As with many new paradigms, evolutionary thought developed over a lengthy period. Within the period known as Modern Science, which had its beginnings in the middle of the second millennium, evolutionary thought began to emerge in the mid seventeenth century. At that time theologians and philosophers from various traditions strenuously argued that the world must have arisen via strictly naturalistic processes. These schools of thought contributed to what became known as The Enlightenment period in the eighteenth century which marked a major turning point in Western intellectual thought.
In The Enlightenment period theological and metaphysical positions became codified in Western thought. These positions became sufficiently accepted and familiar so as to be no longer in need of justification. Instead, Western thinking rapidly incorporated these positions as new truths. This new theology made strong commitments in the area of divine intent, action, and interaction with creation. The impact on science was profound as this theology mandated that God's interactions with the world was to be strictly via secondary causes (i.e., natural laws), and that all of history must be governed solely by such causes. This paradigm later became known as Evolutionary Thought.
In Evolutionary Thought, science implicitly incorporated these theological and metaphysical commitments. Western, and by now worldwide, thought entered a dark age of anti intellectualism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this period all findings were described as evolutionary. Needless to say this was cause for ever more strained explanations of the evidence. Nonetheless, a rigid social and financial structure enforced adherence, complete with implicit penalties and harassment of dissenters.
We now understand that a key enabler of Evolutionary Thought was the denial of its very foundation. In its Delusion of Objectivity, evolution denied any theological or metaphysical influence or commitment. Indeed, the very term Enlightenment is an anachronism. We still use this historical term, even though it was meant to convey the idea of objectivity and independence of religious assumption and authority. Indeed, The Enlightenment period was precisely the opposite. As with so many periods of history, The Enlightenment was strongly influenced by theology and metaphysics. The difference in The Enlightenment was its denial of such influence. This Delusion of Objectivity was the source of much of the justification for Evolutionary Thought, until its demise in the early twenty first century.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
How Future Scholars Will View Evolution
Centuries from now, here is how a history book is likely to describe the theory of evolution: