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The Party’s Over

Original Article

The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day.
They’ve burst your pretty balloon and taken the moon away.
It’s time to wind up the masquerade.
Just make your mind up — the piper must be paid.

The party’s over, the candles flicker and dim.
You danced and dreamed through the night, it seemed to be right just being with him.
Now you must wake up, all dreams must end.
Take off your make up, the party’s over. It’s all over, my friend.

— “The Party’s Over” (Words by Betty Comden and Adolph Green; music by Jule Styne; performed by Nat King Cole) 

Darwin Year is drawing to a close.

The festivities went into full swing on February 12 (Darwin’s 200th birthday), with parties at hundreds of locations in scores of countries. There were birthday cakes galore. At least two (in Wagga Wagga, Australia and Sopot, Poland) boasted 200 candles; one cake (in Pune, India) was shaped like a finch. At two parties, guests were served “primordial soup.”

In Arcata, California, the Department of Biological Sciences at Humboldt State University invited partygoers to bring ornaments representing their favorite organisms to put on the “tree of life,” and it offered a prize to those who came dressed as Darwin. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy sponsored “the largest party in town,” including birthday cake, 200 free drinks, and “science-themed student rock bands.”

The New York State Museum in Albany not only served birthday cake in Darwin’s honor, but also presented four cooking demonstrations by local chefs paired with biologists, each demonstration to “focus on a different branch of the Tree of Life: vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and fungi.”

For those wanting to honor Darwin online, New York-based Internet consultant Phil Terry set up a “Join Darwin on Facebook” site where well-wishers could record videos, pen poems, draw pictures, and otherwise wish the Father of Evolution a happy 200th. According to Kendall Crolius, who assisted Terry, volunteers working on the project referred to themselves as “proud monkeys.”

For those wanting souvenirs, the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in England sold “limited edition Darwin and Beyond mugs” for £7.50 each. The American Association for the Advancement of Science offered “Viva la Evolución” T-Shirts, with Darwin wearing a Che Guevara-style beret.

Celebrations continued throughout the year. In England, the Rambert Dance Company put on a show that was “a distillation of Darwinian ideas about evolution, particularly sexual selection.” The Linnean Society of London [15] hosted Kelley Swain, who was inspired by the works of Charles Darwin to write a book of poetry, Darwin’s Microscope, and read selections from it in a talk titled “The Poetry of Science.” Tea was served in the library, followed by a wine reception.

The list goes on. And on. And on. And on.

FESTIVITIES BUILT TO A CLIMAX until November 24 (the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species). The University of Binghamton in upstate New York hosted a performance of “The Rap Guide to Evolution” by hip-hop artist Baba Brinkman. “In the real world the most important ideas are communicated through art, and fusing science and art is extremely important and interesting,” said David Sloan Wilson, a professor in the Evolutionary Studies Program. Jim DeVona, project coordinator for the program, called Brinkman’s rap “an example of how evolutionary thinking can inform our understanding of humanity itself, not just the rest of the animal kingdom, but humanity as well.”

At Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, the Theatre Workshop in Science and Technology Studies (TWISTS) performed a play, Living Darwin, while the School of Visual Arts sponsored Singing Darwin: A New Media Exhibition that included a vocal rendition of the entire text of The Origin of Species. The performance took twenty-four hours.

The Darwin Year delirium reached such an extreme that even evolutionists grew weary of it.

Cambridge University paleontologist Simon Conway Morris wrote in Current Biology, “More than one of my colleagues has cast her eye around the packed conference room and then murmured sotte voce that, well, she was suffering a little from Darwin fatigue.” Conway Morris wondered whether the “obsession” with Darwin and the “endless cycle” of centennial celebrations reflected “a loss of way, an eclipse of confidence,” and he criticized those who “caper around the Darwinian totem” while ignoring the contributions of others.

University of Florida biologist Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis wrote in Science, “Just when it looked like the ‘ultra-Darwinists’ were winning the ‘year of Darwin’ with their interminable love-fests, triumphalist narratives, and self-serving revisionist histories; when we were starting to think that Darwin was the only evolutionist to have lived in the past 150 years; and when we might conclude that nearly the entire evolutionary community had drunk the Kool-Aid of antiquarian Darwinism,” David Prindle published a book on Stephen Jay Gould that “would likely challenge much of the ultra-orthodoxy passing as reflective history and science written expressly for the year of Darwin.” Smocovitis concluded: “Darwin is dead. Long live evolution.”

In a book subtitled An Exposé of the Evolution Industry, New Zealand science journalist Susan Mazur wrote, “Evolutionary science is as much about the posturing, salesmanship, stonewalling and bullying that goes on as it is about actual scientific theory. … Perhaps the most egregious display of commercial dishonesty is this year’s celebration of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species — the so-called theory of evolution by natural selection, i.e., survival of the fittest, a brand foisted on us 150 years ago.”

Darwin’s devotees idolize him nevertheless as the world’s greatest scientist. Yet he was wrong about almost everything: the nature of inheritance (it was Gregor Mendel — who found Darwin’s theory unconvincing — who laid the foundation of modern genetics); the origin of variations (Darwin thought they came from use and disuse); the power of natural selection (which has never been shown capable of producing anything more than minor changes within existing species); the origin of species (which remains an unsolved problem); vertebrate embryos (which Darwin falsely believed show us our progenitor “in its adult state”); and the geographic distribution of species (many of which — as 20th-century French biologist Léon Croizat documented — do not fit Darwin’s theory).

Despite Darwin’s glaring scientific failures, journalist Chris Mooney calls The Origin of Species “one of the most brilliant books ever written.” Concerning the Darwin Year festivities, however, Mooney asks: “Why does this happen? Is there any other historic scientist that we celebrate nearly as much? And is it merely because of Darwin’s most famous theory on a scientific level, or is it something more than that?” Mooney concludes, “I think Darwin means far, far more to us than anything his science, alone, can convey. He epitomizes something else, and I want to hazard that it is the following: A secular worldview. …Darwin isn’t just a guy who was brilliant — he’s a way of life.”

Other historic scientists we might celebrate include Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein in physics; Robert Boyle, Antoine Lavoisier and Willard Gibbs in chemistry; and Carolus Linnaeus, Georges Cuvier and Gregor Mendel in biology. Each one of them contributed more to science and technology than Charles Darwin. Indeed, modern physics, chemistry and biology might not exist if it were not for them. And if we were to celebrate the most important book in the history of science, Newton’s Principia would be a better candidate than Darwin’s Origin of Species.

As Mooney points out, Darwin epitomizes something else: “a secular worldview.”

Actually, Darwinism has always been more about materialistic philosophy than empirical science. Darwin called The Origin of Speciesone long argument,” and it took the following form: The features of living things are “inexplicable on the theory of creation” but fully explicable as products of unguided natural forces. Darwin lacked sufficient evidence for the latter, however, so he simply ruled out the former by declaring that science is the search for natural explanations — whether or not they are supported by evidence.

In his book Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation (University of Chicago Press, 1979), historian Neal C. Gillespie wrote: “It is sometimes said that Darwin converted the scientific world to evolution by showing them the process by which it had occurred,” but “it was more Darwin’s insistence on totally natural explanations than on natural selection that won their adherence.” The Darwinian revolution was primarily philosophical, and Darwin’s philosophy limited science to “the discovery of laws which reflected the operation of purely natural or ‘secondary’ causes.” Furthermore, “there could be no out-of-bounds signs… When sufficient natural or physical causes were not known they must nonetheless be assumed to exist to the exclusion of other causes.”

But the assumption that everything can be explained by natural causes is materialistic philosophy. According to biology textbook-writer Douglas J. Futuyma, Darwin — like Marx and Freud — provided “a crucial plank to the platform of mechanism and materialism” that now dominates Western thought.

So Darwin Year was not so much a celebration of empirical science as of materialistic philosophy. This explains why International Darwin Day was a project of the American Humanist Association, which is dedicated to promoting a “nontheistic” philosophy. It also explains why atheists want to establish Darwin Day as a secular alternative to Christmas.

Well, the party’s over. The balloons have burst, and the candles flicker and dim. It’s time to wind up the masquerade and sweep up the trash.

Just in time for the real Christmas.

Jonathan Wells

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Jonathan Wells has received two Ph.D.s, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University. A Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, he has previously worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and the supervisor of a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California. He also taught biology at California State University in Hayward and continues to lecture on the subject.