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George Weigel, Biographer of John Paul II, Takes Note of David Gelernter’s Darwin Apostasy

Some very interesting people were jarred by David Gelernter’s apostasy from Darwinism. The Yale computer scientist described in The Claremont Review of Books how his thoughts on evolution have evolved, influenced by Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer and David Berlinski. Now the distinguished Catholic intellectual and writer George Weigel, official English-language biographer of Pope John Paul II, weighs in on Gelernter.

Dismissing ID Is “Unscientific”

Weigel was not previously known as a Darwin skeptic or as sympathetic to intelligent design. At First Things, he takes note of Gelernter’s essay as “a potential tool in the New Evangelization.” From “Getting Beyond Darwin”:

Bishop Robert Barron and others working hard to evangelize the “Nones” — young adults without religious conviction — tell us that a major obstacle to a None embracing Christianity is the cultural assumption that Science Explains Everything. And if science explains it all, who needs God, revelation, Christ, or the Church? To be even more specific: If Darwin and the Darwinian theory of evolution explain the origins of us (and everything else), why bother with Genesis 1–3 and Colossians 1:15–20 (much less Augustine’s “Thou hast made us for Thee and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”)?

Weigel summarizes David Gelernter’s points, and concludes:

Gelernter is intrigued by “intelligent design” approaches to these evolutionary conundra but also suggests that, “as a theory,” intelligent design “would seem to have a long way to go.” But to dismiss intelligent design out of hand — to brand it piety masquerading as science — is, well, unscientific. The fossil record and molecular biology now suggest that Darwinian answers to the Big Questions constitute the real fundamentalism: a materialistic fideism that, however shaky in dealing with the facts, is nonetheless deeply entrenched in 21st-century imaginations. Thus, Gelernter asks whether today’s scientists will display Darwin’s own courage in risking cultural disdain by upsetting intellectual apple carts.

See also Rachel Alexander at The Stream, “Renowned Yale Computer Science Prof Leaves Darwinism,” who points readers to the great hourlong interview, by Peter Robinson of Stanford’s Hoover Institution, talking with Gelernter, Meyer, and Berlinski. That interview has been watched by close to 700,000 people.

We Haven’t Seen the End of This

Gelernter’s confession, of having turned away from Darwinism, is (yet another) piece of evidence Darwinists can’t satisfactorily explain. Such a thing shouldn’t happen. For a major intellectual like this to publicly reject evolutionary theory naturally catches the attention of other major intellectuals and of thoughtful people in general. For every George Weigel who follows up with a public admission of his own, confirming that the situation with Darwinism is more doubtful than previously thought, there are, you can be confident, many others who were shaken by Gelernter’s essay but who haven’t succeeded in squashing their anxiety about saying so.

The anxiety is understandable. As Gelernter told Robinson in their conversation, “You take your life into your hands to challenge [evolution] intellectually. They will destroy you.” This is from a man who had his own hand and eye blown up by a terrorist’s bomb. We can be sure we haven’t heard the end of the welcome consequences of David Gelernter’s announcement.

Photo: David Gelernter, “Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson,” via Hoover Institution, Stanford University (screen shot).