Magazine article Natural History

After All These Years

Magazine article Natural History

After All These Years

Article excerpt

UP FRONT

I cannot look upon the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent design, or indeed design of any kind in the details. As for each variation that has ever occurred being preordained for a special end, I can no more believe in it, than that the spot on which each drop of rant falls has been specially ordained.

-Charles Darwin, 1870

A scientific theory stands or falls by its ability to explain and predict. Darwin's idea of evolution by natural selection rapidly persuaded scientists because it offered a brilliant and thoroughgoing explanation of the oddities, cruelties, irregularities, and patterned intricacies of the natural world. Like all successful scientific theories, the Darwinian paradigm has been modified and expanded. But its basic premise that species have descended from common ancestors and have been modified over immense periods of time-remains unrivaled in making sense of many disparate lines of evidence.

Unlike the equally revolutionary theories of Copernicus and Galileo, however, Darwin's idea still provokes opposition in some quarters. Most recently, this resistance has been embodied by the "intelligent design" (ID) movement, whose supporters maintain that the complexity of the natural world is evidence of planning by a higher intelligence. This line of argument, familiar to theologians, is now being put forth as a scientific challenge to Darwin.

In this issue, Natural History has made the unusual move of allotting space to three of ID's leading proponents. …

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