Monday, June 09, 2003

Rejecting Darwin?

Recently a progressive friend bemoaned the lack of acceptance of science in the country. "What hope do we have of solving our problems when over half of the people reject Darwin?"

By Darwin, of course, he meant science in general. However, I hesitate to accept the figure of greater than 50%. The proportion of believers who would maintain that Darwin's theories must be false because they don't agree with scripture is small, in my experience. But I suppose it depends on what one means by "rejecting Darwinism."

Some would argue that those who don't accept the idea that the theory of evolution has been proven beyond all doubt have rejected Darwinism. Darwin himself didn't go that far.

Many religious people accept the idea that Darwin's theory is a useful theory that provides a model on which to hang a wide variety of observations about the biological world, but they would balk at saying that the theory has been "proven." There are still some pretty big gaps in the fossel record, and it is not out of the question that some future discovery will mandate that the theory of evolution be modified or supplanted by some other theory. Some scientists with no religious inclinations would also balk at saying that Darwin's theories have been proven, and

But the people, particulary those not that well versed in science, who make a political issue out of the theory of evolution would not be happy with that degree of reservation, and might accuse such people of "rejecting Darwinism."

No doubt some of Newton's more fervent supporters held critics of his theories in contempt right up until Einstein's ideas concerning space and gravity were demonstrated to be a more accurate model of the universe. This is because they didn't really understand either Newton or Einstein. For example, Einstein always took it for granted that his theory was incomplete and might be supplanted by some other theory in the future. In fact, he was working on that theory himself right up till the end of his life.

The real rift is not between those who would reject Darwin and those who don't, but between those who have embraced leftist political principles and a secular humanist world view, which includes scientism, a quasi-religious belief in the ability of science to determine all truth, and those who are able to embrace other human spiritual traditions, such as organized religions, while recognising that there are limits to what we can know through science.