Doubting Darwin

Discussing a trove of fossils unearthed several decades ago in Southern China, paleontologist J. Y. Chen was quite frank about its evidentiary incompatibility with “orthodox” Darwinian theory.

“In China, we can criticize Darwin, but not the government,” he observed. “In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”

That was a political eon ago, in the year 2000. Thanks to the herculean efforts of our ruling class, things have progressed to the point where neither great-uncle Charlie, nor government agents in compliance with wokeocratic principles, may safely be questioned.

Unless one is content to be ostracized by one’s indoctrinated peers, or added to the FBI’s list of probable domestic terrorists.

In Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen Meyer demonstrates why doubting Darwin is worth the hassle. Following his argument, and his example, may inspire us to take similarly courageous stands in other matters where the science of despotism has overtaken the genuine pursuit of truth.

Darwin himself was well aware that the fossil record contradicts his hypothesis that every living species is descended from a common ancestor, by a process combining random variation and the natural selection of the fittest offspring.

If Darwin is right, the geological “books” should provide evidence of a “tree of life,” beginning with fewer and simpler organisms, and branching gradually into the cornucopia of creatures, great and small, with which our planet is teeming today.

Instead, what Darwin saw was a mostly blank canvas, suddenly populated with a host of complex life forms, possessing no apparent ancestors, followed by variations within these larger groupings.

The only solution Darwin could conceive to this problem was to articulate the expectation that, someday, someone would discover the multitude of missing links necessary to render his theory plausible.

As Meyer meticulously documents, precisely the opposite has happened. Subsequent fossil finds have vastly enriched our knowledge of the history of life, but they have only accentuated the fact that Darwin’s map of biological development is drawn upside down.

Amazingly, leading scientists have responded to the mounting evidence against Darwin, not by questioning his hypothesis, much less looking for an alternative to it. Instead, they have doubled down on his claims, inventing ever more elaborate models to explain away the scandalous lack of actual evidence in support of his theory.

Darwin’s Doubt, though critical of Darwin and Neo-Darwinism, reads in part like a sympathetic history of evolutionary theory. This is because Meyer, in true Thomistic form, presents the strongest version of each succeeding theory, before exposing the gaping holes that make one after the other unseaworthy.

It is not only a matter of fossils. The book provides a painstaking review of the nature and function of DNA, as well as the “epigenetic” (non-DNA) sources of information productive of the cells, tissues, organs, and systems constituting the machinery of living organisms.

The upshot of Meyer’s infinitely patient probings is to demonstrate the statistical impossibility of such complex informational systems somehow constructing themselves by random chance; as well as the lack of any concrete and plausible mechanism in the various theories purporting to “prove” that chance could have performed such a myriad of miracles.

As a philosopher of science, Meyer does not shy away from the further question: Why do so many scientists insist on propping up a theory that has collapsed time and again?

The answer, in brief, is that scientists are human, and subject to the same propensity to prejudice and faction as anyone else.

In this case, the faction is that of an ideology that has partly succeeded in colonizing the regnant sectors of scientific societies. In their view, no theory in conflict with “methodological naturalism,” or materialism, is worthy of the name “science.”

In other words, certain persons have decided that science must assume an atheistic stance, whether or not this stance is compatible with that what actual scientists discover about the world.

In truth, one must reply, the meaning of the word science is knowledge; and by extension, the word is properly used to refer to the various methods by which human beings attain knowledge of various aspects of reality.

As Aristotle remarked, the genuinely educated man understands that the method of every science must be suited to the portion of reality on which it focuses.

If it turns out that a given facet of things—for example, the living kingdom—cannot be explained through “methodological naturalism,” then the educated man concludes that methodological naturalism, as sound as it may be for studying bridges and boulders, is unsuitable for advancing our understanding of the origins of biological beings.

Or, as Meyer diplomatically puts it, “philosophers of science generally think it much more important to assess whether a theory is true, or whether the evidence supports it, than whether it should or should not be classified as ‘science.’”

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