(Today, August 20th, marks the anniversary of the publication Darwin’s Origin of Species, in 1858, whose full title includes also “by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”. His model has proven effective in explaining certain phenomena, but, as Pope Saint John Paul II declared in his reflection on the Galileo case, we need many models to explain reality, which is infinitely rich, signifying the infinity of God Himself as Creator. To honour the occasion, here are some thoughts from a few years ago). Editor.
Darwin was always unsettled by the implications of his theory, and his growing agnosticism, along with his eventual belief that there was no soul, no eternity, just blind matter and its inexorable laws, troubled his pious, Unitarian wife, Emma, who wanted to be with him in heaven. Unsettled Darwin should have been; for all the claims of ‘settled science’, there is still much that is controversial in evolution, which contains truth, but also much that is misleading, or, perhaps missing.
Published in 1858, Darwin’s Origin of Species put forward a rather simple hypothesis: That creatures adapt to their environment, which seems a truism; and that those who are best adapted, based on random variation in their traits (we would now say ‘genes’, the existence of which would not be discovered until well into the 20th century) will survive to have the most offspring, which is also a truism. Hence, ‘favorable’ genes will predominate, but we must be careful not to make value judgements, for ‘favorable’ here simply means ‘best adapted to a specific environment’, and by ‘best adapted’, we mean most able to survive, to obtain food and find a mate with whom to bear offspring.