I came across a refreshing and illuminating piece on The New Republic website that, in the context of talking about Islam and terrorism, suggested to me a reason for hope in the Darwin debate. In the current culture of science, where the 19th-century materialist Church of Science rules and the congregation bows obediently, what's needed is a modernizing reformation. Doubts about Darwinism are part of that. We can draw a parallel to past reformations in the religious sphere, and future ones.Unfortunately, just as the extremists manage to intimidate the moderates in many Islamic communities, so, too, do the more ideological Darwinians, the Darwinians who demand that Darwin not only must entail atheism but also must not be subjected to public challenge, intimidate many of their colleagues who are skeptical of the naturalistic, materialistic paradigm that's being forced upon them.
Most of us in the West agree, for example, that Islam urgently requires a reformation. Some observers see radical Islamism not as the leading edge in Muslim life -- that is, where the religion is going -- but rather as the desperate resistance from within to the modernizing course on which Islamic culture is already embarked and from which there is no turning back. Islamism, in this view, is not the vanguard but a screech of protest in vain.
As the scholar Reuel Marc Gerecht points out, those Muslims most inclined to sympathize with or commit terrorism are not the clerics who are expert in the faith and steeped in its teachings but, instead, laypeople who possess a ruder knowledge of Islamic tradition and who often were radicalized by their contact with the West. Gerecht, a former CIA clandestine officer, writes about sitting with imams and hearing them teach, thinking what a poor preparation for a career in terror Islamic Sharia law actually is.
In the world of science, oddly, it's much the same way. Reading professional scientific journals, you come across far franker talk of holes in Darwinism than you'll ever find in the general-interest media, or on screechy, sarcastic Darwinist blogs aimed at angry laymen and the unemployed (judging from the amount of time commenters seem to have on their hands). Gerecht sees Islamic clerics not as the problem but as a likely feature of the solution when it comes. And it will come. Perhaps the same will prove to be true of scientists -- the real ones, I mean, not the furious bloggers.
Nevertheless, there's reason to think that the ideologues cannot suppress the truth forever, either in science or in Islam, and perhaps we'll someday see them both in full retreat in the face of their own colleagues' advance. Maybe.