… something I have long wondered. What are the opinions of Kristor, bonald, and Mr. Roebuck, on the issue of Evolution v. Creationism? What about the age of the earth?
I responded briefly (for me). But then I had some further thoughts, which I here set forth.
Evolution, properly speaking, is just a term to indicate the literal “out-rolling” of time. Despite my focus on eternity of late, I do indeed believe that temporal events really happen, and are causally related to each other in orderly fashion, which is all that belief in “evolution” properly connotes.
The vernacular idiom of these latter days, however, takes “evolution” to connote the concurrent operation of two quite different procedures: random mutation and natural selection. “Evolution” in the modern sense therefore urges two different metaphysical propositions: that what happens in the world is the outcome of a process of selection, which determines what characteristics of organisms are lethal by killing them off sooner or more often; and that novelty of form in nature is the result of random errors of replication, to which the practical circumstances of the entity in which such novelties are first manifest (whether molecule, organism, or species) are completely irrelevant.
I do not have any difficulty with the notion of natural selection, which so far as I can tell is tantamount to saying only that things fall out the way that they fall out. Survival of the fittest is nothing more than survival of what happens to survive. Who could argue with that? While it gives us a way to constrain the set of credible just so stories about how the leopard got his spots, the dolphin his blowhole, and so forth, by forcing us to come up with a theory about how any given feature of an organism was adaptive, it doesn’t itself explain anything. As tautologically true, it allows us to filter out explanatory noise, but is not itself informative.
What I do have a problem with is the notion that there is in nature any such thing as sheer randomness. If there were anywhere any raw randomness in the world, there would the world then fail of its orderly causal cohesion. And that would render it less than a world. The notion of “world,” properly speaking, rules out the possibility that a universe could be at all chaotic, that there could be anywhere in it any causal loose ends (among other things, any such loose ends would make an utter hash of the conservation laws, and thus of mechanics and thermodynamics).
But there is a far more fundamental problem with the notion of randomness: it is absolutely unintelligible, for by definition it is wholly disordered. So it is impossible to make any sense of it, at all. There is nothing there in randomness to be understood (one consequence of this is that sheer randomness turns out to be equivalent to sheer nothingness, but that’s a subject for a different post). Randomness, then, is the zero of understanding; and a scientific theory that adduces disorder as the source of things has effectual recourse to utter mystery as an explanans, and this is to refute science per se.
NB that this is not to say that nature is wholly determined. I don’t think it is. Nature seems to be ordered probabilistically, rather than to be determined ex ante. But probability is a species, not of chaos, but of order.
Being ordered through and through, the world is nowhere random. It seems clear then that novelty in nature cannot arise from randomness, for this would amount to a sheer absence of order that nowhere exists giving rise to concretely actualized order. This would make every novel occasion something from nothing, a free lunch, a causal loose end; and would be to decohere the world.
Novel order must therefore, rather, arise from some prevenient order. To the extent that an event represents true novelty – to the extent, that is, that it represents a configuration of properties that has never before arisen – its order must therefore derive from an order which is prior and superior to history, in its every detail and as a whole.
But *every* moment of becoming represents just such an utter novelty. If it were not so, then the present moment could be just like some past moment in every detail, and this never ever happens.
Orderly becoming as such, then, must derive from an order prior and superior to the whole of orderly becoming.
None of this is to argue that the neo-Darwinian account of the evolution of species is wrong, qua natural history. It is only to argue nature cannot explain itself, as neo-Darwinism would urge that it can.