Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ruse, Michael. Chapter 1 of DARWINISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS. Cambridge: CUP, 2008.

"If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I’d give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning, and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law." D. C. Dennett (1995) This is the judgment of the philosopher Daniel Dennett about the English naturalist Charles Robert Darwin, who discovered the theory of evolution through natural selection, published in 1859 in his Origin of Species, the work that provides the ongoing framework for evolutionary studies today. It is a judgment with which I concur. Many do not. Most obviously, there are the many American evangelical Christians who take the words of the Bible absolutely literally and who hence assert that the world and its denizens were created by God, miraculously, some six thousand years ago, in the space of a week. Recently, these “Creationists” have been joined by believers of a more sophisticated ilk, the so-called Intelligent Design theorists, who argue that no natural account of origins can be adequate, and hence that all histories must make space for special interventions by some form of thinking being. These are people at one end of the religious spectrum, yet even those toward the other end – those who argue that Genesis must be interpreted metaphorically and that God did create according to laws of evolution – tend nevertheless to suppose that blind laws need help, that they need special pushes, to create the wonderful world of life and to alleviate the harshness of the Darwinian process. . . . Read the rest here:

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