Olivia Judson is on a mission to control the damage to Darwin’s hemorrhaging theory. Her latest at the NYTimes is to suggest that we stop using the term “Darwinism” because the field of evolutionary biology is so much richer than what Darwin gave us. Others have tried that strategy with equal laughable disingenuity (e.g., Paul Gross in criticizing David Berlinski for Berlinski making Darwinism the target of criticism).
But Judson gives the game away:
[Darwinism] suggests that Darwin was the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, of evolutionary biology, and that the subject hasn’t changed much in the 149 years since the publication of the “Origin.” He wasn’t, and it has. Although several of his ideas — natural and sexual selection among them — remain cornerstones of modern evolutionary biology…
Excuse me? Cornerstone? Christ is identified as the cornerstone of a well-known religious faith, so that faith is rightly called “Christianity.” Does Judson propose replacing “Darwinism” with “Darwinianity”?
Could we please dispense with any patronizing nonsense about Darwin being less than the messiah of a materialistic religion that pretends to find its justification in science. If Darwin was not the alpha and omega of evolution, then he was either a knave or a fool or a madman. Darwin did not leave us any other options. He did not intend to. [Hat tip to C. S. Lewis.]
If Judson is serious about dethroning evolution’s messiah, she needs to have a talk with University of Chicago’s Jerry Coyne, who writes:
There is only one going theory of evolution, and it is this: organisms evolved gradually over time and split into different species, and the main engine of evolutionary change was natural selection. Sure, some details of these processes are unsettled, but there is no argument among biologists about the main claims. . . . [W]hile mutations occur by chance, natural selection, which builds complex bodies by saving the most adaptive mutations, emphatically does not. Like all species, man is a product of both chance and lawfulness. [“Don’t Know Much Biology,” June 6, 2007, www.edge.org]
Coyne, of course, is here merely echoing Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. But if Judson remains unconvinced by Coyne, she might want to summon up the departed spirit of Stephen Jay Gould. In his STRUCTURE OF EVOLUTIONARY THEORY, Gould admitted that anything Dawkins really cares about regarding biological structures–their origin, function, complexity, adaptive significance–is the product of natural selection [see ch. 3 of THE DESIGN OF LIFE]. Gould was as much a Darwinist as Dawkins.
Judson really needs to work on demonstrating the proper respect for Darwin as his bicentennial approaches next year.