Carol Platt Liebau: Note to Skeptic

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Note to Skeptic

This week, the publisher of "Skeptic" magazine shows up in the op/ed pages of The LA Times to tell us that

You can believe in God and evolution as long as you keep the two in separate, logic-tight compartments. Belief in God depends on religious faith. Belief in evolution depends on empirical evidence.

Surely Charles Darwin would have been surprised to hear this -- for he was an agnostic, at most.

While evolution seems to be the most rational theory to explain the origin of new species (and there's no reason to believe it's inherently incompatible with religious faith) -- it is, in fact, only a theory.

Obviously, (despite the "Skeptic" publisher's invocation of "empirical evidence," the theory of evolution cannot be tested nor its results replicated, the way most scientific hypotheses can. And it doesn't explain the fact that populations of species vary only within certain limits or that variations that do occur often lapse once the environmental threat that precipitated them has been allayed. Nor can it account for the fact that, as he noted in Chapter 9 of Origins of Species the fossil record had failed to "reveal any . . . finely graduated organic chain" linking existing species to predecessors. Finally, there remains the question: Why did natural selection evolve "up" into humans, rather than simply evolving "down" into a simple organism that could survive almost any conditions, e.g. the cockroach? (For a fuller discussion on all these points, read this Weekly Standard piece by Paul McHugh.

And for a more reasoned and respectful discussion of both Darwin and religion than that offered by the "Skeptic" publisher, check this piece, again in The Weekly Standard.

Here is just one of many points wherein the author, Isaac Constantine, puts the "Skeptic" to shame:

"I see no good reason," writes Darwin in the conclusion of The Origin of Species, "why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone." Illustrating his point he goes on to describe a letter he received from a "celebrated author and divine" that had "gradually learned to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development and needful forms, as to believe He required a fresh act of creation . . . " Darwin doesn't exactly endorse this theistic take on evolution right then and there, though he ends his treatise with the following: "There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

Perhaps before the "Skeptic" publisher tries to compartmentalize Darwin and religion, he might want to check the writings of Darwin, himself.


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