Monday, March 22, 2010

The Guardian Backpeddles

In the wake of Oliver Burkeman's ill-advised editorial in the Guardian, which was taken to the cleaners by Jerry Coyne and others, Adam Rutherford, one of the editors of Nature, has written a piece critiquing Burkeman's piece. Rutherford's tag line is appropos:
The media love to give undue coverage to flimsy attacks on evolutionary science. And leave others to clean up the mess.
Indeed. He continues:
Of course, there are plenty of things that Darwin got wrong. That is the nature of science, and indeed good scientists love to be wrong. It means that the theory will subsequently be refined to be more right. Darwin knew, as does every subsequent evolutionary biologist, that natural selection is the major, but not the only contributing factor to evolution.

Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini seem oblivious to this. They base their whole argument on either misunderstanding what real evolutionary biologists think, or by simply ignoring it. They describe processes in evolution that are easy to understand and are part of evolutionary theory, and quote them as a means to knock down that exact same theory. Repeating and enhancing these brainwrongs so elegantly, as Burkeman does, simply makes matters worse.
Burkeman's article, and the book from which he quotes, are just more in a long line of books and articles that are written about evolution by non-evolutionary biologists or non-palaeontologists who have no familiarity with either the data or the theory and are more interested in making names for themselves than getting the facts straight. Between nonsense like this and that created by the Discovery Institute, it is hard to know which mess to clean up first!

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