The Darwin debate

Following the celebration of Darwin’s 200th birthday, some now argue that his theory is not all it’s cracked up to be. Are they on to anything?

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The current issue of the spiked review of books instigates an important debate on Darwin, his theory, his impact and his detractors. In his review of What Darwin Got Wrong and Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves, John Gillott takes to task the critics of Darwinism. Meanwhile, one of the authors of What Darwin Got Wrong, Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, argues that criticising Darwin is considered by too many in the scientific community to be a new form of blasphemy. And finally, the author of Why Us?, James Le Fanu, responds to John Gillott by once again challenging Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The party poopers at Darwin’s 200th birthday
John Gillott

Last year was Charles Darwin’s two-hundredth birthday. Scientists across the globe marked this, and the one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, Darwin’s seminal work, with a wide range of publications and celebrations of the great man’s life, works and enduring legacy. James Le Fanu, unimpressed by the celebratory mood, asked ‘Why us?’, as the title of his book puts it: Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves. Now, after the guests have left the party, Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini have turned up to say that the father of modern evolutionary theory was plain old wrong in their book What Darwin Got Wrong. So, are these critics on to anything? Read more…

It is now blasphemy to criticise Darwin
Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini

Some months ago an American philosopher explained to a highly sophisticated audience in Britain what, in his opinion, was wrong, indeed fatally wrong, with the standard neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution. He made it crystal clear that his criticism was not inspired by creationism, intelligent design or any remotely religious motivation. A senior gentleman in the audience erupted, in indignation: ‘You should not say such things, you should not write such things! The creationists will treasure them and use them against science.’ The lecturer politely asked: ‘Even if they are true?’ To which the instant and vibrant retort was: ‘Especially if they are true!’ Read more…

A response to John Gillott
James Le Fanu

I am, of course, grateful to John Gillott for the broadly sympathetic and accurate summary of the central argument of my book – but puzzled that he is so reluctant to engage with its central thesis: ‘why us?’ Read more…

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