Monday, September 19, 2005

Background reading

Those of us active in biology know this history, but it's worth remembering that Intelligent design was old news to Darwin:
From his university days Darwin would have been familiar with the case for intelligent design. In 1802, nearly 30 years before the Beagle set sail, William Paley, the reigning theologian of his time, published "Natural Theology" in which he laid out his "Argument from Design."

Paley contended that if a person discovered a pocket watch while taking a ramble across the heath, he would know instantly that this was a designed object, not something that had evolved by chance. Therefore, there must be a designer. Similarly, man - a marvelously intricate piece of biological machinery - also must have been designed by "Someone."

If this has a familiar ring to it, it's because this is pretty much the same argument that intelligent design advocates use today.

Darwin's discoveries, and the scientific conclusions they led him to, troubled him greatly. He dawdled almost 20 years before getting up the gumption to publish. He knew the scandal his ideas would cause in Victorian England. He knew, too, how it would upset his wife, a believer who feared she would not see her husband in the afterlife.
Read the rest.

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