Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Dear, Dear Denyse

Earlier today, we commented on the surprising ability of Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary to channel Harvard Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould from beyond the grave.

Over at her blog, Post-Darwinist, O'Leary makes the astounding claim that "Gould did not credit natural selection with the ability to do very much at all..." he would never have signed the National Center for Science Education's Project Steve statement, claims O'Leary.

O'Leary describes her fantasy post as a developing scandal, and, in true tabloid fashion, breathlessly headlines her credulous post a "Newsflash!" -- demonstrating, we thought, remarkable restraint by limiting herself to just one exclamation point.

Her unimpeachable source? Stuart Pivar, a chemical engineer, described as a "friend" of the now deceased Gould.

Responding to a note from Eugenie Scott, O'Leary writes:

That natural selection is a "major mechanism" may be Scott's view, NCSE's view, and the view of whatever US courts can be got to rule in its favour. And it is certainly Richard Dawkins's view from across the Pond .... but was it Gould's view? His friend says no. The list is named after Steve Gould, not Richard Dawkins.

Red State Rabble admits that, unlike O'Leary, we do not have an unimpeachable source such as Gould's reputed "friend" to rely on for this post, nor can we communicate with Gould now that he is dead.

We were able to look at his testimony in McLean v. Arkansas, available online here, however. Now it may be that Gould has changed his mind now that he is dead. We can't be sure of that. Nevertheless, when he was still with us and acting as the scourge of creationists everywhere -- intelligent design wasn't even a glint in the creationist's eyes back then -- here's what he had to say:

Q: In terms of the evidence, the physical evidence we have observed, you do mention in this article The Peppered Moths, which has been referred to before in this courtroom. Now I want to see if I understand how you view this. Did these moths change color?

A: Evolution changes gene frequencies within populations. What happened in the case of the peppered moths is that before industrial soot blackened the trees around Manchester, that the moths which exist in two different forms, depending on which state of the gene they have, basically peppered and black, with very few black ones, almost all the moths in the population were peppered, when industrial soot blackened the trees in England, there was very strong selection for the first time against peppered moths, which had been virtually invisible against the lighter trees. And there was then for the first time an advantage to the black moths, as we call them, black moths, a few of them. And within fifty years the population consisted almost entirely of black moths, and that's natural selection.

Q: But did the peppered moths reproduce into black moths?

A: No. What happened was what the theory of natural selection predicts would happen, namely, that from a spectrum of variability, which included the peppered moths and black moths, the gene frequencies changed, indeed, the gene from black moths — the gene that produces black colors, excuse me, increased markedly and frequently within the population until virtually all moths were black. [Emphasis added, RSR]

From pages 618-619 of the transcript.

Update: Here's Gould from an article, "Darwinian Fundamentalism" -- well worth reading for those who really want to understand his position on adaptation and natural selection -- in the New York Review of Books (Volume 44, Number 10 · June 12, 1997).
" ...may I state for the record that I (along with all other Darwinian pluralists) do not deny either the existence and central importance of adaptation, or the production of adaptation by natural selection. Yes, eyes are for seeing and feet are for moving. and, yes again, I know of no scientific mechanism other than natural selection with the proven power to build structures of such minently workable design."

Every time RSR thinks we've plumbed the depths of intelligent design foolishness, we stumble across someone such as O'Leary who is determined to prove us wrong.


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