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Origins + Science

Garrett Hardin on Astrology

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Why don’t we teach astrology in the schools? Astrology holds that the course of each human life is determined to a considerable degree by the position of the stars in the sky at the exact moment of the individual’s birth. Belief in it, in one variant or another, has probably been held by most of the people on earth. Even today, some universities in India offer degrees in the subject. Yet American believers do not pressure boards of education to add their subject to the curriculum. If belivers in astrology became as well organized as the creationists, it is hard to see how their demands could be withstood.

Kenneth R. Miller on Fossils

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The fact of the matter is that the fossil record not only documents evolution, but that it was the fossil record itself which forced natural scientists to abandon their idea of the fixity of species and look instead for a plausible mechanism of change, a mechanism of evolution. The fossil record not only demonstrates evolution in extravagant detail, but it dashes all claims of the scientific creationists concerning the origin of living organisms.

Nicholas Rescher on Scientism

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The theorist who maintains that science is the be-all and end-all — that what is not in science books is not worth knowing — is an ideologist with a peculiar and distorted doctrine of his own. For him, science is no longer a sector of the cognitive enterprise but an all-inclusive world-view. This is the doctrine not of science but of scientism. To take this stance is not to celebrate science but to distort it by casting the mantle of its authority over issues it was never meant to address.

Paul Davies on Physical Laws

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The laws which enable the universe to come into being seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly to me that the purpose includes us.

Stephen Jay Gould on Punctuated Equilibria

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Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists — whether through design or stupidity, I do not know — as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. The punctuations occur at the level of species; directional trends (on the staircase model) are rife at the higher level of transitions within major groups.

I.L. Cohen on DNA

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‘Survival of the fittest’ and ‘natural selection.’ No matter what phraseology one generates, the basic fact remains the same: any physical change of any size, shape or form is strictly the result of purposeful alignment of billions of nucleotides (in the DNA). Nature or species do not have the capacity for rearranging them, nor adding to them. Consequently no leap (saltation) can occur from one species to another. The only way we know for a DNA to be altered is through a meaningful intervention from an outside source of intelligence: one who knows what it is doing, such as our genetic engineers are now performing in their laboratories.

I.L. Cohen on Mutation and Probability

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To propose and argue that mutations even in tandem with ‘natural selection’ are the root-causes for 6,000,000 viable, enormously complex species, is to mock logic, deny the weight of evidence, and reject the fundamentals of mathematical probability.

Ernst Mayr on Mutation

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The occurrence of genetic monstrosities by mutation … is well substantiated, but they are such evident freaks that these monsters can be designated only as ‘hopeless.’ They are so utterly unbalanced that they would not have the slightest chance of escaping elimination through stabilizing selection …. the more drastically a mutation affects the phenotype, the more likely it is to reduce fitness. To believe that such a drastic mutation would produce a viable new type,
capable of occupying a new adaptive zone, is equivalent to believing in miracles …. The finding of a suitable mate for the ‘hopeless monster’ and the establishment of reproductive isolation from the normal members of the parental population seem to me insurmountable difficulties.

Kenneth R. Miller on Creationism

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Although the ICR often emphasizes that it is the scientific nature of creationist theory which brings scientists to a belief in a supreme being, it is curious that they include a requirement for membership (the inerrancy of the Christian Bible) which effectively excludes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and the majority of Christian sects (who do
not accept a literal reading of all parts of the Bible) from membership. It is clear that the ICR, which is the most respected of creationist groups in its attempts to appear scientifically legitimate, is essentially an organization composed solely of Christian
Fundamentalists.

Ernst Mayr on Mutation

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[I]t is a considerable strain on one’s credulity to assume that finely balanced systems such as certain sense organs (the eye of vertebrates, or the bird’s feather) could be improved by random mutations. This is even more true of some ecological chain relationships (the famous Yucca moth case, and so forth). However, the objectors to random mutations have so far been unable to advance any alternative explanation that was supported by substantial evidence.

Robert Jastrow on Supernatural Forces at Work

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Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. … That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact .

Francis Crick on the Miraculous Origin of Life

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An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going.

Charles Malik on Christian Anti-Intellectualism

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I must be frank with you: the greatest danger confronting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind in its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. But intellectual nurture cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and the spirit. People who are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the gospel have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking. The result is that the arena of creative thinking is vacated and abdicated to the enemy… It will take a different spirit altogether to overcome this great danger of anti-intellectualism. For example, I say this different spirit, so far as philosophy alone — the most important domain for thought and intellect — is concerned, must see the tremendous value of spending an entire year doing nothing but poring intensely over the Republic or the Sophist of Plato, or two years over the Metaphysics or the Ethics of Aristotle, or three years over the City of God of Augustine. But if a start is made now on a crash program in this and other domains, it will take at least a century to catch up with the Harvards and Tübingens and Sorbonnes — and by then where will these universities be?

E.M. McDonald on God and Nature

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If such a God did exist, he could not be a beneficent God, such as the Christians posit. What effrontery is it that talks about the mercy and goodness of a nature in which all animals devour animals, in which every mouth is a slaughter-house and every stomach a tomb!

Stephen Jay Gould on “Jury-Rigged” Creatures

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Our textbooks like to illustrate evolution with examples of optimal design — nearly perfect mimicry of a dead leaf by a butterfly or of a poisonous species by a palatable relative. But ideal design is a lousy argument for evolution, for it mimics the postulated action of an omnipotent creator. Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution — paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.

Langdon Gilkey on the Searching Soul

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Persons are thinking and reflective as well as merely existing beings. They have unanswered puzzles in their minds as well as unrelieved estrangement in their souls. They have skeptical doubts about the truth they possess as well as despair about the meaning of life that is theirs. They are curious about intellectual answers as well as hungry for a new mode of being or existing. And clearly these two levels, the existential and the intellectual-reflective, are interacting and interrelated all the time.

Pierre-Paul Grasse on the Myth of Evolution

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Today our duty is to destroy the myth of evolution, considered as a simple, understood, and explained phenomenon which keeps rapidly unfolding before us. Biologists must be encouraged to think about the weaknesses and extrapolations that theoreticians put forward or lay down as established truths. The deceit is sometimes unconscious, but
not always, since some people, owing to their sectarianism, purposely overlook reality and refuse to acknowledge the inadequacies and falsity
of their beliefs.

Stephen Jay Gould on Natural Selection

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The essence of Darwinism lies in a single phrase: natural selection is the creative force of evolutionary change. No one denies that selection will play a negative role in eliminating the unfit. Darwinian theories require that it create the fit as well.

Stephen Jay Gould on Gradualism

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In defending gradualism as a nearly universal tempo, Darwin had to use Lyell’s most characteristic method of argument — he had to reject literal appearance and common sense for an underlying “reality.” (Contrary to popular myths, Darwin and Lyell were not the heroes of true science, defending objectivity against the the theological fantasies of such “catastrophists” as Cuvier and Buckland. Catastrophists were as committed to science as any gradualist; in fact, they adopted the more “objective” view that one should believe what one sees and not interpolate missing bits of a gradual record into a literal tale of rapid change.

Stephen Jay Gould on Transitional Forms

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The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. Yet Darwin was so wedded to gradualism that he wagered his entire theory on a denial of this literal record: “The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory.” ¶ Darwin’s argument still persists as the favored escape of most paleontologists from the embarrassment of a record that seems to show so little of evolution. In exposing the its cultural and methodological roots, I wish in no way to impugn the potential validity of gradualism (for all general views have similar roots). I wish only to point out that it was never “seen” in the rocks.

Woody Allen (as Miles Monroe) on Science, Sex, and Death

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Luna: But Miles, don’t you see, meaningful relationships between men and women don’t last. That was proven by science. You see, there’s a chemical in our bodies that makes it so that we all get on each other’s nerves sooner or later. Miles: That’s science. I don’t believe in science. Science is an intellectual dead end. You know, it’s a lot of little guys in tweed suits and cutting up frogs on foundation grants, and… Luna: Oh, I see. You don’t believe in science, and you also don’t believe that political systems work, and you don’t believe in God, huh? Miles: Right. Luna: So, then, what do you believe in? Miles: Sex and death. Two things that come once in my lifetime. But at least after death you’re not nauseous.

The Way

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Lewis continues his train of thought from “Men Without Chests”, criticizing the project of subjectivizing value. Lewis thinks the stakes are as grave as they can be: “the destruction of the society which accepts it”. But immediately, Lewis notes, such grave consequences do not make it false. And besides, there are “theoretical difficulties” as well. Those who advocate the subjectification of value, in this case the pseudonymous Gaius and Titius, presume some greater end even as they undercut traditional values. “In actual fact Gaius and Titius will be found to hold, with complete uncritical dogmatism, the whole system of values which happened to be in vogue among moderately educated young men of the professional classes during the period between the two wars. Their scepticism about values is on the surface: it is for use on other people’s values; about the values current in their own set they are not nearly sceptical enough.” But if Gaius and Titius have some ultimate ground for value in mind, which cannot be so debunked, what might that be? Lewis considers whether “instinct” can ground human value, but notes that instinct is itself contradictory and cannot warrant the leap from is to ought. One will be inexorably forced back to some objective law that presents itself to our conscience as self-evident and obligatory. “This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements.” ~ Afterall

George Gaylord Simpson on the First Cause

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There is neither need nor excuse for postulation of non-material intervention in the origin of life, the rise of man, or any other part of the long history of the material cosmos. Yet the origin of that cosmos and the causal principles of its history remain unexplained and inaccessible to science. Here is hidden the First Cause sought by theology and philosophy. The First Cause is not known and I suspect it will never be known to living man. We may, if we are so inclined, worship it in our own ways, but we certainly do not comprehend it.

Robert Jastrow on the Big Bang and the Confluence of Science and Theology

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For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.