Modern Biology and Natural Theology

By Alan Olding | Go to book overview
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1The decline of purposive explanations
But note the exceptions to this briefly discussed by Ernest Nagel (1961:407-8).
There is now evidence that there are at least three such sub-groups but no more than five (Cline 1988).
Darwin’s own account, where he admits that ‘we sometimes drank too much, with jolly singing and playing at cards afterwards’ and confesses ‘I cannot keep looking back to those times without much pleasure’ is given in his autobiography (Darwin 1958:60).
This comparison is discussed by both Paley and Darwin. These days, of course, the eye is usually compared with a camera.
It is in stupidly (or maliciously) interpreting the modern theory of evolution in this way that the ‘creationist’ authors of a school textbook of biology are able to say that it ‘may be compared to the climber on the side of an icy hill who in attempting to climb upward actually slips downwards 999 times to just one movement upward’. Naturally enough, given their premisses, the authors impeccably conclude, ‘His net progress is downward, not upward’, with the corollary that Darwinian evolution, in emulating this foolish behaviour, must similarly go downward (Moore and Schultz 1974:451-2).
According to Michael T. Ghiselin, it was on reading Malthus that Darwin realised the importance of thinking in terms of populations and, in particular, of ‘the long-term effects of differences between individuals upon the composition of the population’ (Ghiselin 1969:59).
Smith got this example from Darwin who remarks

We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows.

(Darwin 1958:87)

I do not wish to suggest that Harvey, in working out the function of the heart, explicitly compared it with any known pump of his time. The more


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Modern Biology and Natural Theology


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