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Berlinski or Babinski?

Berlinski or Babinski?


David Berlinski is the author of "The Deniable Darwin," which was featured in the June 1996 issue of Commentary. (He rebutted criticisms in September's issue of the same magazine.) Should we ever cross pens or tongues in public, imagine an audience's confusion in trying to keep track of "Berlinski's, or was it Babinski's(?)" remarks. I almost feel moved by the similarity of our names to submit my own article to Commentary, praising some of Darwin's observations and the hypotheses he offered. For instance, in Darwin's day, the notion of the "immutability [or changelessness] of species," was increasingly being challenged but apparently was not completely overthrown! For Darwin stated in the Introduction to his book, The Origin of Species:


"I can entertain no doubt after the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgment of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists until recently entertained, and which I formerly entertained - namely, that each species has been independently created - is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable [emphasis added - ED.]; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged variations of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the most important, but not the exclusive means of modification."


So in Darwin's day a minority of scientists (and probably a large portion of the general public), continued to assert adamantly that "species were immutable" and no species had ever "descended" from another. In fact, the word "species" is a Latin term meaning "type or kind," as in the Biblical statement, "God created each creature after it's kind." The famous cataloger of animals and plants, Carolus Linnaeus, who died 81 years before Darwin's Origin was published, regarded each species as a "special creation" endowed by their Creator with unique and peculiar behaviors, habits, abilities, markings, anatomical designs, etc., that set them apart, even from near-identical neighboring species. There was always some anatomical trait or complex behavior pattern which was "puzzlingly peculiar" to each species, and creationists from the 1800s to the mid-1900s pointed to such irreducible differences between species as "proof" to support their idea of the "immutability of species." In similar species of, say, spiders, the "puzzling peculiarity" could be a manner of web-spinning or mating; in similar wasp species it could be the way each parasitized a specific host-species, or in similar species of insects that pollinated plants, it could be the unique (and sometimes amazingly complex) ways each interacted with a specific species of cactus or orchid, etc. And let's not get into the beetles, which probably number upwards of a million species, each with some unique structure and/or behavior that could be cited as evidence of that species' irreducible complexity.


It was only with reluctance that such "old time" creationists abandoned the battle over what their modern-day counterparts sneeringly call "mere microevolution." Modern-day creationists instead speak adamantly in terms of "the impossibility of macroevolution." As if the dividing line between what they call "micro" and "macro" evolution was clear and incontestible in every case, and more than just a mere juggling of prefixes.


The irony of creationism's present position is that there are some creationists who advocate geocentrism based on a straightforward reading of Sacred Scripture (just like Luther and Calvin advocated). These modern day "Biblical astronomers" (as they call themselves) argue that Copernicus' theory of heliocentrism, and Newton's theory of gravity, ought to be abandoned in favor of a more Biblical theory wherein the whole cosmos circles the earth once a day. Furthermore, these fellows attempt to provoke doubt in "modern astronomy" by pointing out that microgravity (obeyed by objects on the earth's surface), and macrogravity ("supposedly" obeyed by planets in orbit around the sun) are "not the same thing." (Does this point sound familiar? Ring a bell? Hey, stop the sun, fellahs, I want to get on!)


E. T. BABINSKI


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