Professor David Gelernter of Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science is famous for having predicted the World Wide Web years before its appearance, as well as having conceived or designed innumerable computing tools in wide use throughout the world.
But Gelernter is also something of a Renaissance Man because he is a prolific lecturer and author, the latter including works of fiction, technical articles and art criticism. Plus, he’s a member of the National Council of the Arts.
But there is one thing Gelernter is not, at least not anymore, and that is a believer in contemporary Darwinism. The Yale professor explained why in May in a Claremont Review of Books (CRB) article provocatively entitled “GIving Up Darwin.” Unfortunately, this may be the first you’ve heard about it.
Note that it is contemporary Darwinism, not Darwin per se, that Gelernter now questions. There is a crucial distinction for him.
“There’s no reason to doubt that Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape,” Gelernter wrote in his CRB piece.
“Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether he can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture—not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones. The origin of species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.”
In other words, the Yale professor is a yes on micro-evolution, but a no on the fundamental issue of how did the species come into existence in the first place.
“The origin of the species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.”
Gelernter is not also now a convert to the Intelligent Design school of thought, but, unlike so many in the scientific and academic worlds, he recognizes it as a legitimate approach that must be accounted for and deserves serious consideration.
In the CRB piece, Gelernter credits three books in particular with his revised thinking:
“Stephen Meyer’s thoughtful and meticulous Darwin’s Doubt (2013) convinced me that Darwin has failed. He cannot answer the big question. Two other books are also essential: The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (2009), by David Berlinski, and Debating Darwin’s Doubt (2015), an anthology edited by David Klinghoffer, which collects some of the arguments Meyer’s book stirred up. These three form a fateful battle group that most people would rather ignore.”
The Hoover Institution’s Peter Robinson recently brought all three men together in one place to discuss these issues. It’s 57 minutes in length, much longer than the typical video posted here on HillFaith. But Robinson is a masterful interviewer and he draws out the best of this trio of modern Galileos.
“Robinson is a masterful interviewer and he draws out the best of this trio of modern Galileos.”
Why should somebody working on Capitol Hill know or care about these matters? Congress shapes the quality and quantity of scientific research and debate in this country — for better or worse — and congressional staffers are a key factor in the shaping process.
The issues discussed in this interview, especially on the oppressive response that too often typifies the academic establishment’s treatment of the growing ranks of Gelernters — is already a familiar issue to many staffers in places like the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
But these issues are even wider because they involve questions about free inquiry, technological innovation and academic integrity. In other words, it’s a big deal and if you are on the Hill, sooner or later you will need to know about these matters.
If that’s not enough, Wintery Knight at cross-examined.org has more on Gelernter and the issues he raises regarding Darwinism. Go here.
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