Monday, November 13, 2006

Denyse O'Leary Needs Help (again)

Over on Pre-Neanderthal Denyse is quoting Douglas Futuyma from the 1998 edition of his book Evolutionary Biology 3rd edition. She lifted her quotation from a Discovery Institute quote-mining project. Here are the words that she puts in Futuyma's mouth ...
Darwin showed that material causes are a sufficient explanation not only for physical phenomena, as Descartes and Newton had shown, but also for biological phenomena with all their seeming evidence of design and purpose. By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Together with Marx's materialistic theory of history and society and Freud's attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin's theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism ...
It's clear that Densye doesn't have one of the world's leading textbooks on evolution because she didn't even check to see if the Discovery Institute got it right. Perhaps Denyse doesn't realize that the Discovery Institute sometimes makes the occasional—always inadvertent, I'm sure—error. Here's what Douglas Futuyma actually says on page 5 in my copy of the book ...
Darwin's immeasurably important contribution to science was to show how mechanistic causes could also explain all biological phenomena, despite their apparent evidence of design and purpose. By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. In the decades that followed, physiology, embryology, biochemistry, and finally molecular biology, would complete this revolution by providing entirely mechanistic explanations, relying on chemistry and physics, for biological phenomena. But it was Darwin's theory of evolution, followed by Marx's materialistic (even if inadequate or wrong) theory of history and society and Freud's attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, that provided a crucial plank to the platform of mechanism and materialism—in short, of much of science—that has since been the stage of most Western thought. [Futuyma's emphasis]
The sense hasn't been changed much by the Discovery Institute's quote-mining but it's not a true quotation in any legitimate sense of the word. Why can't these people get it right? Do they have a mental block?

Denyse then goes on to ask, "I would be interested to know if this paragraph appears unaltered in the just-released 2006 edition, but Toronto Public Library seems to have nothing later than the 2nd edition." Here's a bit of advice, Denyse; if you're going to attack evolution then you should buy a textbook instead of relying on the words of people who are notoriously unreliable.

Guess what, Denyse? I have a copy of Futuyma's latest book. You are more than welcome to come to my office and check it out if it's really that important to your cause. I'm almost as close as the public library.

1 comment :

  1. Did you compare her quote to the 1986 edition of Futuyma? It appears to be accurate.

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