Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Come one, come all ...

... An Idiot’s Guide to Evolution. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"You pick an object or agent, whether individual, social, or culture, and you ask how it is has changed in a given situation. Then you try to figure out what advantage it gained by changing. ... itworks only in hindsight, as an explanation of a trait that has already been observed."
I have recently begun to notice how many scientists are not very good when it comes to pure, abstract reasoning. Richard Dawkins's grasp of logic - or his capacity to distinguish it from rhetoric - does not impress me at all.


  1. Well, I think Richard Dawkins writes very well on science, though I am not qualified to judge his logic on the religion side.

    Scientists like Jared Diamond and Steve Jones do write well and logically, I think, Frank. And of the older generation (deceased), Steven Jay Gould and JBS Haldane spring to mind. But there are many others.

  2. Gould did write well ..... but I wonder if any of the points he made truly stuck ..... or maybe they were just ignored by the 'nope, no way, nosirree' crowd ..... a trait may - or may not - grant an advantage ..... the need for that advantage may disappear over time, but the trait remains ..... the trait that appears may seem odd, and certainly not the best means to gain the advantage ..... ideal design, Gould warned us, was a lousy argument for evolution

  3. My point, Maxine, was not that Richard Dawkins does not write well. Often, he writes very well - one of the problems with The God Delusion is that it falls so far short of a stanbdard he himself has set. (Though I often also see Dawkins described as a great scientist, though I am at loss to discover any7 real contribution to science that he has made. Memes won't do.)
    Nor was I suggesting that no scientists reason well. I think Gould not only wrote well, but reasoned pretty soundly. Above all, he seem to have an appreciation of reason's limits.
    My poinbt was rather that people like David Sloan Wilson do not seem to realize how tautological their reasoning is and their self-congratulation reminds one of M. Jourdain's discovery that he was speaking prose.