by Paul James-Griffiths, in Life and Work, Church of Scotland Magazine, Edinburgh

Recently I read the Life and Work article by Graham Hellier entitled, Thank You Mr Darwin. I was amazed to see how easily we accept everything in the Church without a thorough investigation, just to be politically correct.

Darwin today has almost attained sainthood in the Church and his theory must be held to with dogmatic vigour. Anybody who dares to question Darwinism is immediately regarded by the likes of Richard Dawkins as being ‘ignorant, stupid or downright evil.’ And this thought is echoed by many Church ministers. But is Darwinism really totally scientific? And have the fruits of Darwinism always been so saintly?

Recently I have been ploughing through the major works of Charles Darwin, and I have to admit that I agree with most of it. Natural Selection and Adaptation are clearly scientific principles, with which even the Creationists all agree. But what about his proposal that we have all descended from a common ancestor?

I noticed that in the very week that David Attenborough was speaking eloquently on television about Darwin’s Tree of Life as being fact, New Scientist had the following title emblazoned on the front cover: ‘Darwin got it Wrong: Why Darwin didn’t get it right about the Tree of Life.’ Almost all the icons of macro-evolution (common descent) that I learnt as a schoolboy have now been dismissed as ‘scientific fact’. Archaeopteryx, my favourite, is now relegated to the category of ‘bird’. Lucy seems now to be a chimp and not an ape-woman. All the human vestigial organs are no longer ‘evolutionary left-overs’, but rather fully functioning parts. And so it goes on…

Of course new ‘facts’ replace the old ‘facts’: we have 98% DNA similarity with our ‘cousins’, the chimps. Although actually the latest research shows it is about 93%; and then we are not told about the 71% difference in other proteins. The ‘junk DNA proves macro-evolution’ brigade now becomes strangely quiet as we discover it is 100% vital for life. Fossils come and go and are brushed under the carpet in the hope that something better turns up.

Remember that the Church once held to a Ptolemaic universe because it was the fashion. When the theory was exposed as being just an empty philosophy the Church was left high and dry in a place of ridicule. When Charles Darwin’s son Robert and his cousin, Francis Galton, made eugenics ‘scientific’, some churches jumped on board the sterilisation campaign to remove the unfit from the population. Social Darwinism sadly reached its logical conclusion in Hitler’s death camps.

Pressure is mounting on neo-Darwinism all the time and the day is coming when a generation will realise, as with Newton, that Darwin only had a slice of the scientific cake. I believe the time has come to critique Darwinism if we would progress in science. Perhaps in many years’ time Church journalists will not be writing, ‘Christians have nothing to fear from Darwin’, but rather, ‘Christians are ridiculed for believing in the myth of Darwinism.’ A paradigm shift is coming in information and design science, and in the heat of critical evaluation we must be able to discern philosophy from science and have the courage to disentangle them. Will we learn our lessons?

Paul James-Griffiths, Edinburgh, 2009