Darwinism: Science or Philosophy

Chapter 1
Darwinism's Rules of Reasoning

Phillip E. Johnson

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MY STARTING POINT is a book review that Theodosius Dobzhansky published in 1975, critiquing Pierre Grasse's The Evolution of Life.{1} Grasse, an eminent French zoologist, believed in something that he called "evolution." So did Dobzhansky, but when Dobzhansky used that term he meant neo-Darwinism, evolution propelled by random mutation and guided by natural selection. Grasse used the same term to refer to something very different, a poorly understood process of transformation in which one general category (like reptiles) gave rise to another (like mammals), guided by mysterious "internal factors" that seemed to compel many individual lines of descent to converge at a new form of life. Grasse denied emphatically that mutation and selection have the power to create new complex organs or body plans, explaining that the intra-species variation that results from DNA copying errors is mere fluctuation, which never leads to any important innovation. Dobzhansky's famous work with fruitflies was a case in point. According to Grasse,

The genic differences noted between separate populations of the same species that are so often presented as evidence of ongoing evolution are, above all, a case of the adjustment of a population to its habitat and of the effects of genetic drift. The fruitfly (drosophila melanogaster), the favorite pet insect of the geneticists, whose geographical, biotropical, urban, and rural genotypes are now known inside out, seems not to have changed since the remotest times.{2}

Grasse insisted that the defining quality of life is the intelligence encoded in its biochemical systems, an intelligence that cannot be understood solely in terms of its material embodiment The minerals that form a great cathedral do not differ essentially from the same materials in the rocks and quarries of the world; the difference is human intelligence, which adapted them for a given purpose. Similarly,

Any living being possesses an enormous amount of "intelligence," very much more than is necessary to build the most magnificent of cathedrals. Today, this "intelligence" is called information, but it is still the same thing. It is not programmed as in a computer, but rather it is condensed on a molecular scale in the chromosomal DNA or in that of every other organelle in each cell. This "intelligence" is the sine qua non of life. Where does it come from? . . . This is a problem that concerns both biologists and philosophers, and, at present, science seems incapable of solving it.... If to determine the origin of information in a computer is not a false problem, why should the search for the information contained in cellular nuclei be one?{3}

Grasse argued that, due to their uncompromising commitment to materialism, the Darwinists who dominate evolutionary biology have failed to define properly the problem they were trying to solve. The real problem of evolution is to account for the origin of new genetic information, and it is not solved by providing illustrations of the acknowledged capacity of an existing genotype to vary within limits. Darwinists had imposed upon evolutionary theory the dogmatic proposition that variation and innovative evolution are the same process, and then had employed a systematic bias in the interpretation of evidence to support the dogma. Here are some representative judgments from Grasse's introductory chapter:

Through use and abuse of hidden postulates, of bold, often ill-founded extrapolations, a pseudoscience has been created.... Biochemists and biologists who adhere blindly to the Darwinist theory search for results that will be in agreement with their theories.... Assuming that the Darwinian hypothesis is correct, they interpret fossil data according to it; it is only logical that [the data] should confirm it; the premises imply the conclusions.... The deceit is sometimes unconscious, but not always, since some people, owing to their sectarianism, purposely overlook reality and refuse to acknowledge the inadequacies and the falsity of their beliefs.{4}

Dobzhansky's review succinctly summarized Grasse's central thesis:

The book of Pierre P. Grasse is a frontal attack on all kinds of "Darwinism." Its purpose is "to destroy the myth of evolution as a simple, understood, and explained phenomenon," and to show that evolution is a mystery about which little is, and perhaps can be, known.

Grasse was an evolutionist, but his dissent from Darwinism could hardly have been more radical if he had been a creationist. It is not merely that he built a detailed empirical case against the neo-Darwinian picture of evolution. At the philosophical level, he challenged the crucial doctrine of uniformitarianism which holds that processes detectable by our present-day science were also responsible for the great transformations that occurred in the remote past. According to Grasse, evolving species acquire a new store of genetic information through "a phenomenon whose equivalent cannot be seen in the creatures living at the present time (either because it is not there or because we are unable to see it)."{5} Grasse acknowledged that such speculation "arouses the suspicions of many biologists . . . [because] it conjures up visions of the ghost of vitalism or of some mystical power which guides the destiny of living things...." He defended himself from these charges by arguing that the evidence of genetics, zoology, and paleontology refutes the Darwinian theory that random mutation and natural selection were important sources of evolutionary innovation. Given the state of the empirical evidence, to acknowledge the existence of some as yet undiscovered orienting force that guided evolution was merely to face the facts. Grasse even turned the charges of mysticism against his opponents, commenting sarcastically that nothing could be more mystical than the Darwinian view that "nature acts blindly, unintelligently, but by an infinitely benevolent good fortune builds mechanisms so intricate that we have not even finished with analysis of their structure and have not the slightest insight of the physical principles and functioning of some of them."{6}

Dobzhansky disagreed with Grasse fundamentally, but he acknowledged at the outset that his French counterpart knew as much about the scientific evidence regarding animal evolution as anyone in the world. As he put it,

Now one can disagree with Grasse but not ignore him. He is the most distinguished of French zoologists, the editor of the 28 volumes of Traite de Zoologie, author of numerous original investigations, and ex-president of the Academie des Sciences. His knowledge of the living world is encyclopedic.

In short, Grasse had not gone wrong due to ignorance. Then where had he gone wrong? According to Dobzhansky, the problem was that the most distinguished of French zoologists did not understand the rules of scientific reasoning. As Dobzhansky summed up the situation:

The mutation-selection theory attempts, more or less successfully, to make the causes of evolution accessible to reason. The postulate that the evolution is "oriented" by some unknown force explains nothing. This is not to say that the synthetic . . theory has explained everything. Far from this, this theory opens to view a great field which needs investigation. Nothing is easier than to point out that this or that problem is unsolved and puzzling. But to reject what is known, and to appeal to some wonderful future discovery which may explain it all, is contrary to sound scientific method. The sentence with which Grasse ends his book is disturbing: "It is possible that in this domain biology, impotent, yields the floor to metaphysics."

I have begun with the Dobzhansky/Grasse exchange to make the point that whether one believes or disbelieves in Darwinism does not necessarily depend upon how much one knows about the facts of biology. Belief that the various types of plants and animals were created by an extension of the kind of changes Dobzhansky's experiments brought about in fruitflies, is at bottom a question of metaphysics. By metaphysics, I mean nothing more pretentious than the assumptions we all make about just which possibilities are worth considering seriously. For example, Pierre Grasse was willing to consider, and eventually to endorse, the possibility that the so-called "evolution in action" which the neo-Darwinists were observing is merely a variation or fluctuation that is not a source of evolutionary innovation. To put the point in the language used by some contemporary biologists, Grasse proposed to "decouple macroevolution from microevolution." Such proposals have generally floundered on the inability to establish sufficiently credible distinctive macroevolutionary mechanisms. (For example, the widely publicized "new theory" of punctuated equilibrium turned out to be just a gloss upon Ernst Mayr's thoroughly Darwinian theory of peripatric speciation.) What was different about Grasse was that he was willing to give unprejudiced consideration to the possibility that science does not know, and may never know, how new quantities of genetic infommation have come into the world.

From Dobzhansky's viewpoint, prejudice against such a possibility is a virtue, because to accept that kind of limitation would be to give up on science. As he saw it, we already know a lot about how plants and animal populations vary in the everyday world of ecological time. Dog breeders have given us St. Bernards and dachshunds, laboratory experiments have produced monstrous fruitflies, mainland species have differentiated after migrating to offshore islands, and the ratio of dark to light peppered moths in a population changed when the background trees were dark due to industrial air pollution. To be sure, none of these examples demonstrated the kind of innovation that Grasse had in mind. In the absence of a better theory, however, Darwinists consider it reasonable to assume that these variations illustrate the working in ecological time of a grand process that over geological ages created fruitflies and peppered moths and scientific observers in the first place. By making that extrapolation Darwinists create a scientific paradigm that can be fleshed out with further research, and improved. For a critic to suggest the possible existence of some factor outside the paradigm is helpful only if he or she can also propose a research strategy for investigating it. To Dobzhansky, therefore, Grasse's insistence that the sources of new genetic information might not be "accessible to reason" was pointless and harmful to the cause of science.

There is a political and religious dimension to the issues Grasse and Dobzhansky were debating, which must also be considered. To say as Grasse did that, in the domain of creation, "biology, impotent, yields the floor to metaphysics" is to imply something important about the relative cultural authority of biologists and metaphysicians. Whatever that might mean in France, in the United States the scientific establishment has been in conflict over evolution for generations with the advocates of creationism. Although the scientists have won all the legal battles, there are still a lot of creationists around who are very much unconvinced by what the Darwinists are telling them. How many there are depends upon how "creationism" is defined. The most visible creationists are the biblical fundamentalists who believe in a young earth and a creation in six, twenty-four hour days; Darwinists like to give the impression that opposition to what they call "evolution" is confined to this group. In a broader sense, however, a creationist is any person who believes that there is a Creator who brought about the existence of humans for a purpose. In this broad sense, the vast majority of Americans are creationists. According to a 1991 Gallup poll, 47 percent of a national sample agreed with the following statement: "God created mankind in pretty much our present form sometime within the last 10,000 years." Another 40 percent think that "Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man's creation." Only 9 percent of the sample said that they believed in biological evolution as a purposeless process not guided by God.

The evolutionary theory endorsed by the American scientific and educational establishment is of course the creed of the 9 percent, not the God-guided gradual creation of the 40 percent. Persons who endorse a God-guided process of evolution may think that they have reconciled religion and science, but this is an illusion produced by vague terminology. A representative Darwinist statement of "the meaning of evolution" may be found in George Gaylord Simpson's book bearing that title. In the words of Simpson:

Although many details remain to be worked out, it is already evident that all the objective phenomena of the history of life can be explained by purely naturalistic or, in a proper sense of the sometimes abused word, materialistic factors. They are readily explicable on the basis of differential reproduction in populations (the main factor in the modern conception of natural selection) and of the mainly random interplay of the known processes of heredity.... Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.{7}

The prestige of the scientific establishment, and of the intellectual class in general, is heavily committed to the proposition that evolution- as George Gaylord Simpson used the term-is either a fact, or a theory so well supported by evidence that only ignorant or thoroughly unreasonable people refuse to believe it. If the scientists ever had to retreat on this issue, the cultural consequences could be significant. Persons who now have prestigious status as cultural authorities would be discredited, and the political and moral positions they have advocated might be discredited with them. That is the fear of Michael Ruse, author of Darwinism Defended. Ruse proclaims proudly that Darwinism reflects "a strong ideology," and "one to be proud of." According to Ruse, contemporary Darwinians "show a strong liberal commitment" in both their politics and their sexual morality.{8} Advocates of creation, on the other hand, want to restore a "morality based on narrow Biblical lines" with respect to marriage and sexual behavior. Upholding Darwinism is therefore an important way of protecting political liberalism, feminism, and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Ruse concludes his book with these stirring lines "Darwinism has a great past. Let us work to see that it has an even greater future."{9} Such statements are equivalent to the claims of creation-science advocates that to doubt the Genesis account is to open the floodgates for all kinds of immorality. I think that Michael Ruse and Henry Morris are both right to insist that cultural acceptance of Darwinism has important consequences for politics and morality. Recognition of this factor, however, also has important implications for how we should regard Darwinism's rules of reasoning. Are those rules designed to protect a charter of liberty from scientific criticism-criticism that might, wittingly or unwittingly, give aid and comfort to persons who want to deprive the Darwinist establishment of its cultural authority? If physicists were to start to proclaim that the Big Bang has had a wonderful past, and we must all work to see that it has a wonderful future, I am sure we would all lose confidence in their ability to assess objectively the arguments of Big Bang critics.

Darwinism's rules of reasoning not only protect the cultural authority of Darwinists. They also permit Darwinist writers to take the mutation/selection paradigm for granted even when they are describing evidence that directly contradicts it. This feat of intellectual contortionism is strikingly illustrated by Stephen Jay Gould's book, Wonderful Life. Gould's best seller adds a great deal to our knowledge of the "Cambrian explosion," meaning the sudden appearance of the invertebrate animal phyla, without visible ancestors, in the 600 million-year-old rocks of the Cambrian era. Unicellular life had existed for a long time, and some multicellular groups appear in the immediately Precambrian rocks, but nothing can be established as ancestral to the Cambrian animals. As Richard Dawkins described the situation, "It is as though [the Cambrian phyla] were just planted there, without any evolutionary history."{10}

In recent years the mystery has deepened, because it appears that the Cambrian animal groups were far more varied than had been imagined. The more distinct groups that there were in the Cambrian, the more chains of ancestors there ought to have been in the Precambrian. Some remarkable Cambrian fossils found in a Canadian formation known as the Burgess Shale were originally classified in familiar groups. Gould explains that the discoverer of the Burgess Shale fossils, Charles Walcott, tried to "shoehorn" the odd creatures into familiar taxonomic categories because of his predisposition to avoid multiplying the difficulties of what is called the "artifact theory" of the Precambrian fossil record. As Gould explains the problem:

Two different kinds of explanations for the absence of Precambrian ancestors have been debated for more than a century: the artifact theory (they did exist, but the fossil record hasn't preserved them), and the fast-transition theory (they really didn't exist, at least as complex invertebrates easily linked to their descendants, and the evolution of modern anatomical plans occurred with a rapidity that threatens our usual ideas about the stately pace of evolutionary change).

Reclassification of the Burgess Shale fossils has now established some fifteen or twenty species that cannot be related to any known group and therefore constitute distinct and previously unknown phyla. There are also many other species that can fit within an existing phylum but are still remarkably distinct from anything known to exist earlier or later. The general history of animal life is thus a burst of general body plans followed by extinction. Many species exist today which are absent from the rocks of the remote past, but they fit within general taxonomic categories present from the very beginning. Darwinian theory predicts a "cone of increasing diversity," as the first living organism, or first animal species, gradually and continually diversified to create the higher levels of the taxonomic order. The animal fossil record more resembles such a cone turned upside down, with the phyla present at the start and thereafter decreasing. In short, the more we learn about the Cambrian fossils, the more difficult it becomes to see them as the product of Darwinian evolution.

Gould describes the reclassification of the Burgess fossils as the "death knell of the artifact theory'" because it adds so many new groups that appear without Precambrian ancestors.

If evolution could produce ten new Cambrian phyla and then wipe them out just as quickly, then what about the surviving Cambrian groups? Why should they have had a long and honorable Precambrian pedigree? Why should they not have originated just before the Cambrian. as the fossil record, read literally, seems to indicate, and as the fast-transition theory proposes?{11}

A mysterious process that produces dozens of complex animal groups directly from single-celled predecessors, with only some words like "fast-transition" in between, may be called "evolution"-but the term is being used more in the sense of Grasse's heresy than of Dobzhansky's Darwinian orthodoxy. Each of those Cambrian animals contained a variety of immensely complicated organ systems. How can such innovations appear except by the gradual accumulation of micromutations, unless there was some supernatural intervention? It is not only that the Darwinian theory requires a very gradual line of descent from each Cambrian animal group back to its hypothetical single-celled ancestor. Because Darwinian evolution is a purposeless, chance-driven process, which would not proceed directly from a starting point to a destination, there should also be thick bushes of side branches in each line. As Darwin himself put it, if Darwinism is true the Precambrian world must have "swarmed with living creatures" many of which were ancestral to the Cambrian animals. If he really rejects the artifact theory of the Precambrian fossil record, Gould also rejects the Darwinian theory of evolution.{12}

Readers familiar with Gould's writings know that he has at times expressed great skepticism concerning the neo-Darwinian theory that Dobzhansky proclaimed so confidently. In a paper published in Paleobiology in 1980, Gould wrote that, although he had been "beguiled" by the unifying power of neo-Darwinism when he studied it as a graduate student in the 1960s, the weight of the evidence has since driven him to the reluctant conclusion that neo-Darwinism "as a general proposition, is effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy."{13} In place of the dead orthodoxy Gould predicted the emergence of a new macroevolutionary theory based on the views of geneticist Richard Goldschmidt, another heretic whose views were every bit as obnoxious to Darwinists as those of Grasse. The new theory did not arrive as predicted, however, and Gould subsequently seems to have heeded Dobzhansky's admonition: if you can't improve on the mutation/selection mechanism, don't trash it in public.

For whatever reason, Gould did not point out to his readers that the utterly un-Darwinian Cambrian fossil record provides no support whatever for claims about the role of mutation and selection in the creation of complex animal life, or for metaphysical speculations about the purposelessness of the process that created humans. Instead, he indulged freely in just such speculation himself rightly judging that his audience of intellectuals would accept uncritically his casual assumption of metaphysical naturalism. In the concluding chapter he commented on a Burgess Shale fossil called Pikaia. Walcott classified Pikaia as a worm, but a more recent study concludes that the creature was a member of the phylum Chordata, which includes the subphylum Vertebrata, which includes us. That for Gould means that Pikaia might be our ancestor, which implies that, unlike many other Burgess Shale creatures, it left descendants. If Pikaia had not survived the mass extinctions that killed off so many other Cambrian fossil creatures, we would never have evolved. The existence of humans is therefore not a predictable consequence of evolution, but a never-to-be-repeated accident. Gould concluded this reflection, and the book, with the following sentence:

We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes-one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximum freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way.

Of course absolutely nothing in the Burgess Shale fossils supports Gould's speculation that the universe is indifferent to our sufferings, or discredits the belief that we are responsible to a divine Creator who actively intervened in nature to bring about our existence. On the contrary, the genuine scientific portion of Wonderful Life provides ample grounds for doubting the expansive notions of metaphysical naturalists like Theodosius Dobzhansky and George Gaylord Simpson. But because of Darwinism's rules of reasoning, even anti-Darwinian evidence supports Darwinism.

The statement defining the agenda for this symposium asserts that an a priori commitment to metaphysical naturalism is necessary to support Darwinism. Methodological naturalism- the principle that science can study only the things that are accessible to its instruments and techniques-is not in question. Of course science can study only what science can study. Methodological naturalism becomes metaphysical naturalism only when the limitations of science are taken to be limitations upon reality. If the history of life can involve only those natural and material processes that our science can observe, then either Darwinism or something very much like it simply must be true as a matter of philosophical deduction, regardless of how scanty the evidence may be. Add to this the requirement that critics of a paradigm must propose an alternative-and we have the metaphysical rules of Dobzhansky.

I do not doubt that Darwinian evolution will continue as the reigning paradigm as long as Dobzhansky's metaphysical rules are enforced. To say this is merely to say that the neo-Darwinian synthesis is the most plausible naturalistic and materialistic theory for the development of complex life that is now available. That proposition in turn is virtually a tautology, because the synthesis is a vague and flexible conglomeration that readily incorporates any seemingly non-Darwinian elements-such as the molecular clock or punctuated equilibrium-that appear from time to time.{14} If Dobzhansky makes the rules, Darwinism wins; but what happens if we evaluate the theory by Pierre Grasse's rules? I have argued my position on the evidence at book length in Darwin on Trial, and I will not go over that ground again now. My concern on this occasion is merely to speak about how we can conduct a fair and illuminating discussion of this subject.

I propose that we avoid using the word evolution altogether, or at least that we carefully specify what meaning we have in mind when we do use the term. The problem is that "evolution" has many meanings, some of which are controversial and some of which are not. Nobody, including the creation-scientists, denies that selection by human intelligence can cause a degree of variation, of the kind seen in the breeding of domestic animals or fruitfiles. Nobody denies that mutation and selection have caused variation in nature, as with the varieties of shapes and colors in the famous finches of the Galapagos islands or the shifting ratios of dark and light peppered moths in the midlands of England. As we have seen, Pierre Grasse denied that these observations illustrate "evolution," because they merely bring out the capacity for variation in an existing genotype and do not involve the introduction of new genetic information.

If we are going to discuss this argument, it can only confuse matters to make statements like "The evidence of biogeography provides ample evidence of evolution." Of course it does, but does it illustrate the kind of evolution that nobody disputes or the kind that many of us, including eminent biologists, do dispute? Biogeography does tell us that certain marsupial mammals exist only in Australia, for example. What else does it tell us about the process that created them?

I have found it helpful when discussing Darwinism to speak not of "evolution" but rather of the "blind watchmaker thesis," after the title of the famous book by Richard Dawkins. This book is the outstanding contemporary defense of the part of Darwinism that is really interesting: the claim that natural selection can accomplish wonders of creation, and not merely a degree of diversification. According to Dawkins, "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. "{15} This is essentially what Pierre Grasse had in mind when he compared living organisms to things like cathedrals and computer programs that are designed by human intelligence for a purpose. Of course, Dawkins argues that this appearance is misleading, because the features that appear to have been designed were in fact produced by the purposeless, unintelligent processes of mutation and selection.

Whether this argument is supported by evidence when it is considered without prejudice is the fundamental point at issue. Prejudice enters the discussion if, for example, we define "science" as requiring an a priori assumption of metaphysical naturalism. In that case, the blind watchmaker thesis simply has to be true as a matter of philosophical deduction, and the scientific evidence is relevant only to illustrate a doctrine that we know to be true in advance.

My first proposal is that we should define terms carefully and use them consistently, trying at all times to illuminate points of disagreement rather than to dismiss them with semantic devices, such as the use of argumentative definitions of "evolution" or science.' My second point is that we should give careful consideration to the appropriate role of theological arguments in scientific discussions of Darwinism. I am referring here not to those creationists who invoke the Bible, but to the important role that a theological argument -"God wouldn't have done it this way"-plays in Darwinist apologetics. For example, Stephen Jay Gould's famous argument in The Panda's Thumb takes this form: A proper Creator would not have made the Panda's thumb from a wristbone, or used homologous components in orchids. To quote Gould:

Orchids manufacture their intricate devices from the common components of ordinary flowers, parts usually fitted for very different functions. If God had designed a beautiful machine to reflect his wisdom and power, surely he would not have used a collection of parts generally fashioned for other purposes. Orchids were not made by an ideal engineer; they are jury-rigged from a limited set of available components. Thus, they must have evolved from ordinary flowers.{16}

And of course "evolution" implies the blind watchmaker thesis, which implies that we live in a purposeless cosmos that cares nothing for our sufferings. David Hull makes a similar argument in his review for Nature of Darwin on Trial. On the time-honored theory that the best defense is a good offense, Hull defends the blind watchmaker thesis by attacking the divine creation alternative. The world is full of waste and cruelty: therefore God didn't create it and therefore the blind watchmaker presumably did. I could leave the matter there, but I enjoyed Hull's chamber of horrors so much that I will quote the relevant passage:

What kind of God can one infer from the sort of phenomena epitomized by the species on Darwin's Galapagos islands? The evolutionary process is rife with happenstance, contingency, incredible waste, death, pain and horror. Millions of sperm and ova are produced that never unite to form a zygote. Of the millions of zygotes that are produced, only a few ever reach maturity. On current estimates, 95 per cent of the DNA that an organism contains has no function. Certain organic systems are marvels of engineering; others are little more than contraptions. When the eggs that cuckoos lay in the nests of other birds hatch, the cuckoo chick proceeds to push the eggs of its foster parents out of the nest. The queens of a particular species of parasitic ant have only one remarkable adaptation, a serrated appendage which they use to saw off the head of the host queen.... Whatever the God implied by evolutionary theory and the data of natural history may be like, He is not the Protestant God of waste not, want not. He is also not a loving God who cares about His productions. He is not even the awful God portrayed in the book of Job. The God of the Galapagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray.

Simpson tells us that the world is purposeless because Darwinian evolution did all the creating. Gould and Hull tell us that Darwinian evolution must have done the creating because the characteristics of organisms imply a world devoid of purpose. A wise and benevolent creator would not employ homologous parts; would not waste millions of sperm and ova when one pair would suffice; would not countenance the deplorable ethics of the cuckoo; and would not even allow the variations in finches and turtles that Darwin observed in the Galapagos. These particular examples don't seem persuasive to me, but lurking behind them is the well-known argument from evil and undeserved suffering that forms the background to some of the world's greatest literature, from the book of Job to Paradise Lost to The Brothers Karamazov. Yes, the world is full of waste and suffering, and also nobility and beauty. If that is all that is necessary to establish Darwinian evolution, then Darwinian evolution is established. But do we call this kind of reasoning science?

I am not going to address the philosophical arguments against theism on this occasion, because my position is that speculation about what God would or would not have done should play no part in scientific discussion. If others want to bring theology into the picture, that is fine with me, but I want them to recognize that the will of God is not a subject over which biologists have professional jurisdiction. If we are going to debate theology the theologians are going to have a place at the table, and that includes creationist theologians. If Darwinists want to avoid the situation predicted by Grasse, where biology yields to metaphysics, I suggest that they agree to put Theological speculations aside.

Leaving theology out of the discussion doesn't mean that scientists should assume contently that God does not exist and go on to build philosophical theories on that foundation. What it does mean is that scientists should try to find out as much as they can about how the world works through empirical investigation, recognizing that an appropriately humble science may be unable to come to confident conclusions about matters that are difficult to observe. Science should be more than just a weapon that metaphysical naturalists wield in their arguments with theists. It should be a self-critical search for as much of the truth as it's methods of investigation can ascertain, which may or may not include the truth about how new quantities of genetic information have come into the world.


{1} Pierre P. Grasse L'Evolution du Vivant (1973), published in English translation as The Evolution of Living Organisms (1977) (hereafter Grasse). The review of the original French edition by Dobzhansky, titled "Darwinian or 'Oriented' Evolution?" appeared in Evolution, vol. 29 (June 1975). pp. 376-378.

{2} Grasse, p. 130.

{3} Grasse. p. 2.

{4} Grasse, pp. 7-8.

{5} Grasse, p, 208. See also p. 71: "We are certain that it [evolution] does not operate today as it did in the remote past. Something has changed. . . . The structural plans no longer undergo complete reorganization; novelties are no longer plentiful. Evolution, after its last enormous effort to form the mammalian orders and man, seems to be out of breath and drowsing off."

{6} Grasse, p 168.

{7} George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution (rev. ed, 1967), pp. 344-345.

{8} Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (Addison-Wesley, 1982), p.280.

{9} Ruse, pp. 328-329.

{10} Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (Longman, UK, 1986), p. 229.

{11} Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life (1989), pp. 271-273.

{12} Careful readers will note that the non-existence of the Cambrian ancestors is vaguely qualified by the phrase "at least as complex invertebrates easily linked to their descendants." I have learned to be alert to this sort of qualification in Gould's writing, because it signals a possible line of retreat. I have reason to believe that Gould would repopulate the Precambrian world with invisible ancestors, and thus re embrace the artifact theory, if he were accused of abandoning the mutation/selection mechanism and thus leaving unexplained the evolution of complexity.

{13} Stephen Jay Gould, "Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging?" Paleobiology, vol. 6 (1980), pp. 119-130. Reprinted in the collection Evolution Now: A Century After Darwin (Maynard Smith, ed., 1982).

{14} Stephen Jay Gould has complained that vagueness in the definition of the neo-Darwinian synthesis "imposes a great frustration upon anyone who would characterize the modern synthesis in order to criticize it." Gould, "Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging?" pp. 130-131, in the collection Evolution Now: A Century After Darwin (Maynard Smith, ed., 1982).

{15} Dawkins, p. 1,

{16} Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda's Thumb, p.20.

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