Peter Wood on evolution


If you're interested in the evolution debate, check out this reasonable piece at NRO.

We can give a name to what happened: with the biological emergence of modern humans came both the capacity for and the realization of "culture." Maybe geneticists will, at some point, isolate a gene or genes that make complex, symbol-based culture possible. Indeed, we already see some hints of this in the gene FOXP2, which affects our capacity to learn language and which mutated to its current form about 200,000 years ago.

But to speak of the beginning of culture and the emergence of our species by way of some genetic mutations from anatomically similar ancestors does little to explain the profound mystery of the event. Of course, if we are convinced in advance that genetic mutation is a random, material event, the results of which are sorted out by the struggle for survival, the immense mystery dissolves into happenstance blips in strands of East African DNA, c. 150,000-200,000 years ago.

But at that point, we have moved beyond scientific evolution to doctrinaire Evolution. The randomness of the mutation cannot be demonstrated or proved; it is simply an article of belief, no different in character from a belief that an intelligent Creator nudged the adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine bases of that DNA strand into the right order. Or that he took the clay of archaic homo sapiens and molded Adam in His own image.

At bottom the dispute between Evolutionists and Creationists always comes down to the question, "What is random?" This is the cage that Cardinal Christoph Schonborn rattled in his op-ed in the New York Times, July 7, where he wrote, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection — is not." Now the director of the Vatican Observatory, Father George Coyne, has published a rebuttal in British Catholic weekly, The Tablet, neatly asserting the opposite, and accusing the cardinal of having "darkened the waters" between the Church and science.

Whether the universe is truly random or whether apparent randomness is order-not-yet-apprehended seems pretty clearly a philosophical or theological debate. It will not be settled by the editors of the Boston Globe ("Unintelligent," editorial August 4), the vaporings of Rev. Barry Lynn from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, or the numerous respectable scientists who have stepped forward to say, "Sure enough, the universe is random." How exactly would they know? It is not hard to suspect that beneath this ardent insistence on an unproven proposition lies simple irritation at having to share public space, including schools, with people who inexplicably continue to think that they live in a universe governed by an active God.


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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on August 10, 2005 8:33 AM.

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