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A Darwinian Pilgrimage

Michael Egnor

pilgrimage

Several years ago I attended a Christian biology conference in Poland. The participants, all devout Christians of various stripes, were very sympathetic to ID. I met a young biology graduate student, a very bright young lady, and we discussed Darwin’s theory. She expressed much admiration for his work; she disbelieved macroevolution, of course, but she insisted that Darwin’s contribution to understanding microevolution and his concept of natural selection were brilliant and were the cornerstone of modern biology. 

I wanted to pull my hair out. 

A Low Bar

I despise Darwinism. It is, in my view, an utterly worthless scientific concept promulgated by a third-rate barnacle collector and hypochondriac to justify functional, if not explicit, atheism. Richard Dawkins got it right: Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. A low bar, admittedly, but “natural selection” satisfied, and still satisfies, many. Even bright Christians, regrettably. 

Darwin still has some cachet among design advocates — the usual trope is that he provided evidence for common descent and explained microevolution. In this I differ from some of my friends and colleagues sympathetic to ID/Thomism. Darwin’s “theory” is completely worthless to science, a degradation of philosophy, and lethal to culture. 

As Jerry Fodor (an atheist philosopher) has pointed out, natural selection is an utterly empty concept. It does no work; it explains nothing. Evolution is driven by natural history and genetic and phenotypic constraint. “Natural selection” adds nothing to our understanding of the process. Of course things change and survivors survive. Any real understanding of change in populations entails understanding the natural history of the changes and the biological constraints imposed by nature. Some of this evolutionary change is best explained as accidental. Some is best explained as design, and the conjunction of accident and design is where evolutionary change takes place. “Natural selection” is meaningless junk science — dismal logic put to the service of atheism. Darwinism is the most effective engine of atheism in modern times, except perhaps for consumer culture, for which Darwin bears some responsibility. “Survival of the fittest” casts a scientific imprimatur on acquisition as a life-goal. 

The Survival of Survivors

Darwinism is frequently cited as necessary to understand biological relatedness and taxonomy. Nonsense. Comparative biology dates to Aristotle and Galen. Taxonomy reached its pinnacle with Linnaeus, who worked decades before Darwin was born. Darwinism is frequently cited as necessary for medical science. Yet it plays no role in medical education, and never has, except for eugenics, which is merely applied Darwinism and is the darkest corner of medical science. And Darwinism tells us nothing of value about microevolution; the survival of survivors is tautological. 

The genuine study of evolutionary change (e.g.. in populations of bacteria exposed to antibiotics) entails genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology, etc. “Natural selection” adds nothing to our understanding of bacterial resistance, and in fact is a prime impediment to biology and medicine over the past century and a half. Darwinian enthusiasm eclipsed Mendel’s discovery of genetics for a half-century, and the myth of “junk DNA” has set molecular genetics back decades. Darwinism is a mere “narrative gloss,” as Philip Skell said, and a crippling impediment to science. 

So why does this idiot “science” gain such respect?  Jerry Coyne sheds some light on the only really important question about Darwinian evolution: why on earth would anyone not laugh at it? 

The Darwinian Holy Land

Coyne recounts a pilgrimage to Darwinian Holy Land. In “A field-trip course in England on Darwin and evolution,” Coyne tells of a summer course at Oxford for Harvard undergrads. The young pilgrims tour “Darwinland” (Coyne’s word). They visit the messiah’s birthplace, his hometown (Shrewsbury/Nazareth), the sites of his revelations, and walk in the footsteps of his prophets and apostles. Pilgrims can finger his artifacts and gaze on his holy books. It’s quite a spectacle. It is clearly a religious journey, with the reverence and fervor of a cult. 

And that is the meaning of Darwinism. This worthless science, idiot philosophy, and cultural rot is the creation myth of atheists, and homage is paid, as a duty, to the prophet and to his priests. Darwinian idolatry would be funny, if not for the trail of misery and horror Darwin left in his wake. 

The salient influence of Darwinian worship is not on science, but on ethics. With the Origin of Species and Descent of Man, vindication of the strong and eradication of the weak was, for the first time in history, given a scientific imprimatur. The ugliest impact of the Darwinian understanding of man is this lie: man is an evolved animal, nothing more, and all of man’s highest qualities evolved from the victory of the strong over the weak. 

The only thing left out of the Darwinian pilgrimage to Oxford is Golgotha. That requires a separate trip to southern Poland, to understand the sacrifice Darwinism demanded, and still demands, of us.

Photo credit: A statue of Darwin as a young man was commissioned at Christ’s College, Cambridge University, to celebrate the Darwin bicentenary in 2009, with Prince Philip immediately to the right of Darwin, by fortheloveofknowledge [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons.