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Problems With Darwinism


By Francis Canavan | April 1997
The Rev. Francis Canavan, S.J., is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Fordham, and the author of several books, most recently The Pluralist Game.
Rather than the theory of evolution, we should speak of several theories of evolution. On the one hand, this plurality has to do with the different explanations advanced for the mechanism of evolution, and on the other, with the various philosophies on which it is based Hence the existence of materialist, reductionist and spiritualist interpretations. What is to be decided here is the true role of philosophy and, beyond it, of theology. — Pope John Paul II, “Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution,” Oct. 22, 1996

Imagine you are the first astronaut to step out of a spaceship and set foot on the planet Mars. A short distance away you see three stones about the size of basketballs, spaced evenly apart in a straight line. They attract your attention, but only for a moment, because the line probably is — indeed must be — due to chance and means nothing.

Suppose, however, that there are nine such stones, spaced evenly apart, in a perfectly straight line. Do you still attribute the line they form to chance? Suppose, then, that from the stone at each end of the fine, two other straight lines of stones run off at right angles, and that these lines are connected by still another line, so that the whole set of fines forms a square. Now imagine that every stone on the edge of the square is connected to the stone on the opposite edge by a straight line of stones, so that the result is a checkerboard formed by stones. Can you still believe this is a matter of chance?

A certain type of mind is capable of saying yes, because it believes that the whole universe and all living beings in it came to be by random variations in matter and “natural selection.” Those living beings that survived were the ones that by chance were best adapted for survival. Anything can happen if we allow X00,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000+ years for it to happen.

That there is random variation in the universe, and an enormous amount of it, is undeniable. Every human being now alive got here against the odds, because so many contingencies had to happen before any one of us could come into being. Most of what occurred in natural and human history could have turned out differently than it did.

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