Many members of the ID community will no doubt have been relieved to see the back of 2009. The secular establishment took the opportunity provided by the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, to launch a defence of their hero’s largely discredited theory. The popular science bookshelves were crammed with the uncritical, credulous hagiography that is the hallmark of the evolutionary genre, with their hysterical denunciations of ID inadvertently providing a fascinating insight into life on the wrong end of a paradigm shift.
However, a careful scrutiny of those bookshelves would also have revealed a slim volume by the British science journalist, James Le Fanu, entitled Why Us? In stark contrast to the depressing, nihilistic, materialist propaganda, the author’s declared aims are to restore a sense of wonder to the scientific enterprise, and man to the pedestal from which he has been so unceremoniously toppled by philosophical materialism. He has succeeded triumphantly, and, in so doing, has driven another nail into the coffin of Darwin’s reputation.
Le Fanu writes beautifully – almost poetically, at times – but never loses sight of his underlying message. Beginning with an evocative account of the discovery of the artwork of Cro-Magnon man in a French cave, he marvels at the sudden and inexplicable emergence of mankind, with our unique powers of imagination, reasoning and abstract thought. The contrast with our primate ‘cousins’ should be self-evident, but the distorting lens of the Darwinian paradigm has served only to emphasise and exaggerate our similarities. Consequently, huge areas of potential research into what makes humans ‘special’ have been largely ignored, with disastrous consequences for the scientific enterprise.
This might all seem a bit depressing, and, for those of us familiar with the ID literature, rather unoriginal, too. However, it provides the context for the author’s main thesis – that cutting-edge science is providing us with an opportunity to break free of the shackles of materialist reductionism, and re-embrace the concept of the soul. In two areas in particular – genetics and neuroscience – research over the last 20 years has shown that we are much more than the sum of our brain’s electrical impulses and our DNA’s instructions. This is both stunning and liberating: stunning because it is the very opposite of what scientists – working, of course, within the constraints of the Darwinian paradigm – expected to find; and liberating because it frees us from the rigid determinism of the selfish gene, with all that that implies for free will and objective moral values.
This is a tremendously worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in the contemporary origins debate