May 15, 2007


An Idiot’s Guide to Evolution (Stephen Webb, May 15, 2007, First Things)

The dirty Darwinian secret is now out of the closet: If evolution is true, then it must be true about everything. Most Darwinians used to be very restrained about the relevance of their theory for cultural and moral issues, for obvious reasons. If evolution is true about everything, then randomness and competition are the foundations for the highest human ideals as well as the lowest organic life forms. Scientists have trouble enough restricting Darwinism to biology. What if that restriction is unscientific? What parents would want their children being taught that Darwinism explains not only speciation but also altruism?

Some Darwinians take inordinate glee at the prospects for a thoroughly Darwinized curriculum and the wreckage it would cause for traditional moral and religious beliefs. Others are eager to persuade us that Darwinian imperialism would be good for us. David Sloan Wilson, distinguished professor of biology at Binghamton University, falls into the second camp. In Evolution for Everyone (2007), he laments the specializations in higher education that keep Darwin’s theory from being applied to every field of knowledge. He is, he says, an “evolutionist without any qualifiers.” This might sound threatening, but he reassures his readers that “the basic principles are easy to learn,” and indeed they are. You pick an object or agent, whether individual, social, or culture, and you ask how it is has changed in a given situation. Then you try to figure out what advantage it gained by changing. “Just about anyone,” he enthuses, “can become an evolutionist by learning to think like Darwin.”

Truer words were never spoken--all it takes to be a Darwinist is the mind of a mid-19th Century white British male.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 15, 2007 12:00 AM

If evolution is true, then it must be true about everything.

Er, well, no. Many things are profoundly true at at some levels and irrelevant/false at others: quantum effects are very true at the subatomic level, but can be ignored when you're cooking dinner. Eyes and light and darkness and color are crucial to human life and culture, but mean little or nothing to a quark. Evolution is clearly true at some level(s), but few think it explains orbital mechanics or chemistry, much less "everything."

And only the cartoon "Darwinists" of fevered imaginations believe that the only "foundations for the highest human ideals" are "randomness and competition." Everyone acknowledges that there's a lot more to it than that.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 15, 2007 11:19 PM


No, they can't. That's what y'all have to keep telling yourselves lest your ideology collpase. But physics is a science and has laws.

Darwinism is a philosophy and has none. That's why Mayr wouldn't call it a science.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2007 6:35 AM

Of course "Darwinism" isn't "a science", any more than relativity is. But it's valid and a major part of biology, just as relativity is a part of physics, and will remain so despite your constant claims that it is "collapsing."

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 16, 2007 10:42 AM

Relativity was likewise just an effect of the ideology of the period. But we'll give you points for conceding Darwinism isn't science.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2007 12:19 PM

So you think relativity is collapsing as well?! Man, you are one wacky dude....

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 16, 2007 10:37 PM

Einstein recognized that it had collapsed, which is why he couldn't be reconciled to quantum physics.

Posted by: oj at May 17, 2007 6:59 AM