On today’s ID the Future, science-and-religion scholar Robert Shedinger makes the case that a well-known biography of Charles Darwin, Darwin’s Sacred Cause, is deeply misleading. Specifically, the book by Adrian Desmond and James Moore holds that Darwin was significantly motivated in his scientific work by abolitionist sentiments; and Shedinger says, not so fast. He had spent considerable time reading Darwin’s correspondence and had seen no evidence of this thesis, so he reread Darwin’s Sacred Cause, this time tracking down all the key citations the book offered as evidence, and a pattern soon emerged. The sources the authors cite didn’t actually support their thesis. Some were totally irrelevant. Some were cited completely out of context. In other cases, the authors gave the impression that Darwin said something when the comment they attributed to him was stitched together from multiple correspondences and the constituent comments were often about something else altogether. Shedinger says he realized that this biography that looked to be so well documented amounted to “historical fiction.” The effect of the biography is to misrepresent Darwin in such a way as to make those who reject Darwinism appear to be opposing a saintly anti-abolitionist. While Darwin did have anti-slavery sentiments, it didn’t drive his science and he himself was anything but free from racism. In fact, his case for human evolution partly rested on deeply demeaning racist attitudes toward indigenous peoples. For more on this, see historian Richard Weikart’s book Darwinian Racism. Also in this episode, Shedinger tells host Michael Keas about how he went from a scholar fully persuaded of Darwinian theory to a skeptic of modern evolutionary theory and attracted to the theory of intelligent design. Shedinger lays out his case against Darwinism in his recent book The Mystery of Evolutionary Mechanisms.
On today’s ID the Future, host Tom Gilson and guest Casey Luskin discuss a new book Luskin recently reviewed at Evolution News, Three Views on Christianity and Science. Luskin, associate director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, summarizes the three views covered in the book: the independence view presented by Michael Ruse, the dialogue view presented by Alister McGrath, and the constrained integration view presented by Bruce Gordon. Luskin critiques the first two and argues that the dialogue view, in practice, quickly devolves into a monologue where religion is supposed to sit down and shut up the moment there is a point of difference between religion and consensus science. He says this is doubly problematic because (a) scientists are fallible and the scientific consensus changes; it’s not an infallible guide; and (b) key founders of modern science were inspired by a genuine cross-fertilization between scientific and theological reflection as opposed to a faux dialogue where all the influence moves only in one direction, from scientific consensus to religion. Luskin further points out that theistic evolutionists, such as those involved with the BioLogos group, promote the dialogue view but tend to quickly cede ground when evolutionary materialists muscle their way into an area previously claimed by a religious explanation. Luskin gives the example of theistic evolutionist and BioLogos founder Francis Collins pointing to universal human morality as something best explained not but by blind evolution but by the idea of humans made in the image of God. Luskin adds that this explanation apparently even played a role in bringing Collins to belief in God. In contrast, evolutionary psychology insists on explaining human personality in purely materialistic evolutionary terms, and as it has expanded its influence in recent years, BioLogos has tended to steer away from this very argument that helped bring their founder to belief in God. A better approach, Luskin argues, is the third one in the book, the constrained integration view advocated by CSC senior fellow Bruce Gordon.
On this ID the Future, science historian Michael Flannery continues discussing his newly updated Intelligent Evolution: How Alfred Russel Wallace’s World of Life Challenged Darwin. Wallace was co-founder with Charles Darwin of the theory of evolution by random variation and natural selection, but unlike Darwin he saw teleology or purpose as essential to life’s history, and a teleological view as essential to the life sciences. According to Flannery, Wallace’s views on the nature of the cell, the special attributes of humans, the irreducible nature of life, and the fine tuning of the universe hold up well today. He and Darwin disagreed on much of this, yet they maintained mutual respect. In this, Flannery says, the two are a great model for scientists who disagree today.