Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I never expected this!

David Klinghoffer writes at Evolution News & Views (sic): In The New Yorker, Tom Wolfe Compares Persecution of Intelligent Design Advocates to the "Spanish Inquisition".
Interviewed by The New Yorker earlier this year, the great novelist and journalist Tom Wolfe acknowledged that he's writing a book about evolution -- actually, "a history of the theory of evolution from the nineteenth century to the present." No indication of what his overall thesis might be, but he "invokes the Spanish Inquisition when discussing how academics have cast out proponents of intelligent design for 'not believing in evolution the right way.'"



30 comments :

  1. I'm stealing this comment from my good friend The Tomato Addict, which he left on the blog of The Sensuous Curmudgeon when dealing with another creationist issue: "Our chief weapon is ignorance...ignorance and fear...fear and ignorance. Our two weapons are fear and ignorance...and quote-mining. Our *three* weapons are fear, ignorance, and quote mining...and a fanatical devotion to bronze age mythology. Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons. Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, ignorance... I'll come in again."

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  2. And senility takes another famous author. I love that Wolfe has become a "great novelist" to the DI once he disses evolution. They're all about boosting the credentials of those they like and attacking the credentials of those they don't.

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    1. John didn't you basically just do the same thing? You assume he's senile because his way of thinking doesn't agree with yours?

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    2. I can't believe I agree with Beau. Wolfe has been politically conservative for a long time, and it has distorted his writing for a long time. In terms of politics, he is not senile, he was always blinded by ideology. See my reviews below.

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    3. Beau, I had assumed his (apparent) rejection of evolution was a recent phenomenon. In that case, senility might be a reasonable hypothesis. If instead it's long-standing, I retract the hypothesis.

      And his way of thinking doesn't agree with mine, sure, but it also doesn't agree with reality. Wait -- are you a creationist?

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    4. Diogenes, who funds the Discovery Institute? As a side note, I agree with you more than you might think. Sometimes though you come across a strong and respond aggressively. The questions i ask are typically honest questions, I'm not qualified to have an opinion in any scientific matter. Please understand when i question things it's not an attempt to discredit science, I'm just trying to understand the arguments. I'll be the first to admit I'm consistently the dumbest guy in the comment section.

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    5. John I believe in God. My belief has no bearing on my thoughts on evloution but yes i guess i world be considered a creationist.

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    6. Beau,

      When you say you're a creationist, what do you mean by that? And if you're a creationist, how can your belief in god (or, actually, your beliefs about god) have no bearing on your thoughts on evolution?

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    7. John, I believe God created the life that exists in the world we know. As far as how he created it the Bible isn't detailed enough in the Genesis account to say how. The language used leads me to lean toward evolution but if some other explanation arises I'd be open to it. I guess how life developed is a non starter as far as my faith goes.

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    8. "As far as how he created it the Bible isn't detailed enough in the Genesis account to say how."

      It's detailed enough for us to know that it is unambigously wrong. It says he did it in a day. That's wrong.

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    9. I would be interested to know how you interpret Genesis as leading you to lean toward evolution. What is there about creation of all life on various days in a single weak that inclines you that way?

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    10. Plants exist before the sun does. Then sea animals and birds appear before land animals. That's pretty specific... and known to be wrong. We know the siin comes first, then sea animals which greatly precede land plants and land animals, then flying insects, then pterosaurs, and birds last.

      We have a really good, nearly continuous fossil record for sirenians. The earliest fossils are of a land animal, then a semi-aquatic animal with shorter legs, then a fully aquatic animal with no hind legs. But the front flippers have toenails like those of elephants, to whom sirenians are known to be closely related, by DNA comparisons, morphology, and the fact that if you follow the fossil records of each backward far enough, the fossils of the ancestors of each, sirenians and elephants, converge on the same kind of land animal, their common ancestor.

      If the Bible is true, which should appear first: fully aquatic sirenians... or their land-dwelling ancestors? The Bible says the former. Evidence says the latter.

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    11. I love that Wolfe has become a "great novelist" to the DI once he disses evolution.

      That must be the explanation, because nobody could argue that he's a great novelist after reading I Am Charlotte Simmons. Not that I'm feeling particular bitter about having wasted my time on that book or anything....

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    12. Long story short. Farmer Joe throws apple seeds on the ground and says "Let there be apple pie, cider and juice " Those won't necessarily come to fruition in that order but farmer knows their potential. I don't believe in a literal six creation, or a worldwide flood for biblical reasons. Daniel Friedman describes a timeleline in the Genesis One Code that was drawn from thinking that predates this debate by a long period. Let's be honest though, you've likely heard all the arguments out there so i won't waste your time trying to convert you.

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    13. That is some serious special pleading there. I'm perfectly fine with you not believing in six-day creation etc. Just don't use Genesis to justify that non-belief.

      In fact I had not heard of Friedman's argument before, but judging by what I find of it on the web it's even sillier than the typical creationist claims. Just because he talks about Kabala doesn't give his claims a venerable pedigree. If you are impressed by that book, I'm not impressed by your powers of reasoning.

      Is this review unfair? Is the timeline it gives incorrect? Because if it's correct, it's egregious nonsense.

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    14. John, the review is fair. The book has its problems. The formula was used around 800 years ago, i believe, by Rabbi Isaac of Akko and he determined the age of the universe was 15 billion years old. Though still in disagreement with modern science the number is much closer. The idea of the Genesis account being a long period of time isn't a current retreat from science it's very old. I'll admit it still has has its problens with what science displays today.

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    15. Why are you citing egregious nonsense to me? What point are you making? I will agree that there have been a few people in ancient times who reinterpreted the text of Genesis in indefensible ways. So?

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    16. Please explain how these interpretations are indefensible?

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    17. Please explain how these interpretations are indefensible?

      First, because they are based on nothing that's actually present in the text. Second, because even if you make them, they don't bring the story into conformity with reality.

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  3. Wolfe had the potential to be a great novelist. He has stretches of beautiful verisimilitude where he can put himself into the minds of his (white) characters. But his plots are bent into absurdities by his, to be frank, racism and sexism.

    In "Bonfire of the Vanities" he did a good enough job concealing his racism, and his observations about New York culture are so humorous, that liberal readers could overlook that he was racist as all $%&k, and the whole book served a racist "oppression inversion" narrative: the blacks are falsely portrayed by the media as sainted victims, but in reality every single black is a violent, lying, deceptive, radioactively violent "thug" or "no saint" (to use the official terminology applied right now by Fox News and the Republicans to describe every unarmed black person beaten, killed or paralyzed by cops on video.) In the end the rich, white protagonist becomes the prostrate, persecuted, Christ-like victim of the all-powerful blacks-- because (get this) he loses his job as a stock broker, and is forced to live a middle class life! Oh, the martyrdom! Oh, the poor persecuted whites!

    Meanwhile, the blacks get no character development. They start as radioactively violent thugs, and they end that way, having only predatorial instincts, like a shark, and no capacity for learning.

    "A Man In Full" was a huge disappointment. It starts out written from the POV of a nerdy black lawyer, so we wonder, will Tom Wolfe correct the racism and elitism of his previous book? As it turns out, NO. The black lawyer character is abandoned. Then we get a bit written from the POV of a clownish white millionaire deeply in debt who is losing his corporate empire. He owns a hunting preserve called "Turpemtime", a name that implicitly mocks blacks and reminds us of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's real ranch called N****rhead. He is an uninteresting idiot.

    Then comes a heartbreakingly well-written stretch or social realism that, while it lasts, is the best thing Wolfe ever wrote. The story switches to a young, poor white guy with a new wife, a new baby, no job and no money. While applying for a job he desperately needs, his car is towed because it is 12 inches too close to a fire hydrant. He takes all the cash he has to the impound lot and it's not enough to get his car back, because of bullshit fees added on. In a nightmarish sequence, a forklift damages his impounded car, he loses it and assaults the forklift operator. He winds up arrested, on trial, then sent to prison. This is an amazing narrative because it's so hard to believe that the elitist Wolfe could understand what it's like to be poor, how when you're poor, a tow truck and a $200 ticket can set off a chain reaction of events that wind up ruining your life. Wolfe can understand this about poor whites, but not about poor blacks, who continue to be animals incapable of learning.

    But that stretch of writing, as beautiful as anything by Steinbeck, is thrown out the window and ground up in the gears if Wolfe's political agenda. Wolfe jumps the track to a moronic, utterly contrived plot unrelated to all the characters seen so far, something about a college where a black football player is accused of raping a white woman. These characters, accused "rapist" and "rape victim", are off stage and we never see them as humans. Therefore Wolfe has set up a pure political conflict of ideologies: if the black guy did it, all black men are rapists; if he didn't, all women who say they've been raped are lying. Those are the terms spelled out by Wolfe as he boxes himself in. It's no longer about people, it's about political ideology. So which will be stronger in the end, Wolfe's racism or his sexism? Who cares, the book is so morally obtuse it turns to shit, and Wolfe, like any Republican, in the end hates all humans, except rich white people, as long as they're not rich conservatives.

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    1. Edit: as long as they're not rich liberals.

      (Now that I think of it, the clownish, ignorant millionaire character, always deep in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy, could have been based on Donald Trump.)

      So Wolfe is racist as all $%&k, elitist, and identifies totally with rich white conservative billionaires. He's a perfect fit for the Discovery Institute.

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  4. First the book, then the movie, then the oscars. Maybe famous actors will play some posters on this forum!!!
    i heard he was ID interested years ago.
    why not a smarter , successful, writer gets things right in origin matters? thee might be a intelligence cirve going on here.
    Him writing should bring more attention to the good guys. Every year seems to bring a cool thing to advance creationist truth.
    Its a true equation, HOWEVER< that embracing a famous writer means embracing them when they oppose you.
    HMMMM. I guess its unrelated to whether creationists are right or wrong.
    It really shouldn't persuade people because some person of note agrees with you. they are just more outside observers.
    The gain is a well written account of ID thinkers, maybe YEC, and critics tactics and the general cause.
    Will it change the world? You never know. Words matter and this guy knows words.

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  5. According to Klodhopper the new book by Wolfe will be called The Human Beast. Wolfe gave a lecture a few years ago ( which is online) with the same title so maybe the book is an expansion of those ideas. The lecture was mainly an attack on sociology and human behavioral biology. He seems to be very opposed to the idea that evolution could have molded human behavior or culture. Many of his points aren't entirely unreasonable and I can see many scientists ( or liberals) agreeing with him with qualifications. The intellectual scope is wide ranging and interesting but he makes serious mistakes with the science. For example he seems to think that the only people advocating "Darwinism" are neuroscientists and he even refers to Richard Dawkins as a neuroscientist. He also suggests that the observation that social environments can change neural circuitry and gene expression in the brain is incompatible with evolution. He's been working on the book for years so I assume there will be improvements in the science.

    disclaimer - I only skimmed through parts of his lecture..its possible that I misconstrued some stuff as a result

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    1. He's been working on the book for years so I assume there will be improvements in the science.

      Your naivete is almost touching.

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    2. Oh c'mon! How difficult will it be for one of Wolfe's friends to mention to him that Dawkins studied behavior, not neuroscience?

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    3. Not that difficult, if he has the slightest interest in fact-checking his claims. Whether he does is a different question.

      Which of his friends do you expect will correct the more fundamental scientific misunderstandings you mention? More to the point, are any of his friends going to correct his arrogance in believing that he can provide legitimate opinions on scientific topics regarding which he obviously has not the slightest understanding? Do you think his claim that the Big Bang Theory is "the nuttiest theory I have ever heard" is based on a rigorous assessment of the scientific evidence in support of the theory?

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    4. He said that about BBT? ....ok you're right...

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    5. Yes, it's in the New Yorker piece cited by the EN&V post:

      http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/new-york-public-library-tom-wolfe-archive

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    6. The BBT quote could be defended as being in the same spirit as Niels Bohr's "We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct."
      But that would probably be a reach,

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  6. I'm sure it will rank right up there with anything Tom Bethell has written.

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