Letter to the editor
The Confusion of Evolution
From: PSCF 46 (December 1994): 287-288.
I am appreciative of the critical comments by Ruth Douglas Miller (Perspectives 46:1, pp. 68-69) and Lawrence Lyons (PSCF, 46:2, pp. 146-147), in response to my article, "The Real Meaning of Evolution" (PSCF, 45:3, pp. 182-186). I would first like to agree, not disagree, with their position that God could have used chance and random processes in his creation of the world of living things. Not only is this consistent with Proverbs 16:33, but, as we (the authors) said in Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy, "evidence of random chemical processes is not necessarily evidence for philosophic accidentalism" (p. 33, emphasis original). Whether God did create living things through random processes is a subject for empirical investigation. We should not however, let either the fear of anti-theistic interpretation or the fear of repeating the mistakes of Cardinal Bellarmine or Bishop Wilburforce influence our objective judgment.
Where I disagree with both Miller and Lyons is their claim that evolutionary theory is fully compatible with theism. Note that I am not claiming that evolution, properly defined, is incompatible with theism. My thesis is that evolution has, whether we theists like it or not, come to mean what Darwinist George Gaylord Simpson says it means in The Meaninq of Evolution: "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural processes that did not have him in mind. He was not planned" (1967, p. 345). It is this pervasive and consistent denial of purpose and the insistence that human beings are unplanned accidents, that the scientific establishment has adopted as the real meaning of "evolution."
To counter the lines of evidence I presented for this thesis, Lyons cited the writings of such scientists as Donald MacKay, Arthur Peacocke and John Polkinghorne. Perhaps Lyons is unaware that these distinguished theists are regarded as irrational, unbalanced "woolgatherers" by secular scientists (Nature 361, pp. 292, 362, 388; 1993). In fact, the official editorial position of Nature is to ridicule theology and religion as polluters of the rigorous scientific search for truth. Other than "research on the psychology of religious belief,"..."What other academic purpose can there be "for Cambridge University to explore the relationship between science and theology, with author Susan Howatch's one-million-pound endowed lectureship in Theology and Natural Science (362, p. 380; 1993). "The idea that religion may be a way of organizing one's appraisal of one's place in the world is not very different from what astrologers tell their clients. In other words, it may not be long before the practice of religion must be regarded as anti-science" (368, p. 185; 1994).
It is the views of Dawkins (Evolution has replaced God as our creator) rather than those of MacKay, Peacocke, and Polkinghorne that have been ratified by the scientific establishment. In the June 1994 "Evolution" issue of Natural History, S.J. Gould pronounces, "...the cancellation of our 'particular privilege of having been specially created' (in God's image, no less)...." He further tells us that "...Nature was not made for us, or even with us in mind... "Better to learn a stern truth about marvelous multifariousness (and cosmic indifference to us) than to persist in a myth of warm cuddliness or intrinsic harmony that might channel proper attention from own bodies and minds (true humanism) as the source of ethics and value."
What policies should ASA pursue toward countering such officially endorsed scientism? Number one on my list is agreement with Lyons that we should vigorously pursue implementation of ASA's resolution calling for the teaching of evolution as science (Perspectives 44:4, p. 251). The fact that this policy is meeting with irrational adhominem attacks and attempts at censorship (Perspectives 46:2, p. 128-132) demonstrates to me that we're on the right track. Until ASA's policy prevails, however, let's not naively pretend that theists control the meaning of that ambiguous and slippery word "evolution."
John L. Wiester
7820 Santa Rosa Road
Buellton, CA 93427