Virtual Voices

Evolutionary fatwa

Science

Ben Stein has been expelled again. University of Vermont President Daniel Fogel, displaying the cowardice we have come to expect from men in his position, acquiesced to pressure from protesters angry that Stein was to be Vermont's spring commencement speaker. Stein, an economist, writer, and actor, graciously offered to bow out as opposition mounted, and Fogel, likely wiping beads of sweat from his head in relief, accepted.

The chief source of antagonism toward Stein, explained a journalist for the Chronicle of Higher Education, is his co-authorship and starring role in Expelled, a documentary lampooning apostles of the Church of Evolution. "The theory of evolution, as modified since it was proposed 150 years ago by Charles Darwin," offers the Chronicle in a serene tone that is the hallmark of monks and lunatics, "is widely accepted by scientists as the best explanation for the natural world."

This is like saying that the existence of paint shops is the best explanation for cars. It may well explain why we see a red Mustang convertible here and a blue one there, but aside from offering a hint about the variegated traits of cars, as an explanation for the automobile it is quite poor. The Chronicle writer might better have written that natural selection is widely accepted by scientists as the best explanation for species variation, which is a far weaker claim but decidedly less marred by the religious fervor that so seems to offend the sort of people who take it upon themselves to police the ranks of university commencement speakers.

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Scientists had finally advanced so far, goes the joke, that they anointed one of their number to tell God he was no longer needed. "We can make nature do whatever we like," sneered the scientist toward the heavens, including make a man. "Prove it," thundered a voice within a cloud. "Make a man just as I made Adam."

"No problem," chuckled the scientist, who bent down to scoop up a handful of earth.

"No," said the Almighty. "Get your own dirt."

The theory of evolution, in short, is no "explanation for the natural world," for the simple reason that while it offers some compelling arguments about why this particular plant or that specific turtle occupy their respective corners of the earth, it can tell us nothing about where dirt comes from.

This is a small matter to the evolution disciple, however, because his imperative is not that creation be explained so much as that it not have a Creator. Leaping from species variation to "an explanation for the natural world," he turns back after his faith-filled jump to snicker at the benighted Christian who, whatever his intellectual failings, at least has the good sense to hold to a theory of first causes that includes a first cause.

But this is all the most dangerous kind of heresy, which is common sense, and people who traffic in it must be shouted down lest anyone listen too closely. Hence the angry response to the University of Vermont's selection of Stein, and the university president's obsequious promise to "use a more consultative process" for future commencement speaker selections, which means consulting the troublemakers in order to produce a narrower sort of speaker in the future, under the guise of being inclusive and broad-minded. The result is a victory for the worst kind of religious dogma, which is that of a religion that fancies itself objective science.

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