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Friday, November 06, 2009

Excerpt from "Early twentieth century Catholic writers and evolution"

Eighty years ago, Chesterton also noted the contradictory stances of what is now called “evolutionary psychology”:

In spite of all the pseudo-scientific gossip about marriage by capture and the cave-man beating the cave-woman with a club, it may be noted that as soon as feminism became a fashionable cry, it was insisted that human civilization in its first stage had been a matriarchy. Apparently it was the cave-woman who carried the club.

Yet nothing much has changed in this area since Chesterton wrote Everlasting Man, over eighty-five years ago, except the huge growth in the “evolutionary psychology” literature and its ever-more-expansive attempts to explain everything away. The interesting point is not the relative antiquity of the objections to Darwinism but rather the confidence Chesterton, like other older Catholic writers, had that Darwinism would die out in his own lifetime. Indeed, he wrote,

Darwin’s theory . . . has largely been abandoned by the latest scientific men; and indeed is only still accepted as a piece of Victorian respectability by old-fashioned people like Bishop Barnes. But in any case, it never went very far towards touching the primary problems; and Darwin himself hardly pretended that it did.

But things did not work out at all as Chesterton hoped. Every download of science media releases offers more and yet more “evolutionary psychology” folly based on Darwinism, to say nothing about further paltry claims in biology. One sees endless variations on: “Yeast sample undergoes evolution, to spur immunity to virus; dramatic demonstration of Darwin’s thesis, researchers say.” All it really shows is how yeast continues to be yeast by dumping a binding site used by the virus—a loss, not a gain, in information. Clearly, ideology rather than startling new evidence undergirds these narratives.

The popular Darwinism that the older Catholic authors opposed flies in the face of the increasing incredibility of Darwinism’s central thesis—that natural selection and random variation is a source of massive gains in information and, in the case of humans, vast cultural changes. Yet the thesis lands in print again and again, regardless. Chesterton’s French-born friend Hilaire Belloc tried, likewise, to stem the growing tide of popular nonsense. Let’s look at how Belloc fared.

You can buy the book here.

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