Ah, New Scientist always jumps gleefully on any idea that combines the words “Darwin” and “wrong.” Remember their “Darwin was wrong” cover a year ago? Well, they’ve befouled themselves again, this time by publishing, without any critical comment, a piece by Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini that is a precis of their upcoming book, What Darwin Got Wrong. I’ve intimated before that this book is not exactly God’s gift to the scientific literature, and will save my comments for an upcoming review. But if you want to see the gist of their argument without having to waste $$ on their book, the New Scientist article is the place to go. Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini’s beef: natural selection, which they find logically flawed and empirically unsupported.
However, the internal evidence to back this imperialistic selectionism strikes us as very thin. Its credibility depends largely on the reflected glamour of natural selection which biology proper is said to legitimise. Accordingly, if natural selection disappears from biology, its offshoots in other fields seem likely to disappear as well. This is an outcome much to be desired since, more often than not, these offshoots have proved to be not just post hoc but ad hoc, crude, reductionist, scientistic rather than scientific, shamelessly self-congratulatory, and so wanting in detail that they are bound to accommodate the data, however that data may turn out. So it really does matter whether natural selection is true.
Fodor, at least, has made a career out of this kind of rhetoric, but as you’ll see from my forthcoming review (and already saw from my critique of his ideas in The London Review of Books), this time his rhetoric is like that of the Wizard of Oz: he’s the little man behind the curtain with a big voice but not much insight.
Read the comments, too—there are lots of them, nearly all critical. This is only the beginning of the drubbing that Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini should expect when their book is judged by scientists and philosophers.
Oh, and shame on New Scientist for printing such misguided puffery. What’s next—articles by Ken Ham and Bill Dembski?