The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Over-eager Darwinists

Vox Day has a thing against bullshit, and is fairly good at detecting it. Not long ago he sniffed some of that in Greg Bear's book Darwin's Radio. I actually read this book, thirteen years back, and referred to it here so. . .

Now, I don't remember much of this book, but I do remember that "punctuated equilibrium" was its point. Bear knew, as Stephen Gould knew, that sometimes there are abrupt shifts in the very nature of biotic populations. These "puncture" such equilibria which had, for instance, kept trilobites trundling along for so long with little competition. The problem behind Bear's book is that no-one knows why humans had shifted so quickly from ape to Neanderthal, and (apparently) from Neanderthal to urban civilisation (65,000 years). There exist hypotheses, sure; there always do. But they're not easy to falsify. That means they're not science.

Enter the SF authors. Greg Bear figured that the shift might have been a DNA retrovirus, or whatever the sciency term is. (He'd lifted this notion from the bone fever / fat death in Brian Aldiss's 1980s work.) The problem thus solved, Bear was free to get on with flaming those yokels who hate Darwin. I guess.

Bear's book shows several symptoms of bullshit: the Just So Story, and the abuse delivered upon the deniers. Vox Day, who does not have "dummy" on the list of insults which may be leveled against him, called Bear on his crap.

Which is not to say that Vox Day is wholly right. He has some just-so stories and some abusive comments of his own. Also... nowadays, we can say that some of the genetic traits which make up Modern Man aren't just 65,000 years old. Some of the traits drifted in from Neanderthals and Denisovans. Which means they had many more hundreds of thousands of years up on Modern Man. Divine intervention not so required. Side issue though.

What does matter - as Vox Day points out - is here is unmasked a "hard" SF author peddling Not Even Wrong solutions for problems, and then insulting those people who demand more. Ironically that iconic atheist and liberal, Carl Sagan, was much kinder to science-skeptics in his own novel Contact. Would that Greg Bear had followed Sagan's example.

posted by Zimri on 14:37 | link | 0 comments

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