Atheist Billboard Campaign Launched

ariane-sherine-001

A message from the same people behind the atheist bus campaign: Children should be free to choose which belief system they want to belong to.


Modernizing Darwin’s Seminal Work

darwinCheck out geneticist Steve Jonessummary and update of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in this week’s issue of New Scientist.
As an editorial explains:

In the heart of this issue is a 21st-century version of the founding text of evolutionary thought. Use it to peer inside the brilliant mind of Darwin and to read modern examples of the evidence that demonstrates the argument put forward in The Origin is no longer just a theory (in the colloquial sense). The veracity of Darwin’s thinking shines out with clarity. The long argument is over and, as Darwin himself aptly put it: “There is grandeur in this view of life.”


NOVA Wants to Hear From You

whoswho-iconNOVA has overhauled its Evolution Web site and wants to know what you think about the design, organization, and content. Check it out and then share your feedback.


Phil Kitcher to Nicholas Wade: Evolution Is a “Fact”

gsoeIn case you missed it, here’s the letter that Columbia University philosopher Philip Kitcher sent to The New York Times in response to science reporter Nicholas Wade’s review of Richard Dawkins’ new book:

In his review of The Greatest Show on Earth, Nicholas Wade charges that Richard Dawkins is guilty of a philosophical error. According to Wade, philosophers of science divide scientific propositions into three types—facts, laws and theories—and, contrary to Dawkins’s assertions, evolution, which is plainly a systematic theory, cannot count as a fact. However, contemporary philosophy of science offers a vastly more intricate vocabulary for thinking about the sciences than that presupposed in Wade’s oversimplified taxonomy and in his confused remarks about “absolute truth.” Although philosophers may quarrel with aspects of Dawkins’s arguments on a range of issues, he has a far firmer and more subtle understanding of the philosophical issues than that manifested in Wade’s review.
The crucial point is that, as Dawkins appreciates, the distinction between theory and fact, in philosophical discussions as in everyday speech, can be drawn in two quite distinct ways. On the one hand, theories are conceived as general systems for explanation and prediction, while facts are specific reports about local events and processes. On the other hand, “theory” is used to suggest that there is room for reasonable doubt, whereas “fact” suggests something so amply confirmed by the evidence that it may be accepted without debate.
Opponents of evolution slide from supposing that evolution is a theory, in the first sense, to concluding that it is (only) a theory, in the second. Any such inference is fallacious, in that many systematic approaches to domains of natural phenomena—like the understanding of chemical reactions in terms of atoms and molecules, and the study of heredity in terms of nucleic acids—are so well supported that they count as facts (in the second sense). Many scientists and philosophers who have written about evolution have pointed out that the contemporary theory that descends from Darwin has the same status—it, too, should count as a “fact.” Dawkins is entirely justified in following them.

A batch of other letters from scientists and philosophers (including one from Dan Dennett) have been posted online.

Join the Conversation

Twitter

Twitter Search Feed: @scireltoday