It is commonly assumed that the battle over Darwinism was waged in the nineteenth century, and that Darwin won the day because his theory was supported by the scientific evidence.,,, Yet I suggest that there are good reasons for returning to the site of battle and asking whether it was won fair and square. I propose to show that the battle was not won by Darwin in the sense normally intended: I will argue that Darwin was a turning point in biology not so much because the empirical evidence was persuasive but primarily because his theory proved useful in advancing a particular philosophy—-a philosophy of science first of all and in many cases a general metaphysical position as well. by Nancy Pearcey | Nov 12, 2018 More.
The interpretation outlined in part 1 that both the primary motivation for supporting Darwin and the principle effect of his work was not so much scientific as philosophical is borne out by examining the writings of key nineteenth-century Darwinians–beginning with Darwin himself. The typical account, certainly in popular works, portrays Darwin as a man forced to the theory of natural selection by the weight of the facts. But professional historians tell a different story. Long before formulating his theory, Darwin nurtured a sympathy for philosophical naturalism. He was therefore predisposed toward a naturalistic theory of evolution even when the evidence itself was weak or inconclusive.
In a personal letter, Darwin describes his gradual loss of religious belief and slide into naturalism. By the late 1830s, he writes, he had come to consider the idea of divine revelation in the Old Testament “utterly incredible.” He had also rejected the biblical concept of miracles: In his words, “The more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become.” This commitment to “the fixed laws of nature” preceded Darwin’s major scientific work, and made it virtually inevitable that he would interpret the evidence through a naturalistic lens. by Nancy Pearcey | Nov 19, 2018 More.
“You guys lost” may be a fair assessment of the intellectual battle in the 19th century. But the question is how the battle was lost. It is often said that what made Darwin unique is that he provided a genuinely scientific mechanism for evolution–that others had proposed vague or idealist causes but in natural selection Darwin provided the first genuinely empirical mechanism. Yet, since most of Darwin’s supporters did not accept his theory, that cannot be the reason for his success. I have argued that the battle was “rigged”–that Darwinism won less because it fit the empirical data than because it provided a scientific rationale for those already committed to a purely naturalistic account of life.
Both Darwin’s supporters and opponents understood that philosophical naturalism was the central issue. More. by Nancy Pearcey | Nov 26, 2018
In considering how Darwin won the day, we must not ignore politics. The changes sought by nineteenth-century Darwinists were not only intellectual but also institutional. The older epistemology of science accommodated both religion and science: It allowed theology to place limits on the ideas acceptable in science. Once again, this was a balance rooted as far back as the church fathers. The second-century apologists accepted as much as they could of the science of their day (which was a product of Greek philosophy), but they insisted on certain limits: For example, they rejected the idea that the universe is eternal and instead insisted on an absolute beginning, on God’s creation of the world ex nihilo.62
But the new naturalistic epistemology promoted by the Darwinists was aggressively autonomous. It demanded that science be completely independent of theology. Gillespie writes: “The very existence of a rival science or of an alternative mode of knowledge was intolerable to the positivist”; he was “intolerant of all other claims to scientific knowledge. Anyone not of his tribe was a charlatan, an imposter.” As a result, these disagreements did not remain merely academic: They precipitated a struggle for power over social institutions. More. by Nancy Pearcey, Dec 3, 2018
Hat tip: Philip Cunningham
Curious times. In the current SJW wars, naturalism is precisely what the Darwinians are being asked to give up. For example, they insisted that we are all 98% chimpanzee; so now they are commanded to embrace the idea that sexual dimorphism is purely a cultural fact among primates, which everyone knows is false… Do they deserve this?
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See also: Science as Priestcraft and Hypocrisy Among the Clerisy (Barry Arrington)