Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Linked Bibliography

For those who want to see, for themselves, that Darwin was a racist, the inspiration of eugenics and probably Ernst Haeckel's most famous supporter and endorser.

The Descent of Man  by Charles Darwin

Note:  As well as copious examples of clear racism by Charles Darwin in the book, he also praises and cites works by Francis Galton, Ernst Haeckel,  W. R. Greg and others who are uncontroversially noted to be racists.

Works praised and cited by Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man

Hereditary Genius  by Francis Galton

Note:  This is the seminal work of eugenics,  praised by Charles Darwin in a letter to Francis Galton (see chapter XX of Galton's memoir listed below) and cited with extravagant praise by Darwin in The Descent of Man.

The History of Creation,   English translation of  Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte

Volume one

Volume two

Note:  This overwhelmingly racist book advocating infanticide, murder of disabled people, etc. was translated by E. Ray Lankester c. 1875,  Lankester was a friend and intimate colleague of Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley.   During the period when he was making his translation, Darwin was lobbying for him to be accepted into the Linnean Society.   Darwin reserves his highest praise for Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichtes,  saying in his introduction that if he had not been far into writing The Descent of Man when he learned of Haeckel's book, he wouldn't have completed it.  His repeated citation of it in the text can be fairly described as gushing.

Also instructive

Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development by Francis Galton

Galton gives the line of his publications that constitutes his creation of eugenics, including Hereditary Genius.

Memories of My Life by Francis Galton

Note:  Chapter XX, in which Galton not only definitively ascribes credit to Charles Darwin and On the Origin of Species as inspiring eugenics but also publishes the very enthusiastic letter Darwin sent him on his reading Hereditary Genius.

Freedom in Science and Teaching,  English translation of Freie Wissenschaft und freie Lehre  by Ernst Haeckel

Note:  Thomas Huxley wrote the introduction to the English translation, Darwin endorsed it saying he agreed with all of it, one imagines including the passage in which Haeckel says that Darwinism applied to human society would produce an aristocratic system instead of democracy.

Also useful, especially in the relationship between Darwin and Haeckel is Francis Darwin's collection of his father's letters with commentary.

Volume two 

The Darwin Correspondence Project has many useful letters from and to Charles Darwin,  though there are many that aren't posted as of yet.

If Darwin disagreed with what any of these authors said  about him and his work in books and articles he is known to have read,  it was up to him to say so.   Unless someone can produce his objections,  his multiple, full throated, endorsements of these authors and their work has to stand as his expressed opinion.   I've read nothing from Darwin, his family members, his professional associates or others who knew him that distanced him from them.

The Real Reason You Can't Diss Darwin is His Usefulness in Atheist Propaganda

I will grant this to John Wilkins, in today's post he comes out and says it, well, he says it kind of back to front.  He says that the real reason that Darwin is controversial is his use by atheists in denying the idea that God directs evolution.

No, the reason why Darwin was controversial is very, very simple. Darwin argued that complex designs could arise without a mind to guide it. In short, his controversial idea was natural selection (and sexual selection, but even that preceded Darwin). Almost from the day it was published, critics attacked the implication that the living world was not all that special, and that it lacked a Plan or Meaning. Theologians, moralists and even scientists objected to this, and while even most of the Catholic Church accepted common descent and modification of species, it was natural selection they hated.

All the supposed “controversies” of Darwinism (or that phantom, “neo-Darwinism”) are post hoc attacks based on the prior objection to the lack of a guiding hand in biology. Don’t like natural selection? Attack Darwin by calling him a racist or blaming him for the Holocaust. Say he is antiessentialist. Say he is anti-religion. No matter how much evidence one puts forward that these are deliberate lies manufactured by those who hate Darwin for natural selection, it won’t stop the prevarication industry.

There are a number of problems within those two paragraphs, the one I commented on was the assertion that Darwin wasn't an obvious racist when you can only say that if you haven't read him or, as another commentator answered me, you change the meaning of racism to pretend to make Darwin's flagrant racism go away, a form of special pleading.  That is, to deny that you have to violate the most basic rules of intellectual discourse.  I am quite certain that wouldn't be done for William Jennings Bryan on an atheist blog, nor should it.

The comment about the Holocaust is more justifiable,  Darwin didn't know anything about Nazis, Hitler having been born well after he died.  But there are the strongest of links from Darwin and natural selection to eugenics and Haeckel's monism and those do have a direct link to Naziism.  You have to lie about the history of eugenics and that species of monism to deny that.  Which is commonly done by Darwin's fans when you point those  links out.

But Wilkins' main point also has problems.   The holding that evolution is not designed or is designed isn't science, it is an ideological assertion in one case and a religious one in the other*.  Science can come up with a description of physical evidence and generate analyses of that in scientific terms, it can't deal with whether or not what it describes and what it makes assertions about is designed.

The use of Darwin as an atheist oracle was asserted from shortly after On the Origin of Species was published, in books Darwin endorsed and cited as science.  It has been the real reason that atheists have been so eager to assert an extravagantly over the top cult of Darwin, his greatness and goodness and uncanny predictive abilities, a phony Darwin separate from his own literary record, his letters, his citations and associations and against which any contradiction will not be brooked.   Anyone who dares cite, fully, at length, with confirmatory citations from Darwin, himself..., anything to do with Darwin's racism, his sexism, the class interest that so clearly pollutes his scientific claim to fame, his endorsement of Galton's and Haeckel's eugenics, their racism, the depravity of Haeckel's monism.... will be shunned and cast out of the fellowship of educated people.

Any intellectual movement that requires lies to stand is an intellectual movement that will come to no good as it is up to no good.  Any intellectual stand that disallows the introduction of evidence, while requiring words to mean something other than their common meanings, is also rotten to the core.  Darwinism used to not deny the links to race "science", "racial hygiene", eugenics, class division and other things that Charles Darwin endorsed and asserted to be science. With the horrific history of the 20th century the social and intellectual milieu that made mentioning those things  acceptable has changed.  And with the post-war rehabilitation of Charles Darwin** you have to lie about the real Charles Darwin and suppress anything in his record that contradicts that phony, intellectually cleansed figurehead.

It being forbidden to mention that record -  if you happen to do what most Darwinists don't do these days, read him and his citations and find out that he asserted things to be science which are either discredited as science or discredited by history - you risk becoming a pariah.   For the most part, the only people who talk about that are the enemies of evolutionary science.

Well, brace yourselves, it isn't a violation of intellectual life to tell the truth about Darwin's record, there isn't any legitimate rule of logic or scholarship that prevents that, only enforced social convention.  If anti-evolutionists support what they say about Charles Darwin to the normal standards of intellectual life then they are correct about that much of it.  If they go overboard, distort or falsely ascribe things to him, as they often do, that is intellectually dishonest.  But their fabrications and distortions are no more dishonest than those regularly practiced by the Darwin industry and fan club.  Only the pro-Darwin side asserts they are all about evidence and intellectual honesty and the highest integrity.   As anyone who has read Darwin, refusing to constantly make excuses for the purely rotten things he said, the frequent assertions that are not supported by data or evidence, etc, will know that PR image of the culture of atheism is largely a myth, as well.

Note:  The series of posts I did on the topic of Darwin, eugenics and Haeckel are still in kind of rough form.  I hope to revise them in the spring and post them in order on a dedicated blog.   For now, here's my most recent linked index to them.

*  I won't go into the interesting idea that it might be designed but not by a conscious designer because I haven't waded through the very complex, very technical arguments and can, therefore, have nothing valuable to say on the topic.

** Evolution in 2012 doesn't require Charles Darwin to be the great and powerful figure of the Darwin cult, it only requires the truth be told about him and his ideas be subjected to physical evidence and the common rules of reason and logic.   Evolution's confirmation is far, far bigger than Darwin or natural selection, you don't need those in the face of an enormous mass of fossil and genetic evidence, though I doubt biologists indoctrinated in natural selection will give up that habit of thought for a number of generations.

As I said, John Wilkins was honest enough to admit the real need for Darwin and natural selection is in extra-scientific assertions of materialism and, ultimately, atheism.   And that is the real reason for the phony, post-War Darwin and the cult that has grown up around that  idol.   That materialism and atheism seem to need to lie about him should become more of an issue among those of us who are interested in the integrity of science and intellectual discourse.

Update:   Apparently John Wilkins has not read Darwin and he will not tolerate a dissenting view of him on his blog.  I'm not surprised.  It's been my experience that there is no group more disinclined to tolerate free thought than the "free thinkers" and no group of true believers more unaware of their being true believers  than the "skeptics".

Friday, November 23, 2012

How Can You Narrow the Topic of Consciousness?

John Wilkins is one of the more reasonable of the atheist bloggers I've read, even as I don't agree with him, quite often.   I do have some respect for him but I'm not willing to let that respect for him keep me from disagreeing with him when I do.  I've been having an argument at his blog on the topic of consciousness, it began with his post questioning if the "hard problem", scientifically addressing consciousness,  is really all that hard.   Nailing down consciousness and defining it as a material phenomenon has been an ongoing project of materialists and the devotees of materialistic scientism, especially in the post-WWII period.   No less a figure than Francis Crick made it his quest to do that and destroy the possibility of believing in God.   I've read that at Crick's funeral his son admitted that his father's quest  had failed.    Just as an aside, it's astonishing how many scientists, especially as they get older and aren't engaged in productive work, have set themselves the task of killing off God.  You don't have to guess at their motives because a lot of them have said that in the clearest terms.    I can't help but think they are recapitulating the last decades of Bertrand Russell after his career in mathematics and philosophy were dealt a death blow of their own by contemporary physics and Kurt Godel.

One of the things this exposes is how little even eminent scientists need to understand the foundations of science, making their claims to fame at higher levels while, in their extra-scientific, philosophical ramblings,  claiming that radical reductionism is the real key to understanding stuff.  This while exempting themselves from understanding the basic level of science and frequently being angry when those are brought up in evaluating their most extravagant, non-scientific claims, especially those purported to be science.   In most of science much can be taken as "given" and not mentioned, including that basic level.  But whenever you want to address something in which that level is intimately involved, you don't have that luxury.  In modern physics the way in which human beings perceive and think about the things studied turns out to be among the major considerations that has to be address, it can't be overlooked.  In some areas of modern logic,  the impossibility of resolving some of the most basic considerations of how we think, especially situations seen as paradoxical, makes achieving the most basic level of closure impossible.  And those are problems at a level just above where consciousness meets articulate thought, consciousness resides at a more basic level than any of them.

One of the common methods of disposing of consciousness is familiar to those who have read some of the now discontinued philosophical game of logical positivism.   In that game any difficult problems that kept them from coming to their desired conclusion was declared to be "meaningless", by fiat, and this was supposed to make philosophy more like science.  It insists on having it both ways, of pretending to be radically reductionist by pretending that the problems of that effort in dealing with consciousness are "meaningless" because they escape their preferred method of analysis.   Not surprisingly, most people don't recognize their right to make those kinds of declarations, depending on our personal experience and observations more than the decree handed down from some obscure corner of a university department.   The reaction to that refusal is often quite bitter and hinges on a deep conviction of an entitlement to be obeyed on the part of those who choose not to.   Wilkins is one of the least prone to that among blog atheists, but I'm unable to name any others, off hand.

I haven't fully digested this argument Russell made in 1905 in this area but these passages should give his admirers some pause in making reductionist assertions about consciousness.  Under linings are mine.

The difficulty in speaking of the meaning of a denoting complex may be stated thus: The moment we put the complex in a proposition, the proposition is about the denotation; and if we make a proposition in which the subject is `the meaning of C', then the subject is the meaning (if any) of the denotation, which was not intended. This leads us to say that, when we distinguish meaning and denotation, we must be dealing with the meaning: the meaning has denotation and is a complex, and there is not something other than the meaning, which can be called the complex, and be said to have both meaning and denotation. The right phrase, on the view in question, is that some meanings have denotations.

But this only makes our difficulty in speaking of meanings more evident. For suppose that C is our complex; then we are to say that C is the meaning of the complex. Nevertheless, whenever C occurs without inverted commas, what is said is not true of the meaning, but only of the denotation, as when we say: The center of mass of the solar system is a point. Thus to speak of C itself, i.e. to make a proposition about the meaning, our subject must not be C, but something which denotes C. Thus `C', which is what we use when we want to speak of the meaning, must not be the meaning, but must be something which denotes the meaning. And C must not be a constituent of this complex (as it is of `the meaning of C'); for if C occurs in the complex, it will be its denotation, not its meaning, that will occur, and there is no backward road from denotations to meaning, because every object can be denoted by an infinite number of different denoting phrases.


One interesting result of the above theory of denoting is this: when there is an anything with which we do not have immediate acquaintance, but only definition by denoting phrases, then the propositions in which this thing is introduced by means of a denoting phrase do not really contain this thing as a constituent, but contain instead the constituents expressed by the several words of the denoting phrase. Thus in every proposition that we can apprehend (i.e. not only in those whose truth or falsehood we can judge of, but in all that we can think about), all the constituents are really entities with which we have immediate acquaintance. Now such things as matter (in the sense in which matter occurs in physics) and the minds of other people are known to us only by denoting phrases, i.e. we are not acquainted with them, but we know them as what has such and such properties. Hence, although we can form propositional functions C(x) which must hold of such and such a material particle, or of So-and-so's mind, yet we are not acquainted with the propositions which affirm these things that we know must be true, because we cannot apprehend the actual entities concerned. What we know is `So-and-so has a mind which has such and such properties' but we do not know `A has such and such properties', where A is the mind in question. In such a case, we know the properties of a thing without having acquaintance with the thing itself, and without, consequently, knowing any single proposition of which the thing itself is a constituent.

Of the many other consequences of the view I have been advocating, I will say nothing. I will only beg the reader not to make up his mind against the view --- as he might be tempted to do, on account of its apparently excessive complication --- until he has attempted to construct a theory of his own on the subject of denotation. This attempt, I believe, will convince him that, whatever the true theory may be, it cannot have such a simplicity as one might have expected beforehand.

If I had Russell here, one of the things he would need to clear up would be if when he says: In such a case, we know the properties of a thing without having acquaintance with the thing itself, and without, consequently, knowing any single proposition of which the thing itself is a constituent. it would have been better to say "we know some properties". But that's hardly the only question that arises from his assertions, including his motives which I don't trust.