What Evolution is All Aboutmakes the point that culture war differences often pit the facts versus the narrative. The facts can win every battle but the narrative wins the war. As Bidinotto puts it, “One of the most valuable insights I discovered in recent years is how Narratives trump everything else — including what most of us would call concern for ‘practical results.’” Conterio and Bidinotto are mainly concerned with political issues, but what lies behind their insight is our beliefs about origins.
A predetermined narrative is what influenced Darwin in concluding that the species must have arisen as a result of the blind actions of natural processes. As Darwin historian Janet Browne explained, Darwin, as well as evolution co-discoverer Alfred Wallace, came to believe in transmutation and so they then sought a suitable mechanism. The reason they came to believe in transmutation was the biological world was too gritty, too unseemly, and lacking in elegance. In a word, too evil.
Such rationalistic thinking (starting with preconceived ideas of what to expect, rather than exploring the data to see where it leads) about origins by no means began with Darwin and Wallace. They were handed these ideas from leading Christian thinkers from the previous centuries. Evolution was not a scientific finding, it was a religious conclusion.
From a scientific perspective, the spontaneous origin of the biological world makes little sense. Darwin and Wallace had no idea how such wonders actually could have sprung up all by themselves. Nor do evolutionists today. As Browne put it, they first believed—then they sought a scientific mechanism. That’s backwards, but this is precisely what they, and their followers today, are committed to.
The result is that evolution has introduced into science the art of story-telling. Evolution is a narrative, not an appeal to scientific principles and laws. Evolutionary events are “unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible” in the words of famous evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky. Or as Harvard’s Ernst Mayr wrote, “Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques” for explaining evolutionary events and processes.
Evolution is a narrative. And it is not just any narrative—it is the world’s creation story. The most important fundamental of a culture is its creation story. Tell me where you think you came from, and I’ll tell you everything else about you. At least everything that is important.
So what Conterio and Bidinotto are observing is the fruit of evolutionary thought. Evolution is not merely a scientific theory. It is the most influential theory in areas outside of science, in the history of science.
One now classic example of this is how evolutionary theory influenced historiography. In the nineteenth century evolutionists began constructing the history of ideas from their perspective. It became known as the Warfare Thesis, or Conflict Thesis, because it cast religious people as resisting, and in conflict with, science and its objective truths.
Even though historians agree that the Warfare Thesis is a strong dose of Whig history, it nonetheless often informs our culture’s views today. Anyone questioning evolution is cast as the fundamentalist, opposing the objective, truth-seeking scientists.
The poster child for this mythical retelling of history is Inherit the Wind, a play and movie that is a fictionalization of the famous 1925 Monkey Trial. Evolutionists today heavily promote this film as a cogent insight into our culture. It casts evolutionists as the white-hat good guys, and skeptics as ignorant, religious zealots.
Many evolutionists are unaware that Inherit the Wind is a fictionalization. And when told about this, they don’t really care. Because the narrative trumps the facts.
Judge John Jones explained, for example, he wanted to see Inherit the Wind a second time in preparation for the 2005 Dover case, over which he presided, because the film puts the origins debate into its proper “historical context.” Jones later reminisced about the trial, explaining that “I understood the general theme. I’d seen Inherit the Wind.”
But a federal judge’s profound ignorance and prejudice over a case in which he presided does not bother anyone—he was exalted as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the Year. So what if Inherit the Wind takes a few liberties with the truth, it is the narrative that counts.
Unfortunately evolution’s influence didn’t stop with a silly screenplay. With evolution life has no divine spark, we weren’t made in the image of any Creator, and things like facts and laws, both scientific and otherwise, don’t really matter. In politics, as well as evolution, it’s all about the narrative, not following the law.