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David Goldman on Gelernter’s Darwin Apostasy

David Goldman

Yale computer scientist David Gelernter’s recent confession in the Claremont Review of Books, rejecting Darwinism, continues to pick up notices from the most interesting writers out there. The economist and philosopher David Goldman, aka Spengler, notes it in an essay, “Pseudo-science, the Bible and human freedom.” 

Goldman points out that even as the “popularity of scientific determinism has jumped,” the limits of scientific arguments for a purely material basis to reality have become ever clearer. Materialists assume that physics and biology make their case for them, yet “physics has lost its ability to make grand statements about the nature of reality,” and “biology hasn’t fared any better.”

Life’s “Great Leap”

The evidence for unguided evolution, a central pillar for any materialist ethos, doesn’t add up:

The new science of DNA proves mathematically that the odds of a random mutation leading to an improvement in the adaptability of a living organism are effectively zero, Gelernter shows. Even a small protein molecule has a chain of 150 amino acids. If we rearrange them at random we mostly obtain gibberish. In fact, “of all 150-link amino acid sequences, 1 in 1074 will be capable of folding into a stable protein. To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is no different, in practice, from saying that they are zero. It’s not surprising that your chances of hitting a stable protein that performs some useful function, and might therefore play a part in evolution, are even smaller,” Gelernter explains. That is Establishment science, not the murmurings of the Creationist fringe. 

In short, the evolutionary biologists can’t explain how animal life made the great leap from protozoans to arthropods in the Cambrian Explosion, let alone how natural selection through random mutation might have shaped the human mind. Biologists do brilliant and important research, to be sure, and the profession should not be blamed for the exaggerated claims made by a few publicists like [Yuval] Harari or Harvard’s Steven Pinker.

So then, against the backdrop of materialist science’s failure, what accounts for the rise of modern determinist mythologies, led by astrology and transhumanism, that have captured the imagination of Generation X and Silicon Valley? Read Goldman’s article, but I’ll try to summarize: Behind the phenomenon is a resurgent paganism, with its shamans like Yuval Harari, “this strange little vegan who spends two hours a day in meditation,” exciting the tech elite “because he visualizes them as a new class of demigods,” and with its repellant, narcissistic moral perspective: “The New Atheism turns out to be the old idolatry packaged into a smartphone app.”

Ancient and Modern Man

The choices before modern man are not so different from the choices that faced ancient man. In fact, underneath the wrappings of contemporary life, they’re almost exactly the same. Goldman dismisses naïve “proofs” for God. The theist today makes a bold commitment just as the atheist does in his own way: “the premise of biblical religion requires a leap of faith no greater than that of the atheists. Its consequence is the birth of human freedom, by making human beings free moral agents. The consequences of the old idolatry as well as the new paganism, by contrast, are repugnant.”

The book of Psalms advises, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” That the new paganism is not good, but twisted and terrible, is also a matter to be tasted and seen. See Michael Egnor’s powerful reflections from earlier today, “Jeffrey Epstein and the Silence of the Scientists.” Can anyone who experiences our world, and follows its news, really doubt this?

Photo: David P. Goldman, by Elekes Andor [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.