compel the race to seek for refuge in emigration.  That no example, however, of the first production of a black variety has been recorded, may be ascribed to various causes; it may have only taken place once since the creation of the human race, and that once in a horde of tropical barbarians remote from the then centres of comparative civilisation, where no sort of record would have been preserved.  But it is highly probable that analogous-born varieties may have given rise to the Mongolian, Malay, and certain others of the more diverse races of mankind; nay, we may even suppose that, in some cases, the difference, in the first instance, was much greater, and was considerably modified by the intermixture which must have taken place in the first generations.

And maybe non-whites were simply driven away because they deviated from the perfect:

Still, however, it may not be impertinent to remark here, that, as in the brute creation, by a wise provision, the typical characters of a species are, in a state of nature, preserved by those individuals chiefly propagating, whose organisation is the most perfect, and which, consequently, by their superior energy and physical powers, are enabled to vanquish and drive away the weak and sickly, so in the human race degeneration is, in great measure, prevented by the innate and natural preference which, and this is the principal and is always given to the most comely main reason why the varieties which are produced in savage tribes, must generally either become extinct in the first generation, or, if propagated, would most likely be left to themselves, and so become the origin of a new race; and in this we see an adequate cause for the obscurity in which the origin of different races is involved.

Following the discussion of the classification of varieties, Blyth writes:

The above is confessedly a hasty and imperfect sketch, a mere approximation towards an apt classification of "varieties", but if it chance to meet the eye, and be fortunate enough to engage the attention, of any experienced naturalist, who shall think it worth his while to follow up the subject, and produce a better arrangement of these diversities, my object in indicting the present article will be amply recompensed.

So, even if Darwin had some inspiration from this, Blyth would have been "amply recompensed" simply by Darwin's use of that inspiration.

The rest of the article addresses "periodical and other changes of appearance, which naturally take place in various British animals, and which do not constitute varieties." These comprise full or partial shedding of coat and change of coat color.

After having detailed these, Blyth writes:

There has been, strangely enough, a difference of opinion among naturalists, as to whether these seasonal changes of colour were intended by Providence as an adaptation to change of temperature, or as a means of preserving the various species from the observation of their foes, by adapting their hues to the colour of the surface; against which latter opinion it has been plausibly enough argued, that "nature provides for the preyer as well as for the prey." The fact is, they answer both purposes; and they are among those striking instances of design, which so clearly and forcibly attest the existence of an omniscient great First Cause.

What is worth noting here is that creationist naturalists of the time were trying to figure out the rules by which the creator (whether called 'Providence' or 'nature') had designed the species. That the same feature can serve two different purposes is clearly for Blyth a proof of "an omniscient great First Cause".

After this, Blyth writes:

How beautifully do we thus perceive, as in a thousand other instances, the balance of nature preserved: and even here we see another reason why sickly or degenerate animals (those, I mean, which are less able to maintain the necessary vigilance) must soon disappear; and why the slightest deviation from the natural hue must generally prove fatal to the animal.  How different, thus, are even simple variations from the seasonal changes of colour which naturally take place! Properly followed up, this subject might lead to some highly interesting and important results.

By this, Blyth refers to that "seasonal changes of colour which naturally take place" serve to keep a balance between predator and prey for the benefit of both, while "even simple variations" disrupt the balance and therefore are usually weeded out quickly.

Blyth ends his article by writing:

It certainly points to the conclusion, that every, even the slightest, tint and marking has some decided use, and is intimately connected with the habits and welfare of the animal; and it also furnishes a satisfactory reason, why closely allied animals (or, in other words, animals of very similar form and habits) should so very commonly nearly resemble each other in their colours and in the general character of their markings.

The point here being that since "even simple variations" usually are weeded out, the species as they are must be perfectly adapted, since otherwise  the tints and markings would not have prevailed, which in turn means that they are not mere decorations.

Cuvier's The Animal Kingdom

Georges Baron de Cuvier (1769-1832) was a French statesman and zoologist and is regarded as the father of the modern sciences of comparative anatomy and paleontology. He would certainly warrant his own Pre-Darwinist page; but I just don't have enough information about him for that, so therefore just this short notice under Edward Blyth.

Cuvier was against the evolutionary ideas of the time and maintained that all species were specially created by God for a special purpose, and that each organ in the body had been created for a special function, and that it would be impossible for any creature to survive any significant change in its structure, The argumentation for the latter (and against evolution) was based on Cuvier's principle of correlation of parts., which states that "the number, direction, and shape of the bones that compose each part of an animal's body are always in a necessary relation to all the other parts, in such a way that - up to a point - one can infer the whole from any one of them and vice versa". Cuvier, however, did make allowance for variation within certain limits.

In 1817 Cuvier publishes his Regne animal distribué d'après son organisation, which was translated to English with expansions and modifications as The Animal Kingdom several times. As mentioned above, Blyth translates and edits the 'Mammalia, Birds, and Reptiles' section of the English version in 1840

From the Wikipedia article about Blyth I have this quote from an editorial footnote by Blyth in The Animal Kingdom:

However reciprocal...may appear the relations of the preyer and the prey, a little reflection on the observed facts suffices to intimate that the relative adaptations of the former only are special, those of latter being comparatively vague and general; indicating that there having been a superabundance which might serve as nutriment, in the first instance, and which, in many cases, was unattainable by ordinary means, particular species have therefore been so organized (that is to say, modified upon some more or less general type or plan of structure,) to avail themselves of the supply.

That is, predator species are more specialized in their adaptations than are prey species, which Blyth explains by a superabundance of the latter, which was unattainable by "ordinary means" and therefore modifations of the former "upon some more or less general type or plan of structure" so all possible preys had a predator. This is, of course, still not evolution in a Darwinian sense; but keeps with modifications within type/kind.

Review of David Stove: Darwinian Fairytales (essay 8)

In Essay VIII, "'He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother' or Altruism and Shared Genes", Stove deals with 'inclusive fitness' or 'kin selection'. This subject is described by Stove p. 138:

The general principle, in Hamilton's own words, was this. 'The social behaviour of a species evolves in such a way that in each distinct behaviour-evoking situation the individual will seem to value his neighbours' fitness against his own according to the coefficients of relationship appropriate to that situation.' (That is, acoording as the 'neighbour' is an offspring, a sibling, a cousin, or whatever.)

Stove doesn't reject that there is a connection between degree of relatedness and altruism, only that this connection explains much. Also, Stove claims that altruism isn't always directed towards near relatives, where he mentions Mothet Teresa, Florence Nightingale, father Damien, and Albert Schweitzer as examples.

Stove's direct target here is sociobiology, which is based on the synthesis between Mendelian inheritance and Darwinian evolution, which usually goes by the name of 'neo-Darwinism'. Darwin himself saw moral evolution as increasingly altruistic, even in its most developed form being directed towards members of other species.

However, Stove sees things differently. On p. 139, he writes:

Altruism ought to be non-existent, or short-lived whenever it does not occur, if the Darwinian theory of evolution is true. By the very meaning of the word, altruism is an attribute which disposes its possessor to put the interests of others before its own. Disposes it, for example, to defend conspecifics in danger, when it could have simply saved its own skin; disposes it to eat less, or less well, or later, if this helps otherss to eat more or better or earlier; disposes it to mate later or less often, if this helps others to mate sooner or more often; and so on. But ant such behaviour by an organism clearly tends to lessen its own chances of surviving and reproducing; and altruism is therefore an attribute which is injurious to its possessor in the struggle for life. And in that struggle, Darwin says, 'we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed.'

Yes, as long as we are focusing on an individual organism as the unit of selection. But say, an organism sacrifices itself for another organism with the same genes in a situation, where either one of them or both of them will die. Then the altruistic behavior, on the level of genes, actually makes sense. I am not saying that this kind of calculations are performed by the individual exhibiting the altruistic behavior, only that even without such calculations, the result would be the same. After all, an individual that can itself exhibit altruistic behavior is more likely to return the favor.

According to Stove, Darwinism was only concerned with individual survival until the mid-1960s. At p. 140, he writes:

A less starkly individualistic version of Darwinism - the theory of inclusive fitness - was put forward by W.D. hamilton in 1964, though J.B.S. Haldane and R.A. Fischer, decades earlier, had several times stated the germ of the theory. Its general idea is as follows. An organism acts in such a way as to maximise, not its individual fitness or chances of surviving and reproducing, but its inclusive fitness: that is, the fitnesses of a group of conspecifics which includes, first, the organism itself, then those with which the organism shares the highest proportion of its genes, then those with whom it shares the next highest proportion of its genes, and so on.

On the following pages, Stove mocks this idea. Bacteria that multiply by fission and dandelions that nultiply parthenogenically should then be the most altruistic organism; but they are among those organisms that come closest to the Malthusian struggle for existence. And so on. All this mocking may be relevant or not; it is beyond me to say for sure. I am no sociobiologist myself, and I also find that sociobiology appears to be a mess; but then again, I have never really bothered to understand it very well.

On p. 161, Stove sums it all up as that the sociobiologists really reject altruism; what they claim is that the apparent altruism really is the selfishness of genes. For example, Stove writes:

It is this interpretation of the theory, and this one alone, (I need hardly say), which recommends itself to sociobiologists. Alexander, for example, writes that kin altruism, 'by which the phenotype is used to reproduce the genes, may be described as phenotypically (or self-) sacrificing but genotypically selfish.' Dawkins writes that 'a gene might be able to assist replicas of itself which are sitting in other bodies. If so, this would appear as individual altruism, but it would be brought about by gene selfishness.' It would be easy to multiply quotations to the same effect; but it can hardly be necessary.

Stove then spends the next pages explaining how the inclusive theory of fitness, once accepted, necessarily would lead to the assumption of selfish genes, and that sociobiology yherefore is just yet one more variant of the selfish theory of human and animal behavior.

At the bottom of p. 163, Stove writes:

If a man openly denies the reality of altruism, then, as well as incurring the deserved ridicule of people of common sense, he incurs the moral indignation of people of common decency; as Hobbes, Mandeville, and Machiavelli (among others) found out by experience. He deserves it, too. Now the Darwinian theory of evolution is a theory which logically impels whoever believes it to deny the existence of altruism. But for more than a hundred years, (as we have seen), Darwinians all shrank from that denial: restrained, no doubt, partly by fear of the evil reputation of a Hobbes or Machiavelli, but also by their own decency.

This is too odd, and I have to admit that I fail to see the problem. For Hobbes the problem was not that altruism didn't exist, but that it was contingent on, whether people could feel safe. Therefore, the Sovereign was needed to handle to trouble-makers, so peaceful, law-abiding citizens could do their work for the common benefit. The very word 'altruism' was coined by August Comte, who was an admirer of Napoléon and had a similar idea as Hobbes' - that without law and order everything would be chaos. Now, in what way is that Darwinism? Is it more common for Darwinists to be for a strong state than it is for non-Darwinists? Is it impossible for a Darwinist to believe in self-organization rather than in the necessity of an imposed order? In short, Stove is barking up the wrong tree.

I have found that some people have a weird idea that humans are ever so altruistic - except the few odd ones that don't believe that - even politicians are altruistic - except those from the other party, who anyway are Darwinists/Hobbesians/Machiavellians/Bad-guys-by-any-other-name; and, of course, those from the other party say the same. The worst in this respect are Christians that claim that humans are egoistic, unless of course they accept Jesus, and at the same time claim that it is Satan who claims that humans are egoistic; but then again, when was the last time that anybody considered it worth the effort to ask Christians to be just halfways self-consistent?

However, according to Stove, the selfish gene theory is the Darwinists way out of the dilemma: a way of denying the existence of altruism without being accused as Bad-guys-by-any-other-name. As Stove writes p. 164:

But a denial of the reality of altruism which did not openly offend either common sense or decency: that, by contrast, would be exactly 'what the doctor ordered' for all present day Darwinians. It would give them what no Darwinians had ever had before: freedom to profess their Darwinism fully, without getting a bad name, and with a conscience that, if not quite unclouded, is not in revolt either. A combination 'devoutly to be wished'.

This isn't philosophy, but standard political-religious agitation: Darwinists don't believe that the leader of our party is really working for the common good; but that's because Darwinists are the instruments of Satan and therefore believe that all people are egoistic.

Denyse O'Leary's review of Essay VIII can be found here.

Basically, O'Leary is simply following Stove, and she mentions that Stove's conclusion is that Darwinists are not really scientific - they may be pursuing scientific interests, but they don't provide anything that a rational person can believe in. After this, O'Leary concludes with:

But today, the lay person may well find that Darwinism is by law established, much as if it were an established church, even if it is contradicted by common experience available to anyone.

The obvious problem here is that Darwinism isn't sociobiology - O'Leary needs to learn the difference between a speculative theory based on Darwinism and Darwinism as such.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Review of David Stove: Darwinian Fairytales (essay 7)

In Essay VII, "Genetic Calvinism or Demons and Dawkins", things are getting still worse. You'd think that to be impossible, but then I simply ask you to hang on and watch the horror show unfolding.

On p. 119, Stove writes:

For nothing whatever can literally replicate itself. The most that anything could possibly do in that way would be, to produce perfect copies of itself. By contrast, the object or target of selfishness is - by the very meaning og that word - oneself, and nothing else. Superscientist may create in his laboratory an exact replica of me, or I may happen to have an identical twin. But it is not this copy or twin who is the object of my selfishness: it is myself.

Stove is a philosopher, so he should know that it isn't all that easy to define itself or myself. What is a self, an identity? If your self is a certain set of genes in your genome, then any other organism with the same genes in its genome has a share in your self. If you kill such an organism, you have killed a part of your self. In short, Stove had a great opportunity to do some real philosophy for once here; but he missed it.

Sure, Stove is right in saying that genes cannot be selfish; but I suppose that we all know that, so what's the point? And, according to Stove, there's even a geneticist who insists on calling genes 'selfish' (cf. p. 120). Stove continues:

This is Dr Richard Dawkins, of Oxford University, and to say that he insists on talking in this way is to understate the case extremely. He wrote a book which purports to explain evolution as principally due to what he calls the 'ruthless selfishness' of genes. And, as if in order to exclude all charitable misunderstandings, he actually entitled his book The Selfish Gene.

And not only that; a book with such a nonsensical title should have injured Dawkins' scientific reputation. But that didn't happen, as Stove remarks (ibid.):

But in fact the effect was the very reverse. The Selfish Gene not only became a best seller, but at once elevated its author into the very front rank of biological authorities: a position which he enjoys to this day.

Ehh, talking about nonsensicals, how can a book elevate its author into the front rank? You can be pushed into the front rank, and you can be elevated into the top rank, but you cannot be elevated into the front rank. And, even if you could, how could a book accomplish that? Was the book outfitted with some kind of spring mechanism that could elevate Dawkins to the top, or push him to the front?

In short, we do employ metaphorical language, even Stove does that, so where is the problem?

The connection to Calvinism and demons is as follows (ibid.):

One of the pioneers of genetics, William Bateson, was fond of repeating a remark which a Scotch soldier made to him during the 1914-18 war, after listening to one of his lectures: that genetics is 'scientific Calvinism'. Well, what Dawkins did in The Selfish Gene was in effect to embrace this old joke, or three-quarters joke, as being no joke at all, but the sober truth. Genes are to him what demons were to Calvinist theologians in the 16th century, or what 'Zurich gnomes' used to be to socialist demonologists of our own century. That is, they are beings which are hidden, immoral, and invested with immense power over us: power so great, indeed, that we are merely helpless puppets, except insofar as God, or History, or some equally extraordinary causal agent comes in to assist us.

As Stove explains, Calvin claimed that no created things had any real causal power, since God alone is the cause of everything, and all created things are effects. However, demons are exceptional in that they have causal powers, though only within the limits set by God's permission and appointment.

Then, on p. 121, Stove continues:

Dawkins in The Selfish Gene is not, of course, engaged on any mission of cosmic warfare or of moral reformation. But just as Calvin divides created things into potent demons and causally impotent everything else, so Dawkins divides the organic world into potent genes and causally impotent everything else. According to Calvinism, we are pawns in a game, in which the only real players are the demons and God. According to The Selfish Gene, we are pawns in a game in which the only real players are genes.

According to Stove, the popularity of The Selfish Gene is due to it being along the lines of 'The Secret History of the Court of King So-and-So', the general interest of humans in 'wickedness in high places'. And the book didn't add any new knowledge. On p. 122, Stove writes:

Indeed, (except for its last chapter, of which I shall speak later), it did not even claim to do so. It was avowedly a book which expounded, combined, and semi-popularised the main contributions which others had made to evolutionary biology in (roughly) the preceding 40 years: say, since R.A. Fisher's The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, (1930). But Dawkins had the wit to perceive, as no one had before him, that genes, since they are hidden, powerful, and immoral, furnished the materials for a book of 'Secrets and Scandals of the Court of King Gene'. No power on earth could have prevented such a book from succeeding.

Would Dawkins agree with this characteristic? I would sincerely doubt that. And even Stove mentions that Dawkins didn't use 'selfish' in a moral sense ibid.):

The sense in which he uses the word 'selfish', Dawkins writes, is one which is standard in biology, and which is 'behavioural, not subjective'. It is this. 'An entity, such as a baboon, is said to be altruistic if it behaves in such a way as to increase another such entity's welfare at the expense of its own. Selfish behaviour has exactly the opposite effect. "Welfare" is defined as "chances of survival" ... .

So, according to Dawkins, genes are selfish, because they do not behave in a way that increases the chances of survival of other genes, only in ways that increase their own chances of survival. For Stove, this is meaningless: "To justify his calling genes selfish in the behavioural sense, Dawkins would need to show that self-replication increases the self-replicator's chances of survival " (ibid.). The problem in Stove's argumentation is that he things about a gene as the individual, concrete gene; but that's not how Dawkins sees it. Stove is aware of this; as he writes p. 123:

At this point, however, Dawkins would remind me that 'the selfish gene ... is not just one physical bit of DNA ... it is all replicas of a particular bit of DNA, distributed throughout the world'. What a gene does by self-replicating, he says, is, to benefit 'itself in the form of copies of itself'. 'The gene is a long-lived replicator, existing in the form of many duplicate copies' of itself.

Stove then proceeds to attack this idea; but that attack still doesn't quite get it. However, Stove's main point is that Dawkins anyway links the selfishness of genes to selfishness of their carriers and from there to morality, including teaching morality. On p. 126, Stove writes:

Here is another specimen of Dawkins contradicting his own theory. He says, 'let us try to teach generosity and altruism', but also says that 'altruism [is] something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world'. Well, I wonder where we are, if not 'in nature'?

As Stove describes it, this does sound as if Dawkins, who is known as zealous anti-religious, actually tries to reivent religion, just without a god. This is a common trait with humanists, and they can even find religious backing for it, if they want to. Read for example Matthew 25:

(34) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

(35) for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in;

(36) naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

(37) Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink?

(38) And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

(39) And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

(40) And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.

That is, Jesus is here saying that to serve him is to serve the needy among us. But notice here that Jesus says "[i]nasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me"; that is Jesus is benefitted by the benefit of 'one of these [his] brethen', so indeed Dawkins did not provide any new knowledge. But in return, Stove apparently doesn't quite catch the idea either.

In analogy with the word 'gene', Dawkins has coined the word 'meme'. About this, Stove writes p. 129:

A meme is anything which can be transmitted by non-genetic means from one human being to another. Hence all ideas, beliefs, attitudes, styles, customs, fashions - in fact all the elements of culture in the broadest sense - are memes. There is a meme for Pythagoras's Theorem, and another for wearing stiletto heels; a meme for being in favour of capital punishment, and one for the idea of a triangle; a meme for the Mozart Requiem and another for shaving ...

So memes are identifiable pieces of culture that have a sort of a life of their own. Continuing, Stove writes:

Now, Dawkins says, organic evolution is driven by the struggle between one gene and its rival genes for a place on the chromosome, and with that, the chance to self-replicate; and just so, cultural evolution, he says, is driven by the struggle between one meme and its rival memes for a place in our brains. Take, for example, the meme for the belief that the sun is at the centre of the local planetary system. A few brains in classical antiquity had contained this meme, but it then disappeared for nearly thousand years. In the mid 16th century, however, it popped up again in the brain of Copernicus, and a struggle began between this heliocentrism meme and the geocentrism meme. At that time, the latter was settled in almost all brains, but the heliocentrism meme has won this struggle long ago. It has been so successful, in replicating itself from one brain to another, that by now there are hardly any brains left which contain the geocentrism meme.

According to Stove, it is Dawkins' claim that memes, even though they are transmitted by human agents, really themselves are the causal agents, humans only serve as vehicles of transmission. For Stove, this is saying that there are two conspiracies going on, one for biology - the genes - and one for culture - the memes - which for Stove is "demonological" (cf. p. 130); that is, memes in Dawkins' theory are simply renamed demons just as genes are. So, Stove denies that Dawkins has made any new scientific discovery. The same goes for Dawkins' later books, The Extended Phenotype and The Blind Watchmaker. For Stove, it is all "puppetry theory"; that is, Dawkins has just come up with the same old stories about human life being determined by forces stronger than themselves. Stove, however sees some softening of Dawkins' genetic determinism in the later books, though not enough of it. As he writes p. 134:

The overall tendency of these two later books, however, is exactly the reverse: they are actually more puppetry theoretical than the first one was. We read in The Extended Phenotype that 'the fundamental truth [is] that an organism is a tool of DNA', and in The Blind Watchmaker, that 'living organisms exist for the benefit of DNA.' Such statements abound even more in the later books than they did in the first one. In addition, they are not counterbalanced here, as they were in The Selfish Gene, by cheerfully inconsistent statements like the one I quoted earlier: that we have 'the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth'.

So, for Stove, all Dawkins claims is that we are the powerless victims of genes/memes. But let's have a closer look at things, shall we? The piece quoted by Stove from The Blind Watchmaker is part of this:

We have seen that DNA molecules are the centre of a spectacular information technology. They are capable of packing an immense amount of precise, digital information into a very small space; and they are capable of preserving this information - with astonishingly few errors, but still some errors - for a very long time, measured in millions of years. Where are' these facts leading us? They are leading us in the direction of a central truth about life on Earth, the truth that I alluded to in my opening paragraph about willow seeds. This is that living organisms exist for the benefit of DNA rather than the other way around.

Now, for Dawkins, it is a question of longevity: a gene may exist unchanged for millions of years; but how long is the lifespan of an individual organism? Much, much smaller. On the next page, Dawkins writes:

DNA gets the best of both worlds. DNA molecules themselves, as physical entities, are like dewdrops. Under the right conditions they come into existence at a great rate, but no one of them has existed for long, and all will be destroyed within a few months. They are not durable like rocks. But the patterns that they bear in their sequences are as durable as the hardest rocks. They have what it takes to exist for millions of years, and that is why they are still here today. The essential difference from dewdrops is that new dewdrops are not begotten by old dewdrops. Dewdrops doubtless resemble other dewdrops, but they don't specifically resemble their own 'parent' dewdrops. Unlike DNA molecules, they don't form lineages, and therefore can't pass on messages. Dewdrops come into existence by spontaneous generation, DNA messages by replication.

The DNA molecules themselves don't have a long lifespan either; but their patterns can exist for millions of years. The combination of short duration of the instantiation of the pattern and the long duration of the pattern itself, obtained by self-replication, is what enables cumulative selection, because the self-replication occasionally is erroneous. So, things aren't exactly as Stove reports them.

Denyse O'leary's review of Essay VII can be found here.

Basically, O'Leary simply just runs along with Stove, and there's really not much to comment on separately. On detail, though; O'Leary writes:

Stove goes on to suggest that Dawkins's The Selfish Gene is just another instance of fatalism, like astrology, Freudianism, Marxism, and Calvinism. He argues that many people like this sort of thing because it confirms what they feel they have always known, that either they or someone they know is born to lose. They are but puppets, and the selfish gene is a puppet master that suits them well. So anything can be blamed on genes, and genes never defend themselves.

Well, how does O'Leary know for sure that it isn't her genes that make her take up her pen to defend the honor of genes?

About Me

A Christian in Satanist clothes