Postmodern Science and Evolution

QUESTION: Postmodern Science – Another Look at Evolution


Worldviews that deny the existence of a Creator, a creation event, and the supernatural must assume some form of naturalistic evolution to explain the origin of life. Evolutionary theory takes three forms:
  1. Classical Darwinism theorizes a gradual process of changes in species by means of natural selection1 or survival of the fittest,2 Charles Darwin’s original thesis.
  2. Neo-Darwinism came into vogue in the 1930s, expanding Darwin’s original theory of natural selection to include change by genetic mutation.
  3. Punctuated equilibrium or punctuated evolution arose in the 1970s, theorizing that evolutionary change happens abruptly (geologically speaking) in small, isolated populations.3
Postmodern Science – A Variety of Evolutionary Theories
While Secular Humanists believe and defend neo-Darwinism and Marxist/Leninists and Cosmic Humanists defend punctuated evolution (although not in exactly the same sense), Postmodernists have a tendency to shy away from overtly endorsing any particular theory of origins. This is the case, first of all, because Postmodernism began, not among scientists, but among literary critics and philosophers. Second, each of the three aforementioned versions of evolutionary theory is in itself a grand story about the origin and development of life and Postmodernists eschew all such grand stories or metanarratives.

To illustrate this state of affairs, Christian author Nancy Pearcey relates the following firsthand experience: “I witnessed a fascinating altercation at a conference at Boston University on science and postmodernism several years ago. Postmodernist philosophers led off by arguing that ‘there are no metanarratives,’ meaning no overarching, universal truths. Responding on behalf of the scientists was Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg, who replied: But of course there are metanarratives. After all, there’s evolution—a vast metanarrative from the Big Bang to the origin of the solar system to the origin of human life. And since evolution is true, that proves there is at least one metanarrative....To which the postmodernist philosophers responded, ever so politely: That’s just your metanarrative. Evolution is merely a social construct, they said, like every other intellectual schema—a creation of the human mind.”4


Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Norman Macbeth, Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason (Boston, MA: The Harvard Common Press, 1971), 40: “Darwin never tried to define natural selection in a rigid way... It amounted to little more than the fact that, for various reasons, among all the individuals produced in nature some die soon and some die late. Thus natural selection for Darwin was differential mortality.”

2 Ibid., 62, “The phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ was not coined by Darwin. He took it over from Herbert Spencer, apparently considering it an improvement on his own natural selection. It immediately became an integral part of classical Darwinism, much to the embarrassment of modern adherents...a species survives because it is the fit¬test and is the fittest because it survives, which is circular reasoning.”

3 Walter James ReMine, The Biotic Message: Evolution Versus Message Theory (St. Paul, MN: St. Paul Science Publishers, 1993), 326: “Punctuated equilibria is an evolutionary theory proposed in 1972 by paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge (and soon joined by Stephen Stanley). The theory says species are typically not evolving. Rather, species are in stasis most of their existence, a state of unchanging equilibrium. The equilib¬rium is punctuated occasionally by short events of rapid evolution. Most evolution is said to occur speedily during these brief punctuation events.”

4 Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 114.

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