A note on Darwinism and worldviews

A note on Darwinism and worldviews October 11, 2018


Australian tidal pool
A tidal pool on the southern coast of New South Wales, Australia. Charles Darwin proposed that life on Earth may have begun in just such a place.    (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Notes from a manuscript that really can’t even be said, right now, to be “in progress.”  But it’s there, waiting for me to return:


Why does the public care so much about Darwinism and evolution?  Nobody becomes exercised over quantum mechanics, the role of chlorophyll in photosynthesis, or general relativity.  It is because Darwinism is not merely a theory in biology but a world view, with profound implications for our understanding of our own nature and for our sense of our relationship to the universe.  Whether they can articulate this or not, most people grasp it intuitively.  And they are entirely right.

In an essay entitled “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy,” the famous American philosopher John Dewey declared that Darwinism had given rise to a “new logic to apply to mind and morals and life.”[1]

As a participant in the textbook wars relating to evolution has expressed it, “A naturalistic definition of science has the effect of indoctrinating students into a naturalistic worldview.”[2]  And the indoctrination has not remained confined to school curricula.  As the 1975 children’s book The Bears’ Nature Guide, featuring the Berenstain Bears, informs its young audience, “Nature . . . is all that IS, or WAS, or EVER WILL BE!”[3]

“The Darwinian revolution,” wrote the famous zoologist Ernst Mayr, “was not merely the replacement of one scientific theory by another, but rather the replacement of a worldview, in which the supernatural was accepted as a normal and relevant explanatory principle, by a new worldview in which there was no room for supernatural forces.”[4]

As historian Edward Purcell notes, people working in subject areas far afield from biology soon came to understand that Darwinism implied “a wholly naturalistic and empirically oriented world view” in which theological doctrines were to be viewed as “at worst totally fraudulent and at best merely symbolic of deep human aspirations.”[5]


[1] John Dewey, “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy,” in John Dewey, The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other Essays in Contemporary Thought (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1910), 9.  [See original.]

[2] Remark cited from personal conversation with John Calvert by Nancy R. Pearcey, “Darwin Meets the Berenstain Bears,” in William A. Dembski, ed., Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2004), 53 (compare 312, note 1).

[3] Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain, The Bears’ Nature Guide (New York: Random House, 1975).  [See original.]

[4] Ernst Mayr, book review of “Evolution and God,” Nature 248 (22 March 1974): 285.  [See original.]

[5] Edward A Purcell, Jr., The Crisis of Democratic Theory: Scientific Naturalism and the Problem of Value (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983), 8 and/or 21.  [See original.]




I don’t recall whether I shared these science-related items from BYU when they appeared:


“BYU researchers help discover massive exoplanet”


“Hottest known planet discovery published in Nature




And here’s some additional science news that you might find of interest:


“Yellowstone’s Geyser Just Threw Up Decades-Old Trash”


“Mount Etna: Why the Volcano Is Sliding Towards the Sea”


“Interstellar Visitor Found to Be Unlike a Comet or an Asteroid: The mystery of ’Oumuamua, the first interstellar object ever observed, continues to deepen. A new analysis argues that if it were a comet, it would have broken apart as it passed near the sun.”


“Speculations on a Neutron Star: Could life use other types of energy beside electromagnetic radiation?”



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