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Was Irving Kristol Skeptical of Evolution?

We will never know whether he was skeptical of evolution or merely thought that a world in which he claimed to be skeptical of evolution was one in which Republicans would have a greater chance of winning electoral victories.

Jeffrey Shallit:

Recursivity: Irving Kristol and Evolution: Kristol wrote a piece for the September 30 1986 New York Times about evolution. Here are a few excerpts:

Practically all biologists, when they engage in scientific discourse, assume that the earth's species were not created by divine command. As scientists, they could not make any other assumption. But they agree on little else - a fact which our textbooks are careful to ignore, lest it give encouragement to the religious. There is no doubt that most of our textbooks are still written as participants in the "warfare" between science and religion that is our heritage from the 19th century. And there is also little doubt that it is this pseudo-scientific dogmatism that has provoked the current religious reaction...

Though this theory [the neo-Darwinian synthesis] is usually taught as an established scientific truth, it is nothing of the sort. It has too many lacunae. Theological evidence does not provide us with the spectrum of intermediate species we would expect. Moreover, laboratory experiments reveal how close to impossible it is for one species to evolve into another, even allowing for selective breeding and some genetic mutation. There is unquestionably evolution within species: every animal breeder is engaged in exemplifying this enterprise. But the gradual transformation of the population of one species into another is a biological hypothesis, not a biological fact.

Moreover, today a significant minority of distinguished biologists and geneticists find this hypothesis incredible and insist that evolution must have proceeded by "quantum jumps," caused by radical genetic mutation. This copes with some of the problems generated by neo-Darwinist orthodoxy, but only to create others. We just don't know of any such "quantum jumps" that create new species, since most genetic mutations work against the survival of the individual. So this is another hypothesis - no less plausible than the orthodox view, but still speculative.

And there are other speculations about evolution, some by Nobel prize-winning geneticists, that border on the bizarre - for example, that life on earth was produced by spermatozoa from outer space. In addition, many younger biologists (the so-called "cladists") are persuaded that the differences among species - including those that seem to be closely related -are such as to make the very concept of evolution questionable.

So "evolution" is no simple established scientific orthodoxy, and to teach it as such is an exercise in dogmatism...

I imagine we'll be seeing some biographies of Kristol coming out. I can only hope that any honest biographer will make space to assess Kristol's ignorance of biology and his arrogance in thinking that he understood it better than professional biologists.

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