Possibly Carl Woese (1928-2012) is the only person to have discovered an entire domain of life, the Archaea. He was not a Darwinist (possibly because the offbeat Archaea didn’t make sense in that scheme of things?). But, facing death, he began to think about other things as well, as he recounted to Suzan Mazur:
Suzan Mazur: It’s wonderful that you’re making these breakthroughs without encountering too much hostility from the classical biology community.
Carl Woese: But I have not overthrown the hegemony of the culture of Darwin…
Suzan Mazur: Do you have any closing thoughts?
Carl Woese: Yes, I do not like people saying that atheism is based on science, because it’s not. It’s an alien invasion of science.Umar Nasser, “Carl Woese: Legendary biologist calls out atheists in final interview” at Rational Religion
The interview is from Suzan Mazur, The The Paradigm Shifters: : Overthrowing ‘the Hegemony of the Culture of Darwin’ (2015), Kindle Edition. (p. 105).
Nasser also recounts the recollections of a biologist friend of Woese’s that point in a similar direction.
Two things for sure:
- It’s a good question whether Woese would have recognized the Archaea for what they were, had he not been in the habit of thinking for himself. Maybe he would have just been satisfied to shoehorn them into the conventional scheme somewhere.
- Atheism likely affects science in the same way as any dogmatic creed, by shaping the questions we are allowed to ask and discouraging others. A shakeup is needed now and then, for progress.