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Lewontin in the NY Review of Books


The Wars Over Evolution
By Richard C. Lewontin

New York Review of Books
Volume 52, Number 16 · October 20, 2005

The Evolution-Creation Struggle
by Michael Ruse
Harvard University Press, 327 pp., $25.95

Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution
by Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd
University of Chicago Press, 332 pp. $30.00


“… Maybe God is lurking out there somewhere but He doesn’t leave any residue in our test tube, so we will be tempted to assume He doesn’t exist. This is a philosopher’s worry that does not, as far as I can tell, correspond to the way people really acquire their views of reality. Some may have had mountaintop conversions at some point in their lives, while others experience a crisis of faith as they mature. Theodosius Dobzhansky, the leading empirical evolutionary geneticist of the twentieth century, who spent most of his life staring down a microscope at chromosomes, vacillated between deism, gnosticism, and membership in the Russian Orthodox Church. He could not understand how anyone on his or her deathbed could remain an unrepentant materialist. I, his student and scientific epigone, ingested my unwavering atheism and a priori materialism along with the spinach at the parental dinner table….”

Intelligence, human intelligence that is, does have its limitations. Recognizing these ‘boundaries’ isn’t easy. Accepting these ‘deficiencies’ is very difficult. The most unbearable, the most debated and proselytized, the only one relentlessly haunting the human psyche is ‘mortality’. How can we discover what waits for us when the body quits? Will the living ever know what the dead have ever since mankind’s moment of awareness, the age of ‘Enlightenment’? It did get very light at some point in the ‘evolution’, of the human species. It just didn’t get light enough. We have only clues to form, at best, an educated guess. Centuries of sketchy histories have been assembled, translated, interpreted and re-interpreted. These records are said to detail events that satisfy theological criteria suggesting a ‘greater power’, a ‘supreme being’, a ‘creator’ of superior intellect, a deity, a god. Philosophical questions still linger, and the scientific community, for the most part continues its investigation of Darwin’s “Origin…” theory. It appears to be a ‘moot’ point. No answer, no definitive answer can be expected if history yields little more than what has been scraped up so far. The religious faithful live their lives under the ‘watchful eye’ of their “God”, their belief in the doctrine of their ‘faith’ is the only answer they need. With their faith are ‘insured’ so to speak. Those fearing hell, or even worse, an empty abyss of atoms and energy, find succor with other ‘believers’. There is nothing more important in this life than their ‘faith’ in whatever god their particular divinity adores and worships. Science remains steadfast in its ‘what if?’ exploration of everything under the sun and beyond. Never known to stick its head in the sand, science continues to test and expand upon a rich history of wondrous discovery and fascinating invention, i.e. bug-killers, bombs and beauty products, just to name a few. So it continues, the scientists continue dig holes and split atoms trying to figure out how got here and the religions continue to kill one another while telling the scientists they’re wasting their time, they have all the answers. wmmalo
So... If I understand Lewontin correctly it is possible to be so refined, so educated, so erudite as to both completely miss the point and bore the reader. Quite an accomplishment. Jon Jackson
Joe, Thanks for your excellent article. Its excerpts at, http://teleological.org/WPblog/?p=92 Fer
Friends at UncommonDescent, Here is my latest article on the Dover Trial, at The American Enterprise Online: http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleid.18771/article_detail.asp "This week, the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District opened in federal court. The ACLU is suing the school board of Dover, Pennsylvania for adopting a policy which requires that teachers read to students a three-paragraph statement about the theory of intelligent design. In his opening statement, Eric Rothschild, the attorney for Kitzmiller, argued against the legitimacy of intelligent design (ID). Unfortunately for Rothschild, the testimony of Kenneth Miller–a Roman Catholic biology professor from Brown University who staunchly defends evolution—has already refuted his argument. And even more unfortunately, Miller was his expert witness." - Joe JoeManzari

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