The lead story on the front page of the New
York Times on April 6,
for once, wasn’t political. It was about fossils.
“All the news that’s fit to print,” eh? But why
fossils on the front page, overshadowing immigration, war, and even
Katie Couric? Doesn’t that belong in the Science section on Tuesday?
Or is there, as we say, some agenda at work here?
The headline tips us off: “Fossil Called Missing Link from
Sea to Land Animals.” Sure enough, the fifth paragraph explains
that some scientists — this is Science speaking, at which every
knee should bow — say these fossils, found in Arctic Canada,
600 miles from the North Pole, constitute “a powerful rebuttal
to religious creationists.”
How so? The critters’ four fins appear to be “limbs in
the making,” enabling them to come out of the water and lumber
around on land. Here at last is a missing link between fish and other
beasts, such as “amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals
and eventually humans.”
Take that, you creationists! You’ve been saying that the fossil
record lacks crucial transitional life forms, and here is the proof
that Darwin was right!
Just the other day, the Times’s Science section reported a
new theory that the Sea of Galilee used to freeze up, so when Jesus
walked on water (Mark 6:51), maybe he was actually walking on ice.
No miracle at all, you see. Once again, Science has spoken.
For all that, I still think Science is sometimes (pardon the pun)
a bit fishy, especially on the subject of evolution. And I don’t
ask anyone to take my word for it. Just read Darwinian Fairytales,
by David Stove, just republished by Encounter Books in New York.
Stove, who died in 1994, was a noted Australian philosopher. He was
neither a scientist nor a creationist, but an atheist. He didn’t
entirely reject the theory of evolution, and in fact had great respect
for Darwin himself. But as a rigorous practitioner of linguistic analysis,
he thought Darwin and his successors, from T.H. Huxley to Richard Dawkins,
had relied less on scientific method than on the abuse of language.
The result was what Stove called “Darwinism’s Dilemma.” The
facts simply didn’t — and couldn’t — square
with the claims of the theory, particularly in its account of human
life. And the Darwinians, while claiming to explain evolution and “the
descent of man” as an enormous accident of a blind struggle for
survival, have had to keep smuggling teleology — purpose — into
They reject the idea of God as an intelligent designer, but they
persist in using such expressions and metaphors as intelligent genes,
selfish genes, tools, tactics, devices, calculated, organized, goal,
and design. By implication, these words transfer the notion of purpose
from a benign, superhuman God to subhuman entities like genes and “memes.” Dawkins,
who posited (he’d say “discovered”) memes, flatly
calls “altruism” “something that does not exist in
nature.” After all, altruism would be a fatal handicap in the
ruthless struggle for survival.
Well, if altruism doesn’t exist in nature, why does it exist
at all? How can it? Aren’t we still in nature? How can we escape
it? When did we cease being pitiless competitors and start being cooperators,
building hospitals and charities and all the institutions that preserve
the people whom Darwinism’s nature, red in tooth and claw, would
deem “unfit” for survival? How can we be so utterly unlike
the fierce creatures from whom we are allegedly descended?
And if the drives for self-preservation and reproduction of our species
are built into our genes, why do we do so many things that frustrate
these drives? Not only altruism, but heroism, celibacy, abortion, contraception,
alcoholism, and a thousand other things are, from a Darwinian point
of view, self-destructive and in need of explanation.
The Darwinians are aware of these problems, and Stove shows, with
hilarious irony and savage sarcasm, how they have tied themselves in
knots of circular thinking trying to explain away the most intractable
difficulties their theory entails. Stove calls that theory “a
ridiculous slander on human beings.”
As Samuel Johnson says, “When speculation has done its worst,
two and two still make four”; and “Sir, we know the will
is free, and there’s an end on’t.” That’s the
kind of unawed common sense with which David Stove retorts to nonsense
posing as “Science.”
Copyright © 2010 by the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was originally published
by Griffin Internet Syndicate on October 6, 2006.
Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio
and archives of some of his columns.
Watch Sobran's last TV appearance on YouTube.
Learn how to get a tape of his last speech
during the FGF Tribute to Joe Sobran in December 2009.
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