When atheist PZ Myers says he doesn’t think god would have created this universe or atheist Richard Dawkins says our eye’s backward photocells would never have been designed, they are expressing non scientific, religious beliefs. There is no scientific experiment that demonstrates Myers’ or Dawkins’ convictions. These atheists are “intensely religious in the entire absence of religious belief” in god.
This oft-heard argument that god doesn’t exist because god wouldn’t have created this world is not an argument from atheism. The conclusion is atheism, but the argument is from theism. Ironically, not believing in god usually entails beliefs about god.
Who believes in the fixity of species?
How does this apply to the fixity of species? The fixity of species refers to the religious belief that if god created the species they would be fixed. Populations would not undergo any kind of biological change under the divine plan. This belief that once created, all species remain fixed throughout history is often associated with the eighteenth century Swedish super-scientist Carl von Linne, or Linnaeus. But Linnaeus soften his views and no longer accepted the fixity of species in his later years.
Linnaeus had tremendous influence, but not enough to rid the world of the doctrine of the fixity of species. And so a century later Darwin inherited the view that if god created the species they would be fixed.
This is why those differing bird populations on the Gallapagoes Islands were so significant for Darwin. Surely god would not stoop so low as to create slightly different variants of birds on some remote islands. The great botanist and natural theologian John Ray had made this argument a century earlier and by Darwin’s time the infra dig (beneath god’s dignity) argument was well entrenched.
But on the other hand, if these differing bird populations were different species, then the species were not fixed. And if the species were not fixed, then god must not have created them, because if god did create them, they would be fixed. Therefore those bird species must have evolved.
So while arguing that the species are not fixed, Darwin also argued they would be fixed if god had created them. God didn’t do it, because here’s how god would do it. As Mayr said, it is possible to be intensely religious even when god is removed from the picture.
The tiny differences between the bird species did not suddenly reveal to Darwin how fish could change to amphibians, or how amphibians could change to reptiles, or how reptiles could change to mammals. Rather, the revelation was that the idea of creation was suddenly becoming untenable. The crucible for Darwin was not an abundance of positive evidence for evolution but rather negative evidence against creation.
This has become even more true today. Darwin had no scientific reason to think that variations between bird populations revealed that all life arose spontaneously. And today the evidence even more so rejects such a move. Even evolutionists agree that the massive biological changes their theory requires must have come about by some unknown mechanisms more powerful than the adaptive mechanisms we observe at work in populations.
But such problems are inconsequential, for evolution has been proven. True we don’t know how macro evolution could have occurred, but we know god did not create the species. As Mayr points out, the doctrine of fixity of species was a key barrier to overcome in order if the concept of evolution was to flourish:
Darwin called his great work On the Origin of Species, for he was fully conscious of the fact that the change from one species into another was the most fundamental problem of evolution. The fixed, essentialistic species was the fortress to be stormed and destroyed; once this had been accomplished, evolutionary thinking rushed through the breach like a flood through a break in a dike.
This is why the species barrier, as fuzzy as it is, has always been so important to evolutionists. They do not believe the species are fixed, but they do believe in the fixity of species.
Today’s evolutionists inherit these religious ideas and replay them over and over. In his Toward a New Philosophy of Biology Mayr writes that “evolutionary change is also simply a fact owing to the changes in the content of gene pools from generation to generation.”
What? Changing gene frequencies make the spontaneous origin of all life a fact? This would be laughable if not understood within its historical context. But such statements do make sense once we understand the historical context of the fixity of species doctrine.
Isaac Asimov claimed that color changes in the peppered moth prove evolution. Steve Jones wrote that the changes observed in HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) contain Darwin’s “entire argument.” According to science writer Jonathan Weiner, the changes in the beaks of birds show us “Darwin’s process in action.”
Likewise Professor Marta Wayne tells us that “Evolution is change in gene frequency” and science writer Emily Willingham defines evolution as “a change in population over time.” Professor Pamela Bjorkman states that a mutating virus is “evolution at work” and that “In the same way, people have evolved, but over a much slower time scale.”
These statements by evolutionists make no sense from a scientific perspective. Evolutionary thought would be absurd in the absence of its historical context. But it is perfectly logical when we understand the underlying metaphysics. Remember, it is possible to be intensely religious in the entire absence of religious belief.
Religion drives science, and it matters.