One of my favorite books is Thomas Kuhn’s landmark work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Kuhn’s observation is that, historically, scientific understanding of ourselves and our universe has not been a linear progression of increased and clarified knowledge. Instead, it has been a cycle of firmly-held paradigms being replaced by new and divergent paradigms. This phenomenon is what Kuhn calls a paradigm shift. As Kuhn says, this is not about seeing different things, but about seeing things differently.
The process, as described through numerous examples and cases, goes something like this:
- We have firmly-held ideas, assumptions and theories about ourselves and the universe that form our worldview. Our worldview dictates what we study and how we study it.
- Theories and tests, at times, run into discrepancies. These discrepancies are usually labeled “anomalies” and discarded (after all, they don’t line up with the worldview which must be true).
- As anomalies continue to occur, at some point someone raises their hand and says, “Maybe instead of throwing out the anomalies, we should consider them.”
- As the anomalies are considered, a new idea emerges, centered on the previously conflicting evidence. This new idea then becomes cemented as a new assumption, theory and worldview.
- Hit repeat
Kuhn’s theory allows us to ask the question, “What might we be missing?”
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as the origin of the species has been cemented as societal truth for nearly a century. To suggest an idea that is not aligned with evolutionary theory would result in expulsion from the academy and scoffing from one’s peers.
As Ross Geller once chided Phoebe, “Evolution is scientific FACT!”
Evolution as fact has formed not only the worldview of the scientific community at large but common culture as well. Simply walk over to your neighbor’s house and say, “I doubt evolution,” You might be looked at as if you had just questioned the existence of oxygen or said bears can talk.
While the acceptance of Darwin’s theory has formed a worldview that dictates how many in our world understand ourselves and the universe, some are beginning to question why there is tape on Atlas’s Darwinian orb.
One significant event Darwin could not explain was the Cambrian explosion. The Cambrian explosion is the name given to the sudden appearance of many species of animals in the fossil record. While these animals do not have any preceding ancestors apparent in earlier layers of rock, Darwin was confident they eventually would be found.
Science has also advanced our knowledge exponentially since Darwin’s time regarding what is really in all that goop inside our bodies. Within the last 50 years, biologists have been overwhelmed by the amount of information stored in single cells and DNA strands that point to the intricacy of what it takes to make an animal.
The cracks in Darwin’s impenetrable shell have been increasing.
While there have been rumblings of doubting Darwin for years in the scientific community, a significant fissure was exposed recently as David Gelernter – a highly respected and world-renowned computer scientist at Yale – raised his hand and said perhaps we should consider the anomalies.
In an essay titled, “Giving Up Darwin,” published in the Claremont Review of Books, Gelernter explained that he is moving on from Darwinism. His article opens with the observation, “Darwinian evolution is a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory. Once it was a daring guess. Today it is basic to the credo that defines the modern worldview…But what if Darwin was wrong?”
Dr. Gelernter is not a Christian. He may not even be a theist. He claims the dismissal of Darwin is not a victory for religion per se, but a clear acknowledgment that the roads of science are leading to Intelligent Design. He meticulously outlines case by case of scientific discovery that not only make Darwin’s theory untenable, but undergird, highlight, spotlight, place neon signs on, and scream to all who will listen that all of this—we and our universe—is not a mistake.
Those who hold to a biblical worldview have held to this truth in spite of the societal winds buffeting our faces. The Bible clearly says God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. While various views branch from that tree, the certainty of a Designer outside of ourselves has been unshakeable.
While Gelernter’s essay may mark a significant turn in the case against Darwin, our culture will not necessarily conclude that the God of the Bible is the Intelligent Designer indicated by unfolding science. In many ways, Darwinism has held its position so long because there has not been another viable explanation that doesn’t require a Deity to whom we are accountable.
Likely, our culture will progress toward Intelligent Design as a theory while still refusing to acknowledge the God of the Bible. After all, once one does that, a lot of paradigms have to shift.
Should our society move away from Darwinian evolution, it does not cement the Bible’s case for skeptics, but it may open doors for conversation. It increasingly becomes incumbent on us as Christians to share the Scriptures and what they say about who we are, who God is and what all of that means.
Our friends, peers and others may become more open to the idea that they are not a mistake. The desire to understand our purpose and things beyond ourselves may increase. In other words, new doors are opening around us for Gospel conversation.
Our world’s views on evolution may be evolving, but the Gospel is not. Christian, be prepared.