A Reader's Guide to Of Pandas and People
The following review was published by the National Association of Biology Teachers (1998).
by Richard P. Aulie
What Intelligent Design Means
"Even now, thanks to writings set down by hand, it is yet possible for you to hold converse with Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, and the other Ancients Aristotle is right when he maintains that all animals have been fitly equipped with the best possible bodies." Galen, ca. AD 165-175. Uses of the Parts, I,3, 59.
- A New Lexicon
- Two Evangelical CampsTwo Responses To Evolution
- The Central Issue Is Avoided
- Richard Dawkins
- Three Defining Statements
- Vexing Question
- Philosophical and Theological Enigmas
- What Does Intelligent Design Mean
- Phillip E. Johnson
- How Do Biology Teachers React
- Historical Antecedents
- Plato, Aristotle and Galen
- Of Pandas & People Part Two
- Of Pandas & People Part Three
A Note to the Reader from the Writer:
The two essays that I include here are my review of the book, Of Pandas and People, which is a product of the anti-evolution movement in the United States. This book recommends "intelligent design" as a better explanation of biological diversity than the theory of biological evolution.
Many proponents of this movement endeavor to introduce "creation science" or "creationism" into biology courses in the public schools. Although the authors of the book I review do not use these terms, their effort must be viewed as part of the on-going "creationist" movement, which seeks to obstruct the teaching of biological evolution.
For many years I have followed the anti-evolution movement from the perspective of my own specialty, the history of science, and from time to time I have published articles, pointing out its shortcomings. I view creationism, not only as a threat to the integrity of American science education, but also, no less, a caricature of the theological doctrine of creation that is central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In my two essays, herein enclosed, I develop the argument that the only alternative to evolutionary theory available to the champions of "intelligent design" is the pre-Darwinian view, which arose, not from the Bible, but from Greek thought, notably from the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Galen. The historical record affirms moreover that the theory of biological evolution, far from being a denial of theism, is actually a logical extension of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic theological doctrine of creation. Indeed even the title of Darwin's famous book could not have been conceived save in a culture long accustomed to the concepts of divine origin and linear time.
In the first essay, I put forward a definition of "intelligent design" that is consistent with the historical record. Since I am familiar with the views held by evangelicals, I also examine the permutations to be found in the two opposing views held among themsome evangelicals have a liking for creationism, others readily accept evolution. Anti-creationist biology teachers on the university level, however, need not point fingers at any evangelical support they might see; they themselves are not free of complicity in the hold that creationism has on the American publicas I point out in several places.
In the second essay, I take up the time-honored "design argument." I first of all show how the pre-Darwinian view of biology arose from the works of Aristotle and Plato. Then I examine in considerable detail the numerous passages in Of Pandas and People that can easily be traced to these Greek sources, including also to the works of Galen.
In the anti-evolution movement the theological doctrine of creation has been equated willy-nilly with the biology of a by-gone day. In this, theism and biology both suffer misinterpretation.
For many years, those who actively oppose evolution have maintained that in the interest of fairness "scientific creationism" should be taught along with evolution in the high school biology classes of the land.(1) So far, obtaining a place for scientific creationism, if not equal time, has remained an elusive goal; it is easy to see why. In order to compete with the already established high school biology texts that come with well-written chapters on evolution, a text opposing evolution must satisfy two requirements. It must achieve acceptance on its own because of its scientific merits, and at the same time it must avoid the charge that it introduces a religious interpretation of origins into public school classrooms.
An especially attractive candidate for this genre is Of Pandas and Peoplethe Central Question of Biological Origins published by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics in Richardson, Texas, in 1993 (1989). Edited by Charles B. Thaxton, written by Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon, and with a final "Note to Teachers" by Mark D. Hertwig and Stephen C. Mayr, this well-designed book has the unique feature of discussing origins and opposing evolution without once using any traditional religious languagewithout a single reference to God, the Creator, the Bible, the creation, or even to creation science.
A NEW LEXICON
Instead, the major theme of Pandas is "intelligent design, which is heralded as an especially potent argument against evolution. Pandas employs in fact some fifteen new terms, of which this word couplet is the most prominent, forming a new lexicon of creationist terminology. The other terms are: "design proponent," "designing agent," "designing intellect," "engineer," "intelligent agency," "intelligent agent," "intelligent cause," "intelligent designer," "intelligent activity," "intelligent intervention," "master intellect," "primeval intellect"a curious term, surely, "outside intellect," and "common designer." The function of this lexicon is to demonstrate that evolution can be opposed without using religious language.
Pandas can be regarded therefore as a pragmatic maneuver in the present-day controversy; its lexicon is thought to immunize it against the legal challenges that arise from the charge that introducing a religious interpretation of biological origins is indeed its primary objective.
Intended as a supplement to biology texts, Pandas examines the origin of life, genetics, the origin of species, fossils, homologies, and biochemistry, in each case declaring that "intelligent design" is a better explanation than the theory of evolution. It is clear that the makers of Pandas have given much thought to presenting intelligent design in the most cogent manner possible. With beguiling analogies and ingenious illustrations, they politely engage the reader in reconsidering the answers that Darwin gave to fundamental questions of biology. To this end, even the font styles are well chosen. Whether Pandas becomes a trend setter in creationist publications, it represents a serious initiative in efforts to present creationism in the best light, and deserves fair scrutiny, especially by those who regard themselves as evangelical.
TWO EVANGELICAL CAMPSTWO RESPONSES TO EVOLUTION
Although evangelicals are often associated in the public mind with creationism, opposition to evolution has long been a divisive feature of American Protestantism as a whole. Ronald L. Numbers, in his definitive work, The Creationists, brings this out in a chapter entitled, "Creationism in the Churches." Surveying creationist sentiment among mainline denominations, he reported the Gallop Poll of 1991 "that 47 per cent of Americans professed belief in a recent special creation" (1993, p. 300). This is an astonishing number that includes more than evangelicals.
As for those who identify themselves as "evangelical" per sewhether Catholics, Pentecostals, independents, or members to be found in all the mainline Protestant denominationsI have long been aware of the deep divisions among them concerning evolution. In my experience I have observed that "evangelicals" frequently go to the same churches, sing the same hymns, cooperate in the same missionary endeavors, and on election day they often vote the same way. Yet when the subject of evolution comes up they promptly segregate themselves into two opposing camps, as follows.
Arrayed on the one side are opponents of evolution, among which at least three subgroups hold forth. (a) In one of these subgroups are the full-time, activist and visible creationists who are indefatigable in seeking to introduce creationism into the public schools. (b) Then, a sizable group of followers and sympathizers, fearing that evolution is ungodly but don't know why, are puzzled that all evangelicals do not agree that evolution is a menace to the public good. (c) And lastly, the fence-sitters, many of whom are leaders in Christian organizations, such as editors of evangelical magazines and of publishing houses and talk show hosts of evangelical radio programs, are glad to provide a hearing for creationist views, but stop short of fully endorsing what they hear; they wish to be regarded as up-to-date on science but hope that creationism is true.
Pandas finds a goodly market among these evangelicals.
In the other camp are the non-creationist evangelicals. As a whole they are a rather more placid, even inchoate lot, who likewise can be found in three subgroups. (a) Many are active in science and are found typically in the American Scientific Affiliation and in biology departments of colleges and high schools across the length and breadth of the land. They wonder how anyone can see any theological difficulty with evolution; they teach it commendably, and then go to church on Sunday, pray, and repeat the Apostles' Creed. (b) Many others are embarrassed by creationism, hoping that by keeping quiet the controversy will go away, but of course it does not go away. (c) And a minuscule fraction is outspoken, and, wondering why evangelical leaders do not recognize the theological eccentricities in creationism, regard it as a caricature of the Christian gospel and a threat to science education.
Pandas has no future in this mixed lot of evangelicals.
Alas for the hopes of Pandas' makers, critical reviews of intelligent design early on pointed out that the scientific shortcomings of this word couplet are manifold. (2) These reviews, besides bringing to light recent trends in evolution studies, reveal the exasperation felt by many biology teachersincluding many biologists who are evangelicalthat the creationist movement today remains skeptical of what they regard as the clear results of biological research; and moreover, exasperation that creationism is cultivated by those who themselves have professional standing in science.
THE CENTRAL ISSUE IS AVOIDED
At this point it is pertinent to observe that within the larger context of American society today, neither Pandas nor its critics deal head-on with what is really the central issue in the controversy. Pandas makes no mention of this issue, which is not centrally about origins. What is at issue is that large numbers of ordinary church-goers believe that evolution is too often presented, not only as a biological theory, but as an all encompassing world-life view. In a valuable study, God's Own Scientists Creationists in a Secular World(1994), Christopher P. Toumey has brought out the strong hostility to evolution felt by so many critics of science; they feel that evolution, indeed, is even "involved with immorality" in American life (p. 52, 257 passim). (3)
We must allow that Mr. and Mrs. Ordinary Church-goer have something when they voice this fear. It is perfectly true that various secular scientists in public life today do advance the view science is the only reliable source of knowledge. In articles, books, and lectures they readily imply or openly declare that science proves that Genesis is falseand then with the next breath marvel at the ignorance of creationists. Much of the creationist agenda indeed has arisen from the fear that teaching evolution promotes an anti-Christian philosophy of life.
For example, Pandas (p. 67) charges Richard Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker with advancing this view, I think with substantial reason. Take Dawkins' peroration in his Scientific American article, "God's Utility Function," in November 1995 (p. 85). He wrote:
The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
There's little doubt that Dawkinswho makes free with the adjective "ignorant" for some creationiststhinks that science leads to this view. But it can be regarded, actually, as a fundamental tenet of the secular religion that is widely practiced today by various opponents of creationism. The statement represents a secular Weltanschauun, does it not, with religious presuppositions. So here we have the premier scientific journal, reaching the general public every month in drug stores and K-Marts everywhere with the latest in science, publishing a statement such as this with no editorial comment. Can there be any doubt why the creationist movement opposes evolution?
Dawkins has the right to promulgate his secular religious sentiment, of course; and Scientific America to display its bias in this matter. But to understand the portent of the Dawkins religious view and the bias to be found in prominent quarters of American science, we need only imagine the clamor that would erupt in the science community, if the editorial staff, having experienced metanoia, had amended the Dawkins statement to read as follows:
The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, divine creation, with abundant evidence of design, purpose, good, and nothing but the love of God.
Now, what principle of logic, pray, renders the Dawkins statement scientific, but not my amendment of it? So much for disinterested science. The Dawkins position together with the Scientific American anointment of it go far to account for the hold that creationism has on the American public.
Thus it is that, just as Pandas avoids what is at issue, neither do the aforesaid secular proponents of evolutionism suffer themselves to distinguish between evolution as a scientific theory and evolution is as the world-life view they espouse. We might regard them as "secular fundamentalists," such as Dawkins; they are to be found primarily in university sanctuaries. This failure to communicate effectively by the "creationists" and the corresponding inability or unwillingness to comprehend their legitimate concerns on the part of secular "evolutionists" forms a disquieting background against which the present-day evolution controversy thrives.
Neither the advocates of creationism nor their secular opponents bother to make the elementary distinction between evolution as the biological theory it is and the naturalistic Weltanschauung that is said to be its inevitable result.
THREE DEFINING STATEMENTS
As an index of the importance attached to intelligent design, this word couplet is used some sixty-five times in Pandas. With regard to its meaning, three defining statements go far to reveal the conceptual orientation represented by this term.
First, it is defined (p. 150) as the theory that biological organisms owe their origin to a preexistent intelligence, God presumably being this preexistent intelligence. Now, all that this definition asserts is that the makers of Pandas subscribe to the Nicene and Apostles' Creed. They join hands therefore not only with Christians but also with Jews and Muslims in affirming the preexistence of the Creator and the divine authorship of all living creatures.
Only when Pandas reaches for precision do we see what its makers have in mind; we see, in fact, the main outlines of what the creationist movement has to offer.
Second, observing that "Darwinian evolution locates the origin of new organisms in material causes, Pandas declares that (p 14):
Intelligent design, by contrast, locates the origin of new organisms in an immaterial cause in a blueprint, a plan, a pattern devised by an intelligent agent.
Taking these first two statements together, I believe that we can infer the principal position taken by Pandas: the biblical doctrine of creation perforce means belief in intelligent design. And it is this position to which evangelicals are committed when they approve of Pandas. That is, those evangelicals who say that creation is opposed to evolution and who see in Pandas a commendable response to what they regard as the evils of evolution in the public schools and a worthy antidote to the cultural ills of our national life, also declare that belief in creation means belief in intelligent design, whatever that is.
And third, in a discussion of fossils, a further declaration offers yet more precision (p. 99-100):
Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features intactfish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.
This is an explicit statement and it makes two points: natural causes do not account for the origin of life; and no evolution has occurred. Today, large numbers of evangelicals readily agreeGod created the animals and plants in the beginning. There's been no evolution, they'll say, well, maybe a little variation within a species, but there's the end of iteven without inquiring into the meaning of the various terms in this statement. On the other hand, many evangelicals, of course, do not agree.
Aside from its pedagogic merits, which I grant are substantial, Pandas is actually a useful guide that helps us puzzle out the ideological impasse that now separates evangelicals, one from another, in the two camps I've described above. Moreover, the three definitive statements I have quoted define rather well what it is that evangelicals actually believe or do not believe with respect to the question of creation and evolution. Pandas helpfully albeit inadvertently defines what is meant in either case.
For instance, take that large, inchoate, and usually silent group of evangelicals I've described; they see not the slightest antithesis between creation and evolution. We have in Pandas a theological statement of their position when they subscribe to the first statement above, on creation; and in the second and third statements, on creationism, we see what it is they reject. Believing in the doctrine of creation, as do Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, they will never in the world regard "intelligent design" as a credible alternative to the theory of evolution for an explanation of biological diversity.
The evangelicals in my other camp, on the other hand, cannot fathom how any evangelical can possibly believe in creation and accept evolution at the same time. Much less can they possibly accept the historical evidence that the doctrine of creation actually opened the way for the emergence of the biological theory of evolution. Neither can numerous secular evolutionists, for that matter, comprehend such a verdict of the historical recordthat the theory of evolution is a logical extension of the theological doctrine of creation. For this particular group of evangelicals, at any rate, opposition to evolution is an index of theological orthodoxy. Their position can be expressed by a rhetorical question: Does not creation by definition foreclose evolution?
In promulgating intelligent design as an alternative to evolution, Pandas I think has rendered an unintended and unforeseen service, not only in reminding us that these two opposing positions are extant among evangelicals today, but also in describing the views to which evangelicals are actually committed when they oppose the teaching of evolution.
While the three statements above qualify as definitions, they reveal surely more than the authors could have anticipated. They do, though, help us understand how the term is used in Pandas. As stated, Jews, Christians, and Muslims subscribe to the first. Then in the second, we learn that apparently this "blueprint" was acted upon by "an immaterial cause," which with its indefinite article would appear to exclude God.
PHILOSOPHICAL and THEOLOGICAL ENIGMAS
Vexing questions at once arise. What is this "immaterial cause"? And where is this "blueprint"? Does this "blueprint" exist from all eternity as a substance that is separate from God? It is actually a reminder of the nineteenth century archetype which, by means of the Platonic Ideas, existing it was said beyond the natural realm, sought to explain the enigmas of vertebrate homologies. Of this, I shall have more to say anon.
Before proceeding with intelligent design itself, two similar terms, used in the second and third definitions that I have identified above, deserve a moment of scrutiny: "intelligent agent and "intelligent agency." Possibly they are used as synonyms for God. But I do not think so, inasmuch as "agent" and "agency" also carry the meaning of a person who acts on behalf of another. And since the makers of Pandas hardly have in mind a human person, then, in context, this "agent" and "agency" of theirs seem to suggest that an immaterial and incorporeal divine deputy of some sort is on duty somewhere in nature acting on behalf of God. More precisely, the way these two terms are used raises the question of whether the makers of Pandas are not declaring, if inadvertently, that it was not God acting directly at the creation, but an immaterial and non-spatial entity that brought forth life. Is this the sort of thing that evangelical adversaries of evolution are anxious to believe?
If my analysis is far-fetched, then what are "intelligent agent" and "intelligent agency" supposed to mean? But if I am correct, then certain pertinent questions arise. Are they sentient entites? Are they eternal and co-existent with God? If they are, would they not compromise the oneness of God? Or does God, like the creation, consist of parts? Or were they created? Nit-picking, someone will say. But I had thought that evangelical readers of Pandas who esteem theological orthodoxy might take notice of "blueprint," "intelligent agent," "intelligent agency, and "intelligent cause" and wonder what on Earth they mean.
Moreover, the action of "intelligent design" is described as occurring primarily in the origin of living things and their biological systems, but says nothing about its action in present day organisms. Is one permitted to observe that this emphasis therefore savors of deism? This is a charge that its authors would deny with indignationas though simply denying deism means making its absence so. And how intelligent design acted in origins, we are not to know.
Whatever the labors, location, or characteristics that Pandas attributes to these terms, they are not without theological difficulties for the consistent theist.
WHAT DOES INTELLIGENT DESIGN MEAN
To return to intelligent design itself. This word couplet has acquired a certain vogue among evangelicals. An entire book has been devoted to the subject: Creation Hypothesis, Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer, edited by J. P. Moreland, in 1994. A chapter is entitled, "On the Very Possibility of Intelligent Design," by William A. Dembski; and Stephen C. Meyer makes frequent use of the term in his chapter, "The Methodological Equivalence of Design & Descent: Can there be a scientific 'Theory of Creation?'" Without doubt Meyer also brought "intelligent design" to the notice of many sympathetic readers of The Wall Street Journal with his Op-Ed piece, "A Scopes Trial for the '90s, of 6 December 1993. (It was this article that first alerted me to intelligent design.") The next year, on 14 November, a front page article in The Wall Street Journal, by Eric Larson, heralded Pandas with a headline that trumpeted, "A Textbook Proposes `intelligent design.'"
Besides appearing in these publications, from time to time intelligent design has been the main subject of a number of seminars and meetings that have been open to the public. One of these was held at Wheaton College in April of 1997. Sponsored by the Science Department, the subject was "Information in the Living CellA Question of Design in Nature." Two of the four speakers on the panel were a historian of science and a biochemist from Chicago universities.
I should like to point out that proponents of intelligent design never cite biology textbooks that are used in introductory courses in high school and college. Yet, both in Pandas and in the above books and articles, they seem to think that the theory of biological evolution is taught in the public schools in a way that is inimical to Christian theism. As far as I can see in creationist literature, however, no one ever undertakes to be specific. We are never told which biology department, which public school, or which textbook uses evolution to promote an anti-religious bias. We are not to be made happy with the citation of even one passage in a biology textbook that affirms the alleged terrible things. One is entitled to infer therefore that the intelligent design people do not know how evolution is taught in the public schools.
PHILLIP E. JOHNSON
At any rate, there is little question that "design proponents" feel that they have something worthwhile. For instance, Phillip E. Johnson, taking a liking for intelligent design, has made it familiar to a wide evangelical audience. He used the term five times in his Darwin on Trial (1993, 1994); four times in his Christianity Today article of 10 October 1994; and eleven times in his Reason in the Balance (1995); and again in his Easy to Understand Guide for Defeating Darwinism. Opening the Mind, in 1995. Finding the term entirely agreeable to his purposes, he professes surprise, however, that so many evangelicals of an academic persuasion do not find it agreeable at all. In his view, just because intelligent design implies "a supernatural entity" is no reason why it should not be a candidate for "scientific consideration"(Reason 1995, p. 90-91); especially, one gathers, among evangelicals. Aside from announcing here that God is an "entity, "Johnson nowhere indulges his readers with a definition of what he thinks intelligent design might mean.
Of course, Johnson is unhappy with the way he thinks evolution is taught. But he, too, never cites a biology textbook or a biology department, of which he has knowledge, that he finds does not present evolution as the scientific theory it is.
Johnson inadvertently brings out the cleavage separating evangelicals on the topic of evolution and creationism. In his book Reason in the Balance, apparently he is distressed that all evangelicals do not share his view, inasmuch as he announces that such people are "deceiving themselves" because they have given themselves up to naturalism (1995, p. 206). And in Christianity Today (10/24/94, p. 26), he decides it is "astonishing" that many Christian academics are actually "defenders of Darwinsm." In his view, their trouble is that, even though they are in the sciences and have studied these matters for many years, they do not have a proper understanding of natural selection, and as a lawyer he is glad to give them instruction to remedy this deficiency.
In 1993, two searching critiques from an evangelical point of view exposed the philosophical and theological shortcomings of Johnson's position. The one article entitled, "Phillip Johnson on Trial: A Critique of His Critique of Darwin," was by Nancey Murphy, at Fuller Theological Seminary, in the March issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith; the other, "God and Evolution: An Exchange," was by Howard Van Till, at Calvin College, in the March issue of First Things. Both of these articles examine Johnson's understanding of natural selection and "naturalism." Their articles are definitive in their analyses of Johnson's published views, and make plain that his position is far from representing the mainstream of evangelical thought. Murphy, reviewing Johnson's Darwin on Trial, wrote that "it may create an inaccurate impression of the status of evolutionary biology." Van Till, reviewing Johnson's article, "Creator or Blind Watchmaker," wrote that Johnson's view ensures "that the gulf between the academy and the sanctuary will only grow wider." (See references below)
Notwithstanding Johnson's criticism of evangelicals (those described in my second camp above), who otherwise might be his allies, he is performing a much needed public service by his outspoken critique of the well connected secular academics who proclaim that science is the only reliable source of knowledge. In books and lectures, in season and out of season, he challenges the assumptions and logic of these apostles of "secularism," among whom he names biologists Francis Crick, the aforesaid Richard Dawkins, Douglas Futuyama, Donald Johanson, and William Provine; physicists Paul Davies and Steven Weinberg; and astronomer the late Carl Sagan (Reason 1995, p. 9, 76, 213, 217). His critique is timely and warranted, even taking into account his uncritical embrace of intelligent designwithout troubling himself to vouchsafe a definition of this word coupletand his fallacious reasoning that "evolutionism" and "naturalism" are the inevitable consequence of evolutionary theory (e.g., in 1993, p. 116-117; and 1995,p. 211).
HOW DO BIOLOGY TEACHERS REACT?
A pertinent question at once arises. The secularists whom Johnson rightly identifies are widely influential in the public understanding of science. But what effect do their views have on the way the subject of evolution is presented in a biology classroom? My impression is that the effect is minimal. High school biology teachers are busy people. They count it an achievement to get through four or five classes per day. They have no energy and little inclination to add to their work by promulgating an ideology, even if they had the time to read and figure out what those secularists are driving at. Moreover, as I have stated above, neither Johnson nor anyone else among the intelligent design people, as far as I am aware, has troubled to cite a connection between the views of one of these secularists and the actual wording of a passage that can be regarded as anti-theistic in a biology text. One sighs for a citation.
On the other hand, the creationists quite possibly are already capturing wide swaths of science education. High school biology teachers, busy people that they are, feel that they can make do without controversy. Accordingly, to be on the safe side many simply skip the chapters on evolution, and that's that. Those evangelicals who think this is a victory might ponder how the elimination from the science curriculum of the major organizing principle of biology can advance the state of American science education.
While an explicit definition of intelligent design apparently is not to be forthcoming, not from Phillip Johnson, at any rate, and possibly does not exist even among its proponents, anyone who is familiar with the anti-evolution literature of the last quarter century or who is conversant at all with the historical precursors of creationism should have no difficulty in recognizing the similarity of "intelligent design" to the pre-Darwinian doctrine of "special creation." According to this doctrine, the species we see around us today have not changed appreciably since their creation by the deliberate and special acts of God.
In a series of published studies, I have already examined the historical antecedents of this doctrine (See Aulie 1972, 1974-75, 1982, 1983). In these articles, I took up the design argument, the fixity of species, micro- and macroevolution, and "blueprints" and archetypes, all of which are inherent in Pandas. I pointed out that "special creation," as a scientific concept, arose in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the work of the naturalists John Ray and Carolus Linnaeus; that the conceptual and philosophical orientation of creationism is rooted, not in the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, but in ancient Greek thought, especially in the works of Plato and Aristotle. I showed how Platonic and Aristotelian ideas led to creationism, creatio ex nihilo to evolutionary theory; and observed that orthodox Christian theology in the late nineteenth century on both sides of the Atlantic offered a congenial reception for Darwin's theory.
My position is that the biological theory of evolution, far from being inimical to theism, is a logical extension of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic doctrine of creation.
One can easily substitute the words "special creation" for "intelligent design" in the three passages I have quoted above with no loss of meaning. While Pandas eschews religious language, intelligent design" is redolent of the concepts and controversies of pre-Darwinian biology, in which the doctrine of special creation held sway. Whereas the authors have succeeded, as they intended, in avoiding religious language, including the avoidance of the language of Christian theism, they have unknowingly but inevitably attached their anti-evolutionary views to historical roots whose nourishment came, not from Christian theism, as they must surely wish to have been the case, but from ancient Greek thought. Although creationism frequently is chided by its secular opponents for its scientific shortcomings, Pandas merits a more spacious appraisal because it offers a valuable opportunity not only to enlarge upon those historical roots but also to examine in what sense Darwinian evolution constituted a revolution in thought.
In all of this, Pandas marks out the unusually sharp contours of the cardinal dilemma springing up in the present-day evolution controversy: that of balancing the requirements of science education with the necessity of nourishing religious values, and that in a predominantly secular culture.
PLATO, ARISTOTLE, and GALEN
Withal, the makers of Pandas have prepared for us a surprise, for sprinkled across the pages of their well-crafted book, in a manner that perhaps is a surprise to themselves, are unmistaken artifacts of the achievements of three prominent figures of Greek antiquity. On page after page we can stumble upon remnants of Plato and the Republic; of Aristotle and his Parts of Animals especially, and also his History of Animals and Metaphysics; and, yes, there's Galen and his Uses of the Parts. Actually, emblems of their presence everywhere should not be regarded as a surprise. Plato and Aristotle, whose views were codified and sanctified by the second century physician Galen, are the wellsprings of the conceptual orientation that characterizes the present-day creationism movement with its pre-Darwinian doctrine of "special creation." This is the doctrine that, willy-nilly, perforce had to energize, albeit inadvertently, the making of this attractive book.
It is not too much to say, therefore, that Pandas provides us with the edifying reminder that, absent the biological theory of evolution, the explanation of biological variability that is derived from Greek thought is the only alternative explanation available. Thus it was that the Darwinian revolution was waged indeed between two contending views of nature, not between science and Christian theism, as we are so often asked to believe. Such is the unforeseen and unintended demonstration wrought by Pandas.
But in order to sort out these matters and make them clear we must first acquaint ourselves with some metaphysics and biology from the ancient world. The presence of Plato, Aristotle, and Galen in Pandas will be the subject of my next effort.
1. By "scientific creationism" I mean the views of those who oppose the teaching of the theory of biological evolution in the public schools, and who have it in their heads that evolution is against creation. In opposition to evolution, creationists maintain that at the creation God acted in a special way in the origin of the major groups of animals and plants, including humans; and that since the creation species have varied only within limits. Scientific creationism is also called "creationism" and "special creation." Creationism as an ideology represents a complex belief system that frequently goes beyond biblical proof-texts and views about the age of the Earth. Its origin dates from the 17th and 18th centuries and was made possible by the views of John Ray and Carolus Linnaeus, and should be distinguished from the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic doctrine of creation. I therefore reject any evolution-creation dichotomy. One does not "believe in evolution. One "believes in" God
2. For example, (a) Scientific American, July 1995, Science and the Citizen: "Darwin Denied";
(b) Gould 1992;
(c) Review of Pandas, in Science Teacher, April 1990;
(d) "Why Pandas and People? and "A View From the Past," in BookWatch Reviews, National Center for Science Education, vol. 2, Number 11, 1989;
(e) "Phillip E. Johnson Makes His Case," Newsletter of the California Committee of Correspondence, First Quarter 1994;
(f) Unpublished: Sonleitner, F. J., "Intelligent Design According to Pandas," and "The New PandasHas Creationist Scholarship Improved," University of Oklahoma, Norman; McKown, D. B., "Of Pandas and People: A Logical Analysis," Auburn University.
3. In chapter four, "Moral Interpretations of Evolution," Toumey elaborated felicitous distinctions among four groups of American Protestants as to their anti-evolutionary views and "different moral interpretation of evolution." Admiring this classification, I came up with my "Two Evangelical CampsTwo Responses to Evolution," which I've vouchsafed above.
Aulie, R.P., The doctrine of special creation. American Biology Teacher, April, May 1972.
, The origin of the idea of the mammal-like reptile. American Biology Teacher, November, December 1974; January 1975.
, 'The post-darwinian controversies,'An extended book review essay. Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (Perspectives of Science and Christian Faith), March, June, September, December 1982.
, Evolution and special creation: Historical antecedents of the controversy. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, December 1983.
Cavanaugh, M.A., Scientific creationism and rationality. Nature, May 1985, p. 185-189.
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