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May 9, 1997

Evolution

Kaufmann's Origins of Order

Several people have responded to my comment in the last BB about being less persuaded by orthodox Darwinian evolution than I was when I wrote THE REVEALED WORD OF GOD, included in MM&E, and asked if it means I'm a Creationist. No, it doesn't--there seems little doubt that life in the past was different from life these days, so evolution of some kind evidently happens. But I'm no longer convinced that natural selection accounts for it. No doubt selection happens and has its effects, but, it seems, marginally. Wind and water might shape the surface details of landscapes, but deeper processes are necessary to explain mountain building and continent moving. An astounding book that goes into a whole science of ways in which complex systems can spontaneously order themselves and remain stable, not through selection but in spite of it, is Stuart A. Kauffman's THE ORIGINS OF ORDER (709 pp., Oxford University Press, New York, 1993).

Having said that, I ought to add that I don't have any problem with Creationism--as I see it properly defined. Scientists and much of the media treat the term as synonymous with "Biblical literalist," a needlessly narrow sense, seemingly adopted for the sole purpose of setting it up to be attacked. A broader view would see it simply as not ruling out the possibility of some kind of guiding intelligence at work behind the complexities that we see, which is not at all incompatible with creation over an extended time, i.e. evolution. Excluding it on principle seems every bit as dogmatic to me as anything the other side is accused of. The spirit of true science is simply to follow the evidence wherever it leads, not select and twist it to fit any preconceived notions. Isaac Newton didn't have any difficulty reconciling his religion with his science. You couldn't ask for a better precedent than that.

Two books that started me rethinking my ideas on the subject were:
Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, by Michael Denton (Adler & Adler, 1986)
Darwin On Trial, by Phillip E. Johnson (Regnery Gateway, 1991)

Phil Johnson is a law professor at Berkeley. What, one might ask, are the credentials of someone like that to judge a subject of science? Well, when it comes to examining the evidence, assumptions, and logic of the case being argued, quite a lot.

 
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