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« Wow! | Main | God Drops Out of the Math »

Friday, 02 May 2008

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Noumena

But if taken more generally, it's just analytic, that is, true in virtue of the meanings of the constituent terms.

This is one of the longstanding phil bio problems: how do you state natural selection in such a way that it's not analytic?

Dembski knows that it is Social Darwinism, or something like it, that may have provided some of the underpinnings of Nazism. But Social Darwinism bears no interesting connection to current evolutionary theory, ID, or Charles Darwin's own theory.

Is `is a horrible distortion of' an interesting connection? Because Spencer's `Social Darwinism' does bear that relation to Darwin's theory. Certainly *I* think it's interesting, how natural selection was used to justify late nineteenth century capitalism and imperialism. But then I work on science and values.

Also, `survival of the fittest' is Spencer's phrase, not Darwin's. So if Dembski's exact claim is that the theory of the survival of the fittest is necessary (in a non-trivial sense) for Nazism, then this is true. But then your point above applies. And I don't think Dembski is smart enough to grasp the subtle differences between actual biologists and Herbert Spencer anyways.

PS Does Typepad have a convenient RSS/Atom feed option? If so, could you turn it on? Or, if it is on, could you point me to the link? A search of the page didn't turn up anything.

Noumena

Oh, and small quibble: you briefly equivocate between logical/analytic and necessary truths. At best, you infer necessity from analyticity, and this has the effect of collapsing modality (under reasonable assumptions that I have no reason to think you reject). More here.

Scott

Dan,

First, I don't come close to equivocating between analyticity and necessity.

Second, while that's an interesting paper you link to, I very much doubt that one JPHIL article will persuade me to reject the entailment from analyticity to necessity. Especially an article that begins like this:

"To argue for these consequences in a philosophically neutral way, we shall suppose that interpreted sentences, rather than propositions, are the bearers of truth."

Third, I'm not sure what this quotation of yours is supposed to be a response to: "Also, `survival of the fittest' is Spencer's phrase, not Darwin's."

Finally, I don't think "a horrible distortion of" is an interesting connection. Everything theory is a horrible distortion of some other theory.

P.S. The feed link is at the bottom of the left column.

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