The Descent of Darwinism
By Bruce Walker
February 16, 2009
Darwin was born two hundred years ago this month. A serious and decent man, Darwin's name has become connected with modern Darwinism. Today the Theory of Evolution of Species by Natural Selection has been mystically elevated from a "Theory" into a "Law," which it is not. As a working theory, evolution by natural selection serves an important scientific purpose. The Ptolemaic Theory of the revolution of heavenly bodies around the Earth also served an important scientific purpose. Both, at the time these theories were proposed, did a fairly good job of explaining how nature works.
When the Ptolemaic Theory was propounded almost nothing was known, beyond observation with the naked eye, about the movement of heavenly bodies. When the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection was propounded, almost nothing was known of the genetics of life. Both theories worked. In a practical sense, both theories provided an effectively, though imperfect, model of how nature operated.
In a theoretical sense, natural selection works. If the most adaptable members of a species are most likely to survive to reproduce, then those members will tend to increase over time and will tend to develop into an evolved species. Yes, but so what? This theory states the obvious. It is also equally obvious that a highly intelligent alien species, as far above us as we are above farm animals, could have guided the process of life on Earth. Lamarckism, the theory in which acquired characteristics are transmitted through generations, also "worked," in a limited sense: Absent knowledge about how genetic characteristics were transmitted, Larmarckism explains evolution.
Darwinian evolution fails for the same reason that other theories fail. Although it could explain how life evolved, it has proven a very weak explanation. Darwinian evolution presumes much about the transfer of genetic characteristics which we now know is false. Darwin (no shame to him) thought heredity operated through a blending of parental traits. He assumed that the human cell was relatively simple. Darwin used the science of his time, and used it well. But hereditary characteristics are not "blended." The cell, the genetic code, and all the mechanics of biology and reproduction which Darwin and his supporters thought was relatively simple is actually fantastically more complex than they had dreamed. Each new twist and turn that science reveals makes the accidental origin of life increasing improbable.
If Darwin could explain a successful mutation (or, rather, a happy coincidence which produces a dozen or so complementary mutations at once) by one hundred consecutive tosses of the dice which each time produced snake eyes, today the mountain of improbability is much higher. The number of consecutive snake eyes which must be rolled is a thousand-fold greater. A theory whose explanation becomes progressively more improbable as scientific knowledge increases ought to lose cachet. Not Darwinism, though.
Darwinism, almost from its inception, began a fencing sword with which enemies of the notion of a Creator could invent their own creation. Social Darwinists defended the cruel conditions of industrial workers by explaining that the survival of the fittest was not simply the practical result, but the moral goal of life. Sanger and Hitler enthusiastically agreed. Bolshevism found in Darwinism the perfect finesse of creation and a model for the future utopia (with all the millions of murders needed to reach this heaven on earth.)
The very real scientific objections of Darwin's theory were ignored. Enemies of Darwinism were discarded as simply religious kooks. Although Ben Stein chronicles well how far totalitarianism has replaced real science in his film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the intellectual and scientific problems with Darwinian evolution were such that Darwin himself had many more worries about his own theory in his final edition of Origin of Species than in his first edition.
Scientists, in far too many cases, simply want to take the place of God or to abolish the idea of God entirely. That is not science: It is rather very human, much skewed, very fragile vanity. Cosmologists once thought that the atheistic idea of an eternal universe made sense. Then the "Big Bang" became a central part of physics. How did the Big Bang begin? No one knows and no one can ever know. We can just make educated guesses. Nature (or God?) has placed an absolute barrier to our knowledge. Quantum mechanics at the subatomic level operates based on probabilities, not absolutes. There are clear, absolute limits to human knowledge which are imposed by science and which have not budged despite the increasing sophistication of mathematical models. Ptolemy would recognize many of these new "scientific explanations." Rather than growing simple, they become increasingly more bizarre, more complex, and more inelegant.
The idea that a Blessed Creator made the universe and guided the creation of life is much more elegant than Darwinism or any other explanation for an operational godless nature. God makes sense. Out of religion came science (not the other way around.) There was a reason for this: God demands a reasoning mind and an orderly universe. Godlessness, by contrast, demands nothing but the banishment of God.
Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.