Is Darwin’s Principle of Evolution by Natural Selection dead?


As I write this on Nov. 27, 2021, it has been 162 years since Charles Darwin, on Nov. 27, 1859, published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Little did he know it at the time (nor did anyone else, for that matter), that he would change the world forever. But he did. 

When first published in England, more than anything else, Darwin’s “dangerous ideas” had a profound impact on British religion. On a June afternoon in 1860, upon hearing the notion from Darwin’s book that “mankind was descended from the apes,” the wife of the Bishop of Worcester is alleged to have exclaimed: ‘My dear, descended from the apes! Let us hope it is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known.’ 

This is most probably not true, but no doubt this reflected the thoughts of most folks in the Isles. 

As the Darwinian revolution penetrated the reading world, it has had an overwhelming impact on all Abrahamic religions. 

Why? Because the understanding of our natural world, by way of the constructs of modern Darwinian evolutionary biology and genetics, contradicts creationism – the belief that all life originated by divine conception as set forth in the various scriptures of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic theologies. 

A Pew Research Center study conducted in 2018 shows the strong disbelief in evolution by members of various religious sects: 68 percent of all adults; 94 percent of black Protestants; 70 percent of white mainline Protestants; 70 percent of Catholics; 35 percent of those unaffiliated with any religion. 

Those that have some belief in evolution, explain that it was guided by “God.” Those facts tell the story of why so few Americans, to this day, do not believe in evolution. It speaks volumes that the 65 percent of those who are unaffiliated with any religion do believe in evolution. 

This also indicates why faith in “science” is sinking to an all-time low in America. A recent Gallup poll, conducted in July, found confidence in science has increasingly diverged across partisan lines: Republican confidence in science fell by 27 points while Democratic confidence increased by 12 points. 

The poll also found that people who accept the falsehoods of conspiracy theories and disinformation has grown substantially, a major contributor distrust in science. Compare the rising tide of anti-vaxxers, in the midst of a COVID pandemic but with proven efficacy of several vaccines with world-wide approval, with the following: Dr. Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine in the early 1950s, and secured governmental emergency permission to use it. Millions of Americans did not boycott using it; instead, more than 600,000 mothers rushed to sign up their children for a vaccine that had not yet been certified by government regulators. Faith in medical science has saved literally millions of lives. 

The strong religion-based bias that resists coronavirus vaccinations seems to mesh with political orientations, skepticism about government, lack of faith in science in general, and in their feasting on the smorgasbord of alternative media and the untruths of conspiracy theories. 

The evolution versus creationism controversy is a false socio-cultural phenomenon; it is not a scientific debate. Creationism/Intelligent Design is not a scientific concept. 

I have no desire to convince anyone to believe in “God” or in evolution, or in neither. Religion-based “faith” in their belief-system of a “supreme being” is a strongly held certainty for its believers, notwithstanding that there is virtually no empirical evidence (by scientific methodology) that such a supernatural singularity actually exists. 

On the other side of this faux “debate,” there arises mountains of scientific evidence that underwrites the validity of evolution as the cornerstone of all biology: knowledge gained from physics, geology, paleontology, anatomy, zoology, anthropology, and most recently molecular genetics, all of which converge to support the Darwinian revolution. True believers will never change their minds about evolution, no matter what evidence is discovered. End of that “debate.” 

Darwin’s initial explanation of evolution by natural selection has made profound advances, especially in genetics, from its early pessimistic perceptions. The Darwinian revolution has changed both science and Western culture in ways we incompletely understand. It is the cornerstone of modern scientific biology. The fundamental principles of evolutionary biology have proven that organisms change through time; such change proceeds by way of common descent; these changes are slow and take a long time; and small changes can accumulate over long stretches of time to create big changes, which lead to the production of new species. None of which requires the “magic” of supernatural interventions. 

Science has always had a tough time convincing “the public” to trust it. New ideas are always scary. Just ask Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Pasteur, and Einstein, to mention just a few of the greatest minds humankind has ever produced. Disbelief in “science” is a sure-fire formula for the dissolution of a civilization. 

“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers. 

David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at david.m.taub42@gmail.com. 

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