Dismembering Evolution: Part 1 Darwin, Scientist or Philosopher?
For those who do not already know, Aristotle was the result of two generations of great minds being taught by other great minds. Socrates’ greatest student was Plato. Plato’s greatest student was Aristotle. As a side note, Aristotle’s greatest student was Alexander the Great himself. All of these men have shaped the world; have influenced mankind to this day. Aristotle though, he held sway over the thoughts and beliefs of humanity in a way rarely matched, and even more rarely exceeded in all of human history.
Allow me to explain.
Aristotle was both a moral, and a natural philosopher. His moral philosophy, however, while his greatest feat of his day, pales in comparison to his natural philosophy for influence throughout history. His moral philosophy was adopted in full by Alexander the Great, and ceased to be the ruling philosophy of civilized Europe with the eventual rise of Christianity, but his natural philosophy shaped the sciences for about 1,500 years.
Aristotle proposed that the most perfect of all shapes was the sphere. His reasons have filled entire treatises and I will not go into them here. As such, he reasoned that the entire universe must be comprised of ever widening spheres reaching out into infinity with Earth, this most perfect of worlds, at its very center.
This idea was not only adopted in Aristotle’s day, but remained the only accepted view of the universe until Galileo eventually proved him wrong at great personal risk and persecution.
So how did he come to this conclusion?
Aristotle, like most philosophers, looked to the natural world for answers to the deep mysteries of the universe, much the way scientists do to this day, only without the benefit of structured experimentation. Observation, he believed, would provide the clues that, once reasoned out, would provide the answers being sought. So what did he observe?
Aristotle observed the movement of the heavens from a geocentric point of view. He saw the sun, the moon, and the stars all rise in the east and set in the west every day without fail. He observed the perfection of the sphere, and the remarkable perfect beauty of the natural world. Form these observations he drew an important conclusion.
The Earth is the center of the universe, and the sun and the moon and the stars all rotate around it in perfect circles along their designated astral spheres.
Ridiculous? To our scientifically enlightened minds, of course! However, without the benefit of the information we have today it was the only logical conclusion that most people could possibly conceive of, and it was latched onto and not let go by any willing means.
This was natural philosophy at its finest. Raw observation of nature, combined with reasoning to draw conclusions about the world and the universe. Unfortunately, the observations were never truly tested for over a millennia.
So what happened in the intervening 1,500 or so years?
This philosophy was initially accepted as the only reasonable norm. then the scientific method was developed and mathematics advanced, and the answer of the Earth being the center of a geocentric universe arranged in perfect spheres needed to be proven through science and math, and for several hundred years both science and math “proved” this to be true.
As is human nature, the majority of men who tested this theory were out to prove what they already believed to be true. Those who did otherwise, well . . . they were generally killed, and their efforts were summarily tossed out as discredited, disproved, and even heretical. In hindsight, we now know that these divergent thinkers were more right tan wrong, but at the time what they said was so outrageous it could not possibly be true.
Ptolemy was a great mathematician and astronomer who is most known for being the one who was supposed to have settled the issue of how the geocentric universe works once and for all. He began with some comparatively simple math derived from his observations that predicted the movement of astral bodies more perfectly than ever before. It took years, but the predictions based on his math came to grow more and more unreliable, so he reworked the math into a massively complex beast that ultimately solved most of the problems his initial calculations had. His model was so effective that it was considered the final scientific and mathematic proof that was needed to place the Earth squarely at the center of all creation.
Unfortunately, even these calculations eventually became less accurate predictors, and new answers were again sought.
In brief, there was a series of discoveries that ultimately led to Galileo proving once and for all that the Earth is NOT the center of the universe, and our knowledge has only grown from there.
So, how does this relate to evolution?
Like Aristotle, Darwin possessed a great analytical mind. He was truly a mental giant, and no sensible person would say otherwise. Also, like Aristotle, Darwin was a student of the natural world, observing the world and reasoning based on his observations. And, like Aristotle, Darwin never put his greatest concepts through the rigors of the scientific method.
Upon reading The Origin of the Species, one cannot help but be impressed by the genius, the sheer eloquence of it. Darwin managed to take his observations of the world ranging from geology to biology and put them together in a highly reasoned out fashion to create one of the greatest theories of all time: Evolution.
His logic, based on his observations is unimpeachable, but was also completely untested. Exactly like Aristotle’s theory of a geocentric universe. Also, like Aristotle’s theory of a geocentric universe, evolution has had its rabid supporters who have set out to “prove” it by all possible means. I shall discuss this “proof” in future installments of this series. Also, like Aristotle’s theory of a geocentric universe, the opponents of evolution suffer ridicule and persecution, albeit, evolution’s opponents suffer by having their funding removed while those who opposed Aristotle’s theory suffered by having their heads removed.
The problem both theories share is that at the time of their publication they were utterly untested, but were still presented as scientific fact. Just as Aristotle knew very little about the true workings of the cosmos, Darwin knew nothing at all about genetics, very little about the scientific method, and even acknowledged holes geology/paleontology left in his theory.
Unlike Aristotle, who claimed to have all the proof that was needed to support his theory, Darwin promoted his theory as truth while openly stating that his proof was inconclusive due to a lack of knowledge, be it his own, or that of all of humanity at the time. Darwin justified this move by stating that he was certain that future scientific discoveries would fill in the gaps in such a way as to prove him right.
In all fairness, this did seem to be the case for a long time.
Unfortunately for Darwin, just like what happened to Aristotle, the initial scientific “proof” appears to be unraveling in the face of an expanded scientific base of knowledge and understanding. The answers Darwin drew using the same methods of natural philosophers like Aristotle, while brilliant, were, and remained flawed. Evolution, as it was put forth by Darwin, was not science at all, but natural philosophy, just like the theory of the geocentric universe Aristotle promoted. There is no trace of the scientific method, no experimentation, no mathematics, nothing contained within The Origin of the Species that even hints at evolution being put the tiniest rigors of actual science. Had evolution been presented today in its original form no scientific journal, no publisher of the sciences would have accepted it for publication.
Darwin was no scientist. He was natural philosopher, possibly of comparable brilliance to Aristotle. His greatest theory was a philosophical work that science has tried to wrap itself around, just like Aristotle’s theory of the geocentric universe.