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LightOfEvolution

Another book joins the too-long list of those I need to read: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859). A recent article about "Intelligent Design" led me to Charles Darwin's rhapsodic words in the concluding chapter of Origin:

... When we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as something wholly beyond his comprehension; when we regard every production of nature as one which has had a long history; when we contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, each useful to the possessor, in the same way as any great mechanical invention is the summing up of the labour, the experience, the reason, and even the blunders of numerous workmen; when we thus view each organic being, how far more interesting — I speak from experience — does the study of natural history become!

That quote took me back to Theodosius Dobzhansky's essay with its wonderfully poetic title, "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" (published in The American Biology Teacher, March 1973). It's a lucid and thoughtful discussion, from a deeply religious viewpoint, of the non-conflict between faith and the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection. Dobzhansky in turn led me to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man, where in Book Three, Chapter III appears:

Is evolution a theory, a system, or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve which all lines must follow.

Well, maybe not all; it seems to me that most of mathematics, for instance, stands outside. Nonetheless ...

(Teilhard de Chardin as translated by Bernard Wall; cf. HumanNature (5 Dec 1999), PhysicsEnvy (11 Apr 2001), InvisibleZebras (7 Aug 2001), EssentialKnowledge (20 Jun 2005), ...)


TopicScience - TopicLiterature - Datetag20060424


(correlates: WhatPhysicsIs, DarwinOnSkillfulBreeders, DangerousPlaything, ...)