Question #7: A woman in Virginia wrote me a very polite and sincere letter saying that she enjoyed my book WORLD WITHOUT FISH but she did not understand why I kept referring to the dubious and unproven theoriees of Charles Darwin. This with some editing was my answer.
Dear Mrs. Howe,
You are correct in thinking that I do not have a lot of time for answering letters. But yours seemed so sincere and respectful, you do seem, as you say, “an all around nice lady,” that I thought I would take a little time to try to answer your questions.
I am struck by your statement that “Darwinism is a theory, developed by a human being.” Why should that be grounds for rejecting it? A theory developed by a human being is a perfect description of all religions and all science as well. It is not true that Darwin turned against his theories. I do not know where you heard such a thing. He spent his life providing the evidence to back up his theories, amassed a daunting body of evidence. At the time of his death he had been working on research on the evolution of plant species.
The claim that Darwin’s theories are unproven is not exactly true either. Of course one can always invent absurdities to reject evidence. You can say for example that the devil placed the evidence to deceive us. There is no way of arguing with this kind of closed-minded rejection of facts. But science for more than one hundred years has amassed a huge body of evidence supporting Darwin’s theories. With each break through in biology it becomes clearer. We can now trace life back even before the evidence of fossils and these earlier forms of life further illustrate the theory of evolution. Genetics has revealed a code to biological history that further demonstrates evolution. Of course, at what point evidence becomes proof can always be argued.
But why is this question of proof so important to religious people. There is considerably more evidence of Darwin’s theories than of the supposition that God exists. in fact the supposition that God exists can neither be proven or disproven so unlike evolution it is not a scientific theory but a belief. And yet you do not seem to be bothered by the lack of proof there. Neither for that matter was Darwin. He also believed in God. There is in fact no conflict between Christian belief and Darwinism.
Evolution is not a belief but, as you say , a theory which is the foundation of scientific method first developed by Francis Bacon in the sixteenth century, a method that has saved lives and produced wonders, and, though it has also caused a few negative things such as nuclear weapons, has greatly enhanced our lives. The scientist starts with a theory and then applies it to test its veracity. That is what Darwin did as did Einstein, Newton and every other important scientist. It is how polio was cured, how cancer will be one day, has opened up space exploration, taught us about the earth and the stars, made global communication possible and allowed us to travel the world.
Yes, Mrs. Howe the great majority of educated people in the world do understand the importance of Darwin. If Americans didn’t this country would be plunged into a terrible backwardness just as we would in a world run by people who believe the earth is flat. To reject Darwin is to reject science, which is to reject knowledge, which would plunge us into darkness. If America had a majority that rejected Darwin, which happily it does not, the other nations that were not steeped in ignorance would simply leave us behind.
The reason I included Darwin in my book is that to understand what is happening to the oceans, you must first understand how the natural order works and Darwin is the key to understanding it. All natural science is based on Darwin’s theories, which have been shown to be accurate over and over again.
Now it is in the nature of science to overthrow. Einstein’s theories were a rejection of Isaac Newton, though Newton was brilliant. Right now there are physicists challenging Einstein. Someday some genius may develop a theory that overrules Darwin. But it will be something new that hasn’t been thought of before. The old idea that species were created one by one and are not interconnected has been irrevocably disproven like the theory that the sun and stars revolve around the earth. For now Darwin is the only explanation of the natural order that makes any sense and when it is used in interaction with nature it works. No one has come up with anything with which to replace it.
But beyond that I think that people and especially children, must be protected against religious leaders and politicians who would tell them what not to read. Read everything and decide for yourself.
Have you read Darwin? I hope so because you cannot make an informed decision on all of this unless you do
I do not want to tell you what to think, only that you should open yourself to a wide range of thought—not all of it religious and not all of it Christian, though Darwin was both-- and reach your own conclusions. Hopefully you can find bargain prices on these books too.
I wish you well.