Tom Bethell Puts Darwinism on Defense

Among the most influential men of the 20th century were a pair of 19th century scholars: Charles Darwin and Karl Marx.

Recent years have not been kind to either. Marxism-Leninism, the ideology that welded together and drove the Soviet empire, has been discredited by the horrors it produced and the colossal failure of Marxist theory when put into practice.

Comes now Darwin’s turn. In his 1859 "The Origin of Species" and other works, Darwin posited his thesis that man is not the work of any Creator, but a being that evolved from lower forms of life out of the primordial ooze.

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In his "Politically Incorrect Guide to Science," Tom Bethell, who Tom Wolfe calls "one of our most brilliant essayists," has, in 36 pages, gathered and briefly described a few of the difficulties that Darwinists are facing in defending their dogmas against skeptics.

For generations, scientists have searched for the "missing link" between ape and man. But not only is that link still missing, no links between species have been found. As Bethell writes, bats are the only mammals to have mastered powered flight. But even the earliest bats found in the fossil record have complex wings and built-in sonar. Where are the "half-bats" with no sonar or unworkable wings?

Their absence does not prove — but does suggest — that they do not exist. Is it not time, after 150 years, that the Darwinists started to deliver and ceased to be taken on faith?

In the Galapagos Islands, which Darwin visited in HMS Beagle in 1835, his later disciples discovered, after a drought, that the beaks of finches expanded 5 percent to help them crack the dried and hardened seeds — i.e., Darwinian adaptation. But when the rains returned, researchers found the beaks returned to normal size.

No one denies "micro-evolution" — i.e., species adapting to their environment. It is macro-evolution that is in trouble.

The Darwinian thesis of "survival of the fittest" turns out to be nothing but a tautology. How do we know existing species were the fittest? Because they survived. Why did they survive? Because they were the fittest.

While clever, this tells us zip about why we have tigers. It is less a scientific theory than a notion masquerading as a fact.

For those seeking the source of Darwin’s "discovery," there is an interesting coincidence. Darwin and his collaborator Alfred Russel Wallace both read Thomas Malthus’ famous "An Essay on the Principle of Population." Malthus theorized that since the production of food grew by small annual increments, while population was almost doubling with each generation, the struggle for food would lead to conflicts and wars in which only the strongest would survive.

Bethell is not alone in suggesting Darwin smuggled Malthus’ mid-Victorian political economy into biology. As Bertrand Russell observed, Darwin’s theory is "essentially an extension to the animal and vegetable world of laissez-faire economics."

Marx’s ideas also seem to have a Malthusian root. Marx predicted that the great wealth spawned by capitalism would be accumulated by fewer and fewer capitalists. And as it was, the constant expansion and immiseration of the proletariat would lead to a workers’ revolution in which the expropriators would be expropriated. This was catnip for anti-capitalists.

But American capitalism proved Marx dead wrong. While U.S. capitalism did indeed create plutocrats, the years 1865 to 1914 saw historic gains in the incomes and well-being of workers. By World War I, to the rage of Lenin, even Marxists theoreticians were saying the old boy’s theories needed some serious revision.

There are other questions Darwinists need to answer. If believing that Christ raised people from the dead is a matter of faith — and it is — is not the Darwinist claim that nature created life out of non-life a matter of faith? If it is science, why can’t scientists replicate it in microcosm in a laboratory?

If scientists know life came from matter and matter from non-matter, why don’t they show us how this was done, instead of asserting it was done, and calling us names for not taking their claims on faith?

Clearly, a continued belief in the absolute truth of Darwinist evolution is but an act of faith that fulfills a psychological need of folks who have rejected God. That picture on the wall of the science class of apes on four legs, then apes on two legs, then homo erectus walking upright is as much an expression of faith as the picture of Adam and Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

Hence, if religion cannot prove its claim and Darwinists can’t prove their claims, we must fall back upon reason, which some of us believe is God’s gift to mankind.

And when you consider the clocklike precision of the planets in their orbits about the sun and the extraordinary complexity of the human eye, does that seem to you like the result of random selection or the product of intelligent design?

Prediction: Like the Marxists, the Darwinists are going to wind up as a cult in which few believe this side of Berkeley and Harvard Square.

Pray for them this Christmas season, and enjoy yourself with a reading of Bethell’s fine and funny little book.


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