Recently I discovered Jean Staune‘s paper « »Darwinism Design and Purpose: A European Perspective » (pdf, direct download) », a review of european perspectives of anti-darwinians. A quite interesting piece of literature. According to the classification of evolutionists proposed, I’m a strong darwinist. I wasn’t aware of that, I simply considered being some kind of moderated neo-darwinist. Moderated because I always keep in mind that scientific theories are by definition different from Absolute Truth and often require slight adjustments and some times fundamental changes, neo-darwinist because many things changed since the formulation of the evolution theory by Darwin.
Jean Staune cites about 50 persons in his paper, from Aristote to Jonathan Wells! [alphabetical, I hope I haven’t forgotten somebody]:
(1) Aristote, (2) Bethell Tom, (3) Cairns John, (4) Chaline Jean, (5) Chandebois Rosine, (6) Chauvin Remy, (7) Clayton Philip, (8) Conway Morris Simon, (9) Dambricourt Anne, (10) Darwin, (11) Davies Paul, (12) Dawkins Richard, (13) de Duve Christian,(14) Deacon Terrance, (15) Dennett Daniel, (16) Denton Michael, (17) Dorst Jean, (18) Einstein, (19) Eldredge Niels, (20) Fadden JohnJoeMac, (21) Fondi Roberto, (22) Goodwin Brian, (23) Grassé PierrePaul, (24) Gregersen Niels, (25) Grou Pierre, (26) Ho Mae-Wan, (27) Jay Gould Stephen, (28) John Paul II, (29) Kauffman Stuart, (30) Keynes Milton, (31) Kuhn Thomas, (32) Lamarck, (33) Lewontin Richard, (34) Marty (Cardinal), (35) Miller Kenneth, (36) Newton, (37) Nottale Laurent, (38) Ortoli Sven, (39) Paldi Andras, (40) Perrier Pierre, (41) Pharabod Jean-Pierre, (42) Ruse Michael, (43) Schutzenberger MarcelPaul, (44) Sermonti Giuseppe, (45) Shafer Lothar, (46) Steele, (47) Teilhard de Chardin Pierre, (48) Varela Francisco, (49) Wegner, (50) Wells Jonathan
giving a nice overview of the discussions between evolutionists.
But the masterpiece of the paper is the anecdotal story making a parallel between our civilization and the one arisen on Pluto, not quite the Pluto we know about, but a fictional twin, where live appeared and evolved up to plutonians, people who developed religion and science.
It’s a quite difficult exercise to create parables. Often heavy biases are present, people trying to « make their point » rather then present objectively an abstract of the field they are referring to, in this case the different approaches of evolution from evolutionists, opposing materialists and supernaturalists.
The story is opposing Dharles Carwin‘s and Dichael Menton‘s, over a Meteorology Theory, trying to make a parallel between Charles Darwin and Michael Denton opposition over the Evolution Theory. If you read it without much attention, he almost « make the point » that Darwin’s theory must be revised. If you read it, it fails to do so. If you give it a critical reading, it almost prove the contrary!
Jean Staune’s bias clearly place him in the supernaturalists’ camp, believing that the evolution theory should include some non-materialistic causation. It’s a perspective eventually worth to be discussed; however, it would be interesting to have more then hypothesis, without clear evidence, to discuss.
Dissecting such anecdotal stories is a nice way to identify what would be the nodes of an eventual discussion. I had the opportunity to practice the same with Bradley Monton‘s hypothetical scenario, used as a basis to show that is possible for science to get evidence for the existence of god. I think he failed to do so, he isn’t a believer of supernatural causations, and that’s clear from the biases in his scenario.
Let’s come back to Jean Staune’s Pluto, and plutonians. For commodity I reproduced below the story, with markers that will make it easy to follow my critics. Take a few minutes to read it before reading the critics.
Let us imagine that the planet Pluto is completely covered by clouds (similar to the conditions on Venus). Life on Pluto exists and evolution gives birth (remarkable phenomenon of convergence, see below!) to beings similar to us but adapted (in the Darwinian sense) to the cold climate which rules there! 
Seeing as how the problem of low temperatures was of extreme importance for the survival of the Plutonians , all religions of Pluto would center on weather : they would pray for thousands of years  to the Gods so that the weather would become warmer . However, one day, 150 years ago (in Earth time), a young Plutonian scientist, Dharles Carwin navigated around the planet Pluto by boat and measured the atmospheric pressure all around its globe. He discovered the existence of cold and hot currents. After his return, he developed a completely revolutionary theory. According to him, alternate cold and hot weather is a totally chaotic phenomenon  related to the clashing of cold and hot air masses. The cold air is not a form of divine punishment and the warm air is not a form of divine reward. This was to become the basis of a new science: meteorology . One century after his death, his disciples, the Carwinian Meteorologists are capable of forecasting weather and especially the temperature three to four days in advance! These extraordinary results provoke on the one hand, the increasing spread of meteorology which is taught in all the schools in Pluto and the collapse of traditional religious systems.
However, the meteorologists’ forecasts are often inaccurate . The fundamentalists who adapt a literal interpretation of the religion of Pluto, in which god controls the climate, take advantage of the situation in order to develop an anti-meteorological school of thought.
For them, the climate evolves automatically in most cases, however the gods intervene regularly in order to orient the climate towards warmer or colder weather. Every time the meteorologists make mis-calculations in their weather forecasts, it is the gods intervening who have modified the climate!
The meteorologists vehemently retort that in fact this sort of conception is backwards and indeed absurd. Over the years, they improve their predictions which proves that it is the imperfection of their data collection methods and data-analysis techniques which explains their frequent setbacks in their forecasts and not divine intervention. The debate provokes outrage between the anti-meteorologists who have influential contacts outside the scientific world and requests for ‘equal time’ for the spreading or teaching of their conceptions in schools and the scientists who violently oppose, stating that such an idea would be a terrible cultural regression.
One day, a meteorologist with a reputation for being eccentric, Dichael Menton  remarks that on average the climate was even colder 200 years ago (this is the equivalent of 200 Earth years) on Pluto than now. He publishes a book in which he affirms that unknown forces coordinate the climate in the long term and that the Carwinian meteorologists cannot explain this because their processes rely on chaos and chance. Therefore, for him, the Carwinians may explain the evolution of weather only within a short period of time.
Immediately, he is denounced as a heretic  by the Carwinians. To speak of unknown forces (that Menton is incapable of explaining) is a return to the pre-scientific age and this reinforces the anti-meteorologists and their absurd doctrines, the Carwinians say.
As meteorlogic data has not existed in Pluto for more than the equivalent of 200 Earth years , it will take a very long time (the equivalent of 500 Earth years) before the notion of “Mentonian cycles” begins to be taken seriously. There are surely some periods of warm weather on Pluto during a period equivalent to 250 Earth years. Non-Carwinian Meteorologic schools of thought each develop their own theories as to what can cause such cycles. However, the Carwinians have the upper hand after the equivalent of 500 Earth years. They affirm with conviction that none of the non-Carwinian schools of thought have furnished a credible idea concerning the origin of cycles, and that the observed cycles may simply be due to chance. They develop an arsenal of computerized simulations in order to give credence to all this (as they have infinitely more money and sophisticated equipment to conduct research than the non-Carwinians.)
They still successfully oppose the teachings of the conceptions of non-Carwinian meteorology, which affirms that the ‘internal forces’ in Pluto control the climate in the long term as they oppose (and rightfully so!) the teachings of anti-meteorologist conceptions based on the notion that the climate is under the daily control of the gods.
We know well the answer to the riddle: Pluto’s revolution around the sun takes 256 years. What the Plutonian are trying to figure out is the notion of the “season”. However, how do you think they will arrive at this point while they have not the slightest clue that a whole other universe exists outside of their own, that they have never seen the Sun or a star, that the difference of average temperatures between summer and winter are very slight and separated by a time which exceeds the average human life? 
One will have to wait until the Plutonians construct a machine that explores the clouds . If they could look through them they would have an incredible shock, the same Humanity had to face when it passed from a conception of a small world centered on the Earth to a world containing billions of galaxies with each of them containing billions of stars.
The conceptions of materialists, as the conceptions of the believers of Pluto would be devastated and would have to be thoroughly revised. This would not be done to the detriment of religion. For example, the discovery of the universe prompted the scientists of Pluto to discover the Big Bang theory and the anthropic principle and therefore pose the question anew of the existence of God and His actions in the world but in a way that is infinitely subtler than the “non-meteorologists”.
But one thing would be for sure: the Carwinian meteorologists on Pluto will appear retrospectively as obscurantist; they would want to fight against obscurantism by avoiding their society from returning to pre-Carwinian conceptions and would have kept back several centuries of progress in scientific knowledge of the Plutonians. What a paradox for those who with the invention of meteorology, were at the helm of an essential progress in the life of the Plutonians!
In fact their error is similar to that made on the Earth by those who ridiculed the idea of the continental drift of Wegner  (and by certain creationists who reject the notion of evolution on the pretext that the Darwinians did not furnish a mechanism sufficiently convincing to explain it). It is not because we do not have a mechanism to explain a fact that we must negate its existence or at the very least the probability of its existence.
To a certain extent, the ‘Carwinians’ of Pluto were good scientists, however they stayed stagnant and locked into their enclave of reductionists attitudes implying that the causes of changes that they observed in the short term were the same as the causes of changes which were produced on a larger scale of time.
Of course, my story does not concern Pluto!
In the first paragraph Pluto is presented . Cloudy planet, always cloudy, that means no way to see the stars from the ground. And make high altitudes aviation quite important for the plutonians cosmology. There would be a pre and post first-over-clouds-flight periods in plutonian history. Imagine the shock of the first plutonian discovering a view of the universe: « Whaou, there is some kind of special clouds up there, far away, with lights on/in them! »; I’ll be back to that later.
Staune make an assumption that is quite darwinian/non-darwinian: that evolution produced « beings similar to us » (non-darwinian), « but adapted to the cold climate which rules there » (darwinian). From each approach he use a part producing a hybrid biosphere. Let’s keep it that way, remembering that plutonians are well adapted by the darwinian perspective, and belong in a biosphere much similar to ours, as per non-darwinian expectations.
But Staune assume that plutonians aren’t as well adapted to low temperature: « low temperatures was of extreme importance for the survival! » Warm wether seems to be a central problem, of such importance that religions  should be weather centered. That’ s quite weird for well adapted organisms. Another assumption is that plutonians, clergy and people, would pray for thousands  of years gods for warm. I would understand prayers for favorable condition for exceptional harvests, at least good ones, to avoid famine. But warmer weather ? Would you imagine prayers for a global warming of the Earth? Inducing massive species extinction? Threatening our own species? No, way.
There is another interesting point to consider here. The fact that for thousand of years the clergy observed the weather. You do remember that they aren’t able to see above clouds, and Pluto is far away from Sun. That means no day/night succession for plutonians! That would make periodical to be some kind of special word for them. And if priests observe the weather for thousands of years and something periodical is observable, say « seasons » every 256 Earth’s years, despite the distance between Pluto and the Sun, they would be the first to describe it. A divine presence evidence, much like sun gods in Earth (day period), or even more obscure ones as Persephone (year period) or even greater ones, observations at the basement of astronomy/astrology in Earth. Let’s assume that plutonian clergy are not of the clever kind and that plutonian mystics aren’t concerned about periodic phenomena. So they are unaware of « seasons ».
At some point of the plutonian history, a young scientist (which means that the plutonian civilization did developed science), discovers that there are physical reasons to think that the weather may be predictable, from data concerning temperatures and pressures, exploited through some mathematical model. And that made Dharles Carwin’s Meteorology . You do need some mathematical model for weather prediction, don’t you? That means you assume that the climatic variations aren’t totally chaotic , but obeys physical laws rather then gods will. There are several points here.
First of all, let’s consider that plutonians invented scineces. Quite important. What would be the main sciences in Pluto? Physics and mathematics certainly as those are necessary for Meteorology. Biology and plutology (geology) probably as they have a restrained field of observation (those clouds again) and is quite probable that the main heat source is the planet’s radiation. Let’s keep plutology in mind.
Next, if you build some mathematical model to predict weather variations it would be a weak one initially . You don’t have a lot of data. You should look to gather the maximum available. By any means, you wouldn’t like to wait for several life times to improve your model. One way would be to be interested on paleometeorology, using plutological findings to consider how the climate behaved in the past. Assuming that there are periodical changes on Pluto that would be the simplest way to find about them. And paleo/meteorologists would be in the front row. Much as the climatic changes over eras much larger then a few thousands of years were described by their homologs in Earth. And that would strengthen their position against the anti-meteorological school of thought . By the way, if there are « seasons » on Pluto they should be clearly visible in those data.
And that’s the end of the parallel between Earth and Pluto as Jean Staune would like to present it. Because the next step in his demonstration is Dichael Menton , who discovers the « Mentonian cycles », based on the assumption that meteorologic data has not existed in Pluto for more than the equivalent of 200 Earth years  and is considered as an heretic . Now, if he really provide evidence based on data, even if those are quite astonishing, the scientific community would accept them sooner or later. Probably later, when evidence will be strong enough. But they will be accepted as scientific ones. The case is relatively easy because it’s about a periodic phenomenon and paleoplutology should be of great help, a much easier case then for geology to confirm the continental drift. Jean Staune assumes that plutonians should know about the universe before being able to consider « seasons » . That’s not necessary, they have everything they need for that, at ground level and below. No need to wait until clouds and above (other parts of the universe) are explored .
Let me consider now the above-the-clouds-period of plutonian civilization. Universe’s observation would be much harder for plutonians. They cant’s just sit back and look at the stars, and dream about Martians, or whatever the name would be. They can’t even gather a lot of data about stars the easy way, a flight would be necessary each time. They probably describe the universe surrounding Pluto some day, because now they would have to consider days and nights in respect of the planets revolution around itself. But that will take some time to do so, much more time than it will be necessary for paleoplutologists and meteorologists to confirm « seasons » from local data. And nothing will come to contradict meteorologists, Dichael Menton is one of them, the very same way Wegner  is a geologist. The meteorological model will need to be rebuilt to include new features, and the causes that will explain « seasons »; causes that are natural ones.
There is no need for it to include supernatural causation, and that’s the most important point that differentiate the anecdotal story from what happens on planet Earth between darwinist and anti-darwinists. By all means ‘Carwinians’ of Pluto were good scientists and Dichael Menton was one of them, at least the way Jean Staune present him, basing the explanation of it’s observations in some unknown force certainly, but providing scientific evidence. Unknown forces were often used in Earth’s science. The most interesting case in my mental notebook is quite european. Radioactivity. An unknown source of energy, scientifically documented by Pierre et Marie Curie; and that was a Nobel prize occasion. Because once the description is made the force becomes known 😉 Even if you haven’t figured yet how it works, all you need is time for the job to be done.
If you don’t remember the case go and read about it.
Let me summarize:
Both Carwin and Menton are (or acting as) materialists, nothing distinguish them here. The difference comes from the fact that Menton worked with much more data in hand. And Menton don’t need any supernatural forces to be concerned to explain « seasons ».
The evolution of meteorology as science is presented without taking in account the development of other scientific branches, including plutology, which may be a source of data for Menton before the above-the-clouds-period of plutonian civilization.
A meteorology model allowing weather predictions couldn’t be based on completely chaotic behavior. It would at most be a descriptive model and meteorologists would be eager to find physical laws improving it, even if those were based on yet unknown forces. We found here, not clearly expressed but present, the distinction between micro- and macro-: micrometeorology allowing short term predictions and macrometeorology for long term predictions. This is a clear analog to micro- and macro-evolution, a distinction made by non-darwinians. What is interesting is that the integration of both micro- and macro-mechanisms of plutonian meteorology don’t need supernatural/archetypal forces to be implied. And this is the strict reading of Jean Staune’s story, not some interpretation. He fails to « make his point » just here. One could accept everything else in his story and just stop for a moment here. Jean Staune say at page 17 of his paper, in conclusions (my emphasis):
But we can guess that like the Big Bang theory in comparison to the theories which preceded it, or like quantum physics in relation to classical physics, this new theory will, without proving the existence of a ‘designer’, be much more compatible with a non-materialist conception of the world than Darwinism.
Menton’s contribution in the Meteorological Theory made it much more materialistic, with a better mechanistic model. Nothing like what Denton would like to produce in Evolution Theory. But probably Jean Staune is right, and at long term Denton will contribute to improve the Darwinian Theory.
Plutonians aren’t quite well adapted if ‘temperature is central for their religions’, despite the fact that the climatic changes on Pluto are ‘very slight’. from a darwinian perspective one would expect temperature’ very slight variations to be a second order preoccupation for well adapted organisms. If any preoccupation at all.
And finally, I suspect that plutonians would be quite different from us, even assuming convergent evolution (which I don’t), as the environment is quite different: no day/night occurrences, higher then life-span seasons, lower temperatures which will affect what common chemical reactions will be etc. I cant’ even imagine a carbon based life form on Pluto.