I got back Sunday from the American Maritain Association conference in Nashville. I had a great time. I'll write more about the conference later, but for now I just wanted to tell you about some of the interesting ideas about the actual doctrine of Darwinists.
Before I get to that, I should mention that there were a variety of (philosophical) perspectives on Darwinism at the conference. Mark Ryland's plenary talk explored the similarities between Darwinism and Intelligent Design (ID: capital I, capital D), beginning with Paley. In the final session, the speakers were Fr. Edward Oakes, Michael Behe, and Peter Pagan. Fr. Oakes spoke on the compatibility of (an understanding of) Darwinism with traditional theism. Dr. Pagan was critical of Darwinism and Intelligent Design Theory. Only Dr. Behe spoke against Darwinism and in favor of ID.
A central argument of Dr. Behe's talk dovetailed with the argument of an earlier talk by Richard von Sternberg on "Is Darwinism Anti-Logos by Chance or Design?". It is this talk that I want to turn to first.
Dr. Sternberg's talk posed the question, "[I]s Darwinism neutral with respect to logoi and the Logos [i.e., divine order in nature, and the Divine Archetype]? To answer these questions it is necessary to examine Darwinian responses to empirical challenges." Darwinists like Ernst Mayr have conducted repeated purges of scientists who would observe any sort of order in nature. This behavior shows they are against finding any sort of order in nature: they believe only in complete randomness.
Unfortunately for these ideological Darwinists, science is self-correcting in the long-run: the truth cannot help coming out eventually. (And besides, you really can't do science without believing in some sort of order in nature.) Hence, evolutionary theory is currently in a phase of "Damage Control", as Dr. Sternberg labelled the era since 1976 to the present, in which neo-Darwinists like Richard Dawkins scramble to claim the order bursting from scientific research as feathers in their own cap.
Other interesting details from Dr. Sternberg's talk:
- Population genetics models assume infinite population size. But metazoans (multi-cellular animals) lack an "effective population size" for natural selection to operate. The models that support Darwinism don't apply to reality.
- Almost all the race biologists in Nazi Germany were Darwinists.
- Marx wanted to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin, who warmly declined for P.R. purposes.
Dr. Sternberg concluded that Darwinism is purposely anti-logos.
Michael Behe's talk in the last session supported Dr. Sternberg's claims about the Darwinists' true agenda. Dr. Behe said that in evaluating the meaning of Darwinism, one should not look at the "tamest" possible version of the theory (Fr. Oakes's project), but at what the Darwinists actually say about the theory.
In 1995 the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) defined evolution to exclude any compatibility with belief in a Creator:
The diversity of life on Earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments. (h/t: Metanexus)
Under public pressure, the statement was later revised to omit the words "unsupervised, impersonal," but (as expressed elsewhere) with the understanding that "natural" includes these concepts. (Current statement)
In September 2005, 39 Nobel laureates (many them biologists) wrote a letter (PDF) to the Kansas School Board:
Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.
The words "unguided, unplanned" are exactly those used by Cardinal Schonborn in his NYT op-ed. It is very clear that Darwinism as represented by Darwinists is against any sort of design in nature ("intelligent design" in all lowercase).
Citations in Sternberg's Slides
Abigail Lustig, "Biologists on Crusade," Darwinian Heresies (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
A. Desmond, Archetypes to Ancestors (University of Chicago Press, 1986).
A. Desmond, The Politics of Evolution (University of Chicago Press, 1992).
N.A. Rupke, Richard Owen (Clarendon Press, 1995).
P.J. Bowler, The Eclipse of Darwinism (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983).
G.S. Levit and K. Meister, "The History of Essentialism vs. Ernst Mayr's 'Essentialism Story': A case study in German Idealistic Morphology," Theory in Biosciences 124:281-307.