Monday, February 09, 2009

Caught in the crossfire

A propos yesterday's piece on Darwin, there is a timely letter in The Daily Telegraph signed by the ranks of the "great and the good". In part, it reads:

Evolution, we believe, has become caught in the crossfire of a religious battle in which Darwin had little interest. Despite his own loss of Christian faith, he wrote shortly before his death: "It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist."

We respectfully encourage those who reject evolution to weigh the now overwhelming evidence, hugely strengthened by recent advances in genetics, which testifies to the theory's validity.

At the same time, we respectfully ask those contemporary Darwinians who seem intent on using Darwin's theory as a vehicle for promoting an anti-theistic agenda to desist from doing so, as they are, albeit unintentionally, turning people away from the theory.
That, in effect, captures the sprit of what we (and Booker) were trying to say. The theory (and that it is) has been hijacked by interest groups pursuing an agenda which has nothing to do with the theory itself, displaying precisely the intolerance on which Booker remarked.

A theory, however powerful or popular, is still a theory. The essence of science is open (and courteous) discussion. The improvement in knowledge follows (or should follow) the traditional, tried and tested process of thesis (theory), antithesis (arguments against) and synthesis.

In that context, the antithesis is as much part of the scientific process as is the thesis. Doubters are not "deniers" or whatever epithet the howling mob cares to throw at them. They are part of the process which leads to greater understanding. A good theory withstands the challenge and emerges stronger. The weak go to the wall - a process, if you like, of natural selection.

That is, of course, why the evangelistic Darwinians (or neo-Darwinians) have so much in common with the warmists, as Booker pointed out. In their attempts to suppress debate they are the embodiment of anti-science, despite their claims to be reliant on the scientific method they so obviously reject.

Science is not just about facts – it is about process. Without that, we live in the age of unreason.