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Excellent Pieces in The New Republic and The New Criterion take aim at Scientism

Casey Luskin

The New Republic and The New Criterion have excellent pieces discussing the debate over Darwin. The former explains how Darwinism has become a brand of scientism in the eyes of many leading proponents. The latter takes aim at the science of Darwinism itself, comparing it to a dogmatic faith which makes claims beyond what is warranted from the evidence.

Monkey and Morals
In Monkey and Morals, Gertrude Himmelfarb, the distinguished professor emeritus of history at City University (N.Y.), explains that some Darwinists such as E. O. Wilson and James Watson have an anti-religious agenda in their Darwinian advocacy. Himmelfarb recognizes, however, that some proponents of intelligent design approach this issue with scientific objections to evolution:

“Yet others, themselves scientists, insist that their quarrel is not with evolution itself but rather with natural selection conceived as a purely mechanistic and entirely sufficient explanation. For them, intelligent design is nothing more or less than teleology, the recognition of a purposiveness or direction in nature, with or without a Creator in the orthodox sense of God.”

(Monkey and Morals by Gertrude Himmelfarb, The New Republic, 12/12/05)

Himmelfarb explains the transformation of Darwinism from a humbly studied hypothesis into an untouchable dogma exploited for philosophical purposes:

“Today we have even more cause to be concerned about the mechanistic and reductionistic interpretation of all human life, including its emotional and intellectual dimensions, in the name of Darwinism. This is more than science. It is scientism–and scientism with a vengeance, for it is not only science that is now presumed to be the only access to comprehensive truth, but also that sub-category of science known as Darwinism.”

(Monkey and Morals by Gertrude Himmelfarb, The New Republic, 12/12/05)

Himmelfarb is an historian of Charles Darwin. Her article will be taken very seriously in important academic circles.

Science versus scientism
A second excellent piece is in The New Criterion by John Silber, the straight shooting former president of Boston University, entitled Science versus scientism. Silber explains skepticism of evolution is met by dogmatic assertions:

“The critical question for evolutionists is not about survival of the fittest but about their arrival. Biologists arguing for evolution have been challenged by critics for more than a hundred years for their failure to offer any scientific explanation for the arrival of the fittest. Supporters of evolution have no explanation beyond their dogmatic assertion that all advances are explained by random mutation sand environmental influences over millions of years.”

(Science versus scientism by John Silber, The New Criterion, Volume 24, November 2005)

While Silber believes that both Neo-Darwinism and intelligent design must ultimately be based upon faith, he cites favorably to the scientific challenges of evolution brought by Michael Behe in irreducible complexity. Silber further says that “scientists who dogmatically assert as factual explanations for the survival of the fittest which lack objective evidence” have become the new “literalists” of the university. He does not deny their right to assert Darwinism as fact, but he questions their dogmatic responses to reasonable critics:

“I do not question their right to develop their ideas and their research as they deem best. The freedom of inquiry should not be challenged. But neither should any scientist or researcher claim an immunity from criticism.”

(Science versus scientism by John Silber, The New Criterion, Volume 24, November 2005)

Silber is another highly respected intellectual who understands the history of ideas. His article too, will receive wide circulation. Dare we predict that Darwinists will not argue with these articles but find some way to attack the writers?


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



Gertrude HimmelfarbThe New CriterionThe New Republic