Friday, September 01, 2006

I am Charlotte, a Millenial Mutant

The shy college girl from the hill country in North Carolina walked with trepidation into the professor’s inner sanctum. Dr. Starling was chairman of the Neuroscience Department, ruler of this entire 21st century Xanadu of Science. And he wanted to see her.

“I want to ask you something,” he began. “Did you by any chance think the assignment was to disprove the theory of evolution in fifteen to twenty pages?”

The irony cut her to the quick.

“The assignment,” he continued, “was to assess the theory with regard to the conventional requirements of the scientific method. Perhaps you remember our discussing the fact that, in science, no theory merits consideration unless you can provide a set of contraindications, which, if true, would prove it wrong.”

“Yes, sir.”

“From this standpoint,” continued Prof. Starling, “evolution has to be considered a special case. You may remember our talking about that.”

“Yes, sir.”

“But you chose to leave that minor-league ballpark and go to work dismantling the entire theory.”

“No, no sir.”

Shot through the heart, she was! An abject failure, unable to comprehend the clear-cut guidelines for a major assignment. With an F on this paper she could at best hope for a D in the course. D! – and I am Charlotte Simmons!

Charlotte, the tragic heroine of Tom Wolfe’s book, was distraught.

“Let me summarize your argument very briefly. Right off the bat you say that Darwin shared a common frailty of the human beast – Zola’s La Bete Humanine. He could not conceive of the world not having had a beginning. You say that Darwin’s belief that it all started with a single cell in a warm pool somewhere is the ‘original fallacy’ and that he makes the ‘progression fallacy’ when he claims that life grows ever larger and more complex.”

“Yes,.. no, sir.”

“You must remember, Charlotte, that Darwin did something quite fundamental for the, then unknown, field of neuroscience (my field!). He obliterated the cardinal distinction between man and the beasts of the wild. And, if man is an animal, to what extent does his genetic code control his life? Enormously, according to Edward Wilson, a man some speak of as the second Darwin. But there is a big difference between enormously and entirely. ‘Enormously’ leaves some wiggle room for your free will to steer your genetically coded instincts in any direction you want.”

Tom Wolfe had quite a bit to say about Sociobiology and its descendent Evo-Psycho (Evolutionary Psychology) in his best-selling I am Charlotte Simmons.

PalosVerdesBlog readers had a bit to say themselves in response to my recent quickie poll (“Pop Psychology” 8/28/06).

1. What more determines behavior (of humans) genes (0.0) or culture (1.0)?

The average score was 0.57, leaning slightly in the direction of the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM).

2. Is the brain at birth a collection of pre-programmed modules (0.0) or a blank slate (1.0)?

Here the average score was 0.47 leaning slightly toward Evo-Psycho.

3. Are our brains optimized for the stone age environment (0.0) or for the modern environment (1.0)?

Again the score of 0.44 leans toward Evo-Psycho.

4. Are humans purely physical beings (0.0) or do we have both bodies and souls (1.0) ?

Here is the first lopsided result. The score of 0.82 indicates a strong belief in the reality of a spiritual life, not in keeping with Darwinism or Evo-Psycho.

5. Are we genetically predisposed to believe in God? (Yes, it’s in our genes = 1.0)

This one was right down the middle, 0.50. Interesting.

6. Is it more important that society be free (0.0) or equal (1.0)?

This one reveals the conservatism of my readers with a score of 0.15. It is also more aligned with the philosophy of Evo-Psycho which recognizes that equality is an impossible dream.

7. Is blood thicker than water? (Yes, definitely = 0.0)

Evo-Psychos would agree with our 0.13 score. It’s our genes after all.

Well, I want to thank my friends for their responses to the poll, and I recommend Wolfe’s book - to find out about the Millenial Mutant. Although it’s not in the same league as his The Right Stuff or The Bonfire of the Vanities, still I am Charlotte Simmons taught me some useful things about Evo-Psycho.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When babies are raised in front of a TV set, their brains become wired to look for fast action and short spurts of interest. Thus - the rise in the number of kids who are autistic and the huge numbers I have in my reading classes today. Kids today cannot concentrate for long time spans and become restless if they have to THINK for more than a few minutes - thus our brains are wired by environment. Kids without TV's can concentrate for long periods and can read - thus stone age. Nature vs nuture is clearly shown in these results.


11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting poll results, showing that your blogger list do not walk in lock-step. Good result.

I ran across the following quote yesterday as I was cleaning my desk....just to twist your no-longer-available tail:

"Intelligent deign is not a theory, but an untestable dogma."


11:55 AM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Thanks Burt,
I think my readers are a reasonable cross section from the upper middle class.

Re your quote, who said it? Clearly someone who has no idea what ID is about.

I'll give you one back.

"I believe that the notion that the intricate biological structures of the world bubbled up from a prebiotic brew and that ideas are an after-effect of a meaningless random material flux is the most sterile and stultifying notion in the history of human thought. It inspired all the reductionist futilities of the twentieth century, from the obtuse materialism of Marx to the pagan worship of a static material environment, from the Freudian view of the brain as a thermodynamic machine to the zero-sum Malthusian panic over population, treating people more as mouths than as minds." (George Gilder, "The Materialist Superstition" Wired magazine, 10/18/04)

I'll put up Gilder against your guy any day.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Francis Collins, eminent scientist, Christian "“The idea that the theory of evolution is perhaps subject to collapse is simply not the case,” he said. “You will not find today a mainstream biologist or human geneticist who is not absolutely convinced that Darwin’s theory is correct.” Sorry Bill, even real Christian scientists know better

12:28 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Born stone age, acculturated into idiocy. Did I get that right?

11:48 AM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Collins is also a scientist who is "a believer in a God who is unlimited by time and space, and who takes a personal interest in human beings."

Do you still agree with him?

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head! This is especially true of the democrats!!


12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course I agree with him. Why are you changing the subject? The point is that he does not believe that the supernatural should be used to explain evolution aka intelligent design. Now the question is, do you still agree with him?

1:09 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Anony (you do have a name),
I believe the questions are these:

1. Is it possible that God created the universe?

2. Is it possible that God created the first life?

3. Is it possible that God gave man a soul?

I think Collins would say yes to each. What about you?

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, Bill.....It's sad, isn't it? I actually agree with most of your points. However, that is not the point, and you know that. Bill, don't change the subject. The point is that Dr.Collins fully believes and agrees with Darwinian evolution. He does not believe in ID, nor does he believe that it should be taught in our schools. Your response?

11:21 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Re teaching evolution in school:

(1)I think it should be taught as it actually is, with all it's warts.

(2) I think the blatantly false "evidence" should be removed from the textbooks. (starting with Haekel's phony embryos and so many more: see Icons of Evolution by Jon Wells)

(3) I think the amazing explosion of complexity that was the first living cell ought to be discussed including the odds against it happening by chance.

(4) I think Francis Crick's conclusion that life must have come from outer space ought to be revealed, plus the fact that it only begs the question.

(5) I think the Cambrian explosion of life forms in a mere 5-10 million years, with no previous descendents in the fossil record, but abundant single celled fossils, should be emphasized. I was disappointed that Collins repeated the known falacy that the pre-Cambrian forms did not fossilize (page 95), when the Chinese found these fossils in 1984. (Even Ann Coulter knows that.)

(5) I think Steven Gould's conclusion that Darwin's slow process could not possibly explain the Cambrian, and his alternative Punctuated Equilibrium, should be decscribed, including the fact that it got him in serious trouble with the biology establishment (make science interesting).

(6) I think students should know about the criticisms of the theory based on scientific investigations. Several good examples are Behe's irreducibly complex molecular machines.

(7) I think students should be told that Francis Crick's Central Dogma of molecular biology disproves Darwin's belief that inheritance is a chemical process (already shown by Mendel) but also disagrees with those who claim the proteins came first since they realize the implausibility of creating DNA by chance.

(8) I think the criticisms from the information theory perspective should be mentioned. In college it should be taught.

(9) I think advanced students should know why biology cannot be explained by chemical and physical laws alone.

(10) I think teachers should stop saying that "all reputable scientists agree that Darwinian evolution is true." Tell them what Nobel laurate and Stanford prof Robert Laughlin said:

"The Darwinian theory has become an all purpose obstacle to thought rather than an enabler of scientific advance."

That's all for now.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:53 PM  

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