Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views

Who Is James Le Fanu? Part V: Darwin's Three Monkeys

Anyone who raises doubts about evolution in public discussions with non-scientists knows the automatic response you always get from the Three Monkeys crowd. Hands wrapped tightly over eyes, ears, and mouth, they chant: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil -- about Darwin!

That's not exactly how it comes out. People will say things more like: But science has spoken! Scientists say! Science wins! Which sounds reasonable at first, until you reflect that it's a little like a Roman Catholic fending off some challenge to his faith by pointing out that 98 percent of Catholic priests agree with Catholic doctrine, and who knows more about Catholicism than Catholic priests? So it must be true. (Or substitute rabbis and Jewish doctrine, pastors and Protestant belief, etc.) As James Le Fanu smartly notes in his new book Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves (Pantheon), there is a similar circularity to the "Scientists say!" case for Darwinian dogma:

The commitment to Darwin's materialist explanation of the living world would, in time, become a qualification requirement for all who aspired to pursue a career in biology -- where to express doubt (at least publicly) was tantamount to confessing to being of unsound (or at least unscientific) mind.
I've been writing this week in praise of Dr. Le Fanu's extremely lucid, readable, and unapologetic narration of Darwinism's increasingly obvious failure to account for the evidence of science, with an emphasis on recent advances in our knowledge about the brain and the genome. Then why is the meaning of these advances ignored, greeted with a great, booming silence?

Scientists themselves, apart from being qualified for the priesthood on the condition of their voicing no doubts about Darwin, are caught in a conflict of interest. Their professional standing is predicated on explaining a purely physical reality:

Scientists cannot acknowledge the possibility of there being a 'dual' nature of reality, with both a material and a non-material realm, for that would be to subvert their exclusive claims to understand how the world 'works.' Hence the silence. Scientists cannot 'see' the significance of the findings of the recent past because they cannot stand outside their materialist view and conceive of forms of understanding different from those in which they have been trained....

The dual nature of reality has, in short, been censored, written out of the script as being of historical interest only, a relic of the superstitious ways of thinking of the distant past.

So you find that the case against Darwin is made by a brave band of professional scientist dissenters, a vocal minority in the scholarly community, but more so by those outside the academic scientific cathedral. Like James Le Fanu, a physician and peer-reviewed writer of medical journal essays, but not the picture of a lab-coated scientist that the Three Monkeys insist on hearing from.

The loss is all of ours. Le Fanu describes the cost of Darwinism: "We have lost that sense of living in an enchanted world" that was taken for granted 150 years ago. As Richard Dawkins himself puts it, in his world there is "no design, no purpose, no evil and no good -- nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." Or as Isaiah Berlin bizarrely remarked, "As for the meaning of life, I do not believe it has any -- and [that] is a source of great comfort."

The situation is not irreversible, though: "It cannot be long before a proper appreciation of the true significance of the findings of the recent past begins to sow doubts in inquisitive minds." If as many people read Le Fanu's book as it deserves, the time of that hoped for outcome will have been advanced at least a little.