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More Darwin and Creation

Sanity and Certainty Fill the Gaps

Now there are two interesting aspects of this debate that usually go unremarked.

One is that while the arguments presented by the critics of Darwinism raise serious questions about whether natural selection alone could account for evolution, they do not really support the theory of intelligent design—the notion that an “intelligent designer” somehow helped evolution along. That is merely the best thing the critics can come up with to account for the perceived deficiency in Darwinism.

The other interesting point is that the Darwinists assume that Darwinism is true unless it can be conclusively proved to be false. The implication is that this is because Darwinism is scientific while its rivals are not and it should therefore be assumed to be correct. As Berlinski insists, there are gaps in our knowledge; each side fills those gaps with the certain assurances of their own prejudices.

But is Darwinism really “scientific”? It depends on what you mean by both “Darwinism” and “scientific.” The confusion between metaphysical Darwinism and scientific Darwinism is actually a specific instance of the larger intellectual muddle about the nature of science. In that case the equivocation is between the myth of science [*] [**]and a metaphysical doctrine usually called scientism. If science really worked the way the myth of science maintains that it does, there would be no debate over whether Darwinism or intelligent design is “correct.” It would be acknowledged that there is presently insufficient evidence to establish that natural selection, and natural selection alone, is responsible for evolution. The scientific community would recognize that some people feel certain that natural selection will eventually be shown to be sufficient and others are equally certain that it will not. It would also recognize that the truth may ultimately be inaccessible to science. The myth of science acknowledges that a theory need not be scientific to be true. The theory of intelligent design is not a scientific theory, but until and unless Darwinism is conclusively demonstrated, it will remain a possibility—although not one susceptible to scientific investigation.

In other words, we just don't know. But we cannot admit that. The sane people cannot, at any rate. Faced with the terrifying void of their ignorance, they reach for their favorite, reassuring, puzzle boxtops: some grab the one labeled “God” and others the one marked “Science.” A few even cling to both, claiming that each one accurately portrays a part of the real puzzle; they are rewarded for their pains with the total contempt of both extreme camps.

[Next page: How Scientists Embrace Lunacy in Theory and Reject It in Practice.]

The myth of science holds that science is eternally skeptical, always testing its own theories, and is ever ready to abandon a theory that fails to correctly predict “facts”. This notion of science as based on observable, experimental facts was given a solid footing in Karl Popper's philosophy of science, which is structured around the idea of falsifiability.

The most eloquent argument that science does not actually operate the way the myth of science claims it does is to be found in Thomas Kuhn's marvelous book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.