Darwin's Critics Are No Bigots, in Contrast to Certain Darwinists

Giuseppe Sermonti
Giuseppe Sermonti
October 19, 2005
Remove from the natural sciences the mystery of beauty, of purpose, and of meaning, and you are left with evolutionism. It is neither a hypothesis nor a fact; it is rather a method, a discipline. Existence, proclaimed Richard Dawkins, "is no longer a mystery," the riddle having been solved by Darwin and Wallace. And yet the riddle remains.

This last May I visited the United States, where I became involved in discussions regarding the teaching of Darwinism, in Seattle and in Kansas. There is a strange battle being waged between, on the one hand, those who insist on the need to keep religion distant from science classes (in accordance with the First Amendment of the Constitution) and, on the other, promoters of Intelligent Design (ID, based in Seattle), which maintains that religion does not enter into it and is exclusively concerned with presenting Darwinism critically, contrasting it with other hypotheses.

For the Darwinists, who in Kansas have abandoned the field, anyone who opposes Darwin is a poorly concealed religious fundamentalist. In Italy, by the way, the religious argument has never come into the debate; in fact, said debate does not even exist, as the Darwinists are much too convinced that truth lies with them to wish to waste time discussing the matter.

G.L. Schroeder, in his book Genesis and the Big Bang (1991), thoroughly documents how the Book of Genesis is not a mythological cosmogony or a fairytale for children, as the Darwinists define it, but rather an insightful and scientific account, comparable to modern cosmology. "They reflect the same reality, described in different terminology." One need only juxtapose this vision with the Assyro-Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish of the second millennium BC, populated by monstrous dragons born of the mating in Chaos of Apsu and Tiamat. There is also Hesiod's epic Theogony, with castrated Uranus, the Titans, the Cyclopses, and giants. No Marduk (and no Bel) appears in Genesis to cut up the body of the monster Tiamat in two, like the two valves of a clam, to form the firmament and the earth. Nor is there a hundred-armed Briareus It abstemiously describes the origin of the universe as ex nihilo: Fiat Lux, followed by a period of astrophysical tidying up, then by the appearance vegetable and animal life – in the sea and on the land. The crowning of the work was the creation of man, for he was to subdue the earth. It is a theory of evolution ante litteram. From the Big Bang of contemporary astrophysics to the origin of life, the various species, and humankind, the modern scenario substantially follows the Biblical model. The major life groups appear in successive waves, the procession ending in man, the most perfect of the beings.

Genesis and Natural Selection

One difference between the two pictures deserves attention: in the Bible the great classes of creatures appear successively and autonomously; in the theory of evolution, each gradually derives from the transformation of the preceding one: from fish, amphibians; from amphibians, reptiles; from reptiles, mammals. The process of transformation of the classes is for Darwin a logical necessity, in order to avoid recourse to successive emergencies that might require repeated interventions of the Creator. In two words, the theory of evolution is a revision of Genesis, or, in religious terms, a Biblical heresy. Genesis proclaims: "God said: 'Let there be light…Let there be a firmament…Let the waters…gather into one one…Let the earth bring forth grass…Let there be lights in the firmament…Let the waters bring forth abundantly…Let the earth bring forth creatures of every kind…Let us make man…" Darwin concludes his Origin of Species with a hymn to Life: "…with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one…" Atheism is an afterthought and not an inevitable consequence of Darwinism.

In the realm of science, there were before the appearance of the Intelligent Design, two prominent schools of thought: the "English school" (standing for external forces), which proposed an evolution of living groups for adaptive additions and divisions of organs or functions; the "French school" (standing for internal pushes), which, on the contrary, maintained that once a group has taken a particular path, it cannot divert from it: a specialized reptile cannot give way to a mammal. The English school excludes a "design"; the French school demands of it various things for the emergence of each new group.

For Pierre-Paul Grassé (1973) the birth of living groups emerges from a line of archaic forms, the line of their parent forms, from which specialized lines are differentiated ("strawberries from a rhizome, from whose nodes time after time small stems spout out." The English school presupposes "intermediate forms" between one group and another; the French school (Grassé, author of Traité de zoologies in 28 volumes) disallows such. The dispute between the two schools of science has been lost in the shuffle of religious conflicts and political and academic clashes, so that we have wound up dealing with the question of whether God has any voice in the matter or whether we can do without Him. For ) it excludes her. The dispute among the two scientific schools has been confused amidst religious clashes and political and academic brawls and has wound up dealing with question whether God has any voice in the matter or whether one can do without Him. For me, God, as the summit of all the mysteries, should be kept out of the controversy, far from quarrels in the realm of fossils and molecules. Evolution should be a serious subject, debatable and unresolved, distant from the urban legends, from the political cells, from the sacristies. No less than Genesis, the theory of the natural selection should be put in its place in the history of science, ancient and modern. Yet, in the small nation of Italy, when, a few years ago, [Letizia Brichetto Arnaboldi] Moratti [then minister of education] dared to propose a change in the teaching of evolution, there was an academic and popular uprising, a commission of respected citizens was named, and it was decided that the teaching of the scientific perspective (ergo Darwinian) should be imparted as soon as possible and should be monocultural, as a secular bible, as a catechism for children.

There is one matter that continues to offend me: that scientists of the stature of [Georges] Cuvier, [Karl Ernst] von Baer, [Hans] Driesch, [Daniele] Rosa, D'Arcy Thompson, [Conrad Hal] Waddington, [René Fréderic] Thom, [Adolf] Portmann, [S.] Loevtrup, [Kinji] Imanishi, [Antonio] Lima-de-Faria, [Francisco J.] Varela, [Colin] Paterson, [Atsuhiro] Shibatani, to cite just a few, should be preemptively dismissed by the high priests of Darwinism as simple-minded religious fundamentalists. I have attended meetings held by Structuralists in Osaka during the 1980s and 1990s and this year by supporters of Intelligent Design. Of religion, I have heard not a word.

Giuseppe Sermonti is a Retired Professor of Genetics, University of Perugia, and the author of Why is a Fly, Not a Horse? (Discovery Institute Press, 2005)