Who Remembers The Ptolemaic System?

Remember Ptolemy? He was probably the most sophisticated proponent of the geocentric theory of the universe. He wrote a 13-volume work on the movements of the stars and planets, including mathematical calculations and observations. He synthesized the observations of the ancient world and revolutionized science, establishing the earth-centered paradigm that would dominate science for centuries until the Copernican revolution (although there were always "crack-pots" who believed in a heliocentric universe).
The entire time the Ptolemaic system dominated, scientists kept running up against the problem that the system could not account for observed phenomena. So they kept making little corrections in the system called epicycles. When we read about the Ptolemaic scientists now, they seem to us to be stubborn: why could they not just accept the evidence before their eyes? Didn't they realize how ridiculous it was to keep adding epicycles and epicycles? And the answer is: they didn't. They were products of the Ptolemaic paradigm, and so much of the theory seemed to fit, they just kept thinking, "if we make this one minor correction, everything will fall into place."
I've been doing some reading and discussing with my Philosophy of Science guy (who by the way doesn't do that for a living, it's just an interest). What's become clear to me is that we're on the verge of a paradigm shift in Science, because the best guys working in the field no longer believe in evolution. Nonetheless, some folks cling to it, adding epicycles if you will, because they have no new paradigm to replace it with (or anyway, not one they like to confront). My PoS guy postulated this recently to Tom Bethell, author of The Politically Correct Guide to Science (whose two chapters on evolution I've read in the past two days), and Bethell agrees that's correct. Evolution as a system anyone believes in lives only in our courts and elementary schools, and it only remains to be seen what the new paradigm will be. Intelligent Design has possibilities, although it has to establish itself as a science and break away from people who want to say "God's will" as an explanation for any difficulty. So here's a long but highly interesting excerpt Bethell cites. It's a transcript of a talk given by Colin Patterson, a senior paleontologist at the British Museum, who at the time he gave the talk was chairman of the ichthyology dept. at the National History Museum.

One of the reasons I started taking this anti-evolutionary view, well, let's call it non-evolutionary, was last year I had a sudden realization. For over 20 years I had thought I was working on evolution in some way. One morning I woke up, and something had happened in the night, and it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for twenty years, and there was not one thing I knew about it. That was quite a shock, to learn that one can be misled for so long.

So either there was something wrong with me, or there was something wrong with
evolutionary theory. Naturally I know there's nothing wrong with me. So for the last few weeks, I've tried putting a simple question to various people and groups of people.

The question is: can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, any one thing that you think is true? I tried that question on the geology staff in the Field Museum of Natural History, and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar at the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and then eventually one person said, "Yes, I do know one thing. It ought not to be taught in high school." [Laughter]

Patterson is the author of an introduction to evolution published by the British Museum (prior to his giving this talk). Bethell notes that a reader wrote to inqure why he hadn't included any pictures of direct evolutionary transitions. This was his reply.
You say I should at least "show a photo of the fossil from which each type of organism was derived." I will lay it on the line --there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument. The reason is that statements about ancestry and descent are not applicable in the fossil record. Is Archaeopteryx the ancestor of all birds? Perhaps yes, perhaps no: there is no way of answering the question. It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test.
This is a late conversion, but Bethell is simply devastating. He has his gripes with Intelligent Design, too, but mostly he shows that everything you or I were ever taught about evolution (including the peppered moth experiment and Darwin's finch beaks) is flat-out false (the peppered moths don't land on trees or fly during the day naturally, so by putting them on tress during the day, the experiment comparing them with white moths was making a false comparison. And the photos from your textbook? Falsified. They glued the moths on the trees!). He also show that the experts in the field --not Fundamentalists, and not ID guys, but the Nobel laureates-- are not impressed by evolution anymore, not for some time.
  • Columbia University geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan, who won the Nobel Prize for work on fruit fly chromosomes said in 1925:
For it may appear little more than a truism to state that the individuals that
are the best adapted to survive survive.
  • Speaking at a Darwin Centennial celebration, British geneticist C.H. Waddington said:
    Natural selection, which was at first considered a hypothesis that was in need
    of experimental or observational confirmation, turns out on closer inspection to be a tautology, a statement of an inevitable althoug previously unrecognized relation. It states that the fittest individuals in a population(defined as those which leave most offspring) will leave most offspring.
Again I go back to what I said in my very first post on this subject. The debate roiling in our schools has nothing to do with science, because science has in fact left this debate behind. (Textbooks are always 25 years at least behind the times.) It's a debate over philosophy, with evolution being defended not by scientists, but by those with an ideological commitment to materialism that requires them to keep teaching kids things the experts know not to be so.