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Evolutionary Biologist Richard Sternberg: Why I’m a Platonist

Photo: Plato, Vatican Museum, by Dudva, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

You really should watch this interview with evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg all the way through. It’s a bonus video from the new Science Uprising episode. The discussion, which is essayistic and almost an hour long, is profound. It leads him from the fossil record, to population genetics and the waiting-time problem, to a consideration of where the more sophisticated attempts to rescue evolutionary theory fall short, and finally to the question of what Dr. Sternberg sees as the alternative. 

When he says he’s come to agree with Stephen Meyer about intelligent design, then philosophically for him, what does that mean? The answer (at 52:10) may surprise you:

If you were to press me and say, “Well, what’s your source for this? Are you hearkening to the book of Genesis?” I would say, “No, but I am hearkening to the Timaeus.” That doesn’t mean I believe in a demiurge necessarily but it does mean that I adopt a Platonic view, and I agree with Lloyd Gerson that Aristotle was also a Platonist. So, a Platonic-Aristotelian view of the natural world, which I think is a full-blooded view of the natural world.

The evolutionary turns that life has taken, he says, “ultimately have their source in an informational realm that is outside space and time.” The Lloyd Gerson he refers to, by the way, is a philosopher at the University of Toronto and the author of Aristotle and Other Platonists. I find it fascinating that from the edgy presentation in Science Uprising we’re led to this heady stuff that, frankly, gives me chills. If you missed the latest episode of the series, see it here: