Walker Percy Wednesday 145


WHY DO SCIENTISTS DISLIKE what is apparently the case, that Homo sapiens appeared very recently and very suddenly, in a few hundred thousand years more or less of the Late Pleistocene, perhaps even less—in a word, in less time, cosmologically speaking, than it takes to tell the Biblical story of creation; that the peculiar characteristics of man, the explosive growth of the cortex and 60 percent increase in brain volume, emergence of language, consciousness, self, art, religion, science, occurred in cosmic time in the wink of an eye; that though it is Darwin, not Wallace, who gets the credit for the theory of evolution, it was Wallace, not Darwin, who seems to be right in saying that all men, even the most primitive, come fully equipped with the same neo-cortex and that all men have made the same unprecedented crossover into language and culture; that the brain of the most “primitive” man is not discernibly different from the brain of Beethoven and therefore cannot be accounted for by Darwin’s theory of the gradual adaptation of a species to its environment by the natural selection of those traits which best equip it for survival?


Darwin was right about the fact of evolution, and his contribution was unprecedented. Evolution is not a theory but a fact. For a fact, the dinosaurs were here 75 million years ago and were supplanted by mammals. For a fact, man arose from more primitive hominids.


Sir Fred Hoyle suggests the bacteria might have arrived through encounters with the tails of comets. As fanciful as such notions are, they seem to these scientists less inadequate than the current evolutionary theory.
Difficulties arise when triadic creatures (scientists) try to explain evolution through exclusively dyadic events. Neo-Darwinian theory has trouble accounting for the strange, sudden, and belated appearance of man, the conscious self which speaks, lies, deceives itself, and also tells the truth. It gives an admirable account of the variations in the beaks of Galapagos finches, but what does it have to say about Darwin himself, sitting by his fireside in Kent and hitting on a theory which assigns all of life into a sphere of interaction and immanence while covertly elevating himself into the sphere of transcendence, and worrying about whether he or Wallace was going to publish first?The current heated controversy between evolutionists and “scientific creationists” is one of the most peculiar in the history of science, peculiar in the way in which dogma is concealed and smuggled in by both sides.


As unsatisfactory as the battle lines, as presently drawn, may be, one must nevertheless throw in with the modern evolutionist, if only for the reason that his position, if wrong, is in the end self-correcting, whereas that of the scientific creationist is not.
The battle is, in fact, a marvelous waste of energy.
The Christians need not have got in such a sweat. The evolutionary facts about the emergence of man, e.g., the sudden appearance of Homo sapiens sapiens (Cro-Magnon man) no more than 35 thousand years ago, are as spectacular as the account in Genesis and allow hardly less room for theology.
Scientists should be less worried about overt intrusions by religion upon science, which never succeed, and more worried about covert scientific dogma, e.g., that we triadic scientists require that only dyadic events be admissible to scientific theory. For example, scientists have never seriously addressed themselves to the phenomenon of language, considered as a natural phenomenon and not as a formal structure, that salient triadic property of man. It is only when science is willing to focus on what Sebeok calls “the intersection of nature and culture” that the full import of man’s emergence in the evolutionary scheme can be calculated.