Science, Scopes, & Evolution

[COMMENT: The information below from Ernst Mayr is very helpful in understanding the logic of science, how sciences differ, depending on their subject matter.  

The distinction is important for understanding the impact of evolution on our understanding (and misunderstanding) of what science is.    E. Fox]

From Summit Journal --  May 2005

"Eighty years ago this summer, the Scopes trial upheld the effort of the state of Tennessee to exclude the teaching of Darwinian evolution from Tennessee classrooms. The state claimed Darwinism contradicted orthodox religion. But times change, and recently a federal judge ruled that a three-sentence sticker stating that "evolution is a theory not a fact" must be removed from Georgia high school biology texts because it contradicts orthodox science and represents an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. Both legal mandates—no Darwin yesterday, nothing but Darwin today—look less like science than exercises in thought control.

"Everyone agrees that the Scopes trial (viciously caricatured in the play and movie Inherit the Wind) was a setback for the teaching of scientific reasoning. But the same is true of the Georgia ruling, Darwinism being quite obviously a biological theory and open to dispute. To claim otherwise is to be woefully misinformed.

"Science, as high school students need to know, is a logically articulated structure of beliefs about nature that are justified by methods of reasoning one can evaluate. It is whether the methods pass muster that counts for or against a scientific opinion, not how the opinion fits our preconceptions.

"Charles Darwin proposed that random variation within life forms, working together with natural selection (‘the preservation of favorable variations and the rejection of injurious variations’) across the vast expanse of time since the earth was formed, explains ‘how the universe created intelligence,’ as Francis Bacon had stated the problem a few centuries before. To judge whether the matter is now closed to all criticism, such that Darwinism stands with scientific facts like ‘the earth is a planet of the sun’ or ‘the blood circulates in the body,’ demands we consider Darwin’s method of reasoning.

"The leading Darwinist in America, Ernst Mayr, describes the method. ‘Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is historical science—the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.’  Darwin, Mayr goes on, ‘established a philosophy of biology… by showing that theories in evolutionary biology are based on concepts rather than laws.’ 

[COMMENT:  (My emphasis above.) That distinction between concepts and law is only partly valid, since the history is alleged to be the history of causality according to the laws of science.  But his point is well taken.  None of the events can be reproduced since they are all past.  Mayr's analysis highlights the metaphysical nature of the evolutionist's argument -- that he must appeal to principles (laws of nature) which transcend time and space because they are supposed to apply apriori to all time and space, and are thus beyond the capacity of secularized science to discover.  E. Fox]

"After noting Mayr’s fearless use of the words ‘tentative,’ ‘philosophy,’ and ‘theory,’ one surely is justified in responding: No wonder Darwinism, in contrast to other scientific theories, seems an argument without end! It’s history—indeed, history captured by that creative-writing-class concept narrative. If historical narrative—and the ‘philosophy’ it propounds—are what justify the Darwinian opinions, the textbook writers of Georgia can legitimately claim that Darwin’s ‘tentative reconstruction’ is not only a theory but a special kind of theory, one lacking the telling and persuasive power that theories built on hypothesis-generated experiment and public prediction can garner."

—Paul McHugh, The Weekly Standard, March 28, 2005, p. 23


[COMMENT:  Below is another piece from Summit Journal --  May 2005. 

The issue of "what is science" has a moral side, not only an epistemological side.  A man is not to be trusted as a scientist except to the degree that he has made a moral commitment to seek and to speak the truth -- at any cost to himself.  The public grants scientists enormous prestige and authority in matters deeply affecting our lives.  That trust is justified only based on that moral expectation and commitment.  The scientific community has had as tarnished a history as has the religious communities of the world.  We are all fallen.   The story below is quite common in the scientific and academic community. 

Note: for a Biblical view of science and faith, see The Authority of the Bible in a Scientific Age.  There is NO conflict between Biblical faith and scientific procedure.  Science is built on the Biblical notion of faith.    E. Fox]


"Browsing in a library one day, I came across a creationist book arguing that the fossil record showed the precise opposite of what evolutionary theory predicts. I had never had reason to be anything but a staunch supporter of Darwinism, since that was all I’d been exposed to, and everyone knew the creationists were strange anyway. But I checked the book out and took it home, thinking it would be good for a laugh. Now, I didn’t buy their Scriptural account of how it all began, and I still don’t. But contrary to the ridicule and derision that I’d been accustomed to hearing, to my own surprise I found the evidence that they presented for finding huge problems with the Darwinian theory to be solid and persuasive. So, such being my bent, I ordered more books out of curiosity to look a bit more deeply into what they have to say. Things got more interesting when I brought my findings up with various biologists whom I knew. While some would fly into a peculiar mix of apoplexy and fury at the mere mention of the subject—a distinctly unscientific reaction, it seemed—others would confide privately that they agreed with a lot of it; but things like pressures of the peer groups, the politics of academia, and simple career considerations meant that they didn’t talk about it. I was astonished. This was the late-twentieth century West, not sixteenth-century Spain." 

—James P. Hogan, Kicking The Sacred Cow, p. 4,5

[COMMENT: Question for Hogan -- If the theory of evolution is full of holes, what alternative is there other than some form of Biblical type creation to explain things?  There are only two basic explanations: creation vs. evolution.  These take many forms, but they all boil down to these two.  So the reason secular folks cling doggedly to evolution is that their whole worldview rests on it.  Without it, they have no secular theory of how things exist the way they do.  Note, I did not say "...why things exist the way they do," because evolution rejects the "why" of life.  There is no why.  A "why" would imply design, perhaps even intelligent design.    E. Fox] 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Go to: => TOP Page; => Science Library; => Intelligent Design Library;  => ROAD MAP