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Wesley L. Janssen
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"[Stove] is particularly good at exposing the `amazingly arrogant habit of Darwinians' of `blaming the fact, instead of blaming their theory' when they encounter contrary biological facts. Doctrinaire Darwinists have an answer for everything, always a bad sign in science, since it means that mere facts can never prove them wrong." - from Roger Kimball's Introduction
It is not at all the case that Stove objects to Darwinism on religious grounds, in fact he believes that present life has by some means evolved from earlier forms; however he is quite certain that "Darwin's explanation of evolution, even though it is . . . still the best one available, is not true." Stove would object, and strongly so, to having his essays cast as being sympathetic to `creationism' or, so far as I can tell, `intelligent design', as he defines himself as a man "of no religion." His knowledge and scholarship of Darwinian theory is self-evidently vast; he suggests that he has "wasted" his time reading hundreds of Darwinism's books and `Darwinian Fairytales' makes it quite evident that he has indeed studied every prominent Darwinian "from 1859 to the present hour."
I had just begun reading Richard Dawkins' `The Blind Watchmaker' when I noticed that David Stove's `Darwinian Fairytales' had been reprinted. While reading them both it quickly seemed imperative that I read Dawkins' `The Selfish Gene' before proceeding with either TBW or DF. So that is what I did. Reading the three books in close conjunction was quite a fascinating experience, and, as I have indicated elsewhere (my review of TSG), Dawkins didn't fare to well.
Stove, the late Australian philosopher of science, effectively skewers Dawkins (especially TSG, but, to a lesser extent, TBW as well), Stove nails E.O. Wilson too, in fact he takes a troupe of Darwinian champions to the woodshed -- T.H. Huxley, R.D. Alexander, R. Trivers, R.A. Fisher, among many others. A skeptic in Hume's mold, Stove has acerbically critiqued various iconic founts of Western thought, some more effectively than others, so Darwinians need not feel singled out (but of course they probably will). This book was his last, completed not long before his death in 1994.
Although he presents a few other criticisms, Stove relentlessly targets (1) Darwinism's ideological death-struggle with "altruism" -- that it must deny is actually altruism, and (2) Darwinism's non-falsifiable teleological doctrine: the immutable Lordship of "the selfish gene" -- a doggedly fideistic article of simple faith. Darwinism's teachings on altruism are easily sacked, both by clear logic and by mere empirical evidence; its supposedly anti-teleological teleology of itself qualifies Darwinism as being a religion.
If there is something to be faulted in Stove's book (a collection of 11 essays), it is the repetitiveness (not surprising as this is usually a problem in works of argumentation, witness especially Dawkins, for example). Long after Stove has illustrated the teleological confusions and defeated the "altruism" defamations demanded by Dawkins, Wilson, and the like, he is still throwing the badly bloodied doctrines to the ground. Because of this, and because each of the essays can more or less stand on its own, I recommend reading the first essay (Darwin's Dilemma), the second and the last (eleventh) before heading into the others. If the essay (#4) treating the influence of Malthus' population dynamics on Darwin's thought becomes dry or uninteresting, then skip it, perhaps moving to essays #9 (A New Religion) or 10 (Paley's Revenge, or Purpose Regained).
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Many scientists and laypersons, sadly, never read philosophy of science. Though informal and humorous, this is a fine introduction to the genre. Those who grasp its importance may also enjoy Midgley's "Darwinism as a Religion" and Polanyi's "Science, Faith, and Society." Like Stove, but with less humour, they harangue those (such as Dawkins and Sagan) who publish popular propaganda or religion disguised as science.
Stove highlights how illogical science can be silly or, in the case of neo-Darwinism applied to humankind, insulting. Midgley does that and more--especially by showing how Darwinism's core tenets are held by faith. Polanyi, though, is the scariest of the lot, for he describes (from his experiences of Nazism and Stalinism) how pop evolution has led to the inhumanities of abortion, euthanasia, eugenics and genocide.
When Stove attacks neo-Darwinians' use of purposive language (for, in order to, plan, strategy, etc.), and especially, when he compares it to the language of Intelligent Design, he is very, very good. I've long wondered how unguided natural forces, without the benefits of intent, are supposed to "adapt for" anything. Perhaps most delightful is Stove's description of how the anti-religious Dawkins has ordained himself the high priest of gene worship. At times, Stove takes too long (by, say, 20-30%) saying what he says. His prose is so delightful, though, that I forgive (even welcome) his verbosity.
Reviewers read books. Since "reviewer" John's last sentence points out that he has not read this one, I'm not sure what he was reviewing. If, however, he's looking for "real scientists" (i.e. not philosophers or Christians!) who question neo-Darwinism, he'll find plenty, of all faiths or none, among the hundreds of credentialed academics at [...].
My field (linguistics) intersects with and draws upon acoustics, anatomy, anthropology, cognitive science, evolutionary biology, information theory, literature, physics, statistics, and yes, logic and philosophy, to name just a few. All sciences (which used to be called "natural philosophies") in fact, depend upon philosophy--esp. logic--for their foundational procedures: falsifiability, inference, proof, etc. Stove's arguments and examples show what happens when scientists do without logic: they write hilarious fairytales about selfish genes or flirtatious cabbages. Read Stove, but don't stop there (and don't miss Polanyi or Midgley).