By Sy Schechtman

Darwin’s great, creative theory of evolution is in some danger of being bushwacked, co-opted from the rear, that is, by strongly moderating cultural forces that now dictate the extreme fashionableness of at least some acceptance, or even belief, in the presence, or possibility, of the Deity. But even a grudging acceptance is a vast change from the astonished disbelief my friends displayed not too long ago when I dared to suggest that I might be sympathetic to such sentimental, unrealistic views. But there is indeed such a mushy, inchoate, miasma of feeling around. In this country certainly; in the rest of the western world less so, but actually, since we have been the bell weather the last century of all important trends—both in culturally and economically,-- I optimistically expect this trend to continue even unto Italy, the Pope’s backyard, where the birthrate is very low and the abortion rate not nearly as low as that prime " be fruitful and multiply," anti abortion country would imply. This is by no means a clarion call for all dedicated Darwinists, of which I am still a card carrying member, to look under the bed nightly to make sure that no creationist is lurking there to defile one’s nocturnal rest or worse, but to still speculate on the incredible persistence of these myths and dogmas in the face of the incredible achievements of modern science and technology that one sees all around and has made life longer and abundantly more pleasant for much of humanity world wide.

But then on the other side we have the creationist, or his modern counterpart, the intelligent design enthusiast, who sees the miracle of the planet and the solar system now in place and the abundance of sentient, human creatures who inhabit this earth and insists that all could not be a random, accidental, but hopefully a fortuitous series of events. Indeed, in the Jewish tradition, all the varying branches, from undeviating traditionalist to ultra liberal, recite the mourner’s kaddish at the death of the individual, literally a paean of praise to God’s creation and its’ live giving powers. "And God saw all that he had made and found it very good…… And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy….." (Genesis one)

Today many intelligent design advocates are prepared to cede the belief in creation as being an event only about 6,000 years ago and aver that the universe is about 13 billion years old and that evolutionary processes indeed are at work to some extent. But they cite some of the "irreducibly complex" systems that could not have been formed by the slow, bit by bit change in life forms that his theory of natural selection entails. That some directed design had to intervene to shape ( and probably hasten the result.) As Darwin himself said "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down". Among such systems cited now by Darwinian opponents are the sophisticated action at the supposedly primitive level of bacteria, where flagellum(minute hairlike projections from the cell wall) propel the bacteria in a coordinated fashion within the cell; the complicated clotting mechanism involved in human blood clotting, where a long series of chemical steps must take place in timely sequence for effective coagulation to occur, and then the most complex organ of all---the human eye. Here it is claimed that so complicated an organ could not have developed in the slow step like fashion that Darwin’s theory demands in the limited time frame allotted to human evolution.

The Darwinian answer is the process of natural selection that these supposedly complex organs or processes did not come about de novo, that successful smaller features were enhanced or augmented to make more elaborate, complex systems. Thus we have the sophisticated human clotting mechanism, in some lower animals with fewer proteins in the sequence, but with an extra one added probably as a mutant, which will enable that species to survive more easily with a somewhat improved clotting mechanism against his natural predators, and that the success of this somewhat improved arrangement will continue to be selected and improved upon with other additions from other systems in the organism. Some of the protein clotting sequence appears in lower forms as digestive enzymes, co-opted to the newer more vital role of clotting as more protein material is added to the clotting chain on up to the human level. And with the human eye we see in all lower forms all the stages of visual development, from light sensitive spots, to craters of cells with more concentrated visual reaction, to primitive lenses with focusing ability, and all the intermediate stages leading to the human eye. All appear as stages in lower forms in the gradually evolving more complex system that the human eye represents.

There is no doubt that Darwinian evolutionary theory still explains biological development most satisfactorily; that its opponents have no scientific factual case in its place. Only the doubts and quibbles of discomfited adherents of supernatural additions or prime movers outside the realm of natural law, which is impersonal and seemingly random. The eternal struggle between faith and reason, science and religion. This undoubtedly is an eternal struggle, and as indicated in my opening paragraph, the pendulum is now swinging to a more pro faith point. Materialism is being mixed with more esoteric and spiritual longings. Perhaps this marks the end point of this cyclical arc, but it certainly has enjoyed a long swing in the anti secular direction.

Consider just fifty years ago, at the end of World War II, when we were all spiritually exhausted by the slaughter and destruction of the worst war in history. Faith and religion were far from our thoughts as we contemplated the wreckage and deaths and the extreme cruelty manifest by one’s supposed "fellow" man. Uppermost then in most minds was the wonder of where was the Deity in all this horror and so was born the Death of God Movement, an attempt to separate faith and religious feeling from the supernatural. An attempt, in the words of Richard Rubenstein, author of After Auschwitz, to introduce an element of a more rational emotion into modern theology. To make the believer consoled with the grim reality in the vast void of the cosmos that we go from the "oblivion before birth to the oblivion of death". For sometime this absolute nadir of religious feeling gained some currency in most western sects; going to synagogue, temple or church became more of social occurrence than an attempt at heartfelt prayer. And an over compensation for the material acquisition

of all manner of "things" as tangible evidence of the relevance

of our status. But soon the gloom and doom that people felt with the utter aloneness of oblivion as the despairing book ends of their lives began to resurrect the more traditional feelings of salvation and redemption that had been submerged by a supposedly absent , uncaring, or cruel Deity. Karl Marx somewhat sneeringly called religion the "opiate of the people". History has so far proved that his panacea of economic salvation through communism was a much more deadly opiate.

And the aspiration and hope of meaningful connections and understandings beyond our limited physical senses once more became a positive fuel for affirmative action in our lives; the proper opiate, if you like, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet states to Horatio "There’s much more in heaven or hell than is dreamt of in your philosophy." Indeed, even if the Godhead is not historically accurate it is psychologically valid; that our physical end is not the end in this ever expanding universe where ultimate truths are not still within our grasp, and the true, ultimate reality that will somehow validate our earthly existence is awaiting us in another metaphysical mode, now still beyond our sensual comprehension. After all Einstein and his fellow theoreticians in astrophysics included a generous "fudge factor" in their calculations about energy and mass and the speed of light. And all their amazing projections seem to have been have been proven right so far, but the universe is still shrouded in much "dark matter" which is still to be revealed to properly balance their calculations. And as Einstein famously said "God does not play dice with the Universe". And there are many who still prayerfully believe that all the mechanisms of natural selection and random change that are inherent in evolution work so well because somehow still in some way "God’s in his heaven, and all is well with the world " and that evolution is stlll, in its own way, some form of superhuman design. And that the seeming cold void of the universe is not our ultimate fate and that all the souls that have gone before have experienced some form of benign surcease in some transfigured manner.

It has been said that at times no army is powerful enough to overcome an idea whose time has come. This idea of some form of existence beyond our earthly realm has been around for eons and eons, but has dimmed considerably in our age of scientific enlightenment. Now it has started to flourish again, at least in this country; not as a contradiction to scientific thought but as enhancement, making room for the psyche and the soul, which demand more than finite oblivion.