Re-posting some thoughtful comments on the relationship between science and religion, particularly in regards to evolution. WWJE is writing as, I believe, a religious-minded person. As a scientist who teaches evolutionary biology, I appreciate the perspective on the work of Stephen Jay Gould and the importance of understanding evolution in our work to, in Caroline Casey’s parlance “be conservative creationists (because we want to conserve all Creation).” Here’s a taste of WWJE’s approach:
Common sense is a very poor guide to scientific insight for it represents cultural prejudice more often than it reflects the native honesty of a small boy before the naked emperor. ([Stephen Jay Gould, 1977, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History] p.109)
I have said often, though perhaps not on the blog, that I don’t believe in common sense. I don’t know what it is or where it comes from. Common sense is a nonsensical appeal to non-existent wisdom. Standing before the emperor and being willing to speak aloud the fact that he is naked is no small task for religion or science, because as social creatures we are bent towards conformity. However, we have reached a place where as a species we face the fate of lemmings if we do not speak up.
Throughout the book Gould makes claims about the world and evolutionary theory based on what science can tell us right now (or at least in 1977). Yet the last sentence of the book reveals the kind of stance he takes as a scientist, always willing to be swayed by evidence and never wishing to become an irrational dogmatist.
I will rejoice in the multifariousness of nature and leave the chimera of certainty to politicians and preachers. (271)
This, I believe, is the humble stance of the human being that is both “ordinary and special”, unique among creatures, but not apart or above in any way. This is the kind of thinking our world needs for its own salvation.