Saturday, January 31, 2009

Einstein and Darwin

1/31/2009--Walter Isaacson's 2007 biography of Albert Einstein described Einstein’s lifelong search for a unified field theory that would meld quantum mechanics and general relativity into one theory encompassing all forces at all levels—from to largest—as follows: “he was guided by a faith, which he wore lightly and with a twinkle in his eye, in a God who would not play dice by allowing things to happen by chance.”

Now, ignore the beingness of God inherent in that formulation. Perhaps for Einstein treating God as if God were a person was just a way of talking and thinking. We might say instead that Einstein had a faith that reality itself was not a chance event, and leave it at that.

Religious people who worry about Darwin in public school are also unwilling to accept a universe that operates by chance, in this case not quantum mechanics but random mutation as the fuel for natural selection.

These opponents don't realize that evolution need not be looked at that way. Evolution does not actually appear to be a matter of chance. Mutation may be random, but the timeline of the history of the universe is so immense that all possibilities become probabilities. Again and again, what is called convergent evolution yields analogous structures—wings in bats and birds, for example. And the slow steady movement over time toward animals with purpose—ourselves—is also an evolutionary fact. Anyone wanting more thinking along these lines should look to the British paleontologist, Simon Conway Morris and his 2003 book, Life’s Solution: Inevitable humans in a Lonely Universe.

The point here is that the religious opponents of a certain way of looking at evolution—as a result of mere contingency—should not be thought of as anti-science. They are no more anti-science in their faith than was Albert Einstein.

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