Posted by: Chris | August 25, 2009

A Decent Science Blog

I spent a portion of yesterday trolling through scienceblogs. I tend to avoid such places, since most of them are Pharygula clones, which I find fairly intolerable. However, I found this rather poorly-titled blog, Fresno, Evolving(I think there is a law against non-evolution based science blogs, because they are quite rare), to be surprisingly good. The guy makes some worthwhile points and even takes PZ Meyers to task (in the first post) for staking out an absurd position in the name of defending Darwin. I think a lot of the minimal appeal of PZ or Richard Dawkins is that they are so caught up in the whole silly religion vs. science or creation vs. evolution kerfuffles that they tend to sink into hyperbole or categorical defensiveness to discuss scientifically interesting puzzles because they “hurt” their side.

One of the areas that this is most prevalent is the impulse to explain every facet of every organism with a series of purely speculative “just-so” stories of natural selection and fitness benefits, in an effort to promulgate Darwinian thinking and find the invisible hand of selection throughout life. Not only are these exercises transparently silly and unscientific, they close off very interesting lines of thought in evolutionary benefit in an effort to claim every scrap of biology for Darwin before the Jesus-freaks do. As the Frenso blog points out that not all evolutionary change happens due to natural selection (and Motoo Kimura would say very little happens due to natural selection). Thinking this way has scientists ignoring the strong effects that genetic drift, pleiotrophy, carrier effects, and pure chance have in bring various phenotypic traits to fixation, not to mention abiotic sociological/economic/political pressures once we move into the realm of human behavior. Robert Wright, writing over at Andrew, discusses similar stuff in going after Dawkins for assuming natural selection the cause of human religion.

However, if evolution/creationism debates are your cup of tea, you would still do well to avoid the hysterics of Meyers and just go to TalkOrigins (at least for the science/evolution side, as for creationism/religion I think Answers in Genesis tends to have the most interesting offerings).

Finally (also from the front page of the blog), both QualiaSoup and comedian Dara O’Brien have some interesting things on the nature of scientific thought.



  1. QualiaSoup is a fallacious goulash of secular humanist shibboleths. First, “no true Scotsman:”

    A. No Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge.
    B. McCrae puts sugar in his porridge.
    A. McCrae is no true Scotsman

    The problem with A’s response to B (or, depending on context, B’s response to A) is that it equivocates: whether someone’s a “true Scotsman” doesn’t have anything to do with whether he was born in Scotland – it has to do (more nearly) with whether he’s a Scottish patriot.

    The same cannot be said here:

    A: No Christian comes to disbelieve in God.
    B: That youtube Mugwump was a Christian, and then became an atheist.
    A: He was not a true Christian

    Unlike the criteria for being a Scotsman (as opposed to a “true Scotsman”), the criteria for being a Christian are not easily listable, viz. theologically minded Christians debate whether to be a Christian you need simply to believe in God, or to come to believe in God in a particular sort of way (one dimension of the debate between fideists and natural theologians), etc. So it’s not obvious that there’s an equivocation in A’s and B’s exchange. Instead, A and B are actually disagreeing: on B’s conception of a Christian he’s someone who sincerely believed in God and Jesus; on A’s conception (perhaps) he’s someone who sincerely believed in God and Jesus because he was presented with (what he regards as) indefeasible evidence of their existence (e.g. God romanced his heart directly).

    I will address his other follies later.

  2. […] a Maximalist Darwinism The Lure has been critical of sophistical evolutionary logic in the past, so when I came across Jesse Bering’s article […]

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