Renowned Yale Professor Quits Darwin

News: US News
by Stephen Wynne  •  •  August 8, 2019   

Dr. David Gelernter: Darwinism can't explain origin of species

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. ( - Famed Yale University computer science professor Dr. David Gelernter has renounced Darwinism.

In a column for the spring edition of the Claremont Review of Books, Gelernter announced that he is no longer a disciple of Darwin, saying the English naturalist's theory has been disproven.

"Darwinian evolution is a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory," he wrote. "Once it was a daring guess. Today it is basic to the credo that defines the modern worldview."

"Accepting the theory as settled truth ... certifies that you are devoutly orthodox in your scientific views; which in turn is an essential first step towards being taken seriously in any part of modern intellectual life," he added. "But what if Darwin was wrong?"

In his seminal work The Origin of Species (1859), Darwin proposed that all life forms have descended from a common ancestor, suggesting that over time, random variation coupled with natural selection gives rise to entirely new species.

But, Gelernter wrote, "The origin of species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain."

"Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape," he noted. "Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether he can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture — not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones."

Dr. Stephen Meyer

A key problem for Darwinism, Gelernter said, is the Cambrian explosion. The fossil record reveals that "a striking variety of new organisms — including the first-ever animals — pop up suddenly in the fossil record over a mere 70-odd million years," which contradicts Darwin's assumption that "new life forms evolve gradually from old ones in a constantly branching, spreading tree of life."

Chief among the flaws undermining Darwinism, he wrote, is molecular biology, which in recent decades has demonstrated that random mutation plus natural selection cannot give rise to new, more complex species.

Gelernter credited three books for his shift in understanding: Dr. Stephen Meyer's Darwin's Doubt (2013), Dr. David Berlinski's The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (2009) and David Klinghoffer's Debating Darwin's Doubt (2015).

"These three form a fateful battle group that most people would rather ignore," he wrote.

Gelernter singled out Meyer's work as especially praiseworthy: "Meyer ... disassembles the theory of evolution piece by piece. Darwin's Doubt is one of the most important books in a generation. Few open-minded people will finish it with their faith in Darwin intact."

Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but the basis of a worldview, and an emergency replacement religion for the many troubled souls who need one.

Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at Seattle-based think tank the Discovery Institute, is an advocate of a replacement theory, intelligent design (ID).

Biological life, ID proponents argue, is not the result of blind, undirected evolutionary processes, but the product of design by an intelligent entity.

Many adherents are religious. But, as Gelernter observed, "Intelligent design as Meyer explains it never uses religious arguments, draws religious conclusions, or refers to religion in any way."

Still, as ID has grown as a theoretical alternative to Darwinism, it has been savaged as a pseudo-scientific appeal to religion by committed Darwinists within the scientific establishment. This, Gelernter pointed out, is because Darwinism serves as their de facto faith:

The religion is all on the other side. Meyer and other proponents of I.D. are the dispassionate intellectuals making orderly scientific arguments. Some I.D.-haters have shown themselves willing to use any argument — fair or not, true or not, ad hominem or not — to keep this dangerous idea locked in a box forever. They remind us of the extent to which Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but the basis of a worldview, and an emergency replacement religion for the many troubled souls who need one.

Critics have long argued that Darwinism is atheistic philosophy disguised as science. Since Darwin's day, they note, it has been used to reject Christian orthodoxy and advance materialism, the view that human beings are merely the accidental results of unguided natural processes (as opposed to being purposefully created by God), and that the human mind is the only — and therefore, the supreme — consciousness that exists.

I am attacking their religion and I don't blame them for being all head up, it is a big issue for them.

In a 1997 article for The New York Review of Books, leading evolutionist and atheist Dr. Richard C. Lewontin testified to the fact that materialists are committed to Darwinism, in spite of its myriad inconsistencies and flaws, because they are committed to the denial of God.

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori [pre-existing] adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

Gelernter worries that materialists' philosophical/religious commitment to Darwinism is precluding genuine scientific inquiry. In an interview with Stanford University's Hoover Institution last month, he expounded on this concern.

"My argument is with people who dismiss intelligent design without considering, it seems to me — it's widely dismissed in my world of academia as some sort of theological put up job — it's an absolutely serious scientific argument," he said. "In fact it's the first and most obvious and intuitive one that comes to mind. It's got to be dealt with intellectually."

Dr. Richard C. Lewontin

Gelernter said he's troubled by the conduct of many of his Yale colleagues, noting that "their intellectual behavior, what they have published — and much more importantly what they tell their students," doesn't reveal a commitment to scientific truth.

"[W]hat I have seen in their behavior intellectually and at colleges across the West is nothing approaching free speech on this topic," he lamented. "It's a bitter, fundamental, angry, outraged rejection [of intelligent design], which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion. I've seen that happen again and again."

"Darwinism has indeed passed beyond a scientific argument as far as they are concerned," he noted. "You take your life in your hands to challenge it intellectually. They will destroy you if you challenge it."

Gelernter's observation echoes the testimony of multiple scientists who have been blacklisted for scientific "heresy," some of whom were profiled in Ben Stein's 2007 documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

Repeating his earlier assertion, Gelernter explained that those who question materialism's fundamental tenet are targeted because for materialists, Darwinism is faith: "I am attacking their religion and I don't blame them for being all head up, it is a big issue for them," he said.

The students in my class, they're all Darwinsts. I am not hopeful.

Critics of the theory point out that in the classroom, Darwinism is almost universally presented uncritically — that its weaknesses go unexamined. The result, they say, is that by college, untold numbers of students have been severed from religious belief, convinced by materialist teachers, professors and textbooks that theology is incompatible with science.

In 2016, Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) published a study of why so many Catholic young people are leaving the Church. Summarizing the findings, Our Sunday Visitor contributor Mark M. Gray noted:

The reasons young people leave are complex and varied. However, there is an emerging profile of one of the most common ways this happens. Many historians and Catholic theologians will say the Catholic Church has no place in a "war" between religion and science today. Yet the Church does appear to be losing a related battle nonetheless. Some young Catholics have told CARA that they are leaving the Faith for science, believing that Catholicism is incompatible with what they are learning in high school or at the university level.

When asked "What are the reasons that explain why you are no longer Catholic?" the largest percentage of young ex-Catholics — 1 in 5 — said they abandoned the Faith because they no longer believed in God. Typical reasons given included:

  • "Because I grew up and realized it was a story like Santa or the Easter Bunny."
  • "As I learn more about the world around me and understand things that I once did not, I find that the thought of an all-powerful being to be less and less believable."
  • "I realized that religion is in complete contradiction with the rational and scientific world, and to continue to subscribe to a religion would be hypocritical."
  • "Need proof of something."
  • "It no longer fits into what I understand of the universe."

Gelernter affirmed Darwinists' commitment to proselytizing.

"Religion is imparted, more than anything else, by the parents to the children," he said. "And young people are brought up as little Darwinists. Kids I see running around New Haven are all Darwinists. … The students in my class, they're all Darwinists. I am not hopeful."

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