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Darwin Must Die

I think RPJ pretty much covered the gamut of Darwin Day stories today, but thought this New York Times article was worth pulling out of the crowd and taking a closer look at. “Darwinism Must Die So That Evolution May Live“:

Equating evolution with Charles Darwin ignores 150 years of discoveries, including most of what scientists understand about evolution. Such as: Gregor Mendel’s patterns of heredity (which gave Darwin’s idea of natural selection a mechanism — genetics — by which it could work); the discovery of DNA (which gave genetics a mechanism and lets us see evolutionary lineages); developmental biology (which gives DNA a mechanism); studies documenting evolution in nature (which converted the hypothetical to observable fact); evolution’s role in medicine and disease (bringing immediate relevance to the topic); and more.

By propounding “Darwinism,” even scientists and science writers perpetuate an impression that evolution is about one man, one book, one “theory.” The ninth-century Buddhist master Lin Chi said, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” The point is that making a master teacher into a sacred fetish misses the essence of his teaching. So let us now kill Darwin.

I thought there were some really good points in the article, though it seems P.Z. Myers does not agree with me. Interestingly, I think the fact that he and others take umbrage with this article (which in my opinion is a very sensible defence of evolutionary theory) – or perhaps, it’s title – suggests that the name of Darwin *is* held as sacred in many respects. I think there is certainly something to the argument that Darwin is held above others (e.g. Newton) by materialists precisely because his theory acts as a rebuttal to fundamentalist religion). I think also that Safina is sensibly addressing the public perception of evolution, whilst his detractors can’t see the forest for the trees.

(I also did enjoy a little laugh when reading Myers’ rebuttal to the claim “that scientists are making Darwin into a ‘sacred fetish’, and creating a ‘cult of Darwinism’. It’s simply not true. I go through this every year, when I’m off to give a talks about Darwin around the time of Darwin Day, and there’s no deification going on anywhere.”)

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