Why do people reject Darwin?
Darwinism is something about which a great deal of interesting discussion could be had, particularly in the context of the general thrust of your site, but there is no point in even beginning the conversation, because on this subject the religious conservatives share a trait with the far left (who are just as religious in their own way): a total refusal to acknowledge any arguments that might address the criticisms they make.
For the far left, it is Bush and the Republicans that are an unmitigated, unrelenting evil, incapable of doing things that may be wrong but seem best given the information and incentives available to them (which is certainly the likeliest explanation for anything that happens in Washington); for the far right, it is a total refusal to understand the probability math and timescale involved in the classic evolutionary model, or to acknowledge any arguments that may call their basic ideas into question.
For instance, the human eye is often suggested as being an object so complex it could not arise by happenstance. A few months back there was a paper by a biologist which started from a simple light-sensitive patch of tissue (which even some single-celled organisms have) and showed how a series of seven simple changes, each one a clear improvement on the previous structures, could result in the essentially modern form of the eye. No leaps involving structures with no clear purpose until the end are required; each development improves the effectiveness of the organ without any crippling impairment. In millions of years of randomly tossing genes together, sooner or later each improvement is bound to happen.
Of course this has not been discussed by any of the people who oppose Darwinism, because they cannot acknowledge it, because there is no answer to it. Similar answers to every conservative criticism of the basic evolutionary process I have ever seen exist, and similarly, they are never directly and honestly addressed.
What does NOT exist in Darwinism is 1) a good, coherent explanation of how life started in the first place, 2) a good, coherent explanation of why at certain points in the geological record there are explosions in variety. That just means the explanation is incomplete (and who knows, maybe the unexplained part DOES involve God pointing his finger and making something happen; but that’s beyond the scope of science). It doesn’t mean that Darwinist theory as it stands DOESN’T apply to much of the history of the development of life, any more than general relativity being unknown in the 1600s meant Newton’s theory of gravity didn’t properly describe how apples fell from trees.
We did not build a technological civilization based on wishing things were true. We found out what was true, and acted on it. This childish fear of Darwinist evolution is something that any resurgent conservative Western culture is going to have to figure out how to deal with if it wants to not share a soul with Islam (which also fears and rejects ideas that threaten its basic ideas).
Your e-mail, with its sweeping prejudicial statements about anti-Darwinians, is proof of how you are ensconced in the closed bubble of thought that you accuse others of being enclosed in. Anti-Darwinians don’t reject Darwinian claims because they are afraid of them. They reject them because they are wildly implausible and unconvincing.
- end of initial entry -
For example, while I haven’t read the article you mention about the eye, I’ve read similar articles making similar claims, and in every case they were embarrassingly lame. The notion that the eye came about through “seven simple changes” is howlingly funny. Suddenly one of the most complex organs in existence is as simple as a child’s erector set! As Ann Coulter points out with devastating effectiveness in the chapter on evolution in Godless, the Darwinians don’t have explanations of Darwinian evolution, and they don’t have experimental proof of Darwinian evolution. They have stories, fables, and scenarios that they have concocted; and they demand that the rest of us accept these fables as established truth, on pain of being branded as know-nothings.
And of course the eye is very simple compared to cellular chemistry, which Darwinians don’t even have the pretense of explaining according to chance mutation.
Finally, given your admission that Darwinism has no explanation of two of the biggest questions of all, how life got started and how there were explosions of biological variety in short spaces of time, most significantly the Cambrian explosion, in which virtually all the animal phyla came into existence in under 10 million years, your continued assertion that anti-Darwinians reject the Darwinian theory because of fear rather than because of the obvious inadequacies of the theory itself becomes unsustainable. To coin a phrase, though the Darwinians don’t realize it yet, we are in the apocalypse of Darwinism.
Yeah. And if the engineers at Boeing tossed nuts, bolts, rotors, sheet metal, copper wire, and computer circuits on the floor and stirred them around for millions of years, surely the result would be a 747.
The writer said that a scientist showed how a complex eye COULD have evolved via seven simple steps. Then he says “We did not build a technological civilization based on wishing things were true.” The Darwinists are the ones wishing things were true. For organisms to evolve from extremely simple to complex, new information has to come from somewhere. How do the Darwinists account for this?
He also states “in millions of years of randomly tossing genes together, sooner or later each improvement is bound to happen.” Yet the Darwinists also claim that the creation model is not testable. Has there ever been a scientific test in which randomness results in improvement? And no, millions more years wouldn’t bring about the desired result.
Reader Egeneticist writes:
As a pro-Western, “right-wing” neo-Darwinist, I find the attacks on Darwinism among the least convincing aspects of your site. It’s not the highest priority for me, but is for others, so you may be interested in a debate/dialogue with the fellow who makes this blog.
The way I see it, it is not that the Darwinian explanation for speciation, etc. must be correct, but that it is, currently, our best explanation and thus has the greatest explanatory power among the theories that exist. It is easy to poke holes in a theory that attempts to explain the greatest questions of all (how life, and the human race, came to be)—it is more difficult to come up with an alternative. The idea that a “spook in the sky” created everything—including extinct species, genetic disorders, and other examples of gross maladaption—seems to me more ludicrous that Darwinism.
Deutsch’s “Fabric of Reality” book is a good resource describing the importance of scientific theories and the power of explanation.
It may well be that Darwinism is wrong. But, I haven’t seen the evidence for that yet. And, certainly, no better explanation that describes reality better than Darwinism. “Intelligent Design” does not fit the bill, since so much of the design is not “intelligent” to begin with….besides, the utter lack of evidence.
And I stand by my previous stated belief of weeks past that many—if not all—anti-Darwinians are motivated by sociopolitical concerns, and not science.
While I don’t want to make ad hominem arguments, I would like to see some intelligent dissection of Darwinism from a critic who is not a religiously, traditionalist-motivated, politicized critic, who wants Darwinism to be wrong.
I don’t want anything re Darwinism, except to understand the truth as best as possible.
It is simply amazing how the Darwinians give themselves away, over and over again.
Egeneticist presents himself as a “moderate,” non-dogmatic neo-Darwinist (or Darwinist for short). But, like “moderate” Islam, his position is a fraud, whether he realizes it or not.
First he claims that he is not saying that Darwinism is true, only that it is the best currently available explanation. Now, that may be the way he sees it, but it’s not the way the main Darwinian spokesmen and the great majority of Darwinians see it and present it. They present Darwinism as the truth, utterly established and unquestionable, and they portray its critics as people who have something wrong with them.
And indeed, almost as soon as he has finished displaying his “moderate” credentials, Egeneticist reveals that he’s not moderate at all. First, he complains about people “poking holes” in the Darwinian theory, as though this is something they should not do. But wait. Didn’t he just say that Darwinism is not the established truth, but only a theory? What’s wrong, then, with poking holes in it? It’s evident that, despite his protestations, he does regard Darwinism as the established truth that must not be questioned.
Then this “moderate, non-dogmatic” Darwinist mocks the notion that a “spook in the sky” created everything. Thus he reduces the very idea of a divine creator to a parody of itself, to a “spook,” a ghost, a weird notion that only odd and ignorant people could possibly believe in. By showing such hostility to religion, he reveals he is no different from the hard line Darwinists that he claims to distinguish himself from. Egeneticist’s good cop has merged with Richard Dawkins’s bad cop.
Then he says, “It may well be that Darwinism is wrong. But, I haven’t seen the evidence for that yet.” This is getting the issue reversed. Since Darwinism is, according to Egeneticist, only a theory, his proper obligation here is to find evidence FOR Darwinism, not to find evidence AGAINST Darwinism. The burden of proof is on the Darwinists, not on their opponents, who, by the way, do not have a theory to prove (since they do not profess to know in any scientific sense how the different forms of life came into being), but who merely say that Darwinism is not and cannot be true.
Then he says: “And I stand by my previous stated belief of weeks past that many—if not all—anti-Darwinians are motivated by sociopolitical concerns, and not science.” Thus Egeneticist declares his utter ignorance of this debate that has raged for decades and indeed for 150 years. Apparently he has no acquaintance with the library of excellent books challenging Darwinism on scientific and rational grounds, beginning with Darwinism Retried and The Neck of the Giraffe (my favorite anti-Darwinian book) to more recent books by Michael Behe and others. Yet, having no knowledge of the other side’s arguments, Egeneticis thinks of himself as a person of superior knowledge on this issue. The combination of ignorance and (poorly disguised) dogmatism demonstrated by Egeneticist and so many other Darwinians marks Darwinism as an irrational belief system, or, as Ann Coulter calls it, a religion.
Also, Egeneticist’s idea that Darwinism must have pride of place because “it is, currently, our best explanation and thus has the greatest explanatory power among the theories that exist” is false. If a theory is wholly unbelievable, then, even if it is the “best available” theory or even the only theory in town, we should not accept it. The shocking, truly scientific truth is that we have no idea how new forms of life came into being. But the believers in science, or rather in scientism, which is science perverted into a religion while still claiming to be science, are unwilling to have the modesty to admit that.
By the way, I am not denying that most anti-Darwinians are religious and have a religious reason to oppose Darwin. But the main anti-Darwinian arguments have been rational and scientific. That the Darwinians impute bad faith to the anti-Darwinians on the basis that the anti-Darwinians believe in God is remarkable, given the fact that the main appeal of Darwinism for the Darwinians themselves is that it gets rid of God, and, in their view, establishes beyond challenge the truth of a Godless universe. Apparently it’s ok for them to have an anti-God belief, which they call science, but it’s not ok for religious believers to oppose this anti-God belief—on scientific grounds. I personally believe that life proceeds from God. But I do not claim my belief to be a scientific explanation, since I have no idea how the creation of life actually occurred. As Aristotle said, each form of knowledge can only deal with the type of questions with which it is suited to deal. Material science cannot answer the question of how life originated, how new life forms came into being, and where the universe came from. These are questions which men can speculate on, but the answers to which are wholly beyond the ability of human intelligence to answer. And that is the idea that the Darwinians cannot endure—that there is a reality beyond matter, and beyond material man.
Bruce B. writes:
I have a question regarding your recent post. Do you find openness to evolutionary theory to be incompatible with Traditionalist Conservatism or Christianity? Please note that I am speaking of openness to, not dogmatic acceptance of, evolutionary theory. Nor am I speaking of the typical impugning of the evolutionary-skeptic’s intelligence or motives by the Darwinists.
I realize Darwinism is probably incompatible with Bible literalism (Genesis specifically), but I am definitely not a Bible literalist.
Modern molecular biology tells us that our bodies are manifestations of patterns of nucleotides. Recognizing this doesn’t have to lead to modern nihilism as long as we understand that we are not merely manifestations of patterns of nucleotides or “bags of chemicals.” Couldn’t a similar thought pattern regarding evolution mitigate the conflict between Darwin and God. Why should Darwin and God be forced into a winner take all battle for our hearts and minds ?
First of all, to avoid any confusion in our own minds, we must be absolutely clear that when we say “evolution” we mean “Darwinian evolution by random mutation and natural selection.” A great problem with this debate is that people start off with the meaning of evolution as Darwinian evolution, then, when Darwinian evolution comes under attack, they shade “evolution” into some general notion of evolution as simply the successive appearance of new and more complex life forms, which no one except creationists denies, and they switch back and forth between these two ideas as suits their convenience at any given moment in the debate. So, the topic here is not evolution per se. It is Darwinian evolution by random mutation and natural selection.
Like many others, influenced by the final “conciliatory” scene of Inherit the Wind, in which Henry Drummond puts both Darwin and the Bible in his brief case and walks out of the courtroom, which made a big impression on me as a boy, I thought for a long time that in some vague way Darwinian theory was compatible with God. Then I realized, thanks to an article by Carol Iannone a few years ago, that they are not compatible. It’s a very simple point that many people find hard to understand: Darwinism says that all the changes that make up evolution initially appear by random chance; but, as Iannone pointed out, if the changes appear by random chance, not directed by any purpose, then God has nothing to do with evolution, period. As I said, this argument is so simple it can be hard to “get.”
In answer to this argument, the people I call Theistic Darwinians argue that since God can do everything, he can somehow direct a Darwinian evolution in which the changes appear randomly. This is stark nonsense. If the changes appear randomly, then by definition there is no purpose guiding them. People come up with various fancy theories to get around this problem, as Stephen Barr did in First Things several months ago, and they are all risible. By definition if something occurs randomly, then it is not being directed by any mind or intelligence. In relation to any given phenomenon, random causation and teleological causation are mutually exclusive.
So there is no reconciliation between Darwin and God. Some Darwinian scientists, such as William Provine, are honest about this fact. But many Darwinian scientists and many Christians are not honest about it or avoid seeing it. Why? It serves the scientists’ purposes by making their position seem less hostile to religion and therefore more acceptable socially. It serves the Christians’ purposes by making Christians seem a respectable part of the modern world, not ignorant reactionaries opposed to science. The Catholic Church is particularly at fault here, being deeply committed to the absurdity of Theistic Darwinianism.
Here is Carol Iannone’s column, Wm. Jennings Bryan was right, which was published of all places in the New York Press.
Here is another excellent, must-read article by Iannone on the dishonesty of Inherit the Wind.
Here is a VFR discussion on evolution where some people are trying to argue that randomness is compatible with divine direction.
Thank you. I grossly underestimated the degree to which you and VFR’s readers had thought about and addressed this topic. I’m relatively new and still discovering all the “hidden gems” at VFR.
Dimitri uses an argument which, as far as I understand it, is similar to Stephen Barr’s argument in First Things
, where he said that random mutations and Theistic guidance could operate together. Dimitri writes:
I believe, the main issue of Darwinism is that evolution is a random process. Therefore, discussion requires understanding the philosophy of random numbers. As far as I understand it, after making random simulations of molecules for several years during my post-doctoral work, random means the following. Suppose there is some event for which we do not know the result (possibly because of our limited knowledge), but if we have many such events, we surely know the average result. As far we don’t have large number of Earths with different evolutions, we cannot definitely claim that the result of evolution is random. Even though each particular mutation is probably random, we cannot claim that the result of many mutations is random. It is quite possible, that the state of the current world is rather predetermined, like the average of many random events.
For those who are not well acquainted with random numbers, here is the example: you throw 1000 coins and if it fall head up, you put it in your pocket. Even though for each particular coin you cannot say whether it will be yours, you can reliably predict that you will have very close to 500 coins at the end.
Dimitri’s implication here seems to be that God has set up the randomness in such a way as to reach a certain result. If that’s the case, then IT’S NOT RANDOM. The suggestion is that God has programmed a set of possibilities, the occurrence of any one of which will be random, and that among those possibilities are possibilities leading to new species. That is not randomness. That is a controlled set of possibilities that have been chosen by an intelligence.
What defines randomness is not that any given event (or genetic mutation) cannot be predicted by an observer; what defines randomness is that the entire process has no direction. If there is overall direction, then the process is not random.
I meant that some people misunderstand the theory of random numbers by assuming that the result of many random events is always random. However, that is not the case. Actually, we cannot say that the outcome is random until we have many different outcomes (different results of evolution in this case). Because the Earth to our present knowledge is unique, we cannot observe many different evolutions, and therefore claim that the result of the evolution is random, is completely scientifically unproven. There is absolutely no evidence for that, only belief of some people.
You’re a bit beyond me here.
Are you saying that a planned result is possible through a random process? That is the position of the Theistic Darwinians. They think that God could set up Darwinian evolution by random mutation and natural selection in such as way as to get worms and spiders and tigers and elm trees and man. Is that what you are saying?
Probably, close to it, though I am not sure. I am not a specialist in Theistic Darwinism. What I say is only that there is no scientific evidence that the result of evolution- the man—is a random outcome. We cannot say, by observing a single process, that it’s outcome is random. Random means one of many.
Forget about Theistic Darwinism—that is simply my term for Christians who believe in Darwin, who say that God could have directed Darwinian evolution.
But I think you are saying more or less what I think you’re saying. You’re saying that there is no proof that the result of evolution is random, even though the process appears to be random. That in fact is the position of the Christian Darwinists. They say that Darwinian evolution, which appears random, could actually have been directed by God to create sheep and dogs and wheat and maple trees and Sophia Loren.
Gary W. writes:
I once believed in the theory of evolution, having been a science major in college. However, I have since opened my mind and began reading books refuting evolution from a scientific view. It’s hard to believe how misled I was by my materialist college professors. Evolution is one of the weakest scientific theories going. I explained why in a recent blog post. I will paste it below. [LA notes: to avoid confusion, I’m assuming that by “evolution” Gary means “Darwinian evolution by random mutation and natural selection.” I underscore that it is essential that we specify what we mean by “evolution,” otherwise it is not clear whether the subject is Darwinian evolution, which is highly controversial or the general idea that life forms succeeded each other over geological eons, which no one except Young-Earth Creationists disputes.]
My background: I am informed on the subject of evolution as I was once a biology major in college, until I realized I was facing starvation upon graduation. I then changed my major to Business and Accounting. Nevertheless, I was thoroughly convinced of the truth of evolution by the time I graduated, and was not particularly troubled by it. I figured the universe and everything in it was made by God, and it wasn’t up to me to dictate to Him how He should go about it.
Below I consider both why I found evolution so believable and why I’ve changed my mind.
1. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Embryos of higher life forms seem to repeat their evolutionary development, starting off as one celled organisms that become a blastula (like a sponge), then a gastrula (simple animals with a tummy) then a fish (with gills, a simple heart, etc) and on until maturity. However, the apparent replay of evolutionary development in an embryo is subjective and based on appearance, not functionality (the so-called gill slits in human embryos have no actual function).
2. Homology. organisms in a class, like mammals, tend to be similar in anatomy and blood and immunities as other organisms in their class, insinuating that they all derived from a common ancestor. This is also subjective and unprovable. If the basic architecture of a bear works well for the bear, why shouldn’t it also work well for another mammal (like a horse)? Evolutionists resort to their own religious or metaphysical arguments in the issue of homology and other aspects of evolution, claiming that if God made the animals they would all be constructed differently. In short, they use their own personal conceptions of God to argue for evolution.
3. Vestigial organs. Unused organs have long been cited as compelling evidence for evolution, like the appendix, hair covering mans’ body, the tail bone or coccyx, the pineal gland, etc. Many organs believed to be vestigial when Darwin was alive have now been found to be functional (the appendix functions as part of the immune system and the coccyx is a fastening point for certain ligaments). This argument in favor of evolution has lost enormous steam since 1859, the date The Origin of Species was published.
4. Irreducible Complexity. Recent arguments against evolution state that complex mechanisms like the human eye could not have evolved, since they are composed of numerous complex structures and systems that are interdependent and necessary for the functionality of the eye. Darwin himself admitted this issue, using the eye as an example, but argued that “counterintuitive observations” shouldn’t be used to refute the theory of evolution, because we can’t always dismiss complex phenomena as impossible based solely on our intuition. (Unless of course, the phenomenon is creationism or God.) Ann Coulter humorously compares the “counter-intuitive” argument to the Marx Brothers, who used to ask, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” Evolutionists live by a double standard in this argument, because they have no problem using their intuition to confirm evolution where there is no testable proof.
5. The fossil record. In college I was most impressed by drawings of various horses that seemed to follow a clear evolutionary path, with simple and small horses with toes developing into larger horses with less toes, until we get to the modern horse with no toes, only one hoof per foot. Lately I have learned that the famous horse drawings were largely mistaken. Many of the horses lived at the same time as the other horses, and when new species appeared in the fossil record, they did so suddenly.
The basic problem with the fossil record is its almost complete absence of any animals that could be considered transitional forms. It does not support the theory of evolution. In fact, when Darwin first published The Origin of Species his biggest critics were not ministers but paleontologists.
6. The Cambrian explosion. In a period of about 5 million years, all of the modern forms of life suddenly appeared with no apparent ancestors or precursors. This is one of the most troubling problems for evolutionists.
7. Evolutionists’ use of metaphysical arguments. Almost all major evolutionary theorists justify the theory as being true only because creation can’t be true. They argue that if God created life, He would have done a better job of it, made different species better adapted to their environments, and would have created the species all at once rather than over millions of years. I mean, what was God doing, tinkering around and experimenting? However, the theory of evolution should not rest on evolutionists’ personal beliefs about God or the nature of God, as these are decidedly unscientific arguments.
8. The cell. The smallest unit of life, the cell, is mind-boggling in its complexity. How it could have somehow developed from a puddle of organic goo definitely strains credulity. Even smaller than a cell, a strand of DNA is very complicated and the same argument applies.
9. The flexibility of the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution has been adapting itself to new facts over the past 150 years. The theory is very adaptable, in that its proponents assume it to be true and so it is bent, scissored and rearranged to explain new facts as they arise.
10. The lack of laboratory evidence. The theory cannot be proven in the laboratory as can other theories; it has no premises or principles that can be demonstrated experimentally, no outcomes that can be predicted and thus proven. The theory of evolution has got to be the shakiest theory in the history of science. It is all built on presupposition and conjecture.
Since I had my “Road to Damascus” moment a week ago and switched sides in this debate, I am doing something I would never have considered only a few months ago: I am reading books that rebut evolution. I am currently reading Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius G. Hunter, a biophysicist. Hunter is one of a growing number of scientists who have grave doubts about the accuracy of Darwin’s theory. Hunter is not sensationalistic nor does he espouse religious views in his book. He merely deals with the major premises of the theory of evolution, the evidence that does exist and the problems with it, and does so in an objective tone. I will read more books on the subject when I finish this one.
What does this all mean to me personally? If evolution didn’t create life on Earth, what natural or supernatural forces did? I can’t answer that because I don’t know, but I do know that my sense of wonder at life has been largely restored.
Gary waits until the very end to tell us that he just changed his mind on this epochal subject one week ago. But he doesn’t tell us how and why this happened.
Gary writes back:
My change of mind was slowly forming in my mind over the past couple of years. My son is very religious and informed me that there are a number of scientists who disbelieve in the theory of evolution. This fact opened my closed mind up just a crack. Then when I read Ann Coulter’s Godless it sprang all the way open. I wouldn’t have read any anti-evolution books before, but I like Ann Coulter and trust her judgment, so I read what she had to say and found it eye-opening. I checked out her arguments by accessing websites that deal with the subject and confirmed that her observations were correct.
So Ann Coulter’s book actually converted a Darwinian to anti-Darwiniaanism. You should write to her and tell her this.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 25, 2006 03:25 PM | Send