"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution"


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"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution"
-- Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973)

This quote was the first thing I heard in my first University-level biology course in 1979, and I've always remembered it because it so exquisitely captures why evolution is such a widely-accepted and powerful model for explaining the diversity of life we see today and in the fossil record.

Until I Googled it just about five minutes ago, thinking about a topic for this thread, I never realized that it came from an essay (by a geneticist who was also Russian Orthodox) aimed specifically at criticizing anti-evolution creationism. From the Mighty Wiki:

wiki said:
Dobzhansky starts with a reductio ad absurdum of the geocentrism of an Arab sheik (identical to or namesake of Shaikh Abdulaziz bin Baz, later the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia) who believes the Sun revolves around the Earth because scripture says so. Dobzhansky asserts his own belief that scripture and science do not contradict each other. He criticises creationists for implying that God is deceitful and asserts that this is blasphemous.

Dobzhansky then goes on to describe the diversity of life on Earth, and that the diversity of species cannot be best explained by a creation myth because of the ecological interactions between them. He uses examples of evidence for evolution: the genetic sequence of cytochrome C to show evidence for common descent (citing the work of Emanuel Margoliash & Walter M. Fitch); embryology; and his own work on fruit flies in Hawaii. Dobzhansky concludes that scripture and science are two different things: "It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology".

The central issue
The central issue of the essay is the need to teach biological evolution in the context of debate about creation and evolution in public education in the United States.[2] The fact that evolution occurs explains the interrelatedness of the various facts of biology, and so makes biology make sense.[3] The concept has become firmly established as a unifying idea in biology education.[4]

The phrase
The notion of the "light of evolution" came originally from the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whom Dobzhansky much admired. In the last paragraph of the article, de Chardin is quoted as having written the following:

Anyway, the reason I was thinking about this is that I've seen how when people do not know much about the ToE and the supporting science, but they are acquainted with the idea that science is constantly challenging and changing its current theories and models, it's easy to come away with the idea that the ToE is not trustworthy, that all the various schools of thought, holes in our knowledge base, and even looseness around some seemingly key concepts, can make it seem like its all just fluff, or about to tumble down. Certainly nothing to hang your hat on. Nothing to compare to scripture.

But then you get a bold statement like this thread title, not to mention the immeasurable effort and dollars spent pursing research based upon evolution theory. Because numerous people accept the scientific worldview.

And it occurs to me that the same point can be made about faith in God. Nothing in life makes sense except in the light of God.

From the outside looking in, there may seem to be a lot of holes in that statement, there's nothing there that can be proven. You can point to all the differences between religions, and the paradoxes within any given religion, and the problems that have been created by people justifying horrific actions with religion, and it all seems about to tumble down.

Yet from those who are 'in' a God-centered worldview, it makes complete sense. From awe about life, about the beauty and power of creation, to our inclination to thankfulness, to our ethics and free will (ethics require an absolute...even if you don't believe in an absolute, you have to pretend you do for ethics to make sense. Likewise free will...even if you don't think we have it you must live as if you do), to our experience of love and our sense that there is a transcendent, ineffable aspect of being, it all fits with a God model.

Late night ramblings. Apologies!
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"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. "

--C. S. Lewis
I knew this girl who insisted that all points of view were actually facets of one big, shiny diamond. This didn't make sense to me at all, but somehow it did to her. I decided at the time it was just some easy way to excuse herself from discussing certain subjects that others were dogged about. More recently I think I understand what she was trying to say, although I would have preferred it if she had said it more directly. Any discussion ought to be profitable, have achievable results, and should not attempt to turn a diamond inside-out, smooth it into a sphere, or jam it into a crack.
Perhaps jigsaw puzzle pieces seen together enlarging the view.:) earl
"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution"
-- Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973)

Nothing in life makes sense except in the light of God.
Pretty good for a late night ramble.

I'd say you put words to what I have tried for years to say and couldn't find a way to express, having instead to settle for equating scientific dogmatism with religious dogmatism.

But then, a fundy is a fundy is a fundy... :D