Previously in this series – The Dissent of Man – 3rd epoch
Having banged on in defence of the diversity of ideas in the previous post, I had better turn to the idea behind The Dissent of Man. It is clear that there is a great dissent over our origins. However, since it primarily involves the one, single mechanism that explains our descent with modification from a common ancestor (common as in shared), a.k.a. Common Descent, it not only involves human origins but tends also to involve evolution, per se. And, because that mechanism, “natural selection“, was first fully described by Charles Darwin, it is his name that is most often dragged into the argument.
Darwin was a good scientist: he made detailed observations and cautious interpretations. In contrast, many of the protagonists in the modern debate are more carefree about evidence and substantiation of ideas.
Nonetheless, for once, the devil and god are not in the detail. No amount of sifting through the evidence has made any net difference to date, to the outcome of the debate. Based on that past, nor will it be expected to make any difference in the future. When was the last time you heard that a leading evolutionary scientist or bishop had recanted and defected to the “other side”?
There will always be two principal sides, fortified in their relative positions by a confidence in opinion. At best, people will view and assess all of the data, or as much is humanly possible. At worst, and likely more typical, people will cherry-pick (choose selectively) only the data which supports their arguments.
As an aside, cherry-picking is absolutely the wrong way to proceed in science. In fact, it is exactly the opposite to a good application of the scientific method, and is why it gets condemned whenever it occurs. The basic scientific method follows a standard procedure:
Hypotheses are mooted, built from existing, well-established and accepted understanding of the natural world, and proposed without a priori expectations.
Experiments are constructed to test those hypotheses, even in evolutionary studies: zoology, botany, microbiology, genetics, palaeontology, anthropology are all empirical disciplines.
Finally, the findings are analysed by using unbiased assessment (importantly integrated into the initial experimental design, and not appended, post hoc), to discover whether the original hypothesis holds true, or is dismissed as false.