During the 1980s, two books—Evolution: a Theory in Crisis, by Michael Denton, and The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, by Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, and Roger Olsen—unwittingly gave rise to the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. Books by scientists—Michael Denton, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and others—pointed out various deficiencies in the theory of evolution: millions of gaps in the asserted “tree of evolution,” the impossibility of producing certain types of “irreducible complexity” by chance interactions, the failure of algorithms used by evolutionists to explain certain evolutionary developments, etc.
Critics of ID, on the other hand, especially prominent militant atheists like Richard Dawkins, have been ridiculing ID theorists for years as unscientific, and extolling “natural selection” as a kind of “blind watchmaker” accomplishing something that just “seems” like design through random developments over billions of years.
Surprisingly, two recent books by atheist philosophers of science have joined with ID theorists in the criticism of neo-Darwinism.
Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, in What Darwin Got Wrong come at neo-Darwinism from a number of directions. Initially, they draw a comparison with B.F. Skinner’s psychological theory of “operant conditioning,” which attempted to explain changes in human behavior by patterns of stimulus and response. Limitations of that theory have eventually been revealed: it did not take into account internal mechanisms in organisms subjected to external stimuli; and the intention of researchers or subjects affected the results of experiments. Skinner’s behaviorism can be corrected by taking these aspects into account. But no such correction is possible in neo-Darwinism, which has no interest in “the internal organization of creatures . . . (genotypic and ontogenetic structures)” and recognizes no “intentions” in evolutionary processes.
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