Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views
Views NEWS

Elf Meets Aristotle

When I was a resident in neurosurgery I had a professor who had the annoying habit of claiming credit for quite a few advances in neurosurgery to which, by the record, he had made no contribution. He would frequently confide to me, in the operating room, "Mike, ya know that operation that we just did. I really developed it, back in the 50's." Invariably, the actual record of the development of the operation had nothing to do with my narcissistic professor.

Claiming credit for advances that to the uninitiated seems credible is common in medicine and science. Darwinists have an annoying habit of attributing all sorts of advances in medicine and biology to Darwin's theory. Darwinists have asserted that genetics, molecular genetics, taxonomy, microbiology, population genetics, and many other fields of medicine and biology would have been impossible had it not been for Darwin's insight ('survivors survive'). Even a cursory look at many of these fields (e.g. molecular genetics) reveals that Darwinism obviously had nothing to do them; the elucidation of the structure and function of DNA didn't have a damn thing to do with 'natural selection' (except that Watson and Crick practiced 'survival of the fittest' in their competition with Linus Pauling and their treatment of Rosalind Franklin). The discovery of the genetic code had everything to do with biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology. Nineteenth century fairy tales about the origin of species may have provided some comic relief. It had nothing to do with the science.

In a recent post I observed that Darwinism, while essential to eugenics, contributes nothing of value to medicine.

Darwinist blogger Elf M. Sternberg took the bait. Elf started with the usual sneers, calling me a "creationist," accusing me of of "rejecting the germ theory of disease" and of attributing disease to "demonic influences," and then he points out my "absolutely insane 'graf'"from my essay:

I had written:

Fairy tales about the origin of illnesses and adaptations are worthless to medicine. The materialistic philosophical basis for Darwinism and the inference that humans evolved by natural selection have been catastrophic to medicine. Any genuine insight claimed by Darwinists, such as the dynamics of antibiotic resistance or of heterozygote advantage in such diseases as sickle cell anemia and malaria, is really gained by the relevant basic sciences.

Elf sees my fatal stumble. He replies:

The basic consequence of Egnor's dismissal of human evolution by natural selection is this: we have no reason to believe animal studies are worth anything. If common descent with modification by natural selection is not valid, then any commonalities we have with any other species is pure coincidence. Animal models work because...[emphasis in original]

Actually, the similarity of body designs and functions of living things was described in considerable detail by Aristotle 2,200 years B.D. (before Darwin). He described the interrelation of organisms as the "great chain of being," and he classified apes as intermediate between humans and other quadripeds. He described 500 different species in Historia Animalium, and his understanding of genetics was closer to our modern understanding than was Darwin's. Aristotle rejected the theory of pangenesis, which posited that "gemmules" migrate from all parts of the body to the sperm. Darwin supported the theory.

Galen, the father of classical anatomy and medicine, extrapolated his dissections of Barbary apes and other animals to human anatomy, as he probably never dissected a human (1700 years B.D.). William Harvey worked out the circulation of human blood using inferences from cats and dogs 300 years B.D. Carl Linnaeus, working 100 years B.D., worked out the species classification system for all living things that we still use today.

Comparative biology -- the study of the 'commonality between species' -- was the basis for all biology for 2500 years before Darwin. Similarities between organisms were inferred on the basis of common design, and of course it is still the similarity of design, real or imagined, that forms the basis for modern animal studies and their application to human biology. Comparative biology has always been based on comparisons between the structure and function of organisms -- that is, on the design inference, explicit or implicit. Darwinian stories about lineage depend on inferences from similarities in molecular and macroscopic structure, not the other way around. Darwinian stories didn't give rise to comparative data; they were inferences from the comparative data. And it is the comparative data, not the Darwinian stories, that is the basis for comparative medicine and biology.

Elf is an atheist (who woulda guessed?), and he describes himself as a writer of "Quality science fiction and fantasy erotica since 1989." Elf needs to put away the Darwin centerfold. If he wants to understand Darwin's seminal contributions to medical science, may I suggest he read John West's Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science and Richard Weikart's From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany.

Darwin's indispensability to eugenics is a matter of historical record, and his irrelevance to taxonomy and comparative biology is a matter of logic. Darwin can't be credited with science that took place before he lived, and he can't be credited with data from which Darwinian stories are spun.

Here's some advice, Elf: you've read too much Darwinian "fantasy erotica." Take a cold shower, and then introduce yourself to science and history.