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Date: 2004/09/22 15:40:17, Link
Author: Middle St. Man
Hi to all on this board,

I'm new here and have just begun reading your site. I've heard of the YEC and AiG approaches before. But I'm curious as to what is the Post-Modernist Criticism anti-evolutionist approach? Is there a particular practitioner of such an approach to keep an eye out for? Or if you've mentioned something further on your site that I might have missed, please direct me to it.

Hopefully this is the proper section to address this topic as it likely covers socio-political aspects of antievolution.


Middle St

Date: 2004/09/24 02:37:19, Link
Author: Middle St. Man
Let me verify that this question refers to what's written on the page "The Many Faces of Anti-Evolution" and that is found at the very bottom of the page:

Other Antievolutionary Approaches

Post-Modernist Criticism

Realian Antievolution

Hindu Antievolution

By now I've read Mark Vuletic's informative page about criticisms of creationism, but didn't see any reference to the 'post-modern criticism' which is said to be used as an antievolutionary approach. As a semi-philosophical person, I'd like to learn more about it.  

Any references for this question and recent development of anti-evolutionism are welcome.

Middle St.

Date: 2004/09/29 15:02:35, Link
Author: Middle St. Man
Thank you, Wesley Elsberry, for your literature recommendation. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the actual text where I am located but instead read several reviews of it on-line. In this case, I must admit I am a bit confused as to how this represents ‘Post-Modern Criticism as an approach to anti-evolutionism,’ especially since none of the reviews mentioned evolution explicitly. So if you could please make the connection more explicit, since you’ve listed the approach as anti-evolutionary, that would be appreciated.

One review speaks about the “progressive critic of science who systematically mis-reads the nature of scientific work” and alerts us to the idea that “the nub of the matter is whether science is only a discourse.” (review) My guess is that most people don’t doubt that science is ‘more than just a discourse’ and likewise that evolutionary theory is more than just a conversation about the origins of life and humankind. Evolution is said to be (by biologists and many other natural scientists) the best answer currently available to explain the diversity of living things. And as such it is considered an appropriate concept-metaphor to apply to the social and cultural sciences as well; for example, JM Smith, EO Wilson, R Young, W Wimsatt, et al.

A second review calls the book “a devastating critique of the American cult of post-modernism.” (review) Thus, I couldn’t help but think this is yet another book which critiques the idea of post-modernism from a post-modern perspective (circle herm), which really doesn’t help us to get a grip on whether modern (or contemporary) science has obstacles that must be addressed in this new millennium. Of course, there are obstacles and problems with science; evolutionary biology is not (yet) ‘perfect’, by any means. Likewise, however, this reviewer did not mention evolution directly as a pillar of the modern scientific world.

Several other reviewers linked the post-modern critique to the philologian or literary critic Jacques Derrida and his project of deconstructivism, which apparently has been taken up by the so-called ‘American left’. One reviewer claimed this American left has “mounted a savage attack on modern science” and that “every scientist should read this book, if only to be aware of the perversions of science.” It is thus hoped scientists would then be more able to free themselves (from falsehoods) in order to practise good science in the future. However, I thought it was the ‘American right,’ mainly in the form of ‘creation scientists’ and the more recent ‘intelligent design creationists’ who are the predominant anti-evolutionists in the land. Perhaps someone could explain how the American left promotes anti-evolutionism with a post-modern critique.

One final quotation that struck me in summary, though again which has nothing directly to do with evolutionary theory:
“Scientists and skeptics should be productively engaged in these debates about science and society, where there is a real opportunity to contribute to the resolution of some tough questions. Claims about the impossibility of knowledge, or the evils of science, are extravagant, and Higher Superstition succeeds against these extremes. However, this should not obscure our need for critical thought about science as a social activity.” (review)

The authors seem to think that Gross and Levitt have done a good service to staunch defenders of modern science against post-modernism or cognitive relativism, while at the same time noting that the social activity of scientists themselves (i.e. contextual relevance of scientific theory) should be given further consideration in the formulation of scientific hypotheses and future activities. That is, nobody theorizes or practices science in a vacuum.

If I may add one note further about post-modernism: The modern (life) world was governed by the implicit assumption that natural science, its methods and legitimizing criteria, constituted the supreme model for all socially acceptable knowledge, i.e. that which can be unquestionably trusted. On the other hand, the post-modern (life) world posits a situation where a universal arbiter of knowledge is absent or at least more qualified on the grounds that there are now plural approaches to ‘truth’. In this way, modern-age scientists, including evolutionists, are not considered as infallible or inevitably trustworthy in the post-modern age, nor are they as justified in making appeals to ‘scientific truths’ as they once were. Or so the story goes…

At the very least we can say that post-modernism and anti-evolutionism are not synonymous in all cases. Perhaps Wesley or someone else will concur, verify or correct this as it relates to the socio-political aspects of anti-evolution.


Middle St.

Date: 2004/09/29 15:08:17, Link
Author: Middle St. Man
Hi Stirling,

Whoa! O.k., let’s see if I can take a try at what you’re getting at here. I don’t claim to be a postmodernist but am trying to understand the many varieties of postmodernism; if they won’t lead me down a path to nihilism or solipsism or just plain confusion-ism in the process. ;) The connections with evolution and anti-evolution are most interesting.

Logocentrism, the word as philosophical centerpiece – and as a religious text is claimed to be the particular source of truth (or Truth, in non Pilatean or Baconian terms) therefore now in the post-modern mindset it has been de-centered or dislocated.

Yes, o.k. I’m listening and perhaps following you here. And then one could apply that logic to Origin of Species or Descent of Man or Evolution in Action or The Blind Watchmaker or Freedom Evolves…and it would negate their exclusive claims to truth by identifying the situated knowledge claims of the author(s). Yes, and this would count as anti-evolutionary or at least bring theories of evolution and common descent onto an equal playing field with other offerings in the natural, social and political sciences.

O.k. then, I see how that could be considered as anti-evolutionary, simply in promoting a theoretical or even cognitive relativism to the reader or interpreter. Evolution would only be one of several offerings making claims to truth, or at least evolutionary theory makes claims to what counts as socially acceptable knowledge. Everything evolves or nothings evolves; if the theory wins or loses it explanatory power.  

ID as a form of patriarchal hegemony…hmmm, well I didn’t really want to talk about (those other people’s) theories of intelligent design in this thread, so perhaps we could leave that (ontological stuff) for the time being.

I’m curious what you imply by saying that evolutionary biology is ‘one of the central forms of post-modernism’ in the sense that its invention or inception into being ‘the light in which all biology is understood’ was before the modern age had ended (it has ended in some places, if not others, hasn’t it?). I assume you think that preceeding the ‘post-modern’ was the ‘modern’ age and that evolution as ‘discovered’ by Darwin and Wallace, in tune with Spencer and others in the social sciences, is clearly a modern idea.

Yet perhaps it is the ‘process’ ideas associated with evolutionism, i.e. the always-already-something-else-ness of evolution that makes it suitable for appropriation into post-modern culture. Lyotard, Chomsky, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Barthes…all evolutionists – this may be what you’re implying also.

Perhaps I’m way off on what you meant, but thanks for stirring it up nonetheless.

Middle St.

Date: 2005/03/10 17:17:46, Link
Author: Middle St. Man
Let me revisit the issue about postmodernism and anti-evolution, since it is still considered relevant on the informational side of this website.

A few questions come to mind:

Is it possible to be a post-modern evolutionist? That is, if evolution is considered a 'modernist theory,' then a post-modern would by definition be a post-evolutionist.

More generally, do natural scientists often think of themselves as post-modern, even though 'postmodernism' began in such fields as literary theory, architecture and cultural studies? Have natural scientists read Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida, Baudrillard and others in the postmodern genre?

Recognition that natural science is a priviledged perspective, which nonetheless still claims comprehensive appeal to human meaning, purpose and social value would seem to negate an approach to science that still considers evolution as a universalist theory, as T.d. Chardin or D. Dennet may suggest.

Perhaps I've discovered one article that has influenced the views of this website's authors, that being the 2002 article by Patrick West titled "And then there was postmodernism," which can be found at:

"Ultimately, postmodern scientists rest their ideas upon metaphors, not upon what actually happens in science. They assume that just because there is chaos theory, uncertainty and irrational numbers, that science is incomplete, chaotic, relativistic and irrational. As any practising scientist will tell you, this is simply not true."

Somehow it doesn't surprise the reader that a view that claims Heisenberg and Einstein are responsible for postmodern theory, might be the least bit partial or incomprehensive. It almost sounds as if those who do not study evolutionary science are destined to be disenfranchised from higher truths about the world that chemists, biologists, zoologists, ethologists, physicalist philosophers of mind and psychologists may be privy to.

A more straightforward question to ask of Dr. Elsberry or others out there: is there any legitimacy to postmodernist criticisms of evolution?

This would seem to lead a further question: is it possible for anyone to be anti-evolution, post-evolution or simply non-evolution, especially outside of the natural sciences? As a postmodern person by birth and location, I would appreciate any answers to these time-dependant questions.  

Thanks for your input,

M St. M

Date: 2005/04/22 15:04:13, Link
Author: Middle St. Man
What 'russian entertainment web-portals' are u referring to? Does this have something to do with intelligent design and anti-evolution?