Home | Introduction |  Chapter 12 3 |   4 | Conclusion 

Last modified 03/01/2008

This short introduction in twenty-one mouseclicks to the evolution controversy is designed to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle in one spot, without going into too much detail. In the process we transpose the issue into one of history and its remarkable riddle, that of the deeper layer of evolution behind that history. 

  The controversy over evolution has persisted since the publication of Darwin's Origin to the point of becoming almost a liability for secular society itself. The relentless abuse of the evolution question in the pursuit of agendas, religious or scientific, is the principal culprit. But the ultimate source of the endless debate lies in the claims for natural selection made by Darwin, and the metaphysical character of his original theory. The claims for natural selection exceed the limits of correct observation and the result is the reductionist character of Darwinian attempts to explain the whole scope of biological phenomena in terms of scenarios of adaptation. We are left with the distorted world view characteristic of the era of positivistic scientism in which Darwin lived. The original critics of Darwin were not all motivated by religious beliefs and many of the first objections to the selectionist theory came from scientists themselves who saw at once that Darwin had overextended his claims for natural selection. T. H. Huxley himself, the principal champion of Darwin, said as much and thought the emphasis on natural selection would prove a problem. The later emergence of fundamentalist creationism has further confused the whole question. Lately, this has become the renewed challenge of the Intelligent Design movement, a more sophisticated version of the views of Paley. These claims for design simply compound the metaphysical burden of the debate and the result is the deadlock that we see in our own time as the question of evolution seems irresolvable. 

There is really only one way of getting beyond this confusion, and that is to acknowledge our ignorance of the full scope of evolutionary emergence. Darwin's achievement was to publicize the fact of evolution. The claims for evolution in this broad sense are very strong. But the claims for natural selection are much more debatable, and can only be taken as a set of hypotheses under examination. This simple recognition will discipline the efforts to construct a totalized worldview that inexorably drives dissenters to pursue the intractable debate. These dissenters frequently suffer their own confusions, but they understand perfectly well that Darwinism can't be right, because they can see that its application to historical and cultural questions is completely off the mark. 

We have to take cultural questions as history shows them to us, without injecting reductionist obsessions into their consideration. In the final analysis, the bottom line on questions of evolution lies in visible history. We need to embrace a renewed empiricism, and this, surprisingly, can be achieved by looking at the question of evolution in relation to history itself. World history itself shows us the clue to the question of evolution, human evolution at least. That has to be so, since the transition from evolution to history is going to show its traces, somehow, in the record of emergent civilization. If we can resolve this riddle, we will have the key to freeing ourselves from the misuse of Darwinian thinking applied to social understanding.  

This set of web pages will try to briefly outline some of the principal issues of the controversy and then move toward a consideration of historical evolution, and how we should consider that. We need to construct a model of universal history, in the context of evolution, as a default interpretation of the meaning of evolution. In the process we will see that science simply hasn't resolved the question of what evolution really is, or is like. And this will help us to free ourselves from the abuse of theories applied to society and culture with their relentless generation of Social Darwinist fallacies and their associated ideologies.