I come to bury Darwin, not to praise himby Ron Lancaster on Mar. 25, 2009, under Opinion
There was much hubbub in the media last month about the theory of evolution as posited by Charles Darwin on his 200th birthday.
However, as we approach the anniversary of his April 19, 1882, death, it should be noted that there are many who would question such a thesis – not evolution per se, but that the process of natural selection could conceivably explain it.
This has nothing to do with biblical accounts of creation, but rather on the basis of evidence, or lack of.
As the biological scientists often are wont to say, evolution is a fact, and in that they are correct. There was a general rolling out, over vast time scales, of life on Earth – from the tiniest one-cell creatures to the massive and complex animals and plants we see today.
Somehow it occurred. Darwin had a poor explanation.
The idea itself was beguiling. Darwin said the living world was organized and thrived by an accumulation of small random changes, now called chance mutations, and survival of the fittest.
He stated that these could – and did – produce bursting prodigies of biological craftsmanship. He had deemed a chance-based theory “scientific,” but without any predictability.
So, pure chance is at the root of this stupendous edifice of life. The man himself had no examples of this happening in the wild, but he could observe artificial selection.
He watched farmers intentionally breed animals for certain characteristics and reasoned that the same process, given enough time and chances, would produce new species, and indeed, our whole majestic living world.
Unfortunately, what is true down on the farm is not true in the woods. What goes on in the barn stays in the barn.
Natural selection does occur, but it only helps maintain the growth and fitness of a population or species and does not serve as a ladder to ever more complexity and new forms of life.
The idea that through natural selection life evolved from fish to man is a fish story and not at all persuasive without evidence.
Many scientists are heard to say that Darwin’s theory is “beyond all reasonable doubt,” but that is a bluff. There is no way to measure it in action beyond the confines of a particular species. Strong conviction is weak proof.
It is true that genetics has revealed all the beings on Earth are related, but how it happened is the $64 enigma. One day we all woke up from the womb and this boisterous world was already here in all of its particulars.
With the discovery of the cell, those baroque little beings, the mystery of life became only more perplexing. In the last 50 years, an army of researchers have probed the workings of the cell and discovered a mini-mite-sized world loaded with unexpected surprises – and the biggest surprise of all was that Darwin was wildly off the mark.
Many Darwinists will trumpet the discovery of DNA as a triumph for the theory. It is no such thing. Instead, it makes it all the more improbable.
The widely held assumption that the fossil remains of numerous extinct species implies evolution is not correct. Instead of life forms gradually changing into more complex organisms, geologists discovered that species and groups of species appeared suddenly without any trace of evolutionary development – and then just as quickly, disappeared from the record.
Darwin knew this in 1859 when he published his book, but hoped in time the fossil record would prove him right once more specimens had been uncovered to fill in the blanks. It didn’t.
Darwin’s theory is not a robust theory and never has been, but it has not been replaced because there is literally no other idea to take its place without resorting to mystical explanations, something many scientists frown upon.
They are solidly rooted in the physical, measurable world. No imagination required.
And yet, contrary the contention that without Darwin’s theory we couldn’t do science, the opposite is true. It is for public consumption only, not a necessary tool for research.
The investigation of our planet has nothing to do with a belief in Darwin’s ideas. Evolution has become a fill-in word to describe any phenomena without the slightest understanding of how it happened. So, it has become an almost useless word for passing on information. “Stuff happens” would do as well.
There always have been cracks in the armor of Darwinism, intelligent people mumbling under their breath about the theory. Now the cracks have turned into fissures as more valiant ones have the courage to leap into the breach in the service of truth. Eventually, the whole edifice will collapse.
Today, many are calling Darwin’s beliefs to account and despite the media’s wall of fog, the tide is coming in. Darwin has seen his best days.
In America especially, Darwin’s view is the orthodox view. It is a doctrine badly in need of a reformation.
Contrary to the august tenets of science that everything should be put into question, there is a great fear among some that this most sacred of cows will be shaken and shown empty of content.
Ron Lancaster, a Tucson writer and former teacher, is the author of four books.