EVOLUTION AND DARWINISM

 

There is much discussion about evolution and Darwinism, which many people erroneously think are the same thing. There is overwhelming evidence for evolution taking place over at least a 500 million year span: there is an orderly sequence of life forms gradually evolving from ancient to modern forms, all firmly placed in time by radioactive dating. So evolution is an incontrovertible fact.

In contrast, Darwin’s theory for how evolution occurred is separate from evolution itself, and is only one of several conceivable explanations, albeit by far the most convincing; it accounts for the facts of evolution in a consistent, logical manner, which no other theory does.

Its chief rival is a teleological theory called Intelligent Design that posits an overall purpose, usually taken to mean God’s purpose. Agnostics reject any notion of purpose because they reject God herself, and even some believers reject teleology because they hold that God started the Universe, but has not interfered thereafter.

I and many other scientific-minded people, some believers and some not, dislike Intelligent Design because there is no evidence for it, and extremists like Dawkins say it is simply impossible. However, Dawkins’ viewpoint is scientifically untenable, for a truly scientific viewpoint must allow anything to be possible until it is proven wrong by experiment, which has not been done for Intelligent Design. If a heavenly hand had pushed a few nucleotides around from time to time, or even today, how could we ever know it?

I believe that the furor arises, not because evolution happened – it definitely did – but because Darwinism holds that evolution is a purely stochastic process, i.e., a succession of purely random events. But if life itself is governed by chance, then we sentient, emotional creatures amount to nothing more than the sum of our atoms interacting mindlessly, and consciousness and free will are only illusions. This conflict between hard facts and our feeling of free will cannot be escaped.

This picture frightens people, myself included, and that’s the driving force behind anti-Darwinism. Those of us, believers or not, who are skeptical of the Heavenly Hand must come to terms with the fact that Darwinism, brilliant though it is, is incomplete.

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