While Leader of the Free World-Elect Barack Obama channels Abraham Lincoln as "the world" looks on in shock and awe, admirers of Charles Darwin are getting ready to celebrate their hero's 200th birthday, together with the 150th anniversary of publication of the great naturalist's earthshaking On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (full text available online here).
We're delighted to note that that greatest of great men of our own day, Pope Benedict XVI, reiterating a point he has made before, has sent his own good wishes Darwin's way at a recent conference:
In agreement with his predecessors Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II, the holy father stated that there is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences. He stated, “Belief in the creator does not exclude accepting the theory of evolution.” In fact, the pope bluntly asserted that the antithesis that some assume exists between the concept of creation and the theory of evolution is absurd, “… because there are so many scientific proofs in favor of evolution which appears to be a reality and enriches our knowledge of life and being as such.”
Which brings us to something David Brooks said in that February 2007 NYT op ed we cited in our previous post, something that's been puzzling us for years:
And here’s another perversity of human nature. Many conservatives resist the theory of evolution even though it confirms many of conservatism’s deepest truths.
We suspect it has to do with our species' primal hard-wired fear of being watched and the concomitant — do you love that word as much as we do? — "natural tendency to believe." We are not at all surprised to find faith-based protestations on both sides of the aisle. Compare the Young Earth Creationists who "believe that God created the Earth in six 24-hour days on the right with the similarly willfully anti-scientific Al Gore-allied Anthropogenic Climate Changeists on the left whose fire-and-brimstone sermons declare that "the debate is over" and "scientific consensus" is the last word. The coldest winter in years be damned!
How sadly predictable. We had thought that Ben Stein's loony anti-Darwin movie was an aberration, just as we had thought Susan Sontag & Company's anti-American post-9/11 rantings and ravings would soon pass. But no. They're here to stay. This from Reason was enlightening:
Opponents of Darwin traditionally have been led by biblical literalists, whose "arguments" on the subject have been generated mostly by the Book of Genesis. Now their camp includes some of the most prominent thinkers in the conservative intellectual movement.
As a matter of historical curiosity, this new turning of neocon eyes toward heaven comes just as Pope John Paul II has officially recognized that "the theory of evolution is more than an hypothesis." Indeed, it comes as evolutionary thinking itself is shedding considerable light on an array of questions and problems, from brain growth to the development of immune systems, from sociobiology to economics, from ecology to software design. Such research is yielding anti-designer results. F.A. Hayek long ago recognized the phenomenon of "spontaneous order" and described how it arose in markets, families, and other social institutions. Now, ingenious computer models are confirming Hayek's insights. It is increasingly obvious that social systems, from commerce to language, evolve and adapt without the need for top-down planning and organization. Order in markets is generated through processes analogous to Darwinian natural selection in biology. In other words, we can indeed have apparent design without a designer; the world is demonstrably brimming with just such phenomena.
Forget about the impotent Ben Stein. Is Baracko Bama listening?