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Part III: Medieval Synthesis: Modern Fragmentation Chapter 3
History Repeats Itself
THE NUMBER of parallelisms between the Medieval Synthesis and its modern counterpart are remarkable, not only the spirit in which they have been defended and in the treatment accorded challengers, but also in the basic philosophy which has governed the attitude of the orthodox toward new discoveries. In some instances the role of the leading characters has been reversed, but a comparison between the two world views and the underlying dogmatism which appears in both is most revealing and shows that there is very little difference between the two mentalities which seem otherwise completely opposed.
It is commonly supposed ‹ and I shared this opinion for many years ‹ that the Medieval Synthesis toppled because it opposed Galileo. Arthur Koestler considers that the events leading to and resulting from Galileo's trial formed a kind of turning point in history and "precipitated the divorce of science from faith." (105) This is not the time or place to attempt a sorting out of all the facts of the case in this trial (it has been done in a masterly way and entirely by reference to original letters, pamphlets and minutes of meetings by Arthur Koestler), but it is important to note that a tremendous amount of mythology has accumulated around these circumstances. Galileo is pictured as a kind of martyr to the truth and his Inquisitors as evil men dedicated to dogma and determined to silence his plea for a hearing. They are said to have refused to look through his telescope and to have stood firmly in the way of an advance in the science of astronomy
The facts are somewhat otherwise. Some reviews of Koestler's Sleepwalkers have accused him of
105. Koestler, Arthur, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe, Hutchinson, London, 1959, p.495. pg 1 of 16
shallowness and even inaccuracy. (106) Yet any reader who will merely study the numerous excerpts he has presented from original sources would, I think, come to the conclusion that Galileo deserved far worse treatment than he actually got. To quote Koestler once again, "I believe the idea that Galileo's trial was a kind of Greek tragedy, a showdown between 'blind faith' and 'enlightened reason,' to be naively erroneous." (107) Judging by Galileo's correspondence and other records of his opinion of himself, he was fantastically selfish intellectually and almost unbelievably conceited. As an illustration of the former, there is the now well-known fact that he refused to share with his colleagues or with acquaintances such as Kepler any of his own findings or insights; he actually claimed to be the only one who ever would make any new discovery! In writing to an acquaintance he expressed himself as follows: (108)
You cannot help it, Mr. Sarsi, that it was granted to me alone to discover all the new phenomena in the sky and nothing to anybody else. This is the truth which neither malice nor envy can suppress.
Like many others with such vanity, Galileo was hypersensitive to criticism -- and I cannot refrain from including here a revealing incident which is really rather funny. While he was staying at the house of a friend, toward the end of 1612, he heard via "the grapevine" that a certain Dominican father had "attacked" his views
in a private conversation. Galileo immediately wrote demanding an explanation. The accused was an old man of seventy years, who wrote back. (109)
I have never dreamt of getting involved in such matters. . . . I am at a loss to know what grounds there can be
for such a suspicion, since this thing had never occurred to me.
It is indeed true that I, not with a desire to argue, but merely to avoid giving the impression of a blockhead when the discussion was started by others, did say a few words just to show that I was alive.
It could hardly be said that the old gentleman was seriously challenging Galileo's views, and Galileo's reaction is clearly that of a small-minded man. This hypersensitivity characterized the whole of Galileo's public life and led him increasingly to become more and more arrogant and less and less reasonable. In due course he
106. Reviews: for a favorable review of some length, see that by Milton K. Munitz in Science, vol.130, 1959, p.326ff.; for one not quite so favorable but very complete, see that by I. Bernard Cohen in Scientific Monthly, June, 1959, pp.187ff. pg.2 of 16
107. Koestler, Arthur, ref.105, p.485.
108. From Galileo's Il Saggiatore, quoted by E. Zinner in his Enstehung und Ausbreitung und Copernicanischen Lehre, Erlangen, 1943, p.362.
109. Lorini, Niccolo, Opere XI, 427, quoted by Stillman Drake in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, Doubleday, New York, 1957, p.146.
made the fatal mistake of insisting that a theory (the epicycles of Copernicus which later proved to be in error) was actually established fact and not merely a working hypothesis. It was this one circumstance which ultimately brought him into headlong collision with the church authorities, who had almost time without number protected him and favoured him and tried to be reasonable with him.
During his clash with the authorities, Galileo constantly perjured himself, and both he and his judges knew it throughout. Whenever he was put on the spot for some manifestly objectionable statements ‹ for example, he had written that all who did not share his views were "mental pygmies," "dumb idiots," and "hardly deserving to be called human beings" ‹ he promptly tried to persuade the court that when he wrote these things he was really only setting forth what the Copernicans thought, not what he thought of his opponents! (110)
Galileo was constantly appealed to by his judges to admit that he really had written these things as an expression of his own opinion, but he was adamant. When during the final stages of the trial an occasion occurred to quote back to him his own words expressing these very sentiments, out of pity and sympathy and the desire not to ruin an old man his Inquisitors passed up the opportunity, remained silent, and dropped the matter entirely. He was in no way a brave man standing for a great truth. He was not, as Koestler put it, "the stuff of which martyrs are made." (111)
Indeed, it may be said he was a coward above all else, being afraid to express his own Copernican views which, even when he was thirty years old, he declared to a friend that he had held "for many years." He had no occasion to conceal his views, for all the evidence goes to show that Roman Catholics at that time were quite uncommitted in the matter. (112) The Jesuits themselves were more Copernican than Galileo was; it is now well recognized that the reason why Chinese astronomy advanced more rapidly than European astronomy was simply because Jesuit missionaries communicated to them their Copernican views. (113)
The basic issue which brought matters to a head in the end was that Galileo was proclaiming the Copernican system as fact rather than a working hypothesis. The Consulter of the Holy Office, Master of
110. Koestler, Arthur, ref.105, p.485. pg.3 of 16
111. Ibid., p.493.
112. On this point, see Arthur Koestler's article, "The Greatest Scandal in Christendom", in The Observer, Weekend Review, London, 2 February, l964, p.21.
113. Szczesniak, B., "The Penetration of the Copernican Theory into Federal Japan" in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1944, Parts I and II.
Controversial Questions, etc., was a man named Bellarmine, a person of great patience apparently and -- surprisingly enough -- a true modernist in the sense that he "wanted to be shown". He demanded proof. He said, in effect, "Galileo, you say the earth moves around the sun. I say, obviously the sun moves round the earth. If the earth moved, everything would blow off it. And what is more, we should be able to demonstrate parallax of the fixed stars." (114) All he requested of Galileo at first was that he should present his theories as working hypotheses. In point of fact, Galileo was given every encouragement by the authorities to pursue this course.
But Galileo was so certain that his hypothesis was a fact that he refused the advice and became more obdurate than ever. A torrent of abuse was increasingly heaped upon all those who challenged his opinion; in the end, he even had recourse to a kind of "secret weapon," a knock-down argument that was to settle the issue once for all. (115) Probably sensing that his secret weapon was not quite so weapon-like as it was secret, Galileo refused to produce the evidence for a long time. When he finally faced the enemy with it, it turned out to be an argument based upon the existence of the tides which, in substance, he held could only be explained as being due to the earth's motion as it rolled through space. Of course, he was completely wrong, and judging by the vehemence with which he defended it, it seems likely that he suspected it himself. He had every reason to believe that the earth did move, but he was quite unwilling to admit that he couldn't prove it, and so his faith became a dogma.
Since the proof never did appear for him, it is not in a way so surprising that in his declining years Galileo may have become a little wary even of his own dogma ‹ and ready to recant. The people before whom he surrendered were far more antagonistic to his dogmatism than they really were to the Copernican system he
was trying to support, for there is every indication (as we have already said) that they were quite willing to
grant the system in essence.
Perhaps it was for this reason that throughout his trial Galileo was treated with courtesy and with leniency. On at least three occasions before the trial, accusations had been brought against him, and on every occasion he had been entirely exonerated. (116) During the trial it appears that much evidence which might have been
114. Koestler, Arthur, ref.105, pp.447-46, 460. pg.4 of 16
115. Ibid., pp.440-42, 493.
116. Ibid., pp. 451-55.
introduced against him was quietly laid aside and indeed, in the end, he was not even accused of heresy. When he was retained under sentence, he was lodged in a private apartment with every possible comfort, and
his sentence was so formulated as to leave him not only virtually a free man with his honour intact, with provision for his daily needs and the daily needs of his ass, and this in an environment which allowed him to complete his work on dynamics, which many consider to be his really great contribution to science. (117)
Koestler's work on Galileo reflects a new interest in the circumstances surrounding his trial, an interest which has called forth a number of papers pro and con the picture Koestler presents. Strictly speaking, one cannot argue with Koestler insofar as he has based his study and supported it by direct reference to original sources. In his Wilkin's Lecture, G. de Santillana discusses the issues which were involved as he sees them and is a little more favourable to Galileo than Koestler is; but he still supports the latter in his contention that Galileo was not altogether honest with his Inquisitors or with the Pope (Urban VIII), who initially was his friend and not unsympathetic to his views. (118) De Santillana feels that the Pope did not really understand the basis upon which Galileo's discourse was grounded, and that Galileo himself had not given sufficient thought to the broader consequences of what he was presenting as fact. De Santillana believes that both the Pope and Galileo were equally surprised that the issue took the course it did. As a matter of interest, he suggests that the church authorities were more angry than anything because Galileo, having been asked to write up his theories supposing that there would be no conflict in them or that if there was a conflict it would be presented cautiously, found to their horror that they had given official approval to a discourse that was anything but gentle and considerate. De Santillana thinks that Galileo was not altogether aware of his own dogmatism and was not therefore deliberately "twisting the lion's tail"; but after reading the many excerpts from the relevant contemporary documents to be found in Koestler's work, one cannot help but feel that Galileo did know exactly what he was doing.
117. This was his Dialogue Concerning Two New Sciences, which has since been translated by H. Crew and published by Northwestern University Press, 1950. An interesting article on Galileo, with special reference to this work was written by N. S. Hanson under the title "Galileo's Discoveries in Dynamics" and appeared in Science, vol.147, 1965, p.471-78. pg.5 of 16
118. De Santillana, G., "Galileo Today," the Wilkins Lecture (Massachesetts Institute of Technology), 1964, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series A, vol.270, 1964, p.447-58.
In the Journal Science, a paper by R. E. Gibson (119) sets forth Galileo in his rather more "heroic" image and by contrast paints a less favorable picture of his judges. The article called forth some correspondence during the following months which underscored, among other things, the fact that the proof which Galileo claimed he had was not in fact available for at least fifty years and, looked at one way, not for a hundred years. This correspondence also brought out the fact that a rather famous (or infamous) volume by Andrew White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology and Christendom, was not only an antiquated volume, but also a "highly slanted" one. (120) In view of the fact that this volume has been re-issued, it may be useful to
know that scientific opinion does not consider it as the last word in scholarship. White's statements are at times "directly contradicted" by the documents from Galileo's time.
Finally, one of the correspondents, David F. Siemens, properly draws attention to the fact that theologians are not the only people who resist new ideas. He says, "In the light of the vaunted claims of Science to objectivity, honesty, experimental method, and so on...a reading or re-reading of Bernard Barber's 'Resistance by Scientists to Scientific Discovery' would be beneficial." (121) It would indeed! Barber's paper may be an eye-opener to many who suppose that scientists are not subject to the evil influences of authoritarianism or plain pigheadedness. (122)
Such, then, is the nature of the "martyrdom" of Galileo ‹ a man who, by modern writers with little sympathy for matters of faith, has been built into an heroic figure, and about whom a great deal of apocryphal literature has accumulated. He did not mutter under his breath, "It moves nevertheless"; he did not drop weights from the Tower of Pisa; he was not "imprisoned" ‹ sacrificing liberty in the cause of science. Indeed, very little of the popular picture can be substantiated from the voluminous firsthand source material about his
119. Gibson, R. E., "Our Heritage from Galileo Galilei" in Science, vol.145, 1964, p.1271-76. pg.6 of 16
120. White, Andrew, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology and Christendom, originally published in 1895 and re-issued by Braziller, New York, 1955, 474 pages.
121. Siemens, David F., in a Letter to the Editor, Science, vol.147, 1965, p.8-9.
122. Barber, Bernard, "Resistance of Scientists to Scientific Discovery" in Science, vol.134, 1961, p.596ff. Theologians are often chided for their refusal to look at the evidence when it challenges their faith. We are told that they refused to look through Galileo's telescope. Yet the truth is that the Jesuits had better telescopes than he did, and indeed made him a present of one of theirs, to his great joy. The fact is that scientists have been pigheaded themselves -- almost unbelievably at times. Thus, when Newton discovered that white was made up of the colours of the rainbow, Robert Hooke -- and the Royal Society with him -- simply rejected his report and at first flatly refused to look at the evidence (Scientific Monthly, February, 1955, p104).
life and doings. (123) He was challenged, strange as it may seem, not by men who had much faith and very little knowledge, but by men who were, as Professor Burtt put it, empiricists in the strictest sense. Burtt observed: (124)
It is safe to say that even had there been no religious scruples whatever against the Copernican astronomy, sensible men all over Europe, especially the most empirically minded, would have pronounced it a wild appeal to accept the premature fruits of an uncontrolled imagination, in preference to the solid inductions, built up gradually through the ages, of man's confirmed sense experience.
In the strong stress on empiricism, so characteristic of present philosophy, it is well to remind ourselves of this fact. Contemporary empiricists, had they lived in the 16th century, would have been the first to scoff out of court the new philosophy of the universe.
This observation is an important one. If I have succeeded in conveying a more nearly accurate picture of what was taking place at this crucial point in history when science and faith, for complex reasons, were almost driven into opposition for the first time because of man's insistence that a working hypothesis was a proven
fact, then it will be apparent that history is repeating itself again ‹ only this time with the roles somewhat reversed.
It is difficult for us ‹ knowing what we do about the earth's movement through space, and acquainted as
we are with the absolute proofs of the fact ‹ to see that what is now so seemingly self-evident was then quite contrary to common sense and to experience. It was obvious that the earth did not move. The men who said this were not morons or pinheads or religious cranks, but actually skeptics. It was not that they refused the obvious and preferred the obscure; they merely asked for proof before accepting a view of the solar system which was both contrary to sense experience and challenged a view of the universe which had been built up with great precision and by great minds over a period of centuries, and which in its strictly astronomical aspects had been of great practical value to navigators. (125) One has to bear in mind constantly that not only were the "final" proofs offered by Galileo completely faulty (his theory of the tides), but his insistence upon the epicycles of Copernicus was equally in error. In short, men were being invited to accept a new world picture which placed a greater strain upon their faith than the view which they already held. With our background we tend to look upon this refusal as the result simply of prejudice or ignorance
123. Koestler, Arthur, ref.105, pp.353, 429. pg.7 of 16
124. Burtt, E. A.. The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, London, 1924, p.25.
125. Ptolemy's tables for calculating planetary motions were so reliable and precise that they served with some insignificant corrections as navigational guides to Columbus and Vasco de Gama..
But now, three hundred years later, in a remarkable way history has begun to repeat itself. The Christian finds his faith challenged once again by another "working hypothesis," the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis -- which in spite of its inability to produce the clinching proof makes precisely the same claims to be "fact" that Galileo made for his theory.
It may be that some part of this working hypothesis will one day prove to be factual, as certain elements of Galileo's proved to be. But at present it is still only a working hypothesis, and plenty of time has been afforded since it was first formulated in 1858 to uncover the necessary proofs. Yet these proofs have not yet appeared in decisive form despite many claims to the contrary.
It would seem from modern evolutionary literature that proof is everywhere available. In This View of Life, Simpson repeats this so frequently that the text reads almost like a stuck record. It would be disrupting to introduce each quote at this point, (126) but the tenor of his chant (one might almost say "variations on a theme") is exactly that of Galileo in spirit: evolution is a basic fact, one of the few facts, its problems all triumphantly being resolved, unassailable, no one doubting it any longer, disputed only by "dishonest biologists." One is reminded of the queen in Shakespeare's Hamlet who observed, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
While, like Galileo, modern evolutionary authorities make the same accusations against those who disagree ‹ calling them block-heads, irrational fringe types, or just plain ignorant ‹ and while they uphold their view as entirely rational and quite free of all demands upon faith, yet in certain respects they are behaving "more like the church than the church ever did"!
The new Faith (127) has its cardinals and its archbishops and its colleges; its creeds and its encyclicals; and
126. Simpson, George Gaylord, This View of Life, Harcourt Brace and World, New York, 1963. See p.vii---evolution is one of the few basic facts; pp.10, 193---is a fact, not a theory; p.12---no one has any doubts now about it; p.40---all the facts support it; p.51---only dishonest biologists speak otherwise; p.62---an unassailable fact; p.63---all the problems being solved triumphantly!; pg.8 of 16
p.151---evolution a fact, creation merely a dogma. On page 193 Simpson goes overboard and in fourteen lines sings his paean of praise for the great fact of evolution five times.
127. Faith: That the accepted evolutionary philosophy is very much of a "faith" is strikingly borne out by the words of J. Gray in his review of Julian Huxley's Evolution in Action in Nature, 6 February, 1954, p.227: "Darwinian orthodoxy demands implicit faith in the efficacy of natural selection operating on chance mutations. Subscribe to this and all doubts and hesitation disappear; question it and be forever lost." The case for orthodoxy can seldom have been stated with greater cogency and enthusiasm than by Dr. Huxley. A few readers, perhaps rather pagan in their outlook, may think it a little strange that, if the case is quite so strong as they are asked to believe, it should be necessary to argue the merits of natural selection with almost "evangelical vigour." The number of words here that have been borrowed from religious terminology is quite remarkable: orthodoxy, implicit faith, efficacy, doubts, being lost, pagan, and finally, evangelical vigour!
its prerogative of "appointment" and its powers to silence opponents. (128) And even an analogy to the Ledger exists, though in modernized form. By persuading the better-known publishers that all manuscripts should first be submitted to them for review, they largely discourage or suppress the appearance of any work unfavourable to their own Faith. Moreover, this policy of suppression is reinforced by ensuring that only the Orthodox will secure the best chairs in universities.
The new Faith has its heresies (Lamarckism) and its infallibilities (Natural Selection), and of course, it has its sacred relics ‹ bones, no less! The Holy Grail was never sought with more spiritual zeal than are missing links today, and the most amazing miracles are assented to without the slightest hesitation where the theory demands them (the conversion of scales into feathers, for example). (129) It is the final Truth, and opposition to it partakes almost of the nature of immorality. Indeed, in the university world, to challenge it is to leave oneself open to excommunication.
What seems even remotely possible is at once held true and incontestable if it supports the doctrine. John Randall pointed out that the Medieval Synthesis, "starting with accepted principles, from them a complete system is to be deduced, a great chain of reason ultimately dependent upon its axioms. The test of truth is not his experimental verification, it is inclusion in such a system." (130) Plato's conception of how to distinguish truth from error is stated in his Phaedo: "This is the method I adopted: I first assumed some principle which
128. See, for example, the terminology used by G. A. Kerkut in his Implications of Evolution, International Series of Monographs on Pure and Applied Biology, Pergamon, New York, 1960, p.5. pg.9 of 16
129. Scales into feathers: F. B. Sumner made this observation in Science, vol. 93, 1941, p.522: "Nothing but the guiding hand of a designer here, if not the direct intervention of the Creator Himself . . . only the wave of a magician's wand could have transformed the scales of a reptile forthright into the plumage of a bird." In spite of this, Roger Tory Peterson, the international authority on birds, writing in Time-Life's "Nature Library" (volume on Birds, 1963, p.43), was still able to say casually: "It takes no great stretch of imagination to envision a feather as a modified scale basically like that of the reptile -- a longish scale loosely attached, whose outer edges frayed and spread out until it evolved into the highly complex structure it is today!"
130. Randall, John H., ref. 10, p.98. V. F. Calverton discusses this point under a slightly different heading which he terms "cultural compulsives," by which he means the guiding climate of opinion of a society at that particular time. He feels that this largely determines what is accepted as true and rejected as false. He says: "It is not what has usually been called the truth of their doctrine which makes theories so powerful, but their adaptability to other interests which they subserve." (The Making of Man, Modern Library, New York, 1931, p.27). He had previously expressed the opinion that Darwin's theory was acceptable immediately because "every force in the environment, economic and social, conspired to the success of the doctrine of natural selection and the survival of the fittest" (p.2)
I judged to be the strongest, and then I affirmed as true whatever seemed to agree with this...And that which disagreed I regarded as untrue." (131) That is to say, proof rests not upon scientific demonstration but upon concordance -- a circumstance which accounts for the fact that such a forgery as Piltdown Man can go for so long undetected. Piltdown Man had been just what the doctors ordered.
This principle of "concordance" allows one to claim as clearly proven what in fact has not been proven at
all but is merely an agreeable idea. Evolutionary literature is full of this kind of "proofs." Stanley D. Beck of
the University of Wisconsin in an article directed toward the Christian community wrote with complete confidence: (132)
To call himself reasonably well educated and informed, a Christian can hardly afford not to believe in evolution. Evolution, including human evolution, is no longer in contention. Evolution has been demonstrated so thoroughly and even produced experimentally -- that it has long ceased to be a matter of opinion.
The principle of evolution is now as well established as atomic theory; it is as well documented and verified as any scientific principle known.
It is hard to believe that Beck is speaking seriously, yet the spirit of his observation is common in evolutionary literature. Robert Braidwood tells us: "It is sure mankind is older than a half million years but no fortunate accident of discovery has yet given us evidence to prove it. " (133)
Clearly, in the absence of proof this is merely the assurance of faith ‹ although one might suspect Braidwood of ignorance, for one of his contemporaries of equal renown, Ralph Linton, has written, "Most readers will already be familiar with the principles of evolution and the proofs that it has taken place." (134)
This is all very confusing. We are invited by two authorities in the same field ‹ namely, human evolution ‹ first of all to acknowledge freely that we are acquainted with the proofs and then in the same
breath to admit that the proof is not yet available. Evidently the word proof has very different meanings in different contexts. In one of the Patten Foundation Lectures, Raymond Pearl assured his listeners
131. Plato, Phaedo, quoted in Science , vol.122, 1955, p.1168. pg.10 of 16
132. Beck, Stanley, "Science and Christian Understandings" in Dialog 2, August, 1963, p.316: quoted by Paul Zimmerman, "The Christian and Science," Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Portland, Oregon, 1964, p.2.
133. Braidwood, Robert, Prehistoric Men, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, 1948, p.20.
134. Linton, Ralph, Study of Man, student's edition, Appleton-Century, New York, 1936, p.8
that "the evidence" that man had "a perfectly natural and normal" evolutionary history is "overwhelming in magnitude and cogency." (135) Yet he hastened to add that the steps by which this occurred are far from certain, there being "nearly as many theories on the point as there are serious students of the problem." He then clinched the matter by saying: (136)
All of them at present, however, lack that kind of clear and simple proof which brings the sort of universal acceptance that is accorded the law of gravitation for example. Only on one point, and that one a little vague, can there be said to be general agreement. It is that, on the weight of the evidence, it is probable that at some remote period in the past, for which no clear paleontological record has yet been uncovered, man and the other primates branched off from what there-to-fore had been a common ancestral stem.
Talk about "ifs" and "ands" and "buts"! Galileo's special pleading pales into insignificance. One wonders what experimental proof Professor Beck really had in mind. However, the object of introducing these quotations is really not to ridicule a point of view with which I do not agree, but rather to show that Christians should not be considered as standing opposed to established truth, but only unwilling to accept as fact what, in the light of such statements, must surely be considered still only a working hypothesis. As we have seen, on an earlier occasion both Roman Catholics and Protestants felt it necessary to challenge the unrestricted use of human reason. History is repeating itself.
Once Pope Pius XII, commenting on certain statements made in a conference on genetics, asked whether evolution should be spoken of as "fact" and if; in the absence of "proof;" it ought not rather to be referred to
as a working hypothesis. (137) Theodosius Dobzhansky undertook to reply. After expressing his surprise that anyone in this modern age would question the fact of evolution, he hastened to point out that proof existed ‹ proof; that is, that one species could be transmuted into another. One must surely suppose that a scientist with the reputation he has, answering a figure of importance in world affairs and using as the medium of communication a journal like Science, would make absolutely sure that his proof was unchallengeable. So what did he offer? He referred to what he calls "the classical example," a completely new plant, Raphanobrassica. This reminds me of Galileo's "proof" by his "theory of the tides." . . . .
135. Pearl, Raymond, Man the Animal, Principia Press, Bloomington, Maryland, 1946, p.3. pg.11 of 16
137. Dobzhansky, Theodosius, "A Comment on the Discussion of Genetics by His Holiness, Pope Pius XII." In Science, vol.118, 1953, p.561-63.
In the first place, Dobzhansky chose a plant, not an animal. It is quite generally agreed that the principles of change in plants have little bearing on the origin of animal species. In the second place, his "classical example" has an uncertain history behind it. Not only is there some question as to whether this cross between
a cabbage and a radish really did produce viable offspring (and unless it did, of course, it has no bearing on the problem at all), but the experiments themselves originally reported by Karpechenko in 1924 and 1928 have never, apparently, been repeated successfully. (138)
Furthermore, the end-result can only be described as a "flop," for it assumed a vegetable form in which the roots were useless as a substitute for radishes and the tops as a substitute for cabbages! (139) While the last observation is admittedly facetious, since evolution is not concerned with the mere product of delectable food for Homo sapiens, yet the whole story is so shaky in its testimony that one can only marvel at the poor judgment of Dobzhansky in even daring to refer to it at all, much less referring to it as a "classical example" of experimental speciation. (140)
It is perhaps not without significance that more recently when addressing himself to the same issue of giving an example of experimental proof; Dobzhansky did not refer again to Raphanobrassica. This time, while admitting that speciation is a "critical phase" of the evolutionary process, he offered as proof of its occurrence the example of the salamander Ensatina Eschscholtzi found in California, certain populations of which in the south appear to be reproductively isolated from each other, whereas to the north they are connected "by an unbroken series of intermediate populations which are able to exchange genes."
This is not the first time that a single population has spread into two geographically separate areas in such a way that the descendants no longer naturally interbreed. It has been reported of frogs in certain areas. But it is not at all certain how the evidence should be interpreted, because factors other than genetic ones may operate to isolate the two communities. For example, a new environment may shift the breeding seasons of the
38. Karpechenko's experiments: see on this W. J. Tinkle and W. E. Lammerts, "Biology and Creation" in Modern Science and Christian Faith, edited by Russell Mixter, Van Kampen Press, Wheaton, Illinois, 1950, pp.88-89. pg.12 of 16
139. Reported in Science Newsletter, 22 December, 1956, p.339, under Biology. The note concludes with the words, "The new plant species was worthless. It combined the prickly inedible leaves of the radish with the miserable root system of the cabbage."
140. Dobzhansky, Theodosius, "Species After Darwin" in A Century of Darwin, edited by S. A. Barnett, Heinemann, London, 1958, p.46. There are some doubts whether reproductive isolation is really proof of speciation. See C. E. Goshen's Letter in Science, vol.148, 1965, p.892.
two branches out of phase, or a change of diet may lead to differences in body odour, making the two communities no longer acceptable to each other as mates. It is not at all certain that if members of either group were transplanted into the other environment, that they would not prove after all within a short time to be still a single interbreeding community. It seems exceedingly unlikely that moving into a new environment could have any permanent effect upon the genes unless, of course, acquired characteristics can be inherited.
So while Simpson argues that those who accept evolution are supporting science whereas those who propose creation are simply expressing dogma, (141) one cannot help but feel that the tremendous emphasis on the "proofs" that evolution has taken place, by so many modern proponents of the new Faith who nevertheless cannot show what they are, is itself a "retreat" from fact to faith, from science to dogma.
The inverse parallelism which exists here between the two syntheses, to my mind, demonstrates rather clearly that we have not moved very far along the road toward the establishment of complete freedom of thought. Those who are certain that they hold the truth must necessarily believe that those who disagree have no moral right to do so, in which case the devotees of the Modern Synthesis ought to be rather careful how they throw stones at the devotees of its Medieval counterpart. It may seem strange in modern ears that men could once have said with complete self-assurance that the only truths are theological truths and theologians are the only proper preservers thereof. But we do well to realize that a modern writer -- Simpson no less -- had made this observation: (142)
All science is philosophical and the only philosophies capable of validation are those of Scientists.
One of the papers in the Alphach Symposium, which was inspired by Arthur Koestler and the deliberations of which were published under the title Beyond Reductionism, was presented by the European psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl, a kind of successor to Freud and Jung. (143) Frankl notes that the fragmentation of scientific knowledge resulting from the vast increase in data of recent years has reached the point where scientists in different fields can scarcely any longer speak to one another or unify their world view. Insofar as the accumulation of facts is concerned, there is nothing wrong with the objective itself; but it has made
141. Simpson, George Gaylord, ref.45, p.151. pg.13 of 16
142. Ibid., p.152.
synthesis well-nigh impossible. What chiefly troubles Frankl in this, however, is not so much the loss of a world view that will give meaning to life (which is serious enough in itself) but that the success which specialization has allowed in the manipulation of the facts for practical purposes has in turn led scientists to suppose they have an omnicompetence which they do not really have. As he put it, "What we have to deplore therefore is not so much the fact that scientists are specializing, but rather the fact that specialists are generalizing. That is to say, indulging in over-generalized statements" [his emphasis]. It is just this human tendency that prompts Simpson to claim, as he did in the above observation, that scientific knowledge is the only kind of valid knowledge we have about reality.
It may also seem repugnant that a man should be forced to say he does not believe in something which he does in fact believe, or be declared persona non grata. Yet, in essence the same situation exists in many universities today where the evolutionists now stand in the shoes of the Inquisitors. Like many others, I suspect, I can speak from firsthand knowledge: I was refused permission by the Anthropology Department of a Canadian university to proceed with my thesis even after having completed the written Comprehensives "with distinction" (according to the head of the department), essentially because I admitted that I still believed Adam and Eve were real persons. The basis of the judgment was not that I lacked a knowledge of the data, for this was admitted before a group of students by the same department chairman. It was my lack of faith in the orthodox interpretation of the data which put an end to my hopes of obtaining a Ph.D. at the time. I do not complain. The account has long since been squared by other means. But what needs to be underscored is that the same people who saw in their own conduct nothing worthy of reproof were on other occasions forthright in their sarcastic treatment of the behaviour of those who refused to allow Galileo to proceed because of his unorthodoxy. It is to be feared that not a few institutions of higher learning in certain departments have crystallized their thinking into a dogmatic form which will brook no disagreement, even though they still claim to be the champions of freedom of thought.
We have already referred to Gibson's paper, "Our Heritage from Galileo Galilei," and the correspondence which ensued. Even if some of his assessments in certain respects differ from Arthur Koestler's, there is no
143. Frankl, Viktor E., "Reductionism and Nihilism" in Beyond Reductionism, edited by Koestler and Smythies, Hutchinson, London, 1969, pp.396ff. pg.14 of 16
doubt about the truth of his concluding observations. Having spoken of the "innate intellectual integrity" of Galileo ‹ which in the light of Koestler's excerpts from relevant historic documents is of very doubtful quantity ‹ Gibson observes: (144)
This ideal [of integrity] shines through the career of the first great modern scientist. But it is not fashionable now; the present tendency is for the scientific community, now grown powerful, to behave much as the Church did in Galileo's time. . . .
Toward the end of his article, after referring to Galileo's determination to cast away the shackles of human authority as a necessary step towards the discovery of truth, Gibson then asks: (145)
What has become of this ideal whose pricelessness Galileo appreciated so well? It has been and still is widely accepted in theory, but as Einstein remarks, "we are by no means so far removed from . . . [the] situation [prevailing in Galileo's time] even today as many of us would like to flatter ourselves." Human authority still dominates a large part of our intellectual life.
This authoritarian spirit has shown itself most obviously in those departments which deal with the life sciences, a field of inquiry in which by the very nature of the case absolute proof is often most difficult and the temptation to substitute theory in place of fact is therefore most acute. Perhaps the dogmatism of the life sciences is matched (or even possibly exceeded?) only by the dogmatism of the social sciences. Prof. H. J. Eysenck of the Institute of Psychiatry in London said, when trying to gain an objective hearing for some unpopular ideas he has on the question of race and intelligence: "The mantle of the Inquisition sits uneasily
upon the shoulders of the scientific establishment." (146) Yet there it does indeed now sit!
In conclusion, the Medieval Synthesis has been condemned by moderns both because it was a system based on faith and structured around a central idea incapable of proof by the scientific method, and because its custodians refused to accept as a fact what at the time was only a working hypothesis, the implications of which were hostile to it. In this respect the Modern Synthesis is not essentially different. It too is a venture of
144. Gibson, R. E., ref.119, p.1275. pg.15 of 16
145. Ibid., pp. 1275-76.
146. Eysenck, H. J., Letter to the Editor, New Scient., 29 May 1969, p. 490.
faith which so far appears incapable of experimental proof; and the authorities who propose it are adopting precisely the same dogmatic attitude toward anyone who challenges them.
Nevertheless, there is one profound difference between the two situations. The Medieval Synthesis somehow succeeded in ennobling all kinds of human activity, even to some extent war. The Modern Synthesis has virtually removed the word noble from the English language. It has allowed the justification of the most selfish and barbaric forms of human behaviour, between individuals and between nations, on the grounds of expediency because, despite all protestations to the contrary, it is a philosophy formulated on the principle that the fittest ought to survive without first having defined by what standard fitness is to be judged.
I predict that the Modern Synthesis will suffer the same fate as its Medieval counterpart, and for much the same reasons ‹ but not until a more satisfying synthesis has been formulated to take its place. (147)
147. 1t is good to bear in mind the wise observation of James B. Conant, who wrote: "We may put it down as one of the principles learned from the history of science that a theory is only overthrown by a better theory, never by contradictory facts." (On Understanding Science, Yale University Press, 1947, p.36)
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved
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