Joe brings up an argument against Darwinism made by David Stove . I don’t really understand the argument as presented. In the first place, no one denies, as far as I know, that genetic mutations and natural selection still take place in human beings. That is one way that human beings develop immunity to diseases. Many Africans have certain genes that protect them against malaria, for example, presumably because that conferred a selective advantage in a region where malaria is common. I don’t think that most anti-Darwinists deny that natural selection goes on in humans.

Second, I don’t think the basic idea of Darwinism requires that every animal breed at every opportunity or absolutely maximize the number of offspring it generates. From a purely game-theoretic point of view, that may not be the best strategy for securing the presence of one’s genes in future generations. For example, a female animal might forego mating with a weak male so as to keep open the possibility of mating with a stronger male later. (I think that may even happen with people sometimes.) Third, I don’t think that Darwinism claims that selective pressures are always equally strong or that “there is always pressure on the supply of food.” There may be times when the food is plentiful. Most importantly, I don’t see why humans being exceptional in some respects falsifies the basic idea of Darwinian evolution.

I certainly agree that human beings are exceptional. As a Catholic, I believe we have spiritual souls that are conferred upon us by God and are not the product of any physical or biological process. As a consequence, we have reason and free will. This means that we can and do behave in ways that are not completely accounted for by Darwinism. Does that mean that Darwinism is wrong? No. It just means that it is not the whole story, at least when it comes to human beings. If Darwinism is defined to include the statement that Darwinian mechanisms explain everything about human nature, then of course an orthodox Christian cannot accept it.

It becomes a question of how one defines the word “Darwinism.” That is a very important question. Some people would like to define it to include very sweeping metaphysical claims and very reductive views of human nature. Atheists would like to define it that way. For reasons that I cannot fathom, and that are never explained, some Christians would also like to define it that way. I think there are many reasons not to do so. For one thing, it makes discussion very difficult. For if the word “Darwinism” is to be used for the atheistic brand of it championed by the likes of Dawkins, then what word should we use to describe the purely scientific and metaphysically quite harmless idea that plants and animals and (physically speaking) human beings developed through an evolutionary process driven by natural selection?

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