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    Evolution != Religion Essay

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    Religion has no place in a discussion about evolution. A subject that defies reason cannot be matched by a subject that justifies it; nor can it be said that reason can be applied when its very core defies it. If you suggest that since there are no facts illustrating the veracity of evolution, you insist that evolution must be a flawed, dogmatic theory that doesn’t describe the world we live in. The inductivist conception of science, however, has many problems. Popper’s critique emphasized two points. The principle of induction, as formulated by Russell, stated that whenever A is found to be associated with a thing B, the greater number of cases in which A and B are associated, the greater the probability that they will be associated in a new case in which A is known to be present.

    Hence, if we knew a sufficient number of cases, we could approximate certainty as the probability approaches 1. The problem, of course, is how the principle of induction is itself justified, and Popper went to great lengths to make this point. In other words, Popper argued that there are no such things as inductive inferences. Popper also advanced the thesis against the Baconian idea that sound science only interprets data and doesn’t make “anticipations” or guesses before or beyond the data. Popper argued that scientists do in fact make conjectures, and then put them under the highest scrutiny possible. While a pure falsificationist account isn’t a good description of the scientific enterprise, it should give us pause before embracing inductivist accounts.

    Inductivism is also loosely tied to verificationist theories of meaning, which are also problem-ridden compared to competing theories. Darwin’s theory, loosely put, explains why changes occur in nature concerning biological organisms. When Darwin formulated his theory, he didn’t know the details of how genes are passed from generation to generation, for instance. Philosophically Darwin is extremely significant, for his explanation dropped prescriptive language of types and essences and reformulated biology in terms of statistics and probability, which is predictive. Under the Darwinian conception of nature, as Louis Menand notes, “Relations will be more important than categories; functions, which are variable, will be more important than purposes, which are fixed in advance; transitions will be more important than boundaries; sequences will be more important than hierarchies.

    ” (The Metaphysical Club, pg. 124) In other words, one is still making generalizations about the world, but like Smith’s invisible hand, the nature of explanation is placed in a relational and probabilistic domain. There was still debate between whether process was ritualistic or mechanical, as the dominance of Bergson early in the last century demonstrated. But Crick and Watson’s significant discoveries in the middle of the last century severely damaged vitalist conceptions of nature, perhaps beyond repair.

    Lastly, I’m surprised that people actually try to falsify evolution. Theories historically aren’t falsified, they are replaced, or more often merely modified. The drivers for such a process usually include the values of simplicity, explanatory efficacy, and coherence. If one comes across an apparent or real anomaly or a contradiction in physics, for instance, as was the precession of the perihelion of Mercury for hundreds of years, we do not junk the entire theory (gravitation in this case). I see no reason why this shouldn’t apply to biology/evolution, especially when there is no existing theory that is a suitable replacement.

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