HOW THE DEBATE OVER DARWIN HASN’T EVOLVED
by Gertrude Himmelfarb
The New Republic Online
Post date: 12.03.05, Issue date: 12.12.05
. . . Many Victorian clerics found it possible to reconcile not only evolution but natural selection as well with religion, while many secularists had reservations not about evolution but about natural selection. John Stuart Mill, for example, was impressed by the “knowledge and ingenuity” that Darwin brought to bear upon his thesis, but finally decided (as late as 1870) that it “is still and will probably long remain problematical.” Moreover, he added, even if it were proved, it would not be inconsistent with creation. He himself, he said, on the state of the evidence, believed in “creation by intelligence.”
“Creation by intelligence”–this by Mill, hardly a religious dogmatist. Today one may hear echoes of those words in the theory of “intelligent design,” which is derided by most scientists (including the editors of the present volumes) as a euphemism for creationism and thus a denial of evolution. And so it is, for some of its proponents. Yet others, themselves scientists, insist that their quarrel is not with evolution itself but rather with natural selection conceived as a purely mechanistic and entirely sufficient explanation for evolution. For them, intelligent design is nothing more or less than teleology, the recognition of a purposiveness or direction in nature, with or without a Creator in the orthodox sense of God. . . .