What does that mean?

I keep wondering when I read mails like this:

Science is only an observation of some facts. The nature is so powerful that all that the scientists (of whom I am one) claim to have invented/discovered are virtually nothing. Many great scientists have admitted this. Of course, Charles Darwin had the right to say what he thought was right and his supporters have the right to endorse him. But no one has the right to say that he alone is right or, more important, what the others say or do is wrong.

And, yes! The writer of the letter is called Darwin Albert Raj! And, yes — Hindu did publish this. Another point on the spiral curve!

7 Responses to “What does that mean?”

  1. Akira Says:

    I wonder if Darwin considered Indians closer to the superior white man, or closer to the negros and apes?

    Charles Darwin, in “The Descent of Man”:

    “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes… will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”

  2. Divya Says:

    Dear Guru,

    I found the comment very sane and simple. I am sure a lot of true scientists agree to the comment written. An observation, a coupe of papers on Pubmed, a couple of awards are all good for the scientists CV and some of them indeed good to help the world, still viewing the larger picture of understanding the physical and physiological world a true scienctist would know that what he has done in his entire lifetime might be a tiny step signifying maybe nothing to understanding the whole! So I can completely agree to the comment.

    “And, yes! The writer of the letter is called Darwin Albert Raj! And, yes — Hindu did publish this.” so what did you find amusing? the name of the writer or the fact that Hindu published this! Would like to know…

    Best,
    Divya

  3. Guru Says:

    Dear Divya,

    If you follow my link and find the piece for which this letter is written as a comment/response, you will see that that was about Intelligent Design and Creationism. So, by offering such generic platitudes, the writer is trying to garner support for creationists, without explicitly stating so. Having said that, of course, like I decide to disagree with the letter, you are free to agree with him — that is your personal choice.

    As for your second paragraph, I found one ironical (the first yes), and the other irritating (the second yes), and neither amusing.

    Guru

  4. Divya Says:

    Dear Guru,

    I have nothing personal against the original Hindu article, the response published by Dr. Darwin or your criticism! But I would like to explain the reasons why I thought the origianl hindu editorial piece was not that brilliant and why I could agree more with Darwin, and also why I asked your specification of your last comment.

    I completely understand and stand by the idea of creationism. It requires applause, no doubt. While intelligent design and creationism are unduly important, what is equally or probably more challenging is to accept that someones golden theory is wrong or might be wrong! It takes much more than a scientist to do that. It takes a very strong frame of mind and morale which is these days tougher to find than mere intelligence.

    My reasons for not totally agreeing with the Hindu article:

    There is no denying that Charles Darwin was a genius. Evolution and his idea of evolution are the most prominent among a couple of other appreciative, creative ideas (The Lamarkian theory for example). Darwins theory seems to explain to todays knowledge some common observations. At the same time, it does not explain or even have an idea why some other common observations in nature occur (altruism for an example). While its powerful, its equally lamed too. So while it was perfectly fine that Darwin was celebrated, the way the editorial glorified as if its the ultimate truth is in a scientific viewpoint not very acceptable.

    More specifically, the second paragraph in the editorial quoting James Watson was even more unacceptable from a scientific viewpoint.
    “Thus researchers these days study nerve development in fruit flies, aging in worms, and cancer in mice, knowing that their findings will be applicable to humans too. “…..who says that?? A biologist will never make a drastic statement of that kind. Its well known now that years of scientific research on mice might not be applicable at all in human trials, the reason why less than 1/10th of the drugs discovered get approved. Universal genetic code is nice but the variation within genetic code is stunning even within humans. To say genetic code is universal so Darwins theory is a fact….is like saying cotton ball is white so moon is a huge cotton ball in space.

    Evolution is no longer just a theory. “Evolution is a fact,” proclaims Dr. Watson, “disputed only by those who choose to ignore the evidence, put their common sense on hold and believe instead that unchanging knowledge and wisdom can be reached only by revelation.”
    To speak in such definitive language, that something is a FACT when theory seems to explain only a fraction of the whole is a very immature scientific act. It was infact very surprising for me that James Watson had made the implication that the evidence of evolution was his disovery (genetic code, DNA) and therein it becomes a fact!

    “If Darwin could rise from the grave, he would doubtless be gratified that the magnificent advances made in science since his time have vindicated his theory of evolution…. Darwin would, however, be deeply saddened that despite the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that has accumulated in favour of evolution, opposition from those believing in a fundamentalist biblical view of creation has not abated”. The editor should really speak for himself than for Darwin! There is also a possibility that Darwin might respect another persons view whether fundamentalist/biblical. Science calls something a fact when the idea is proved and the idea completely denies the existence of the other views. We havent come close of any of these options and thereby calling evolution a fact is not a scientific option. James Watson might talk otherwise.

    So while the editorial was good in being open to thinking anew, it dint do a good job on portraying the achievement. While appreciating is nice, glorifying as the ultimate fact was irritating to perhaps many scientists.
    This is the first thought that occured on reading the Hindu editorial to me and quite a few others so I was in agreement to Darwin Albert Raj’s statement and thought he was more creative and open than the original editorial which probably Hindu realised and published the comment. (Its only Hindu which can be this open as well….kudos on that).

    I hope this gave a fair idea on why I thought the comment made sense. I did read and enjoy your other articles. I would have probably not responded if I only saw that you stopped with wondering about such mails. But, the comment on the writers name (ironic!) and making it sound as though it was some irrelevant trash unworthy of being published in Hindu (irritating!) without thinking why it might be relevant, to me sounded rude. I have only tried to justify why I thought it was relevant but Darwin Albert might have different reasons for saying his comment. You opinion is entirely your own but not on a person!

    This was not written with any intension of argument but only with common knowledge that when opinions are made public, public opinions are likely to come your way too.

    Best,
    Divya

  5. Guru Says:

    Dear Divya,

    I am afraid I have to disagree with you on several counts — altruism is one example, at least, where, I know that your statement is false; and, you proclaim that you believe in creationism in the second paragraph while accusing Watson of making wrong claims on how much of observations Darwinian theory can explain — as if, creationism in which you believe in, can explain a much larger fraction — if at all explanation is the word to use. So, with due apologies to you, I still think that it is some irrelevant trash unworthy of publication.

    Guru

  6. Divya Says:

    Dear Guru,

    You dont due any aplogy to me and you completely misunderstood my usage of the the word creationism. I used the word in the same context that you used it….scientific creativity and I did not write anything about my alternative belief to Darwins theory at all. Altruism is not explained by Darwins theory. To quote, Darwin wrote, for example, that the remarkable cooperation that occurs in many social insect colonies was “…one special difficulty, which at first appeared to me to be insuperable, and actually fatal to my whole theory.” I also think that your belief in creativity is hypocritic and self procalimed because if you really believed in it, you would be open to another argument which you definitely arent. I dint write to you to change your opinion about the irrelevent trash but only my viewpoint. You may think it was trash and I may think you are unethically rude. I think you took the message personally than as a professional response, so I think there is no point delving deeper in this conversation.

    • Guru Says:

      Dear Divya,

      I do not think I used the word creationism to mean scientific creativity; if I ever did, it is a mistake that I will correct right away, once you point out the piece in which I did so.

      For a Darwinian explanation of Altruism, please read the wonderful book of Raghavendra Gadagkar called “Survival strategies”. Gadagkar has studied these social insect colonies that you mention in very great detail and is a very lucid writer too.

      As far stopping the discussion here, I agree with you.

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