A friend writes to note what philosopher of science, John Elof Boodin (1869-1950), had to say about natural selection:
The principle of natural selection is indeed an important contribution to biology. But it is a negative, not an architectonic, principle. It does not explain why variations appear, why they cumulate, why they assume an organization in the way of more successful adaptation. Organisms must, of course, be able to maintain themselves in their life environment and in the physical environment, in order to leave descendants and determine the character of the race. But that is all natural selection tells us. It does not explain the traits and organization of organisms nor why they become well or badly adapted to their specific environment.
Can’t seem to find this online, but it’s consistent with something we did find:
Even in such fields as science, where reason is supposed to be most at home, we drift invariably into traditions and schools. Darwin’s hypothesis of chance variations and natural selection has not merely become a dogma of science, but has been erected into a philosophy of the universe; and the limitations of the hypothesis and the empirical spirit of its creator have been lost sight of in an intolerant tradition which has had serious consequences, not only for the development of natural science but for the social ideals and progress of the race. This is only one instance where mysticism has supplanted reason in science and where the authority of facts has been forced to yield to the authority of tradition. In every field of science we are haunted by ghosts of the past to which lesser minds pay superstitious reverence and by which even greater minds are misled into false assumptions. And the most dangerous ghost of all is that mechanical materialism which, while it has no scientific credentials but is simply a false dogma tacked on to science, has become fashionable among scientists. If science is always in danger of subordinating reason and experience to dogmas, the danger is even greater iii philosophy and art where the emotional element naturally plays a greater part – John E. Boodin. “The Law of Social Participation”, American Journal of Sociology, 27, 1921: 22-53.
The modern point of view which finds its typical expression in Darwinism emphasizes change, history, mechanical causes, flux of species, determination of the higher by the lower. History runs on like an old man’s tale without beginning, middle, or end, without any guiding plot. It is infinite and formless. Chance rules supreme. It despises final causes.