Critiques of Darwinism
- Published: January 24, 2013 January 24, 2013
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Darwin’s theory of natural selection cannot qualify as science. It’s a teaching in a system of belief known as physicalism. Basic to physicalism is the claim that only matter and physical agents can cause change in the physical universe--it denies reality to mental capabilities such as consciousness and free will. There is no scientific evidence for this claim. As merely one teaching within this system of belief, Darwin’s theory of natural selection is certainly not “a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge” as Rush Holt (NJ) wrote in the resolution H. RES. 41 he introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives.
Physicalism grew out of Positivism, created in the early 19th century by Auguste Comte. While still in his twenties Charles Darwin became a disciple of Comte’s. By the 1850s Positivism had split into two schools: one, led by Comte, developed its own religious services, priests, rituals, calendar, and burial services; the other, scientific Positivism, went on to become common practice among scientists. This second branch of Positivism limits scientific practice to only what can be studied through measurement and experiment, excluding from consideration anything “supernatural” such as human volition, ie human mental capabilities. Physicalism is this scientific practice made into a system of belief, that is, ritual asserted to be truth. One of those beliefs, central to physicalism and asserted by physicalists without adequate evidence, is Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
The proofs often claimed for natural selection do not qualify as scientific. Evidence for evolution is often mistakenly claimed to be evidence for natural selection being the mechanism primarily responsible for driving it. Charles Darwin often employed this kind of faulty logic. In his eagerness to come up with a physicalist account of evolution he mistook an effect of evolution for its cause. Whatever the mechanism of evolution is, it’s bound to have the effect of making living creatures better adapted to their environment, else they’d die. But that side effect, making living creatures better adapted, is all natural selection claims to do. There is no logic in claiming that a process that merely produces an effect of evolution (adaptation) is also its cause. One might as well say that friction, one effect of a car being driven, must also be the engine driving it! There is no evidence that natural selection can contribute anything to the evolution of living creatures except some, probably very little, adaptation. Similarly, whatever the mechanism of evolution is, it's likely to use all available tools, such as sexual and kinship selection; merely because natural selection could employ those tools does not mean it is the mechanism driving evolution.
Most believers of physicalism are scientists for whom it is a guiding principle at work. But humanists and atheists, presumably wanting to associate themselves with the success of those scientists in studying matter, have also embraced physicalism, and with it the teachings based on Darwin’s theory. They have adopted darwinism as the symbol of their opposition to Christian doctrines, particularly the biblical account of the Creation. Their doing so, for political advantage, is no reason for the rest of us to associate darwinism with science.
The effects of darwinism are not benign. First, because of the flawed logic behind it, as described above, it encourages sloppy thinking in the practice of science. Second, it acts as the primary agent promoting for physicalism which, through its denial of mental capabilities such as consciousness and free will, trashes traditions of mental discipline stretching back at least to the ancient Greeks. Third, it falsifies our understanding of nature: seeing the design of living creatures as involving nothing more than simplistic physical processes such as natural selection and genetic mutation is akin to not being able to distinguish from the real thing a model of the Pantheon in Rome made out of matchsticks. Limiting our appreciation of nature to just what can be created by those simple processes could lead us to shrink the envelope of what is possible for even such creatures as ourselves. How can we respect each other if we are merely products of such a paltry toolbox?
Finally, darwinism fails in the most basis requirement of a scientific theory--it has failed to generate any hypotheses other than those that support the practice and propagation of physicalism. The tautology that everything is an illustration of adaptation provides no further insight. Far from making sense of all of biology, it has reduced biology to the intellectual status of a shooting alley in a fairground.
Given the failure of science to recognize the spurious logic of darwinism, and its compliance in the scaling down of the human spirit to what an origin story based on physicalism is capable of, I suggest we choose instead to use the human spirit as our touchstone for what an adequate account of evolution must be like.
For all those reasons and more it would be an extremely serious error of judgment to suppose making February 12 an official day of celebration of Darwinism would be a fitting tribute to the majesty of science. It would instead give state recognition to a partisan belief system.