More on Darwin as fairy-tale

From: Zachary B.
Sent on: Friday, February 13, 2009 10:34 AM
Dear Doug:
 
When I saw your email last night, I failed to realize my mistake -- I sent my Darwin Day invitation to the BALTIMORE mailing list, when I meant to send it to the BOSTON list. I am a member of the Baltimore group because I send a lot of time in Maryland. My apologies for the mix-up.
 
<<I do think that celebrating Darwin's birthday is foolish and also could give the false impression to outsiders that he is being deified in some way.>>
I suppose I am less concerned than you are about the false conclusions other people, with an axe to grind, are willing to draw. We attended a party in a pub -- advertised as such -- and anyone who insists on interpreting the goings-on as a worship service are welcome to their confusion.
 
<<Again I think it's a worse day than most because it gives the appearance of deification. Especially since you entitle it Darwin day and not scientific method day or something.>>
In this case, "that's your opinion, man." Because you interpret the party in a religious way does not mean you are right in doing so. Can you not draw a distinction between "appreciative respect" and "reverent worship?"
 
<<This is an opinion. Do you have some kind of study of survey to back this up? There were atheists, agnostics and secularists before Darwin.>>
There certainly were freethinkers before Darwin. I didn't claim otherwise. What I wrote is that his research helped make the argument from design obsolete, i.e. less tenable. I don't need research for this, because it isn't an empirical claim. If you think I am mistaken in asserting that the publication of Origin took teeth out of the watchmaker argument, I'd be interested in learning why.
 
<<This is obviously an attempt to insult me. So... Fuck you.>>
It was actually an attempt to lighten the tone of what might have unintentionally come across as an overtly hostile email. I regret that you interpreted it as an attack.
 
<<You are familiar with the story right? So... it was an effective and useful reference.>>
Well, here's we can get contentiously exegetical. The golden calf story isn't meant to condemn idol worship, it is meant to show Yahweh's jealousy. The Israelites weren't wrong because they were worshipping -- they were worshipping the wrong idol! So if you meant this to relate to Darwin Day, you must mean (by analogy) that we're worshipping the wrong god. Well, which one would you have us worship? So you see, "arguments by fable" aren't the way I prefer to make a point. Our interpretations may differ, but I'm pretty confident that my reading is the standard one.
 
<<The whole idea of the gathering to celebrate Darwins birthday implies worship. I'm obviously trying to drive the point home here with mocking exaggerations.>>
The whole idea of gathering for a party implies nothing more than a party. Why are you inferring more, I can't say. That you choose to drive your point home with mockery, however, suggests that whatever is motivating these inferences might be emotional, rather than rational.
 
"<<There have been many scientists before and since how have made as much or greater contributions to human knowledge>>
It was the particular contribution Darwin made to the credibility of secularism that so many atheists are concerned with him. And the particularly charismatic nature of his research topic that attracts so many admirers, in general: compare "the grandeur and beauty of the diversity of life" to "the mathematical description of the gravitational relationships among bodies in motion," "the ineffably dualistic flavor of fundamental particles," or "the benefit of heating milk before drinking," and you'll have answered your own question about why the average scientifically literate citizen likes Darwin but is typically indifferent toward Newton, Bohr, and Pasteur. To put it briefly, people like animals."
 
<<Again, that's just like your opinion man. Darwin or his theorys didn't cortibute at all to my personally adopting to an atheistic worldview for instance.>>
I didn't say Darwin made atheism possible; I wrote that he CONTRIBUTED to the CREDIBILITY of secularism. I don't see how that statement is disputable. As for why there is a lot enthusiasm for him, I am just speculating, but I think it is informed speculation, and I tried to explain why.
 
<<I don't really find biology a more compleling scientific feild that physics. You try to insert granduer and beauty in front of the diversity of life in that sentence like it's part of the scientific theory.>>
It is actually part of the famous last paragraph of Darwin's book on the origin of species, which I thought you would recognize, presuming as I did that you'd taken the time to learn about the topic about which you have been expressing such strong views. That paragraph is:
 
"There is grandeur in this view of life with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
 
<<You could throw that in anywhere let's say it's "the grandeur and beauty of the gravitational relationships among bodies in motion". Just pointing out the bias in your hypothetical. You are just stating personal opinions as they were facts that you could use to back an agrument and it's ridiculous really.>>
To be clear, I wasn't expressing my opinion of Darwinian evolution; I was making an allusion to a widely known bits of scientific writing. But I do agree: ridiculousness abounds.
 
<<I'll say it again ,the entire concept of the day is what gives the appearance of idolatry.>>
That's precisely the interpretation which I am asking explanation for.
 
<<If you don't think it's idolizing someone to go out and have a celebration in there honor you are a fucking moron.>>
I agree with you there... although I wouldn't have phrased it so forcefully, for fear of seeming a rhetorically violent lout. Not that you do; it would just be my fear.
 
<<I mean just do the thought experiment of celebrating Hitler day for a second or something. Let's say hitler day just consists of gathering together with others and playing monopoly. Seems a perfectly neutral right? So then would you ever attend Hitler day? (note:I'M NOT COMPARING DARWIN TO HITLER, he just somone whom most wouldn't want to be associated with idolizing therefore making it easy to see that's what you are doing in the thought experiment)>>
I'll just say that I find the analogy unconvincing and move on.
 
<<You are making to contratdictory arguments. In one paragraph you sing the priases of Darwin and why he is great and important and derserves recognition and in the next you claim you aren't worshiping him. Honestly, it's so transparent it's almost humourus.>>
I didn't make such claims as you attribute to me, so, moving on.
 
<<Whatever, I hadn't really looked into. I just don't think he's famous for being one anyway and was no outspoken champion of the cause.>>
Moving on,
 
<<"1. Theism is not a fairy tale. Many components of theistic doctrine are sophisticated, compound, and compelling" Yes it is and no they arn't.>>
Yes, your opinions. I stated mine, and you responded by saying "nuh-uh." I'm open to a more intelligent dialogue if you are, but I won't reciprocate with a further "yuh-huh."
 
<<"2. To call theism "a fairy tale" is to fail to realize the many good reasons many theists believe in gods. Of course, none of them are quite good enough..." uhh... I disagree.>>
You disagree that it is fallacious to call theism a fairy tale, or with my observation that there are no good-enough reasons to believe in a god? Whichever it is, again, I'm willing to exchange views on the topic, but I won't get into a spitting match. If you can't be bothered to explain what you mean, I won't waste your time by asking you to read my own explanation.
 
<<"3. It is useless and furthermore strictly inaccurate to say that theists believe in fairy tales." : It's not inaccurate. You haven't proven that point you have just said it over and over. Useless is matter of opinion and who that received this letter was a theist anyway?>>
See above; moving on.
 
<<I will agree with you on this it's most certainly a dismissive ad hominem attack.>>
I might have made the point more clear, that I don't think ad hominem is very useful in conversation. See above, where I admit I would fear seeming like a lout if I were to employ such methods myself.
 
<<I don't find it very difficult to reconcile though. My point was simply to blaspheme your little deity to get a rise out of you.>>
And, had you gotten a rise, what effect would this have to corroborate your argument?
 
<<Which consdiering the 5 point list you came up with here to respond to six words it obviously did. Maybe that should tell you something, eh?>>
Perhaps it might, if it had. In response to your insinuation that I was spun into a hissy fit by your blasphemy, I'll just write: "nuh-uh."
 
<<I wasn't literally suggesting digging up his body and having intercourse with it.  It's just a figure of speach there buddy, calm down.>>
Such figures work against your credibility, for those who care about civility and the assumption of good faith.
 
<<No source just pulling shit out of my ass as I mentioned earlier. Again though, I think your defensiveness towards this dead man is awfully telling.>>
What is telling about you fabricating facts?
 
<<I don't plan to attend because I don't live in Boston but in Baltimore and honestly I'm a bit confused as to why I recieved this email in the first place.>>
Accident! Just like the emergence of intelligent life out of primordial ooze -- it was unplanned.
 
<<Who says cheers? What do you have such a hard on for Darwin that you are pretending to be British now? lol, sorry, couldn't resist.>>
I wish I could enjoy such freedom from inhibition.
 
Cheers,
 
Zachary

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