7 de setembro de 2009

Science and religion

Resumo da conferência de Roland Cazalis no Congresso Internacional sobre o Impacto de Darwin

Darwin: a pedagogical principle in science and religion

There is no doubt that the publication of Origins of Species (1) began a new era in thinking about the origins of mankind. The book found a readership that had been awaiting it for some time, many of whom had already recognize their own ideas on the subject. In it, many readers recognized their own ideas, or their fears, even if they didn’t always grasp the originality of Darwin’s propositions. Origins of Species came out amidst certain feverishness, provoked by Wallace’s letter (2). The rushed synthesis of the opera magna that Darwin had planned, containing analogies that are not always adequate, with his sequencing of the mechanisms implicated in the generation of species that doesn’t respect their chronological order, certainly didn’t help the understanding of this new theory. Origin of Species has had the effect of Pandora’s Box, giving rise to different interpretations.
Darwinism as a theory of descent by modifications seems simply to indicate that variations are produced in the living world on which natural selection is exerted. Whereas the latter is presented as a principle of conservation, the principle of creation is variations without which natural selection remains powerless. Origin of Species is not like a Newton’s law of evolution of the living world. The reading of this work will thus appear a frustrating experiment, if the reader finds answers which are not in the scope of the book. The title promises much but the contents are less generous, in particular on the origin of variations. In addition, Darwin remains rather quiet on certain consequences of his proposals, as if he invited to go further.
But it generates on the other hand an understanding model. Origin of species indeed opens a new space of understanding which makes it possible that natural history becomes an applied science, therefore a space able to generate explanatory mechanisms instead of sticking to descriptions. In that and beyond the naturalist, Darwin must be considered a pedagogical principle which stipulates that any space of understanding must be a matrix able to evolve and in particular, able to assimilate in a creative way what comes from outside.
Thus, before thinking of interactions between science and religion and more precisely, between science and theology in connection with theory of evolution, it is critical that the understanding field of each realm is equipped with an evolutionary capability, an aptitude which should not be compelled. Darwin, for example, invites to seek the laws which produce and govern the appearance of variations. Biological sciences must thus work to elucidate this question, but with a mind free of certain orthodoxies which delay the progress of scientific knowledge. In the same idea and in the framework of religion, the understanding of its own body of doctrines is for becoming, because history course does not stop.
Thus, it appears, to be a true matrix – quality that each realm grants or not to its understanding space- determines the aptitude to incorporate foreign elements without being poisoned. In this paradigm, the relationship between the realms of science and theology is not basically different from that which micro-organisms strains behave between them in a given biotope. This relation can vary since neutrality, safeguarding of territory by antibiotic release until various types of symbiotism. Thus, the real or phantasmatic toxicity of a type of Darwinism with regard to the religious approach of the living world history qualifies above all the metabolism type of each realm.

Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, New York: Oxford Univesity Press, New edition 1998.
Stephen Jay Gould and Andrew Berry, Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology, Verso Books, 2003.