Postmodern Science and Foucault’s Hopeful Monster

QUESTION: Postmodern Science – Foucault’s Hopeful Monster

ANSWER:

Also leaning toward a view of punctuated evolution is Michel Foucault. Foucault likewise denies that nature manifests the continuity necessary for Darwin’s gradualist theory of evolution. He says, “Experience does not reveal the continuity of nature as such, but gives it to us both broken up...and blurred, since the real, geographic and terrestrial space in which we find ourselves confronts us with creatures that are interwoven with one another, in an order which is...nothing more than chance, disorder, or turbulence.”1 Rather than a continuous progression from simple elements (minerals), through plants, animals, and finally human beings, Foucault sees “a confused mingling of beings that seem to have been brought together by chance.”2

Postmodern Science – Revolution vs. Evolution
Foucault settles for a discontinuity of nature and argues for “revolutions in the history of the earth” including “geological catastrophes.”3 The elements of nature that he believes brought about the various species include the earth’s relationship to the sun, climatic conditions, movements of the earth’s crust, floods,4 comets, oceans, volcanoes, and heat.

Another possibility proposed for the advent of new species is monsters. Foucault approvingly quotes J. B. Robinet to the effect that monsters are not of a different nature, but rather “we should believe that the most apparently bizarre forms...belong necessarily and essentially to the universal plan of being; that they are metamorphoses of the prototype just as natural as the others, even though they present us with different phenomena; that they serve as [a] means of passing to adjacent forms; that they prepare and bring about the combinations that follow them, just as they themselves were brought about by those that preceded them; that far from disturbing the order of things, they contribute to it. It is only, perhaps, by dint of producing monstrous beings that nature succeeds in producing beings of greater regularity and with a more symmetrical structure.”5 While this theory may be imaginative, it has no grounding in observable science.

Notes:

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 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1994), 147–8.

2 Ibid., 148.

3 Ibid., 155.

4 Foucault does not deny the Genesis flood. See Ibid., 38, 149.

5 Ibid., 155.

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