Evolution's Bulldogs and Advocates Declare Fiction is Fact—But Why?
- What motivated the early supporters of Darwin's theory?
- Was there something more to supporting Darwin than simply a dedication to science and the data?
- Who where the early supporters of evolution theory?
Names like Lamarck, Wallace, and Buffon come to mind when we think of evolution theory's earliest formulations. But as we note elsewhere, the Victorian era—when Darwin advanced his theory—offered both support and criticism. As it turns out, some support for the theory was motivated by self interest that falls outside science evidence—and inside an arena marked by personal philosophy. While we only highlight this point briefly, we are again noting that there is more to the story on evolution than simply the theory itself. This further complicates progress on determining the real origin(s) for life. But Darwin's "bulldogs" are not simply historical figures, because names associated with current science are advancing the cause and would like you to think the theory is now fact. The philosophical arena is still with us. Perhaps this part of the story speaks to a subjectivity concerning world views that have nothing to do with objectively gathering data in support of evolution. Why do they do it—if not for science then it's for self! The impact of evolution on science and education risks our missing a full and remarkable view or the true nature of our being, our origin, and purpose. Declaring any fiction as fact serves no objective view.
The root of evolution theory goes back to ancient thinkers. Some of their thoughts factored into the theory as proposed later on:
Theories of Anaximander and Empedocles held that all animals, including man, began in water. According to these theories, some of the animals left the water and adapted to living on land. The Greeks even wrote of a kind of natural selection, which later formed the main point of Charles Darwin's theory. But these ideas were not blessed with Aristotle's backing, and they never gained a central place in ancient science. Spetner (NBC) Page 3
A reasoning that science could provide all the necessary explanations was itself evolutionary.
For some time pressure had been building to frame a naturalistic approach to biology. Since the triumph of Newtonian physics, many scientists had announced their intention of extending the domain of natural law to all other fields. But the complexities of living things had defied all attempts to fit them into the naturalistic mold. As Huxley asked plaintively in 1860, "shall biology alone remain out of harmony with her sister sciences?" (Huxley 1879). For those caught in this dilemma, Darwin came to the rescue. His goal was to show how biology might be transformed to fit the naturalistic ideal dominant in other fields of science. And not only biology but also the human sciences, since his theory included the human origins in explaining all life by completely naturalistic causes. Pearcey (MC) Page 76
Okay, that helps to set the stage. We next take a moment to indicate something about several of Darwin's supporters. We admit this is hardly a complete treatment of the topic at hand. However, there is enough here to indicate what a broader discussion should include. To truly characterize the role of 'Darwin's Bulldogs' requires turning over a few stones to see what's there! So, let's look at a few comments on Herbert Spencer, Thomas H. Huxley, and Charles Lyell.
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Herbert Spencer — Science is Secondary
Is Spencer the rare individual with motivations that employ evolution theory for a purpose other than to get at a scientific explanation for origins and the appearance of life forms on earth? This individual may in fact be a scientific poster child for mixed motives. If we can put off consideration of design in nature then one eliminates the investigations that open the door to an intelligent agent at work in the universe. If nature alone is the agent for all we see, then that's the end of all discussion. But as we have entertained previously, naturalistic explanations fail dramatically. But if in the meanwhile, one wishes to hold fast to naturalism, then evolution is the stopgap argument—regardless of any objective review of the impossible hurdles to supporting evolution theory. Spencer was taken by naturalism and thus we should not be surprised to read:
This semireligious attachment to naturalism explains why Spencer eventually became a tireless promoter of Darwinism. It was not because he was persuaded by Darwin's scientific theory; he rejected Darwinism and embraced Lamarkianism. Yet Spencer saw clearly that once he had embraced philosophical naturalism, he had no alternative but to accept some form of naturalistic evolution.
He goes on: "The doctrine of the universality of natural causation, has for its inevitable corollary the doctrine that the Universe and all things in it have reached their present forms through successive stages physically necessitated" (Spencer 1904, 2:7). Just so: Once one accepts the philosophy of naturalism, some form of naturalistic evolution is an"inevitable corollary." Finding a plausible scientific theory is secondary.
In Spencer's writings we get a glimpse of the intellectual pressure that impelled him toward a naturalistic view of evolution. "I cheerfully acknowledged," he writes in The Principles Of Psychology, that the hypothesis of evolution is beset by "serious difficulties" scientifically. Yet, "save for those who still adhere to the Hebrew myth, or to the doctrine of special creations derived from it, there is no alternative but this hypothesis or no hypothesis." And no one can long remain in "the neutral state of having no hypothesis" (Spencer 1896, 1:466 n). Pearcey (MC) Page 79
A pivotal point to consider here is that naturalism is knowingly or unwittingly adopted as a form of denial. Such an approach shortcuts objective explorations in the mind, circumvents potentially fruitful areas of scientific investigation, and excludes God. If the denial is specifically geared to exclude the latter, it also precludes the former considerations. How does one then define life in real terms?
Spencer has made a choice for himself. We can similarly decide that the Hebrew Genesis account holds no water, or explore the text and even current science data to see where that takes us. In fact, many who criticize the Bible have been found to lack an understanding of the text, in context. But let's put the Bible outside our review, does Spencer's view hold water? If he is reacting to the Scriptures, then his choice is a reaction and not thinking based on the best available information. That is a tact taken without critical review of the options. This falls into a trap of assumption, presumption, and pre-conclusion. Again, we are not turning our back on nature, just a naturalism that is presumed to explain all. Unlike Spencer, you have the option to consider new perspectives that he may not have had access to. Either way, for Spencer, Darwinism was a tool to work a specific end to his liking. WindowView is begging the answer based on what we can see, fully, not what we chose to see partially.
He concludes with these telling words: "The Special Creation belief had dropped out of my mind many years before, and I could not remain in a suspended state: acceptance of the only conceivable alternative was peremptory" (Duncan 1908, 2:319). Here is a candid admission that Spencer was driven by a sense of philosophical necessity—naturalistic evolution was "the only conceivable alternative" to creation—more than by a dispassionate assessment of the scientific evidence. Pearcey (MC) Page 80
Spencer was only one among many who thought this way.
Thomas H. Huxley — Darwin's Bulldog
Clearly recognized and often quoted, Huxley's support is not clearly defined for the casual observer. You may be simply amazed to read that again it's not the science that gets the support, but instead there is a personal agenda in place:
Thomas Huxley christened himself Darwin's bulldog and offered his natural "combativeness," as he put it, in service and to the cause. So it may come as a surprise to learn that Huxley was never convinced that Darwin's theory of natural selection amounted to much scientifically; Huxley argued that the effectiveness of the mechanism would not be proved until a new species had been produced by artificial selection.
What then gave Huxley his bulldog determination to fight for Darwin? The answer is once again largely philosophical. Before his encounter with Darwin, Huxley writes, "I had long done with the Pentateuchal cosmogony." He had also surveyed early forms of evolutionary theory, finding them all unsatisfactory. And yet, he writes, he continued to nurse a "pious conviction that Evolution, after all, would turn out true" (Huxley 1903, 1:241, 243). Pearcey (MC) Page 80
Huxley and Spencer both lean on a naturalism that they admit lacks support for evolution, but in doing so they've met their personal goal to avoid all discussion of creation as an alternative view.
The notion that naturalism under-girds the framework of evolution is rooted in thinking separate from objective and empirical science.
Interestingly enough, Darwin's thoughts on gradualism—which characterizes the progress of evolution over long periods of time—stems from geology and the work of Charles Lyell. And Lyell in turn repays the complement to Darwin by throwing his hat in the ring.
Charles Lyell — The Past Tells All
Evolution theory absolutely implies "What came before." And so, biology found a bedfellow in geology. Fossils, time, and natural history walk through this terminal en route to a modern theory. Charles Lyell's work as a geologist lead to the idea of uniformitarianism. This framework put natural laws and time to work and set a stage for Darwin's thinking. Even Huxley was persuaded by Lyell's arguments for the ordinary or natural processes seemed responsible for new life forms appearing on the planet.
In 1859 he wrote to Lyell: "I by no means suppose that the transmutation hypothesis is proven or anything like it. But ... I would very strongly urge upon you that it is the logical development of Uniformitarianism, and that its adoption would harmonize the spirit of Paleontology with that of Physical Geology " (Huxley 1903, 1:252).
As he put it more simply in a speech, if the world is governed by uniformly operating laws, then the successive populations of beings "must have proceeded from one another in the way of progressive modification" (Huxley 1859, 35, emphasis in original). If one accepts philosophical naturalism, then something very much like Darwinism must be true a priori. This explains why Huxley was willing to do battle for Darwin, without being overly concerned about the scientific details. Pearcey (MC) Page 81
The general idea is to take principles that appear to work in one sphere of our existence and apply that to other aspects of being. In this case, what has come to explain movement of continents and beds of stone have helped shape the way life's evolution must have worked.
Biological evolution was the natural and inevitable consequence of extending uniformitarian thinking into biological sciences. This was admitted by the advocates of evolution in the years following 1859. As Huxley confessed in 1887:
"... It brings home to every reader of ordinary intelligence a great principle and a great fact—the principle that the past must be explained by the present unless good cause can be shown to the contrary, and the fact that, so far as our knowledge of the past history of life on our globe goes, no such cosmos can be shown—I can not but belief that Lyell was, for others, as for myself, of the chief agent in smoothing the road for Darwin." Denton (ETC) Page 72
Lyell was a trail blazer with uniformitarianism and something called the analogical method. These concepts became tools to fashion the views held in the eighteenth century.
The analogical method of assigning causes was also significant in the landmark work of Charles Lyell, whose core principle became enshrined in geological literature as "The present is a key to the past." Bradley and Thaxton (CH) Page 199
So much of our daily life builds on experience of the minute, hour, day or preceding history from our childhood to the present. The innate nature to rely on past experience is a hand rail that guides us, yet this principle can easily be extrapolated and rationalized into an assumption about science, laws, and nature. The mental leap from geology to biology may have seemed simple enough. We now know otherwise, but from the bulldogs there came a momentum that rolled out of the past and persists to the present.
Built by the Bulldogs
Impacts Us Today
You might ask: 'So what is the difference ... is evolution theory correct or not?' Thinking that evolution theory is correct, by default, short circuits insights and is distracting from other truth. Not that everything about evolution is incorrect, but that a critical review reveals an entirely different sense of what reality represents. That reality opens options, choices, and even new avenues for science research. But the limitations have been set in place because we still hear the arguments stemming back to the bulldogs. Reversing the momentum is not simple, for within the momentum is a long-standing bias against any view other than naturalism alone.
Concerning the politics of biology:
Many scientists are understandably uncomfortable with the idea that skill in politics and public relations help a theory gaining acceptance. They like to believe that the dominant factor in the success of a theory is the objective evidence in its favor. Pearcey (MC) Page 89
Pearcey notes that the Darwinist strategies were clear from the start, even back to the nineteenth century. Before Darwin published the Origin, he rallied a small group of biologists to support his work. This was a working of political strategies where the public saw a unity of support, minor points were conceded in favor of the theory overall, and support was even accepted by those who disagreed over the details.
In this way the Darwinians gradually gained a majority. Their supporters were able to influence the educational system as teachers. They took control of the educational process at scientific periodicals so that editors and referees became willing to accept papers from a Darwinian viewpoint. The journal Nature was founded at least in part as a vehicle for spreading the Darwinian message. Darwin won the day in part because his supporters were adept at the employee and public-relations tactics, and they outmaneuvered their rivals (Bowler 1988, 68-71). Pearcey (MC) Page 89
What Is Darwinism?
While we'd like to discuss science as the sole focus, we again and again run into the philosophical nature of this topic. We can chose to ignore the implications, certainly many before your time chose to do so. But WindowView will soon venture past this topic to pull in other perspectives. The result of appreciating where an understanding of origins leaves us is remarkable. That opens the window to other topics you might typically dismiss. But let's be honest, what Darwinism does is go beyond science.
If Darwin's key supporters did not completely accept the theory, then why did it succeed? Perhaps. as Pearcey notes, a scientific rationale was cobbled together for the benefit of those who support naturalism above all else.
Both Darwin's supporters and opponents understood that philosophical naturalism was the central issue. Among opponents, Princeton theologian Charles Hodge wrote an essay entitled What is Darwinism? He answered bluntly that Darwinism is tantamount to atheism: "Natural selection is selection made by natural laws a, working without intention and design." And "the denial of design in nature is virtually the denial of God" (Hodge 1994,85, 155). Among supporters, Karl Vogt noted happily that Darwin's theory "turns the Creator—and his occasional intervention in the revolutions of the earth and in the production of species—without any hesitation out of doors, inasmuch as it does not leave the smallest room for the agency of such a Being" (cited in Hodge 1994, 110). Pearcey (MC) Page 82
Philosophy can provide the mental gymnastics to gain perspectives on life, reality, and existence. Philosophy can aid in teaching us how to best pursue sound science. But any philosophy turned into a personal agenda makes a turn in another direction. If Darwin's supporters include promoters who are less concerned for the evidence and more so driven by other concern—some very personal at best—then who is ultimately best served by the efforts of those such as Huxley or Spencer? We must turn over the stones of history to make a critical assessment. Where is the science and where is the posturing? The Scopes trial is another example that is often misunderstood by the public. Hollywood gets in the way. Few learn how the scientific establishment forced issues in a way that undermines the enterprise of science itself. The outcome becomes an impassioned plea to hold to teaching evolution and perhaps a political correctness to do so. But the drive behind this movement diverts attention from a more important review of what science could be telling us without the personal spin.
The following pages provide information that was not available to the bulldogs of the world in former time. We now have an opportunity to see exactly what might have changed the past debate and shifted the momentum of human thought in yet another direction—and all this based on science and not personal spin.
Quotations from "Mere Creation" (MC) edited by William A. Dembski are used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be used without permission from InterVarsity Press.
The WindowView drops many of the typical presumptions to take another look. What does scientific data tell us if we start without assumptions? And ... how contiguous is science information if examined along with scriptural perspectives provided by the Bible? The Bible is the only religious or holy book we know of that is in fact consistent with science. While not a textbook, the Scriptures are either contradictory or complementary to scientific perspectives. Have you looked at these perspectives? To see 'Science and Scripture in Harmony' is to reveal life, reality, and your future.
Writer / Editor: Dr. T. Peterson, Director, WindowView.org