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David Stove Against Darwin and Popper, por Patrícia Lança

David Stove Against Darwin and Popper, por Patrícia Lança

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Published by: Causa Liberal on Dec 12, 2011
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David Stove Against Darwin and Popper 
Patrícia LançaVerão de 2001
There is nothing so absurd or incredible that it has not beenasserted by one philosopher or another.
DescartesThereisalwayssomethingimmediatelyenjoyableaboutwatching,listeningtoorreading apparentlyoutrageousattacksonreceivedopinion.Reductioadabsurdumis,afterall,a time-honouredtrickofrhetoric.Theattempteddictatorshipof'politicalcorrectness'nowadays makesthetrickevenmoreliabletowork.Accordingtothose who listened to the lectures of the AustralianphilosopherDavidStove,hewasavirtuosointhegenre.ProfessorMichaelLevin says:'ReadingStoveislikewatchingFredAstairedance.Youdon'twishyouwereFred Astaire, you are just glad to have been around to see him in action'.Thereis,however,aproblemwithridicule,especiallyifwe ourselves have our own reasons fo notlikingitsvictims.Itisliabletoobscuresolidgroundsforcriticismandplayintothecampo theadversarybyprovidingfacile,spuriousordistortedarguments.Thiswouldseemtobethe casewithsome of Stove's writing as exemplified in the two books under review. Not that he isn't worthreading.Hisprovocativestyleissuchastomakemanyreadersstop,thinkand re-examinetheirownpreconceptions.Ontheotherhand,thoseunfamiliarwiththesubject matter,especially among the younger generation, are likely to be seriously misled about some of histargetsandtomistakerhetoricforseriousargument..Stove,whodiedin1994,wasa conservative,ananti-communistanddesperatelyatoddswiththefashionableLeft-wingviews prevalentintheacademy. He taught Philosophy at the University of Sydney for many years and according to his friend and literary executor, James Franklin:“Thelistofwhatheattackedwasalongone, and included, but was certainly not limited to, Arts Faculties, big books, contraception, Darwinism, the Enlightenment,feminism,Freud,theideaofprogress,leftishviewsofallkinds,Marx,[...] metaphysics,modernarchitectureandart,philosophicalidealism,Popper, religion,semiotics,StravinskyandSweden.[...]Also,anythingbeginningwith ‘soc’ (even Socrates got a serve or two).”Twoofthesetargets,amongothers,appearintworecentlypublishedbooksbyStove:
Popper 
 
andDarwininAgainsttheIdolsoftheAge
(1998)while
 AnythingGoes,OriginsoftheCulto Scientific Irrationalism
(Ed. Roger Kimball, 1999) gives Popper pride of place.1
 
Stove against Darwin
InDarwinianFairytales”,thethirdsectionoftheformerbook,Stovefailstopresentthemost cogentargumentsforhiscase.Now,Stoveisnotacreationistand seems to accept Darwinian evolutionarytheoryuptoapoint.Whereheobjectsiswhenitcomestomankindandherehe bringsbiggunstobearontheconceptofthe“survivalofthefittestandnaturalselection.He takes as his premise that the idea of competition for survival in Darwinian theory was inspired byMalthusandismainlyconcernedwiththegettingoffoodandthatthis competition is essentially withineachspeciesratherthanmainly between species. But Darwinism holds that it is the latte kindofcompetitionwhichisthemotorforceofspeciesdifferentiation while it is sexual selection thatisthesignificantfactorwithinaspecies.Humanbeings,Stovebelieves,arenotgenerally subjecttocompetitionforsurvival(despitealltheobviousexceptions)orwewouldnothave hospitals, social security arrangements and other examples of altruism and co-operation.Heoverlooksentirelythatcompetitionforsurvivalinallspeciesis not simply over the getting o foodbut,perhapsmoreimportant,overtheavoidanceofbecomingsomeoneelse'sfood.Afte all,itislikelythatmostorganismswill give first, or at least equal, priority to avoiding being eaten byothersoverhavingamealthemselves.Thispriorityseemsevidencedbythefactthat hunting,eating,digestingandexcretingfollowremarkablysimilarpatternsamongallspecies frominsectsupwards.However,thereallyenormousdifferencesbetweenspeciesarethe stratagems adopted for protection against predators—from butterflies to zebras, from hedgehogstotortoises.Ifwefollowthislineofreasoningthenwehavelittleprobleminapplyingthe Darwinianideaaboutstruggleforsurvivaltomankindandpresentingaltruism,hospitalsand socialsecurityaspartofourprotectivestratagems.Wecanargue,ifweareDarwinians,that physicallyfragile humanoids developed co-operation and communication skills as their means of protection against predators and the elements.StoveinfactleavesDarwinism'smostvulnerableaspectsuntouched.These,persuasively criticizedbyothers,includethemysteryofconsciousness,especiallyhuman self-consciousness,andtheapparentlyinsuperableproblemofhowtherecanbethegradual selectiveevolutionoforganswhichhavesurvivalvalueonlywhenthey are fully developed, the paradigmcasebeingthatoftheeye.Andthisistoleaveoutthetrulyformidablechallengeto Darwinism, whether of the orthodox or neo variety, of recent advances in molecular biology—butperhapsStove'sratherearlydeathexcuseshiminthis latter respect. If we wish to have a go at theweaknessesofDarwinismitwouldbemoreusefultolookatsomeoftheextensiverecent literatureonthesubjectandanaccessibleoverviewofsomeofthemaincriticismsto be found in,forinstance,theworkofRaymondTallis.Whenwehavelookedatthesewecannothelp reachingtheconclusionthatStovesimply did not understand Darwin well enough to criticize his thought and that others have done this more successfully.WhereStove'scritiqueofDarwinismdoeshaveleverage,however,iswhenhesetshissights onthemuch-hyped'selfishgene',popularizedby Dawkins. Here Stove is at his best, mixing wit 2
 
with a perceptive critique.Moretroublingthantheaboveisthesmallerofthesetwobooks.
 AnythingGoes:Origins of the
 
CultofScientificIrrationalism
.It is troubling because irrationalism and relativism in philosophy of 
 
sciencearewidespread,influentialanddeservedissectionandStoveisquiterightinhis denunciationofsomeofthoseresponsible.Heisalsoespeciallyinterestinginhisanalysiso 'howirrationalismaboutscienceismadecredible'whichformsPartOneofthebook.Thetitles ofitstwochaptersareelucidative:'1.Neutralizingsuccesswords'and'2.Sabotaginglogical expressions'.AstheepistemologistSusanHaacksays,Stove'sanalysisofcertainlinguistic devicesusedinsociologyofscienceisgenuinelyilluminating.So,too,arehiscriticismso Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend.
Stove against Popper 
Unfortunately,however,thesethreemusketeersareextendedbyStovetoagangoffour.He seesKarlPopperastheirforerunnerandtheprimeoriginatorofscientificirrationalismfrom whomthesucceedingthreetooktheirinspiration.Bymeansofcaricatureandhighlyselective quotationsStovemakesPopperouttobethevillainofthepiece.This endeavour cannot be left uncriticized,especiallybecauseeachauthorof the respective prefaces to these books appears to accept Stove's grossly unfair caricature with little demur.Itisnoteasyheretoproducearebuttaloftherequiredbrevityortoembarkonaboringly technicalargumentforandagainstPopper'sepistemology,butjusticedoesrequiresome attempttobemade.ItmustfirstbestatedquiteunequivocallythatcertainofPopper's epistemologicalpositions,oncewidelyaccepted,haveinrecentyearscomeunderforceful criticismfrommanyquarters.Likesomanyinnovators,Popperdidtosomeextentbecomea prisonerofhisowncreation,extrapolatingtoofarandclingingsotenaciouslytocertainviews thatthey reached the point of dogma. Nevertheless it is one thing to criticize and quite another tomisrepresent.Venerated by many distinguished practising scientists and immensely popular for many decadesamongtheeducatedgeneralpublic,Popperneverencounteredthesameacceptanceamong professionalphilosophers.Nordidheexpecttodosobecause,apartfromtheirlack of interest inhisspecialspherewhichwasthephilosophy of science, he declared virtual war on what was thentheprevailingschool,namelyphilosophicalanalysis.Hestatedattheoutsetthathewas interestedinthediscussionneitherofdefinitionsnorofmeaning.Whatinterestedhim passionatelywastheproblemofthegrowth of knowledge and he was convinced that the key to itssolutionwastostudythegrowthofscientificknowledge.Ashesaidintheprefaceto 
ObjectiveKnowledge:anEvolutionaryApproach
,“Thephenomenonofhumanknowledgeisno
 
doubt the greatest miracle in our universe.”3

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