I’m eager to hear Stephen Webb’s reply to Stephen Barr’s response to Webb’s earlier post on Darwin. And while it would be foolish for me to include myself in a debate between a scientist and a philosopher, I see no reason not to throw another philosopher in the mix.
Speaking of implications—which is the current point of the discussion—the late David Stove, philosopher of science and intellectual gadfly, pointed out a rather curious one: The implication of Darwinism is that it can’t really be believed to be true if it doesn’t apply to humans.
As Stephen Barr mentioned, the scientific idea of Darwinism says that natural selection acts upon genetic variations. But it also says that there is always pressure on the supply of food which results in a constant struggle for life among members of a species. This is, of course, not now true of the species homo sapiens. But as Stove notes, one of the claims of Darwinism is that while man was once trapped in the struggle to survive and pass on our genes, we no longer are trapped in the spiral of natural selection. Stove, in his Darwinian Fairytales, calls this the “Cave Man” attempt to solve “Darwinism’s Dilemma”:
If Darwin’s theory of evolution is true, no species can ever escape from the process of natural selection. His theory is that two universal and permanent tendencies of all species of organisms–the tendency to increase in numbers up to the limit that the food supply allows, and the tendency to vary in a heritable way–are together sufficient to bring about in any species universal and permanent competition for survival, and therefore universal and permanent natural selection among the competitors.
As Stove reminds us, natural selection, which is a “universal generalization about all terrestrial species at any time” can’t just be true sometimes: “If the theory says something which is not true now of our species (or another), then it is not true–finish.” Stove claimed that this was not only not true of our species now, it could never have been true:
Do you know of even one human being who ever had as many descendants as he or she could have had? And yet Darwinism says that every single one of us does. For there can clearly be no question of Darwinism making an exception of man, without openly contradicting itself. “Every single organic being”, or “each organic being”: this means you.
Barr says, “The argument seems to be that since some people draw atheistic conclusions from the theory of evolution, evolution can’t be true.” But what about the conclusions drawn by Stove—himself an atheist. Can a theory be true when it doesn’t apply to the most successful species on the planet? What are the philosophical implications for such a broad exemption?