I’m just back from a morning spent in an orientation session for my new Rotary Club – and I’m off this afternoon to visit the studio of a local artist who’s working on a new piece of liturgical furnishing for the Cathedral. But I’ve had this article in my “to-read” pile for the last week, and I finally had time to scan through it.
The question that’s being considered is how closely and/or how appropriate it is to use the scientific method that Newton typifies (versa causa) to judge the validity of the argument that Darwin makes to explain the origin of the species. After a good and helpful review of the question, the author of the essay draws a number of conclusions. This is the one that I find most interesting:
“There are two points which I find striking about this passage. The first has to do with the structure of the debate between Darwin and his critics after the publication of Origin of Species. Most critics aimed their criticisms at the empiricist vera causa argument by attempting to demonstrate that the analogy between artificial selection and natural selection was not very close: the latter is directed and has produced limited change and variety while the latter is not directed and is supposed to have created vast amounts of change and variety. Accordingly, so the argument goes, natural selection cannot have been responsible for producing the data in question since it is not capable of having done so. Darwin, on the other hand, argues that considering the vast amount of consilience [link added – wnk+]. Accordingly, so the argument goes, natural selection must have been capable of producing the data in question since it is actually responsible for the data in question. The two parties are arguing from relatively distinct premises.”