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Modelling competition? Darwin and Einstein

March 6, 2011
Einstein & Darwin

I was just reading the article posted by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science about the difference between Einstein and Darwin.  In it Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist, discusses why society views Einstein and Darwin so differently.  They both radically advanced understanding in their respective fields and neither of their models have yet been proved incorrect in any material way.  Yet Einstein is almost revered by society as a genius in his field and as something of a guru on many of life’s big questions while Darwin and his discovery are attacked on all sides.

Neil deGrasse Tyson puts forward the view that this is largely down to the fact that physics is a more precise science than biology, with General Relativity giving us the ability to predict specific behaviours of, for example, objects in outer space.  Evolutionary models on the other hand can make no specific predictions about a species of animal in the future.  Evolution gives us the mechanism by which the species’ descendants will change but cannot tell us accurately what the change will be, yet.

I personally think it has very little to do with actual science.  As someone who is not a scientist but has a general interest in science I accord both these great men a huge amount of respect.  They were both possessed of genius and real insight in their fields.  Both their ‘theories’ have been proven by observation.  I think, once again, the blame must be laid on religion, specifically Christianity and Islam.

The fundamental difference between the 2 men is that Darwin challenged religious scripture directly by saying that species change over time and effectively that God has not created the animals we see around us, including other people.  Einstein’s work doesn’t really fit with scripture either but does not directly challenge it.  Also people like Galileo and Bruno had already taken the heat from the Church on cosmology 300 years before.  Darwin was the Galileo of biology, although fortunately he did not live in a state effectively ruled by Catholicism.

Christianity and Islam were never really challenged by cosmological theories espoused by people like Galileo and Einstein because scripture had nothing very specific to say about these things.  Galileo’s troubles were mostly down to his disagreeing with the Catholic Church authorities rather than any clash with scripture.  Evolution by natural selection, on the other hand, directly contradicts scripture.

Scripture, and I’m really talking about the Bible here as I know it better, states that God created all the animals and separately created mankind.  Moreover, he created them in the forms that we know and recognise today and that they reproduce, generation after generation, as he created them.  Evolution contradicted every part of that and removed God from pride of place.

The upshot of all of this is that while Einstein is accorded respect, even by many religionists, Darwin is vilified, even by religious moderates, and his discovery is mocked and attacked.  Even now, in London, a Muslim scientist has been told to stay away from his mosque because he believes Evolution and Islam are compatible.  In my country.  In 2011.

Darwin and Einstein were both giants, on whose shoulders we now stand.  I can only hope that as more and more people are exposed to the wonders of science, religious dogma will become more and more marginalised until we reach a point where reason and the application of human thought are the pointers to the future and Darwin can be universally recognised as the great intellect that he was.  I’m not holding my breath though.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2011 23:00

    Evolution’s main problem is its relative youth. It took a good couple of centuries for the idea of a heliocentric solar system to bed itself into human conciousness and even today we live with the after glow of religious egotism that sees the whole universe for our benefit- essentially saying by the back door that we are still at it’s centre. Darwin’s dangerous idea is a mere 150 years old and the hard evidence for it (DNA, RNA, supercomputer evolution, Genome sequencing etc) is even more recent. We maybe just living in the darkest hours before the dawn, where religion is putting up it’s fiercest opposition- a cornered animal usually fights the hardest.

    Then again I maybe wrong and we are headed for a religious fundamental dark age. hey ho.

    • March 6, 2011 23:05

      Thanks for the comment PJ. You could well be right. I do get frustrated at the snail-like pace with which these ideas overtake the status quo. We can only hope that reason wins in the end. Like I said, I’m not holding my breath.

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