Cracks in the Darwinist Wall

Maverick computer scientist David Gelernter set off a grenade in the faculty dining room last spring.

His essay, “Giving Up Darwin,” published in the Claremont Review of Books, testifies (and the religious connotation of “testify” is appropriate here) to his de-conversion from Darwinism. He has yet to convert to a replacement belief, but he is convinced that all intelligent people should join him in his apostasy.

Gelernter, a storied professor at Yale and a controversial pundit, has been convinced by recent books emanating from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, best known for its championing of Intelligent Design. Gelernter is not yet convinced that the whole ID program is correct. He’s not even willing to use the word “God” in this context. But, he avers, Darwin’s whole project was to explain the strong appearance of design in nature without invoking a designer, and that project has evidently failed.

What is the evidence? Gelernter draws most heavily from three books: especially Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt (2013), but also David Berlinski’s The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (2009) and Debating Darwin’s Doubt (2015), an anthology edited by David Klinghoffer. Meyer (to put the argument in the briefest possible terms) shows that there simply hasn’t been enough time and enough organisms available in the history of life on Earth to generate anything close to the range of species we see today.

Your typical friendly neighbourhood atheist will say that given enough time, anything can and will occur. But the evidence shows that there hasn’t been early enough time for what has actually occurred. As Gelernter puts it, “Neo-Darwinianism says that nature simply rolls the dice, and if something useful emerges, great. Otherwise, try again. But useful sequences [of proteins, the building blocks of life] are so gigantically rare that this answer simply won’t work.”

Molecular biology, unknown in Darwin’s time, has come to destroy, not confirm, his theory.

In addition, the so-called Cambrian explosion of species about half a billion years ago, which occurred over about 70 million years (Meyer more recently says that that window has shrunk to closer to 10 million) gave rise to most forms of modern life. Unhappily for Darwinism, this relatively short time period is preceded by precisely zero “intermediate forms” of life in the fossil record. Precambrian life is mostly bacteria, not some spreading tree of increasingly diverse and sophisticated species, as Darwin’s theory sets out.