Miscellany: Neil Thomas quote from his book on Darwin (General)

by David Turell @, Sunday, August 22, 2021, 14:29 (62 days ago) @ dhw

Darwin's ways of persuading:

https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/rationalist-skeptic-comments-on-the-mani...

"When Darwin makes the attempt to explain the crucial point of The Descent of Man, humankind’s supposed descent from ape-like ancestors, he speculates somewhat vaguely on the question of whence we as a species got our superior brains: “The mental powers of some earlier progenitor of man must have been more highly developed than in any existing ape, before even the most imperfect form of speech could have come into use; but we may confidently believe that the continued use and advancement of this power would have reacted on the mind itself, by enabling and encouraging it to carry on long trains of thought.”

A Just-So Story

"The passage has the disconcerting tone of a just-so story. How, one might legitimately ask, did one ape “happen” to get its superior cognitive capacities? What was the vera causa of its braininess? And how did this cognitive superiority trigger correlated changes in the brain? In the light of present-day scientific advances, these seem like shallow assertions, inadequate to account for what we know about those labyrinthine co-adaptive changes necessary for the process he describes to function effectively.

"On another point, this passage and many others like it would be a gift to linguistic specialists in discourse analysis or to those whose specialty is in the deconstruction of advertising propaganda. Darwin’s reiteration here and elsewhere of the phrase “we may confidently believe” veils the tenuous truth-value of what he proposes, which is finally little better than a guess. This mode of assertion is uncomfortably reminiscent of the wearisomely repeated phrase of the ex-PR-man turned Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron: “Let us be clear” — which you just knew was going to be the rhetorical prelude to his making a partisan point vulnerable to all those objections he was trying to head off.

Nothing New for Darwin

"Such rhetorical legerdemain was nothing new for Darwin. He had recourse to it more than a few times in the Origin. We find it in evidence, for example, where he seeks to persuade us that the eye was not designed but somehow fell into place as the result of a myriad of chance selections over time:"

Comment: His whole book is like this section now that he has been persuaded design is present. What follows in the book is step-by-step speculations about how eyes might have developed.


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