Yale computer scientist Dave Gelernter’s recent public admission that he’s giving up Darwin continues to make waves. On the heels of distinguished Catholic intellectual and writer George Weigel’s comments about Gelernter in “Getting Beyond Darwin” comes the acknowledgement from Barbara Kay in the National Post that the debate over Darwinism is on again. It’s never been off for us, of course, but we get encouraged to see voices in mainstream media catching up with the idea that there are serious scientific reasons to doubt evolutionary theory.
Kay mentions Gelernter’s recent apostasy and that it was fueled in large part by Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt. While she hasn’t read Meyer’s bestseller yet, she does point to another book by the incomparable journalist and novelist Tom Wolfe, who repudiated Darwinism in his last book The Kingdom of Speech:
Gelernter ascribes his conversion principally to the 2013 book, Darwin’s Doubt, by geophysicist Stephen Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, which he describes as “one of the most important books in a generation.” I haven’t read that book yet, but I have read, and warmly recommend, the late Tom Wolfe’s riveting 2016 book, The Kingdom of Speech. Here Wolfe disassembles the history of Darwinism in his characteristic madly entertaining fashion, but concentrates on what seems to me Darwinism’s even more puzzling Achilles’ heel, its utter failure to account for, alone amongst the species, humans’ large brains and capacity for both abstract thought and speech.
“The Ultimate Artifact”
Kay echoes Wolfe in calling speech “the ultimate artifact,” noting that the human brain and the power of speech go far beyond the boundaries of Darwin’s own criteria for natural selection — namely, that a new function expand an animal’s power only for survival advantage and no further, that the changes are not injurious to the animal, and that it cannot produce a specially developed organ that is useless to an animal at the time it develops. If a brain “three times the size of any primate’s and a unique capacity for speech do not constitute specially developed organs,” Kay asks, “what does?”
She goes on to highlight a 2016 article by nine established experts, including the famous linguist Noam Chomsky, titled “The mystery of language evolution,” that admits there is no explanation for the origin of language, despite an explosion of modern research in linguistics.
In her article, Kay notes that among the theories that shaped modernity, coming from Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein, Darwin’s theory has fared best. To question it, she explains, invites ridicule because it also invites the possibility of intelligent design, something the intelligentsia, both past and present, simply have not allowed.
Says Kay: “Intellectuals may stamp their feet and clutch their pearls all they want, but the debate, for so long taboo, is on again.” Read her whole article here.
More Ripples to Come
We have not seen the end of Gelernter’s ripples. While he readily admits he is not a biologist or an authority on the topic, he has decades of experience in academia, where he’s witnessed the “bitter, fundamental, angry, and outraged rejection [of intelligent design], which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion.” Darwinists have hounded Gelernter for his lack of credentials in biology. But computer scientists in particular are sensitive to problems with neo-Darwinian theory that often escape the notice of many biologists. As one of our nation’s leading computer scientists, he knows a lot about what it takes to design digital code and complex information processing systems. He might then be forgiven for doubting that random mutations and natural selection can generate the digital information in DNA. Indeed, you don’t need to be a biologist in a lab coat to see the problems that plague neo-Darwinian theory. You only need to be an open-minded thinker willing to consider the evidence. Gelernter is such a person, and then some.
And in case you haven’t seen it yet, watch David Gelernter, Stephen Meyer, and David Berlinski discuss mathematical challenges to Darwinism in a popular episode of the Hoover Institution show Uncommon Knowledge. As of this writing, the video has amassed over three quarters of a million views (788k) on YouTube.