Ben Stein’s movie Expelled is being released this Friday. The few reviews I’ve seen are predictable: Darwinists say it is anti-scientific propaganda, Intelligent Design advocates say it exposes the censorship that is the only thing keeping Darwinism afloat. I’ll reserved judgment until I see it (which I will.)
The film’s release has prompted me to reflect on just what it is about the theory of evolution that makes me uneasy. I don’t have a complete answer, but part of the answer is certainly the following.
The genius of the scientific revolution that occurred starting (roughly) in the sixteenth century has its origins in a disciplined limitation of thought. As philosophers like Etienne Gilson have pointed out, the inclination of the human mind is universal; we naturally want a complete explanation of being. This may be thought of in terms of Aristotle’s Four Causes, which are just a catalog of the questions we may propose about things. We see a tree in front of us and we wonder: Of what is it made? How was it made? What is the principle that animates it? What purpose does it serve? The questions radiate outward from the tree itself to its place in nature and ultimately to the universe as a whole. Putting any particular being in question is to put universal being in question, for we can only understand particular being in the context of universal being. An eye is really only an eye when it exists as part of the human body; the human body is really human only when it is part of a society of men; a society of men is really only itself in the context of nature. To understand the part, we must understand the whole, and to understand the whole, we must understand the parts. Thus the comprehensiveness of a classical philosophy like that of Aristotle.
Modern science decisively broke with the universal scope of classical philosophy by addressing itself to degenerate being rather than the fullness of being. This was a profoundly unnatural intellectual step, but nonetheless one of genius. Modern science filters being through method, and has discovered that the degenerate being that results is susceptible to universal laws that may be empirically discovered. Instead of addressing the question of the moon through Aristotle’s Four Causes,
The disturbing thing about Darwinism as a science is that it does not seem to display the discipline with respect to being that is the hallmark of modern science. It takes as its object being in its fullness rather than a methodically prescribed degenerate form of being.
Darwinists often criticize IDers by saying that, instead of pointing out flaws in Darwinism, they should propose their own alternative scientific theory. Whether IDers have actually already done that is a point I will leave for others to decide. My point here is that there can be no rival scientific theory to Darwinism because Darwinism itself isn’t really a scientific theory. Darwinism is a philosophy, and the rival to a philosophy is not a science but another philosophy – specifically, Aristotelianism. Unlike a genuine scientific theory which does not address Aristotle’s Four Causes because it does not address being in its fullness, Darwinism addresses itself directly to Aristotle and provides alternative answers: Of what is man made? Mud. How was he made? Through random mutation and natural selection. What is the principle that animates him? Survival of the fittest. What purpose does he serve? None, other than his own survival. Are these answers better than the answers provided by Aristotle? That is really the question at stake in the debate over Darwinism.