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David Tyler on Michael Reiss, the Anglican cleric somehow dumped from the Royal Society for insufficient Darwinism

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You know, the “sinner in the hands of an angry god?” (Darwinism)


Most of Reiss’ analysis is very helpful and good common sense. Adopting his approach will enhance the educational experience of all pupils. However, there is one major area where I would like to see a further development of the analysis: this is to provide a more thorough analysis of science using a worldview perspective. What should we make of Reiss when he writes: “The scientific worldview is materialistic in the sense that it is neither idealistic nor admits of non-physical explanations” (p.403)? Some of us do not find this summary one that we would use in our scientific work. In fact, the prohibition of non-physical explanations should be regarded as an example of the way many modern scientists are idealistic, bringing to science a precondition about what the natural world ought to be like and how it ought to behave. This is particularly relevant to the origin of information – materialistic science has to interpret information in terms of random variations that are selected and fixed. Consequently, they have no tools to test whether the approach is realistic or can be falsified – as a matter of ideology, it cannot be falsified!

Science is not neutral territory for scholarship. Ideologies, presuppositions, paradigms and worldviews are important for all branches of science, including evolutionary biology. Darwinism does not exist in isolation from a worldview and the attempt by many to portray it as objective ‘pure’ science is philosophically naive. Just as the objections of creationists and ID scholars cannot be properly understood without a worldview perspective, so also the commitments of evolutionary biologists to the blind watchmaker model of evolutionary transformation cannot be properly understood without reference to the worldview of these scientists. Then it will be clear that many of their key concepts (the Tree of Life emerging from a single cell, common descent, the central role of variation and natural selection) go far beyond what can reasonably be inferred from the data and ultimately are derived from the worldview of the evolutionist.

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